Tuesday, July 29, 2014

2015 Early Keltners: Randy Johnson

One of my favorite memories of baseball is watching Larry Walker turn around to bat right handed against the big unit, complete with helmet on backwards, during the all star game. It was hysterical, and a throwback to when baseball was an entertaining sport. Now that we have the taint of replay, baseball is becoming less human and more systematic. We need another knuckleballer to screw up DIPS: we need another unique player. Maybe we need another Big Unit.

1. Was he ever considered the best player in baseball?

Certainly the best (or on the short list) of the best pitchers in baseball. But, was he the best player? Johnson could not hit, and like many power pitchers did not field his position well. For much of his career, however, he was considered one of the best pitchers.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

For several seasons in Seattle (1989-98) you could put Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez in a box (strange image) and pull out one and answer a "Yes" to this question. With the D-Backs, he was the ace pitcher and likely the best player.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the League at his position?

From 1990 to roughly 2006, with several different teams, and several other HoF calibre pitchers as teammates (Schilling, Pettit possibly) he was the ace, and that was unquestioned. Much like Simmons alpha dog, Johnson and his scary facial hair was The Man. Or, at least The Man and 1/2 after Maddux. If you forced me to choose, I may take Maddux. But Johnson would absolutely make me think about it. In his league between 1990 and 1998, he most certainly was the best player at his position.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

The 2001 post season was the magnum opus of Johnson's career: a 5-0 record in the NLCS and World Series, allowing only 19 hits in 33 and 1/3 IP. Oh yeah, 38 Ks in those innings.

In the Northwest he is most remembered for the 1995 ALDS against the Yankees. Johnson came back with 3 IP in relief in game 5, striking out six and winning the deciding game after staving off elimination for the Mariners in game three.

In 1998, he was perhaps the most dominant trade deadline acquisition of all time. Traded to the Astros, Johnson went 10-1 with and ERA of 1.28 after August 2nd to solidify the Astros as the central division champs. Up 4.5 games when hey acquired Johnson, the Astros wound up winning the division by 13 and 1/2 games.

His career record in September and October is 51-17.

5. Was he good enough to contribute past his prime?

Johnson is 21 games over .500 after the age of 40. He did not make the majors until age 25 and won 222 games after his 30th birthday. That qualifies as contributing past his prime.

6. Is he the best player in history not in the Hall of Fame?

I would still go with Barry Bonds, but now that Greg Maddux is inducted, I would vote Johnson the best pitcher who is not in the Hall of Fame.

7. Are most players with similar stats in the Hall of Fame?

No player has a comp score with Johnson over 850, which is a definite mark in his favor. Of the 10 best comps for Johnson, 8 are in the Hall, with one being worthy (Roger Clemens) and the other being close (Mike Mussina).

The comp list reinforces the idea of the Big Unit as one of a kind; not only physically, but in performance as well.

8. Do the players numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

On the Hall of Fame monitor, Johnson has the third highest score of all time behind Walter Johnson and Roger Clemens. On the Hall of Fame standards, he is 13th highest of all time for a pitcher with the 12 people in front of him already in the Hall of Fame. The numbers undoubtedly reflect a hall of fame career.

9.Is there evidence to suggest he was much better or worse than his statistics?

I would argue that Johnson was one of those pitchers that was better than his statistics. He was intimidating as hell against left handed hitters. With his long arms, the slider which was so effective was coming from the right field seats. With his reach at 6'10 he appeared much closer to the plate than other pitchers.

Reputation stands for a lot, and Johnson had it. He was the most feared pitcher in baseball, if not the best. That stands for something in my book, as fear goes a long way into getting into the habits of the opposing team. Johnson could have a positive effect on a short series even if he was not pitching. When he was with the Diamondbacks, Johnson and Schilling turned into pick your poison.

10. Is he the best player eligible who has not been inducted?

No, as that would be Barry Bonds. I would argue that he is the best pitcher who has not been inducted.

11. How many Cy Young type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an Cy Young Award? If not, how often did he come close?

