Age-Balanced Astros Take on 2018

January 16, 2018

George Springer
The Spirit of The Houston Astros

 

The 2017 World Series Champion Houston Astros may be in the process of witnessing a club coming together that they would not have wanted to face from Day One last season – and that’s themselves in the still beefing-up version of the 2018 club. The additions of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, plus the transformative presence of Game 7 hero Charlie Morton in the starting rotation – all lend evidence to the belief that Houston now sports one of best starting five in baseball.

The age spread among the current 38 members of the 40-man roster also suggests a nice balance between seasoned veteran excellence, current superstar stature, and youthful promise of cons-in-the-making. In the long roster chart that follows first, here are the 38 men in balance by age. 14 are slated for birthdays in the 30-35 age range in 2018; another strong core 14 are slated for the 26-29 age bracket; and a mixed bag of good to excellent ability describes most of the comprises the 10 members who make up the 30-35 older statesman group.

The 2018 Astros barn bears no long time space for lame horse runners, bats, or arms. And the question for outside players looking in to the organization is no longer “do I want to play for the Astros” and has been replaced overnight by the one that now wants to know “how do I get there to play for the Astros?”

It’s all about winning the World Series – and in the way the Astros did it. Even other MLB players became Astros fans as a result. Maybe giving rise to a new truism in baseball:

“Losing woes. Winning woos.” ~ The Pecan Park Eagle.

As to the specific list of oldest to youngest players on the current 40-man roster, here’s what we have, as rank-ordered by the ages they each will achieve at any point in 2018:

# NAME POS AGE IN 2018 DATE OF BIRTH
1 Justin Verlander P 35 02/20/1983
2 Tony Sipp P 35 07/12/1983
3 Charlie Morton P 35 11/12/1983
4 Brian McCann C 34 02/20/1984
5 Joe Smith P 34 03/22/1984
6 Yuli Gurriel 1B 34 06/09/1984
7 Will Harris P 34 08/28/1984
8 Evan Gattis DH/C 32 08/18/1986
9 James Hoyt P 32 09/30/1986
10 Josh Reddick OF 31 02/09/1987
11 Collin McHugh P 31 06/19/1987
12 Dallas Keuchel P 30 01/01/1988
13 Brad Peacock P 30 02/02/1988
14 Hector Rondon P 30 02/26/1988
15 Marwin Gonzalez Utility 29 03/14/1889
16 George Springer OF 29 09/19/1989
17 Jose Altuve 2B 28 06/06/1990
18 Anthony Gose P 28 08/10/1990
19 Gerrit Cole P 28 09/08/1990
20 BradyRodgers P 28 09/17/1990
21 Ken Giles P 28 09/20/1990
22 Tyler White 1B 28 10/29/1990
23 Chris Devenski P 28 11/13/1990
24 Mike Stassi C 27 03/15/1991
25 Jake Marisnick OF 27 03/30/1991
26 Tony Kemp 2B 27 10/31/1991
27 Reymin Guduan P 26 03/16/1992
28 Jandel Gustave P 26 10/12/1992
29 J.D. Davis 3B 25 04/27/1993
30 A.J. Reed 1B 25 05/10/1993
31 Derek Fisher OF 25 08/21/1993
32 Lance McCullers, Jr. P 25 10/02/1993
33 Dean Deetz P 25 11/29/1993
34 David Paulino P 24 02/06/1994
35 Alex Bregman 3B 24 03/30/1994
36 Carlos Correa SS 24 09/22/1994
37 Francis Martes P 23 11/24/1995
38 Cionel Perez P 22 04/21/1996

 

Here’s a select chart on the five men who currently project as Astros starters in 2018:

# NAME POS AGE IN 2018 DATE OF BIRTH
1 Justin Verlander P 35 02/20/1983
3 Charlie Morton P 35 11/12/1983
12 Dallas Keuchel P 30 01/01/1988
19 Gerrit Cole P 28 09/08/1990
32 Lance McCullers, Jr. P 25 10/02/1993
  Average Age in 2018 =   30.6 YEARS  

And here is a chart reflecting the same age information the eight probable position starters and main DH in 2018:

# NAME POS AGE IN 2018 DATE OF BIRTH
4 Brian McCann C 34 02/20/1984
6 Yuli Gurriel 1B 34 06/09/1984
17 Jose Altuve 2B 28 06/06/1990
35 Alex Bregman 3B 24 03/30/1994
36 Carlos Correa SS 24 09/22/1994
15 Marwin Gonzalez LF 29 03/14/1889
16 George Springer CF 29 09/19/1989
10 Josh Reddick RF 31 02/09/1987
8 Evan Gattis DH 32 08/18/1986
  Average Age in 2018 =   29.4 YEARS  

Given the age spreads we see, it helps to remember why long-time multiple seasons winning via the Luhnow method really benefits and depends upon deals like the Gerrit Cole trade with Pittsburgh the other day. The Astros had to give up value for value in the trade, of course, but they avoided trading either their top pitching or position prospects in the process.

