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« February 12, 2006 - February 18, 2006 | Main | February 26, 2006 - March 04, 2006 »

Santa Barbara -- Still Nice!:

02/25/2006 10:59 PM  |   |  Comment (8)  |  TrackBack (0)

Our 'Hood, More or Less: We used to live 100 yards away from this street; now it's like half a mile. And not that there's anything particularly special about it....

02/24/2006 11:32 PM  |   |  Comment (1)  |  TrackBack (0)

Top 10 Angel Season by a Shortstop: This one's even more dominated by a single player than last; keep in mind the Angels have played 45 seasons. And another shout-out to the Rev. Halofan, whose top-100 series inspired this little trip down positional memory lane:

1) Jim Fregosi, 1970
158 601 95 167 22 82 0/2 69 .278 .353 .459 126 32.8 X 12
2) Jim Fregosi, 1967
151 590 75 171 9 56 9/6 49 .290 .349 .395 124 27.8 X 7
3) Jim Fregosi, 1964
147 505 86 140 18 72 8/3 72 .277 .369 .463 141 27.5 X 13
4) Jim Fregosi, 1966
162 611 78 154 13 67 17/8 67 .252 .325 .391 108 26.1 X 28
5) Jim Fregosi, 1969
161 580 78 151 12 47 9/2 93 .260 .361 .381 113 26.1 X 20
6) Rick Burleson, 1981
109 430 53 126 5 33 4/6 42 .293 .357 .372 111 25.8 X
7) Jim Fregosi, 1965
161 602 66 167 15 64 13/5 54 .277 .337 .407 113 23.5 21
8) Jim Fregosi, 1968
159 614 77 150 9 49 9/4 60 .244 .315 .365 110 22.1 X 15
9) Jim Fregosi, 1963
154 592 83 170 9 50 2/2 36 .287 .325 .422 114 20.4 23
10) David Eckstein, 2002
152 608 107 178 8 63 21/13 45 .293 .363 .388 103 20.1 11

And the winner is: Jim Fregosi, the best Major League shortstop between Ernie Banks and Robin Yount. Between 1960, Banks' last full season as a SS; and 1980, Yount's first full season as superhero, nobody played the position better than the original Mr. Angel. Not Hall of Famer Luis Aparacio, base-stealing jerk Maury Wills, Cuban bunt-wizard Bert Campaneris, perpetual HoF sub-candidate Davey Concepcion, 1960 MVP Dick Groat, spaghetti-slurping slugger Rico Petrocelli, early-'80s casualty Gary Templeton, irritating pepperpot Larry Bowa, pre-Concepcion redleg Leo Cardenas, roostertastic mustache-boy Rick Burleson, or 1965 MVP Zoilo Versailles.

Don't believe me? Let's put Fregosi's best 8 seasons -- all of which are consecutive, and among the 10 best seasons ever by an Angel shortstop -- next to the best 8 seasons of all those other dudes, according to Win Shares. And again, 30 or more is generally MVP-candidate-worthy, 24-29 is All-Starish, 19-23 is among the five best in the league at the position, 14-18 is a decently contributing regular. Here's how they stack up to Jimbo:
XX: 01/02/03/04/05/06/07/08
JF: 33/28/28/26/26/24/22/20
LA: 22/21/21/20/20/20/19/18
MW: 32/28/27/21/20/20/19/19
BC: 29/26/22/22/22/20/19/18
DC: 30/25/25/24/23/20/19/19
DG: 31/26/21/20/20/17/16/16
RP: 37/23/23/15/15/09
GT: 25/24/21/21/17/16/16/12
LB: 22/16/15/15/14/12/12/12
LC: 23/22/22/21/19/17/17/12
RB: 26/21/21/19/18/16/14/11
ZV: 32/19/18/16/13/12/09/06

To sum up what you see -- Fregosi's best season (1970) was better than every other great SS's best season (including two MVP campaigns) except for Rico Petrocelli's 40-homer 1969. His second-best season, along with Maury Wills', was better than everyone else's. And this third-, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eight-best seasons were better than everybody else's, too.

"But," you might protest, "he was only a lifetime .265 hitter! What in hell?" True! But:
1) He wrecked his knee after 1970, effectively reducing his career after age 28 to a .245-hitting part-timer; and
2) His peak (1963-70) just happened to be the lowest-scoring eight-year period in the American League since the Dead Ball era. Fregosi numbers that at first glance seem modest, are in context monstrous.

Let's take 1963, his 8th-best year (and 9th-best season by an Angels shortstop), when Fregosi was all of 21 years old. He hit just .287, or worse than the entire 2003 Red Sox ... but that was still good enough for 9th best in American League. Why? Because the AL collectively hit .247 that year, its lowest mark since 1910. Over the remaining seven years of Fregosi's prime it mostly got worse: .247, .242, .240, .236, .230, .246, .250. (To compare, in 2005 the league hit .268). Ditto for runs scored per game; 1963 was the lowest scoring season (4.08) since 1946, then it deteriorated: 4.06, 3.94, 3.89, 3.70, 3.41, 4.09, 4.17 (last year it was 4.76, the lowest total since 1993). Going back to Fregosi's 21-year-old season, his 83 runs were good enough for 10th in the league, his 29 doubles 7th, his 170 hits 5th, and his 12 triples 2nd. Oh -- and he played in the most difficult hitter's park in modern Major League Baseball history, Dodger Stadium in the 1960s. Look at Fregosi's comps through his age-28 season, and not only do you see three Hall of Famers in the first 10, but you see that Fregosi was contextually a much better hitter than all of them, with an OPS+ of 117. He's right there between Joe Cronin and Frankie Frisch.

