Skip Schumaker

Redoing the 2001 draft: picks 21-30

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Here’s the third and final segment in the 2001 MLB draft redo. Click for parts one and two.

21. San Francisco Giants
Actual: Brad Hennessey
Redo: Ryan Theriot (78th pick, Cubs)

As sad as it is to say, of the 20 pitchers drafted in the first round in 2001, only five have had better careers than Hennessey, who went 17-23 with a 4.69 ERA in parts of five seasons with San Francisco. The Giants have been hurting in the middle infield for the last five years, so Theriot seems like a nice fit here. Just him being his usual self would have been an upgrade on most of the second basemen and shortstops the Giants have employed since 2007.

22. Arizona Diamondbacks
Actual: Jason Bulger
Redo: Nick Blackburn (857th pick, Twins)

And, with a 4.33 ERA in 125 relief appearances as a major leaguer, Bulger had either the sixth or seventh best career, depending on where one wants to put Jeremy Sowers. Despite a miniscule strikeout rate, Blackburn was an above average starter for the Twins in 2008 and ’09, and it looks like he has a chance to be one again this year. I’m not sure he’d have been quite so good elsewhere — the Twins have rare luck with pitchers like him — but the Diamondbacks have certainly had need for innings eaters.

23. New York Yankees
Actual: John-Ford Griffin
Redo: Noah Lowry (30th pick, Giants)

The Yankees lost their first-round for signing Mike Mussina, but got another pick in return because the Mariners inked Jeff Nelson. They used that on Griffin, a Florida State slugger. He was actually wildly successful in two brief major league stints, going 7-for-23 with two homers, three doubles and nine RBI. Unfortunately, he was a born DH and no one ever thought he was worthy of an extended look. In his place comes Lowry. He was a quality pitcher for just 2 1/2 years before injuries ruined his career, but he could have helped the Yankees in the middle of the decade.

24. Atlanta Braves
Actual: Macay McBride
Redo: Zach Duke (594th pick, Pirates)

McBride didn’t have the arsenal to make it as a starter, but I think he would have ended up as a pretty good reliever if he could have remained healthy. Of course, he didn’t. The Braves get Duke instead. Sure, he’s just 47-73 in his career, but the Braves probably would have gotten more out of him than the Pirates did. And if not, well, it’s not like the Braves are really missing out on anyone else here. The 2001 draft bottomed out awfully quickly.

25. Oakland Athletics
Actual: Bobby Crosby
Redo: Aaron Heilman (18th pick, Mets)

Speaking of bottoming out quickly… Crosby, the 2004 AL Rookie of the Year, was a useful player for just a year and half. Those mid-decade A’s teams had solid bullpens, but someone like Heilman would have helped out quite a bit. He had a 3.27 ERA in 281 innings for the Mets from 2005-07, and perhaps the A’s could have tried him as a starter after trading Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson.

26. Oakland Athletics
Actual: Jeremy Bonderman
Redo: Jeff Keppinger (114th pick, Pirates)

The much repeated story is that A’s GM Billy Beane was so upset about the Bonderman pick that he threw a chair. Bonderman was traded to the Tigers just a year later in a three-team deal that sent Ted Lilly from the Yankees to the A’s. Of course, Bonderman is long gone here. There’s really nothing but role players left to give the A’s, but Keppinger is a pretty good one, and he would have been nice to have around to cover for Mark Ellis’ various injuries. He’s a career .284/.338/.392 hitter in 1,824 at-bats.

27. Cleveland Indians
Actual: Alan Horne
Redo: Jim Johnson (143rd pick, Orioles)

Horne went unsigned by the Indians and enjoyed a nice career at Florida before getting picked by the Yankees in the 11th round in 2005. I gave Luke Scott to the Indians with their earlier pick in the first round, so bullpen help seems appropriate here. Maybe the boring name has something to do with it, but Johnson has been one of the game’s more underrated setup men. Throwing out the one start he made as a rookie, he has a 3.15 ERA in 183 relief appearances for the Orioles.

28. St. Louis Cardinals
Actual: Justin Pope
Redo: Skip Schumaker (164th pick, Cardinals)

Pope turned out to be a fine minor league closer after washing out as a starter with the Cardinals, but he never did get a look in the majors before retiring after the 2008 season. I’m replacing him with the Cardinals’ own fifth-round pick, Schumaker. He was never highly regarded in the minors at all — he didn’t post even a .700 OPS at any stop in his first 2 1/2 years in the St. Louis farm system — but he’s now in his fourth year playing pretty regularly for St. Louis.