Johnson won 5 Cy Young awards, and finished second twice. He deserved it in 2004, but I would have gone with Kevin Appier in 1992. He won four consecutive awards from 1999-2002 and was deserving of each. He was in the top five three other times, finishing second on three occasions.

12. How many all star type seasons did he have? How many All Star teams did he play for? Did most other players selected to that many All Star games get elected to the Hall of Fame?

 Johnson was selected for 10 ASG and started four games.

13. If this man was the best player on his team, could they win the pennant?

Any team with Johnson as the ace could be in contention.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history?

Johnson did provide the most incredible video ever, when his pitch hit an unfortunate bird: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwpRHrAh3pk.

He is also the trade deadline acquisition to which all others will be compared.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of the Hall of Fame?

As far as I know, yes. Johnson has a reputation as a good teammate. His episode with Walker at the ASG was, in my opinion, keeping with the ballplayer reaction to most of the press nonsense that accompanies the game.

In an interview with ESPN, Johnson stated that the best thing that a player could have was two functioning ears.  He cast a very large shadow (no pun intended). He was one of those pitchers that you thought could throw a no hitter any time he took the mound. He was possessed of a mean streak and electric stuff. He was a singular pitcher in an era of "power pitchers". He and Maddux ( and Schilling post sock) were the only pitchers that I would say had a mystique about them. First ballot without a doubt.


2015 Early Keltners: John Smoltz

John Smoltz was on the team that broke my heart in 1992, but I'll forgive him. He remains one of my favorite pitchers, and one of my favorite players of the 1990s. It's funny how making the playoffs last year has mellowed me about the Braves.

1. Was he considered the best player in baseball?

I would argue that until the mid 1990s, Smoltz was viewed as the third best pitcher on his team. He won 24 games in 1996, and everyone went "Hey! Who's that guy with the beard?!?!?! The one 24 games over .500 for his career? The third guy behind that Maddux and Glavine?" Smoltz was an excellent athlete, and according to Maddux and the Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers possessed the best stuff of any of the big 3.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

I would argue that Smoltz was....the best pitcher on the Braves staff. This is a terrible risk, considering the chocolate covered awesomeness that was Greg Maddux. However, Smoltz was power with the "you will not get a pitch to hit" mentality; his two seamer was explosive and his slider was known to remove the hats of hitters. And he had excellent control; Smoltz fanned 200 hitters five times in his career, but walked 100 only once, in 1993. His 12 IBB had something to do with that. As a fan, I feared for the dignity of my teams hitters when he pitched.

3.Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

Again, perhaps, but Randy Johnson enters the argument in the 2000s. Between 2002 and 2004, he was the best closer in baseball. I told my brother in 2001 that Smoltz was going to be the "next Dennis Eckersley". I was right for three years.

4. Did he have a significant impact on pennant races?

Smoltz had a reputation as a money pitcher. In 5 games when the Braves faced elimination from the playoffs (Game 7 of the 1991 NLCS and World Series, the 1992 NLCS, game 4 of the 1999 World Series and game 5 of the 2002 NLDS) here is Smoltz's line:

31 1/3 IP, 23 H, 5 ER, 9 BB, 30 K, 1.033 WHIP, 1.43 ERA.

Smoltz made 8 starts in the world series. Some may quibble with him winning only two of those starts, but try this on for size: the Braves scored 33 runs in those starts, with 19 of them coming in two games. For 6 other World Series starts, Smoltz had 14 runs to work with, and lost 1-0 twice: once to Jack Morris in 1991, and to Andy Pettite in 1996.

His overall postseason record is 15-4 with 4 saves, 199 K in 209 IP. Yeah, that's money.

5. Was he good enough to contribute past his prime?

Smoltz had Tommy John surgery in 2000 at age 33, and won 14 games as a 40 year old in 2007 and made his final all star team. He pitched pretty well in only 6 starts in 2008 and was terrible with the Red Sox in 2009. He led the NL in wins with 16 at age 39 in 2006.

