The Right Stuff

'10 scherzer

Former big-league Pitcher Tom Candiotti was quoted regarding the term stuff about a decade ago and said, “It seems the term has been around baseball forever. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, as scouting became more essential and more organized, the term stuff became more prominent as a technical term.” My first recollection was early in the 1967 season when the Red Sox played a series in Anaheim and some of the Angel hitters described what “great stuff” Jim Lonborg had displayed against them. It seems that they knew what they were saying, as Lonborg won 22 games that season along with the AL Cy Young Award.


When you do your scouting for the 2019 season, it could be that stuff should be part of your thought process. In the 2019 Bill James Handbook, Alex Vigderman looks at two primary categories that lead to pitching success…1) Throwing Strikes and 2) Having a Swing and Miss Pitch. It is clear from his analysis that the two are of “comparable importance”. Nine out of ten major league pitchers throw 60-69% strikes, but the difference in the range is enormous. The average ERA at 67% strikes is significantly lower than the average ERA at 60% strikes. Four out of five major league pitchers have swing-and-miss figures of 12-20% and once again the margins of the study show the difference. The average ERA at 19-20% is almost a run lower than the average ERA at 12%.


So, the dream Fantasy (and reality) pitcher would be the one who has above-average numbers in both categories. Logic might tell us that a pitcher who is above both the mid-point in strikes thrown (say 66%) and swings-and-misses (say 17%), might have the right stuff. Let’s look at rotation starters & closers  from 2018 who met that criteria (in alphabetical order)…


> Shane Bieber (67/18) – 11-5 in 19 starts as a rookie, it seems like that 4.55 ERA might come down.


> Dylan Bundy (67/20) – Tough to find something good about a record of 8-16 with a 5.45 ERA, but the base skills are there.


> Carlos Carrasco (67/23) – No surprise here and Indians clearly understand with a 4-year $47 Million extension.


> Gerrit Cole (67/22) – 15-5 with a 2.88 ERA and will be a free agent in 2020…Ca Ching!


> Jacob deGrom (69/23) – At age 30, he has a ROY Award and a Cy Young.


> Edwin Diaz (67/29) – This verifies that the new Mets Closer has swing & miss stuff.


> Sean Doolittle (70/26) – The only Pitcher in the game with 70% strikes each of the last three seasons.


> Zach Eflin (66/17) – 11-8 with a 4.36 ERA in 24 starts…might be a sleeper pick.


> Ken Giles (70/23) – Frustratingly inconsistent as a Closer but did have 26 Saves in ’18.


> Josh Hader (67/29) – The poster boy for “bullpenning”, look at that swing & miss rate.


> Andrew Heaney (66/18) – A post-hype hurler with an injury history, he made 30 starts last season with solid results.


> Kelvin Herrera (67/20) – Coming off an injury, he’s still on the free agent market but has Closer credentials.

> Kenley Jansen (68/21) – Had a slow start and eventual off-season surgery that wasn’t arm related…the underlying numbers are still there.


> Clayton Kershaw (68/17) – Like most of us, he’s not what he once was…but he’s still good.


> Corey Kluber (67/19) – 20-7 with a 2.89 ERA…has averaged 32 starts over the last five years.


> Kenta Maeda (66/22) – What gets lost in his 8-11 record is that he struck out 11 batters per 9 innings.


> German Marquez (66/20) – The breakout seems to be real.


> Joe Musgrove (70/17) – How does an injury-prone starter with a 17-21 lifetime record get on the list? Maybe worth a flyer in the end game?


> Aaron Nola (67/19) – 3rd in the Cy Young balloting at age 25.


> Roberto Osuna (72/20) – Controversial player due to personal behavior, but the stats are off the charts…will turn 24 next month.


> James Paxton (68/22) – Will the results be better or worse in Yankee Stadium?


> Nick Pivetta (66/19) – With any luck, his 4.77 ERA could be a run better in ’19.


> Chris Sale (68/24) – If you’ve ever been in the ballpark when this guy pitches, you immediately think “He’s got great stuff”.


> Max Scherzer (69/24) – Arguably, the best Pitcher in the game…three Cy Young Awards in the last six years.


> Luis Severino (67/19) – Turns 25 next month…a perennial All-Star if he stays healthy.


> Noah Syndergaard (68/21)) – 13-4 in 25 starts.


