Posts Tagged ‘Derek Jeter’

jimmy-rollins-dive

Last summer, I started an ongoing project to look at the Hall of Fame prospects of many of the contemporary stars of the game. This year we are picking that series back up again with a few more current MLBers that have some impressive long-term prospects—potentially.

To get this summer’s edition going the spotlight first will land on longtime Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. It has been a seesaw season for Rollins so far, who has run the gamut with the Phillies over his career in general, but perhaps no year has been as severe as this one. From a brief controversy over his playing time future with the team with manager Ryne Sandberg in Spring Training, all the way to surpassing the franchise’s crown jewel in Mike Schmidt atop the Phillies’ all-time hits list last month, Rollins has had quite the summer even just at the halfway point.

But now as the summer moves on (and potentially the end of his run in Philly as well) it is as good of a time as any to take a look at the surprisingly complete career of Rollins and if it has been enough to build a bridge into Cooperstown potentially for him not too far down the road.

 

The Numbers (as of July 1, 2014)

15 Seasons (age 35): .268 average, 207 home runs, 863 RBI, 2250 hits, 1284 runs scored, 470 doubles, 439 stolen bases, .327 on-base percentage, .434 slugging percentage

1. The Case For: In taking a stand for Rollins career, it is important to look at how well he has displayed every skill that is asked of a shortstop, as well as some that are borderline exceptional for the position. What jumps off the page first is his outstanding athleticism at his peak. He was one of the most dangerous speed elements in the game from his debut into well into his mid-career prime. From 2001-09, he stole at least 20 bases a season, with four seasons of 40 or better, including leading the National League with 46 as rookie and a career-best 47 in 2008. His 438 career stolen bases are the 11th best total ever for a shortstop.

This was also a tool he put to constant use as an offensive presence as well, as he led the NL in triples four times including an absurd 20 in 2007. Of shortstops whose careers began after 1950, his 109 triples is the third best total overall after Robin Yount and Jose Reyes. His athletic skills also were put to great use in the field as well. Able to cover much ground and possessing a strong throwing arm, he was a winner of three (legit) Gold Glove Awards from 2007-09 as well.

Yet what truly began to set him apart from the pack was a deceptive amount of power that he began to develop about halfway through his career. As his swing and knowledge of the game matured, he began to become a threat to go deep as well and four times in his career he has topped 20 home runs in season. Overall, he has 10 seasons of double digit home run totals, including 30 in 2007. His 207 career homers are the 9th best total for a shortstop all-time. Although he has never had a season hitting .300, he did amass a 36 game hitting streak at the end of 2005 year.

2007 is a reoccurring theme in referencing Rollins, and for good reason. It was the year that he put on one of the finest all-around displays of talent in the history of the game in route to winning the 2007 NL Most Valuable Player award. It was a year that he became the first player in MLB history to turn in a 200 hit season, with 20 triples, 30 home runs and 30 steals in one year. In addition, he became the seventh player to ever have 20 doubles, 20 triples and 20 home runs in one season, joining among others Hall of Famers Jim Bottomley (1928), George Brett (1979) and Willie Mays (1957).

2. The Case Against: While he has been steadily good, injuries began to take away from some of the range that he had early in his career in the field around 2009 and also decreased the steadiness of his offensive output as well. After 2007, he only hit over .260 once, while hitting .250 or lower three times. Despite hitting around the top of the lineup for most of his career (leadoff in 1,457 games, second in 303 and third 123 times) he has never been much of an on-base threat, owning a single-season best of .348 in 2004. In his decline years since 2009, he has only once reached base more than 33% of the time despite having over 600 plate appearances in four of his five full seasons over that run.

While All-Star Games appearances can be considered trivial, in many cases it is a fair barometer of a player’s impact in their era. And Rollins has made only three All-Star appearances in his 15 year career, which is a curiously low number for a player at position that is usually easy for elite talents to lock down a spot in (conversely, Ozzie Smith made 12 consecutive ASG appearances and Barry Larkin had two stretches of at least three appearances, only separated by one absent season). Rollins has not reached the All-Star Game since 2005, a stretch of nine seasons that is continuing.

Rollins has ranged from a great, to exceptional, to excellent, to questionable contributor over the course of his career. Can a balancing act in his final years seal his legacy as a Hall of Famer.

Rollins has ranged from a great, to exceptional, to excellent, to questionable contributor over the course of his career. Can a balancing act in his final years seal his legacy as a Hall of Famer.

3. Similar Players (through age 35)

– Edgar Renteria (.286 average, 140 home runs, 923 RBI, 2327 hits, 294 stolen bases)

– Alan Trammell (.288 average, 174 home runs, 936 RBI, 2182 hits, 224 stolen bases)

– Craig Biggio (.291 average, 180 home runs, 811 RBI, 2149 hits, 365 stolen bases)

4. Cooperstown Likelihood (what it is going to take): The case for Rollins is perplexing, because in many regards he is the class of NL shortstops for his era. While Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki all have had great runs, Rollins has had the longest sustained presence since Larkin retired. Yet the perplexing situation is just how between the lines where he currently stands is at.

