The Cubs' Carlos Silva is good? The White Sox's Jake Peavy is bad? This has got to be an April Fools' prank

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silva-carlos-100401.jpgThere is something odd going on with the Chicago sports scene.

No, Jay Cutler has not acquired the, umm, intestinal fortitude necessary to play quarterback. That would be too unbelievable to entertain even on April Fools’ Day. But what is happening is so puzzling it makes you rethink everything you know about baseball. Yes, as shocking as it seems, Cubs pitcher Carlos Silva appears to actually be good.

Before you rush to your calendar to see if it’s already 2012, consider that it is quite likely that Silva will not continue to be good for long. As he heads north to Wrigley Field and the games begin to count in the standings, there is a fair chance the Earth will return to its normal axis and Silva will go back to allowing nearly two base-runners per inning. Many of these base-runners will dance around the bases to score runs. This will also cause Cubs fans to logically heap blame on a goat, and possibly, Milton Bradley.

But for now, Milton Bradley and goats everywhere can rest easy, for after compiling a 1.40 ERA in his last five spring training starts, Carlos Silva is good. In fact, he tells the Chicago Tribune that he always believed he was good.

“I’m not going to say I’m surprised, because that’s what I’m working for,” Silva said. “I’ve been taking this spring very, very seriously.”

It’s nice that Silva is taking his job so seriously this spring. And I’m sure the Seattle Mariners are thrilled to hear it, because the non-serious, always-clowning-around Silva went 5-18 for them – in a pitcher’s park.

In related Chicago bizarreness, White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy continues to struggle, striking out seven but allowing three runs in four innings against a minor league team. He entered the day 2-1 with a 6.55 ERA in Cactus League play.

The reaction to Peavy’s spring results has manager Ozzie Guillen predictably testy:

“A lot of people are talking (bleep) on TV and radio (about Peavy),” Guillen said. “All of a sudden, when you have a microphone in your hands you think you know (a lot) about baseball.”

I hear you, Ozzie. And if Carlos Silva is going to be good, and Jake Peavy bad, I don’t know what to think of baseball anymore.

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Lou Whitaker snubbed from the Hall of Fame again

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Long time Tigers second baseman Lou Whitaker has long been one of baseball history’s most underrated players. He and Hall of Fame shortstop Alan Trammell formed one of the best up-the-middle combos ever, teammates since Whitaker’s debut in 1977 to his final year in 1995.

Trammell is actually a great jumping-off point to support Whitaker’s candidacy. Here are their career counting stats:

  • Whitaker: .276/.363/.426, 420 doubles, 65 triples, 244 homers, 1084 RBI, 1386 runs, 143 stolen bases, 1197 walks (9967 plate appearances)
  • Trammell: .285/.352/.415, 415 doubles, 55 triples, 185 homers, 1003 RBI, 1231 runs, 236 stolen bases, 850 walks (9376 plate appearances)

Whitaker also had slightly more Wins Above Replacement over his career according to Baseball Reference, besting Trammell 75.1 to 70.7. FanGraphs’ version of WAR puts both players slightly lower but with Whitaker still in the lead, 68.1 to 63.7.

Trammell, like Whitaker, did not make the Hall of Fame through initial eligibility on the ballot voted on by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, beginning five years after their retirement. Trammell was elected two years ago on the Modern Era ballot. Whitaker fell off the ballot in his only year of eligibility, earning just 2.9 percent of the vote in 2001. Whitaker was again snubbed on Sunday night, receiving just six of the 12 votes necessary for induction. Trammell became eligible on the BBWAA ballot in 2002 and had a 15-year run, with his support running as far down as 13.4 percent in 2007 and peaking at 40.9 percent in his final year in 2016.

Trammell and Whitaker critics cited things like never leading the league in any important categories and never winning an MVP Award as reasons why they shouldn’t be enshrined. That last reason, of course, ignores that both contributed to the Tigers winning the World Series in 1984, but I digress.

Trammell should have been elected to the Hall of Fame on the BBWAA ballot. And, since the distinction matters to so many people, he should have been inducted on the first ballot. Among Hall of Fame shortstops (at least 50 percent of their games at the position), Trammell has the eighth-highest WAR among 21 eligible players. He has ever so slightly more WAR than Barry Larkin (70.4), who made it into the Hall of Fame in his third year of eligibility with 86.4 percent of the vote.

Now, what about Whitaker? Among Hall of Fame second basemen (at least 50 percent of games at the position), Whitaker’s 75.1 WAR would rank sixth among 20 eligible second basemen. The only second basemen ahead of him are Rogers Hornsby (127.0), Eddie Collins (124.0), Nap Lajoie (107.4), Joe Morgan (100.6), and Charlie Gehringer (80.7). Whitaker outpaces such legendaries as Ryne Sandberg (68.0), Roberto Alomar (67.1), and Craig Biggio (65.5). Sandberg made it into the Hall in his third year on the ballot; Alomar his second; Biggio his third.

Among the players on the 2001 BBWAA ballot, the only player with more career WAR than Whitaker was Bert Blyleven (94.4), who eventually made it into the Hall of Fame. Dave Winfield (64.2) and Kirby Puckett (51.1) were elected that year. Also receiving hefty support that year were Gary Carter (70.1 WAR), Jim Rice (47.7), Bruce Sutter (24.1), and Goose Gossage (41.2) and each would eventually make the Hall of Fame.

WAR is not, by any means, a perfect stat, so the WAR argument may not resonate with everyone. Dating back to 1871, there have been only 66 players who hit at least 400 doubles and 200 home runs while stealing 100 bases. The only second basemen (same 50 percent stipulation) to do that are Whitaker, Hornsby, Morgan, Sandberg, Alomar, Biggio, Chase Utley, and Ian Kinsler. Additionally, Whitaker drew more walks than strikeouts over his career, 1197 to 1099. The only second basemen to do that while hitting at least 200 career homers are Whitaker, Morgan, Hornsby, Bobby Doerr, and Joe Gordon.

Whitaker was not without accolades: he won the 1978 AL Rookie of the Year Award. He was a five-time All-Star and took home four Silver Sluggers along with three Gold Gloves to boot. Trammell took home a similar amount of hardware: though he never won a Rookie of the Year Award, he did make the All-Star team six times. He went on to win four Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers.

In a just world, Whitaker would have been on the ballot for the then-maximum 15 years. In a sentimentally just world, he would have gone in side-by-side with Trammell in 2002. Whitaker’s candidacy certainly shouldn’t have fallen to the Modern Era ballot, and it shouldn’t have been further fumbled by a committee that gave him as many votes as Steve Garvey.