The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Archive for the tag “B.J. Upton”

My Baseball Predictions: A Look Back

Now that the final pitch of the 2013 World Series has been thrown (and congratulations to the Red Sox), it’s time to revisit the predictions I made for the season way back in March.  As to be expected, I got some things quite right, and some other predictions very much wrong.

Let’s start with the good news, or, at any rate, those predictions that I got right.  It gives me no pleasure to tell you that I picked the Mets to win 74 games this year, which is exactly how many games they ended up winning.  I had predicted them to finish in 4th place behind what I thought would be a 3rd place Phillies team.  But somehow, the Mets edged the Phillies for 3rd place.

I predicted that Matt Harvey could have a very big year, and he did, up until he suffered his season-ending injury.

I predicted that Rangers pitcher Scott Harrison, who won 18 games in 2012 while posting a 3.29 ERA, would be a bust in 2013.  Harrison got hurt early on, and pitched just 10 highly ineffective innings all year.  I didn’t predict the injury, but I still think he was on his way to a poor season anyway.

This is what I wrote about the Braves off-season acquisition of outfielder B.J. Upton:

Cue Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell” because Upton does like to run, but also because it’s what you should do when his name comes up in your Draft… his plate discipline has all but disappeared, and that he is one of baseball’s most prolific out-machines.  Last year, he batted .246 with a pathetic .298 on-base percentage.  In fact, he hasn’t batted above .250 in any of the past four years.  Upton might get off to a quick start, but at some point during the season, his lack of plate discipline will catch up to him.

B.J. Upton finished the year with a triple slash line of .184 /.268/.289.  Ouch.

I stated that the Yankees acquisition of Kevin Youkilis would be a non-factor in 2013 because he’d probably spend about half the season on the D.L.  Youkilis ended up playing just 28 games for the Yankees.

I predicted that the Cubs starting pitcher, Edwin Jackson, was the best bet to be baseball’s next 20-game loser.  Jackson led the N.L. with 18 losses.  Oh, so close.

As for Kyle Lohse, I wrote:

Lohse led the N.L. in win-loss percentage last season (.842) by losing just three of 33 starts.  You want to bet the farm that this veteran pitcher can do that again?  His relatively low K rate, his fly ball tendencies, his low BABIP and his career history point to a correction in the offing.  Don’t be the last man standing when the music stops on this song.

While Lohse didn’t have a terrible year, he finished with a record of 11-10, with a 3.35 ERA.  Compared to 16-3, 2.86, a correction certainly did take place.

On the Nationals’ pitcher, Jordan Zimmerman, I wrote:

Zimmerman averaged over 3 1/2 K’s per walk last year, and is entering his age 27 season.  Likely to receive plenty of run support, while probably reaching the 200 inning pitched level for the first time in his career, Zimmerman could be primed for a very impressive season.  He won 12 games last year, but could win half a dozen more this time around.

Zimmerman posted a record of 19-9, leading the N.L. in wins, and posted a 3.25 ERA in 213 innings.

Of a potential breakout season for Arizona Diamondbacks First Baseman, Paul Goldschmidt, I wrote:

The 25-year old Goldshmidt started slowly last season, but hit 18 homers over the last four months of the season, including five homers in a seven-game span.  The right-handed batting first-baseman actually led the Majors in line-drive rate last year.  If just a few of his 43 doubles turn into home runs this year, Goldschmidt could be on his way to 30+ homers, along with about a .280 batting average.

A fly ball hitter (Goldschmidt led the league in Sac. Flies last year) who plays his home games in one of the best hitter’s parks in the league, is off to a fine start in spring training posting a .429 average to date.  Also, he’s not merely a slugger, but an athlete who stole 18 bases in 21 attempts last year.  Goldschmidt is one of this generation’s most promising young baseball talents.  He could become a right-handed swinging Jim Thome.

Goldschmidt should finish in the top five in N.L. MVP voting later this off-season.  His final stat line for 2013:

He led the league in both 36 homers, and RBI, 125, while batting .302.  He also led the league with an OPS+ of 160, in total bases with 332, and in slugging percentage at .551.  Truly a fantastic breakout season.

I predicted that the Tampa Bay Rays would win the A.L. East with about 95 victories.  The Rays won 92 games and ended up winning one of the two  Wild Card slots.  Not too far off.

