Tag:NL West
Posted on: January 8, 2012 1:10 am
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Several Hall cases come with asterisks



By C. Trent Rosecrans

The whispers and suspicions of steroid use have already seem to keep one player with no-doubt, sure-fire numbers out of the Hall of Fame. Despite a lack of concrete evidence or failed drug test, Jeff Bagwell and his 449 home run, career OPS+ of 149 and 79.9 WAR is left outside of Cooperstown and will likely still be on the outside after results of this year's balloting are announced on Tuesday.

Hall of Fame coverage

Next year's ballot will have the greater test of what the use of performance enhancing drugs means to the Hall of Fame -- if Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens can't get into the Hall because of their ties to PEDs, it's unlikely anyone will.

But we've seen Bonds and Clemens in federal court. Mark McGwire admitted his use and Rafael Palmeiro tested positive. The only test Bagwell has failed is the eyeball test. And that mark has kept him out of Cooperstown. It's unlikely he'll be the last to fail that test.

As we continue the look at the future of the Hall of Fame and the candidacy of players active today, there's no more interesting category than the asterisk guys -- some who have tested positive for PEDs, some who have been rumored to have used them, some who have been suspected and some who just don't pass the eyeball test.

Ryan Braun -- No matter what happens in Braun's appeal or the rest of his career, he will always wear the scarlet letter of a failed drug test on his chest. Braun isn't the first MVP winner to be linked to steroids, but he is the first to fail a test in the same year he won the MVP.

At 28, Braun's exploits on the field are yet to be Hall-worthy, but like Bagwell he already has a Rookie of the Year trophy, as well as an MVP by the time he turned 27. There's nothing in Braun's Baseball-Reference.com page that suggests he won't someday have a case to be enshrined in Cooperstown. In his first five years in the big leagues, he's averaged more than 30 homers a season, finished in the top 5 in MVP voting twice, bringing home the trophy this year. In each of his first five seasons, he's earned MVP votes and he's seemingly getting better and better every season.  If it weren't for the news of his failed MVP test, he'd certainly be on Saturday's list instead of this one.

Jason Giambi -- A very good player with a good career, Giambi will instead be defined as one of the poster children for the steroid era. Even without the asterisk, Giambi's bid for the Hall would be difficult. Even playing in an offensive era, Giambi was an exception offensive player, putting up a .281/.404/.525 line through the 2011 season, hitting 428 home runs. 

In the minds of many, Giambi's case is shut by his performance with the Yankees, where he failed to meet expectations after signing a seven-year, $120 million deal before the 2002 season. The Yankees didn't win a World Series during his tenure with the team, appearing in just one World Series. And then there's the fact the team won a World Series the year after he left.

And then there's the steroids. Giambi reportedly admitted to using steroids during the offseason from 2001 to 2003 and also using human growth hormone in 2003. Giambi's best seasons -- from 1999 to 2003 -- are suspect in the timing of his use of steroids.

Manny Ramirez -- One of the best pure hitters in the history of the game, Ramirez was a controversial figure before being suspended twice for failing drug tests. While there are reasonable objections to Rafael Palmeiro's case as a mere compiler of stats and milestones, Ramirez was a force of nature on the field and an enigma off of it.

Ramirez, who is attempting to play in 2012, has 555 career homers and a .996 career OPS. With 2,574 hits, 1,831 RBI, 1,544 runs and a .312/.411/.585 line, not to mention a stretch of eight consecutive seasons where he finished in the top 10 of MVP voting and two World Series rings, Ramirez was a transcendent talent. He will be remembered by any fan of baseball, he just won't be enshrined in Cooperstown.

Alex Rodriguez -- Rodriguez's case will be much like Barry Bonds -- there's no question he's one of the elite players in the history of the game, but there are also the steroid questions. Rodriguez admitted to using steroids from 2001 to 2003 while he was with the Rangers.

Like Bonds, there will be those who say Rodriguez was a Hall of Fame talent before he allegedly used steroids. And like Bonds, he may finish his career as the career leader in home runs. But unlike Bonds, Rodriguez has admitted to his use of steroids. If Bonds gets in, Rodriguez has a chance. If Bonds doesn't, he doesn't.

Ivan Rodriguez -- Jose Canseco claimed to have personally injected Rodriguez with steroids while the two were teammates in Texas, which is more indictment than anything that has been pinned on Bagwell.

What's different, perhaps, about Rodriguez is that the shadow of steroids is often cast on home run hitters, and while Rodriguez was a very good offensive player -- hitting .296/.334/.464 with 311 home runs and 2,844 hits -- during his career, his defense has always been his calling card. Rodriguez is on the short list with Johnny Bench as the best defensive catcher in the history of the game -- and has caught 201 more games than any other player in the history of the game. While steroids may not have helped him throw out 46 percent of baserunners during his career, if he did use them, they would certainly help his day-to-day recovery and dealing with rigors of catching so many games.

Without the spectre of steroids, Rodriguez is a first-ballot, no-doubt Hall of Famer. But that's not the world we live in. There are voters who, right or wrong, refuse to vote for anyone with a hint of steroid abuse on their resume, and Rodriguez has that, along with the rest.