Look at the players that he is most like just above. Renteria was a multiple time All-Star and champion, but not a Hall of Fame caliber player, although he did have a ‘Rich Man’s Retirement’, with plenty of more baseball he could have played. Moving along to Trammell, who he perhaps best mirrors from an impact standpoint (one-time World Series winner, same amount of Gold Gloves, 15+ year everyday presence with lower than expected All-Star total) and the brink of immortality for Rollins really is made clear. Trammell has lived on the fringe of the Hall of Fame ballot for 14 years now and is not gaining any traction to get before he is removed from it.

The final comparison is a man that is destined for the Hall of Fame in Biggio, who offers similar skill set as Rollins, but differs in the fact that he stayed more consistent for longer and therefore hit a unique spread of accomplishments that will gain him membership to Cooperstown potentially as soon as this year.

Despite all of this, there the element of “it just doesn’t feel like” he has done it all. Perhaps it is because his very best was done in a short span of years and otherwise he has just been very steady at being steady. Meaning he has done certain thing very well, but few of them have been the type of happenings that are highlight worthy. You have to look back to see that he has a Silver Slugger and as many Gold Gloves as he does. Seeing the brilliance of that 2007 season takes some prompting as well, just like the hitting streak of ’05 and the brash confidence that he guided the Phillies back to prominence in the mid-2000’s with as well.

The complex of where Rollins is at is that he has made a definite impact, but is in a purgatory of relevancy. He has to keep pushing and producing regularly to reach out of the “great in his era” range of the Renteria’s and to find the gap between Trammell and Biggio that would reach him to Cooperstown. He has all of the intangible accomplishments that can be asked for: a World Series Champion, MVP, Gold Glover, Silver Slugger and All-Star all under wraps. But to really make a more than compelling case for himself, he will need to hit a few milestone stat hurdles as well.

Mainly, he has to keep running up the hit total. With another 300 hits he would top 2,500; an impressive total for a shortstop of any era. That would give him more than Ozzie, Larkin and Trammell, which are important to pass as two are established Hall of Famers and standard bearers for the decades that preceded him and puts him over the proverbial eligibility hump that Trammell has become. One thing that he can still do is run well and run smart, and when Rollins tops 500 stolen bases he’ll have a really plus, round number to lean on as well.

A career of 200 home runs, 500 steals, 2500 hits and 1300 runs scored is awfully impressive. And what’s more, if Rollins is to meet this package of feats, he would be the only shortstop to ever do so. Only the greats Honus Wagner and Derek Jeter come close to that type of display, and when a player is close to that class, they are doing something right. And Rollins has done all lot right for a long time.

However, he will need to finish out his career strong to meet these marks and there is work to be done still. If he can do so, I think Rollins has a more than suitable case to make it in. But if he does not, he could be lost in the haze of the Hall of Very Good, and perhaps rightfully so.

So when it’s all said and done, when the question is asked: is Jimmy Rollins In, Out or In-Between the Hall of Fame, as it stands today, he is IN-BETWEEN, but closer to the rights to the keys to the Hall than it may be believed.

 

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2013 World Series Game 6: St. Louis Cardinals v. Boston Red Sox

I have said it for the last decade at least, and maintain it to this day: there is no division in professional sports that is better than the American League East. When a 74 win team finishes in last place in a division, it means that the internal gauntlet is about as severe as it can get. In its current incarnation, it has dominated the postseason landscape of the junior circuit since the Wild Card era came into play, and for the 18 years since the four-team (and now five) team playoff alignment began, it has produced 15 Wild Card candidates. And in that same span, 11 AL East clubs have gone to the Fall Classic, and eight have gone on to win it, including last year’s Boston Red Sox

2013 Finish

1. Boston Red Sox

2. Tampa Bay Rays

3. New York Yankees

4. Baltimore Orioles

5. Toronto Blue Jays

So all things considered, it should be no surprise that picking through the East is akin to picking a favorite in the League as a whole. And the competition never dies down between the five clubs either, as this winter the one-up game was in full effect to catch up to the Champs. The Orioles slow played their hand before making a couple of late winter pickups as they look to breakthrough the glass ceiling that has hovered above them in the division, while the Blue Jays have been mostly quiet, choosing instead to call last year a spade and carry the same potent, yet oft-injured ammo into this spring.

The Rays and Red Sox took similar routes, resigning their own and putting faith in youngsters to replace the few lost parts they sustained. And the Yankees…well the Yankees spent nearly half a billion dollars to make sure that fourth place is not an option again. Regardless of how each team’s route plays out, one thing is for certain, one of the five clubs will inevitably be a big player in the much larger picture eight months from now—as long as they can survive themselves first.