> Jameson Taillon (66/17) – Emerged as the Bucs ace at age 26.


> Masahiro Tanaka (67/21) – 64-34 in five seasons…with a dangling elbow ligament.


> Blake Treinen (68/27) – Had 38 Saves and an ERA of 0.83!!


> Felipe Vazquez (67/22) – His GF (games finished) number for 2018 was 60!!


> Justin Verlander (69/22) – At age 35, this is amazing…didn’t miss a start and had 290 K’s.


> Alex Wood (66/17) – Cincy may not be as kind as L.A.


> Kirby Yates (66/26) – Sometimes when Closers come out of nowhere, you wonder if it was a fluke…these numbers alleviate your fears.


As George Carlin once said, “Have you ever noticed that their stuff is crap and your crap is stuff?” Hope all your hurlers have the right stuff.





Are You A Real Baseball Fan

gamble afro

Are you a real baseball fan? A true baseball fan? Don’t reply too quickly because membership in this exclusive club requires certain criteria. Can you answer yes to most of the following questions…


> Do you still have a vivid memory of that Home Run you hit in Little League?


> Does it take you back in time when you remember that first autograph from a major leaguer?


> Did you study statistics and do you still know the lifetime batting average of your favorite player?


> Is there at least one big league jersey hanging in your closet?


> Do you have a T-shirt that says “BB THE BB”?


> Does a 3-2 count with the bases loaded still put you on the edge of your seat?


> Is there a Bill James publication somewhere on your bookshelf?


There are dozens more on the baseball SAT, but you get the idea. This marvelous sport we love is part of the fabric of our lives. If you’re a baby boomer or a millennial, the history of the game speaks to you and you’re always ready for a baseball-themed conversation…or debate. You can probably name most of the 32 players who have reached 3,000 hits but a football fan wouldn’t even know some of the 31 players with 10,000 career rushing yards if you gave them the names. If you doubt that, ask some of your Fantasy Football buddies about Thomas Jones or Corey Dillon.


So, as we celebrate the history of the game and the wonders of the 2018 season, let’s take a look at who the sport lost in the past year…


> Willie McCovey, Giants 1B 1959-1980 – One of two Hall of Famers who passed away in ’18, “Stretch” was a star from the moment he arrived in the big leagues and won the ’59 NL Rookie of the Year award by hitting .354 in 192 AB’s. Hit 521 HR’s and contributed a 64.5 WAR on his way to Cooperstown in 1986.


> Red Schoendienst, Cardinals 2B 1945-1963 – Enshrined by the Veteran’s Committee in 1989, he also managed the Redbirds from 1965-1976 and won a World Series ring in 1967. As a player, he was a ten-time All Star.


> Rusty Staub, Astros / Expos & Mets OF 1963-1985 – One of the most colorful and popular players of his era, “Le Grand Orange” accumulated 292 HR’s and over 2,700 Hits in his career. He was also admired after his playing days for his contributions to numerous charities.


> Bob Bailey, Pirates / Dodgers & Expos 3B-OF 1962-1978 – A solid everyday player for over a decade, he hit 189 HR’s and accumulated a WAR number of 28.7.


> Wally Moon, Cardinals & Dodgers OF 1954-1965 – Broke in with the Redbirds in ’54 and won the NL Rookie of the Year award. Joined the Dodgers in ’59 and his “Moon Shots” over the short left-field fence helped the team go on to win the World Series. An outstanding all-around player, he even had a Gold Glove on his resume.


> Oscar Gamble, Yankees OF 1969-1985 – Played with seven different teams in a 17-year career and hit 200 HR’s. His best season was 1977 with the White Sox where he hit .297 with 31 HR’s & 83 RBI’s. And, of course, he probably had the best Afro in the history of the game.


> Ed Charles, A’s & Mets 3B 1962-1969 – Will always be remembered as a member of that amazing ’69 Mets team that won it all.


> Tito Francona, Indians OF 1956-1970 – A 15-year major league veteran, his best seasons were in Cleveland where he made the All-Star team in ’61. Coming full circle, his Son Terry is now the Manager of the Tribe.


> Bruce Kison, Pirates & Angels P 1971-1985 – One of four Pitchers with 100+ Wins who passed in ’18, he had a lifetime record of 115-88 with a 3.66 ERA.