Good work, Jeff Luhnow. – Keep it up.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

New Astros Rotation Is Tall in the Saddle

January 15, 2018

FE FI FO FUM
MY NAME IS GERRIT COLE
AND, HOUSTON,
HERE I COME!

 

Projected Starting Rotation: 2018 Houston Astros

# STARTERS B/T HT LBS W L W%
1 JUSTIN VERLANDER BR/TR 6’5” 225 15 8 .653
2 DALLAS KEUCHEL BL/TL 6’3” 205 14 5 .737
3 GERRIT COLE BR/TR 6’4” 225 12 12 .500
4 LANCE McCULLERS BL/TR 6’1” 205 7 4 .636
5 CHARLIE MORTON BR/TR 6’5” 235 14 7 .667
  2017 TOTALS       62 36 .633
  PROJECTED 2018 @       103 59 .633

Reminiscences of the Tall – and Getting Hit by the Ball

We never dreamed we’d be moving only one year later to an Astros 5-man starting pitcher rotation in which Dallas Keuchel would be the second shortest guy on the bill, but, if this one holds, that’s exactly what is about to happen. Now, if the short 6’1″ Lance McCullers can’t go – for any reason – and the Astros were to move a guy like the 6’7″ James Hoyt into cast as a venture move, Keuchel would immediately inherit the Eddie Gaedel spot on the card.

There wasn’t much I hated worse than a lanky tall guy pitcher long ago in kid baseball. The only thing that’s made them worse were (1) side arm deliveries (2) that they couldn’t control. It felt a though they were trying to pin the ball in your ear – just for going to bat against them. And, damn it, sometimes – if not every time – that’s exactly what they were trying to do. And that was especially bad in our times. There were no helmets back in the day. We wore felt caps. And they absorbed sunlight, but no impact shocks.

I remember my 1953 freshman year at St. Thomas. A select team from our STHS freshman league was playing a freshman team from Smiley High School. I was pitching and teammate Jack Earthman was catching.

In direct imitation of what I always had seen my favorite Buff pitchers do, I mad my last warm up pitch and then turned around on the mound to pound my empty glove as I awaited my infielders to toss the ball around after my catcher made his routine toss to second base, just to get things started.

That’s the last memory I had for a while. The next thing I recall was being helped from the ground. Jack had made his throw to second base, all right, but it never got there. I’m told it hit me square in the back of the head and knocked me down and out. Fortunately, I was able to pass the one question “concussion test” that was used back in the day. Our coach, a wonderful teaching priest-t0-be fellow named “Mr. Klem” asked me:

“Hey, Bill, are you good to go out there today?”

“Yep,” I said, and that was good enough to seal the deal and put all concerns to rest.

In case you’re wondering. Yes, our Mr. Klem was either a nephew or grand-nephew of the famous MLB umpire, Bill Klem.

Sorry to go tangential on you here this morning. This same story might have boiled over had I been writing about Ryne Duren this morning, but the thought of tall, long-armed pitchers was enough to do the job this time.

The Humble, Unscientific Stat Projections in the Above Featured Table

As most of you know, I am not a seeker of SABR-level honor for statistical research – or for coming up with improvements to batting and earned run averages. Those items told me a lot about players when I was a kid and I find them still good enough to meet my personal needs of these later years. As for measures like WAR, I ask, as the old rock song so pleadingly still cries out to this day: “War! ~ What is it good for?” Or, more fittingly, let me just state the problem here: Some of us may be unteachable in newer math languages. If I’m hitchhiking across Death Valley, I’m probably the last guy in the world who’s going to pull into any kind of improbable human contact and ask, “How far is it from here to LA – and can you please give me the answer in metric terms?”

No. Our win projections in the table are based solely upon the aggregate W% for all five of these starters over 162 games in 2017. They disregard the performance possibilities of the bull pen and the fact that two of the projected guys shown here spent most to all of their time with other clubs in 2017.

That being said, I look at the 2018 club that is shaping up and say: “That 103-59 record sounds pretty good to me!”

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Doubleheaders: An MLB Future – Or Not?

January 14, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

Victoria Advocate
January 21, 1964
Submitted By
Darrell Pittman

 

 

 

Doubleheaders: An MLB Future – Or Not?

In the local days of the Houston Buffs, right through the Buff’s last 1961 season of minor league ball existence, doubleheaders were the home game dates we lived for, especially as Knothole Gang members at old Buff Stadium. And why not? We got two games for the price of one, double the time we spent at the ballpark, and two shots at winning or losing – and all on one trip to the ballpark!

Who could ask for anything more?