All-Division Lineup

1. Jose ReyesShortstop, Blue Jays

2. Dustin PedroiaSecond Base, Red Sox

3. Evan LongoriaThird Base, Rays

4. David OrtizDesignated Hitter, Red Sox

5. Chris DavisFirst Base, Orioles

6. Jose BautistaRight Field, Blue Jays

7. Adam JonesCenter Field, Orioles

8. Brian McCannCatcher, Yankees

9. Brett GardnerLeft Field, Yankees

 

Starting Pitcher: David Price—Rays

Starting Pitcher: Jon Lester—Red Sox

Starting Pitcher: CC Sabathia—Yankees

Starting Pitcher: Clay Buchholz—Red Sox

Right Handed Reliever: Joel Peralta—Rays

Lefty Handed Reliever: Jake McGee—Rays

Closer: Koji Uehara—Red Sox

Derek_Jeter_ST

Jeter finds himself amid a fresh collection of well compensated talent for his final go around, but even at the end, the team will need him on hand if it is to maximize its potential.

Lineup

1. Yankees

2. Red Sox

3. Rays

4. Orioles

5. Blue Jays

 

The Yankees spent top dollar to overhaul their lineup, which was basically Cano and pray for rain last year, and their mission was successful. They will bring out five new starters of a high enough quality that solid comebacks from Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira would merely be bonuses. The Sox return the majority of the core that produced some of the timeliest hitting any October has witnessed in years, while the Orioles have an impressive power core of Chris Davis, Nelson Cruz and Adam Jones.

Heart of the Lineup

1. Orioles

2. Red Sox

3. Yankees

4. Blue Jays

5. Rays

The addition of Cruz providing protection behind Davis…who is the ultimate protection for Adam Jones makes the middle of the Orioles’ lineup as bad of a grind as the AL will run out this year. In Boston, Dustin Pedroia (193 2013 hits) is the perfect on-base threat to put in front of the duo of David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, who combined for 53 homers a year ago. In Toronto, if Jose Bautista is healthy again, there’s a chance that he could combine with Edwin Encarnacion for 80 homers this summer.

Table Setters

1. Red Sox

2. Yankees

3. Rays

4. Blue Jays

5. Orioles

Shane Victorino (21 steals, .294 average) and Daniel Nava (.385 on-base%, 5th best in AL) could wreak havoc yet again to start things off for the Sox, while down in Tampa, the combo of David Dejesus and Ben Zobrist have a chance to set up the table nicely for Evan Longoria and Wil Myers to both chase 100 RBI.

Depth

1. Rays

2. Red Sox

3. Yankees

4. Blue Jays

5. Orioles

Strength is always in the numbers for the Rays, and Joe Maddon uses his full roster better than anybody else in the game. The Jays have four starting-caliber outfielders, and the duo of Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina is a very strong backstop duo. With Jonny Gomes, David Ross and Mike Carp in the mix, the Sox are not far behind however. The option to rotate Ichiro, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Beltran in the Bronx is a necessary depth move for the aging, yet talented Yankee outfield as well.

After an injury hindered first half, Price went 7-3 with a 2.87 ERA and a .236 average against in the second half.

After an injury hindered first half, Price went 7-3 with a 2.87 ERA and a .236 average against in the second half.

Rotation

1. Rays

2. Red Sox

3. Yankees

4. Orioles

5. Blue Jays

Tampa keeps churning out more and more arms without ceasing it seems. David Price is the headline, but Matt Moore won 17 games in his second year and both Alex Cobb and Chris Archer have plenty of immediate promise. The Yankees are putting a lot of faith in a few commodities with much to prove in CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka, while the Blue Jays have to hope R.A. Dickey can once again led an underdog staff as he did two years ago.

1-2 Punch

1. Red Sox

2. Yankees

3. Rays

4. Blue Jays

5. Orioles

This is a tight call to that narrowly goes in the Sox favor, due to the big game experience of Jon Lester and John Lackey. Hiroki Kuroda has silently been the most consistent arm in the Yankee arsenal the past two seasons, and Price (30-13 record the past two years) by himself makes the Rays a favorite in most head-to-head matchups he takes the ball in.

Bullpen

1. Rays

2. Red Sox

3. Blue Jays

4. Yankees

5. Orioles

There’s no true powerhouse pen in the division, but the return of Grant Balfour to a Tampa group that features plus arms in Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and former closers in Heath Bell and Juan Carlos Oviedo is hard to deny. It would be impossible for Koji Uehara to have a better year than he did last time around, but his presence assures that Boston must be beat early. The Blue Jays have an underrated late inning group, while how (and if) David Robertson can transition to the ninth is beyond simply crucial for the Yankees.