I predicted that the Yanks would miss the playoffs, and were, at best, an 85-win team.  The Yanks finished tied with Baltimore for 3rd in their division with 85 victories.

I said that the Royals would finally finish over .500 this season, if only by a couple of games.  The Royals did a little better than I expected, posting a record of 86-76.

I stated that the Dodgers would win 95 games and the N.L. West title.  They won 92 games and the N.L. West title.

I predicted the Rockies would finish last in the N.L. West with 71 wins.  They finished last with 74 wins.

Moderately close to being correct, I predicted the Reds would win the N.L. East with 92 victories.  They did win 90 games, but that was good for just 3rd place, and one of the two Wild Card slots.

Now, how about all of my misses!

I predicted the Red Sox to finish in last place again in 2013.  Oops.

I stated that Mets first baseman, Ike Davis, would have a productive season, with around 30 homers, 80-90 RBI, and a .260-.270 batting average.  Davis, as every Mets fan knows, was a huge bust, posting a triple slash line of .205/.326/.334.  He hit just 9 homers, and drove in just 33 runs.  Unbelievably, it looks like there’s a chance the Mets might bring him back again in 2014.  Apparently, there is no bottom line at Citi Field.

I thought the Giants would win one of the two N.L. Wild card slots with around 87 wins.  They won just 76 games, tied for 4th in their division.

I predicted that the Nats would win between 95-100 games, and easily top the Braves in the N.L. East.  The Nats underachieved all year, and somehow won just 86 games, a full ten games behind the Braves.

I said the Pirates would finish under .500 again.  They finished with the 3rd best overall record in the entire N.L. with 94 victories, and a post-season appearance.  I’m glad I was wrong about this one.

I picked the Angels to win the A.L. West, and to represent the A.L. in the World Series.  They won just 78 games.  (Is Albert Pujols really finished?)

I suppose I’ll have another go at it next March for the 2014 baseball season.  Hopefully, I’ll get at least a few things right.

Fantasy Baseball: Five Potential Busts for 2013

If I was drafting a fantasy baseball team this year (and I haven’t yet ruled out the possibility), these are five players I would likely stay away from.  While they may retain a certain amount of value this year, it is probable that each of them will be overpriced, or will be drafted too high, on Draft Day.

Here, then, are your potential “busts” for 2013:

Matt Harrison

Matt Harrison (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1)  Matt Harrison:  A few years ago, Rangers’ pitcher Scott Feldman won 17 games despite a relatively low strikeout rate.  He also, of course, pitched his home games in one of the best hitter’s parks in the A.L., the same park that Matt Harrison calls home.  I predicted he would be a bust going into 2010.  It turns out that Feldman has won just 15 games total over the past three seasons.  Matt Harrison has a similar profile to Scott Feldman.

Harrison has enjoyed back-to-back successful seasons with the Rangers, and he is a better pitcher than Feldman, but Harrison averaged just 5.6 strikeouts per nine innings last year.  He also doesn’t walk a lot of hitters, but what that does mean is that he puts a lot of balls in play.  It’s much more likely than not that an 18-game winner with a nice 3.29 ERA pitching for a good team who is still just 27-years old will generate a lot of interest on Draft Day.

But keep in mind that most of his value has come on relatively good luck on balls in play, and that when, not if, more of those balls find gaps, that ERA will rise proportionately.  It also means that win total will decrease by perhaps as much as a third.  Draft the player Harrison is likely to be in 2013, not the player he was in 2012.

2) B.J. Upton:  Cue Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell” because Upton does like to run, but also because it’s what you should do when his name comes up in your Draft.  You can point to his sexy 28 homers and 31 steals, and the fact that he might be more motivated playing in the same Braves outfield as his brother.  You might also point out that he is still just 28-years old.

I would point out that his plate discipline has all but disappeared, and that he is one of baseball’s most prolific out-machines.  Last year, he batted .246 with a pathetic .298 on-base percentage.  In fact, he hasn’t batted above .250 in any of the past four years.  Moreover, in 2008 (his career year), he drew 97 bases on balls.  Last year, he was down to just 45 walks in nearly the same number of plate appearances.  It also remains to be seen what effect playing on the somewhat slower infield surface in Atlanta will do to his game.

B.J. Upton might get off to a quick start, but at some point during the season, his lack of plate discipline will catch up to him, and his bat could disappear for an entire month.  So don’t draft the player who slugged 28 homers and stole 31 bases.  Draft, if you must, the player who reached base less than 30% of the time, and who scored fewer runs last year than the .220-hitting, slow-footed Dan Uggla.  Ouch.

Kevin Youkilis at bat against the Tampa Bay De...

Kevin Youkilis is about to hurt himself.

3)  Kevin Youkilis:  Though the Yankees will be leaning heavily on his bat this year, they better not lean too hard, or it, along with its owner, will make be making a trip to the D.L.  Youk has never played as many as 148 games in any season in his career.  He hasn’t played as many as 136 games since ’09.  More to the point, his quality of play has severely diminished over the past few years.  Although he still has a bit of home run pop, he managed just 15 doubles last year, about half the number he used to produce in a typical season.  Youk is now 34-years old, going on 40.

Certainly, there will be some people out there who believe a return to form is quite possible.  The Greek God of Walks will return to demolish the naysayers and the heretics.  But those who pick up Youkilis should expect him to miss around 40-50 games, and produce no more than a mid-range batting average with medium power.  In other words, when he plays, he’ll be an average third baseman, but he won’t play enough to waste a draft pick on him.

Kyle Lohse

Kyle Lohse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4)  Kyle Lohse:  This 34-year old control freak has gone 30-11 over the past two seasons with a nifty 3.11 ERA over his last 400 innings.  Now the bad news:  Lohse is a 34-year old pitcher with average stuff who was a career 88-98 pitcher up until two years ago.  Lohse has benefited from a low .265 batting average of balls in play which is likely unsustainable.  In other words, he’s been more lucky than good, though he’s not a bad pitcher.

Lohse led the N.L. in win-loss percentage last season (.842) by losing just three of 33 starts.  You want to bet the farm that this veteran pitcher can do that again?  His relatively low K rate, his fly-ball tendencies, his low BABIP and his career history point to a correction in the offing.  Don’t be the last man standing when the music stops on this song.

5) Brandon Phillips:  Because second basemen don’t tend to age very well.  Now 32-years old, Phillips’ decline is already in progress.  He was once a 30 homer, 30 steal player.  Then he was a 20-20 guy.  This year, expect a 15-15 guy.  That’s not bad, but some people will be paying for the Brandon Phillips they remember from five years ago.

Philips also doesn’t draw walks, so his on-base percentage is entirely based on his batting average, which hovers around .275 most years.  But declining speed and power could precipitate a sudden and serious overall decline in production.  While I don’t expect this season to be the year Phillips falls entirely off the radar screen, don’t panic into paying top dollar for someone whose best seasons are clearly behind him.

Underrated / Overrated: Baseball and Other Stuff

There is more to life than baseball.

Well, perhaps not.  But there are other things that fill up our day-to-day lives that, at one time or another, at least some people deem important.

Things such as the Punic Wars.  Or the T.V. show, “M.A.S.H.”  Or the Industrial Revolution.

Some of these events / people / movies / wars, etc.  have been underrated.  Some of them have been overrated.

Baseball, of course, has always featured its fair share of underrated players, managers and teams, and their overrated counterparts as well.

In this blog-post, I will combine my all-time (including contemporary) underrated and overrated people and topics regarding baseball, and some of everything else as well.  And I do mean everything.

Stay with me on this one, and I think you’ll soon get the hang of it.

Overrated:  “Field of Dreams.” This movie becomes increasingly unbearable to watch with each subsequent viewing.  It is basically an  exercise in Baby-Boomer self-indulgence masquerading as a lesson about “listening to your dreams.”  The overwrought Ray character (Kevin Costner vs. The Man) Stays True to Himself and reconnects with his estranged dad (even if he is just a ghost tromping around in a cornfield.)

Baseball is Spiritual!

And there’s something in there about kidnapping an African-American Civil Rights era writer (who ends up being O.K. in the end with having been kidnapped, of course) so that they can go to a baseball game together.

Baseball is Progressive!

Just, please, stop.

Underrated:  “Eight Men Out.” Every time I watch this film, I notice something subtle I hadn’t noticed the first time around.  Not as graceful as “The Natural,” but not as mawkish, either.  And, of course, this movie about the Black Sox Scandal has taken on added irony since Roger Clemens, who has a cameo in this film, has been embroiled in his own scandal as well.

