Edwin Jackson's Wild Journey

  • Monday, February 6, 2012 7:14 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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Baseball America named a 20-year-old Edwin Jackson its top Dodgers prospect for the 2004 season and wrapped up its scouting report with this: “He’s the best homegrown pitching prospect the Dodgers have developed since Pedro Martinez, and they don’t plan on letting this one get away.”

Well, it’s a funny thing about plans …

Edwin Jackson is not a bust, and yet the Dodgers did let him get away, and so did the Rays, and so did the Tigers, and well, you get the point. 2012 will, at age 28, be Jackson’s 10th season – although the first three of those were cups of coffee – and after signing a one-year contact with the Nationals, he will be pitching for his seventh team.

When he tosses his first pitch for Washington, Jackson will join an exclusive list. Through Baseball-Reference’s play index, I found that there have been only six other pitchers in baseball history to play for as many as seven teams in their first 10 seasons while also compiling at least 10 WAR (Jackson has 10.7 through his first nine years). Stranger still is the fact that two of them, Octavio Dotel and Miguel Batista, spent time on the 2011 Cardinals, just like Jackson. Fittingly for a trio of baseball nomads, none of them were in St. Louis for the full season.

Rk Player WAR From To Age G GS IP ERA+
1 Octavio Dotel 7 12.6 1999 2008 25-34 500 34 708.0 122
2 Miguel Batista 7 10.2 1992 2004 21-33 292 152 1100.2 103
3 Omar Olivares 7 14.9 1990 1999 22-31 283 201 1373.2 100
4 Gregg Olson 7 12.7 1988 1997 21-30 456 0 500.1 132
5 Greg Harris 7 12.2 1981 1990 25-34 417 75 975.0 111
6 Ken Brett 7 10.9 1967 1977 18-28 249 174 1321.0 94
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/6/2012.

Jackson has put together an odd career thus far, from beating Randy Johnson in his big league debut on his 20th birthday, to getting traded six times in six years, to throwing 149 pitches and issuing eight walks during a 2010 no-hitter, to finally settling for a one-year deal this offseason when everyone expected a multi-year arrangement. But one year also makes sense for a player shuttling around MLB at a feverish pace. To recap Jackson’s journey, per Baseball-Reference:

Jan. 5, 2001: Drafted by the Dodgers
Jan. 14, 2006: Traded to the Devil Rays
Dec. 10, 2008: Traded to the Tigers
Dec. 8, 2009: Traded to the Diamondbacks
July 30, 2010: Traded to the White Sox
July 27, 2011: Traded to the Blue Jays, then again to the Cardinals
Feb. 2, 2012: Signed as a free agent with the Nationals

Jackson’s career seems forever haunted by the guy who was the No. 1 prospect and outdueled the Big Unit in his debut, looking “like a sure-fire superstar,” in the words of Baseball Prospectus prospect guru Kevin Goldstein.

He’s not that guy, for the reasons Goldstein mentions. But because of what people expected him to be, the guy Edwin Jackson truly is can get lost in the disappointed sighing and head-shaking. Over the past four seasons, he has averaged about 32 starts, 200 innings and 3 WAR. Despite his shortcomings, he’s durable and solid, a valuable pitcher to have on your staff.

So why can’t Jackson keep the same jersey for more than a year? Some of it is circumstance, in that at each of the past two trading deadlines, he has been on a team in a position to deal away players.

But it also seems as though Jackson has landed in that rarified middle ground between results and potential that makes him the perfect trade chip. Some other team always values him more than the one that currently employs him, perhaps thinking it will be the organization that finally turns him into the superstar so many people expected. Jackson is good enough that someone always wants him – but not so good that anyone makes sure to keep him.

So while the Nationals are probably happy to add a quality pitcher to their 2012 rotation, one day soon -- maybe in July, maybe after the season – they will be able to add their name to the growing list of teams that let Edwin Jackson get away.

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Old News: Revisiting Some 2010 Headlines

  • Wednesday, November 16, 2011 4:08 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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In Internet time, last year’s headlines might as well be living in a cave, dressed in animal skins and carrying a spear. Time moves quickly, and the recent past is buried under the crushing weight of fresh news.