Machado_13

Machado led all AL defenders in dWAR last year, with a 4.3 games above replacement level wtih the glove. All while being 20 years old and playing out of position.

Defense

1. Orioles

2. Rays

3. Red Sox

4. Blue Jays

5. Yankees

Baltimore has FIVE current or immediately past holders of Gold Gloves in their everyday lineup, and their defensive abilities allow for their pitchers to not have to be as sharp as other rotations in the league. The Rays are no slouches either, with Longoria, Escobar, Loney and their entire outfield having plus range. In Boston, Pedroia and Victorino are the best gloves at their respective positions in the AL.

Manager

1. Joe Maddon—Rays

2. Buck Showalter—Orioles

3. Joe Girardi—Yankees

4. John Farrell—Red Sox

5. John Gibbons—Blue Jays

There’s nobody better at motivating and knowing his players than Maddon is, and it allows him to continuing pull more out of his rosters than their on-paper talent shows. Showalter’s veteran savvy is the best in the league, and Joe Girardi is regularly underappreciated due to the talent at his command.

Finances

1. Yankees

2. Red Sox

3. Blue Jays

4. Orioles

5. Rays

The Yankees can spend at will, and despite the rumors that they want to be luxury tax conscious, in the end, the wins will always take priority over the cost of chasing them. The Blue Jays look for the value deal, but have the dollars to add what they need to stay in the race if they get close to it.

Impact Additions

1. Jacoby Ellsbury (Yankees via Free Agency)

2. Carlos Beltran (Yankees via Free Agency)

3. Masahiro Tanaka (Yankees via Free Agency)

4. Brian McCann (Yankees via Free Agency)

5. Ubaldo Jimenez (Orioles via Free Agency)

Yankees, Yankees and more Yankees here, with each playing a major role in the team’s immediate success. Outside of NY, the Orioles played their free agent hand slow, but played it well in adding a new staff ace in Jimenez and All-Star caliber outfielder in Nelson Cruz. The Sox addition of Edward Mujica gives them another experienced presence that has succeeded in every role in the pen previously.

B_Lawrie

The whole package is there with Lawrie, but its going to take health and maturity meeting up to help him make the leap to fill out his sizable potential at age 24.

Leap Forward

1. Wil Myers—Rays

2. Alex Cobb—Rays

3. Brett Lawrie—Blue Jays

4. Chris Archer—Rays

5. Will Middlebrooks—Red Sox

Myer is an odd candidate to think will have a major jump forward considering he is coming off of a Rookie of the Year debut, but considering he did so in barely a half of a season, what he could do over a full year could be in the 30 home run/40 double rate. Lawrie has been on the verge for the past two years, but he is an elite defender and has all the tools at the plate to contribute anywhere from 2-5.

Rookies/Propects To Watch

1. Xander Bogaerts—Red Sox

2. Kevin Gausman—Orioles

3. Johnathan Schoop—Orioles

4. Jake Odorizzi—Rays

5. Allen Webster—Red Sox

Bogaerts is that rare mix of both talent and acumen that makes a young player immediately acclimated to the Majors. He proved this by moving to third base and playing a big part of the Sox run through October. Gausman has a plus arm, but just needs to find a place to showcase it in the rotation. His organization make in Schoop should get a fair chance to get the second base job in Baltimore at some point this summer.

PREDICTIONS

1. Boston Red Sox

2. Tampa Bay Rays

3. New York Yankees

4. Baltimore Orioles

5. Toronto Blue Jays

It is never an easy road, and it surely will not be again. A year ago, the Red Sox pulled up from the cellar to the ultimate penthouse by using an overhauled roster, the motivation of a new manager, a recovering city as a rally point and a team that lived for, and thrived in, the moment. But this year, they are targeted by a group of teams that made very smart adjustments, in addition to the various chips on their shoulders.

The Rays are as talented as they have been in years, and whereas finding runs was a problem last season, it should be the least of their concerns this year. Coupled with a strong pitching staff, the only thing that could get in their way this year is if their young starting staff doesn’t hold up over a full year as well as it did in limited time in 2013. On their heels are the Yankees, who have more than enough firepower, and could have the best offense in all of baseball. However, their pitching staff being a success would be slightly an upset of sorts, as they enter the season needing all of their arms to either overachieve, overcome or live up to some lofty expectations—and in some cases, some of each element.

The Orioles and Jays seem to be a step behind each of these teams now, but also have rosters that could would make it no shock at all if they crack into the upper reaches of the division. The O’s need Manny Machado to be healthy and for their pitching staff as a whole to be a bit better than they profile. Meanwhile, the Jays just need to stay healthy and put up tons of runs, because they will need them if this is the pitching staff they tackle most of the year with.

