Saturday, February 25, 2012

The case for Siddall in the Hall

A close look at the most dominant reliever of his time

There's been a lot of speculation on whether or not Christoper Siddall will get enough votes to get into the Hall of Fame this season. And I'll admit, I'm probably a bit biased because Siddall was a Dirtbag for the first seven seasons of this world's existence. But his numbers simply cannot be denied -- he was the most dominant reliever of his era, hands down. It's really not even close.

The biggest knock on Siddall is probably that he doesn't have enough saves to get in. And if you're a reliever without any saves, you don't have much of a chance to get in the Hall of Fame. Generally, I would agree with that stance. A reliever would really have to have been dominant -- historically dominant -- to get consideration without any saves.

Well, Siddall was historically dominant. For a reliever or a starter, Siddall owns The Bigs' pitching record books. He is The Bigs all-time career leader in strikeout/walk ratio (a ridiculous 3.84), WHIP (1.03) and on base percentage allowed (.266). He is number two all-time in ERA (2.61) and slugging percentage allowed (.311) and third all-time in batting average allowed (.212).

So he doesn't have 300 saves. Big deal. He threw almost 1200 innings, which is more than borderline Hall of Fame starting pitchers like Vin Solano, and threw over 100 innings in each of his first nine seasons in The Bigs. So it's not like he didn't play long enough.

People can get caught up in the saves category but it's really a lot like the RBI stat -- based largely on outside factors. Siddall couldn't control how many saves he got much like hitters can't control whether or not there are runners on base when they come to bat. I chose to use Siddall as a setup A so that I could get the most innings pitched out of him. All he could control was how well he pitched when he was in the game and he ended up being better than any pitcher, starter or reliever, EVER. The only pitcher who could even be considered better than him is his ex-teammate Javier Henriquez.

Still think he's not Hall of Fame worthy?

Season 17 arms race recap

Contenders spend big on pitching to push them over the top

The season 17 off season provided a flurry of pitchers finding new homes in The Bigs. Here's a quick recap of which big names went where and for how much:

Roy Walker -- signed 5-year, $95 million deal with Fargo: The largest and most eye-popping of the pitching contracts given out this season, Roy Walker cashed in big time to give the Dirtbags the rotation depth they lacked last season. The deal is surprising considering Walker posted a career-worst 4.74 ERA last season, his only year with Boston. Fargo hopes that Walker's return to the National League will get him back on track and that he will regain the form he showed in his days with Atlanta. The deal includes a mutual option for the final season and a no-trade clause.

Barry Rader -- signed 5-year, $53.4 million deal with New Orleans: The Voodoo bolstered their rotation by signing former All-Star Rader to a five-year deal. Rader has spent his entire major league career in the American League with Milwaukee where he has been mostly successful, but struggled last season going just 9-15 with a 5.27 ERA.The deal includes a no-trade clause.

D'Angelo Martin -- signed 5-year, $46 million deal with Minnesota: A former Cy Young winner, Martin leaves Buffalo, the only place he's ever called home, for division rival Minnesota and a big pay day. Owning a reputation as an inning-eating workhorse, Martin went 17-9 last season while posting a 3.64 ERA in 34 starts.

Pedro Limon -- signed 4-year, $37.7 million deal with New Orleans: New Orleans added to their rotation and their signing of Rader by reaching an agreement with Limon on a four-year deal. Limon went 11-9 with a 4.10 ERA in 33 starts with the Scranton Janitors last season and the Voodoo hope to get the same, if not, a better performance from Limon as they look to make a run deep into the NL playoffs. Limon's deal includes a no-trade clause and a player option for the final season.

Paul Schwartz -- signed 3-year, $15.7 million deal with Scranton: Arguably the most desirable reliever available this off season, Schwartz leaves the cozy pitcher's park in Seattle for a more neutral stadium in Scranton. The 35-year-old three-time All-Star posted a 3.25 ERA and 19 saves in a career-high 144 innings pitched over 74 appearances last season for the Killer Whales. His contract includes a mutual option for the final season worth $6.1 million.

