Does Ichiro Belong in the Hall of Fame?

In 2001 Ichiro came over from Japan and immediately took over the MLB by storm. He doesn’t have power but what he does contribute is amazing. He has incredible speed, gets on base and has an amazing arm. Has he done enough to get into one of the most prestigous clubs ever though? Let’s find out.

In his first season as a Mariner he was about as good as you can be. His OBP was .381 which is just what you want for your leadoff hitter. His .369 wOBA was also excellent. Ichiro demonstrated a great eye at the plate, striking out only 7.2% of the time but only walking 4.1% of the time. His .102 ISO wasn’t a big deal because well that wasn’t his game. His .369 BABIP was very high but Ichiro is an extreme groundball hitter and groundball hitters tend to have higher BABIPs. His GB% for his rookie year was 55.1%. He had an exceptional 130 wRC+ which would actually be the second highest of his career so far. His highest is 134 which he posted in 2004. Once Ichiro gets on base you can bet he’ll steal, in his first season he swiped 56 bags. Not only did all of that result in a 6.1 WAR, he also received rookie of the year honors and MVP.

His career numbers are just as good. He walks 6.2% of the time for his career and strikes out only 9.2% of the time. His .371 OBP and .349 wOBA are both solid career numbers as well. Like I’ve said he doesn’t hit for much power, he only has a .095 ISO but he more then makes up for it. His career BABIP is unusually high, .352 but that can be contributed by his career 55.9 GB%. His career WAR is 52.4, I doubt he’ll reach 60 WAR but he came when he was 26 years old. If he played an extra 3-5 years earlier he would easily have been past 60 WAR by now.

Ichiro’s defense is what’s really remarkable. His career UZR is 103.6! He’s had 5 years where he’s had more then 10 UZR.  If you’ve ever seen him play you would know those numbers are no fluke.

Some of you still may be wondering if those are hall of fame numbers. Let’s take a look at two hall of famers and one potential hall of famer. Here’s a WAR graph comparing Ichiro to Kenny Lofton, Tony Gwynn and George Sisler.

Besides struggling this year, Ichiro compares pretty well to all of those guys. By looking it looks like he compares the best to Kenny Lofton. I made a spreadsheet on google docs comparing all of four of them as well. I can’t figure out how to get it on here so you’ll have to click this link.

Ichiro vs Others

Based on all of this information even though Ichiro has only played for 10 years and has accumulated under 60 WAR he still should be honored in the hall of fame. He is truly a unique player but also an excellent one and should be honored as such.

Was Barry Bonds Better Then Babe Ruth?

Now I know you must be thinking that Barry Bonds shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath as The Babe due to his supposed steroid use. The fact of the matter is though Bonds was never found to have used steroids, some of you might remember how people speculated that he used items like the cream and other things to hide the use but we still don’t know. I did some research and even if he did use steroids, they haven’t been proven to help hit home runs, only hit them farther. I also discovered that steroids typically help upper body strength and home runs usually come from ones lower body strength. Even if Bonds did take steroids starting in 1998 he was still putting up numbers that were ridiculous. If he did take them I don’t believe they helped his power, honestly I’m not sure they did anything at all. Babe Ruth wasn’t a goody two shoes either. In 2008 baseball historians found 53 bats belonging to Babe Ruth. Every single bat was corked. A corked bat shifts the center of a bats mass to the handle and makes the bat lighter, thus increasing the distance a ball is hit.

Besides the controversy that surrounds both players you also have to factor in the era that both players played in. Do we know if Babe Ruth would have faired better during the time Barry Bonds played? What about Barry Bonds, maybe he would have done better during Ruth’s era. If you really wanted to you could break down all of the statistical data and find out for yourself.

You also need to weigh other factors. Ruth struck out during a period where strikeouts weren’t something that were tolerated and he struckout a good portion of the time. Did he make up for that with his defense and power? Maybe.