Yet in the end, the balance of the Red Sox and the shared chemistry they have now makes them a very formidable club. They have the veterans in their primes along with the youngsters that have room to grow while playing major parts, yet not have the weight of carrying the club on their shoulders. I see the Sox winning the East again, albeit in a close race, with the Rays being in one of the Wild Card spots and the Yankees perhaps joining them.

Come back to the Cheap Seats over the next two weeks for each divisional breakdown and preview, and for more info from here in real-time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

Albert_Pujols

In no other sport do “magic numbers” mean more than in baseball. And while if the validity of such automatic qualifier numbers is still current, or needs to be revised for today’s game is another debate completely, there are still round numbers that prove excellence has been met for a long enough time to take note.

Each new summer brings a chance for a new chance for certain career mile-markers to be met each summer. This summer is no exception, as a few standout marks will be met. On the heels of his recent announcement to retire following the season, Derek Jeter will put the finishing touches on his legacy, which will see him move through the top 10 all-time in hits—and potential reach an awe inspiring cap.

Likewise, Albert Pujols will begin to touch some of the hallowed marks that his effort has long forecasted, as will Miguel Cabrera. More surprisingly however, is what the summer could represent for Adrian Beltre, who is on the cusp of several numbers that will begin to create a completely different connotation for his body of work.

Here are the major career milestones that stand to be met in the 2014 MLB campaign.

HITS

3,500 Hits

3,316—Derek Jeter is 184 hits short of becoming the sixth player ever to reach 3,500 hits. He is 199 hits away from moving ahead of Tris Speaker for fifth place all-time (3,514).

2,500 Hits

2,426—Adrian Beltre will easily surpass the 2,500 level and enters an important year towards making a decisive push towards getting aligned for a shot at 3,000 in his late prime at age 35.

2,000 Hits

1,996—Miguel Cabrera is four hits (or a game and a half for him) away.

1,993—Raul Ibanez is seven hits short of the mark at age 41.

HOME RUNS

500 Home Runs

492—Albert Pujols has hit a home run one per every 14.9 per at-bats in his career, and enters the season eight shy. Not that there was any doubt about his legacy, but this is the first in a line of major posts to be met by the three-time MVP.

450 Home Runs

440—Adam Dunn is ten way, and has hit one per every 14.7 at-bats in his career. It is not certain if he’ll continue after 2014, but he would be safely in range of 500 if he plays through 2015.

438—Paul Konerko is 12 short, and has homered once per every 18.9 at-bats in his career, but will be in a part-time role.

431—David Ortiz is 19 short, and has not had a season with less than 20 in a year since 2001.

400 Home Runs

376—Adrian Beltre, and he has averaged 32 per season over the past four years.

365—Miguel Cabrera is 35 away and has hit not had season total below 44 since 2011.

RUNS BATTED IN

1,500 RBI

1,498—Albert Pujols will meet the mark easily.

1,000 RBI

966—Matt Holliday should meet the mark by the All-Star Break at the latest.

963—Ryan Howard (health abiding) should move past the 1,000 mark. He’s never had a season with fewer than 43 RBI.

500 DOUBLES

495—Adrian Beltre will easily surpass the next milestone in his signature hit in the first month of the year.

200 WINS

189—Bartolo Colon is 11 shy of hitting the 200 mark, due to his late career resurgence in Oakland.

186—Mark Buehrle enters the year 14 victories short of the level. However, if history speaks for the future, he’ll have to wait until next summer—he has won 13 in four of the past five years, and has not topped 13 since 2008.

18yankees-sabathia-articleLarge

2,500 STRIKEOUTS

2,389—CC Sabathia will become the ninth left-hander ever to surpass 2,500 strikeouts this summer, joining Randy Johnson, Steve Carlton, Mickey Lolich, Frank Tanana, Chuck Finley, Tom Glavine, Warren Spahn and Jerry Koosman.

SAVES

350 Saves

341—Joe Nathan enters the year nine saves shy of becoming the ninth player to ever accumulate 350, and has a shot to reach as high as seventh all-time this summer.

300 Saves

286—Jonathan Papelbon stands to shoot up past the middle-tier of closers historically and into near elite standing this year. With his standard 30+ saves he not only passes 300, but to pass into the top 10 next year.

286—Jose Valverde he was signed by the Mets last week to provide bullpen depth, so there’s no clear road to 300, but if he somehow ends up in the role due to an injury to Bobby Parnell he could meet it.

 

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Colorado Rockies vs the San Francisco Giants

Shortstop may be home to the best group of young talent in baseball. Half of the very best players at this packed position are well away from their 30th birthdays, and the push towards the upper reaches of the spot could make this one of the most debated positions in the game in coming years.

In today’s game, there’s a Dominican lock on the position, with the island producing no less than seven high quality shortstops right now. And in the now normal expectation of the role, each has a unique spin on what they bring to the position, between speed threats, power bats and blends of it all. And what is more, is that the names that won’t make the cut this year (such as Erick Aybar, Jed Lowrie and Starlin Castro among others) could still make a push to be included with the top 100 players in the game overall later on this winter, so that speaks to the true value at the spot and why the 10 competitors below truly deserve the spotlight that they’ve earned—and are clinging to.

And with that pomp and circumstance out the way, here’s the best of the day at the six spot…

10. Derek Jeter, Yankees: The old standard bearer is still here, and it is mostly because injury kept him from proving if he repeat at the level he ended 2012: a year where led the AL hits (216) and turned in a .316 average at age 38. 2014 could be the last go around for him, and it is unlikely that he doesn’t try to make it one to remember.

9. Jhonny Peralta, Cardinals: He hit a career-best .303 a year ago, while topping 30 doubles and making his second All-Star Game. He will switch to the National League for the first time and look to keep his number steady coming out of a PED suspension that interrupted his 2013.

8. Jean Segura, Brewers: His first season, Milwaukee’s return for Zach Greinke blew up on the scene with 20 doubles, 10 triples, 12 home runs and 44 stolen bases, good for an All-Star Game debut.

andrelton-simmons

7. Andrelton Simmons, Braves: At only 24, he may already be the best defender in all of baseball. He covers space at shortstop like a center fielder and has an arm that could compete with the best CFs as well. His 5.4 dWAR mark led all players, and he added 17 home runs as a bit of a coming attraction feature at the plate as well.

6. Ian Desmond, Nationals: He joined the 20/20 club and won his second straight Silver Slugger. He drove in a career-best 80 runs and set a personal high water mark for hits and doubles for the fourth straight year.

5. J.J. Hardy, Orioles: Many are quick to point out that Hardy doesn’t reach base with enough regularity, however he is the finest defensive shortstop in the AL (winning his second straight Gold Glove—the legit way) and adding a Silver Slugger for his 25 homer/27 double outburst.

4. Elvis Andrus, Rangers: He is the model of consistency, which is saying a lot for a guy that is only 25. He’s topped 160 hits each of the last three years and 60 RBI as well. His 42 stolen bases were a career high as well, playing a major part in his fourth year over 85 runs scored.

3. Jose Reyes, Blue Jays: The injury bug starts to take off here with regularly, but the game’s most dynamic on-base threat still had a solid AL debut, despite making it to the field for only 96 games. He hit .296 with 20 doubles, 10 home runs and stole 15 bags.

Hanley_Ram

2. Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers: He had a career renaissance amid a competitive Dodger campaign a year ago. His on-base + slugging topped the hallowed 1.000 mark a year ago, in the course of him hitting .342, with 20 home runs, 25 doubles and running up 105 hits in only 86 games, due to a pair of limiting injuries.

1. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: Another of those far and away gold standards at his position, it has been a long while since someone other than Tulo has had legit right to call themselves the best at short. While he comes with a pretty substantial injury caveat (he hasn’t played over 150 games since 2009) he’s outperformed the pack annually with a fraction of the availability. In 126 games, he hit 25 homers, drove in 82 and finished with a +5 WAR for the fourth time in his career.

Just A Bit Outside: Jed Lowrie, Stephen Drew, Starlin Castro

For more on this list and the rest of the world at CSP, follow me in real-time on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

Sabathia is closing in on 200 wins at age 32, but are his accomplishments enough for him to be considered among the best pitchers of all-time eventually?

Sabathia is closing in on 200 wins at age 32, but are his accomplishments enough for him to be considered among the best pitchers of all-time eventually?

The debate over whether a player is Hall of Fame worth has taken some twist and turns in recent years. Not only are his accolades considered, but by and large, the way he arrived at them is also scrutinized as well. While that is more often speculative than it is legitimate, what still has to be there is the numbers. While there are always the clear case, “five years to the day” of his retirement guys, there are also those that are on the borderline.

The line in-between greatness and immortality is one that is often decided by the idea of the beholder. Some believe in a larger Hall of Fame, that recognizes greatness comparative to era. Others believe in a truly elite HOF, were greats are measured against only other Supermen of the game. I myself am for the median of this; I think there is a point where you reach an immortal level, which is relative to how you dominated your era. For example, I surely wouldn’t hold back Tom Glavine and his 300 wins in the 90’s/00’s from Hall recognition just because he didn’t win 400 games in the style that Walter Johnson did. It’s a different era, yet there is still a certain measuring of greatness.

Anybody who saw Glavine pitch knows he was as good as it gets, and that’s what this series here at CSP is out to set a measurement of: who playing now is truly among the immortals…and who is “just” a really good player. There will be some surprises, and there will be some absolutes as well. The rules for it are simple: the player in evaluation has to be past his 30th birthday, or have 10 service years in the MLB. At that point, four points of analysis will be presented: a case for the player, a case against him, presentation of similar players and finally, the likelihood of them reaching Cooperstown.