Out of curiosity, I hopped into my time machine and set out on a dangerous voyage to find those ancient, long-forgotten headlines. My target time: the days surrounding Nov. 16, 2010. My target location: NBC Sports’ HardballTalk, my go-to site for quick takes on the latest news and rumors around Major League Baseball. What follows is the strange bounty of that exploration.

Headline: Royals not willing to “dump” former top prospect Alex Gordon

Result: Kansas City kept Gordon and made him their starting left fielder.

How’d that work out? The Royals, get this, made the right call (cue the marching band and release the balloons!). Gordon broke out, hitting .303/.376/.502 and was worth 5.9 WAR. File this under “sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t make.”



Headline: Cardinals expected to aggressively pursue Juan Uribe

Result: Uribe signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Dodgers instead, and the Cardinals traded for Ryan Theriot and signed Nick Punto to bolster their infield.

How’d that work out? Compared with Uribe, Theriot and Punto were Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker. Still, Theriot was pretty bad, and Punto was hurt a lot. At one point, St. Louis’ infield was so thin, Albert Pujols actually played third base, but the team eventually got Punto and David Freese back and traded for Rafael Furcal, and the rest was recent history.

Headline: Athletics interested in Lance Berkman as designated hitter

Result: Berkman signed with the Cardinals instead, and the A’s went with Hideki Matsui.

How’d that work out? Berkman defied critics both by being less than a complete disaster in the outfield and by hitting like the old Puma at the plate (.301/.412/.547) on his way to a ring. With Matsui leading the “charge,” Oakland designated “hitters” “hit” .245/.313/.390. Wrong lottery ticket, Billy!


Headline: Shin-Soo Choo is trying to slug his way out of the army

Result: Choo did in fact lead South Korea to a gold medal at the Asian Games, freeing him of his two-year commitment to his country’s armed forces.

How’d that work out? Choo lived happily ever after! Well, actually, this was basically the last good thing that happened to Choo all season. He played only 85 games between multiple DL stints, hit an extremely disappointing .259/.344/.390 and was nabbed for an embarrassing DUI.


Headline: Brad Penny is going to be in the best shape of his life.

Result: “Best shape of his life,” one of the more amusing off-season cliches every year, is sort of subjective, so you can judge for yourself. Here is Brad Penny on April 28, 2011. Sexy!

How’d that work out? Great shape or not, Penny posted probably the worst full season of his career, giving up 11.0 hits per nine innings with a 1.19 K/BB ratio and a 5.02 FIP for the Tigers. Maybe watching TV and eating Doritos is the way to go this offseason.


Headline: The Cardinals will try to lock up Pujols before Christmas

Result: St. Louis signed its franchise player to a relatively team-friendly contract in early December. What’s that? (Puts fingers in ears). Lalalala can’t hear you, lalalala can’t hear you!

How’d that work out? Great!


Headline: Adam Dunn wants at least three years and $40 million

Result: He got it! A couple of weeks later, Dunn signed a four-year, $56 million deal with the White Sox.

How’d that work out? Rather than throwing out a bunch of stats, I will simply lead you to this visual representation.


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Which MLB Coaching Staff Has The Best Players?

  • Friday, April 22, 2011 6:15 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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An arms race has broken out in the NL West, and this one has nothing to do with Clayton Kershaw, Ubaldo Jimenez or Tim Lincecum.

No, this has to do with men who write lineup cards, flash signs, hit fungoes and toss batting practice. This has to do with coaches, not in terms of coaching ability, but in terms of former playing ability. Having a successful big league career has never been a prerequisite for landing a job as a coach or manager, not should it be, but coincidentally or not (OK, almost certainly coincidentally), the NL West is leading the charge of teams hiring former MLB regulars.

Here are the top coaching staffs in terms of playing ability, based on Baseball Reference’s wins above replacement (WAR). Only coaches assigned a uniform number were considered.

