Dialed In - August 15, 2004
Future Hall of Famers?
Tom Glavine Chases 300
With Greg Maddux reaching 300 this season, who can get there next became the discussion. Aaron Gleeman wrote an excellent article at The Hardball Times with a snazzy chart of who is really in line to make it.
Baseball-Reference lets me check who else has a shot as well:
Rank Player (age) Wins 2004Ws Throws
1. Roger Clemens (40) 310 12 R
2. Greg Maddux (37) 289 11 R
3. Tom Glavine (37) 251 8 L
4. Randy Johnson (39) 230 11 L
5. Chuck Finley (40) 200 DNP L
6. David Wells (40) 200 7 L
7. Mike Mussina (34) 199 9 R
8. Kevin Brown (38) 197 9 R
Some of the comments I read, obviously from disgruntled Braves fans, said that Glavine’s shot at winning 300 games took a powder when he signed with the Mets, ostensibly for “a little more money.” Most of that is untrue.
That Glavine signed with the Mets for “a little more money” is true, but Glavine didn’t sign with the Mets for “a little more money.” Glavine signed with the Mets for a fourth season. Tom Glavine is no dummy. He knows where he is in history and what it takes to get him where he wants to be in history. He sees what has happened to Tommy John and Bert Blyleven. He knows that having 287 wins and five 20-win seasons and two Cy Young Awards may or may not get one into the Hall of Fame. He knows 300 wins will. Without exception.
At the end of 2002, Tom Glavine had 242 wins. The Braves offered Glavine a 3-year contract. Tom knows there is no chance in hell he’ll win 20 games a season. That means he had to have a fourth season, at least. The Braves weren’t doing that. The Mets were. It would take an average of 15 wins, but that wasn’t a far-fetched goal while pitching for the Mets.
Or was it?
A pitcher that posts a 94 ERA+ in 180 IP will not win 15 games, unless he’s Jack Morris. In 2003, Glavine stunk. While certainly the Met defense was to blame for some of his poor outings, his dERA was in the neighborhood of 4.80. He was terrible. Even pitching for the Braves, with his injuries and poor performance, wasn’t getting Tom Glavine to 15 wins. Might he have won 11 games instead of 9? Sure, okay.
What about run support though? In 2003, the Braves offense scored a ton of runs, and their starting staff got lots of runs. Shane Reynolds got 6.45 runs per game, and managed 11 wins with a 5.43 ERA. However, Horacio Ramirez got 6 runs per game and had a 4.00 ERA and still just managed 12 wins. Ramirez pitched the same number of innings as Glavine and had an ERA half a run lower. It would appear to me, that with the Braves, Glavine would have ended up with about 11 wins, based on his performance. And he may well have ended up with 9.
Of course, the Braves also shelled Glavine. Glavine’s non-Brave ERA was 3.80. Given that ERA and run support of 5.5 to 6.5 runs, he might have won 15 games. However, Greg Maddux had an ERA of 3.96 and only got 4.91 runs per game support, but won 16 games. Run support distribution matters too.
Why didn’t Glavine win 15 games? Tom had two teammates win 15 games, with the same defense behind them. Largely, the difference between the three was their own pitching and run support. Steve Trachsel (16 W) and Al Leiter (15 W) both got more run support than Greg Maddux.
In 2004, Tom Glavine has pitched superbly. His ERA has been in the mid-2’s for most of the season. He’s been victimized by his bullpen a couple of times. He’s had some bad luck with run support, without having a poor-hitting caddy for a catcher.
So how would he be doing with the Braves? It would depend on his luck, but the Braves do have a comparable pitcher – Jaret Wright. Wright has a 2.95 ERA to match Glavine’s 2.92 mark. He is getting 5 runs in support. His W-L is 11-5, as opposed to Glavine’s 8-10. We’re looking at a couple of wins.
On the other hand, if he were pitching for the Braves, he wouldn’t have had his teeth knocked out in a cab ride in New York, and missed two or three starts.
Effectively, Glavine may win 10 fewer games over three years by playing with the Mets instead of the Braves. But with the Mets, he got a fourth year. Glavine saw the way the Braves treated Greg Maddux (no contract offer before arbitration), and I’m sure he wanted no part of that. At the end of this contract, Tom Glavine is likely to have somewhere between 285-295 wins. The Braves demonstrated they wouldn’t be keeping a solid pitcher with 290 wins.
Glavine simply bet on himself, and his ability to pitch well enough to win 15 games a year for four years. The Braves, even at 15 wins a season, were only letting Glavine get to Tommy John territory, and Glavine didn’t want to take that risk – certainly not after all he had given the Braves the previous 16 seasons.
Unfortunately for Tom, he didn’t pitch well in 2003, and instead of winning 15 games like his teammates Trachsel and Leiter, he probably self-created the need for another season after this contract expires.