For all of the criticism of the Hall of Fame in recent years, it still stands as the greatest measuring mark of a career. There are currently 236 players of the more than 17,983 that have played an inning of Major League Baseball all-time. Certainly, this is the top of the pops when it comes to a career, and taking a solid look at who is currently worthy, as well as who has setup a legitimate shot thus far to make it there…but still has to keep pushing.

Who’s under examination?

By my estimation, currently in the MLB, there are only three players that would get ushered into the Hall today, if they never played another game: Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Albert Pujols. This may seem small, or even a slight against others, but there are no other players that could end their career today, and have unchallenged entry into the Hall. With Chipper Jones, Randy Johnson, Ivan Rodriguez and Ken Griffey, Jr having left the game in the last three seasons, there is a very small group of immortals playing right now. But there are certainly more on the way. Here are the players that will be focused on in this series:

Adrian Beltre, Carlos Beltran, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Roy Halladay, Todd Helton, Matt Holliday, Torii Hunter, Paul Konerko, Joe Mauer, Yadier Molina, Andy Pettitte, David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez, Jimmy Rollins, CC Sabathia, Ichiro Suzuki, Mark Teixeira, Justin Verlander, David Wright, Michael Young

That’s the group that will be under evaluation, all either over 10 years into their career or past the age of 30 and mid-prime, in the years that will define their chances later on. Join in the debate here, starting next week.

For more on the moment as it develops, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

Pablo-Sandoval

In this year’s Top 100 Players in baseball, the talent is spread out all over the diamond’s 11 positions/roles in the everyday game. The totals by position are as follows:

  • 27 starting pitchers
  • 10 center fielders
  • Nine third basemen
  • Eight each from right field, left field and shortstop
  • Seven first basemen
  • Six catchers and relief pitchers, respectively
  • Five reps from second basemen and designated hitters

And one Ben Zobrist as well, for good measure.

In addition to that, 29 of the 30 MLB teams are represented, with only the () loss Houston Astros failing to send at least one representative on the list. The Cleveland Indians also nearly missed, until signing Michael Bourn last week. As for team representation, the Atlanta Braves lead the way with a major seven representatives in the top 100. On their heels are six other teams each bringing six delegates to the list this week.

Does this say anything about where everything willstack up in the end? Absolutely not, because on last year’s countdown, only four San Francisco Giants were in the mix, and they went on one of the most undeniable runs of any team in recent history. Even this year, there’s only four in the mix, with one already accounted for. Top-shelf talent is nice, but the right team, riding the right wave, will wreck even the most intimidating foes. Ask the Yankees and Detroit Tigers, who will post a total of 11 players on this list, yet won a total of zero games against the Giants last fall.

 

75. Ian Kennedy – Pitcher – Arizona Diamondbacks: He’s won 36 games over the last two years and has become the most underrated staff ace in baseball. His .840 win percentage in 2011 was tops in baseball, one of the few categories Justin Verlander was bested in during his 24-win season.

74. Michael Bourn – Center Field – Cleveland Indians: Despite having no home for a while, he is still the game’s premier speedster on the bases and best defensive centerfielder. He has led the NL in swipes for four of the last five years, averaging 51 per season.

73. Martin Prado – Third Base – Arizona Diamondbacks: The D’Backs traded for and then handed him $40 million this offseason, and for good reason. He can play three positions with equal ease, and while he’ll settle in at third full-time, as long as he continues to carry his .295 career average, he’ll be well worth the investment.

72. Derek Jeter – Shortstop – New York Yankees: Jeter had a renaissance in 2012 that made it clear that his demise was far from underway. His 216 hits led the American League, before he had his usual strong October, hitting .364 in the AL Division Series.

71. Yovani Gallardo – Pitcher – Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers set an MLB record for the most strikeouts by one pitching staff last year, and Gallardo led the way yet again. He topped 200 K’s for the fourth consecutive year and is only 26 years old.

 

The beat goes on today and for the rest of the week at The Sports Fan Journal, where you can find #70-51 right now, right here.

 

And for the debate in real time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

Yahoo

I present to you a struggle that many can relate to….the struggle of a fantasy sports season gone bad from the beginning.

I was riding high coming into my fantasy baseball Draft last March. I was coming off a strong run of being in first place nearly the entire season, before a single hit knocked me out of the playoffs (against my father no less). I’d drafted well the year before, made some shrewd moves and put myself in good position to win my second consecutive championship. The loss was okay, I can deal with it.

Back to last year’s draft, I was ready. I’d done my research, was obviously ready up on the happenings around baseball and was sitting in a nice spot in the middle of the first round, with the sixth pick out of 12 teams. I was ramped up and ready to go.