1. Arizona Diamondbacks
The D-backs might not be a very good team, but if the players didn’t show up one day and an old-timers’ game broke out instead, I would like their chances. Manager Kirk Gibson hit one of the most memorable home runs in baseball history and won an MVP award. Don Baylor also was an MVP. Matt Williams produced six 30-homer seasons and made five All-Star teams. Eric Young stole 465 bases, and Charles Nagy had a decent 14-year career outside of allowing the winning hit in the 1997 World Series. And last but certainly not least, Alan Trammell has been vastly overlooked as a Hall of Fame candidate after a terrific 20-year run as a shortstop with the Tigers. (Total WAR: 217.0)

2. Los Angeles Dodgers
With Bud Selig now stepping in to put the organization under league control and Juan Uribe signed to a three-year deal, first-year manager Don Mattingly is probably thinking, “What did I get myself into?” The good news for Donnie Baseball, other than being able to write Matt Kemp’s name in the lineup every day, is that he leads the second-most-talented coaching staff in MLB. Mattingly, of course, was a phenomenal hitter who won an MVP award and retired with a .307 batting average, his career cut short by injury. Davey Lopes was a rookie of the year who made four All-Star teams in a 16-year career. Tim Wallach made five All-Star teams, while Rick Honeycutt made two and won an ERA title. (Total WAR: 153.5)

3. Colorado Rockies
Yes, another NL West team. Skipper Jim Tracy managed only 213 mildly productive big league plate appearances, but his staff is solid. Carney Lansford was a rookie of the year who went on to become a key contributor on the great Athletics teams of the late 80s and top 2,000 hits for his career. Vinny Castilla, one of the original Blake Street Bombers, hit a Coors Field-aided 320 home runs, including three straight 40-homer seasons. Glenallen Hill combined a sweet name with big-time power, once crushing a home run that flew out of Wrigley Field and landed on a rooftop across Waveland Avenue, about 500 feet away. (Total WAR: 79.7)

4. Cincinnati Reds
Yes, there was a day when Dusty Baker taxed pitchers' arms from the batter's box rather than the dugout. A lot of days, actually, as Baker played 19 seasons while posting a solid 116 OPS+ and 242 home runs. Chris Speier faded after a solid first five seasons during which he made three all-star teams but went on to stick around for 14 more years. Brook Jacoby made a couple of All-Star teams and in 1987 managed to hit 32 homers while driving in just 69 runs. (Total WAR: 76.2)

5. St. Louis Cardinals
For some reason, the top five teams are all in the NL. In the case of the Cardinals, that is almost entirely due to home run king turned PED exile turned hitting coach Mark McGwire. I guess you could say McGwire's numbers should be discounted, in which case you would look to the Blue Jays (with Pat Hentgen and Dwayne Murphy) or White Sox (with Harold Baines and of course, Ozzie Guillen). Otherwise, McGwire's prolific career, combined with jack-of-all-defensive-trades Jose Oquendo, is enough to overcome the mediocrity of Tony LaRussa, Dave Duncan and company. (Total WAR: 75.7)

30. Florida Marlins
Skipping to the end of the line, several teams have little in the way of coaches who enjoyed big league success. But nobody can match the Marlins in that regard. Only three staff members, Edwin Rodriguez, Randy St. Claire and Reid Cornelius, ever made The Show. Rodriguez had 25 plate appearances, while St. Claire and Cornelius combined for fewer than 500 innings pitched. Only Cornelius generated positive value. (Total WAR: 0.2)

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Fun With Alternate Reality: Albert Pujols And The 1999 Draft

  • Friday, February 18, 2011 4:47 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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All 30 MLB teams would love to have Albert Pujols, and with El Hombre's negotiating deadline with the Cardinals coming and going Wednesday, it now seems likely that all 30 teams will have a chance to get him.

Well, not really. That's not how things work, of course. The economics of the game dictate that probably no more than a few teams could launch themselves into the payroll stratosphere a Pujols deal would require.

But there was a time when all 30 teams did have a basically equal shot of landing this generation's greatest player. The year was 1999, and Pujols entered the June amateur draft out of a Missouri junior college. And as most people know by now, everyone passed on him -- and passed on him again, and again, and again, and again, and so on.