Garry Wright -- signed 3-year, $12.6 million deal with Chicago: Coming off one of the worst seasons of his career, Wright leaves Fargo for a three-year deal with the Chicago Cows to be their top setup man. The normally lights-out Wright posted an ugly 4.97 ERA in 105 innings of relief for Fargo last season and was even more abysmal in four postseason appearances, leaving him out of the Dirtbags future plans. The Cows hope he can turn it around and help turn them into contenders. The deal includes a mutual option for the final season.

Coco Hines -- signed 2-year, $7.2 million deal with Salt Lake City: The single-season record holder for saves, Hines flourished in a setup role last season for Philadelphia (formerly Madison), posting a 2.80 ERA in 103 innings pitched. The Shakers will hope the 36-year-old can duplicate that performance this season in a setup role for Salt Lake City closer Lonny Soto. Hines' deal includes a mutual option for next season.

Felipe Calles -- signed 1-year, $5.4 million deal with Scranton: A bit of an under the radar signing, the 36-year-old former Fireman of the Year turned starter went 7-8 last season with a 4.76 ERA in 187.1 innings pitched over 42 starts. Calles moves to the AL for the first time after spending his entire career in the NL with Salt Lake City.

Lloyd Freel -- signed 1-year, $3.4 million deal with Monterrey: One of the top relievers available on the market, Freel will wear a new uniform for the first time in his career after signing a one-yeard deal with Monterrey. In his final season with the Minnesota franchise last year, Freel posted a career-worst 5.03 ERA in 98.1 innings pitched. The Sultans will hope the 37-year-old two-time All-Star can rebound and that last season was just a fluke for Freel.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lincoln wins third straight Cy Young

Gonzales caps record-setting season with MVP

Charleston's Ronn Lincoln won his third consecutive American League Cy Young Award for his season 16 in which he posted a 16-5 record with a 2.55 ERA and 188 strikeouts in 33 starts. Lincoln joins Fargo's Javier Henriquez as the only pitchers in the history of The Bigs to win three straight Cy Young Awards. It's the fourth career Cy Young for Lincoln as he also won it in season 12.

In the National League it was Atlanta's Mike Lowery taking home the NL Cy Young Award after a season in which he posted a 19-3 record and 3.01 ERA for the World Champion Bandits.

There wasn't much doubt that after smashing the single-season records for home runs and RBI and leading the league in hits, slugging percentage, OPS and runs created that Fargo's Cesar Gonzales would be named NL MVP. King Cesar hit .332 with 71 home runs, 209 RBI and a 1.094 OPS.

Charleston swept the major awards as Chew left fielder Floyd Floyd took home the AL MVP Award. Floyd hit .299 with 45 home runs, 129 RBI and a 1.016 OPS while stealing 60 bases. The MVP is the second of Floyd's career.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Atlanta wins World Series in 7

Underdog Bandits steal franchise's 3rd WS title

The Atlanta Bandits clawed their way from the sixth seed in the National League playoffs all the way to Game 7 of the season 16 World Series and they weren't about to fall short there. The Bandits became the first franchise in the history of The Bigs to win three World Series titles as they defeated the Monterrey Sultans in a seven game classic.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Season 16 Awards

With season 16 complete, it's time to hand out a few awards.

Cesar Gonzales, Fargo

What more needs to be said about this season's NL MVP? He not only broke league records for home runs and RBIs, he completely smashed them - and also led all of baseball in hits, slugging percentage, OPS, and runs created, while leading the Dirtbags to 110 regular season wins (the most in The Bigs since Salt Lake City's 113-win campaign in season 12). Gonzales' offensive numbers were simply otherworldly this season - at since he's not even yet in his prime, this could be the first of many Player of the Year awards for Fargo's slugging young first baseman.