One more thing, besides their overall career stats you also want to compare their peak years. Those years are generally last between the age 27 and 32 season.

Babe Ruth is quite possibly the greatest player to ever play the game. He would hit monster home runs and has put up some of the best seasons of all time. He also was a pretty good pitcher too. Was he the greatest player of all time though?

Barry Bonds, was equally impressive. He was an incredible 5 tool player who could hit the ball, play exceptional defense and possessed solid speed.

Babe’s career WAR is 177.7, which is the greatest all time. Who’s in second you may ask? Barry Bonds at 168.2. 10 times in Ruth’s famed career he had a WAR over 10. Ruth’s career ISO was .340 which is ridiculous, a testiment to his power. Two stats that really jumped out to me were his career .474 OBP and .510 wOBA. Over a career you just don’t see those numbers. It’s no secret pitchers feared Ruth, he walked 19.4% of the time and struck out only 12.5% of the time. During his career Ruth averaged a 197 wRC+, that number is staggering. To put in perspective Jose Bautista has a 193 wRC+. Ruth averaged more then that for his career! Ruth did have a pretty high career BABIP, .340 to be exact. I’m not sure exactly what caused that but if I had to guess I would assume playing at the Polo Grounds had something to do with it.

His best season was easily in 1923 when he totaled a 15.4 WAR, one of the best single season WARs. During 1923 Ruth posted the best OBP and wRC+ of his career. His OBP was a staggering .545 and his wOBA was .566. His ISO was a robust .372 and he also had the highest BABIP of his career, .423.

During his time period no one would hit home runs, much less as much as Ruth did. Who knows though how much can be contributed to corked bats. Less then 100 years later the closest thing to a modern day Ruth arrived.

And his name was Barry Bonds. Barry wouldn’t just hit home runs. He would crush them. No one would hit home runs into McCovey Cove unless your name was Barry Bonds. Unlike Ruth, Bonds did it all. He hit, was an exceptional fielder, had a great arm, speed. The whole package.

His career numbers were fantastic, amassing a 168.2 career WAR. He went over 10 WAR 6 times, his best was 12.9 in 2001. Bonds’ career numbers were nothing to laugh at either. He had a .309 career ISO, not exactly Ruthian but pretty darn good. His .444 OBP and .439 wOBA weren’t too far off Ruth’s. Like Ruth, pitchers feared Bonds as evidence of his 20.3 carrer BB%. He also had a good eye at the plate, striking out only 12.2% of the time. His 175 career wRC+ isn’t as good as Ruth’s but still pretty darn good. His .285 career BABIP was much more reasonable then Ruth’s.

If you compare their peak years Ruth has the advantage even though his WAR when he was 30 was low. You can see how Ruth dominated those 5 years then slowly started to fall of the table. Bonds was good too but that spike when he was 35 is ridiculous. Still, Ruth had the way better peak.

 

Without question Bonds’ best season was in 2001 when he had a .536 ISO. That is insane. His .515 OBP and .539 wOBA were also incredibly high as well. His wRC+ really jumped out at me though. It was 236! Not even Ruth had that good of a wRC+ although he was close, coming in at 235 in 1920. The scary thing is that wasn’t even his career high. His career high came in 2002 when he had a 245 wRC+. He walked in over 25% of his at-bats, 26.7% to be exact and only struck out in 14% of them. He was hit with a low BABIP of .266 so one wonders if he could have had an even better year, which is scary to think about.

Let’s see how they match up now.

BB%: Bonds

K%: Bonds

BABIP: Bonds

ISO: Ruth

OBP: Ruth

wOBA: Ruth

wRC+: Ruth

WAR: Ruth
 

I wasn’t sure what to do with the BABIP but I gave it to Bonds because it was a more sustainable number but that interpretation can be left to you. Overall Ruth was the better player, his BB and K% weren’t to far off Bonds and he was superior in career ISO, OBP, WAR, wOBA and wRC+. While both may have cheated the game both were still amazing players. Based on WAR Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds are the two best players in baseball and both should be in the hall, not just Ruth. Bonds was hall of fame bound before people believe he started juicing in 1998. Whether he did or not we may never know but if Ruth and his corked bats are allowed in the hall then so should Barry Bonds.

Weekly Prospect: Travis d’Arnaud

Travis d’Arnaud came over to the Blue Jays in the trade that sent Roy Halladay to the Phillies. Last year he had an OK season in A+ ball but this year in AA he’s really starting to take off.

d’Arnaud is posting a very solid .232 ISO, he’s always had solid power but this year it’s really starting to come on. His .393 OBP is above and beyond what one would ask out of him, as is his .420 wOBA. He could improve his eye at the plate, his BB% is 7.9%. If he could bring it up 2% or so that’d be ideal. His 20.4% K% isn’t awful as long as he still supplies power. d’Aranaud’s 161 wRC+ is 61% better then his league’s average, a crazy number that probably isn’t sustainable. It’s no secret that he’s had help based off his .383 BABIP so regression to the mean is definitely expected.

d’Arnaud is only 22 so he has a little more room for improvement but at the pace he’s at he could potentially see time on the big league club in 2012 and if everything goes right he should be the starting catcher in 2013.

 

Appreciating Jim Thome’s Career.

Last night in the 7th inning Jim Thome hit his 600th career home run off Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Daniel Schlereth. That should all but make it a lock on Thome’s hall of fame career. Let’s take a look at just how good his career was.

Thome’s first 3 seasons can be ignored due to injuries, he only played 114 games and had 1 WAR overall. In ’95 he really started to take off, posting a .243 ISO, .438 OBP, .431 wOBA, 159 wRC+ and a 6.3 WAR. Thome had a pretty ridiculous prime, posting absurd numbers from 1996 to 2002. In that tme frame he posted 38.1 of his 71 career WAR. That averages out to 5.4 WAR per season. His ISO in that span was .302, another ridiculous number. His BB% during that time was generally between 15% and 20%, it’s understandable that pitchers feared him due to his crazy power. His K% was a little high, floating between 22% and 28% but he more then made up with it due to his power. He also had some high BABIP numbers throughout his career, his highest being .369 in ’95 but during his career his BABIP has tended to be higher, his career BABIP is .321.

Thome’s best season is without a doubt his ’96 season when he posted a career best 7.9 WAR. That season he put up a .301 ISO, .450 OBP, .449 wOBA, 61.6 wRAA and a 163 wRC+. Like always he had an extremely high BB% that season, walking 19.3% of the time. His K% was a respectable 22.2%.

While he had a excellent prime, his career stats are just as good. He has a .281 ISO, which is good for 9th all-time. To put that in perspective he’s ahead of the likes of Micky Mantle (20), Willie Mays (21) and Joe DiMaggio (22). Not bad if you ask me. He also has a career .403 OBP to go along with a career .406 wOBA. His career wRC+ is 145, another solid number. Like I mentioned before his career BABIP is .321, at this point in his career that shouldn’t change at all. Thome is also walking 17.1% of the time and striking out 24.5% of the time, both great numbers, all things considering. We know he wasn’t much of a defender so most of his value comes offensively, the majority from his power.

To me this says hall of famer right off the bat. There’s one guy who had a similar career to Thome who isn’t in the hall of fame who should be. His name is Jeff Bagwell. Let’s check out this graph and since all three had similar careers and career WAR I put in Frank Thomas too.

As you can see, all have had very similar careers. It’s a crime that bagwell isn’t in but that may be a post for another day. The bottom line is Jim Thome is a Hall of Famer and the other two are as well.

Again, congrats on number 600 Jim Thome. I will always remember watching you reach history in a Minnesota Twins uniform.

Joe Torre = Mark McGwire.

