Maddux slighted again, and was Smoltzie better than Glavine?

I’m thrilled that the last pitcher chosen in ESPN’s ranking of the 100 greatest players in MLB history is the perpetually underrated Knucksie, #100 overall.

Not so much with the highest-ranked pitcher: Roger Clemens.

ESPN cautions its list is a “judgment-free zone where Barry BondsRoger Clemens and even Pete Rose are welcome.” (Rose debased the game but earned every one of his 4,256 hits. He shouldn’t be lumped together with players who came upon their stats dishonestly.)

I don’t understand how you overlook the cheating, which allows ESPN to rank Barry Bonds ahead of The Hammer and Ted Williams. But those who do so will never convince me that Clemens was the best pitcher in baseball history. He wasn’t even the best of his generation.

His ranking, at #7 overall, speaks to to the most overrated stat in all of baseball: the strikeout. If Warren Spahn was pitching today the stat geeks would insist his 363 wins were attributable mostly to luck, as he averaged only 4.4 K/9 IP.

Strikeouts are about all that Clemens has over Mad Dog, who ranks at #13, third among pitchers (Walter Johnson finished 12th). I’m repeating myself but apparently some people refuse to listen.

Maddux has had as many dominant seasons as Clemens, finishing with an ERA under 3.00 nine times. Granted, Clemens did it 12 times, but in two other years Maddux finished with ERA’s of 3.00 and 3.05. And no pitcher in modern history (Pedro in ’99 was close) can match Maddux’s 1995 campaign: 19-2 with a 1.56 ERA and an 0.811 WHIP. Even though strikeouts were not his bread and butter he had more K’s that year (181) than hits and walks combined en route to his fourth consecutive Cy Young.

Maddux was more durable, totaling 200 innings or more 18 times. Add three more innings over two seasons and Maddux would have 20 seasons of 200 or more IP. Clemens topped 200 innings 15 times.

My favorite Maddux stat? From July 31, 1993, through August 4, 1995, a two-year period, Mad Dog had 56 quality starts in 57 games pitched.

And Maddux has been better in October, with a 3.27 ERA, compared to 3.75 for Clemens. His first Fall Classic appearance might have been his best; the fearsome Indians (with Manny Ramirez hitting seventh) managed to get but FOUR balls out of the infield in Game 1 of the ’95 Series. Time of game: 2:37.

Maddux had one more win and a better WHIP (1.143 to 1.158). Clemens had a better ERA (3.12 to 3.16) even though Mad Dog had ERA’s of 3.96 or higher in each of his last six seasons. Conversely, three of Clemens’ worst years came between his 30th and 34th birthdays, a period when most pitchers are at their best, or close to it. It’s reasonable, then, to conclude that had Clemens not cheated he wouldn’t have made it into the Top 100.

Oh, and Maddux was the best fielding pitcher of his era, if not ever.

If only he had juiced, or pitched for the Yankees and Red Sox. Or had a strikeout ratio like Tommy Hanson’s and John Rocker’s.

They didn’t make the list, of course, though Smoltzie and Glavine did. Some may quibble with Smoltz ranking 18 spots higher than his former teammate, but I’m good with it. Glavine had more wins and one more Cy Young Award, but Smoltzie had a better ERA and WHIP and, for three years, was as dominant a closer as the game has seen. And he had no  peer in October. Some people say that doesn’t matter, but they’re typically the same people who say cheaters deserve a pass.

If Medlen keeps impressing, is Hanson the rotation’s odd man out?

I doubt it, but these numbers, via Bowman, are alarming.

Since the start of Spring Training there has been a lot of discussion about the drop in velocity of Tommy Hanson’s fastball.  Courtesy of Fangraphs.com here is the breakdown of this average velocity over the past four seasons:

2009: 92.9 mph

2010: 92.7 mph

2011: 91.1 mph

2012: 89.8 mph

Tommy Hanson proves the strikeout is overrated

Today was vintage Tommy Hanson, and that’s not altogether positive. He struck out 9, bringing his K/9 ratio to nearly a strikeout an inning, roughly equal to his career mark. Yet he only pitched 5 innings.

He’s reached the 7th inning only twice this year and last season, in 22 starts, he made it into the 7th 7 times. The last time he pitched into the 8th? Sept. 27, 2010. He has 1 CG for his career.

Contrast that to Brandon Beachy, whose K/9 ratio has dropped from 10.7 in 2011 to 6.6 this season. He completed 7 innings only once last year but has done it three times already this year.

I’ll take the innings.

A slither of good news

I remain convinced Tommy Hanson will be back pitching effectively come October.

“I think I’m ready to get off the mound after this one,” said Hanson, who hasn’t pitched in a game since Aug. 6. “Depending on how I feel tomorrow, I don’t see why not. I felt good today. Really good. I let it go and it was coming out [of his hand easily]. I wasn’t even trying to let it go and it was coming out.”

MMMCrap

It’s good the Braves have pitching depth, because they’re going to be without sore-shouldered Tommy Hanson longer than anticipated.