Runner-Up: Floyd Floyd, Charleston

Miguel Cayones, Chicago

Cayones may have been robbed of a Cy Young award because he won "only" 14 games, but this is one accolade he won't miss out on. The Cows' young ace (like Gonzales, he's just 22 years old) led all of baseball in WHIP (1.01), ERA (2.39), and strikeout-to-walk ratio (a whopping 4.39) while pitching in a home park that's one of the majors' most favorable to hitters. If he had a slightly better bullpen to work with, or had developed the stamina to go a bit deeper into starts, he could easily have won 20 games and perhaps even nudged the Cows into the playoffs.

Runner-Up: Ronn Lincoln, Charleston

The_Rock, Seattle

It's an impressive feat to steer a team to the playoffs after it's posted six straight losing seasons; more impressive still, to finish with your league's second-best record in the process; and quite unbelievable to achieve all this by knocking off a perennial contender whose roster is teeming with current and former All-Stars. But The_Rock's Killer Whales did all that this season, powering their way past the Helena Shadow Wolves on their way to 91 wins and an ALCS appearance.

Runner-Up: cantarski, Atlanta

As we look back on the last few months, it's important not only to remember the good, but also to be able to laugh at ourselves for some of the bad. In that spirit, here are the winners of the "prestigious" Iron Glove and Tin Slugger awards for season 16.

Presented to the worst fielder at each position

P Adrian Hendrickson, Oakland
C Odalis Lopez, Montreal
1B David Pierzynski, Buffalo
2B Tony Johnson, Boston
3B O.T. Wagner, Oakland
SS Alex Ortiz, Montreal
LF Fernando Beltran, Salt Lake City
CF Will Weston, Montreal
RF Alfredo Daniels, Cheyenne

Presented to the worst hitter at each position

C Dante Nakamura, Milwaukee
1B Buddy Lowe, Milwaukee
2B James Hill, Mexico City
3B Mark Black, Memphis
SS Dizzy Brown, Mexico City
LF Carmine Mays, Cincinnati
CF Billy Quantrill, Cincinnati
RF Trot Turner, Mexico City
DH Hootie Dobson, Cheyenne

Thursday, February 2, 2012

King Cesar re-writes record book

Gonzalez finishes up historic season

There was little doubt when Fargo signed Cesar Gonzalez as an international free agent in season 13 that the slugging first baseman was going to be very good. But, this good? The Dirtbags' All-Star and likely NL MVP put his name all over The Bigs record book with a historic season 16 which saw him belt a record-breaking 71 homeruns and 209 RBI while registering 222 hits (third highest single-season total ever).

He wasn't just a slugger this season either. Gonzalez tied for the major league lead in runs scored with 137, finished third in the majors with a .332 batting average, and eighth in the NL in on base percentage while playing in all 162 of Fargo's games this season -- something he's accomplished two consecutive seasons now.

Gonzalez bypassed the old single-season homerun mark of 69 set by Bob Koplove in season 6 and completely obliterated the old RBI mark of 182 set by King Winn in season 4. Time will tell if anyone will challenge Cesar's homerun standard anytime soon but it's probably safe to say that the RBI record will remain his for a very long time. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Season 16 Draft Review

Now that nearly all the players who are going to sign have put their name on the dotted line, it's time to take a look at this season's draft, with selected commentary on good, bad, and otherwise particularly noteworthy selections.

1. New York Knickerbockers

Jerry Williams, LHP - Age 18 - $4.00M (MLB Contract) - Rating: - Grade: A+

Comment: In one of the most top-heavy drafts of recent years, Williams is far and away the most obvious choice for #1 overall. The Virginia high-school phenom has virtually no weaknesses as a prospect, and has a legitimate shot at someday challenging Javier Henriquez's status as the best pitcher in the history of The Bigs.