And doubleheaders were great for the ball club. They were a chance to boost attendance for two games on one day that could not likely happen for two single games on two separate days. It wasn’t like today. The season ticket sales comprised a much lower percentage of the daily gate. And, even without the stats in front of me, I feel safe in saying that one close to sold out doubleheader at Buff Stadium easily eclipsed the number that would have shown up to see those same team matches scheduled as individual games.

The “make-up game” due to rain DH also could have the same effect on the gate, if the competitive match was right – or, if it featured a DH with our biggest rivals, the Dallas Eagles. Indoor baseball was simply unheard of anywhere until 1965.

Remember?

Today, of course, we live in the big league world – and in an era which places top club value on selling as much of the stadium seats available to season ticket holders as possible. I may have been too harsh the other day for criticizing the Astros for out-pricing SABR from yesterday’s Fan Fest. Geez, they have one big nut to crack to meet payroll every year now, even with the TV money and the new attraction they have as World Champs. Now, it seems, everybody wants to either see or be Astros in 2018. All we can say is, “Sure thing! Just grab your fistful of dollars and either take it – or leave it – at the MMP door – depending on whether you are here to either buy tickets or sell talent!”

By the way, Houston is a good example these days of how starkly relative the phrase “big salary” is to whatever you may be doing. The Astros just signed reserve center fielder Jake Marisnick on the cheap for $1.9 million dollars a year. Meanwhile, the 28-years on duty Alley Theater artistic director, Gregory Boyd, appears to be resigning his good paying job in the face of charges that his verbal abuse of young female employees has created a toxic environment in that workplace. And Boyd was getting paid a huge $420,000 a year.

At any rate, paying high salaries is simply one of the big expenses in baseball today that cries out for single date game scheduling.

Given the inflated state of money today – and the changes in the baseball culture we’ve only touched upon here briefly – doubleheaders don’t seem to have much future to them, although 30 MLB DH contests were played in 2017.

http://www.espn.com/mlb/stats/doubleheaders

How could fans be calling for more? And, if they are, are these the same fans who are complaining that baseball should find ways to shorten the nine inning single game?

Another irony: The length of some single games today probably exceeds the time it once took to play a doubleheader.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Our Lost & Found Dog Story

January 14, 2018

Please forgive our slightly under-the-weather physical state, but our mostly emotionally-hammered emotional scoreboard over the past 48 hours have finally thrown up a wall on my usual relentless writing pace in the short-term. Here’s what happened.

Thursday night, we were bitten at home by the apparently endless teeth of Hurricane Harvey. Our adult son Casey’s almost 10-year old Dachshund, Pluto, went outside for a duty call. Instead of coming back inside for bed time, Pluto found a new crawl space beneath our tilting back fence and decided to exit for a night on the town. By midnight of our first really cold evening in this new front, we had done all we could to find low moving blackness on a night of consuming blackness. We suspended our search until sunrise Friday.

None of us got much sleep that night. Casey was beside himself with the worst fears. He and Pluto have been through so much together, traveling through all the contiguous 48 states over the course of their early days together in West Texas, several working years in Houston, and, most recently, about 100,000 miles in a big rig that Casey drove for a delivery company based in Springfield, Missouri. Pluto was also like the canine grandson connection to the hearts of Norma and me too. Thursday night was tough.

To each his own. Norma and I turned to prayer. And, given our beliefs, Norma and I independently put St. Anthony (Patron Saint of the Lost) and St. Jude (Patron Saint of Lost Causes) on our spiritual speed dials to boot in our pleas for divine help beyond our limited human capacity for problem solving.

Early Friday morning turned light and our power line signs requesting help were up and blowing in the wind like the Fleet of Good Ships Hope that we hoped they would be. Meanwhile, I had to leave for a doctor’s appointment and didn’t get back to the neighborhood until about 11:30 AM. When I drove in the usual way, the urge hit me to bypass the normal first left turn to our house and to proceed straight for one block and then take a right into the neighborhood just east of us.

As soon as I did take the hunch course, I saw Pluto. He was walking in a yard to my right, but I wasn’t sure it was him. I didn’t recognize his blue collar. He also appeared smaller than our Pluto too, but I couldn’t be sure. I had to turn around and check him out more closely. By the time I turned around in the car, I also saw Casey outside his car – far down the same street. With one eye on the slow moving “Pluto”, I drove on to apprise Casey and get his help. We both turned around and went back.

Then Casey got out of his car and called Pluto by name. The two ran together like something out of a movie scene. Pluto jumped into Casey’s arms as they both fell in apparent relief to the ground in hugs and kisses. It was enough to water a stranger’s front lawn in tears of joy and relief.