In terms of career WAR at least. Both of have career WARs of 70.8 and I can’t say I wasn’t surprised. I’m only a teenager and not the greatest baseball history buff so when I looked at their career WARs I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. We all know McGwire was good, he may have had some extra help but that’s besides the point.

In 17 years Torre put together some pretty impressive numbers. He had a career .155 ISO which is slightly above league average, he finished with 252 career home runs. He also had an above league average .365 OBP and a .363 wOBA. Torre also had a good eye at the plate, walking 8.9% of the time and striking out only 12.4% of the time. He did a good job at creating runs, posting a 129 wRC+. Since wRAA can fluctuate year to year there isn’t an average calculated for players but over his career Torre had 344.9 total wRAA. His BABIP was .318, a number that can be stable depending on park factors. From 1963 to 1971 Torre had the best years of his career posting 51.3 WAR. That averages out to 5.7 WAR per season. Not too bad if you ask me. Fangraphs doesn’t have UZR data for that time so based on fielding percentage he was .990 as a catcher, not bad.

Mark McGwire was a power hitter in every sense of the word. His ISO was .325 for his career, an absurd number. He had a crazy .394 OBP to go with a .415 wOBA. Every pitcher and their mothers feared Big Mac, he walked in 17.2% of his at bats. He struck out in only 20.8% of them. His career .255 BABIP shows he may have been pretty unlucky in his career but he still had monster numbers. His career wRC+ was 158 and he acclimated 562.5 wRAA. Both ridiculous numbers. On defense he was an exceptional first basemen posting a .993 fielding percentage. The jury is still out about his drug use but it’s pretty obvious what he did if you just look at his career numbers and his body during the tail end of his career.

Still, I would have never guessed that Joe Torre and Mark McGwire would have been identical in WAR. For the visual reader here’s a WAR graph.

Adios Delmon Young.

Today the Twins sent Delmon Young to the Tigers for a minor league pitcher and a PTBNL Delmon Young is awful but I wasn’t expecting him to be traded/non-tendered until after the season. The players the Twins got in return won’t amount to much but all that matters is that Delmon Young is gone. I was hoping OF prospect Joe Benson would get the call but of course that didn’t happen. Instead Rene Tosoni got promoted. Bill Smith and the Twins actually made a good move and for that I commend them.

Did Trevor Cahill Deserve his Contract Extension?

Last season MLB analysists were talking about Trevor Cahill as a Cy Young candidate for some strange reason. He only had a 2.2 WAR, hardly above replacement level. I assume they were in love with his 18 wins and 2.97 ERA. The thing is though, he isn’t very good at all. Last year most of his success came from an absurdly low BABIP of .236, not sustainable at all. His 4.19 FIP indicated that he wasn’t that good at all and his 3.99 xFIP tells us that his ERA will more likely be closer to that then his 2.97 ERA. His ERA- was 74 but his FIP- was 104 meaning his FIP was 4$ worse then league average. His xFIP was 95 though meaning it was 5% better then league average. He isn’t a strikeout pitcher, only striking out 5.4 per 9 innings and walked 2.88 per 9.

Fast forward to this year and his .290 BABIP is a much more realistic number. His ERA is 3.92 so his xFIP last year was right on the money. His FIP is 3.98 and his xFIP is 3.80 so as we go on in the future I think this is the Cahill we can expect. This year Cahill’s ERA- 103, his FIP- is 104 and his xFIP- is 96. These numbers just make it a little easier to see how his peripherals have caught up to him. This year he’s increased his K/9 as well as his BB/9. He only has a 1.9 WAR and by the end of the season he shouldn’t be too far off his 2.2 WAR of last season. He’s striking out 6.61 per 9 but walking 3.7 per 9 which is slightly concerning.

In the end I think Oakland will regret giving Cahill the 5 year, $30.5 million dollar contract. From what we’ve seen he’s pretty much a league average pitcher. He’s only 23 but I believe they jumped the gun when offering the deal.