6. Is he the best player in history not in the hall of fame?

No, that would be Barry Bonds. He may be the second or third best pitcher, behind Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens.

7. Are most players with similar statistics in the Hall of Fame?

No players are "truly similar" to Smoltz, a mark in his favor. Of the ten, three are in the Hall (Jim Bunning, Catfish Hunter and Don Drysdale), two of whom a borderline candidates in my opinion. His best comp, Curt Schilling, in my opinion should be in the hall (http://cansofcool.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-keltner-list-curt-schilling.html). So, there is a favorable argument here.

8.Do the player's numbers meet hall of fame standards?

Smoltz hits 167 on the HoF monitor, with a likely Hall of Famer scoring 100. For standards, he comes in at 44 with an average Hall of Famer at 50. So, yes. His numbers as a starter are not as robust due to spending four seasons as a closer where he notched 154 saves. That's 38 per year, Holmes!

9. Is there evidence to suggest that he was better than his statistics?

I think so, as he was consistently said to own the best pure stuff on a staff that will eventually include three hall of fame starters. Craig Kimbrell passed him as the all time leader in saves for the Braves franchise earlier this month; Smoltz held the record despite being in the closer's spot for only three plus years.

10. Is he the best player eligible who has not been inducted?

No. See question #6.

11. How many Cy Young type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an Cy Young Award? If not, how often did he come close?

Smoltz won the 1996 Cy Young Award, and finished in the top five in 1998 and 2002. In 2006 he was 7th, and 2007 he was 6th. Brandon Webb deserved it more than Smoltz in both seasons, along with Jake Peavy, the winner in 2006.

12. How many All-Star type seasons did he have? How many All Star teams did he play for? Did most other players selected to that many All Star games get elected to the Hall of Fame?
Smoltz made 8 ASG, and started the game in 1996, which he won. His first ASG selection was in 1989...he was 11-6 in the first half that season, and went 1-5 in 11 starts after. Of the 6 other starting pitchers who made 8 ASG, four are in the Hall and  two (Pedro Martinez and Roy Halladay) will certainly merit consideration.

13. If this man was the best player on his team, could his team win the pennant?

Certainly, any team with Smoltz as its ace would contend.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history?

Smoltz was part of the three headed monster, the best rotation of the 1990s and quite possibly the best rotation in the history of major league baseball. It seemed Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz had been pitching together since Moses wore short pants in 1993, but it was just getting started. Unlike Eckersley, he made a successful return to the rotation in 2005, going 24 games over .500 for the next three years as a starter. When you think about it, that maybe the most impressive part of Smoltz's career. To make the switch once is difficult, but to go back to the rotation, at age 38 on a team perennially in the playoff chase, is quite a damn accomplishment.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of the Hall of Fame?

As far as I know he did just that, being a well respected if not beloved teammate.

For my money, Smoltz is a first ballot hall of famer. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

2015 Keltner List: Brian Giles

Brian Giles was one of my favorite players. Being a Pirate fan over the last twenty years has taught me many things, and one is to appreciate a good player on a bad team. So, thank you, Brian Giles, for playing so well for so many for such a poor team.




1. Was he regarded as the best player in baseball?


Not to my knowledge.


2. Was he the best player on his team?


From 1999-2003, definitely. Giles was the face of the Pirates franchise at the millennium. In 1999, he Todd Ritchie, Jason Kendall (even though he played in only 78 games), Kevin Young and Warren Morris led the Pirates to 78 wins, the closest that the team came to a winning record between 1992-2012.


He was arguably the best position player with the Padres in 2004-05. The Cleveland teams he played with were absolutely loaded.


3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

Giles played right field at the end of his career, but spent his time with the Pirates starting in center and left. He was never the best player in baseball at any of those positions, and was not the best left fielder in the NL during his time. Defensively he was average; most of his value was in hitting in a hitter-friendly era.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

Giles was a bench guy and part time DH on the heavy hitting Cleveland Indians teams of the mid 1990s, and went to the post season three times with them (1996-98). He would not appear in the post season again until 2005-06 with the Padres. His OPS in 77 postseason ABs is .597. The Indians won their division by more than 5 games in 1996-98.


5. Was he a good enough player to contribute past his prime?


The first time Giles received 500 AB in a season was his first year with the Pirates in 1999 at age 27. Over the next 10 seasons he was durable, averaging close to 150 games per season. He appeared in 147 games in 2008 at age 37, playing on an arthritic knee that eventually forced his retirement following the 2009 season. In his last full time year, he slashed .306/.398/.456 and posted 40 2B for the first time in his career.


6. Is he the best player in history not in the Hall of Fame?


No. Giles is not the best outfielder not in the Hall of Fame.


7. Are most players with similar statistics in the Hall of Fame?


Giles has seven "truly similar" players (similarity scores over 900). None of these players is in the Hall, but three are interesting. Reggie Smith, the player most similar to Giles, received 3 votes on his first year on the ballot in 1988. I find this unfair, as Smith was a much better player than that. Fred Lynn got between 4.5 and 5.5% of the votes in 1996 and 1997 and was off the ballot. Lynn was a better player than this indicates. Perhaps the most interesting is Dante Bichette, one of the poster boys for the 1990s offensive explosion and the Coors Field effect.

Bichette is a direct contemporary of Giles and received 0.6% of the votes in 2007. While this is due to the effect of playing in Denver, it may speak to what will happen with Giles next year. 1990s hitters have not done to well in the voting thus far. I have often thought about the coincidence of steroids and the expansion of baseball into the thin air of Coors, but I don't know what to make of it.


8. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?


In Giles' case, no. He is at 53 on the HoF monitor and 41 on the HoF standards. His career peak of 37.3 WAR is higher than several Hall members (Chuck Klein, Willie Keeler for example) but is lower than the average hall member.


9. Is there evidence to suggest that he was much better or worse than his statistics suggest?


Giles was implicated by Jason Kendall for using Adderall back in 1997-8. (See: http://www.bucsdugout.com/2010/3/11/1368924/jason-kendall-implicates-brian). I am not sure what became of this, but every player who hit more than 30 HR in the 1990s was suspected, and again, this is a problem of baseball's own making. Adderall itself is used for treatment of ADHD and is banned by baseball unless you have a doctor's note or pre-existing condition.


Giles' power number did drop off appreciably in San Diego, but most of that can be attributed to PetCo Park.

10. Is he the best player eligible who has not been inducted?

No.

11. How many MVP type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times did he come close?


Giles finished in the top 10 in MVP voting once (2005 San Diego: .301/.423/.483, led league in walks with 119) and in the top 20 in three of his four seasons in Pittsburgh.

12. How many All Star type seasons did he have? How many All Star games did he appear in?Did most other players who appeared in this many ASG go to the Hall of Fame?


Giles was named to two ASG (2000-01) but started neither. This would be a VERY low number for a Hall of Famer. I would argue he was worthy of a selection in 2005 but Tony LaRussa selected Jake Peavy instead.

13.If this man was the best player on his team, could that team win the pennant?


I would say no. Giles is rare in that he was clearly the best player on his team for nearly four seasons. For those four seasons the Pirates were 84 games under .500. This is not the fault of Brian Giles, but is the fault of multiple factors and the luck of the Pirates in those years.


 14. What impact did this player have on baseball history?


The main impact Giles made was helping the Pirates open PNC Park as the centerpiece of the "new" Pirates. Besides the Kendall accusation, Giles is not suspected of doing steroids, one of the few power hitting, productive outfielders of the 1990s who has escaped unscathed.


15. Did the player uphold the standards of the Hall of Fame?


In 2008 a video surfaced that appeared to show Giles hitting his girlfriend in a bar in Phoenix. In 2010, the resulting domestic violence suit was thrown out, but is currently on appeal by former "Baseball Wives" cast member Cheri Olivera. I refuse to call this woman a "reality TV star" as there is no such thing as "reality TV." He went to the now ubiquitous for celebs-beating-their-significant-others anger management classes.