The lessons here are many. And our personal beliefs begin with thanks to God and gratitude for the fact that we each now have the opportunity to absorb them this time without the permanent loss of our dear Pluto. Yet, we all know – the surrender of all physical attachments awaits all of us in some partial, temporary, or permanent form eventually. It is the Presence of True Eternal Love in our lives that never goes away. And that Love is available to all of us from the Power that is greater than us all. If we feel it from each other, it is because that Love is passing through each of us – to each other – and right down to the little canine smallest physical member of our little family. We are the network of attached family members through which the great river of Love flows. We rejoice in our connection. We mourn any loss. And we celebrate in quiet peace and gratitude all homecomings – especially the inexplicably miraculous kind that just unfolded with Pluto.

Thank you for your understanding.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

Our All Time Houston True Grit Nine

January 11, 2018

Casey would vault o’er their strawberry skins – and the game played on!

 

Our Pecan Park Eagle Selected

All Time Houston Colt .45s/Astros

“True Grit” Starting Nine Players

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NOTE: Club Hall of Famers and other famous Houston super stars were not considered as candidates for this club. This team, these guys, are the fire-breathing hustlers we picked from the ranks of those players who made great contributions to Houston big league baseball based upon an apparent special grit for pushing their own abilities in ways that best served the team cause. And their selections were not all tied to their stats. Their field personas and flexible value to the club were major considerations.)

Pitcher: Turk Farrell (14-13, 3.02 in 1963)

Catcher: Hal Smith (.235 in 1962)

1st Base: Marwin Gonzalez (.303 in 2017)

2nd Base: Bill Doran (.283 in 1987)

3rd Base: Denny Walling (.312 in 1986)

Shortstop: Julio Lugo (.283 in 2000)

Left Field: Jim Pankovits  (.283 in 1986)

Center Field: Casey Candaele (.286 in 1990)

Right Field: Billy Spiers (.301 in 2000)

Please feel free to – either or both – replace any of these guys on your own list of “true grit” local MLB starters – and/or add other full roster additions into a 25-man full roster club, if you prefer.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Astros Price SABR Out of Fan Fest 2018

January 11, 2018

“Hey, Pinocchio! – Do you know what happens when you use a built-in excuse to explain one of your own stupid moves?”

“OK, let’s see if we can reverse this thing. Let me ask again. – Did you tell me the truth the first time I asked my question?”

 

The SABR notice from Jacob Pomrenke at our national office at SABR expressed it matter-of-factually, but with a tail-twisting apology for any inconvenience, or implicit disappointment, this news may cause any of us who have been planning to attend the Astros Fan Fest this coming weekend as has been our pattern every winter that the event has been held downtown since the club’s move to its present location in 2000. If memory serves, Fan Fest itself has been held there annually since 2001.

What was the message to volunteer members of the Larry Dierker Chapter of SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research?

Here’s what the SABR notice communicated:

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“Bob Dorrill would also like to let everyone know that the chapter will not be participating in the Astros Fan Fest this coming Saturday, as the team has asked for a significant registration fee. Sorry for any inconvenience.”

Thanks,
Jacob Pomrenke

Notes: Jacob Pomrenke is the Director of Editorial Content for SABR at the organization’s national offices in Arizona. Bob Dorrill is the longtime volunteer leader of the Larry Dierker Chapter in Houston, and also a long-term season ticket holder of the Houston Astros, an ardent baseball researcher, and a passionate supporter of activities that promote the growth of public interest in baseball and the specific support of the Astros.

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So the question hangs in the air. – What is this all about?

Why would the Astros initiate a participation fee that cuts off SABR support for both the club and the game of baseball by effectively price-blocking a SABR information and recruitment table at Fan Fest 2018 this coming Saturday, January 13th ? And please don’t give us that convenient the-devil-made-us-do-it excuse that MLB is requiring you to take such a market-stupid course – unless it really is true, of course. Frankly, it’s hard to believe that either the Astros or MLB could be too stupid to recognize the value of knowledgeable people who already are working for free toward goals that only serve the best expansive interests of both the Astros club and the wonderful game of baseball.

A SABR booth at Fan Fest is not there to profit from material sales, as most exhibitors are, but to make a connection with others that may want to join us in this not-for-profit good fight.

It’s about what our SABR people as volunteers do and what these efforts produce for the benefit of baseball. These energies course over many different fields, but they all flow on the same fuel.

Love of the Game.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

Bill Gilbert’s Win Share Picks for 2018 HOF Class

January 10, 2018

You are going to want to huddle ’round the old hot stove. It’s time for independent analyst Bill Gilbert to rate the 2018 Baseball HOF induction prospects based on Win Shares.

 

Rating the 2018 Hall of Fame Candidates Based on Win Shares

By Bill Gilbert

 

One of the first items of business in baseball each year is the announcement of players elected to the Hall of Fame. This leads to lots of speculation and a little analysis prior to the announcement which is scheduled for January 24, 2018.