And then I picked the worst team in the history of the game, about the game.

There are a few things that went wrong here that were outside of my control, with regularity: injuries ravished my roster, nearly from the beginning. This happens; it’s the nature of the game. Also, there were some guys that plain didn’t perform up to their expected levels. Once again, the nature of the game. All in all, the season was rough as it gets, and anti-2011. I stuck around the middle of the pack all year, made every deft trade I possibly could with the underachieving roster I had, but nothing gave, and I was bludgeoned out of the playoffs in round 1, with very little fight. It was the worst finish I’ve had, and the longest season of the all.

But in the middle of all-that there was also some pure user error, and while everything is 20/20 in hindsight, there were some plain mistakes I made in evaluating and approaching the draft from the beginning.

And with that, I present to you my tragically flawed shadow of the summer of 2012: the 6-Tool Superstars, whose name will prove ironic as possible.

 

Pick 5—Jose Bautista: The lure was the fact he hit 97 home runs over 2010-11, and was eligible at two positions. He was an on-base machine as well, that led the league in walks and hit .302 the year before. But really, it was a reach on the single homer stat alone, and predictably, he regressed. He still hit 27 long balls, but he stunk it up everywhere else. A late season surge helped him pick UP his average to .241, before two wrist injuries ended his season in August.

The great conflict between me here was between him and Ryan Braun, who I gave into the suspicion about PED performance, although I never believed he was implicated in, as well as the loss of Prince Fielder as his protection. And all Braun did was have the best year of his life. Figures.

Pick 20—Roy Halladay: The greatest tragedy of them all, this was a colossal mistake on every level for me. Firstly, I took a pitcher not named Verlander in the top 24 picks. Secondly, his arm died early on in the year, and I couldn’t even trade out on name value alone. Worst of all, lost potential everyday value from Andrew McCutchen, Adrian Beltre and Mark Teixeira in the name of landing the pitcher formerly known as Doc too.

Pick 29—Giancarlo Stanton: Great pick, best of the draft. He won’t be there this late this time around.

Pick 44—Dan Uggla: Worst pick of the entire draft, and when I looked back at this I spit my coffee up on my screen. It was a pure reach for positional value that would have been bad even if he was good by his own standards. Uggla staying healthy actually hurt me, with his 19 homers and .220 average.

Pick 53—Eric Hosmer: The reach of the draft, where I felt like I’d gotten a steal and justified my passing up of the first and second-tier of first baseman. The sophomore slump hit Hos like a truck, and while he gained some value in the second half, he didn’t top 15 homers or a .240 average.

Hosmer's struggles held the Royals back, but in the Fantasy world, he missed his expectations by miles.

Hosmer’s struggles held the Royals back, but in the Fantasy world, he missed his expectations by miles.

Pick 68—CJ Wilson: He started off a virtuoso in the first few months, and then hit the absolute bottom of the tank by the second. He turned out a 5.54 second half ERA, before exiting the season injured as well.

Pick 77—Shin-Soo Choo: He’s a steadily consistent guy, that’s the type you want to grab here. Finally was healthy (155 games) and gave me 43 doubles and 21 steals (the only runner on the team; another huge draft error).

Pick 92—Joe Mauer: My sleeper pick that made good. He tumbled down the draft boards due to his injury history, but I grabbed him right when the run on catchers was about to take off.  Joe led the American League in on-base percentage, and had first base eligibility too, which was needed mid-Hosmer’s year long tumble down off the year two cliff.

Pick 101—Josh Johnson: Another reach that wasn’t made good on, completely. He started off slow, working through his rehab from shoulder surgery, but I cashed in on him by trading for Brett Lawrie….who also ended up out for most of the August/September. Figures.

Pick 116—Heath Bell: Sigh….moving right along.

After the tenth round, things are usually about finding depth, and this actually treated me well. Landing Derek Jeter in the 11th round and Adam Dunn in the 16th were solid picks that paid off throughout the year. But overall, even this late, solid draft picks just didn’t show up. Cameron Maybin (12th), Jonny Venters (17th), Trevor Cahill (20th) and Justin Masterson (19th) couldn’t match their fantastic 2011 efforts. Andrew Bailey (13th) and Brandon McCarthy (22nd) never got healthy either, and Jesus Montero (15th) or Zack Cozart (23rd) never lived up to their impact rookie billing.

All in all, a frustrating season, but flawed from the start. Three things win Fantasy Baseball: high team on-base percentage pitching depth and speed. They are fringe stats that can be picked up sparingly across the board, but must be had. This team had none of those, and when coupled with a few long-range reaches and an injury sheet that looked like an episode of the Walking Dead, there’s nowhere to go but up soon.

Maybe I’ll skip pre-draft beers this time..

 

For more on the game in all its forms and formats, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan