Per the JAWS leaderboard, Adrián Beltré (4) and Scott Rolen (10) rank highest among third basemen not in the Hall of Fame. Beltré will almost certainly get the nod once he becomes eligible, while the currently-on-the ballot Rolen has been making strong headway toward Cooperstown. If and when both players are enshrined, which non-Hall of Fame third baseman will rank highest in JAWS?
The answer is Graig Nettles, who ranks 12th (11th if you don’t include Edgar Martinez). In terms of WAR, Nettles (65.7) ranks right in front of Martinez (65.5), and close behind Rolen (69.9). Beltré (84.1) is comfortably ahead of all three.
Should Nettles be in the Hall of Fame? His accolades and accomplishments include 390 home runs, six All-Star berths, two Gold Gloves — he’d have won more were it not for Brooks Robinson — and a pair of World Series rings. All told, he played in five Fall Classics. Back when Jay Jaffe was writing for Sports Illustrated, my esteemed colleague tabbed Nettles as the most-overlooked player at his position when it comes to Hall of Fame worthiness.
Meanwhile, was Beltré better than Robinson? A clear majority of the people who voted in a Twitter poll I ran yesterday feel that he was. Of the 337 people who weighed in, 61.7% opted for Beltré, while only 38.3% sided with the legendary Baltimore Orioles Hall of Famer.
This is a case of “better” and “most historic” having different meanings.
Beltré has the edge in both JAWS (71.1 to 62.1) and WAR (84.1 to 80.2). Robinson had 15 All-Star seasons, was awarded 16 Gold Gloves, and captured an MVP award. He was also a stalwart on four Baltimore World Series teams, two of which took home a title. As great as he was, Beltré can’t come close to matching those bona fides.
Consider me in Robinson’s corner.
Sandy Koufax was a no-doubt Hall of Famer when his career ended prematurely due to an elbow injury. The most dominant moundsman of his generation, Koufax threw his last pitch in the 1966 World Series, just days after celebrating his 31st birthday. Cementing his status as an all-time great, the Los Angeles Dodgers southpaw captured NL Cy Young awards in three of his final four seasons.
Johan Santana threw his final pitch in 2012, at age 33. He did so after missing the previous season with a shoulder injury that essentially torpedoed his own career. At his electric best, the Minnesota Twins and New York Mets left-hander was nearly Koufax’s equal. Here is a snapshot comparison:
Koufax won three Cy Young awards and had a 156 ERA+ in his six-year prime. Overall, he went 165-87 with a 131 ERA+ over 2,324 innings.
Santana won two Cy Young awards and had a 156 ERA+ in his six-year prime. Overall, he went 139-78 with a 131 ERA+ over 2,025 innings.
Koufax was voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot. Santana spent just one year on the ballot, having received 2.4% of support from the electorate. That’s borderline inexplicable. Koufax may well have been the better of the two, but the disparity is nevertheless criminal. Santana merits another look via the eras committee. Moreover, he probably deserves to join Koufax in the Hall. Statistically, the two are more similar than many realize.
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
Left on the cutting-room floor from my recent Talks Hitting interview with Michael Fransoso were his thoughts on Gunn Omosako. A 20-year-old outfielder from Sao Paulo, Brazil, Omasoko spent last season with Seattle’s Arizona Complex League affiliate, slashing .173/.346/.383 with four home runs in 104 plate appearances. I asked Fransoso about the youngster’s early-career developmental challenges.
“Phenomenal, phenomenal kid,” said Fransoso, who was the Mariners’ ACL hitting coach last year. “He works his tail off. I loved working with him because of that, and while he did struggle a little bit at the plate, he’s young. Being from Brazil, where there’s not as much baseball, he’s also maybe a few years behind [his peers]. But he’s got some raw power. He’s got some some juice in that bat. We’re working on the mental game with him.”
