Top 100 Baseball Blog

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Baseball Hall of Fame Modern Era Ballot: A Preliminary Look


Ten names are appearing on the Modern Era ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame election that will take place on December 10th. These are players and instrumental figures who have thus far missed out on having their achievements in the game recognized with a plaque in Cooperstown, New York.

A 16-person committee will be voting for these candidates (who by definition had their greatest contributions to baseball occurring between 1970-1987), who were dropped from the writer’s ballot but are believed to be worth a second look. 12 votes (75%) are needed in order for any of these 10 to start looking at flights to rural New York for next July. Let’s take a look at these candidates and briefly look at their chances.

Steve Garvey: The former first baseman has some hallmarks of a Hall of Famer (an MVP award and five other top-ten finishes; five World Series appearances; six 200-hit seasons) but some others that suggest otherwise (never led the league in home runs, RBIs or batting average; overall numbers are merely good). Additionally, while a reputation for being a good defender helped him win four Gold Gloves, subsequent advanced metrics suggest he was subpar at the position. It would be a significant surprise to see him get the requisite votes.

Dale Murphy: From 1982-1987 Murphy was in all likelihood the best player in the National League, winning two MVP awards. However, he barely has 2,000 hits; (2,111) fell short shot of 400 home runs (398); and spent the bulk of career playing for the then moribund Atlanta Braves. To a certain extent, he’s the poor man’s Jim Rice, who although a Hall of Famer, is one that traditionally gets a lot of hard looks for his inclusion. 

Jack Morris: Morris was a stout starting pitcher who won 254 games; tossed 175 complete games and surpassed 240 innings in a season 10 times in his career. He also won Game 7 of the 1991 World Series for the Minnesota Twins by throwing a 10 inning shutout.  On the other hand, his 3.90 ERA (which would be the highest of any Hall of Famer) and never having reached higher than third in any Cy Young Award voting are major detractors.

His supporters have rallied around the idea that because he often pitched so deep into games, he “pitched” to the score,” which helped inflate his ERA. However, that notion has been thoroughly debunked. If advanced stats mean anything, his 105 career ERA+ places him just a tick about average. He was obviously a very talented pitcher but signs point to his success also being aided by his teams’ offenses, which scored more than the league average in runs in 13 of the 17 seasons he was a regular.

Alan Trammell: The longtime teammate of Morris has a much more compelling case for an excursion to Cooperstown. An outstanding defensive player at shortstop, he also hit .285 in his career with 2,365 hits, 185 home runs and 1,003 RBIs at a time when players at his position were typically lightweights with the bat.

Trammell’s 70.4 career WAR would put him just a smidge above fellow shortstop Barry Larkin (70.2), who was inducted in 2012. It would also outpace other Hall of Fame shortstops like Pee Wee Reese (66.4) and Luis Aparicio (55.4)

Marvin Miller: Miller’s role in heading the Player’s Union and helping bring about the advent of free agency makes him a titan on the side of baseball innovators. This one is actually a no-brainer that should have been resolved long before this.

Don Mattingly: Donnie Baseball patrolled first base for the New York Yankees from 1982-1995. He was perhaps the poster child of baseball during the last half of the ‘80s before back injuries significantly slowed him down following the 1989 season. 

Other than his MVP season in 1985, Mattingly had five other “star” seasons. He had a reputation for a slick glove but advanced metrics paint a more indifferent story. Although a very good player, it’s hard not to think that if he had spent his career outside of the Bronx he might be considered Wally Joyner (which is meant as no slight to either player, who both had fantastic careers!).
Ted Simmons: The switch hitter was the best catcher in the National League during the 1970s outside of Johnny Bench. He hit .285 with 248 home runs and 2,472 hits during his 21-year career and made himself into a capable fielder. He rarely struck out (just 694 times in his career), was an eight-time All Star and hit righties and lefties almost identically. Aside from home runs, his career numbers, particularly on the offensive side, match up strongly with Carlton Fisk, who easily got in to the Hall on just his second year on the ballot.
Luis Tiant: The right-handed Cuban pitcher was a rising star with the Cleveland Indians during the 1960s, endured several years of injuries and then remade himself as a star again with more of a junk ball repertoire to compensate for his diminished stuff. All told, he lasted 19 years and racked up 229 wins, a 3.30 ERA, 187 complete games and 49 shutouts.