Overrated:  B.J. Upton – No, he is not likely to ever become the superstar that baseball fans have been fantasizing about for around three years now.

Underrated:  Justin Upton – Yes, he is likely to become the superstar that many people thought his older brother, B.J., would become.

Overrated:  The Revolutionary War – Yeah, I know, it’s cool to be an independent nation and all, but the American colonies, over time, would probably have enjoyed an increasingly greater level of self-government vis-à-vis the Brits.  And we would have avoided the pointless War of 1812 as well.

Underrated:  The French and Indian War – If the French Army, in league with their Canadian trapper and Indian allies, had won this war, the inhabitants of the original English colonies would have eventually faced the choice of sailing back to England, or becoming subjects in the North American realm of King Louis’ French Empire.  There wouldn’t have been any Founding Fathers, Constitution, United States as Beacon of Liberty / Spread of Democracy Worldwide, etc.  Game. Set. Match.

Overrated:  Carl Yastrzemski – O.K., Red Sox fans, name your favorite Carl Yaz moment.  You can’t, can you?  Perhaps the single most boring superstar of all-time.

Underrated:  Luis Tiant – Although I rooted for the Big Red Machine in the ’75 Series (someone had to), I certainly did enjoy watching Tiant pitch against the Reds in that series.  What a character. Tiant’s dad, by the way, once pitched against a St. Louis Cardinals team barnstorming through pre-Castro Cuba.

Overrated:  John F. Kennedy / Ronald Reagan – Given the fact that St. Patrick’s Day is coming up, I probably shouldn’t point out that people of Irish ancestry routinely deify their heroes, whether they’re dead or not.  Bono, for example, has already surpassed James Joyce as the Emerald Isles wordiest artist-in-search-of-immortality.

Underrated:  Dwight D. Eisenhower – Supreme Allied Commander during WW II, two-term President of the United States, responsible for America’s interstate highway system, sent the 101st Airborne into Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce school integration, and warned us (presciently, as it turned out) about the dangers posed by the Military-Industrial Complex in his Farewell Address.

Overrated:  Derek Jeter – Not as a player, but given the sorry state of baseball’s “marketing” campaign, as the de facto “Face” of baseball.  Um, like it or not, yes he is.

Underrated:  Albert Pujols – Not as a player, but as a symbol of the Latino community’s continual, and unjustifiable, second-class status as Americans.  There is no reason why Pujols, the greatest player in the game today, should not be as recognizable to the average American as Peyton Manning, Michael Jordan, or (ahem) Tiger Woods.

Overrated:  Napoleon – One Word:  Waterloo

Underrated:  Alexander the Great – One Word:  Undefeated

Overrated:  David Wright – A very good baseball player, perhaps a future Hall-of-Famer.

Underrated:  Ryan Zimmerman – A very good baseball player, perhaps a future Hall-of-Famer.

Overrated:  “Tarzan and Jane” movies, 1950’s.  Their bodies were safely covered up like Mainers in the Summer, wary of that sudden, impending chill off the lake.

Underrated:  “Tarzan and Jane” movies, 1930’s.  In the heady days before Hollywood went off the deep end with its puritanical rating system, Jane is obviously, sumptuously nude while swimming in the water of an African river.  Good stuff.

Overrated:  A’s General Manager Billy Beane: Yes, I know, he always has a limited budget to work with.  But didn’t he give a huge contract extension to Eric (maybe I’ll play tomorrow) Chavez?  Like it or not, a G.M. still has to win something once in a while to stay credible.

Underrated:  Braves General Manager John Schuerholz: Does anyone remember the last time the Braves had a string of truly awful seasons?  You would have to go back to the late 1980’s, culminating in the 65-97 record of 1990.  That’s back when a country called the U.S.S.R. still existed.  Since 1991, the Braves have enjoyed 13 ninety-plus win seasons in 20 years.  In a football crazy region, with a medium-level payroll, Schuerholz usually (but not always) avoids big mistakes, gambles effectively, and promotes discipline and balance throughout the Braves system.

Overrated:  Classical Music – Before you snub your nose at me and laugh at my blue-collar, Bridgeport, CT, roots, let me tell you that, yes, over the years I have listened to, studied, and even purchased classical music, so I believe I do have a healthy appreciation of this art-form.  Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, and Aaron Copeland’s “Appalachian Spring” are some of my favorites.

