Daily Archives: August 26, 2011

Edgar Martinez Should Be Inducted Into Cooperstown: Future Mariners Hall of Famer

Friday August 26, 2011

 

Sam Evans (Intern Candidate- MLB reports):  When you think of the most consistent hitters during the 1990’s, most people think of Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire.  One name that always gets overlooked is Edgar Martinez.  He had a .312 career batting average, reached base more than 40% of the time, has never has been linked to steroids, and he arguably saved baseball in Seattle for years to come.

Some of the arguments against Edgar being in the Hall of Fame are that he hardly played in the field, was not a superstar, never won a world series, and that his numbers just aren’t good enough.  As a Mariners fan, I definitely have bias but I’ll try to explain why I think Edgar should legitimately be in the Hall of Fame.  First of all, if his numbers aren’t good enough, why was Andre Dawson’s statistics enough for him to be voted into the hall of fame?  Let’s compare the two hitters:

Edgar (Career) .312/.418/.515. Wins Above Replacement (courtesy of fangraphs.com): 69.9

Andre Dawson: .279/.323/.482 Wins Above Replacement: 62.3 

What’s the difference between these two?  The Hawk is in the Hall of Fame, which Dawson deserved.  Other Hall-of-Famers with a lower WAR than Edgar are Harmon Killebrew, Dennis Eckersley, and Jackie Robinson.  There are over 230 former MLB players in the Hall of Fame.  I think it’s amazing that Edgar is not one of them.

After Edgar missed the 1994 season due to injury, he became the Mariners full-time designated hitter.  He would go on to be the Mariners starting DH for the next ten years.  When asked how that would affect his Hall of Fame chances, Edgar replied, “There are a lot of different opinions about it.  What I think is that the DH makes a daily contribution to the team, just like any position player who plays every day.”  In 1973, major league baseball instituted the Designated Hitter as a real position.  So why should this prevent a primary DH from ever reaching Cooperstown?

In his first season as a DH, Martinez won his second American League batting title, hitting .356 with an OBP of .479 and a slugging percentage of .628.  Hall of famers Hank Aaron and Willie Mays never had a season with an OBP over .425.  It is my estimation that Martinez wasn’t a superstar across the baseball scene because of where he played.  If he played in New York, chances are it wouldn’t be this hard for him to get into Cooperstown.  The low light of Edgar’s career is definitely though that he never won a World Series championship.  Superstars that win the big one tend to be favored in the eyes of Cooperstown voters.

During the 1995 season the city of Seattle fell in love with the Mariners.  After having just two winning seasons in their first sixteen years, Edgar and Ken Griffey Jr. led the Mariners to a 79-66 record.  In the 1995 ALDS series between the Mariners and the Yankees, Edgar reached base 2/3 of the time and had two game winning hits.  On October, 8, 1995, with the series tied 2-2, the Mariners battled back to score two runs and send the game into extra innings.  After the eighth inning, the crowd started chanting “Randy! Randy! Randy!”  Finally Lou Piniella gave in and Randy Johnson walked out to the mound to Welcome to the Jungle booming through the Kingdome’s outdated speakers.  However in the top of the eleventh tragedy struck.  A walk, bunt, and single put the Yankees in the lead, and with their stud pitcher  Jack McDowell coming in to pitch the M’s chances looked pretty slim.  With runners on first and third, Edgar ended up hitting a double down the left field line to win the series for the M’s.  The Mariners were eliminated in the ALCS at the end by the Indians, but the effect of Edgar’s hit had MLB fans everywhere truly excited about Mariners baseball for the first time ever.

The thing is that he wasn’t just successful in the playoffs; Martinez won Seattle one of the more beautiful MLB ballparks, Safeco Field.  Two months earlier, 50.1% of King county voters voted NO on a $410 million proposal for a new stadium, to keep the Mariners in Seattle.  The state legislature later approved a new stadium for the Mariners, mainly due to public pressure.  This led people to think what would have happened if it weren’t for Edgar’s clutch hit.

Edgar was known for his great batting eye, which resulted from a series of drills before every game he utilized to improve it.  He also gave back to the community by founding the Martinez foundation, which helps give minorities’ access to proper education.  When Edgar retired in 2004, Paul Molitor said, “He was one of the most feared right-handed hitters for a long time in this league.  The amount of respect he has from peers speaks to the value of the offensive player he was.”

In 2010, Edgar’s first year eligible for the hall, he received 36.2% of the BBWAA votes.  Martinez  missed the 75% cutoff.  This year he received 32.9 % of the vote.  Who knows if Edgar will ever be in the Hall of Fame, this year definitely wasn’t encouraging.  But in Bert Blyleven’s (elected in 2011, after 14 years of eligibility) second year on the ballot, he received only 14.1% of votes.  So there is reason for optimism.  Whether Edgar ever makes it to Cooperstown or not, he will always be a hero to Mariners fans and one of the best pure hitters in major league history.

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by one of our intern candidates, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter.***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Top 10 Closers: MLB Saves Leaders

Thursday August 25, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB reports):  Closers are a topic a lot of people ask about, but I never really got around to writing about.  Mainly because, in my opinion, it is a position that is completely overrated.  While it certainly helps to have a guy that can go in and slam the door and collect saves for over a decade a la Mariano Rivera, it isn’t necessary to have a “closer” to be a contending team.  One need only to look at the top 20 leaders in saves in baseball to notice that the Texas Rangers’ closer Neftali Feliz sits 19th with 25 saves, and Philadelphia Phillies’ Ryan Madson is 20th with 23 saves.  It also doesn’t guarantee success, as Heath Bell, Drew Storen, Leo Nunez, Joel Hanrahan are all in the top 10 in saves, while their teams are not in playoff contention.