> Marty Pattin, Royals P 1968-1980 – Pitched over 200 innings for four consecutive seasons in the early 70’s. Ended up 114-109 with 25 Saves and a 3.62 ERA.


> Tony Cloninger, Braves & Reds P 1961-1972 – His lifetime record of 113-97 is certainly worthwhile, but his claim to fame will always be that July game in 1966 at Candlestick Park when he hit two Grand Slam HR’s and had nine (9) RBI’s.


> Billy O’Dell, Orioles & Giants P 1954-1967 – An impressive 3.29 ERA goes with his 105-100 record. Made two AL All-Star teams in the 50’s and recorded 19 Wins for the ’62 Giants.


92 former big-leaguers died in 2018 and if you’re a real fan, you’ll remember many of them. There were guys who played in the early 50’s like Tom Brewer, Dick Cole, Sammy Esposito & Dean Stone, guys who were more infamous than famous like Jack Hamilton, guys with famous names like John Kennedy and guys with nicknames like “Doc” Edwards & “Moose” Stubing. And, a few more who played at least ten seasons in the majors like Bob Barton, Dave Nelson, Ed Roebuck, Carl Scheib, Lee Stange & Luis Valbuena.


They’re all part of the history because they were all in the “Show”.




Double Digit Uniformity

'64 Rose 8

In a previous visit, we reviewed the history of uniform numbers in baseball and listed the best players to wear a single digit on their back. Needless to say, the rookie cards of some of those legends (including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Stan Musial) would put a huge dent in your wallet, but as we move into double digit numbers, you’ll find that a home equity loan may still be necessary.


Today, we’ll look at numbers 10-25 and, as before, the value of the cards is based on Near Mint (NM 7) condition.


> #10 Lefty Grove, Athletics & Red Sox Pitcher – This Hall of Famer won 300 games and led the American League in ERA Nine (9) times in the 1920’s & 30’s. His rookie card is from 1933 Goudey (#220) and is valued at $900. Other candidates include Phil Rizzuto and Andre Dawson.


> #11 Carl Hubbell, Giants Pitcher – “King Carl” had a lifetime ERA under 3 and won two National League MVP Awards in the 1930’s. He will always be remembered for the greatest pitching performance in All-Star Game history when in 1934, he struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons & Joe Cronin in succession. All five were future Hall of Famers. Hubbell has two cards in the ’33 Goudey set (#’s 230 & 234) and they are each worth over $600. Luis Aparicio and Paul Waner also wore #11.


> #12  Roberto Alomar, Indians & Blue Jays 2B – Arguably, the best fielding 2B of the modern era, he won ten (10) Gold Gloves and accumulated over 2,700 Hits on his way to Cooperstown. His best rookie card is from 1988 Score (#105T) and can be had for less than $10, which is a reflection of the over-production during that time.


#13 Alex Rodriguez, Yankees 3B – His reputation has gone into the porcelain commode and there’s no doubt that he’s a polarizing figure, but we’re reluctantly putting him on the list. There are numerous rookie cards of him from 1994, ranging in price from $10 to $50. If this choice causes you to slightly throw up in your mouth, go with the 1971 Topps card of Dave Concepcion (#14), which books for about $25.


> #14 Ernie Banks, Cubs SS & Pete Rose, Reds 2B/OF – Can you really choose between these two iconic ballplayers? “Mr. Cub” has his rookie card in the 1954 Topps set (#94) and it will set you back $2,500. “Charlie Hustle” can be found as a rookie in the 1963 edition of Topps (#537) and the card books for about $1,400. If you’re a Rose fan, opt for his 1964 card (#125), which is much nicer visually and is only valued at $350.


#15 Thurman Munson, Yankees C – The Yankees Captain shared his rookie card in the 1970 Topps set (#189) with Dave McDonald and it books for $80. A better option is Munson’s 1971 Topps card (#5), which books even higher at $220 due to the condition-sensitive black borders. Another #15 of note was Dick Allen.


#16 Whitey Ford, Yankees Pitcher – One of the great post-season hurlers in history, he won ten (10) World series games with a 2.71 ERA and had a .690 lifetime winning percentage. His rookie card from the 1951 Bowman set (#1) is worth $1,850 in near mint condition. The price is reflective not only of his career but because  the first (and last) card in vintage sets is always difficult to find in good condition. Why, you ask? Because kids would put rubber bands around their cards, significantly damaging the top and bottom card. One other notable Pitcher to wear this number was Hal Newhouser.


#17 Dizzy Dean, Cardinals Pitcher – This great right-hander had a record of 30-7 in 1934 and won two more games in the World Series. That performance won him the National League MVP and he followed up with a 28-12 mark in 1935. One of the colorful characters of the game, he later became a well-known broadcaster. His rookie card from 1933 Goudey (#223) books for $1,400.


#18 Ted Kluszewski, Reds 1B – “Big Klu” was a great slugger and hit 40+ Home Runs for three consecutive seasons in the mid-50’s. His rookie card can be found in the 1948 Leaf set (#38) and is valued at $275. Other #18’s of note include Moises Alou and Mel Harder.


#19 Bob Feller, Indians Pitcher – “Rapid Robert” had one of the great fastballs ever and won 266 games while missing 3+ years serving in World War II. There are two cards of his in the 1938 Goudey “Heads-Up” set (#’s 264 & 288) and they’ll set you back about $3,300 in total. In the modern era, both Tony Gwynn and Robin Yount wore #19.


#20 Frank Robinson, Reds & Orioles OF – A very tough call, but this marvelous player won MVP Awards in both leagues, had over 2,900 Hits and slugged 586 Home Runs. In addition, he became the first major league Black Manager in 1975 and ended up managing for 16 seasons. 1957 Topps is where you’ll find his rookie card (#35) and it books for $325. You could certainly make a case for Mike Schmidt, Lou Brock or Pie Traynor.


#21 Roberto Clemente, Pirates OF – An amazing player and still idolized by millions in his native Puerto Rico. A .317 lifetime batting average, 3,000 hits and 11 Gold Gloves only scratch the surface of his talent. A near mint 1955 Topps card of his (#164) is worth $7,500 and has increased in value dramatically over the last few years. Other 21’s include Warren Spahn, Sammy Sosa & Roger Clemens.


#22 Jim Palmer, Orioles Pitcher – Three (3) Cy Young Awards and eight (8) 20-win seasons cement his Hall of Fame credentials. The 1966 Topps set has the rookie card (#126) and it books for $95.


#23 Ryne Sandberg, Cubs 2B – This ten-time All-Star also won eight (8) consecutive Gold Gloves on his way to the Hall of Fame. There are three rookie cards from 1983, but look for the Topps issue (#83) at about $10. Don Mattingly also wore this number.


#24 Willie Mays, Giants OF – Maybe the best all-around player of all time, the “Say Hey Kid” was a joy to watch with his unique flair for the game. A 1951 Bowman rookie card (#305) from the scarcer high-number series will set you back about $12,000. Ken Griffey Jr. & Rickey Henderson share the uniform number.


#25 Barry Bonds, Pirates & Giants OF – No matter what you think of him, he was the most dominant player of his era. Due to the proliferation of cards in the 80’s, there are numerous rookie cards in both 1986 & ’87. The ’86 Topps Traded card (#11T) books for less than $10.


Hope some of your favorites were included…best of luck with that loan application.


The Hall With It

'92 Rivera 9

This column is being penned during the holiday season and before you know it, the Hall of Fame ballot results will be out there for everyone to digest and debate. As usual, this will be a contentious decision-making process for the baseball writers and reading through the thoughts of various eligible voters, one thing is clear…nobody agrees on anything! This isn’t surprising because in speaking with scores of fans over the last few months, I’ve found the same can be said of their opinions. From people who would put the maximum of ten players on their imaginary ballot to those who want to make some sort of statement by leaving the ballot blank to everywhere in between. The PED issue has muddied the waters to such an extent, there is no right or wrong answer. The only position that is stupid, is the one where a fan says, “steroids don’t matter that much, you still need to hit the ball.” All those people don’t have the basic math skills to understand that a 370 foot fly ball out becomes a 390 foot Home Run with only a 5% difference in bat speed and strength.


Of course, before looking at the BBWAA ballot, we must digest the results of the Veteran’s Committee. Until last year, no player had been added to the Hall from this process since Ron Santo in 2012. Last time, Jack Morris & Alan Trammell got the honor and now, we have the additions of Harold Baines & Lee Smith. The opinions and feedback on these choices has been interesting and varied. I never had Morris on my list, but thought Trammell had been overlooked for years…if you don’t think he’s as good as Barry Larkin, you haven’t watched enough baseball. This time, I can’t agree with the Baines selection but might be swayed on Smith…when he retired, he had the most Saves in the history of the game. Interestingly, if there hadn’t been player strikes in 1981 & 1994, Baines easily surpasses 3,000 hits and maybe that changes the conversation for some skeptics?