2. New Orleans Voodoo

Rich Williams, RHP - Age 22 - $3.19M - Rating: - Grade: B

Comment: Though the "other Williams" certainly has the makings of a good starter about him - and, as a college senior, won't take long to reach the majors - he's simply not at the same level as many of the other top-10 picks in this season's draft.

3. Salem Sacrifices

Kurt Bunch, 1B – Age 18 - $5.50M – Rating: - Grade: A-

4. Cincinnati Reds

Alex Lira, RF - Age 20 - $3.72M - Rating: - Grade: A

5. Cheyenne Crackers

Dennis Redding, RF - Age 18 - Unsigned - Rating: - Grade: C

Comment: Redding isn't a bad pick for 5th overall - he's nearly a five-star prospect - but the Crackers have decided to spend their prospect-signing budget playing the international market. While they got a very good player out of it (Cuban shortstop Ricardo Gongora), it's still rather unsavory to see an easily signable top-5 pick go unsigned.

6. Milwaukee Manic Maulers

Moises Lima, C - Age 18 - $6.89M - Rating: - Grade: A

Comment: In a draft full of outstanding hitters, Lima may be the very best. He could even turn out to be the best-hitting catcher in the history of the league. But he has two very big hurdles to clear in order to even get a chance: his mediocre game-calling skill, and a troubling health history.

7. Seattle Killer Whales

Bosco Price, RHP - Age 19 - $3.44M - Rating: - Grade: B

8. Mexico City Chupacabras

Ray Presley, SS - Age 18 - $3.35M - Rating: - Grade: A

9. Vancouver Grizzlies

Theo Summers, 3B - Age 18 - $3.25M - Rating: - Grade: A-

10. Boise Drifters

Eddie Harris, C - Age 18 - $3.16M - Rating: - Grade: B+

Comment: Harris, like Moises Lima, is a backstop with awe-inspiring hitting potential - but unlike Lima, he doesn't have a good throwing arm to match. While he's sure to find his way to the middle of a big-league lineup someday, it may be as a DH and not a catcher.

11. Montreal Alouettes

Shawn Heathcott, RHP - Age 20 - $3.07M - Rating: - Grade: B

12. Anaheim Chiles

Matty Palmeiro, LHP - Age 18 - $2.97M - Rating: - Grade: C+

Comment: Palmeiro has a good control and a fastball that can blow hitters away - but there's little else about him that's truly impressive. He's vulnerable to right-handed hitters and doesn't have much in the way of secondary pitches to go with that fastball. He's still a legitimate first-rounder, but for the 12th overall pick, this is a real reach.

13. Oakland East Bay Rays

Trevor Torres, 2B - Age 21 - $2.88M - Rating: - Grade: B-

Comment: It's difficult to really take the measure of a player like Torres. He destroys LHPs, but is average against righties. He projects to be a sure-handed gloveman at 2B, but doesn't have much range for the position. Overall, his individual tools are good enough to warrant a four-star rating - but one wonders if the whole may be less than the sum of its parts.

14. Chicago Cows

Jarrod Laird, 3B - Age 20 - $2.79M - Rating: - Grade: B+

15. Norfolk Destroyers

Danny Zagone, LHP - Age 19 - $2.69M - Rating: - Grade: B+

16. Austin Slackers

Footsie Cooper, CF - Age 20 - $2.60M - Rating: - Grade: B

17. Boston Bambinos

Ismael Pineda, LHP - Age 21 - $2.50M - Rating: - Grade: A-

18. Buffalo Blue Cheese

Henderson Martin, 2B - Age 18 - $2.41M - Rating: - Grade: C+

19. Huntington Riverdogs

Cleatus Velandia, 1B - Age 18 - $2.32M - Rating: - Grade: A

Comment: Velandia may not play the toughest position, but he's one of the best pure hitters in a draft full of them, and projects to be a decent fielder at first base, too. He's a terrific find for the 19th overall pick, and this selection may turn out to be one of the few bright spots in what has been an awful season for the Riverdogs.

