December 13, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Thursday, November 14, 2013
This is the place to leave your questions, comments and complaints about the THT Annual. We'll try to answer all questions as quickly as possible though we just might ignore your complaints. You can read about the Annual, including an abbreviated table of contents, in this post.
You can purchase the Annual at Amazon as well as the Kindle Store. There are plans to roll it out to Amazon Europe and Nook very soon. We get the most financial support if you purchase it for a dollar more at our own store, though you'll have to pay for shipping fees when you do. Sorry about that.
Regardless of how you get it, ask your questions about the Annual here. And a favorable review at Amazon would be very helpful too. Just sayin'.
10 years ago today a trade happened that really, truly, madly, deeply helped one team more than the other. This trade was special. Many trades are debacles on the field, but this one happened to be a debacle on and off the field. In fact, it’s arguable that the off-the-field stuff is what really makes this trade so special. It’s one of the most one-sided trades of the 21st century.
On Nov. 14, 2003, the Twins gave catcher A.J. Pierzynski to the Giants for three players, and that trio clearly helped Minnesota more than A.J. helped San Francisco.
Now, A.J. isn’t a bad player. In point of fact, he has had a very long and productive career, and this trade came right in the middle of it. You wouldn’t expect him to be the short end of the stick in a really one-sided trade. But nevertheless, this is a trade that gives Giants fans convulsions to this day.
While A.J. has his talents, he also has one big issue. He may very well be the most disliked player in baseball. Normally, that isn’t a big deal. Athletes are there to play and win games, not to knit quilts together. They don’t have to actually like each other. But Pierzynski—especially back then—had the knack for being extra-specially dislikable. There’s a reason why polls of all major leaguers continually show him to be the guy most people want to bean.
In fact, the first sign that Pierzysnki might be a problem for San Francisco came immediately after the trade’s announcement. To say the Twins players were happy with it would be an understatement. This went beyond the classic, “Great trade! Who’d we get?” reaction. The players all but united to form a giant conga line across Minnesota. My goodness they hated that man.
Eh, who cares? Like I said, athletes don’t have to like each other. True, but in San Francisco, A.J. got along even worse with his teammates. Regardless of how little the Twins liked him, they kept him around for three years as a starting catcher. One year was more than enough for San Francisco. They non-tendered him after the 2004 season.
It was an odd non-tendering. Sure, Pierzynski had a down year, but he still hit .272 with moderate power. No, he wasn’t great, but he certainly was the most talented catcher the Giants had at the time.
But that wasn’t the point. This wasn’t about talent. This was about his personality. The Giants thought he was such a clubhouse cancer, such a jerk, that they had to get rid of him. So they did.
To be fair, A.J. Pierzynski latched on with the White Sox where he became a franchise fixture for the better part of a decade. People still often dislike him, but he proved he wasn’t a malignant, fast-acting clubhouse poison. You can make a decent argument the Giants just overreacted when they dumped him.
But dump him they did, after just one season; a season where he had a WAR of 0.5.
And what did they give up for one season?
Well, the least important man going to Minnesota was minor league pitcher Boof Bonser. He had a decent rookie year in 2006, going 7-6 with a 4.22 ERA but he rapidly fell apart. The Twins soon dumped him. If that was all the Giants gave up, they would’ve clearly gotten the better of the deal.
But there was another minor league pitcher in the deal: Francisco Liriano. Here is where the hurt really comes for San Francisco. In 2006, F-bomb went 12-3 with a spectacular 2.16 ERA and an un-Twins like 144 strikeouts in 121 innings. He soon developed arm problems and has never been that good since, but he still had a few more solid moments for Minnesota. And with a big season like his 2006, that’s all it takes to put Minnesota well ahead of this trade.
But, alas for the Bay Area, Liriano wasn’t the gem the Twins unearthed in this deal.
Not only did the Giants send two pitching prospects, but they also added a hurler with major league experience; a failed started turned middle reliever Joe Nathan.
Well, he’d been a middle reliever in San Francisco. But Ron Gardenhire made Nathan the closer, and he turned into Super Joe. He made four All-Star teams in the next six years. In one of his years off the team, he posted a 1.58 ERA. In seven seasons with the club, he saved 260 games while posting a 2.16 ERA. With the exception of Mariano Rivera, he might have been the game’s best closer in that span.
In all, those three pitchers gave the Twins 27.4 WAR, which is nearly 55 times the value the Giants received.
So yeah, that was a really one-sided trade made 10 years ago today.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Today marks a rather strange anniversary. For most of the baseball world, it doesn’t mean a thing. It had nothing to do with any game being played. (Who plays games in November anyway?) It wasn’t any transaction or front officer maneuvering.
It was one guy who was underemployed writing a letter to another guy who was self-employed. And they all lived happily ever after.
On Nov. 13, 1988, a young man who had just dropped out of college and didn’t know what to do with his life wrote a letter to a writer/thinker he admired, asking to be his research assistant.
The letter writer was Rob Neyer. The recipient was Bill James.