Miguel Tejada -- Even without steroid accusations, Tejada would be a borderline Hall of Fame selection at best. With his name in the Mitchell Report and connected to Palmeiro's fall, there's probably zero chance he gets in.

Tejada will go down as one of the best offensive shortstops in baseball history, hitting .285/.336/.457 with 2,362 hits and 304 home runs in parts of 15 seasons, winning the MVP in 2002 and finishing in the top 20 six other times. Only Cal Ripken Jr. (345) and Rodriguez (344) have hit more than Tejada's 291 homers as a shortstop.

On the other hand, Tejada at his best was a below-average defensive shortstop and his career OPS+ is 108 and his (Baseball-Reference.com) WAR is 42.5, 22nd among active players behind the likes of Bobby Abreu, Mike Cameron and J.D. Drew. Tejada is unlikely to earn a plaque in Cooperstown, and steroids are probably only part of the reason.

Coming Monday: 2012 Hall of Fame inductee(s) announced
Monday: Looking ahead at the 2013 first-year eligibles
Monday: Looking at the '14, '15 and '16 first-year eligibles 

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: January 7, 2012 12:10 am
 

Under-30 players building Hall of Fame foundation



By Matt Snyder


T-minus two days until the Hall of Fame vote for the 2012 induction is unveiled, so we'll continue talking about the Hall of Fame in this relatively slow time of the year. This time around, we'll take a look at active players younger than 30 who have laid a foundation that makes a run to Cooperstown possible.

Now, make no mistake about it, none of these players are close to having completed their big-league careers nor are they currently close to being locks to the Hall of Fame. Still, some are well on their way and others have started a journey that may push them into the discussion in a decade or so.

Obviously things could change in just one season -- just take a look below at a certain catcher from Minnesota. Or think about how good it looked for Grady Sizemore three years ago at this time before injuries completely derailed him. And we have to understand that just a few seasons of being an elite player doesn't necessarily mean the longevity will be there -- take the cases of Fernando Valenzuela and Dwight Gooden, for example. For various reasons, careers can get off track. Still, it's fun to take a look at which young players have built a possible Hall-of-Fame foundation.

By no means is this an exhaustive list, but here are 20 under-30 guys who could be on the right track, in alphabetical order (age in parentheses):

Hall of Fame coverage
Miguel Cabrera (28) - The first name we list might well be the most impressive case on here. In eight full seasons (he appeared in 87 games as a rookie) Cabrera has been an All-Star six times and finished in the top five of MVP voting five times. He's hit .317/.395/.555, which is good for a 149 OPS-plus. Saying Cabrera is just about halfway through his career is probably reasonable and he already has 277 homers and 984 RBI.

Robinson Cano (29) - He wouldn't have appeared on this list until the past two seasons, but Cano has grown into one of the more dangerous hitters in baseball. He'd need to continue this pace for another six to eight years at least before being a Hall candidate, though.

Prince Fielder (27) - Six full seasons -- with 39 games in '05 -- have yielded 230 homers and 656 RBI. Fielder also has an impressive .390 on-base percentage and a whopping .929 OPS (143 OPS-plus). He's already finished in the top four of MVP voting three times. Can his robust body hold up long-term? If it does, he's probably headed to Cooperstown. Baseball-Reference.com's top similar statistical player through age 27 is Hall of Famer Eddie Murray.

Adrian Gonzalez (29) - Did he get started too late? Gonzalez didn't become a full-timer until '06 and wasn't a dominant force until '09. Still, four All-Star Games, three Gold Gloves and two Top 10 finishes in MVP voting. He also has a career .889 OPS (140 OPS-plus) and over 1,100 hits already.

Felix Hernandez (25) - We've seen so many pitchers flame out over the years after huge starts -- I mentioned two in the intro -- but King Felix basically only needs to stay healthy and keep his head on straight. He's already 85-67 with a 3.24 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 1,264 strikeouts. He has one Cy Young and also finished second once. And he could conceivably pitch 15 more seasons. Even conservatively -- assuming health -- you have to say he has 12 more in him.

Matt Kemp (27) - After a runner-up finish in MVP voting this past season, Kemp inked a huge contract with the Dodgers. He could be the face of the franchise for a decade. The power-speed combo (128 HR, 144 steals) along with a Gold Glove shows he can do it all.

Clayton Kershaw (23) - He went 21-5 with a 2.28 ERA, 248 strikeouts, an All-Star appearance and a Cy Young award last season. At 23. Enough said.

Tim Lincecum (27) - Two Cy Youngs, four All-Star appearances and a World Series ring so far. Not too shabby. Like Hernandez, Kershaw and all other great young pitchers, health and avoiding major off-field trouble are the biggest roadblocks. But there is serious foundation and talent here. I wouldn't bet against Lincecum. 

Evan Longoria (26) - He's going to be the face of the Rays for a long time and his arrival coincided with them shedding the laughingstock label. The 2008 AL Rookie of the Year has three All-Star appearances, two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger. His 136 OPS-plus bodes well. But his average dropped 50 points last season. Harbinger or aberration? I'd guess the latter.