Fransoso went on to say that swing decisions are a big part of that. He pointed to how hitters tend to chase when they aren’t having success, in part because they’re searching for results rather than focusing on process. Stephanie Hale, a mental performance coach in the Seattle system, played a primary role in those efforts.
“Steph has done a lot of work with Gunn in terms of that mental game, and he’s growing in that area,” explained Fransoso. “She’s been awesome, working with our hitters, and also working with me on how we relay messages to our hitters. Our mantra of dominating the zone is very mental. Being in the right mindset, in the right headspace, when you go up to the plate is huge for any hitter.”
Grayson Rodriguez toes the rubber in atypical fashion. The 22-year-old right-hander in the Baltimore Orioles system doesn’t take the mound wearing traditional baseball footwear. Instead, he wears basketball shoes with cleats attached to them.
“I prefer the basketball shoes, because they have a little bit flatter base and sole,” explained Rodriguez, who is widely regarded as the game’s best pitching prospect. “The more ground contact that your foot has, the more force and power you can create. A company called Custom Cleats makes them for me. You just send in basketball shoes, or whatever kind of shoes you want, and they’ll slap some spikes on the bottom and send them back. [Fellow Orioles pitching prospect] D.L. Hall gets them as well. ”
Rodriguez was wearing standard basketball shoes when he kicked a 40-yard field goal last month, with the video of his effort going viral. Making the left-footed boot even more impressive is that the Nacogdoches, Texas native doesn’t have a background as a kicker.
“I just started learning how to kick,” said Rodriguez, whose explanation exuded both confidence and humility. “I was just kind of messing around with it, and that was as far as I could go. I mean, there were a lot of kicks before that video that didn’t really even get off the ground. But could I [potentially become a bona fide place kicker]? I wouldn’t put it past me.”
Cy Young had a record 15 seasons with 20 or more wins. Two pitchers — one a right-hander, the other a left-hander — had 13 seasons with 20 or more or wins. Who are they?
The answer can be found below.
The Double-A Mississippi Braves have named Bruce Crabbe their new manager. The 60-year-old will be joining the Atlanta organization after 17 years coaching and managing in the Boston Red Sox system.
The Springfield Sliders of the summer-collegiate Prospect League are rebranding and will now be known as the Springfield Lucky Horseshoes. The Illinois-based team plays at Robin Roberts Stadium. (Per Ballpark Digest.)
The Society For American Baseball Research announced a new panel for its 2022 SABR Virtual Analytics Conference, which will take place from March 17-20. The Technical Side of Being an Analyst panel will comprise Karim Kassam, the Director of Product and Strategy for Zelus Analytics, Maggie O’Hara, Senior Analyst in Baseball Operations for the Detroit Tiger, and Nick Wan, Director of Analytics for the Cincinnati Reds. Moderating will be Dan Aucoin, Chief Research Officer at Driveline Baseball.
Japanese right-hander Roki Sasaki topped out 101.3 mph in his first spring training outing on Saturday. The 20-year-old NPB sensation plays for the Chiba Lotte Marines. (Per Sung Min Kim.)
Adam Ottavino addressed several topics on Friday’s episode of FanGraphs Audio, and as you might expect, sliders was among them. The veteran reliever relies heavily on the pitch, and for good reason. His is considered one of the best in the business.
Which of the current free agent’s former teammates has the best slider?
“There are just so many different kinds of sliders,” Ottavino said on the podcast. “Everything between a curveball and a cutter, right? I guess the first one that pops to mind is Chris Sale. I played with him last year, and have been watching him his whole career. He’s got an unbelievable breaking ball from the left side. Part of the thing with him is [that] there aren’t too many guys with his release point from the left side, so it’s coming in at an angle that hitters aren’t used to seeing. It really messes them up. That’s the big-breaking variety of slider. In terms of the shorter, tighter bite — those more gyroscopic sliders — Gerrit Cole had a really good one when I played with him.
“Another guy who I think has an unbelievable breaking ball is Germán Márquez, who I played with in Colorado,” added Ottavino. “He has a curveball and a slider. He has an ability to throw both — throw them slower, throw them harder, [have] more downward break, [have] more lateral break. He’s someone… especially doing it at altitude. He’s got a gift for spinning the ball.”
Two quotes of note, one from a book I just finished, and another from a book I just picked up:
In the final chapter of The Pride of Minnesota: The Twins in the Turbulent 1960s, author Thom Henninger wrote, “After the 1962 campaign, baseball owners — worried about the increase in homers — voted to expand the strike zone from the armpits to the top of the shoulders at the high end, and from the knees to the bottom of the knees on the low end.”
On page four of her autobiography, Becoming, Michelle Obama wrote, “I’d sit on my dad’s lap and in his recliner and listen to him narrate how the Cubs were in the middle of a late-season swoon or why Billy Williams, who lived just around the corner from us on Constance Avenue, had such a sweet swing from the left side of the plate.”
As history shows, MLB ultimately lowered the mound following the 1968 season and has since shrunk the strike zone markedly. The Cubs, whose infamous late-season swoon came in 1969, went on to finally capture a World Series title — their first in over a century — in 2016. Williams was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987.
Samad Taylor — featured here at FanGraphs earlier this month — isn’t your typical California kid. As a matter of fact, the Riverside County native is anything but that. A 23-year-old infielder/outfielder in the Toronto Blue Jays system, Taylor moved to South Dakota a handful of years ago.
“It was just a step to take in life, really,” Taylor said of the atypical relocation. “I’ve never really been a big fan of California, and believe it or not, I like the cold weather. I know that sounds kind of weird. But my cousin told me I should move here, and while I was kind of leery about it, I came out here and saw how genuine the people are, and how nice everything was. So, I was like, ‘Hey, let’s do it.’ I ended up moving out here in either 2017 or 2018.”
While he likes cold weather, he’s not a fan of shoveling snow. Which isn’t to say he’s bothered by the frozen precipitation itself. “As Taylor put it, “When it snows here, it’s just snow.”
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
The owners-imposed MLB lockout will adversely affect a metro-Phoenix area that in normal years experiences a spring-training-fueled economic boom. Bill Shaikin addressed the issue at The Los Angeles Times.
What is spring training like in NPB? Yuka Nakamura answered that question at The Mainichi Shimbun.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
The St. Louis Cardinals have had one losing season this century. Since 2000, they have made the postseason 15 times and captured two World Series titles.
Prior to their 1969 World Series-winning season, the New York Mets had never finished higher than ninth place. The most wins they’d had in a season was 73.
Bobby Grich finished his career with 71.0 bWAR — 36.0 with the Baltimore Orioles, and 35.0 with the California Angels.
Charles Gipson, an infielder/outfielder for four teams from 1998-2005, played in 373 games and had 366 plate appearances. He spent the majority of his career with the Seattle Mariners.
Orel Hershiser signed a free agent contract with Cleveland on today’s date in 1995. The longtime Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander proceeded to go 45-21 with a 3.12 ERA in his three seasons with the AL Central club.
Players born on today’s date include Boardwalk Brown, who pitched for the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Athletics from 1911-1915. Christened Carrol William Brown in Woodbury New, Jersey, the right-hander went 17-11 with a 2.94 in 1913, a season in which he walked 15 batters in a 16-9 win over the Detroit Tigers.
Also born on today’s date was Jim Toy, who played for the Cleveland Blues in 1887, and for the Brooklyn Gladiators in 1890. A multi-positional player who was born in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, Toy is considered by some to be the first Native American player in big-league history
Players born on tomorrow’s date include Jouett Meekin, who pitched for five teams from 1891-1900. A right-hander who had a 33-9 season with the New York Giants, Meekin is believed to have issued baseball’s first-ever intentional walk.
This past week marked the eighth anniversary of this column, Sunday Notes having debuted here at FanGraphs on February 16, 2014. Thanks as always for reading.