I’m assuming that most of you out there in reader-land recognize those names. Bill James is the biggest name in sabermetrics, and did more than any other person to popularize the new way of approaching the game that has become part of the mainstream in the 21st century. Rather fittingly, James has joined the mainstream, joining the Boston Red Sox front office about a decade ago.
Today’s anniversary, though, is more about Neyer. James had already made his mark 25 years ago, with his series of annual abstracts, and his Historical Abstract. But Neyer was the guy getting off the ground.
Much to his own surprise, James called Neyer up and offered him the job as research assistant. Neyer stayed on for the next four years, before moving on to become a freelance writer. By the late 1990s, he’d found his niche, writing five columns a week for ESPN.com.
Sitting behind this keyboard, I have no idea how many of you were paying attention to the burgeoning online sabermetric community back in those days. But if you were, you’ll remember that in those days before Twitter, before blogs caught on, before Moneyball, if you wanted sabermetrics on the web, there were two places you could go. There was this little site just starting to get attention called Baseball Prospectus. And there was this guy at ESPN named Rob Neyer. Given the size of the platform ESPN gave him, Neyer was the most public and prominent sabermetric writer working on a regular basis back then. Bill James is great, but he’d broken the wand years ago. Prospectus was, as noted just getting started.
I remember that ESPN even gave Neyer his own message board wherw statheads like me could congregate. I spent plenty of time at the late, great Rob Neyer Message Board posting under the name clespider99.
Neyer’s central role gradually diminished. Prospectus took off (helped by Neyer giving it some attention). Generation Blog got going. Baseball Think Factory arose as a central watering hole for sabermetrics. Oh, yeah—The Hardball Times showed up, and so did FanGraphs and various other sites. Neyer still churned away, his series of columns changing into blog postings at ESPN. Eventually, he and the four-letter parted ways, and Neyer now resides at SB Nation.
But Neyer’s trek all began with that letter to Bill James—a letter written 25 years ago today.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
The 10th Hardball Times Annual is now available at your local online bookstore. I know it's hard to believe, but we've done this thing 10 times now. I'm proud to say that I think this one is the equal of any of the others.
Like most of the other Annuals, this one includes a recap of the division races as well as our special "Championships Added" coverage of the postseason. In addition, we've got our usual array of commentary, history and analysis. There are over 30 articles and 300 pages of great content from a tremendous lineup of writers, including Bill James, Joe Posnanski, Rob Neyer and many others. Plus, there are a couple of extra features we think you'll enjoy.
Here's a quick table of contents:
Recapping the 2013 Season
Reviews of each division, plus Brad Johnson's coverage of the postseason.
The Year in Frivolity by Craig Calcaterra
Six Years to Glory: The Pirates Return to October by John Perrotto
The Science of the Art of Receiving a Pitch by Jeff Sullivan
Expunging Frank: The Dodgers' Remarkable Turnaround by Mike Petriello
Everything But the Game: The 2013 Astros by Larry Granillo
Case Studies: Breaking Out and Breaking Bad by Blake Murphy, Mike Podhorzer and Carson Cistulli
Rebuilding: How Six Teams are Doing it (or not) by Jeff Moore
On the Difference Between Hitting and Pitching Prospects by Bill James
Five Fateful Offseason Decisions by Rob Neyer
Blowing Up the Spot: why Third Basemen Stand How They Do by Eno Sarris
GM in a Box: Brian Sabean by Steve Treder
White Bred: Major League Baseball's Intern Issue by Dave Cameron
Finding the Translation: Quantifying Asian Players by Bradley Woodrum
The Summer of '86 by Joe Posnanski
Roger Clemens' Place in History by Craig Wright
The Most Storied Postseasons by Dave Studenmund
Birthday Bonanzas by Chris Jaffe
Shifty Business, or the War Against Hitters by Jeff Zimmerman
Voting Patterns for the MVP and Cy Young Awards by Shane Tourtellotte
The Strike Zone during the PITCHf/x Era by Jon Roegele
Loss in Movement as the Game Progresses by Noah Woodward
Uncovering the Mysteries of the Knuckleball by Alan Nathan
Game Theory Modeling the Batter-Pitcher Confrontation by Dave Allen and Kevin Tenenbaum
Revisiting The Book's "Mano a Mano" Chapter by Steve Staude
In addition to these tremendous articles, Shane Tourtellotte has created a baseball crossword puzzle for you, in honor of the 100th birthday of that particular pastime. Also, Carson Cistulli provides his unique leaderboards—intriguing and interesting baseball stats that you're not likely to find on your own. By the way, our case studies focus on the years of Chris Davis, Josh Hamilton, Jose Fernandez and Shelby Miller.
It's a whole lot of book, and we have made it available in print or in electronic form. You can buy it now for $15.99 from our CreateSpace page and it will soon be available at Amazon too. I'll post the link in the comments once it's available there.
In addition, we will have electronic versions available—Kindle and Nook—as soon as the publishers clear them. I'll add a notice here when those are available.
The THT Annual is a proud tradition of ours; there's something for every baseball fan in those pages. Enjoy!