The video looks pretty conclusive (http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/sports/Alleged-Beating-by-Padre-Caught-on-Tape.html) and the resulting court cases have bankrupted Olivera and caused Giles to sell his mansion in San Diego. Giles maintains that Olivera is a "gold digger" and went so far as to demand the return of Olivera's engagement ring (valued at over $107,000). Well, Jack Ass, don't grab your girlfriend by the back of the head and slap her around.

Giles was a good player, a strong hitter with an excellent batting eye, but is not a hall of famer.





















Monday, June 23, 2014

2015 Keltners Come Early: Troy Percival

This year, I will start early on the Keltner list, to take breaks between my job and writing for graduate school. Sheesh.

I will begin by looking at some of the first year ballot people, which is quite an interesting list for 2015.  Today, it is Troy Percival, one of the top closers of the late 90s and early 2000s. He was drafted in the 6th Rd out of UC-Riverside. He spent his first season in the minors as a catcher in 1990, then switched to the bullpen at Boise in 1991.

  1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?
Not to my knowledge. He was well respected, but never considered "the best".
Was he the best player on his team? No, but was a big part of a World Series championship.
   
     2. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

Percival appeared in the post-season just once but was on the World Series champion 2002 Angels. In the 2002 post season, he recorded 7 saves in 9 appearances, and was dominant in the AL Championship series against the Twins (2 SV, 0.00 ERA, 3 1/3 perfect IP.) Down the stretch in 2002, Percival posted a great 1.61 ERA after the All Star Break. He blew a save on April 21 against the A's, dropping the Angels record to 6-12, and only blew three more during the rest of the regular season.

In 1997, Percival recorded 13 SV in August and September as the Angels faded to second. While he was voted a full share of the 2006 Tiger's series share, he was on the DL all season with a forearm injury

     3. Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play past his prime?

The aforementioned injury cost Percival the better part of two seasons before he decided to comeback with the Cardinals in 2007. The 2005 injury was at age 35, and Percival had pitched in at least 50 games 10 seasons in a row before he was hurt. After his comeback, he was not the same pitcher, but managed to last one season as a closer for the Rays in 2008.

     4. Is he the best player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

No.

     5. Are most players with comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame?

Of Percival's 10 best comps (all over 900 on the similarity scale, a very strong comp number) none are in the hall. His #2 comp was the closer on the team Percival's Angels beat in the 2002 Series, Robb Nen. While Nen, Jeff Montgomery, Rod Beck and Tom Henke were all good relievers, none are particularly good candidates.

     6. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

Percival never led the league in saves (ummmmmmm.....Mariano Rivera?) and is borderline on the hall of fame monitor. He is very low on the HoF standards, and his career peak is roughly 1/2 the WAR value of the 5 relievers in the hall of fame.

     7. Is there any evidence to suggest he was significantly worse or better than his statistics?

Not really. Percival may have been the first closer to be groomed as such when in the minor leagues; I am not sure about this, but he certainly was one of the first. He is also the career leader in saves for the Angels franchise.

     8. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?

I would argue no and would pick Lee Smith. One could also point to John Smoltz, but as he was a starter for the majority of his career, I would go with Lee Smith.

     9. How many Cy Young/MVP seasons did he have? Did he ever win a Cy Young award? If not, how many times was he close?

Percival never got a vote for a Cy Young award. Not one. He deserved a few in 2002 probably, and maybe a few other seasons.

     10. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the other players who played in this many go to the Hall of Fame?

Percival was selected for four ASG and pitched in three (1996, 1998-99, 2001). He was deserving in 2004. For the five relievers in the Hall, they average seven appearances, not including Mariano Rivera's non-eligible 13 appearances.

     11. If this man was the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

I don't think so. Granted, closers are an important piece of a ballclub (regardless if the "book" covering their use is nonsense) but the one postseason appearance in Percival's career with the Angels speaks for itself. For the best Angels of the period, I would go with Tim Salmon, Darin Erstad or Jim Edmonds.