Many systems exist for evaluating player performance. One such system, the Win Shares method, developed by Bill James in 2002, is a complex method for evaluating players which includes all aspects of performance – offense, defense and pitching. James has stated that, “Historically, 400 Win Shares means absolute enshrinement in the Hall of Fame and 300 Win Shares makes a player more likely than not to be a Hall of Famer. However, future standards may be different. Players with 300-350 Win Shares in the past have generally gone into the Hall of Fame. In the future, they more often will not”.

The 2018 class of Hall of Fame candidates consists of 14 holdovers and 19 players eligible for the first time. Ten holdovers have over 300 Win Shares, Barry Bonds with 661, Gary Sheffield 430, Roger Clemens 421, Manny Ramirez 408, Jeff Kent 338, Fred McGriff 326, Vladimir Guerrero 324, Sammy Sosa 311, Larry Walker 307 and Edgar Martinez 305. Among the newcomers, there are four candidates with 300 Win Shares, Chipper Jones 416, Jim Thome 383, Johnny Damon 307 and Scott Rolen 304.

In 2017, three players received the necessary 75% of the vote for election by the Baseball Writers of America (BBWAA).   The 2017 ballot included 19 newcomers and 15 returning candidates. One newcomer, Ivan Rodriguez, (76.0%) was elected on the first ballot. Only two others, Guerrero (71.7%) and Ramirez (23.8%) easily exceeded the necessary 5% of the votes required to remain on the ballot.

Only Jeff Bagwell (86.2%) and Tim Raines (86.0%) among the holdovers were elected. The only other holdovers with over 50% of the vote in 2017 were Hoffman (74.0%), Martinez (58.8%), Clemens (54.1%), Bonds (53.8%) and Mike Mussina (51.8%).

Several players on the ballot, notably Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, have the numbers to be elected but remain tainted with the steroid cloud. Many voters have been inclined to wait until more is known about the extent of steroid usage before giving them a pass. Both are in their 6th year on the ballot. Support for both is may increase this year but not enough for election. The reluctance to vote for players like Bonds and Clemens is likely to continue to diminish with time but it may not be soon enough for election by the writers. The ballot remains quite crowded.   Some writers have advocated the removal of the restriction of 10 votes per ballot. A total of 442 ballots were cast in 2017 essentially the same as the 440 in the previous year. Last year, voters used an average of 8.1of their 10 votes

 

Following is a list of Win Shares for the 33 players on the ballot. Players on the ballot for the first time are shown in bold. Voting results for 2016 and 2017 are shown for the holdovers.

PLAYER WIN SHARES 2017 VOTES 2017 % 2016 V0TE 2016 %
Barry Bonds 661 238 53.8 195 44.3
Gary Sheffield 430 59 13.3 51 11.6
Roger Clemens 421 239 54.1 199 45.2
Chipper Jones 416
Manny Rameriz 408 105 23.8
Jim Thome 383
Jeff Kent 338 74 16.7 73 16.6
Fred McGriff 326 96 21.7 92 20.9
Vlad Guerrero 324 317 71.7
Sammy Sosa 311 38 8.6 31 7.0
Johnny Damon 307
Larry Walker 307 97 21.9 68 15.5
Edgar Martinez 305 259 58.8 191 43.4
Omar Vizquel 282
Andrew Jones 278
Mike Mussina 270 229 51.8 189 43.0
Carlos Lee 249
Jamie Moyer 225
Curt Schilling 227 199 45.0 230 52.3
Trevor Hoffman 188 327 74.0 298 67.3
Billy Wagner 182 45 10.2 46 10.5
Johan Santana 171
Aubrey Huff 166
Orlando Hudson 164
Hideki Matsui 150
Kevin Millwood 150
Livan Hernandez 147
Chris Carpenter 142
Carlos Zambrano 142
J. Isringhausen 117
Kerry Wood 107
Brad Lidge 89
 

The 34 players elected by the Baseball Writers since 2000 have averaged 352 Win Shares, a figure exceeded by six players on this year’s ballot.

The 353 Win Share Average Electees Since 2000

PLAYER   YEAR   WIN SHARES
Dave Winfield 2001 415
Kirby Puckett 2001 281
Ozzie Smith 2002 325
Gary Carter 2003 317
Eddie Murray 2003 437
Paul Molitor 2004 414
Dennis Eckersley 2004 301
Wade Boggs 2005 394
Ryne Sandberg 2005 346
Bruce Sutter 2006 168
Cal Ripken 2007 427
Tony Gwynn 2007 398
Goose Gossage 2008 223
Rickey Henderson 2009 535
Jim Rice 2009 282
Andre Dawson 2010 340
Roberto Alomar 2011 375
Bert Blyleven 2011 339
Barry Larkin 2012 347
Frank Thomas 2014 405
Greg Maddux 2014 398
Tom Glavine 2014 314
Craig Biggio 2015 411
Randy Johnson 2015 326
John Smoltz 2015 289
Pedro Martinez 2015 256
Ken Griffey, Jr. 2016 403
Mike Piazza 2016 309
Average Win Share       352

 

Win Shares are fundamentally a quantitative measure of a player’s accomplishments. A measure of the quality of a player’s offensive performance is OPS+ which compares his OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging average) adjusted for park effects and era with the league average during his career. An OPS+ of 120 suggests that his performance is 20% better than that of a league average player. A similar approach (ERA+) can be used to compare a pitcher’s ERA against the league average during his career.

Following is a rank order of OPS+ and ERA+ for the 33 candidates on the 2018 ballot:

BATTERS OPS+ & STARTING PITCHERS ERA+
Barry Bonds 182
Manny Rameriz 154 Roger Clemons 143
Jim Thome 147 Johann Santana 136
Edgar Martinez 147 Curt Schilling 127
Larry Walker 141 Mike Mussina 123
Chipper Jones 141   Carlos Zambrano 120
Gary Sheffield 140 Kerry Wood 117
Vladimir Guerrero 140 Chris Carpenter 120
Fred McGriff 134 Kevin Millwood 106
Sammy Sosa 128 Jamie Moyer 103
Jeff Kent 123 Livan Hernandez 95
Scott Rolen 122
Hideki Matsui 118
Aubrey Huff 114
Carlos Lee 113 RELIEF PITCHERS
Andruw Jones 111 Billy Wagner 187
Johnny Damon 104 Trevor Hoffman 141
Orlando Hudson 97 Brad Lidge 122
Omar Vizquel 82 Jason Isringhausen 115

 

The Win Shares system favors players with long productive careers like Sheffield and Kent, although it appears to under-rate pitchers, while OPS+ rewards strong offensive players who had shorter, more dominant careers like Edgar Martinez. ERA+ favors relief pitchers since their ERAs are generally lower because they are not charged with runs scored by inherited runners.

Conclusions:

1) Four players will be elected in 2018: Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman.

2) Bonds and Clemens will make slight gains but will remain well short of election.

3) Ramirez and Sheffield have numbers worthy of election but will gain only limited support because of their past involvement in the steroid cloud.

4) Martinez and Mussina will gain votes and be in a position for possible election next year. It will be the final year on the ballot for Martinez.

5) There will not be a groundswell of support for Hudson, Huff, Damon, Matsui, Millwood, Moyer, Hernandez, Isringhausen and Lidge among others.

6) Rolen and Andruw Jones and possibly Johan Santana will receive enough votes to remain on the ballot next year.

7) If I had a ballot, I would cast votes for Thome, Chipper Jones, Schilling, McGriff, Kent, Guerrero, Walker, Martinez, Mussina and Wagner.

Bill Gilbert

1/7/2018

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Every Houston Home Opening Day Starter

January 9, 2018

J.R. Richard holds up four baseballs, one for each of the four wins he racked up as a a five-time home opener starting pitcher for the Houston Astros from 1976 to 1980.

 

The following table is one we’ve worked tediously to present here as a strategic summary from the material available to all of us by the wonderful site that is Baseball Almanac. It show every Opening Day home game starter for the Astros over the entire 1962-2017 course of time to date – and also any Astros relief pitchers involved in these games as players who either picked up a decision or received credit for a “save”.

Further information on each of these games is available on the table we first included the other day as an excerpt from Baseball Almanac. This linked site will put you in touch with the box scores, plus the complete list of starters, relievers, and other players who appeared in each home Opening Day game for Houston each year through 2017.

http://www.baseball-almanac.com/opening_day/odschedule.php?t=HOU

By this time, we are about as certain as any researcher/writer/editor/same guy can be that everything is accurate, but, if you find something that’s not, please get in touch with me and we will correct it on our column site.

Have fun.