His scheduled bullpen session Tuesday at Wrigley Field was cancelled after Hanson felt soreness again in his troublesome pitching shoulder, this time following a mere nine-pitch throwing session Monday. That was the first time he threw from a mound since Aug. 6.

Tonight’s theme: Stupidity

Tommy Hanson pitched like John Thomson crossed with Kyle Davies, and though his stats say stud he’s yet to pitch in the 8th inning this year. He’s improving, no doubt, but if I had to win a game tomorrow JJ gets the call. A healthy Huddy would be next. Hanson’s just not there yet.

As for Fredi  Haas (who was the first to coin that — speak now so proper credit can be given) …  is there any justification for pitching Kimbrel in the 9th? He’s coming off consecutive strong outings. Then Fredi brings him in to a situation in which closers routinely fail. It was Kimbrel’s third appearance in four days. There were other options. Yet 22 needless pitches were thrown.

At least Uggla finished with two promising AB’s. There’s still a decent chance he’ll emerge from his slump. What are the odds Fredi suddenly becomes smart?

A quick aside: Brian Jordan doesn’t hold back. He’s greatly improved behind the mic. More BJ, no Chip.

Stupidest trade idea ever

Well, Heyward is younger than Ethier and the Dodgers would have time to find a new owner—and get the organization in order before they had to give him a big contract.

Maybe to sweeten the deal the Dodgers would have to throw in James Loney. The Braves could use him at first base to help back up Freddie Freeman, and in return the Dodgers could get Tommy Hanson from the Braves.

Jay Hey and Hanson for Ethier and Loney?!?

Hey Bleacher Report (quoting Hubie Brown): Are you fucking retarded?

Turns out Jim Palmer sucked

If only I could've pitched more like Aaron Myette

Baseball Neanderthals point to his 268 career wins and 2.86 lifetime ERA as proof that the retired Oriole was a top-flight major league pitcher, but those of us who appreciate the value of stats know better. In 3948 career IP, Palmer struck out only 2212. In 1976, the last of his three Cy Young Awards, Palmer averaged 4.5 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched. In 1978, when he won 21 with a 2.46 ERA, Palmer averaged a paltry 4.2 K’s per 9 IP. Obviously he wasn’t very good.

Obviously I’m kidding, but some sabermetricians would defend such nonsense. They are the same people who dismiss Huddy‘s outstanding start because he’s averaging only 4.1 K’s per 9 IP. Tommy Hanson, whose ERA now stands two runs higher, is the unquestioned ace due to his higher strikeout ratio, they contend. Never mind that Hanson has pitched less innings and allowed more hits. (Those same people also downplay JJ’s contributions because “his peripherals haven’t been particularly good throughout his major league career (K/BB < 2!), which indicates he’s due for some bad regression.”)

This is madness. Tommy certainly has better stuff, but he’s yet to prove he’s an elite hurler. I wouldn’t classify Huddy or JJ as elites, but strikeout totals have nothing to do with it. Ask Aaron Myette, who struck out 134 hitters in 154 innings over six seasons with the White Sox, Rangers and Reds. One of the worst pitchers ever, Myette left the game with a 8.16 career ERA.

Batting third, Jason Heyward

Interesting that Bobby batted Heyward third today in a line-up featuring every regular with the exception of Chipper and Glaus. So far he’s delivered with a single, two walks and steal of third. Tommy H. was also sharp, tossing two scoreless innings, as was Medlen, who followed with two scoreless frames. However the Muts scored three in fifth off newcomer Jesse Chavez, who remains a likely bet to stick with the big club.

A live box score can be found here.

Listen and learn

I picked up an interesting nugget from local talk radio today.

J.A. Happ won the Sporting News NL Rookie of the Year Award and Tim Hudson finished second. This one came from the news update guy on 680 The Fan.

In other news, the Thrashers have been scoring lots of touchdowns so far, and the Falcons are playing the Texas Rangers this weekend. 

–CD

Just saying….

First season with more than a cup o’ joe in the Bigs:

Tommy Hanson, 10-3, 2.65

Tom Glavine, 7-17, 4.56

John Smoltz, 2-7, 5.48

Greg Maddux, 6-14, 5.61

Kevin Millwood, 17-8, 4.08

Roy Halladay, 8-7, 3.92, 18 starts, 18 relief appearances

Tim Lincecum, 7-5, 4.00

Chris Carpenter, 3-7, 5.09

Steve Carlton, 14-9, 2.98

Randy Johnson, 7-13, 4.82

Pedro Martinez, 10-5, 2.61, mostly in relief

Cole Hamels, 9-8, 4.08

Johan Santana, 2-3, 6.49, mostly in relief

–CD

Reasons to watch the last 19 games

1. Tommy Hanson. Always fun to watch The Future at work.

2. Will Chipper finish with a flourish? It’d be some comfort to see his bat show some life heading into the offseason.

3. Huddy’s last few starts. Maybe his performance will help shape Wren’s offseason plans.

4. Will three Braves starters reach 200 innings? Vazquez (197 IP) and JJ (186) will. Lowe is at 177, so he should. No Brave threw 200 innings last year, and the last time three did it was 2001 — Maddux, Glavine and Burkett.

5. Will a Brave hit 20 homers (as a Brave)? McCann has 18, Chipper 16. No Brave will steal close to 20 bases in a home team uni. McLouth has 17 thefts, but just 10 as a Bravo. No Brave will approach 100 RBI. McCann leads the club with 79.

6. Will Greg Norton’s torrid September continue — he’s 1-for-3, raising his average nine points, to .145? Can he hit .150?

Random thoughts:

The Braves are sixth in the NL in team batting average, but only one of the top six — the Dodgers, who are first — will make the playoffs. The Bravos are third in team ERA. Three, maybe four of the top six in that category will play in October.

–CD

More Tommy

Hanson is better than Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, Avery or Halladay. At least he’s fared better than any of them did in their first five big league starts.

It would be silly to suggest five games signal that Tommy H. will outshine the three former Bravos HOFers and Halladay. (Let’s hope he has a better career than Ave.) Anyway, just for fun, here’s how Hanson’s first five starts compare to those of the other guys:

  • Hanson, 4-0, 2.48 ERA
  • Smoltz  1-3, 5.53
  • Glavine  1-3 7.00
  • Maddux, 2-3, 5.40
  • Avery, 1-3, 4.23
  • Halladay, 2-1, 4.61.

Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux and Avery all had 5+ ERAs as rookies. Halladay was 8-7 with a 3.92 but split time as a reliever and starter. So far, Hanson has shown a knack for wriggling out of trouble. Damian Moss did the same when he won 12 games with a 3.42 ERA as a rookie. He was out of the bigs for good three years later.

But I don’t recall anyone speaking of Moss the way they do of Hanson. Nor do I remember the Aussie lefty having pitches at all comparable to Hanson’s.

Another note from yesterday: On the botched rundown play, KJ should have thrown the ball to second to start the double play. Stupid decision with a hitter about as slow as me and most of you reading. Yet his play was defensible. With a fast hitter, you toss to first, then you’ve got the other runner in a rundown. Sure out.

For the Braves, there are no sure outs, except when we’re hitting. The bigger mistake on the rundown play, I think, was Kotchman’s. Instead of running Youkilis toward second, then throwing to Hernandez, who could then either tag the runner or run him back toward first for an easy play, Oberk, er Kotchman immediately threw to second. That gave the runner room to maneuver. Still should’ve gotten him out.

As if that weren’t enough, KJ made an error that could have been a game-swinger. And on the ball that bounced off his glove and rolled into right field, he lay on his stomach, never bothering to get up and give chase. Joe Simpson reckoned KJ had the breath knocked out of him. I hope so. Would be nice to know, locak organ. If he still had his wind, that play deserves a benching.

In addition to his shoddy defense, KJ, of course, turned in another hitless game, the 9th in his past 10. KJ needs to go away for a while.  His average has fallen from .250 to .216 this month. Kelly had 3 doubles in a game on May 31. He has 3 doubles the entire month of June, and June will be over tomorrow.

–CD

Hanson in perspective

Already an ace:

Hanson has made five major league starts and gone 4-0 with an 0.78 ERA in the past four, after giving up six earned runs in his debut against Milwaukee.

He hasn’t allowed a run since the third inning of his second start at Baltimore on June 12, and has given up 9 hits in 17-1/3 scoreless innings in his past three starts — one at Cincinnati’s hitter-friendly park, and two against the American League East superpowers.

Looks like Tommy is on his way to joining Alvin Dark, Sam Jethroe, Earl Williams, Bob Horner, David Justice and Rafael Furcal as Braves named Rookie of the Year.
–CB

Time for Tommy Hanson speculation

If you haven’t checked lately, The Future is pitching rather well out in Buford, or Lawrenceville, or Duluth or Hog Mountain, wherever that taxpayer-financed ball park is.

T. Hanson might not be wearing this logo much longer.

T. Hanson might not be wearing this logo much longer.

Ye Office guesses that if Kamakazi and Jo Jo keep struggling, or if one of the two of them is flat-out atrocious over the next three weeks or so, we might see Hanson in the Bigs. His stats are overwhelming: a 1.65 ERA, WHIP barely above 1, 14 strikeouts per 9 innings, a .179 batting average against. Those are high school stats.

His past three starts have been particularly dominant. He’s thrown six innings in each — the organization is obviously, and rightly, being careful– allowed 2 earned runs, 16 baserunners in 18 innings and struck out 25.

I’m no scout, but he sure seems ready. All we need is an opening for him. On a darker note, what to do with Schafer? Four Ks in four ABs last night. The dude looks utterly helpless at the plate. It seems wise to at least sit him for a night. Can Prado play center field? He needs more swings.

–CD

Medlen to the rescue?

Turns out the Braves are going to use Kris Medlen in relief, Today, in the G-Braves’ opener, Medlen retired all 11 batters he faced, striking out four.

He came in to relieve Tommy Hanson, who struck out 10 in 4-2/3 scoreless innings.

Which leads me to today’s poll: