Hall of Fame 2010: Roberto Alomar

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roberto alomar indians.jpgThe first alphabetically of the 26 players on the 2010 Hall of Fame ballot might also be the most qualified. Even with his stunning decline during the early portion of the decade, Roberto Alomar ranks first in the group in both the Bill James HOF Monitor and the HOF Standards list. He was named to 12 straight All-Star teams, he holds a major league record with 10 Gold Gloves at second base and he was one of the driving forces on the Blue Jays’ back-to-back championship teams in 1992-93.
It should be a slam dunk, even though there are arguments against Alomar. The numbers suggest he was somewhat overrated defensively for much of his career. He never led his league in a Triple Crown category or won an MVP award. He turned into a liability immediately after his age-33 season, something one hardly expects to see from a Hall of Famer.
And it’s all true. But he’s still clearly better than several of the 17 second basemen currently in the Hall of Fame. The real argument is whether he’s in the top 10 all-time at his position.
Alomar never won a batting crown, but he did finish in the top seven in his league five times and he wrapped his career with a .300 average. He had five seasons with a .400 OBP and four with a .500 SLG. He scored 130 runs twice. He once had an 120-RBI season. He had eight 30-steal campaigns, and he was successful on 81 percent of his career attempts. In 263 postseason at-bats, he hit .313/.381/.448 with 20 steals in 22 attempts.
His best finishes in the AL MVP balloting were a tie for third in 1999 and fourth in 2001. In 1999, he had 41 points of OPS, 22 runs scored and seven RBI on winner Ivan Rodriguez. However, many will argue that it should have been Pedro Martinez’s award. In 2001, he had 118 points of OPS and 31 RBI on winner Ichiro Suzuki, though he did score 14 fewer runs.
Yet that was it. After being traded from the Indians to the Mets following the 2001 season, Alomar hit .262/.331/.367 with 116 RBI in 1,277 at-bats over three seasons. He signed with the Rays prior to 2005, but he retired during spring training.
Fortunately, Alomar was able to establish himself as an above average regular at age 20 and did more than enough in his first 14 seasons to establish his credentials. If he isn’t a first-ballot Hall of Famer, then the John Hirschbeck spitting incident will deserve much of the credit. Alomar doesn’t quite measure up with Eddie Collins, Rogers Hornsby and Joe Morgan when it comes to the all-time second basemen, but he falls in somewhere in the 7-12 range, and as such, he clearly belongs in Cooperstown.

No one pounds the zone anymore

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“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.

Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:

Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?

There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.

As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.