20. Vancouver Grizzlies

Felipe Romano, LHP - Age 19 - $2.22M - Rating: - Grade: B-

Comment: If you're feeling a sense of deja vu about this pick, it might be because this isn't the first time the Grizzlies have used a late-first-round draft pick on a left-handed pitcher with fair-to-middling potential named "F. Romano". (Francis Romano, their season 13 first-rounder, was traded to Mexico City earlier this season.)

21. Madison Snappers

Ray Neal, RHP - Age 21 - $3.62M - Rating: - Grade: D

Comment: Neal is a classic "innings-eater" - he doesn't have very good stuff, but he'll easily throw 110+ pitches every time out, and can often do so on short rest if it's necessary. While players like Neal will always have a place in the majors, he's really not first-round material, nor is he worth his over-slot signing bonus.

22. Memphis Ptah

Gerrit Donnelly, 2B/CF - Age 21 - $2.04M - Rating: - Grade: B-

23. Salt Lake City Shakers

Bump Werth, LF - Age 19 - $1.94M - Rating: - Grade: B

24. Fargo Dirtbags

Adam Bailey, P - Age 18 - Unsigned - Rating: N/A - Grade: N/A

Comment: Bailey is demanding a staggering $5.5 million to sign with Fargo, and that's money that the Dirtbags simply don't have right now as they've spent an even more staggering $113.3 million on player salaries. While it looks like Bailey (whom our scouts never got a chance to see) will go unsigned, that's just another cost of doing business for a team in hot pursuit of a pennant.

25. Monterrey Sultans of Swat

Esteban Cubillan, 2B - Age 19 - $1.75M - Rating: - Grade: A

Comment: While Cubillan's potential as a fielder may be questionable (his range is far better suited to a corner outfield position), his potential as a batter is unimpeachable. He hits well for both contact and power, and is well-disciplined at the plate - overall, he could be the one of the biggest steals of the first round.

26. Boise Drifters

Marc Sabathia, RF - Age 18 - $1.66M - Rating: - Grade: B

27. Atlanta Bandits

Bill Munro, RHP - Age 21 - $1.57M - Rating: - Grade: A+

Comment: If Cubillan isn't the steal of the first round, then Munro definitely is. He has throws three high-quality pitches including a fastball that clocks in at well over 90 MPH, all of which he can control well, and simply tears up right-handed hitters. Though he lacks the stamina of a truly great starter, he could be a brilliant 5- or 6-inning pitcher.

28. Helena Shadow Wolves

Eli Cruz, RHP - Age 19 - $1.47M - Rating: - Grade: C-

29. Buffalo Blue Cheese

Lyle Hundley, RHP - Age 18 - $1.38M - Rating: - Grade: B-

30. Buffalo Blue Cheese

Rollie Bolden, RHP - Age 18 - $1.29M - Rating: - Grade: C

Comment: With two straight picks (both compensatory selections), Buffalo drafts two remarkably similar pitchers - both are hard throwers, both have some terrific pitches, and both struggle with their control. Bolden is probably the "safer" pick, but Hundley may have bigger upside. It'll be interesting seeing them develop side-by-side in the same organization.

31. Pawtucket Patriot

Les Clark, 2B - Age 21 - $1.19M - Rating: - Grade: B+

32. Charleston Chew

John Chen, SS - Age 19 - $1.10M - Rating: - Grade: B-

33. Washington Blue Coats

Bobby Isringhausen, LHP - Age 18 - $1.00M - Rating: - Grade: B

Comment: Washington brings round one to a close with one of the draft's most interesting pitchers. Isringhausen is a control artist who keeps the ball on the ground and boasts a wide variety of offspeed pitches - and can also blow a fastball by hitters when he needs to. If not for mediocre L/R split ratings, he'd be one of the top pitchers in the draft- but he'll have to settle for just barely squeaking into the first round.