It wasn't until the 13th round and the 402nd overall pick that the Cardinals selected Pujols.

While nobody would argue Pujols did not turn out to be by far the best pick in the draft, it is stunning to actually go back and look nearly 12 years later.

Here is the clearest way to illustrate the big man's impact: Pujols arrived in the big leagues in 2001 and in 10 seasons has racked up 83.8 wins above replacement (WAR), the second-largest total for a player's first 10 seasons, behind only Ted Williams.

I looked at every team's 1999 draft on Baseball Reference and found that, even including players who have accrued most or all of their value with other organizations, no team came anywhere close to matching Pujols' worth through all their picks combined. The closest was the then-Devil Rays, whose selections (including the now-departed Carl Crawford and since-born-again Josh Hamilton) have accumulated 50.8 WAR in the big leagues.

There are even three teams, including the arch-rival Cubs, whose picks actually have earned negative value in limited MLB action (Cheers, Steve Smyth).

This Joba Chamberlain-sized chasm between the Cardinals' 1999 draft and everyone else's brings up an interesting opportunity for some counterfactual history. In other words, what if one of the 29 other teams took one of its dozen-plus chances to draft Pujols before the Cards did? How would that alter our current reality?

Anyone who has watched Back to the Future knows that changing the past can trigger an unexpected chain reaction of consequences beyond what you could imagine. Maybe if the Orioles had drafted Pujols, he would have torn up his knee in the minors and never been the same. Maybe the Royals would have converted him to pitching.

But the chances seem good Pujols still would have turned out to be Pujols. Talent like that is a bit like a cockroach -- it can thrive pretty much anywhere. What would the effect have been though?

Even historically excellent players cannot will a franchise to glory on their own, but maybe drafting Pujols would have been the boost the Pirates needed to turn the ship around. Or maybe he would have put up five Pujolsian seasons for a fifth- or sixth-place team and bolted for greener pastures at his first opening. It's impossible to know.

Maybe with the Cubs, Pujols, still playing either left field or third base in 2003, would have out-fought Steve Bartman for a foul ball at Wrigley Field, then hit five home runs against the Yankees in the World Series to snap the famous championship drought at 95 years.

The possibilities are endless, and you could tie your brain in knots trying to calculate all of the implications. But what else are you going to do on a warm February afternoon with Spring Training getting underway -- work?

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What's In a Name? Lots of Mistakes

  • Friday, August 20, 2010 5:23 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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It's human nature to go with what you know. It's safe, it's comfortable, and even if you're ultimately disappointed, at least you know the nature and severity of that disappointment in advance. "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't," as the saying goes.

There are examples of this everywhere. People continue to vote for the same terrible politicians. They get back with ex-boyfriends and girlfriends and watch reruns of mediocre sitcoms. We're all guilty of these types of things -- it's difficult to avoid.

Baseball teams (which are of course run by humans ... I think) are the same way. For the most part, Organizations are getting smarter and smarter, thanks to advanced statistical analysis and various technological innovations, but some habits are hard to shake. And so we have what I'll call the "name value problem." (Creative!)

Take the St. Louis Cardinals. The Redbirds are fighting to keep pace with the Reds in the NL Central and have dealt with some bad breaks along the way, such as injuries to guys like David Freese, Kyle Lohse and Brad Penny and underperformance from others like Skip Schumaker and Brendan Ryan.

Other than swapping Ryan Ludwick for Jake Westbrook, St. Louis mostly has attempted to make up for these issues by recycling has-beens like Jeff Suppan, Aaron Miles, Randy Winn and now, Pedro Feliz. This strategy generally has been used instead of giving those at-bats or innings pitched to mostly unproven minor league players who probably could do at least as good, if not a better job. Only when a young player has instantly found huge success (like Jon Jay) has he been given a real shot to stick in the lineup.