He finished in the top 28 in MVP voting each of his 8 big seasons, missing the All Star team just once, and bagging a Gold Glove in 1967 for good measure. I don't know if he would have made the Hall of Fame had his career not been shortened by injury, but I do know that he would have deserved it.
Conspicuous absence: Dick Schofield and Gary DiSarcina, who controlled the position from 1984-99, yet never came close to making this list. Schofield's high in Win Shares was 17.9 in the Division-winning year 1986, DiSar's was 14.6 in the second-place 1998; neither played nearly as well in any other season, nor generally did their teams, proving (along with Eckstein's 2002) that when recent Angels shortstops hit, the team will acquit itself well. These two guys both could really pick it, but man, were they lousy hitters.
The hell's HE doing here?: Rick Burleson. Remembered mostly around these parts as the prize in the disastrous Carney Lansford trade, and a guy who's career was cut short after a rotator cuff injury (which I witnessed), Burleson actually had a helluva 1981 as well, giving the Angels a killer double-play combination on an inexplicably mediocre team.
Other weirdnesses: This point has been made better by others, but Jim Fregosi was not only the most valuable pick ever made in an expansion draft in terms of performance, but he also brought home the bacon in a huge way when the Angels traded him after the 1971 season to the New York Mets for Frank Estrada, Don Rose, LeRoy Stanton ... and a cat named Nolan Ryan. Not only did Ryan average 17 wins and 300 strikeouts for the next 8 years, but the other guys contributed, too -- Stanton with three pretty good years (OPS+s of 122, 116 and 110), and Rose by being traded to the Giants for an unproven pitcher named Ed Figueroa, who immediately went 16-13 with a top-10 ERA+. Big Ed was shipped off the next year with Mickey Rivers for Bobby Bonds, and while it's true the Yankees got the better of the deal initially (going to the World Series in 1976 as Figueora won 19 games and Rivers finished 3rd in the MVP voting), Bonds had a monster 1977 for the Halos, which allowed them to ship him off in a blockbuster deal that landed none other than Brian Downing. So while Fregosi limped out his career, the Angels received Hall of Fame play from Nolan Ryan, a half-decade of decent stopgap work from Lee Stanton, great single seasons from Ed Figueroa and Bobby Bonds (and Chris Knapp and Dave Frost), plus productive play from Brian Downing all the way to 1990. Not a bad 30 years from one asset. Oh, and did I mention Fregosi also managed the Angels franchise to its first Division crown?
Shortstops raised at home, made famous elsewhere: Dickie Thon. I still don't want to talk about it.
Old soldiers who came here to die: Freddie Patek and Spike Owen, though the latter did hit in one of his two years.
Win Share Seasons and Totals: For Fregosi, Schofield, DiSarcina, Eckstein, Dave Chalk and Joe Koppe:
XX: 01/02/03/04/05/06/07/08/09/10 (total)
JF: 33/28/28/26/26/24/22/20/09/07 (223)
DS: 18/14/13/12/10/08/08/08/01 (92)
GD: 15/13/09/09/06/06/06/02/02/01 (69)
DE: 20/12/11/10 (53)
DC: 10/08/07 (25)
JK: 12/07/04/01 (24)

Positional miscellania: The most interesting thing in the history of Angels shortstopping is happening right now. The incumbent, Orlando Cabrera, is a very nice fielder, base-runner and clubhouse guy who just can't hit all that well, and he's locked in for another three years at $8 million per. Down on the farm are three or four of the best shortstop prospects in the game, led by 21-year-old Cal Ripkenesque monster Brandon Wood, who led all the minor leagues in home runs last year; and 22-year-old Erick Aybar, who makes most top-20 prospect lists & owns a .316 lifetime batting average. Wood's a big kid and may move to 3rd, but the Angels want him first to prove that he can't play SS. Both look like they could be ready by 2007, though I don't know yet who will play where this year. Managing this and the rest of the farm system's bounty will determine whether the Angels are able to establish a mini-dynasty over the next decade; my guess is that Cabrera will be traded after this season, to make way for the McPherson-Wood-Kendrick-Kotchman infield I've been dreaming about.

02/22/2006 11:57 PM  |   |  Comment (12)  |  TrackBack (0)

Bill James, on Copy Editors:

I have a very special problem with copy editors, which is that I am very strongly opposed to consistency in use of the language. I understand that this is unusual. I understand that I am a minority, and that most people think (actually, most people simply ASSUME, without thinking about it) that consistency in use of the language is preferable to inconsistency. It isn't. Inconsistency is vastly preferable to consistency, for many reasons. This is not a casual observation; it is a strongly held philosophy, central to my career. When confronted with a question of "how should I write this," very often I will resolve the issue by simply doing it the opposite of however I did it last time.

I understand that this is unusual; I understand that copy editors are assigned to search out inconsistency and get rid of it. But you need to understand:

1. I have very good reasons for doing things the way I do them.
2. My name is on the book; the copy editor's name isn't.
3. I know vastly more about the effective use of the English language than the copy editor does.

So ... I don't want any bleeping policies.

Quote from this book, which I received an advance copy of (including bobblehead doll) yesterday. Not surprisingly, I see that Aaron Gleeman and David Pinto have already posted reviews.

02/21/2006 10:32 PM  |   |  Comment (7)  |  TrackBack (0)

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