Based on a recent survey utilizing ballots made public early in the process, there seems to be a reasonable chance that a number of players will be elected by the writers in 2019 and despite the feelings of Joe Morgan and others, that could include the possibility of Barry Bonds & Roger Clemens. Won’t that be great fun for the fans who have already made plans to travel to Cooperstown for induction weekend? With all this as a backdrop, the Old Duck will enter the fray and share with you his mythical Hall of Fame ballot. One thing I know for sure…nobody will agree with me.



> Edgar Martinez, YES – The argument against the DH doesn’t hold any more credence than the one against relief pitchers did ten years ago. The best at every position belong in the Hall. His lifetime OPS of .933 is better than Mike Piazza and the WAR of 68 seals the deal. Last year’s vote tally was 70.4% (induction requires 75%) and this is his last year on the ballot.


> Roger Clemens, NO – Yes, he was probably a Hall of Fame player without steroids and yes, he will get in someday, but sometimes you must make a stand. If Robby Alomar had to wait a year for spitting on an umpire, this arrogant jerk should have to wait a few years for each needle-marked cheek. Went from 54.1% in ’17 to 57.3% last year.


> Barry Bonds, NO – Same comment as Clemens. Was at 56.4% last year.


> Mike Mussina, YES – This is one of the tougher choices, but the overall numbers are very impressive…270 Wins and a WAR of 83 are both better than Curt Schilling. Once Jack Morris got in, his vote count improved from 51.8% in ’17 to 63.5% in ’18.



> Curt Schilling, NO – One of those marginal guys with 216 Wins, his lifetime WAR of 76 is very impressive and higher than many Pitchers already enshrined. While it isn’t fair, his political comments will probably impact the voting. He was behind Mussina last time at 51.2%.


> Omar Vizquel, YES – Only received 37% in his first year of eligibility, but he captured 11 Gold Gloves and contributed 2,877 hits…11 more than Baines!


> Larry Walker, NO – Another player who may be more appreciated as the years roll on, but the Colorado factor makes it difficult to determine his real credentials…last year’s number was up from 21.9% to 34.1%


> Fred McGriff, NO – As time goes on and voters have a chance to digest his numbers prior to the PED era, more consideration might come his way. At this point, he’s not gaining traction with 21.7% in ’17 and 23.2% last year.


> Manny Ramirez, NO – Surprisingly garnered 23.8% in his first year of eligibility but dropped to 22% last year, as he was caught cheating on multiple occasions. Maybe his use of female hormones can get him into the “League of Their Own” wing.


> Jeff Kent, NO – His credibility has more to do with his position (2B) than his performance. Went down in support from 16.7% to 14.5%.


> Gary Sheffield, NO – His cumulative totals of 509 HR’s and a 60.3 WAR are impressive but they’re watered down by the era in which he played. Also impacted by a lack of fan loyalty because he played for eight different franchises. The 2017 number of 13.3% went down to 11.1%.


> Billy Wagner, NO – Had an outstanding career but overshadowed by Rivera, Hoffman and others…received 10.2% in ’17 and 11.1% in ’18.


> Scott Rolen, NO – A very good player (like Baines) but not a great player. 2018 was his first year on the ballot and the support was 10.2%.


> Sammy Sosa, NO – Got 7.8% of the vote last year…everyone feels he had help. He will, however get more votes than Chico Esquela.


> Andruw Jones, NO – 7.3% in your first year doesn’t bode well for the future.



Only three of my ten spots are filled but that seems reasonable. For the record, I’ve never understood writers who make players wait for their vote because they seem to think there’s a difference in “First-Ballot” Hall of Famers. So, a first-timer will also get my vote…


> Mariano Rivera, YES – The best in history at what he did…652 Saves and a 56.2 WAR.


Lots of other familiar names are first-time eligible this time around including Roy Halladay, Todd Helton, Andy Pettitte and Lance Berkman. Any of them get your vote?


There’s my ballot… Martinez, Mussina, Vizquel & Rivera. A great class…with great class.




Watch For The DIPS


Carrasco Heritage

For as long as kids have looked at the back of baseball cards, they’ve had a general understanding of ERA (Earned Run Average). If you look up the definition, the general consensus is “A measure of a pitcher’s performance by dividing the total earned runs allowed by the total of innings pitched and multiplying by nine”. My baseball education taught that it was earned runs multiplied by nine, divided by innings pitched but the numbers come out the same. The premise of the statistic was to not burden a pitcher with runs that had been enabled by errors or passed balls. In other words, eliminating from the calculation events that were out of his control.


If you’ve watched enough baseball to give the definition a personal “eye test”, you already know that numerous runs score in a game that don’t necessarily fit the criteria. If a pitcher leaves the game with the bases loaded (through hits & walks) and the relief pitcher gives up a triple, the original hurler just gave up three earned runs while he was sitting in the dugout. If there are runners on 2B & 3B with two outs and a weak ground ball trickles under the glove of the shortstop into left field, two earned runs score whether the fielder in question was Pee Wee Reese or Pokey Reese. Outcomes like these are what motivate the development of advanced baseball statistics.


In an attempt to move beyond ERA, we now have a stat called DIPS (Defensive Independent Pitching). The essential theory is that pitchers can only really control strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed. To that end, analysts have come up with a formula to determine a pitcher’s skill based on those three factors and once that number is calculated, they tie it to MLB’s run scoring environment so that it aligns with ERA.


The question for those of us playing Fantasy Baseball is if the DIPS numbers can assist in determining the value and predictability of pitchers. Many a team has been torpedoed by a couple of starting pitchers that didn’t perform to expectations and we’re always looking for an edge. As a 20+ year fantasy veteran has said many times, “I hate pitchers”. Just taking a superficial look at DIPS results for 2018 reveals the following tidbits.


> For the season, 11 major league starting pitchers had an ERA under 3.00, but only seven (7) of those also had a DIPS under the same threshold. The members of the exclusive club that land on both lists are Jacob deGrom, Blake Snell, Trevor Bauer, Aaron Nola, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Gerrit Cole.


> Let’s look at the other four sub-3.00 ERA hurlers and see how their performance matched up when teammates were taken out of the equation. Milos Mikolas’ DIPS number of 3.27 was somewhat higher than his 2.83 ERA. Kyle Freeland’s ERA of 2.85 was significantly lower that his 3.68 DIPS. Mike Foltynewicz’s ERA (2.85) was over half a run lower that his DIPS (3.33) while Corey Kluber’s ERA (2.89) & DIPS (3.09) were much closer. Could it be that some of these seasons weren’t quite as good as they looked on the surface?


> Some other SP’s posted numbers that make you think twice on their Fantasy (and real-world) value. Over the course of a season, a half-run can make a real difference, so keep an eye on Mike Clevinger (3.02 ERA / 3.52 DIPS), Trevor Williams (3.11 ERA / 3.86 DIPS), Jon Lester (3.32 ERA / 4.35 DIPS), Jhoulys Chacin (3.50 ERA / 4.03 DIPS) and Mike Fiers (3.56 ERA / 4.60 DIPS). The question is, are they as good as they seemed in 2018?


> Interestingly, two SP’s with new contracts are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Carlos Carrasco’s ERA of 3.38 disguised the real worth of his 2.87 DIPS and Patrick Corbin’s breakout campaign could have been even better because his ERA of 3.15 was much higher than his DIPS of 2.48.


> Expanding this category of  possible sleepers finds Luis Severino (3.39 ERA / 2.96 DIPS), German Marquez (3.77 ERA / 3.28 DIPS) & Marco Gonzalez (4.00 ERA / 3.43 DIPS)


> So, if you’re a Fantasy owner or a real-world GM, how can these new statistics help your cause? Let’s start with free agent SP’s still on the market (as 12/9)…


* Dallas Kuechel, 3.74 ERA / 3.72 DIPS – What you see is what you get?

* J.A. Happ, 3.65 ERA / 3.88 DIPS – How many years for a 36 year-old?

* Charlie Morton, 3.13 ERA / 3.56 DIPS – A two-year deal for this 35 year-old?

* Gio Gonzalez, 4.21 ERA / 4.13 DIPS – Lots of innings on that arm?



> And, of course, every team wants stability on their staff.


* Jameson Taillon, 3.20 ERA / 3.40 DIPS

* Zack Greinke, 3.21 ERA / 3.60 DIPS

* Zack Wheeler, 3.31 ERA / 3.28 DIPS

* Kyle Hendricks 3.44 ERA / 3.71 DIPS

* David Price, 3.58 ERA / 3.95 DIPS


You’ll notice that Win-Loss records aren’t part of this analysis. Fantasy players have long understood the cruel category of “Wins” but the real game has begun to catch up. With starting pitchers going less innings and teams spending $8 Million on middle relievers, the concept of a 20-game winner is a thing of the past. In 2018, Snell & Kluber were the only ones to achieve that milestone. MLB teams are no longer concerned with starters going deep into games because they’ve got lock-down guys in the bullpen. What they want is quality innings.


> Who’s the worst when it comes to DIPS? 2018’s bottom five are Lucas Giolito (5.47), James Shields (5.03), Dylan Bundy (4.86), Julio Teheran (4.78) & Reynaldo Lopez (4.60).


As always, Fantasy success comes from balance, both on your team and in your scouting, so maybe DIPS has a place in your toolbox. And, the next time one of your baseball buddies asks how you are, you can reply, “I’m feeling much better now that I’m monitoring my DIPS”.





Sharing The Wins

'18 Acuna Chrm Refrc

With the Winter Meetings on the horizon, let’s take a look at the relative value of the players in the game. In a sport awash with money, old-school fans often have difficulty wrapping their heads around the new levels of salaries and budgetary guidelines. With the average MLB salary now above $4 Million, how do we really know what a player’s contribution is worth? And do these contributions really make a difference in the standings?


In other words, what is their contribution to winning games? We’ve discussed WAR (Wins Above Replacement) numerous times in this space and that statistical outcome does impact decisions made by writers voting on awards and General Managers making deals. It has become a mainstream analysis over the last decade and can help clarify and justify some contract amounts. For example, if you believe in the WAR calculations, it confirms that Mookie Betts was the best position player in the AL (10.9 WAR) and Christian Yelich was tops in the NL (7.6 WAR). The fact that they each won the MVP adds to the credibility of the statistic. Cy Young Award winners Blake Snell (7.5 WAR) & Jacob deGrom (10.0 WAR) were also the best in their respective leagues.


Most baseball stat-heads believe a player is worth about $6-8M per win to his team and free agent signings give us a window into that formula. So, when you digest the upcoming free agent contracts of Manny Machado (5.7), Bryce Harper (1.2), Patrick Corbin (4.6), Dallas Kuechel (2.6) & Craig Kimbrel (2.1), see how close the formula comes out compared to the real world. You may also decide that the early signings of Eduardo Escobar (3.1) for $7 Million and Kurt Suzuki (2.1) for $5 Million were relative bargains.


Each year at this time, we turn to another statistical measure in an attempt to gauge player value. The other stat that is team-result based is WS (Win Shares) as developed by the godfather of modern statistical analysis, Bill James. While trying to describe the formula is impossible (James wrote an entire book on the topic in 2002), it comes down to a system where each game a team wins during the season is meticulously analyzed and the three players most responsible for that win get a “win share”. So, if a team wins 80 games, there will be 240 win shares distributed on the roster. Position players will have a tendency to accumulate higher totals than pitchers, but it’s all about comparisons between players among positions. Only twelve position players had a number of 28 or better in 2018 and it’s difficult to take exception with the results – Mike Trout led the way for the 4th time in 6 seasons with a figure of 39. Both MVP’s are on the list with Betts at 36 and Yelich at 34. The other members of the elite dozen are…


> Alex Bregman, 36

> J.D. Martinez, 33

> Francisco Lindor, 30

> Jose Ramirez, 29

> Jed Lowrie, 29

> Manny Machado, 28

> Nolan Arenado, 28

> Mitch Haniger, 28

> Matt Carpenter, 28


The highest-rated Starting Pitchers were Snell, Aaron Nola & Max Scherzer all with 22 followed by Kyle Freeland (21) and deGrom, Verlander and Kluber with 20 each.


The best Closer was the A’s Blake Treinen with 19 followed by the newest Met, Edwin Diaz with 18.


As always, there are some hidden tidbits in the rankings that impact both fantasy and reality baseball…


> Rookies of the Year contributed impressively with Shohei Ohtani getting 20 and Ronald Acuna Jr. coming in at 19.


> Jose Abreu was below 20 (17) for the first time in his career.


> Jose Altuve dropped from 35 in ’17 to 23 in ’18.


> Xander Bogaerts has his best season with 27.


> Kris Bryant had only 15 after averaging 29 in his first three seasons.


> Lorenzo Cain’s free-agent contract paid off with 25.


> Derek Dietrich added 16 to the Marlins cause and wasn’t offered a contract for 2019.


> Brian Dozier dropped from 26 to 15.


> Paul Goldschmidt has averaged 28 over the last six seasons.


> Bryce Harper’s 2015 MVP season is the only one on his resume with a number over 23.


> Felix Hernandez has had 188 in his career, but only one (1) in 2018.


> Eric Hosmer got an 8-year deal and went from 30 to 16.


> Joe Mauer finished his career with 306.


> Brandon Nimmo had more (22) than Michael Conforto (21).


> Joey Votto had 33 in each of the previous three seasons and then posted 22 in 2018.


Don’t forget, it’s the season for sharing…All Holidays Matter!

1953 Topps Baseball Cards – Historic Artistry

'53 Mantle

As a collector and purveyor of vintage baseball cards, it is always a thrill when a collection comes across my desk that includes 1953 Topps cards. The beauty and artistry of this iconic set sets it apart in the history of the hobby.


Topps produced their first full set of baseball cards in 1952 and it is the holy grail for collectors of post-WWII cardboard.



The format was very clean with a bordered photo that included the player’s name with a facsimile autograph and a team logo. Today, the cards are scarce…especially in nice condition.


In ’53 however, the company went in a completely different direction by utilizing line drawings of players in full color. Some cards were short-printed (SP) while others were double-printed (DP) and all of them have a name and team panel at the bottom that is easily damaged. Let’s look at some of the Hall of Famers who graced the cards and we’ll use a condition valuation of “EX 5” (on a scale of 1-to-10) to help you determine the current worth. In 1953, of course, you could buy a pack for a nickel and it included six cards and a stick of gum.


> #1 Jackie Robinson, Dodgers 2B, $425 – The first card in every 50’s set is difficult to find in decent condition because kids used rubber bands to hold their collection together and the top card was subject to more damage. It’s especially a factor when the card is also of a player of this caliber.



> #27 Roy Campanella, Dodgers C, $90 – A three-time NL MVP in the 50’s


> #37 Eddie Mathews Braves 3B, $75 – 512 Home Runs in his career


> #54 Bob Feller Indians P, $70 – Came back after 3+ years in the military to continue his amazing career



> #76 Pee Wee Reese Dodgers SS, $85 – Another great member of the “Boys of Summer”


> #82 Mickey Mantle Yankees OF, $3,250 – Still the most popular player of this golden era, his cards are in great demand


> #104 Yogi Berra, Yankees C, $135 – Along with “Campy”, another three time winner of the MVP


> #114 Phil Rizzuto, Yankees SS, $80 – Went into the broadcast booth after his playing career and made the call on Roger Maris’ 61st Home Run


> #147 Warren Spahn, Braves P, $85 – The most Wins of any left-hander in baseball history (363)


> #207 Whitey Ford, Yankees P, $85 – Called the “Chairman of the Board” long before Sinatra



> #220 Satchel Paige, Browns P, $350 – The greatest hurler in the history of the Negro Leagues


> #244 Willie Mays, Giants OF, $1,250 – The “Say Hey” Kid


Other Cooperstown inductees in the set include Johnny Mize, Enos Slaughter, Early Wynn, Monte Irvin, George Kell, Hoyt Wilhelm and Ralph Kiner.


And, of course, great baseball nicknames like “Toothpick” Sam Jones, Forrest “Smoky” Burgess, Louis “Bobo” Newsom, Harry “Peanuts” Lowrey, Ewell “The Whip” Blackwell, Emory “Bubba” Church, Willie “Puddin’ Head” Jones, Virgil “Fire” Trucks, Sebastian “Sibby” Sisti, Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell, Omar “Turk” Lown, Albert “Rube” Walker, Harry “Suitcase” Simpson, Paul “Dizzy” Trout, Eldon “Rip” Repulski and many others


Each card is a beautiful piece of baseball history.