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An Ode to Takashi Saito

On October 4th, former big league reliever Takashi Saito, at the age of forty-five, took the mound for one last time, struck out a batter, and called it a career — a long, respectable career that spanned over twenty-two seasons and seven teams.

I note that Toru Hosokawa, the batter, took a pair of “this guy is going to retire so let him have his moment now” swings. This is an usual sight in the NPB.

In his career, the right-hander accomplished many great feats — other than punching out Hosokawa, obviously. Some of those accomplishments make him a member of elite clubs. Let’s take a look at what he did.  Continue reading

The 10 best offensive seasons among the worst hitters of the last 30 years: #8 Jeff Francoeur 2011

frenchyOh, Frenchy. When you were 23, in 2007, it seemed like you might be a star. You posted a whopping +20 fielding runs while playing right field for the Braves. Your hitting was good enough and would probably improve. Right?

Wrong.

Despite early promise, the bat of Jeff Francoeur didn’t develop as hoped. Since his rookie year of 2005, he’s put up -86 batting runs, including 7 different seasons of at least -10. But in 2011, his first year with the Royals, he put it all together on offense. He had career highs in OBP and SLG, and also stole more than twice as many bases as in any other season.

Even that year, he didn’t walk enough and struck out too much, but his 71 extra-base hits in 153 games made a big difference. Unfortunately, his days of being an above-average fielder were behind him, and his total WAR for the season was “only” 3.1. Had he played the field as well as in past years, he could have posted the only 5+ WAR season of his career.

The 10 best offensive seasons among the worst hitters of the last 30 years: #9 Greg Myers 2003

This is part of a series of posts. Please read our methodology here

Greg Myers spent 18 gregmyersyears in the majors. He mostly played as a backup catcher, and he mostly hit as a backup catcher too. Before 2003, he appeared in 100 games in a season just twice (107 games in 1991, -4 batting runs and 108 games in 1993, -11 batting runs.) Through the 2002 season, Myers averaged 65 games played a year and amassed a total of -80 batting runs.

Then, in 2003, something weird happened. Myers became the Blue Jays’ starting catcher. Ken Huckaby was expected to hold the job (you might recall this was the year he injured Derek Jeter in spring training) but Myers was the starter from the beginning of the regular season.

And you know what? Myers hit. In a career-high 121 games, he posted career highs of 15 HR, 52 RBI, 51 runs, 101 hits, 37 walks, plus career highs in all 3 slash line categories, coming in at .307/.374/.502. His +13 batting runs was second in the AL among catchers, though well behind leader Jorge Posada with +37. Next best were A.J. Pierzynski with +10 and Jason Varitek with +9.

Even more impressive, Myers’ 2003 was the 5th-most batting runs ever by a catcher in his Age 37 season. bested only by Ernie Lombardi (1945, +21),  Mike Piazza (2006, +14), Earle Brucker (1938, +14) and Posada (2009, +14).

That was Myers’ last hurrah, though, as he played in just 14 games over the next 2 years before retiring. He finished with -83 batting runs in the rest of his career outside of his +13 2003.

Crowdsourcing Cys Young

Yesterday, we began a conversation about this year’s MVPs.  The Cy Young Award races pack more drama this year, particularly in the NL, where the top four candidates had historic years and three of them are practically indistinguishable in their excellence.  Let’s vote for the best pitchers now.

List your top five candidates for Cy Young in either league or both in the comments, with or without commentary.  I’ll compile on Friday, 11/13, using the same 7-4-3-2-1 scoring system MLB uses.  Stats after the jump.  All are sortable.  Please don’t take the default sort as an endorsement.

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MVP Crowdsourcing

I can’t think of a better crowd from which to source annual baseball awards than this site’s readership.  Let’s kick off a series of groupthink ballots with a conversation about who should win the MVP award in each league.  Your mission, should you chose to accept: List the ten players most worthy, in order, of winning the MVP in either league, or both.  Feel free to elaborate on why you chose these players or just leave the ballot there in the comments.

My task: counting the votes.  I’ll do it a week from tomorrow: Friday, 11/13.  I’ll use the same 14-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scoring that MLB uses. Also, after the jump, I’ll throw some stats out, since that’s what this site is about, right?

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