Looking at Feliz specifically, what do the Cardinals see in him? Well, he has been a good defensive third baseman (13.7 UZR over the past three seasons), and with Freese out, that's something the Cards are lacking. But it's almost impossible to understate how bad of a hitter Feliz is. His .555 OPS this season is the worst of any MLB player with at least 300 plate appearances this season, "bolstered" by a .221 on-base percentage. When your OBP is a terrible batting average for a backup catcher, that's a bad sign. FanGraphs' wins above replacement metric, which accounts for defense, has Feliz being worth -1.5 wins this season, the worst in baseball.

This is all leading up to my point, which is: If Pedro Feliz was a 25-year-old named Fedro Peliz putting up the exact same .221/.243/.311 line and playing the exact same quality defense, the Cardinals would not even consider trading for him. If someone brought up the idea in a front office meeting, he immediately would be reassigned to "Designated Steak 'n Shake Delivery Boy."

But because this painfully terrible player is not Fedro Peliz, but Pedro Feliz, certified Veteran Who Knows What It Takes To Win, he is considered the answer to what ails the Cardinals.

Feliz better be glad he has his name, because it's probably the only reason he has a job.

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A Tony-Dusty Dust-Up: Who Ya Got?

  • Wednesday, August 11, 2010 7:08 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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Although last night's "brawl" between the Cardinals and Reds started with comments from Brandon Phillips, escalated with a confrontation between Phillips and Yadier Molina and featured Johnny Cueto kicking Jason LaRue in the face, it was the two managers who were ejected from the game.

This was both a reasonable move on the part of the umpires, who would have had an extremely difficult task in deciding to eject certain players over others, as well as a fitting one.

Tony La Russa and Dusty Baker are two of the most accomplished and also controversial managers in the game. They both have enjoyed a lot of success but gone about it in different ways, and it's often said the two longtime rivals aren't exactly BFFs. Certainly this is not the first time their teams have clashed over the years.

So who would have the upper hand if this schism between skippers ever went to the next level? Let's take a look at the tale of the tape.

                    Dusty Baker                  Tony La Russa
Age 61 65
Real First Name Johnnie Anthony
Hailing From Riverside, CA Tampa, FL
Teams Managed 3 (SF, CHC, CIN) 3 (CHW, OAK, STL)
Managerial Record 1378-1263, .522 (17 seasons) 2615-2226, .536 (32 seasons)
World Series app/titles 1/0 5/2
Career games as player 2039 132
Positions OF/1B 2B/3B/SS
Career WAR 34.8 -1.0
Playing size 6-2, 183 6-0, 175
Alternate profession TV analyst Lawyer, animal rescuer
Book You Can Teach Hitting Three Nights in August
Personality Warm Prickly
Dugout activity Toothpick chewing Scowling, Glowering
Managerial Quirk Young pitcher abuse Batting the pitcher 8th
Personal drama Batboy son almost run over DUI
Best player coached Barry Bonds Albert Pujols
PED posterboy coached Barry Bonds Mark McGwire/Jose Canseco
Beloved bad player Neifi Perez Aaron Miles
Lineup weakness Low OBP leadoff men Pujols always hits 3rd
Bullpen strategy Let starter go, blow out arm Use > 6 relievers/inning
Key to success Good players, magic toothpicks? Good players, Dave Duncan
Go-to uniform accessory Sweat bands Sunglasses
Probable weapon Baseball bat Quick thinking
Fighting tactic Swing away Changes constantly
Victory spoils Lifetime supply of toothpicks Animals rescued from pound

So, who ya got?

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2010 Preview: St. Louis Cardinals

  • Wednesday, March 31, 2010 7:43 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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2009: 91-71, 1st in NL Central. Pythagorean record of 91-71.
Key Additions: IF Felipe Lopez, SPs Brad Penny and Rich Hill
Key Losses: SPs Joel Pineiro, John Smoltz and Todd Wellemeyer, 3B/OF Mark DeRosa, OF Rick Ankiel, IFs Joe Thurston and Khalil Greene
2010 Projections: PECOTA – 87-75, 1st in NL Central. CHONE – 91-71, 1st. CAIRO – 90.6-71.4, 1st.

