I’ve been planning to write something touting Barry Larkin’s Hall of Fame candidacy because he’s one of several deserving players on this year’s ballot not getting enough love, but in the meantime here’s the next best thing (or maybe even the slightly better thing) …
ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark used some numbers from an article I wrote several years ago to help him make the compelling case for Larkin:
In my book, I cited a study done by Aaron Gleeman, over at the ever-thoughtful hardballtimes.com, after Larkin retired. What he found was another important fact that’s been lost on the masses–that very few shortstops in history have ever outperformed their peers to the extent Larkin did. Here’s the breakdown:
Larkin’s career batting average–over 19 seasons, remember–was .295. The average shortstop in that time hit .256. That’s a difference of 39 points–or 15 percent. Larkin’s career on-base percentage was .371. The average shortstop’s OBP was .317. So Larkin beat that by 54 points–or 17 percent. Larkin’s career slugging percentage was .444. The average shortstop slugged .361. So that’s an 83-point gap–or 23 percent.
And that brings us to OPS. Larkin (.815) was 137 points–or 20 percent–better than the average shortstop of his time (.678). The only two shortstops in the past 35 years who had an OPS that much better than the rest of their generation were A-Rod (31 percent) and Nomar Garciaparra (25 percent). But both of them moved to other positions before end-of-career declines shrunk those gaps.
One, obviously I agree 100 percent with Stark. Larkin should not only be a Hall of Famer, he should be a relatively easy pick for the reasons laid out in the above excerpt and many other factors.
Two, let this be a lesson to any other national writers with huge audiences out there: Mentioning me and citing my previous work is basically guaranteed to get you a link back in this space, in much the same way that flashing the bat signal will summon Batman or putting a microphone in front of Scott Boras will produce a quote about how one of his .250-hitting clients is better than Albert Pujols and Zack Greinke, combined.
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.