E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He is a Ph.D. student at University of Texas at Austin.

Author Archives: EJ Fagan

Against David Ortiz, Hall of Famer

Ortiz 2015

Courtesy of the AP

Before Pedro Martinez‘s ceremony at Fenway Park last night, the Red Sox introduced David Ortiz as, “David Ortiz, future Hall of Famer.” By any reasonable standard, David Ortiz is not a Hall of Famer.

Here’s Ortiz’s case:

  • 48.3 career bWAR. Hit .283/.377/.543
  • Best 5 seasons by bWAR: 6.4, 5.7, 5.3, 4.4, 4.2
  • 3 World Series rings, .295/.409/.553 in the postseason, lots of big clutch hits
  • 273 career games at 1b. 1,837 at DH.

Very good player. By today’s standard, not even close to a Hall of Fame player. Let’s compare Ortiz to some contemporaries:

Edgar Martinez

  • 68.3 career bWAR. Hit .312/.418/.515
  • Best 5 seasons by bWAR: 7.0, 6.5, 6.5, 6.2, 6.1
  • 0 World Series rings. Hit .266/.365/.508 in limited postseason time, mostly late in his career
  • 564 career games at 3b. 1403 at DH. Handful at 1b
  • Comparison to Ortiz: More bWAR in fewer games. Twice as much time in the field. No postseason accomplishments.
  • HOF Case: Probably should be in, but probably won’t break 50% in the voting

Jim Thome

  • 72.9 career bWAR.
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Four Reasons Why the Yankees Should Trade for Papelbon, Make Him Closer

The trade deadline is just two weeks away. The Yankees are in a great position to the buyers. That said, I don’t think anyone wants the Yankees to completely sell the farm and mortgage the future yet again. So here’s a trade target they can pick up for little while still improving the team: Jonathan Papelbon.

You know him. The Phillies have him signed to an over-market contract at $13 million with a vesting option that is almost sure to hit for next year. They don’t want him. He doesn’t want to be there. You probably hate him too. I know I did for years. But he’s the perfect low-cost piece for the Yankees to add at the deadline. Here’s why:

He’s still very good

Papelbon has been on a terrible Phillies team for a few years now, so I know I’ve tended to forget how good he is. His headline numbers since signing:

  • 2012: 70 innings, 2.44 ERA, 2.90 FIP, 11.9 K/9, 2.3 BB/9
  • 2013: 61.2 innings, 2.92 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 8.3 K/9, 1.6 BB/9
  • 2014: 66.1 innings, 2.04 ERA, 2.53 FIP, 8.5 K/9, 2.0 BB/9
  • 2015: 33.2 innings, 2.60 ERA, 2.75 FIP, 9.4 K/9, 1.9 BB/9

He’s pretty good!…

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Sandy Koufax is Criminally Overrated

Last night, MLB announced the result of its effort to name the best four living baseball players. They came up with: Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench and Sandy Koufax.

Koufax may be the most overrated player in baseball history. He began his career with 5 forgettable seasons from a young player trying to find his game. Then, from 1962 to 1966, he was the best pitcher in baseball. He led the league in ERA each year, and posted the following bWAR:

  • 1962: 4.4 bWAR
  • 1963: 10.7 bWAR
  • 1964: 7.4 bWAR
  • 1965: 8.1 bWAR,
  • 1966: 10.3 bWAR

He then retired due to an arm injury at the age of 30.

Sandy Koufax is the ultimate “peak value” Hall of Fame player. Or at least, he is the most-cited example of a peak value HOFer. In reality, his peak was excellent, but not unique. Let’s look at some of the best seasons from other players with a claim to being one of the best living pitchers:

Randy Johnson:

  • 2002: 10.9 bWAR
  • 2001: 10.0 bWAR
  • 1999: 9.2 bWAR
  • 1995: 8.6 bWAR
  • 2004: 8.5 bWAR

Pedro Martinez:

  • 2000: 11.7 bWAR
  • 1999: 9.7 bWAR
  • 1997: 9.0 bWAR
  • 2003: 8.0 bWAR
  • 1998: 7.2 bWAR

Greg Maddux:

  • 1995: 9.7 bWAR
  • 1992: 9.2 bWAR
  • 1994: 8.5 bWAR
  • 1997: 7.8 bWAR
  • 1996: 7.1 bWAR

Roger Clemens:

  • 1997: 11.9 bWAR
  • 1990: 10.6 bWAR
  • 1987: 9.4 bWAR
  • 1986: 8.9 bWAR
  • 1992: 8.8 bWAR

All of these guys had comparable peaks to Sandy Koufax.…

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The Yankees Need to Platoon Mason Williams and Chris Young

The Yankees will call up Mason Williams to the big team:

You can read my recent post on Mason Williams to get my thought on him. Summary: He’s hitting well in 2015, could be really good, and also has a pretty high floor thanks to defense and a low strikeout swing. He’s been hitting even better at Triple-A since I wrote that post.

With Jacoby Ellsbury out, Chris Young has been getting a lot of playing time. The results haven’t been pretty. Check out these splits:

  • Vs. RHP: 77 PA, .149/.171/.284
  • Vs. LHP: 52 PA, .327/.407/.673

And Mason Williams in 2015:

  • Vs. RHP: .331/.414/.411
  • Vs. LHP: .280/.345/.360

This should be a no-brainer, and probably should have been the day after Ellsbury got injured: Mason Williams and Chris Young should be strictly platooned. Combined, the Yankees could have all-star level production simply by preventing each player from facing their weak sides.…

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Are the Yankees the Best Team in the American League?

[Please note: This post was written yesterday before Kansas City won and the Yankees, Astros and Twins all lost.]

The Yankees are 33-25, tying them with Houston, Minnesota and Kansas City for the best record on the American League. The Yankees have been on top of the AL East for most of the season, but this is the first time that they are on top of the whole American League.

They’ve scored 271 runs (4.67 per game) and allowed 236 (4.07 per game), giving them a perfectly-matched 33-25 pythagorean record. Despite a killer back end of the bullpen, they are just 8-8 in one-run games. They’ve had key players (Ellsbury, Tanaka), miss a lot of time. Arod and Teixeira might come down to earth, but there is no evidence that the Yankees are just getting lucky to start the season.

Are they the best team in the American League? Let’s compare them to the teams they are tied with:

Houston Astros (34-26, 4.13 RS/G, 3.90 RA/G, 11-8 in 1-run games, 32-28 Expected)

I don’t buy the Astros.…

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Five Reasons Why Mason Williams Might Be the Best Outfielder in the Yankee Farm System

The Yankees have a lot of outfielders in the high minors who will probably have some kind of MLB career. In book, that list includes, in no particular order: Tyler Austin, Aaron Judge, Slade Heathcott, Ramon Flores, Jake Cave, and Mason Williams. Aaron Judge is still the best prospect of the group. But I think there is a decent chance that Mason Williams is the best player of the group. Here’s why:

He’s got a pedigree

It wasn’t that long ago that Mason Williams was considered a top-top prospect. In 2013, Baseball America ranked him #1 in the Yankee system and #32 in all of baseball. He was coming off an injury-shortened season where he hit .298/.346/.474 between Low-A and High-A as a 20 year-old, showing off a kick-ass 13% strikeout rate and just a .319 BABIP. He was a dynamo on the bases and in the field, and looked like a star.

Of course, Williams has played two full seasons since then, and the results have been horrible.…

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Early Returns: Run Scoring Ticks Back Up

I’ve long been concerned about the state of run scoring in Major League Baseball. Run scoring has been on a decade-long downward trend, without any real indication that we’ve hit bottom. Well, that may have changed:

2015EarlyReturnsRuns

Early returns on 2015 have run scoring ticking upwards slightly. Scoring is still well below the historical average, but we’re now a tick above the disastrous 1960s levels. Good news.

What is going on? In part, strikeout rates have stabilized:

2015EarlyReturnsKRate

And power is ticking back up:

2015EarlyReturnsISO

MLB run scoring doesn’t vary all that much month-to-month, so there is no reason to believe this is seasonal. We also have a decent sample size at this point. I think this is real. Which is very good news for baseball.

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The Only Ever Split-Level Outfield: Texas’s Clark Field

I am now a PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin. An older colleague, upon learning of my love of baseball, told me about the craziest thing I have ever learned about the sport. Until 1974, the University of Texas played in this ballpark:

Clark_Field_Austin

Take a look at center field. First, you’ll see a 12 foot cliff that looks a lot like a (rather close) outfield fence. But, a closer look reveals that there is a green space above that 9 foot cliff. That space? In Play! The left fielder would have to run up the small path, called the “Billy Goat Trail” in order to catch the ball:

clarkfieldcenterfieldsc

Unfortunately, I can’t find a lot of information on old Clark Field: I’ve found a few grainy black and white photos, one amazing article from Texas Monthly, and zero video. When I’m a little less busy, I may go on an archival search for more information. For now, we have these great anecdotes from that article:

“The cliff has contributed to some unusual baseball moments.

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IIATMS Yankee Moment #6: Jeter’s Game-Winning Hit in Final Yankee Stadium Game

I don’t think that I was the only Yankee fan who was growing a little tired of the Derek Jeter retirement tour last September. Jeter was a shadow of his former self, and barely limping to the end of his career. It felt a little sad to watch a once=great player be so humbled by father time. And then, he gave us all a little bit more drama at the very end.

Jeter started the game out with an RBI double. I would have been happy for that to the final hit to remember his career by. He struck out in his next at bat, then reached on an error in the 7th inning. With the Yankees in the lead and David Robertson loaded up in the bullpen, everyone was expecting Joe Girardi to ceremoniously pull Derek Jeter in the 9th inning in order to send him off with a standing ovation. Girardi did no such thing, and David Robertson proceeded to blow the save.…

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