Joe Mauer (28) - Would've seemed a lot more firm here last year at this time. The disaster of a season doesn't erase the amazing good Mauer did through the first six-plus seasons in his career, but it raises health questions moving forward. His bat means a whole lot less if he's playing first base instead of catching.

Andrew McCutchen (25) - He already has 95 doubles, 19 triples, 51 homers and 78 stolen bases. He has an .822 OPS (123 OPS-plus). What if he gets even better and is the driving force behind a complete Pirates turnaround?

Dustin Pedroia (28) - The 2007 Rookie of the Year followed up that act with a 2008 MVP. He's hitting .305/.373/.463 in his six-year career, while he's also won a World Series ring, two Gold Gloves and been to the All-Star Game three times.

Hanley Ramirez (28) - He would've been one of the best bets two years ago, but he's now mired in a two-year decline. Goes to show how quickly things can change. Of course, there's plenty of time to get back to 2007-09 form.

Jose Reyes (28) - In six "full" seasons (we'll say at least 125 games played), Reyes has been among the best players in baseball. There's no questioning that. Can he stay on the diamond enough to make himself a viable Hall candidate? It doesn't look great, but the talent is there.

Troy Tulowitzki (27) - Tulowitzki brings in three straight top-eight finishes in MVP voting and is the premier defensive shortstop in the National League. He really only has four seasons worth counting toward a possible Hall induction so far, though, so he's gonna need about eight to 10 more.

Justin Upton (24) - The potential here is insane. He came in fourth in MVP voting last season and should only get better. Again, there are many ways for younger players to derail, but Upton has all the tools to one day hit Cooperstown. Consider me a believer.

Justin Verlander (28) - Yes, he's only 28. Verlander already has 107 wins, 1,215 strikeouts, four All-Star appearances (that is, he made the team, not pitched in the game), a Cy Young and, yes, an AL MVP. He was already one of the better aces in baseball, but then went into a new stratosphere last season. If that continues, he's a cinch to make the Hall. We'll see.

Joey Votto (28) - In just four full seasons, Votto has made a name for himself as a marquee slugger. He won the 2010 MVP and followed it up with a stellar 2011 campaign as well. His career .955 OPS (151 OPS-plus) is incredible and he added a Gold Glove last season, too.

Jered Weaver (29) - Weaver was quietly really good until last season, and you can now drop the "quietly." He was the All-Star Game starter and could have easily won the Cy Young Award, if Verlander didn't happen to be putting up a historic season in the same league. In six seasons, Weaver is 82-47 with a 3.31 ERA and 977 strikeouts. Considering his age, though, this is a pretty tall order. He'll need another eight years of dominance, I'd guess.

David Wright (29) - I think I would have felt pretty good about him after 2008, but he's fallen off a slight bit since then. Perhaps the change in the ballpark dimensions helps, in addition to some health -- for himself and teammates. Wright does already have five All-Star appearances and a .300/.380/.508 line with 183 homers and 151 steals.



I think my four best bets right now would be, in no particular order: Verlander, Cabrera, Hernandez and Upton. Could be a lot more, could be a lot less. All 20 of these guys have plenty of time to either build a resume or screw it up. History tells us there's no chance all 20 make the cut, and even guessing half of these guys getting to Cooperstown is a big stretch.

Feel free to add more names in the comments, as there definitely isn't a wrong answer in this department.

Coming Sunday: "Asterisk" guys with Hall-type resumes
Monday: 2012 Hall of Fame inductee(s) announced
Monday: Looking ahead at the 2013 first-year eligibles
Monday: Looking at the '14, '15 and '16 first-year eligibles

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: January 6, 2012 2:11 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:54 pm
 

Cubs, Padres exchange Cashner, Rizzo



By Matt Snyder


The Cubs have traded highly-touted pitcher Andrew Cashner along with outfielder Kyung-Min Na to the Padres for highly-touted first baseman Anthony Rizzo and pitcher Zach Cates, the clubs announced Friday.

This deal is very notable for two particular reasons. First of all, it's a continuation of both teams' complete offseason makeovers under new leadership. That is especially interesting in this particular trade, because the Padres have a new general manager specifically because the Cubs do. Once Theo Epstein took over as Cubs team president, he hired Padres GM Jed Hoyer to be the new Cubs GM.

The second interesting part of this trade is that both (main) players are guys who have been ranked as top 100 prospects in baseball and haven't yet had long enough stints in the majors to see what they're capable of in the long term.

Cubs, Padres offseason trades
Rizzo, 22, was the major piece in the trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez to Boston, but new Padres' general manager Josh Byrnes seemed ready to move on from Rizzo after acquiring Yonder Alonso from the Reds in the Mat Latos trade.

“The acquisition of Yonder Alonso provided us the flexibility to make this trade and acquire a quality, young power arm in Andrew Cashner,” said Byrnes in a release. “We are happy to add a pitcher with the pedigree of Cashner and an outfielder with the athleticism of Na.”