~ Bill McCurdy, The Pecan Park Eagle Multi-Tasker

Every Houston Home Opening Day Starter, 1962-2017

YEAR OD FOE OUTCOME STARTER 1P RELIEVER REC IP
1962 CHI Cubs W, 11-2 Bobby Shantz, W 9.0
1963 SF Giants L, 2-9 Turk Farrell, L 3.0
1964 MIL Braves L, 5-6 Jim Owens 4.0 C Raymond, L 3.0
1965 PHI Phillies L, O-2 Bob Bruce, L 7.0
1966 LA Dodgers L, 3-6 Robin Roberts, L 4.0
1967 ATL Braves W, 6-1 Mike Cuellar, W 9.0
1968 PGH Pirates W, 5-4 Larry Dierker, W 9.0
1969 LA Dodgers L, 3-9 Denny LeMaster, L 5.0
1970 ATL Braves L, 0-5 Tom Griffin, L 4.1
1971 LA Dodgers W, 5-2 Larry Dierker, W 9.0
1972 SF Giants L, 0-5 Don Wilson, L 7.1
1973 LA Dodgers W, 4-1 Jerry Reuss, W 9.0
1974 LA Dodgers W, 5-3 Claude Osteen, W 7.1 Ken Forsch, Sv 1.2
1975 ATL Braves W, 6-2 Larry Dierker, W 9.0
1976 SF Giants W, 5-0 JR Richard, W 5.2 Ken Forsch, Sv 2.0
1977 Braves, 11 in W, 3-2 JR Richard 9.0 Ken Forsch, W 2.0
1978 SF Giants W, 5-0 JR Richard, W 5.2 Ken Forsch, Sv 2.0
1979 ATL Braves W, 2-1 JR Richard, W 5.1 J Andujar, Sv 3.2
1980 LA Dodgers W, 3-2 JR Richard, W 8.0 Joe Sambito, Sv 1.0
1981 Braves, 10 in L, 1-2 Bob Knepper 8.2 Joe Sambito, L 1.0
1982 SL Cardinals L, 3-14 Nolan Ryan, L 3.0
1983 LA Dodgers L. 7-16 Joe Niekro 3.0 Frank LaCorte, L 2.1
1984 MON Expos L, 2-4 Joe Niekro, L 7.0
1985 LA Dodgers W, 2-1 Nolan Ryan, W 7-0 Frank, DiPino, Sv 2.0
1986 SF Giants L, 3-8 Nolan Ryan, L 6.1
1987 LA Dodgers W, 4-3 Mike Scott, W 7.0 Dave Smith, Sv  2.0
1988 SD Padres W, 6-3 Mike Scott, W 8.0 Dave Smith, Sv 1.0
1989 ATL Braves W, 10-3 Mike Scott, W 7.0
1990 CIN Reds L, 4-8 Mike Scott 5.2 Charlie Kerfeld, L 0.2
1991 SF Giants W, 3-2 Mark Portugal, W 7.0 Dwayn Henry, Sv 2.0
1992 ATL Braves L, 0-2 Pete Harnisch, L 7.2
1993 PHI Phillies L, 1-3 Doug Drabek, L 8.0
1994 MON Expos W, 6-5 Pete Harnisch 7.0 Tom Edens, W 0.1
1995 COL Rockies L, 1-2 Darryl Kile, L 6.0
1996 LA Dodgers L, 3-4 Shane Reynolds, L 5.0
1997 ATL Braves W, 2-1 ShaneReynolds, W 8.0 Billy Wagner, Sv 1.0
1998 SF Giants L, 4-9 Shane Reynolds 6.0 CJ Nitkowski, L 1.2
1999 CHI Cubs W, 4-2 ShaneReynolds, W 6.0 Billy Wagner, Sv 1.0
2000 PHI Phillies L, 1-4 Octavio Dotel, L 6.0
2001 MIL Brewers W, 11-3 Scott Elarton, W 6.0
2002 MIL Brewers L, 3-9 Wade Miller, L 4.0
2003 COL Rockies W, 10-4 Roy Oswalt, W 7.0
2004 SF Giants L, 4-5 Roy Oswalt 7.1 Octavio Dotel, L 1.0
2005 SL Cardinals L, 3-7 Roy Oswalt, L 6.0
2006 FLA Marlins W, 1-0 Roy Oswalt, W 8.0 Brad Lidge, Sv 1.0
2007 PGH Pirates L, 2-4 Roy Oswalt 7.2 Chad Qualls, L 1.0
2008 SL Cardinals W. 5-3 Wandy Rodriguez 7.1 Jose Valverde, W 1.0
2009 CHI Cubs L, 2-4 Roy Oswalt, L 7.0
2010 SF Giants L, 2-5 Roy Oswalt, L 6.0
2011 FLA Marlins L. 3-4 Wandy Rodriguez 7.0 Wilton Lopez, L 1.0
2012 COL Rockies L, 3-5 Wandy Rodriguez 6.1 F Rodriguez, L 1.2
2013 TEX Rangers W, 8-2 Bud Norris, W 5.2 Eric Bedard, Sv 3.1
2014 NY Yankees W, 6-2 Scott Feldman, W 6.2
2015 CLE Indians W, 2-0 Dallas Keuchel, W 7.0 L Gregerson, Sv 1.0
2016 KC Royals W, 8-2 Collin McHugh, W 7.0
2017 Sea Mariners W, 3-0 Dallas Keuchel, W 7.0 Ken Giles, Sv

Bold Type Above: Complete Game Pitcher.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

J.R. Richard’s Opening Day Record

January 8, 2018

(L-R) Bill McCurdy, Johnny Storenski, and J.R. Richard Josephine's Ristorante 2002

(Above) Bill McCurdy, Johnny Storenski, J.R. Richard;

Josephine’s Ristorante, Houston, Texas (2002).

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J.R. Richard. How scary was he to the batters to the NL batters that had to face all 6’8″ and 222 pounds of power that was him during the halcyon years of his big league pitching career?

Jose Cruz may have answered that question best when the subject of pitchers came up in a lively little luncheon conversation we were having back in 2003, prior to his autumn induction into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame. Cruz had flown in from Puerto Rico to accept the honor. I had driven up from Houston to place his name formally into place, just as I had the name of J.R. Richard a year earlier. As a member of the Texas Hall’s Selection Committee back then, I may have triggered Jose’s thoughts on Richard referentially as we were going over the plan for Cruz’s induction.

“J.R. Richard!” Cruz bellowed out loudly, as both elbows came down upon the dining table simultaneously in knife-and-fork emphasis.

“He was one of the main reasons the Cardinals made me happy when they traded me to Houston,” Cruz added. “As an Astro, I no longer would be forced to face him as a batter.”

As a Cardinals farm hand, Jose Cruz had faced J.R. enough to know that he’d sooner not make a career out of having to face him as a matter of scheduled routine.

“From the batter’s box,” Jose described excitedly, “the guy looked even bigger than he already is. And when he let go of the ball, there wasn’t much to see because of the speed and the movement of those two long legs and arms – especially, from that right-handed whip arm. When Richard fell off the mound toward home, it looked like his arm was going to reach all the way in and almost hand it to the catcher before it finally shot out of his grip like a bolt of lightning.”

Cruz halted speaking. He smiled. He looked me in the eye quietly as his mind traveled peacefully elsewhere. He almost seemed to be going through a private moment of remembering again – one of the reasons his trade to the Astros was such a good thing.

J.R. Richard was tailor-made to become the Astros club’s Opening Day starter. And so it came readily to be. During the course of his ten-season MLB All-Astros career (1971-1980), J.R. Richard pitched the last five years too as Houston’s season-opener guy. Sadly, any dreams that J.R. entertained of becoming a World Series or Game 7 starter died on the field with the stroke that befell him in August 1980.

J.R. Richard’s Opening Day Record

YEAR OD FOE OUTCOME STARTER 1P RELIEVER REC IP
1976 SF Giants W, 5-0 JR Richard, W 5.2 Ken Forsch, Sv 2.0
1977 Braves, 11 in W, 3-2 JR Richard 9.0 Ken Forsch, W 2.0
1978 SF Giants W, 5-0 JR Richard, W 5.2 Ken Forsch, Sv 2.0
1979 ATL Braves W, 2-1 JR Richard, W 5.1 J Andujar, Sv 3.2
1980 LA Dodgers W, 3-2 JR Richard, W 8.0 Joe Sambito, Sv 1.0

The J.R. Richard Opening Day Starts

The Astros won all five of them. J.R. was 4-0 and reliever Ken Forsch was 1-0

Astros pitching and defense surrendered only 5 runs in those 5 games.

Your further analysis is made easier by the data available to you at the following link:

http://www.baseball-almanac.com/opening_day/odschedule.php?t=HOU

 

The “Could’ve Been” Factor Will Live Forever

There’s no “might have been” character to it here. – J.R. Richard “could have been” one of the greatest pitchers on record in the history of baseball. Like a lot of other things that happen – or don’t happen – in life, however, it apparently just wasn’t meant to be.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

Opening Day History in Houston

January 6, 2018

Opening Day @ Colt Stadium
Houston, Texas
April 10, 1962

 

Opening Day

Please check out this Baseball Almanac link to every box score summary in Houston’s 56 MLB Opening Day Games history from 1962 through 2017. The people at “BA” do a marvelous job of putting this sort of galaxy-subject data tour at our fingertips in the easiest, clearest ways.

http://www.baseball-almanac.com/opening_day/odschedule.php?t=HOU

With our coming-off-a-World-Series-win season for the first time now gaining time and weight in the can, anticipation is still only now in the early stages it will reach prior to this year’s Opening Day pot boil. And it will continue to nurse and embellish on the coals of other early memories of other Opening Days.

Who among us long-toothed fans will ever forget the first one back in 1962? With Bobby Shantz starting the first game ever as the Opening Day pitcher for a Houston-based MLB club, facing Lou Brock of the Cubs as the first oppositional hitter in our history, and two former Houston Buffs, Billy Williams and Ron Santo, starting in left field and at third base for Chicago, our then-called Colt .45s club proceeded to delay the landing of reality by using a couple of home runs from a stranger named Roman Mejias, plus batting help from others, to extend our stay in denial about what we were getting into as the baseball challenge of our lives. We beat the Cubs, 11-2, that first day, but there were a few losses ahead of us yet to come, both the dull and numbing loss-expected kinds, and the winning-expectation-yeasted heart aches that would be ours by the thousands over time before a 4-3 final out play in LA on November 1, 2017 came along in a stadium next door to Hollywood and made it all A-OK.

What were your favorite Opening Day memories?

Perhaps you will tap into the memory of a few here.

Have a great weekend too!

 

********************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle