Remembering those left off the ballot

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Craig did his thing, running down the first-timers included on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot. But how about those players left off. That’s always the first thing I look at when the ballot comes out. So let’s take a trip down memory lane with those not worthy of being included with possible immortals like Lenny Harris and Kirk Rueter.

Wilson Alvarez (14 years) – The first pitcher to take the mound for the expansion Devil Rays in 1998. Health problems prevented Alvarez from ever truly living up to expectations, but he ended his career with a 102-92 record and a 3.96 ERA. His ERA+ is 112, compared to 98 for Rueter. Rueter, on the other hand, won 28 more games while pitching nearly 150 additional innings.

Cal Eldred (14 years) – A big-time prospect with the Brewers in the early 1990s, Eldred broke down not long after throwing a league-high 258 innings as a 25-year-old in 1993. Overcoming several surgeries and pitching with a screw in his elbow, he eventually resurfaced with the Cardinals and posted a 3.41 ERA in 171 1/3 innings out of the pen between 2003-2005.

Jeffrey Hammonds (13 years) – The fourth overall pick in the 1994 draft, Hammonds was a big-time underachiever until hitting .335/.395/.529 with 20 homers and 106 RBI for the Rockies in 2000. His lone years in Coors Field earned him a three-year, $21 million contract from the Brewers, and he promptly fell flat on his face. He his just 22 homers in five years after his career season.

Greg Myers (18 years) – The long-time backup catcher pulled off one of the surprises of the decade when ht hit .307/.374/.502 with 15 homers in 329 at-bats with the Blue Jays as a 37-year-old in 2003. Sadly, he hurt his ankle in April 2004 and missed the rest of the season. He had just 18 at-bats that year and 12 in 2005 before calling it a career. For what it’s worth, he had 27 more RBI than Harris in almost 900 fewer career at-bats.

Jose Offerman (15 years) – Briefly one of the game’s highest-paid players, Offerman was actually very good in the first year of the big four-year, $26 million contract he signed with the Red Sox, making his second All-Star team in 1999. However, things went south quickly from there. Never a very good middle infielder, he lost all of his value once his legs started to go. He was still playing in the Atlantic League as late as 2007, but his role in a bench-clearing brawl in which he charged the pitcher with his bat after being hit by a pitch effectively ended his career.

Paul Quantrill (14 years) – Quantrill led or tied for his league lead in appearances each season from 2001-04, and he was among his league’s most valuable relievers in the first three of them. The fourth didn’t go so well, as he racked up a 4.72 ERA in 95 1/3 innings for Joe Torre’s Yankees. When he was at his best, Quantrill got grounder after grounder and never walked anyone. In his All-Star campaign in 2001, he issued just five unintentional walks in 83 innings.

Rey Sanchez (15 years) – Long one of the game’s best defensive shortstop and weakest hitters, Sanchez played for nine teams in 15 seasons and batted .272/.308/.334. He’s one of eight players in the expansion era to come in with at least 5,000 plate appearances and an OPS+ under 70, joining Neifi Perez, Tim Foli, Ed Brinkman, Alfredo Griffin, Sandy Alomar, Mark Belanger and Ozzie Guillen.

Ugueth Urbina (11 years) – Having fanned 97 batters in 79 2/3 innings in 2005, Urbina had plenty left in his arm before his attempted murder conviction in Venezuela ended his career. He saved 237 games and went to two All-Star games in 11 seasons.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.