Cashner, 25, was the Cubs' first-round pick in 2008. He's a hard-throwing right-hander. He won the Cubs' fifth starter job out of spring training last season, but injured his rotator cuff during his first start of the season and was unable to come back until September. On the season he had a 1.69 ERA and 0.66 WHIP with eight strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings. It's worth noting that he's moving to Petco Park, one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the majors.

But questions remain. Can he really be a starter, or just a one-inning reliever? His rotator cuff issue last year worried some. And on a conference call Friday afternoon, Byrnes said Cashner will be a reliever in 2012. Perhaps an eighth-inning setup man for Huston Street, but Byrnes said he's not ready to anoint Cashner with that role just yet.

Rizzo hit .331/.404/.652 with 26 homers and 101 RBI in 93 Triple-A games last season, but struggled mightily in his 153 major-league plate appearances (.141/.281/.242). He certainly benefits from moving out of Petco Park and into Wrigley Field, of course. It's extremely unlikely the Cubs would trade Cashner for Rizzo and still make a run at Prince Fielder, so those rumors need to die now. As for any Bryan LaHair fans, we have good news. Hoyer said on a conference call that Rizzo will open the season in Triple-A and LaHair will be the first baseman on opening day.

As with Cashner, Rizzo has questions as well. Is his swing too long to be a star in the majors? What did Byrnes and other Padres' front-office people see that made them want to pounce on Alonso and deal Rizzo so quickly?

Still, for now at least, this deal seems to make a good deal of sense for two ballclubs trying to completely alter the franchise.

The other two players involved appear to be throw-ins. Cates, 22, was 4-10 with a 4.73 ERA and 1.36 WHIP last season in Class A. Na, 20, hit .268/.358/.312 with 20 stolen bases in 83 games across four levels last season -- with most of his time spent between Rookie Ball and Class A.

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Posted on: January 6, 2012 12:25 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 1:47 pm
 

Halladay, CC lead over-30 Hall hopefuls



By Matt Snyder


In our series of Hall of Fame-related posts, leading to Monday's announcement about who will join Ron Santo in the 2012 Baseball Hall of Fame class, we continue right here with a grouping of 30-plus year old players who haven't yet rounded out their resumes. None of these guys could retire right now and be a sure bet for the Hall (though the top option would very much have a chance), but all have at least the slimmest of chances.

Hall of Fame coverage
To clarify what we're attempting to do here, this isn't C. Trent Rosecrans and Matt Snyder say who should be in the Hall of Fame (though Trent does have only two more years until he's a voter). This is us going through and trying to guess how the entire voting body -- which is larger than 550 people -- would react to certain players. We could be wrong. It's just a fun, and subjective, discussion leading up to the 2012 voting results.

Saturday, we'll check out the under-30 crowd to see who is building a Hall-like foundation to their careers (Hint: You may see a "Felix" on there ... ).

For now, we're looking at players over 30-years-old who are still in their prime or just barely past it.

Looking Good ...

Roy Halladay - Could Doc retire right now and make the Hall? Maybe. Maybe not. I would say it's not a sure thing yet but he's headed to the Hall of Fame, because he's not retiring any time soon. If we do this again next year, he might very well have already moved to the surefire list. He's that close. The eight-time All-Star has two Cy Youngs, seven top-five Cy Young finishes and two runner-up finishes in the voting. He's already amassed over 2,500 career innings pitched with 66 complete games and 20 shutouts. His 188-92 record, 3.23 ERA and 1.17 WHIP all look nice. He'll surpass 2,000 strikeouts this season and he's already 40th all-time in career Wins Above Replacement among pitchers. He'll likely climb into the top 30 this season while going past 200 victories. Oh, and he threw a no-no in the playoffs. At 34, he probably has three years left in his prime. So, yeah, this case is nearly complete, barring him turning into Mike Morgan for the next five years. There are guys already in the Hall with worse numbers.

CC Sabathia - Carsten Charles isn't nearly as close as Halladay, he's just on the right track. CC is a five-time All-Star with one Cy Young and five top five finishes in Cy voting. He has a World Series ring and a 176-96 career record, to go with a 3.51 ERA (125 ERA-plus) and 1.23 WHIP. The problem for Sabathia is, though he's played 11 seasons, he didn't become dominant until 2007 -- yes, he was 17-5 as a rookie, but with a 4.39 ERA and zero complete games. From 2007-11, CC has been a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher, but that's only five years. He does already have over 2,000 strikeouts, though. Another three seasons like the past three he's had for the Yankees and he's a pretty good bet to make it, I'd guess. Five more and he's a lock. Since he's still only 31, I like his chances.

Work to be done ...

Carlos Beltran - A Rookie of Year, six All-Star games, three Gold Gloves, 302 homers, 293 steals. Good? Definitely. Elite? Not yet. And he's a slightly-broken-down 34. It doesn't look promising.

Adrian Beltre -
Those five seasons of having Safeco Field stifle his offensive numbers could prove very costly. He's still only 32, though.

Lance Berkman
- Does the 35-year-old have about three more seasons coming like the one he just had in St. Louis? If so, he may just have a shot. If not, he's just had a really great career.

Mark Buehrle - He's only 32 and sports a 161-119 record along with two no-hitters (one perfecto). Four All-Star appearances and three Gold Gloves, too. If Buehrle pitches six more years or so with the same durability he may sneak into discussion.