 

Top 10 Saves Leaders in MLB as of today:

Pitcher Team Saves K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP WAR
Craig Kimbrel Atlanta Braves 40 14.56 3.53 1.70 1.20 3.1
John Axford Milwaukee Brewers 37 10.86 3.32 2.26 2.36 1.7
Jose Valverde Detroit Tigers 37 8.31 4.79 2.72 4.08 0.2
Brian Wilson San Francisco Giants 35 8.72 5.20 3.19 3.40 0.7
Heath Bell San Diego Padres 35 6.79 3.23 2.55 3.07 0.7
Drew Storen Washington Nationals 34 8.03 2.19 2.77 3.48 0.6
Mariano Rivera New York Yankees 33 8.45 0.92 2.20 2.23 1.8
Leo Nunez Florida Marlins 33 8.31 2.88 4.63 4.02 0.1
Joel Hanrahan Pittsburgh Pirates 32 7.85 2.04 1.73 2.17 1.8
JJ Putz Arizona Diamondbacks 32 8.28 2.17 2.76 3.10 1.0

I look at this list and a few things come to mind:

1)      Craig Kimbrel is absolutely filthy.

2)      Mariano Rivera is still one of the very best.

3)      Closers are more overrated than I originally expected.

4)      A lot of saves does not equal success.

5)      Craig Kimbrel.  Wow.

Craig Kimbrel is having the best year ever for a rookie closer.  It isn’t even September and he has 40 saves.  Not only that, but he is striking out more than 14 batters per 9 innings.  His FIP is a ridiculous 1.20, and his WAR is at 3.1, which is 1.3 higher than any other closer in the Major Leagues.  His ground ball rate is 43.7% and has only given up 1 home run in 63 2/3 innings.  If the Braves end up winning the Wild Card and have a lead late in games, the shutdown duo of Johnny Venters and Kimbrel should be able to save the game for the Braves in most instances.

John Axford has had a strange way to becoming one of the premier closers in all of baseball.  It took him many years to get there, but under the tutelage of Trevor Hoffman, the career saves leader, whom Axford took his job from, he has flourished.  In 2010, Axford had 24 saves after taking over for Hoffman mid-season, and this year’s 37 so far are tied for 2nd in the big leagues.  Axford gets over 50% ground balls, and keeps the ball in the yard, two main factors for his success.

Jose Valverde is one of the closers whom I find to be overrated.  Part of his success can be attributed to a lucky .250 BABIP.   He also walks close to 5 batters per 9 innings, which is extremely high, especially when he does not strike out a very high number of batters.  Valverde may appear to be very good with 37 saves, but his 0.2 WAR suggests that he is basically a replacement level pitcher.  Surely he is not worth the $7M he is being paid.

Brian Wilson is loved by many in the game.  He is funny, has a strange personality, (which seems to be perfectly suited for the bullpen) and he has an outrageous beard.  Since 2008, he has accumulated 162 saves, so he is very valuable at the back-end of the Giants’ bullpen.  He keeps the ball on the ground, with a career 50% ground ball rate, but he walks a ton of batters (5.20/9IP).  He gets a lot of save opportunities because the starting rotation is very good, and his team doesn’t score many runs, so there are a lot of close games. 

Heath Bell has put up some ridiculous numbers over the last few years, but these numbers come with half of his games played in the cavernous PETCO Park.  While his last two seasons had his K rate over 10, he sits at 6.79 for this season.  His ground ball rate is also down 5% to 43.  Although his ERA is a good 2.55, his xFIP is 3.89, and like Wilson, gets saves because of an anaemic offense that results in his team often being in close games.

Drew Storen is another of the Washington Nationals’ young phenoms.  He moved up the ranks, throwing only 53 2/3 innings in the minor leagues before making his debut in 2010.  He has been a tad lucky as his BABIP is .241, but he gets a lot of ground balls, so the hits will even out.  He also gives up a higher than average home run per fly ball rate at 11.1%.  Storen doesn’t walk many, and as he matures, should probably strike out a higher number.  When Washington starts winning more games, he will have even more opportunities for saves.

Mariano Rivera is up to his usual tricks. Even at 41 years old, he is carving up hitters with his signature cut fastball.  Rivera has a ridiculous 9:1 K:BB ratio, as well as getting ground balls 47% of the time.  His WAR sits at 1.8, tied for second best for closers.  The only question is when will this guy ever slow down?

Leo Nunez of the Florida Marlins may be the most overrated closer in baseball.  Nunez doesn’t get a lot of ground balls, nor does he strike out a ton, as he gives up a ton of fly balls (49%) and home runs (8 in 56 IP).  Nunez’s ERA of 4.63 actually looks worse than his 4.02 FIP, so he has been a little unlucky, but still not very good.

Joel Hanrahan has found a home at the back-end up the Pirates’ bullpen, and is thriving there.  While his K rate has dropped to 7.85/9 IP from almost 13 last year, he has walked less batters.  Hanrahan has been able to induce ground balls on over half of his plate appearances, and only given up 1 home run in 57 1/3 innings.  His stellar numbers have allowed him to tie Rivera for 2nd in closer’s WAR this year.

JJ Putz’s resurgence as a closer this year comes as no surprise to many.  Last year as a setup man for Bobby Jenks with the Chicago White Sox, Putz’s K rate was just below 11/9IP, while he walked only 2.5 per 9 innings.  He hasn’t put up the same strikeout numbers this year, but he is walking less batters.  Putz’s WAR of 1.0 puts him towards the top of the list of closers.

 

Out of the top 30 relievers in WAR, only 9 are full-time closers.  Francisco Rodriguez is among those pitchers, but since he does not close games since traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, he was not counted.  Although this doesn’t mean that just ANYONE can close games and earn saves, it does show that many pitchers who have not been given the opportunity probably could get the job done.  

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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