Something he would have needed at the end of any contract he signed with the Braves.
In the end, it won’t matter - Glavine will make the Hall of Fame.
Is Jeff Kent a Hall of Famer?
Jeff Kent began the 2004 season with 258 home runs as a second baseman. The career record, held by Ryne Sandberg, widely regarded by those who vote as a Hall of Famer, at 277. I have no doubt that Jeff Kent will retire as the all-time home run hitter for a second baseman.
Is that enough? Is that anything? In addition, Kent had a 6-season stretch where he was dominant in the areas of “what most people think baseball is about”: runs batted in. Batting behind Barry Bonds on the San Francisco Giants team, allowed Kent to prosper in a category viewed as one of the most important aspects of the game for a player: driving runs in.
Research into RBIs shows that RBIs are a function of how one hits with runners on base, and even better, with runners in scoring position. A player is “clutch” or some such. Research done by one of my favorite analysts, Ron Johnson (he’s Canadian, eh), produced this equation:
RBI = (BA x 0.43 + 1.09 x ISO) x ABROB (I got this from a post in alt.sports.baseball.calif-angels on November 10, 1998).
This is a simple RBI predictor and it does a really good job. Sure, there are the occasional outliers, but for the most part, it illustrates that if you are a good hitter and you have the runners on base, you will drive in runs. Heck, even if you aren’t a really good hitter, given enough chances, you’ll drive in runs, a lot of runs. That’s somethng the mainstream media never seems to completely grasp. Sometimes it will be noted during the season that a player has a ton of RBIs because he has had a lot of runners on base, but in the end, the almighty RBI will win out.
From 1997 through 2002, Jeff Kent terrorized the NL. He drove in 121, 128, 101, 125, 106, and 108 runs. That will jump off the plate when people that have Hall of Fame votes vote. Then you throw in the mix - he’s the *all-time* home run hitting second basemen. More than Rogers Hornsby; more than Joe Morgan. Kent also won the 2000 MVP. There are few MVP second basemen - Kent, Jackie Robinson, Charlie Gehringer, Joe Gordon, Sandberg, Frisch, Morgan and Hornsby. That is Hall of Fame territory.
Personally, I think Sandberg is a borderline candidate, and as I’ve explained before, he’s probably not in my personal Hall of Fame. He’s been eligible for a few seasons and hasn’t made the cut yet.
Compared to his Hall of Fame candidate contemporaries, Craig Biggio and Roberto Alomar, Kent holds up decently, albeit differently. He needs a few more seasons to catch those guys in some count stats (games in particular). Kent is much more of a peak argument than a steady career argument, but that’s really the fault of the New York Mets. Biggio and Alomar (presently) have career OPS+ marks around 117, while Kent comes in at 125. Kent still has some decline phase left which will lower his OPS+.
Kent’s “HoF Standards” isn’t that high: 36.6 out of an HoF average 50. His HoF monitor is 65 against a bar of 100. But Kent has done the things that impress the voters - drive in 100 runs and win an MVP.
My point of this discussion is “who will” and not “who should” make the Hall of Fame. I am not arguing that Kent *should* make the Hall, but rather that he will under the standards that Hall of Fame voters have set.
Jeff Kent has also been a decent defensive second baseman - good some years; not so good in others. He’s gotten a bad wrap because he is such a good hitter. He hasn’t been an embarrassment, and he’s been willing to help his team by playing third base and first base when asked. It is obvious, to me, that you want to play a player at the most difficult defensive position he can handle and for Kent that is second base.
Player G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO
Kent 1632 6064 943 1754 404 34 275 1100 79 49 543 1159
Alomar 2323 8902 1490 2679 498 78 206 1110 474 112 1018 1109
Biggio 2253 8588 1503 2461 517 51 210 931 389 116 1020 1373
Sandberg 2164 8385 1318 2386 403 76 282 1061 344 107 761 1260
BA OBP SLG OPS+
.289 .352 .503 125
.301 .372 .444 117
.287 .375 .432 117
.285 .344 .452 114
Kent has some way to go. His count stats will need to increase, but he has 13 home runs this season to pass Sandberg overall. He doesn’t look like he’ll get the record this year for career HRs by a second baseman, without a hot streak. He’s needs to hit about one a week.
Because Kent is performing well – or well enough - this season (.287/.341/.480), he’ll play in 2005 – maybe for Houston. The Astros have an option for $9 million ($700,000 buyout), but that might be a bit much. I can certainly see Kent as a free agent this off-season.
He’s probably got three more seasons to go to pass Sandberg (who is probably an eventual Hall of Famer) in every category, except Gold Gloves. Sandberg will be Kent litmus. If Sandberg never gets close, Kent won’t. If Sandberg gets in, Kent probably will. If Sandberg gets close, but doesn’t get in, Kent may still.
Posted: August 15, 2004 at 11:38 PM | 58 comment(s)
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