29. Atlanta Braves
Actual: Josh Burrus
Redo: Casey Kotchman (13th pick, Angels)

Burrus was drafted as a shortstop, but he ended up in left field just a couple of years later and he didn’t have anything close to the bat to be useful there. Let’s put Kotchman here instead and on the sole basis that maybe if the Braves had him, they wouldn’t have traded Elvis Andrus, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz to the Rangers for Mark Teixeira in July 2007. Of course, the Braves got Kotchman in return when they decided they couldn’t re-sign Teixeira and sent him packing to the Angels a year later.

30. San Francisco Giants
Actual: Noah Lowry
Redo: Bobby Crosby (25th, Athletics)

The 2004 Giants had Deivi Cruz and Neifi Perez at shortstop, and while Cruz was surprisingly solid — he hit .292/.322/.431 in 397 at-bats — the AL Rookie of the Year would have been an upgrade for a team that ended up losing the NL West by two games. Of course, Crosby was pretty worthless after 2004; he had a good half-season while healthy in 2005, but nothing else. Still, that’s not bad compared to some of the alternatives.

Here are the best of the rest:

Jonny Gomes (529th pick, Rays)
Kelly Shoppach (48th pick, Red Sox)
David Bush (109th pick, Blue Jays)
Ryan Raburn (147th pick, Tigers)
Scott Hairston (98th pick, Diamondbacks)
Rajai Davis (1,134th pick, Pirates)
Chad Tracy (218th pick, Diamondbacks)
Gabe Gross (15th pick, Blue Jays)
Mike Fontenot (19th pick, Orioles)
David Pauley (240th pick, Padres)
Dan Johnson (221st pick, Athletics)
Brooks Conrad (236th pick, Astros)
Jack Hannahan (87th pick, Tigers)
Jeff Mathis (33rd pick, Angels)

And that’s pretty much all of there is to show for the 2001 draft.

Chipper Jones says the Mets are his pick to “go all the way”

Braves Spring baseball
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Chipper Jones may believe some weird things but he’s pretty savvy and clear-eyed when it comes to analyzing baseball.

Remember back in 2013 how he picked the Dodgers to beat the Braves in the NLDS? And how, because of his perceived “disloyalty,” Braves players had an immature little temper tantrum and refused to catch his ceremonial first pitch? Yeah, that was a great look. If I was more inclined to the hokey and irrational, I’d say that created “The Curse of Chipper” and that it condemned the Braves to two straight years of sucking. Hey, people have built careers on curses sillier than that.

Anyway, kudos to Chipper for apparently not giving a crap about that sort of thing and, instead, saying what he thinks about baseball. Stuff like how he thinks the Mets are going to win it all, saying “They’re really setting the bar and they’re my early-season pick to probably go all the way.”

Keeping in mind that anything can happen in baseball, it’s as good a pick as any other I reckon. Even if it means he has to say that the team who was his greatest rival during his playing career — and whom he thoroughly owned during that time — is better than the one that pays his salary now. Or any other one.

Did Tony La Russa screw Jim Edmonds’ Hall of Fame candidacy?

2011 World Series Game 4 -Texas Rangers v St Louis Cardinals
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Yes, that’s a somewhat provocative question. But it’s still an interesting question, the relevancy of and merits of which we’ll get to in a second. I pose it mostly so I can tell you about some neat research a friend of mine is doing and which should make Hall of Fame discussions and the general discussion of baseball history a lot of fun in the coming years. Bear with me for a moment.

There has long been a war between metrics and narrative. The folks who say that so-and-so was great because of the arc of his story and his career and those who say so-and-so was not so great or whatshisface was way, way better because of the numbers. Those views are often pitted as irreconcilable opposites. But what if they weren’t? What if there was some data which explained why some players become narrative darlings and others don’t? Some explanation for why, say, Jim Rice is in the Hall of Fame while Dwight Evans isn’t despite having better numbers? An explanation, that isn’t about voters being dumb or merely playing favorites all willy-nilly? What if there was some actual quantitative reason why favorites get played in the first place?

That’s the thesis of the work of Brandon Isleib. He has just finished writing a very interesting book. It’s not yet published, but I have had the chance to read it. It sets forth the fascinating proposition that we can quantify narrative. That we can divine actual numerical values which help explain a player’s fame and public profile. Values which aren’t based on some complicated or counterintuitive formula, but which are rooted in the very thing all baseball fans see every day: games. Wins and losses. The daily standings. Values which reveal that, no, Hall of Fame voters who made odd choices in the view of the analytics crowd weren’t necessarily stupid or petty. They were merely reacting to forces and dynamics in the game which pushed them in certain ways and not others.

“But wait!” you interject. “Jim Rice and Dwight Evans played on the same dang team! How does Brandon distinguish that?” I won’t give away all the details of it but it makes sense if you break down how the Red Sox did in certain years and how that corresponded with Rice’s and Evans’ best years. There were competitive narratives in play in 1975, 1978 or 1986 that weren’t in play in 1981 or 1987. From those competitive narratives come player narratives which are pretty understandable. When you weight it all based on how competitive a team was on a day-to-day basis based on how far out of first place they were, etc., a picture starts to come together which explains why “fame” works the way it does.

From this, you start to realize why certain players, no matter how good, never got much Hall of Fame consideration. And why others’ consideration seemed disproportionate compared to their actual performance. All of which, again, is based on numbers, not on the sort of bomb-throwing media criticism in which jerks like me have come to engage.

Like I said, the book won’t be out for a bit — Brandon just finished it — but in the meantime he has a website where he has been and, increasingly will be, talking about his quantification of narrative stuff, writing short articles posing some of the questions his book and his research addresses.

Today’s entry — which is what my headline is based on — isn’t really numbers-based. It’s more talking about the broader phenomenon Brandon’s work gets at in terms of trying to figure out which players are credited for their performance and which are not so credited and why. Specifically, it talks about how Tony La Russa, more than most managers, gets the credit for his success and his players probably get somewhat less than they deserve. In this way La Russa is kind of viewed as a football coach figure and his players are, I dunno, system quarterbacks. It’s something that is unfair, I think, to guys like Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen and will, eventually, likely be unfair to players like Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday.

It’s fascinating stuff which gets to the heart of player reputation and how history comes together. It reminds us that, in the end, the reporters and the analysts who argue about all of these things are secondary players, even if we make the most noise. It’s the figures in the game — the players and the managers — who shape it all. The rest of us are just observers and scribes.

Corey Seager tops Keith Law’s top-100 prospect list

Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager warms up before Game 1 of baseball's National League Division Series against the New York Mets, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
Associated Press
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Yesterday it was the top farm systems, today it’s the top-100 prospects from ESPN’s Keith Law.

As Law notes, there’s a HUGE amount of turnover on the list from last year, given how many top prospects were promoted to the bigs in 2015. Kris Bryant seems like a grizzled old veteran now. Carlos Correa too. Eleven of the top 20 from last year’s list have graduated into the bigs. Are we sure it’s only been a year?

So, obviously, there’s a new number one. It’s Corey Seager, the Dodgers’ infielder. Not that everything has changed. Byron Buxton is still number two. This will obviously be his last year on the list. If you want to see and read about the other 98, go check out Keith’s excellent work.

And yes, like yesterday’s farm system rankings, it’s Insider subscription only. There were comments about how much you all hate that and I am sure there will be many more of them today. I get that. No one likes to pay for content. I was somewhat amused, however, by comments that said things like “hey, maybe if we don’t click it, they’ll have to give it to us for free!” Maybe! Or, more likely, the content simply will cease to exist!

It’s good stuff, folks. There aren’t many paid sites I say that about.

Ozzie Guillen to manage again. In Venezuela

Ozzie Guillen Getty
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With Dusty Baker getting back into action with the Nationals and with there being at least some moderate sense that, maybe, inexperienced dudes might not be the best choice to manage big league clubs, I sorta hoped that someone would give Ozzie Guillen another look. Nah. Not happening.

Not that I’m shocked or anything. I can imagine that, under the best of circumstances, a guy like Guillen is hard to have around. He tends to find controversy pretty easily and, unlike some other old hands, Guillen never claimed to be any kind of master tactician. He famously said that he was bored during games until the sixth or seventh inning when he had to start thinking about pitching changes. Refreshing honesty, yes, but maybe not the sort of dude you bring on to, say, be a bench coach or to mentor your younger coaches or to show your hand-picked manager the ropes. Nope, it seemed like Guillen was destined to stay in broadcasting with ESPN Deportes or someone and that his days in uniform were over.

But they’re not over! Guillen was hired yesterday to manage the La Guaira Sharks of the Venezuelan Winter League next offseason. It’s not the bigs, but it is is first on-field gig since he was canned by the Marlins in 2012.

 

Guillen managed the White Sox from 2004-11 and was voted AL Manager of the Year in 2005, when Chicago won the World Series. He may be a bit of a throwback now, but he knows what he’s doing. While I can’t really say that a major league team would be wise to hire the guy — I get it, I really do — a selfish part of me really wants him back in the bigs. He was fun.