Chris Carpenter - Injuries probably did him in. If you look at 2004-06 and then 2009-11 for Carpenter, and say he could have done that over a 12-year period in a 16-year career, he's a Hall of Famer. Instead, he really has only those six seasons to bank on, as his six-year stint in Toronto was mediocre. He's 36 now and probably doesn't have enough has left in his tank to put up four more big seasons, especially considering he wasn't awesome in 2011 and worked over 270 innings (playoffs included).

Johnny Damon - Do you believe 3,000 hits is an automatic ticket to the Hall? Everyone with at least 3,000 hits is in the Hall except: Pete Rose (banned from baseball), Derek Jeter (still active), Craig Biggio (not Hall-eligible until next year) and Rafael Palmeiro (tested positive for a banned substance). With 2,723 hits, Damon is two seasons away. But he's 38. But pretty much just as productive as he's been for a long time, according to OPS-plus. We'll see ...

Matt Holliday - In eight seasons, Holliday is a five-time All-Star and has received MVP votes in five different seasons. His rate stats -- .315/.388/.541 with a 137 OPS-plus -- look awesome, but Holliday didn't come up until he was 24. So he's a 31-year-old power hitter with just 202 homers and 770 RBI. Can he keep hitting like this for another eight years? Until then, he's not getting in.

Tim Hudson - His numbers are a bit similar to Sabathia, minus the strikeouts and World Series ring, but he's 36. Hudson will be on a Hall of Fame ballot, but just one, before falling off. Really good career, though.

Paul Konerko - It feels like he doesn't have enough time left. He's a 35-year-old power hitter with 396 homers and 1,261 RBI. Basically, you could say the same thing I said above about Berkman (subbing in "Chicago" for "St. Louis," of course).

Phillies' offensive trio - Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley formed the offensive nucleus for a team that won the NL East five straight years (and counting), the NL two straight years and the 2008 World Series. But considering various circumstances (age, injury history, etc.), it appears the Phillies offense had zero Hall of Famers through this stretch.

Roy Oswalt - Young Roy appeared on the way, finishing in the top five of Cy Young voting five of his first six seasons. The numbers for the 34-year-old show he's got a chance with three more really great seasons, but his balky back poses a huge problem.

Mark Teixeira - He'll turn 32 in April, so it would appear he has an uphill battle with 314 homers and 1,017 RBI thus far in his career. The .904 OPS (132 OPS-plus) looks really good, but Teixiera's only hit .252 the past two seasons combined.

Michael Young - He's a seven-time All-Star with a .304 career batting average and many writers seem to love him (he got a first-place AL MVP vote this year, for example). Young also has 2,061 hits and is 35. Does he have 939 hits left in him? He has 957 in the past five seasons. He could probably play five more seasons as a DH.



So what do you think, readers? Any of these guys have a shot? Who has the best shot?

Coming Saturday: Under-30 players who have laid a foundation
Sunday: "Asterisk" guys with Hall-type resumes
Monday: 2012 Hall of Fame inductee(s) announced
Monday: Looking ahead at the 2013 first-year eligibles
Monday: Looking at the '14, '15 and '16 first-year eligibles

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: January 5, 2012 8:12 pm
 

Rockies trade for Jim Tracy's son

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Remember in Little League when someone's dad was the coach, that kid automatically was placed on that team? Well, it's not quite like that in the major leagues. That said, Chad S. Tracy may be playing for his dad this season.

The Rockies acquired Tracy from the Rangers in exchange for right-hander Greg Reynolds, the Rockies announced on Thursday.

The younger Tracy (not to be confused with the former Diamondback Chad Tracy), is the son of Colorado manager Jim Tracy. The 26-year-old hit .259/.339/.475 with 26 home runs and 109 RBI in 134 games for Triple-A Round Rock, playing mostly at first base and also three games in left field.

Reynolds, 26, was the second-overall pick in the 2006 draft by the Rockies (after the Royals took Luke Hochevar and before the Rays took Evan Longoria -- and five picks before the Dodgers took Clayton Kershaw and eight spots ahead of Tim Lincecum.) Reynolds pitched in 13 games for hte Rockies last season, going 3-0 with a 6.19 ERA overall, starting three games. In 32 innings, he struck out 18 and walked two. He started 13 games for the Rockies in 2008 and finished 2-8 with an 8.13 ERA in 14 appearances.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: January 5, 2012 5:54 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 6:49 pm
 

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates



By C. Trent Rosecrans


It's Hall of Fame season, so instead of whining about how other people vote and hiding our ballot envy behind the safety of snark and namecalling, the Eye on Baseball team is looking ahead to future Hall of Fame classes. Yesterday, Matt Snyder looked at five sure-fire, no-doubt, if-their-career-ended-today active Hall of Fame players.
Hall of Fame coverage

Today, we'll look at what makes the Hall a little bit more fun -- the borderline guys. These are guys that if their career ended today would have an argument for the Hall of Fame and could get in or may not. What makes it a little more fun is that Matt and I couldn't even agree on the lists -- so here we go.

Vladimir Guerrero -- Guerrero's best years were in Montreal, where he was invisible to most baseball fans, like Tim Raines and Andre Dawson before him. Still, Guerrero has made nine All-Star teams and won the American League MVP in 2004, his first season outside of Montreal. Through 16 seasons, Guerrero has 2,590 hits and 449 home runs. At this point, it seems like he just doesn't have enough in the tank to get to 3,000 and 500 -- marks that would make his chances much better. Still, he's a career .318/.379/.553 hitter and has a career OPS+ of 140. He also has a career WAR of 59.2 (according to Baseball-Reference.com). 

If Guerrero's career ended now (which isn't a stretch, considering he's currently not under contract and is limited to DH), he'd be one of six players to finish their career with more than 400 home runs and a career batting average better than .315, joining Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Stan Musial. Guerrero had 12 seasons with a .300 average and more than 25 homers -- only Williams (14), Ruth (14) and Hank Aaron (13) have as many as Guerrero.

Todd Helton -- Like Guerrero, it appears that he'll fall just short of the magic numbers of 3,000 hits and 500 homers. Helton, 38, has 2,363 career hits and is coming off another .300 season, but needs another 637 hits to get to 3,000 -- and over the last five seasons he has 663 hits. While he's signed through the next two seasons and could play into his 40s, his recent back problems make it seem like he's unlikely to get there.

Helton's a career .323/.421/550 hitter -- with his .421 on-base percentage the highest among active players.  Helton made five straight All-Star teams from 2000-2004, finishing int he top 10 in MVP voting in three of those years. He also won four Silver Sluggers and three Gold Gloves, all during that same period.

The biggest strike against Helton, though, is where he played. All 15 of his seasons have been with the Rockies and he's certainly benefitted by playing half of his games in Colorado. His career splits are .354/.451/.620 at home and .291/.391/.478 on the road. It should be pointed out those are still pretty darn good numbers -- another Hall of Fame first baseman, Tony Perez, hit .279/.391/.463 in his career. Overall, Helton has a career OPS+ of 136. That number accounts for not only what other players are doing, but also includes park factors. Helton's career WAR, according to Baseball-Reference.com, is 59.9 -- better than Dave Winfield, Richie Ashburn, Willie Stargell and Hank Greenberg, among other Hall of Famers.

Andruw Jones -- The knee-jerk reaction to Andruw Jones and the Hall of Fame is of course not -- the thought just doesn't seem right. Instead, for many, Jones represents the squandering of talent, not the Hall of Fame. Jones came up at 19 and immediately made an impact in the 1996 World Series.

Jones is just a career .256/.339/.488 hitter and will need a couple more years in his current role of a fourth outfielder to get to 2,000 hits. He does have 420 homers, but hit just .256/.339/.448 in his first 16 seasons in the big leagues.

But then there's the defense. Jones is a 10-time Gold Glove winner in center field, but that only starts to tell how good Jones was defensively in his prime. In a Hall of Fame discussion, it may be best to compare Jones to Ozzie Smith -- another transcendent defensive player. Smith was a career .262/.337/.328 hitter, with Jones' power numbers more than making up for the difference in batting averages. While shortstop is unquestionably the most important defensive position on the field, center field is probably second. And at his prime, there's probably no center fielder as good as Jones.

Overall, Jones checks in with a 60.4 career WAR from Baseball-Reference, but FanGraphs.com's formula rates him even higher, at 71.7. Both numbers are inflated by defense, but few players were ever as good as Jones was defensively.

Jorge Posada -- Posada's always been lumped in with Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera as the trio came up with the Yankees at the same time in the mid-90s and were parts of not only the late-90s World Series dynasty, but also the team's run in the 2000s. While Posada isn't a slam-dunk like Jeter and Rivera, he has a case.

In his 17 seasons, all with the Yankees, Posada hit .273/.374/.474 with 275 home runs and 1,664 hits. He's not going to reach any of the magical numbers, but as a catcher, those are tough to achieve. Over his career, he has an OPS+ of 121 and a WAR of 44.7. His career OPS+ is better than Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter, the last two catchers inducted in Cooperstown.

While many can point to his participation in so many postseason games, he was hardly a great player during the fall, hitting .248/.358/.387 with 11 home runs and 42 RBI in 125 career postseason games. In 29 World Series games, Posada hit just .219/.333/.333 with two homers.

Defensively, Posada probably wasn't as bad as his reputation, but he was hardly Ivan Rodriguez, his contemporary -- and along with Johnny Bench one of the top two defensive catchers ever.

Scott Rolen -- Really. He's not the type that you think of when you think of Hall of Famers. Some people -- and I used to be one -- say you know a Hall of Famer when you see one. And Rolen never fit in that mold. He was always seen as good, but maybe not great. But when you look at his career as a whole, he certainly merits discussion and consideration.

While Rolen's counting stats of 2,005 career hits and 308 homers and the fact he'll be 37 in April mean he's unlikely to hit the big milestones, has a .282/.366/.494 career line with an OPS+ of 123. He has a Silver Slugger to his resume, was the 1997 Rookie of the Year and finished fourth in the 2004 MVP voting.

Third base is the most underrepresented position in the Hall of Fame, and Rolen may not be Mike Schmidt or George Brett, but he does rank up with the best to ever play the position. Of players who played more than 50 percent of their games at third base, only three third basemen have 2,000 hits, 300 home runs, 1,200 RBI and 500 doubles -- Brett, Chipper Jones and Rolen.

And then there's the case of defense -- Rolen has been an outstanding defensive third baseman his entire career, winning eight Gold Gloves. Only Brooks Robinson and Schmidt have more Gold Gloves at third than Rolen.

Ron Santo will get his well-deserved enshrinement in Cooperstown this summer, and the two have similar career numbers. Santo hit .277/.362/.464 with 2,254 career hits, 342 homers and five Gold Gloves. Santo's career OPS+ was 125.

Rolen's career WAR is 66.2 according to Baseball-Reference.com, tied with Craig Biggio and just behind Gary Carter (66.3) and Santo (66.4) and better than Willie McCovey (65.1) and Ernie Banks (64.4).

Ichiro Suzuki -- While I seem to think if the border is located in Brownsville, Ichiro is Houston -- and at the very least Corpus Christi. But Matt thought differently, so I guess that makes him ineligible for the "no doubt."

Leave aside for the moment Suzuki's accomplishments in Japan -- in just the United States, Suzuki has 2,428 hits, 423 stolen bases and a .326/.370/.421 line. He's also been named to 10 All-Star games, won two batting titles, won the MVP in 2001, the same year he won the Rookie of the Year, and has finished in the top 10 of MVP voting four times and in the top 20 eight times. He also has 10 Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers. He also had more than 200 hits in each of his first 10 seasons in the United States, leading the majors in that category seven times. 

Honestly, like I said, I'm not sure why he's on this list and not the "no doubt" list. Maybe his career WAR is a little low at 54.5 (according to BaseballReference.com), but remember that's just 11 years.

Suzuki is 38 and will likely play at the least two more years and with three, he's nearly a lock to get to 3,000 career hits in the United States. If he gets to 3,000 in the big leagues, he'll have 4,278 career hits combined between Japan and the United States.

Omar Vizquel -- Only Ozzie Smith has more Gold Gloves at shortstop than Vizquel's 11, and if any shortstop can be mentioned in the same breath as Smith defensively, it's Vizquel.

The two are also similar offensively. Vizquel's career line is .272/.337/.353 with an OPS+ of 82, picking up 2,841 hits, while stealing 401 bases. Smith was a career .262/.337/.328 hitter with an OPS+ of 87, accumulating 2,460 hits, while stealing 580 bases.

Vizquel has just one top 20 MVP finish, while Smith had four. Smith also had 15 All-Star nods to Vizquel's three, but Vizquel played in the post-Cal Ripken era when more was expected offensively out of shortstops.

Vizquel will be 45 in April and hopes to play another season, but it seems unlikely he'll be able to get the 159 hits he needs to get to 3,000 and make him an easier choice.

Wednesday: Surefire active Hall of Famers
Coming Friday: Players over 30 who have a shot of getting there with a few more good years
Saturday: Players under 30 building a good foundation
Sunday: Asterisk candidates -- on-field numbers good enough but PED issues cloud matters

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Posted on: January 3, 2012 3:22 pm
 

Beyond the closer -- baseball's best facial hair



By C. Trent Rosecrans


When it comes to baseball facial hair, all the glory seems to go to the closers -- from Rollie Fingers to Rod Beck to the modern-day duo of Brian Wilson and John Axford. Wilson's beard has made him baseball's version of Peyton Manning -- appearing in more commercials than games. And then there's Axford, the Brewers' closer won the title of Mustached American of the Year from the American Mustache Institute, despite the fact he's Canadian.

Well, why should closers have all the fun? We need to get back to the glory days of the 70s and 80s when mustaches weren't just for the closers, they were for everyone in baseball. So, with that in mind, here is some of baseball's best mustaches, beards and other facial hair variations that are sported by players other than closers.

The outfielder -- Toronto's Eric Thames

 

Thames gets bonus points for versatility, changing his facial hair throughout the season, from simple stubble to some fantastic sideburn-mustache combos. Kudos to Thames for several of his combinations and his sheer willingness to experiment. A true All-Star in terms of facial hair.

The infielder -- Seattle's Brendan Ryan

 

Ryan finished the season clean-shaven, but hopefully he's using the offseason to get this glorious 'stache back in shape for spring training. Ryan also knows how to sport some awesome stirrups, so the man knows his style.

The starter -- Minnesota's Carl Pavano

 

Pavano's 'stache has its own Facebook page, as well it should.

The middle reliever -- Cincinnati's Sam LeCure

 

LeCure used his mustache to raise money for prostate cancer as part of the Movember movement. While a native of Missouri, LeCure went to college at Texas, so he's taken note of the great gunslingers of the old west for inspiration for his 'stache.

The manager -- Seattle's Eric Wedge

 

Like Ryan, Wedge shaved late in the 2011 season. Let's hope Wedge brings back the mustache -- which just commands respect. 

The bench coach -- Tampa Bay's Dave Martinez

 

Martinez didn't shave his beard, but he did give it a good trim late in the season. But you've got to give the guy credit for keeping that glorious monster alive during a Florida spring and summer. Sure, Tropicana Field is air conditioned, but you've got to leave the ballpark sometimes and that humidity is deadly.

The umpire -- Jim Joyce



Joyce became a household name for the way he handled his blown call costing Armando Galarraga a perfect game in 2010, but his mustache screams authority and confidence, meaning we believe him now when he says out or safe -- no matter what's happened in the past.

The mascot -- Mr. Redlegs

 

Mr. Met is probably the best mascot in the game, but the Reds took the Mr. Met template and one-upped him with a handlebar mustache -- which is like the bacon of facial hair, it makes everything better.

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Posted on: December 31, 2011 7:12 pm
 

Padres making moves for 2012

Josh ByrnesBy C. Trent Rosecrans 

While the White Sox have sent some mixed messages this offseason, the Padres have not. New San Diego general manager Josh Byrnes wants his team to score more runs in 2012, and he again made a move to try to do that acquiring outfielder Carlos Quentin from the White Sox in exchange for two minor-league pitchers.

"Ownership let us stretch payroll to make this move," Byrnes said Saturday afternoon on a conference call. "We started a couple of years ago, when (former GM) Jed (Hoyer) put a big focus on building a talent base and acquiring prospects to a point where it's a real strength. (Owner Jeff Morad) told me we had ways to stretch our payroll if we can be a surprise team in 2012 and have a foundation to sustain success at the Major League level."

Byrnes, who took over the team when Hoyer went to the Cubs, has used not only what is arguably the game's deepest farm system, but also some of the current talent to improve the Padres' immediate future. 

Since taking over, Byrnes acquired a replacement at closer for Heath Bell in Huston Street, pulled off a big trade with the Reds that brought in Yonder Alonso and Edinson Volquez, along with more prospects, for Mat Latos. And the Byrnes may not be done yet.

"We feel like we still have some work to do," Byrnes said. "I think certainly the biggest weakness of the 2011 team, the offense, we feel like we've taken some steps to improve it."

Quentin -- if healthy -- could be a big part of the new Padres lineup, hitting in the middle of the lineup along with Chase Headley and Nick Hundley.

Quentin was named to his second All-Star team last season, hitting 17 home runs in the first half of the season, before being limited to just 33 games after the All-Star Game in Arizona. The San Diego native -- and current resident -- hit 36 homers in 2008 and has averaged nearly 24 homers a season since, despite playing in just 116 games a year since his break-out season.

San Diego Padres

"He's a real threat and we lacked that last season," Byrnes said. "Last year, when we were down two or three runs, we were out of the game."

Quentin also is a better fit than many for Petco Park because he's a right-handed hitter and the majority of his homers are to left field, where it's easier to homer at Petco. Of Quentin's 24 home runs in 2011, all but one came to the left of second base. While U.S. Cellular Field has the opposite reputation for home run hitters as Petco, 14 of his 24 homers were calculated to have gone out in all 30 parks, according to HitTrackerOnline.com -- and as Byrnes noted, the Padres do play half their games away from Petco Park, something he's no doubt told free agent hitters since taking over.

"I've heard the different talks about the park. I was here when the park was first built -- I'm familiar with it, I've played here," Quentin said. "Bottom line is I'm a hitter first. … It's always been my approach to hit first and stay within myself. That's the most ideal approach to produce power. I'm not planning on changing that at all."

Acquiring Quentin helps rectify what Byrnes called one of his "regrets." As general manager of the Diamondbacks, Byrnes sent Quentin to the White Sox in December of 2007 in a move that helped bring Dan Haren to Arizona.

"The key point with Carlos is the intensity he has, he plays with a real edge and that's something we've been missing," Byrnes said.

Quentin will play left field, joining center fielder Cameron Maybin in the outfield a likely platoon of Will Venable and Chris Denorfia in right. The team also has Kyle Blanks, Mark Kotsay and Jesus Guzman, meaning another trade is far from unlikely at this point.

While one of the pitchers the Padres traded away, right-hander Simon Castro, was ranked as a Top 100 prospect before the 2011 season, he struggled in 2011 at Double-A and Triple-A, putting up a 5.63 ERA (although some of that can be attributed to the altitude in Tucson). Castro, and left-hander Pedro Hernandez, were unlikely to be ranked in the Padres' Top 10. Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein had Castro ranked as the team's 20th best prospect and Hernandez wasn't ranked by Goldstein, so the true cost of the Padres' acquisition will be money. Quentin is arbitration-eligible and will be a free agent after the season. He could make as much as $8 million this season through arbitration, plus the Padres took on payroll in the Latos deal, meaning the team could see a significant bump in its payroll for 2012.

As for the White Sox, they have perhaps the worst minor-league system in baseball and the acquisition of Castro and Hernandez should help. Both should be in Chicago's top prospects list. The White Sox have already traded off closer Sergio Santos and despite the extension for John Danks, the team appears to be in rebuilding mode, which is why they went ahead and dealt Quentin.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com