Pitching: 2009 – 3.82 FIP (3rd in MLB), 3.61 for starters, 4.30 for relievers
2010 – A lot will depend on Chris Carpenter's ability to remain healthy for most of the season. Penny is unlikely to fully replace Pineiro's production, but you never know what will happen with the Dave Duncan Magic. A bigger concern is the bullpen, which is solid from the left side but shaky from the right, especially if closer Ryan Franklin struggles as he did down the stretch in '09.
Hitting: 2009 – .325 wOBA (19th in MLB)
2010 – When you have the undisputed best hitter in the game, that always helps. But with Matt Holliday remaining in the fold along with Ryan Ludwick and a promising Colby Rasmus, among others, Pujols isn't going to have to do it by himself. The biggest question is if rookie David Freese can hold down the everyday third base job, but Lopez will be there if he can't.
Fielding: 2009 – UZR of -17.8 (18th in MLB)
2010 – With Rasmus in center field and Brendan Ryan at shortstop, St. Louis has a pair of excellent up-the-middle defenders, and second baseman Skip Schumaker made big strides last season in his move from the outfield. Catcher defense is hard to quantify, but there doesn't seem to be any argument against ranking Yadier Molina among the top few at his position.

Reasons to Watch
1. Albert Pujols: As I discussed a while back, it's amazing to actually look at the stats and see just how much better Pujols has been anyone else over the past nine years. And it's not just the hitting. It's also the fact that he's made himself into a plus defender at his third big league position and the way he runs the bases so aggressively. Crude interpretations of his last name aside, there's not a whole lot anyone (even Cubs fans) can say against him.
2. Chris Carpenter: Carp's tenure in St. Louis has been fantastic, except for the pesky detail of almost two full seasons missed due to injury. Yet having pitched 21 1/3 big league innings since 2006, he came back strong last year, making 28 starts with a 2.78 FIP. The fact is, when he's on the mound, Carpenter is one of the best pitchers around. It's probably not wise to count on him for 30-plus starts in 2010, but Cardinals fans are certainly keeping their fingers crossed. Carp missing significant time would be a big blow to the playoff chances of a team most are picking to repeat at NL Central champs.
3. Yadier Molina: As fun as it is to watch a guy like Pujols come into the league smashing pitches all over the park and never stop, there's also something special about watching a guy make himself into a decent hitter through a lot of hard work. Such is the case with Molina. Strong defensive catchers can play 15 years in the big leagues without being able to hit, and Molina is one of the best behind the plate. Seeing him pick a runner off first base with a perfectly placed throw is a thing of beauty. But Molina clearly wasn't content with being all-glove, no-bat, which he most certainly was earlier in his career (2006 NLCS heroics aside). Starting with that '06 season, Molina's wOBA has climbed from .261 to .311 to .323 to .337 last season, a very solid output for a catcher. Yadi still doesn't hit for much power, but he puts the ball in play a lot and takes a fair number of walks. It's been quite a transformation.

Paint By Numbers: Rasmus posted a solid 12.7% walk rate at Triple-A Memphis in 2008, but shed that patient approach upon arriving in the majors last season, walking at a 6.9 percent clip. That included a stretch from May 26 through July 4 when Rasmus did not draw a single free pass. He did walk twice as much in the second half of the season, however. ... Skip Schumaker was easily the most extreme ground ball hitter in the majors last season, when he led all qualified hitters with a 61 percent ground ball rate and finished last with a 17.5 percent fly ball rate. ... In 2009, his third season as a big league starting pitcher, Adam Wainwright improved his strikeout rate by about two per nine innings, to 8.19. One factor might have been Wainwright's terrific curveball, which he threw significantly more than he had previously as a starter. The pitch was worth 23.3 runs according to FanGraphs' pitch value data, making it the second-best curve in the game last season, behind Wandy Rodriguez's.