     12. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

Again, I am not sure if Percival was the first pitcher to be groomed as a closer from A ball on. If so, that is a fairly important place.

     13. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

When Percival was voted a full share for the 2006 World Series, he used the money to pay for a box at Comerica Park for the use of the players wives. He has run multiple baseball camps in southern California, and coaches at his old high school.

While a good pitcher for quite a few years, I don't think Percival is a Hall of Fame candidate.




    

Friday, January 10, 2014

Hall of Fame Voting

Congrats to Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux on being voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. All three are deserving candidates.

That being said, all three are absolutely no brainers. In short, here is what I think about  this vote.


1. For the 16 writers who did not vote for Greg Maddux: I will make no attempt, nor justification, concerning the blinkard, Philistine pig-ignorance of not voting for someone on the first ballot. Your votes should be taken away. Don't vote for him because you don't want to, not because of some foolish notion that no one is a 100% Hall of Fame player. If you, as one of the Dodgers writers did, chose not to vote for him because of the era he played in. you are even  more foolish.


2. Jack Morris was not elected. In one of my previous posts, I pointed out that without his post-season record, he is Dennis Martinez. Even with his post-season record, he is a less worthy candidate than Curt Schilling. http://cansofcool.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-keltner-list-jack-morris.html

To make the argument that he was the Pitcher of the 1980s is foolish, as it pays attention to one thing: he won more games than anyone else in the 1980s. Who won more Cy Youngs in the 1980s than Morris? Roger Clemens, Steve Stone and Lamarr Hoyt to name a few. Hoyt led the league in wins more times in the 1980s than Morris. The pitcher of the 1980s is most likely Roger Clemens, not Jack Morris.

Mark Grace had more hits than anyone in baseball in the 1990s, and was on the All Star team 3 times, never finished higher than 13th in the MVP voting. Does this mean that he is a hall of famer because he had the most-of-something in a decade? The same voters do not think so, as Grace disappeared after receiving 4.1% of the votes in 2009.

3. Craig Biggio missed induction by two votes; one writer sent in a blank ballot, an several are on record saying that they will not vote for anyone who did PEDs. Biggio is not linked to PEDs. Why not vote for a man who was an All Star at two of the most demanding defensive positions as well as one of the top leadoff and number two hitters of the 1990s? Who knows? To repeat: one writer sent in a blank ballot as a protest, another refuses to vote for anyone who played in the 1990s. So who voted for Jacque Jones?


4. Of the "certain" users, Rafael Palmeiro will be off the ballot next year, even though Tom Singer described him as a "constant marvel" before he was caught doping. Singer did not vote for Bonds.


Pre PED MVPs for Bonds: 4
Career MVPs for Palmeiro: 0. Nada, Zilch, Bumpkis.

Pre PED All Star Games for Bonds: 8
Career All Star Games for Palmeiro: 4

Before Bonds went on the PEDs in 1998 he was the best player in baseball. Palmeiro was a good first baseman. Mr. Singer, no offense, but that "constant marvel" line is silly. Barry Bonds pre PEDs was three times the player that Palmeiro ever was.

5. Rafael Palmeiro will be the first player in baseball history to have 3000 hits and not be in the hall. That is unless the Vets Committee comes up with a way of dealing with the steroid era.

6. Alan Trammel will probably not get voted in; next year, players such as Randy Johnson, Gary Sheffield, John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez will crowd him off. This is a crime.

7. Lee Smith will probably disappear next year as well, even though he should not. Since one fool voted for Benitez this year, some fool or two will vote for Troy Percival next year and not vote for Lee Smith.

8. I am surprised that Larry Walker did not crack 20% of the vote. He deserved more, as did Fred McGriff. I am not sure that they are Hall of Famers, but they are better than their vote percentage.



Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Keltner List: Mike Piazza

This is the final Keltner List that I will do prior to the announcement of the Hall of Fame voting. Piazza is in a strange position, as he is under a cloud of steroid suspicion.  Piazza never tested positive for PEDs. He admitted in his book that he used androstenodione, the same substance that set off the "wait-where-did-these-supplements-come-from" business in 1998 when it was spied in Mark McGwire's locker. The other evidence against Piazza is due to Murray Chass and Jeff Pearlman, writers who point to the following things:

1. Back acne, a symptom of steroid use.
2. Piazza was a 62nd round draftee out of Miami-Dade CC of the Dodgers in 1988.
3. Rumors that Piazza was juicing.

I would respond this way:

1. Yes, it is a symptom of steroid use. Piazza is listed at 6'3, 200 lbs. Piazza had huge thighs when he came up to the majors and had incredibly strong hands. Could this be a product of swinging a sledgehammer around as his dad insists? Possibly. Could it be steroids? Possibly.

2. As far as I could figure out, the only other 62nd round draft pick to make the major leagues was Billy Harris, a shortstop who spent parts of two seasons with Cleveland and Kansas City in 1968 and 1969. However, at least 253 professional baseball players spent time at Miami Dade CC since the 1960s. I also have to point out that the University of Miami won the National Championship in 1985; Piazza walked on. Coach Ron Fraser was a friend of Tommy Lasorda. Piazza told the Los Angeles Times in 1993 that he "was overwhelmed and wanted out" and wound up at Miami-Dade...after injuries, he took to the weight room."

I know plenty of people who walked on to football and basketball teams at the University of Iowa, and they are almost all five times the athletes that I am. That Piazza "had no talent" but actually got to play with a university that had won two titles in five years is horseshit. If Lasorda doesn't call in a favor, sure, Piazza does not go to Florida. Are you telling me that he wasn't good enough to not go anywhere else?

3. Name me five players who put up huge numbers in the 1990s who by 2003 were not "rumored to be juicing." That list is long and distinguished and proves nothing. If anything, it strikes me as knee-jerk reaction on the part of an industry that did its best to defend the changes in the game of the 1990s following the strike.

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball?

Not that I am aware of. One of the best hitters, yes. One of the best players? Not really.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

From 1993-1997 Piazza was the best Dodger; he was their best hitter playing a very difficult defensive position. From 1998-2002 he was the best hitter the Mets had, again playing a very difficult defensive position. I would answer a solid yes to this question.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

Piazza was the best catcher in the NL for his offensive prowess in the 1990s, bar none. Charles Johnson was much better defensively and hit some HR but he was nowhere near the offensive force that Piazza was. During the 1990s, Piazza and Pudge Rodriguez were by universal acclaim the best catchers in baseball, with Benito Santiago a somewhat distant third. 

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

In 2000, Piazza was wonderful in the postseason (.333/.409/.769) hitting 4 HR in 10 games. Besides that season, his post season record is fairly weak (.234/.281/.345) in 22 games. Piazza had a tendency to wear down in September (after all, he was a catcher) with an incredibly, earth shatteringly awful OPS of .888 in September for his career. Sheesh. 

In 1995, Piazza hit .448 against the Rockies with 4 HR while the Dodgers finished a game ahead of them and beat the Rockies 9 times in 13 tries. 

The 2000 Mets crumbled a bit in September and finished second to the Braves by a game. Piazza hit below his standard in September (.771 OPS) but did hit 5 HR in the month.


5. Was he good enough to contribute past his prime?

Piazza began to wear down in 2003, missing most of his 34 year old season with injuries. He hit 22 HR with San Diego at 37 as a full time catcher, but struggled mightily in Oakland the next season. For a catcher, Piazza was still quite productive into his early 30s after having caught 130 or more games six times between 1993 and 2002.

6. Is he the best player in history not in the hall of fame?

No; I would still vote Bonds here, but Piazza is in the top five. 

7. Are most players with similar statistics in the Hall of Fame?

Of Piazza's 10 highest comps, seven are in the hall.  As Bill James pointed out, "most ordinary players will have 5-10 truly similar players" (James, Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame, 93). This would be a similarity score of over 900. Only Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra score as "similar" to Piazza with scores over 800. This is a marker of Piazza being an extraordinary player. 

8. Do the players number meet hall of fame standards?

Piazza scores a 62 on the Hall of Fame standards and 207 on the hall monitor. Both of these are well above the average hall of fame player. 

9. Is there evidence to suggest he was much better or worse than his statistics?

The biggest knock on Piazza throughout his career was on defense. Piazza allowed the most SB by a catcher in the NL 10 times in his 13 full seasons as a full time catcher. He led the NL in passed balls twice but scores well on metrics such as range factor. Piazza was an average to slightly below average catcher early in his career via the total zone rating, but was awful behind the plate after the 2001 season. 

In the article "Should Mike Piazza be in the Hall of Fame?" John Dewan questions the efficacy of defensive metrics with Piazza, and also points out that he handled pitchers very well.  The one thing that most people agree upon is that Piazza was terrible at throwing out basestealers. This strikes me as interesting, as Tommy Lasorda told the story repeatedly that Joe Ferguson, whom he hired to work with Piazza, really liked his arm. 

(http://www.billjamesonline.com/should_mike_piazza_be_in_the_hall_of_fame_/)

10. Is he the best player eligible who has not been inducted?

I would argue no, as I would still go with Bonds. 

11. How many MVP type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how often did he come close?

Piazza never won an MVP; he was the Rookie of the Year in 1993 and took home the silver slugger award as a catcher in the NL every year from 1993-2002. He did finish in the top 10 in the MVP voting seven times in ten seasons (1993-2002).

In 1996, he finished second to Ken Caminiti who enjoyed one of the great fluke seasons of all time. That this fluke in particular was powered to some extent by steroids is ironic in light of Piazza's place with many of the voters. 

1997 was arguably Piazza's greatest season (40 HR, .362 BA, 8.7 WAR) and he finished a distant second to Larry Walker, who had his greatest season. Had I a vote, I would have voted for Piazza.

12. How many all star type seasons did he have? How many All Star teams did he play for? Did most other players selected to that many All Star games get elected to the Hall of Fame?

Piazza was named to 12 AS teams and started 10 games. He was MVP of the 1996 All Star game (2-3, HR and a double). Only three catchers (Berra, Bench and Ivan Rodriguez) have appeared in more all star games. Elston Howard also was named to twelve teams. 

Piazza deserved to start every season between 1993 and 2002.

13. If this man was the best player on his team, could his team win the pennant?

I would say yes to this. A catcher who in his prime produces numbers like an elite RF or 1B is an incredibly rare commodity; he will win more games with his bat than he would cost with his glove. 

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history?

Piazza's story in the 1990s is tied to the "hard-work-makes-good" story that hearkened back to the times when a friend of the manager in this town tells a scout to hang around an extra day and watch this one kid pitch....and he turns out to be a major league caliber player that you never heard of. 

This is why Piazza is a polarizing figure. He will most likely be the last unknown great ballplayer. He started in the minors in the late 1980s, before the Internet, the ever expanding tentacles of ESPN and the explosion of minor league baseball sites. Piazza is a throwback to the 1930s or 40s. No one saw him coming, and people want reasons. Look at the bios of many players from the 1920s and 1930s, and they were discovered in much the same way Piazza was: through family friends with connections with the baseball business. Piazza's story of an unknown making the majors was not as unknown 80 years ago as it is now. 

Of course, most of those sons of friends of the manager's cousin don't wind up being the best hitting catcher in the history of baseball. How could we not see it? No one was looking. 

15. Did the player uphold the standards of the Hall of Fame?

The cynic in me says the only reason he admitted to using andro in his book is to curry favor with hall voters. However, he did admit it 11 years earlier. He is a committed supporter of the Miami Ballet and served as a coach for the Italian Olympic team. I would argue that he does, and did while a player.

Vote the man in, already. If there is no solid evidence against him, I don't think there is a question. Tom Glavine described him as a first ballot hall of famer, and I won't argue with that.