Despite winning 21 games with a 1.60 ERA and 264 strikeouts in 1968, he had the misfortune of being up against Detroit Tigers right hander Denny McLain, who swept the Cy Young votes that year on the strength of his 31-win season. Despite winning over 20 games three other times later in his career, Tiant never finished higher than fourth in any other Cy Young voting.

Tiant’s career 66.1 WAR puts him snugly between Hall of Famers John Smoltz (66.5) and Bob Feller (65.2) on the all-time list. He may not have received the accolades when he was playing but he has a surprisingly strong case that deserves more attention than it has received.

Dave Parker: Built like a linebacker, the left-handed hitter punished pitching instead of quarterbacks during his 19-year career. He hit a combined .290 with 339 home runs, 1,493 RBIs and 2,712 hits. He won the 1978 National League MVP with the Pittsburgh Pirates and finished in the top five in voting an additional four times. Sadly, one must wonder what impact his admitted drug use had on his career.

While a first-ballot Hall of Very Good player, Parker just doesn’t fully measure up when it comes to the Hall of Fame.

Tommy John: The lefty was on the operating table and successfully came back from the eponymous surgical procedure that addressed the arm issue that had claimed the careers of many pitchers before him. While he has 288 career wins and a 3.34 ERA, he did this over the course of 26 seasons. If you take out a four year stretch (1977—1980) when he won a combined 80 games, finished in the top-five in Cy Young voting three times and made three Al Star teams, he won 202 games (only more than 15 wins in a season once) over his other 22 seasons with no other All Star appearances or Cy Young ballots.

John is a classic case of being an accumulator rather than a long-term star. It’s difficult to concoct a scenario where he is a truly deserving candidate.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Blue Jays’ Dennis Holmberg Named Mike Coolbaugh Award Winner

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — Minor League Baseball announced today it has selected Bluefield Blue Jays Manager Dennis Holmberg as the recipient of the 10th annual Mike Coolbaugh Award. Holmberg will receive the award at the Baseball Winter Meetings Banquet on Sunday,Dec. 10, at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida.

The Mike Coolbaugh Award is presented annually to an individual who has shown outstanding baseball work ethic, knowledge of the game and skill in mentoring young players on the field. The award was created by Minor League Baseball in 2008 to honor the late Coolbaugh, a 17-year minor league player who was in his first year as a coach at the time of his passing. Mike appeared in 44 major league games with the Milwaukee Brewers (39 games in 2001) and St. Louis Cardinals (five games in 2002).

Holmberg played eight seasons in the Milwaukee Brewers organization from 1970-77, where he played every position except shortstop. During his playing career, he also spent eight years (1971-78) in the Army Reserve National Guard. Following his playing career, Holmberg embarked on a coaching career that has spanned 40 years, the last 39 of which have come in the Blue Jays organization. Of Holmberg’s 40 seasons in
the dugout, 38 have been spent at, or below, the Class-A level (he spent the 1994-95 seasons as Toronto’s bullpen coach).

Holmberg’s teams have reached the postseason 11 times and he received the Bobby Mattick Award, which is presented by the Blue Jays organization to recognize excellence in player development, in 2006 and 2011. In his career, Holmberg has coached or managed 244 players that have reached the Major Leagues and he has a managerial record of 1,474-1,355. His 1,474 wins are ninth-most among active minor
league managers.

“I am humbled and deeply honored to be chosen as the 2017 recipient of the Mike Coolbaugh Award. To be included on the list with the previous winners and their accomplishments only reminds me of Mike’s work ethic, his knowledge and passion for the game,” said Holmberg. “I am grateful to the Toronto Blue Jays organization for 40 years of opportunity, Pat O’Conner and all of Minor League Baseball and most
importantly, the Coolbaugh family.”

“This is an incredible achievement and recognition for someone who has selflessly devoted the better part of his life to developing and mentoring our players and coaches on and off the field,” said Toronto Blue Jays General Manager Ross Atkins. “Dennis has impacted this organization as much or more than any player development staffer and we know that he will continue to. On behalf of the Blue Jays, we congratulate Dennis on receiving this award.”

“Dennis has spent the majority of his coaching career at the lower levels of Minor League Baseball, helping hundreds of impressionable young players learn what it takes to be a professional ballplayer and putting them in a position to have a successful career and hopefully reach the Major Leagues,” said Minor League Baseball President & CEO Pat O’Conner. “The impact he has made on so many careers, and the respect
he has earned from his peers throughout the game, made him an easy choice for the Mike Coolbaugh Award.”

“Each summer I have the pleasure to visit Dennis during the minor league season, and every time that I do, I am amazed by the passion and energy he puts in to educating these young men, preparing them for their careers ahead whether in, or out, of baseball,” said Blue Jays Director of Minor League Operations Charlie Wilson. “We are lucky to have such a unique, dedicated and talented leader in our organization and this recognition of Dennis is very well deserved.”

PREVIOUS MIKE COOLBAUGH AWARD WINNERS

2008 Bobby Jones, Texas Rangers
2009 Charlie Montoyo, Tampa Bay Rays
2010 Woody Huyke, GCL Pirates
2011 Mike Jirschele, Omaha Storm Chasers
2012 Johnny Goryl, Cleveland Indians 

About Minor League Baseball Minor League Baseball, headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida, is the governing body for all professional baseball teams in the United States, Canada and the Dominican Republic that are affiliated with Major League Baseball® clubs through their farm systems. Fans are coming out in unprecedented numbers to this one-of-a-kind experience that can only be found at Minor League Baseball ballparks. In 2017, Minor League Baseball attracted 41.8 million fans to its ballparks to see the future stars of the sport hone their skills. From the electricity in the stands to the excitement on the field, Minor League Baseball has provided affordable family-friendly entertainment to people of all ages since its founding in 1901. For more information, visit www.MiLB.com. Follow Minor League Baseball on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Boston Red Sox: Possible 2018 Free Agent Targets

Ticker tape is practically still being picked up from the victory parade of the World Series winning Houston Astros. However, as we head into the offseason, eyes have already turned to the 2018 major league baseball season. Nearly 150 players have become free agents and teams will shortly begin jostling to add new pieces in an attempt to field an even better team than the year before. Let’s take a look at some of the available talent that could be good fits for the Boston Red Sox, who won 93 games this year and may not be too far away from planning another parade of their own in the near future.

The Red Sox have eight players of their own who are now free agents (Fernando Abad; Blaine Boyer; Rajai Davis; Doug Fister; Mitch Moreland; Eduardo Nunez; Addison ReedChris Young). Given how they produced with Boston last year, and the holes they would create by leaving, it seems like Moreland and Nunez are two of the better bets to return if terms are mutually agreeable. That being said, there are plenty of other players that could potentially help the Red Sox in 2018:

Outfielder Cameron Maybin: After a nice first season as the Sox’s fourth outfielder in 2016, Young’s production dropped significantly this past year. In particular, he lost his ability to beat up left-handed pitching (a primary reason he was brought on board in the first place), as his batting average against them dipped from .329 to .200.

Although he doesn’t have the power of Young, Maybin could be a worthy replacement. The 30-year-old has excellent speed (33 steals in just 114 2017 games) and can all play all three outfield positions. He is also a pretty darn good defender, which would only add to the reputation of the stout Boston outfielders. He has played for seven teams in his 11-year career, mostly as a starter. He may not do enough with the bat to command starting dollars on the open market but could be a nice option to shore up the Red Sox bench.

Outfielder JD Martinez: Despite the team’s success it was obvious that the Red Sox sorely missed retired slugger David Ortiz this past year. They were in the top half of the league in runs scored but dead last (by a decent margin) with 168 home runs. They relied more on stringing together hits to score runs than one big blast, as had been a frequent occurrence throughout the career of Big Papi.

There aren’t a lot of great power options on the free agent market but Martinez is clearly the best. He hit 45 home runs in just 119 games this past year, including a Ruthian 29 in just 62 games after joining the Arizona Diamondbacks following a mid-season trade. He has a 1.222 career OPS in 14 games against Boston, so they would likely breathe easier if he didn’t have to face them any longer.

A pretty abysmal fielder, the 30-year-old right-handed hitter is an outfielder by trade. There is no place for him to play his natural position in Boston. However, one solution might be shuttling him between DH and first base, as disappointing/oft injured Hanley Ramirez plays out the final year of his $88 million pact in 2018. He has not played at first during his career but such shortcomings would be much more forgivable if he was around to put 40-plus homers over the fence on an annual basis. Once Ramirez’s contract runs its course he could slide into a full-time DH role.

Obviously, money will be an issue when considering the plausibility of signing Martinez.  It is rumored that he may be asking for upwards of $200 million. Given his age and defensive limitations that should be out of the question for any team that might mind spending 200 cents on the dollar. However, if the Sox don’t land slugger Giancarlo Stanton in a trade, he would be the next best option to see what might be worked out.

Relief Pitcher Bryan Shaw: Boston doesn’t typically throw a lot of money at higher-priced middle relief options. Shaw might be worth the exception. The 30-year-old right-hander has been a lynchpin of the Cleveland Indians’ bullpen for the past half decade, and has led the American League in appearances in three of the past four years. A slider/cutter man, he kills right-handed hitting, holding such batters to a .621 OPS for his career.

With the Red Sox currently possessing a pretty full bullpen, signing Shaw would be more about making an upgrade than addressing a need. His availability could also be determined by his market, as it is possible some team could make a run at him in the hopes of making him their closer, which would certainly eliminate Boston from any contention for his services.

Pitcher Yusmeiro Petit: A much less sexy but potentially as valuable option would be the right-handed Petit. A journeyman with a propensity to give up to many long balls for much of his career, he had a career year in 2017 with the Los Angeles Angels. He appeared in 60 games (one start) and had a 2.76 ERA, a near career-best of 10.0 strikeouts/9 and halved his home runs/9 from the previous year.

With a fastball that averages less than 90 MPH, he throws breaking balls a majority of the time and is the definition of a crafty pitcher. However, he has the ability and track record of both starting and relieving. He is the Swiss Army Knife type of pitcher that could be of immense value to the Sox staff, especially with free agent Doug Fister likely to hit the road and the healthy return of Steven Wright still unknown at this time.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Remembering Future Hall-of-Famer Roy Halladay


Sadly, baseball lost another legend entirely too soon with the news that former pitcher Roy Halladay died Tuesday at the age of 40 in a single-engine airplane crash over the Gulf of Mexico. He is not due for consideration for the Baseball Hall of Famer until 2019 but his untimely passing is a melancholy opportunity to remember what a talented force he was during his 16-year big league career.

Make no mistake about it, regardless of his sudden death the right-handed Halladay should have always been a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer when he becomes eligible. His 203-105 record and 3.38 ERA are impressive but may not blow stat-counting voters away. However, he did more than enough.

For a decade (2002-2011) he was the best pitcher in baseball, going 170-75 with a 2.97 ERA. He won two Cy Young Awards during that time and finished in the top five in voting an impressive additional five times. He was also perhaps the last of the workhorse pitchers, tossing 67 regular season complete games and 20 shutouts during his career. For comparison sake, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer have combined for 33 complete games and 19 shutouts during their respective careers (spanning a total of 20 seasons).

Part of what makes Halladay’s resume so impressive was that he originally came up with the Toronto Blue Jays in the late 1990s as a top pitching prospect but ultimately had to rebuild himself. He posted promising results his first two years but a ludicrous 10.64 ERA in 67.2 innings in 2000 led to his demotion to the low minors where he rebuilt himself as a sinker/cutter pitcher. He was up the next year and never looked back.

The crowning achievement of Halladay’s career was his 2010 no-hitter game in the National League Divisional Series, when his Philadelphia Phillies beat the Cincinnati Reds. This was just the second no-hitter in major league postseason history. He also had a perfect game earlier that season (against the Florida Marlins).

The perpetually bestubbled hurler was a throwback a breed of pitcher that simply doesn’t exist today. His appearance, demeanor and stuff was eerily reminiscent of pitchers from decades prior. He was a threat to go the distance in any given game and exceeded 200 innings eight times during his career. In a cruel irony, nagging arm injuries curtailed his career and led to his retirement following the 2013 season at the age of just 36.

Adding an ERA+ of 131 and a WAR of 65.6 to Halladay’s decade of excellence make him a surefire candidate to be inducted in Cooperstown in the coming years. Baseball fans should not look back in reflection and give him any undue credit; his untimely death simply means an appreciative retrospective is due all too soon.

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