But I also have no doubt that if an 18th century audience heard Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” in a live performance down the hall, they would have wet their collective bloomers in astonishment and excitement, and stampeded towards that remarkable sound.

Underrated:  Jazz Music – The purest and greatest of all American art-forms.  It is simply impossible to imagine America without Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Billie Holliday, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, or Miles Davis.  America without Jazz music would be like watching a film in a movie theater with the sound turned off; you could still enjoy the spectacle, and figure out the basic premise, but you’d miss the mood, tone, and soul of the film.

Overrated:  Roger Clemens – America loves the image of the lone Texas gunslinger riding into town, wrestling control of the situation through violence, or the threat of high-heat, and riding off mysteriously into the sunset.  Nolan Ryan may have been baseball’s original Clint Eastwood-Anti-Hero archetype, but Clemens played it to the hilt. Clemens, however, (even before the steroid scandal broke), more accurately fit the Shape-Shifter archetype.  The defining trait of this archetype is Uncertain Loyalties.  To whom was Clemens ever loyal?  He was more like a soldier-of-fortune.  Rooting for him was pointless.  He existed to fulfill his own ambitions.

Underrated:  Greg Maddux: He actually did all the things that a Western gunslinger is supposed to do, but he did them without the self-preening drama carefully orchestrated by Clemens.  During the 1990’s, in the Era of The Hitter, Maddux posted a period of seven consecutive years of ERA’s beyond comprehension.  From 1992-98, his annual ERA’s were as follows:  2.18, 2.36, 1.56, 1.63, 2.72 (Oh, My!), 2.20, and 2.22.  These are ERA’s right out of the Dead Ball Era.  Well, it’s just too bad he wasn’t much of a strikeout pitcher, because strikeouts are sexy.

Oh, really?  Maddux finished tenth all-time in career strikeouts with 3,371.  Who is just ahead of him in ninth place?  None other than Walter Johnson.

Maddux, by the way, also won 18 consecutive gold gloves.

Lastly, Maddux broke the immortal Cy Young’s record of 15 consecutive seasons of 15 or more wins, having reached that total in seventeen consecutive years.  Maybe the Cy Young award should be renamed the Greg Maddux award.

Oh, yeah, and one more thing.  Greg Maddux was born in San Angelo, Texas.

Overrated: T.V. Show, “M.A.S.H.” – For too many years, this preachy message-driven drivel (War is Bad!) was imposed on a Vietnam Era audience (although it uses the Korean War as its backdrop.)  It turns out that even in the face of an odious, unjust conflict, American boys (and a girl or two) could crack jokes, shower together, and drip sincerity between commercial breaks.  Who knew?  The way Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda) looked during his nervous breakdown in the Final Episode was the way I felt through most of the other episodes I ever bothered to sit through.

Underrated: T.V. Show, “The Shield.” –  How do you survive and do the job that needs to be done when no one around you (including your boss) wants you to?  Hidden dangers, both from without and within, lurk everywhere.  There is enough betrayal, passion, cruelty and nobility in this show to make Shakespeare envious.  And beyond that, it was never predictable or dull.

Overrated:  Alfonso Soriano – Usually leads the league, or is among the league-leaders, in Outs Made.  Even during his best seasons, his baseball instincts have always been poor.  Now he is older and injury-prone.  Good luck, Cubbies!

Underrated:  Bobby Abreu – Eight 20 / 20 seasons (homers / steals). Eight seasons of at least 100 runs scored, and eight seasons of at least 100 RBI’s.  His career Adjusted OPS+ is 132, higher than Hall-of-Fame outfielders Roberto Clemente, Rickey Henderson, Dave Winfield, Carl Yaz, Goose Goslin, and Jim Rice.

Overrated:  “300” – Plays like an S&M / Bondage primer masquerading as a modern, historical epic.  The Spartans, mind you, really did practice enforced homosexual relations within their ranks.  Perhaps this film isn’t such a stretch after all.

Underrated:  “Gladiator” – Russell Crowe’s best film.  Fantastic performances, excellent dramatic tension, great battle scenes.  “A people should know when they are conquered.”

Let’s leave it at that for today.  I hope you enjoyed this blog-post.  Agree / Disagree with any (all) of my underrated / overrated items?  Let me know.  Again, thanks for reading.

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