Blog Jog: At Viva El Birdos, DanUpBaby discusses which Cardinals might really be in the proverbial "best shape of their lives" this season and looks back at the team's recent history with fifth starters. ... St. Louis Post-Dispatch beat writer Derrick Goold shares a humorous anecdote about pitching coach Dave Duncan on the Bird Land blog. ... Over at Fungoes, Pip wonders if the Cards' right-handed relief pitching should really be a concern. ... The Cardinals come in at No. 10 in FanGraphs' organizational rankings, and Dave Cameron explores the reasons why.

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Albert Soaring Above And Beyond

  • Thursday, January 21, 2010 5:24 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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It’s always interesting to me how you can know without a doubt something is true but still be surprised by it when the facts are presented in a certain light.

Such is the case with Albert Pujols. I think we can all agree he is the best player in baseball and has been for some time. But how much better has he been than the rest of his peers?

This is a topic St. Louis Post-Dispatch Cardinals beat writer Derrick Goold broached in a recent blog post in which he discussed possible contract negotiations between the Cardinals and Pujols, who is a free agent after the 2011 season. In trying to get a handle on how much dough Pujols could command on the open market, Goold compared Pujols’ career numbers to those of the two highest-paid players in baseball since Pujols started in 2001.

Long story short, Pujols has made about half as much money as Manny Ramirez and a little more than a third as much as Alex Rodriguez in that span and put up considerably better numbers. A-Rod has the edge in home runs, but Pujols’ lead in the much more important rate stats (OBP, SLG, etc) is laughable.

This is what I was saying at the beginning: I already knew El Hombre was better than everyone else, but seeing those numbers in front of me still shocked me.

I’d like to expand a little on Goold’s exercise just to bring even more perspective to Pujols’ dominance. Here are the active leaders in some crucial stats from 2001 to the present, thanks to the invaluable baseball-reference.com (counting only those with at least 1,000 plate appearances):

Batting Average: Pujols .334, Ichiro .333, Mauer .327, Helton .326, Guerrero .321

On-base Percentage: Helton .433, Pujols .427, M. Ramirez .415, Berkman .415, Chipper .415

Slugging Percentage: Pujols .628, M. Ramirez .590, Howard .586, A-Rod .584, Braun .574

OPS+*: Pujols 172, M. Ramirez 157, A-Rod 153, Berkman 149, Thome 149

Runs Created**: Pujols 1,364, A-Rod 1,241, Helton 1,178, Berkman 1,161, M. Ramirez 1,105

These stats give you a pretty good idea of how Pujols has basically been operating on his own plane for the last several years. To put this fact another way, Pujols’ worst OPS+ for one season came in 2002, when he put up a 151. Last season, only four players besides Pujols topped that number, and five did it in 2008. So even Pujols’ “worst” is basically unattainable for just about everyone.

An even better statistic for examining Pujols’ total offensive contributions is wOBA, which stands for weighted on-base average. wOBA appropriately gives more weight to OBP than slugging percentage and also considers stolen bases and caught stealing. It operates on the same scale as OBP. Here are the active leaders in wOBA, via Fangraphs.

Pujols .436, M. Ramirez .419, Helton .419, A-Rod, .412, Thome .406

Finally, Goold used the dollar value calculations on Fangraphs that go back to 2002 in order to get a read on Pujols’ total worth. These calculations take into account batting, fielding and the player’s position (first base is an easy position to play, meaning Pujols is docked a lot of points compared with A-Rod, who has played shortstop and third base). Using Goold’s idea as a jumping-off point, here are Fangraphs’ leaders in value since 2002 for position players (in millions of dollars):

Pujols 230, A-Rod 206.8, Utley 159.1, Berkman 149.7, Chipper 149.1

One more thing to ponder: Derek Jeter has racked up $145.6 million in value during this time, meaning Pujols has been worth 158 percent as much as Captain America. That is close to the difference between Jeter and Randy Winn ($89.5 million).

* Adjusted on-base plus slugging percentage measures a player’s OPS against that of other players in a given season, adjusting for ballpark. An average player has an OPS+ of 100, and better than average players are above 100.

** Runs created measures a player’s contributions to his team’s scoring. Although several other bells and whistles have been added over the years to account for various subtleties, the basic formula is OBP multiplied by total bases.