The Best Players From Each State (Delaware, Florida, Georgia, & Hawaii)

Delaware

I suppose it shouldn’t come as a great surprise that a state that ranks as one of the smallest in both land mass and population, would not have produced a great number of MLB talent.  56 players in history were born in The First State.  But, only 3 ever appeared in a single All-Star Game.

Perhaps honorable mention here could go to Sadie McMahon.  He pitched for the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association for a couple years, before spending 7 years with the Baltimore Orioles.  But, not those Baltimore Orioles.  Sadie was a part of the Orioles team that was a part of the National League from 1882-1899.  It was a successful team (Sadie was on the championship team in 1896), but after the 1899 season, the National League contracted from 12 teams to 8, leaving the Orioles behind.  Two years later, the American League was formed, and the reorganized Orioles were a part of it.  But, that’s not the Orioles you’re familiar with either.  Because two years later, the team had ceased play again, and two men purchased the franchise, moved it to New York City, and renamed it the New York Highlanders.  Which is the team you likely know as … the New York Yankees (a name change that occurred in 1913).

So, aside from some ancient baseball history, choosing the best player from the state of Delaware was actually quite easy.

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Paul Goldschmidt – It really isn’t even close.  McMahon is the next best player from the state, and Goldschmidt is going to continue to put distance between himself and the rest of the pack.  He leads all Delaware natives in HR (234), RBI (768), OPS (.918), and even batting average (.293) among anyone with at least 100 plate appearances.

Florida

The state of Florida produces a large number of athletes.  Many play football or basketball, but it should not be overlooked when it comes to great baseball talent.  Many excellent players from the past have come from The Sunshine State.  Including Gary Sheffield, Dwight Gooden, and Fred McGriff.  There are also several Florida natives that are currently playing in the majors.  And, some of them are some of the best in the game – Zack Greinke, Chris Sale, Andrew McCutchen, Manny Machado, and Josh Donaldson.

But, we’re looking for all-time best, so I had to limit it to players in the Hall of Fame.  There are 4 players from Florida that have been inducted into Cooperstown.  The runners-up include Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, and Chipper Jones.  Each of these were great talents in their era.  Power, speed, defense, a switch-hitter.  It’s all represented here.  But, ultimately, the best player from Florida was a pitcher.

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Steve Carlton – Carlton is among the 3 best left-handed pitchers to ever play the game, no matter which metric you use.  329 wins, 4,136 strikeouts, 10 All-Star Games, 4 Cy Young Awards.  The Miami native spent all or part of 24 seasons in the majors, and was a part of 2 World Series champions (Cardinals in ’67 and Phillies in ’80).

Georgia

Florida may have more players that have played in the majors, and have more All-Star Game appearances … but, Georgia actually has more players in the Hall of Fame, with 5.  The one player/manager on their list is Bill Terry, who played for the New York Giants from ’23-’36, and also managed them to a World Series championship in 1933.  He hit .341 for his career!

There are some notable names not in Cooperstown from The Peach State.  Kevin Brown, Tim Hudson, Moises Alou.  And, among those still active, there’s Buster Posey, Adam Wainwright, and Lorenzo Cain.  But, the Hall of Famers from the state of Georgia include some of the absolute best of their generation:  Frank Thomas, Johnny Mize, and Jackie Robinson.  You would think that with names like these, it would be difficult to choose the best from the state of Georgia.  But, there’s only one “Georgia Peach.”

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Ty Cobb – The man with the highest career batting average in history (.366) is from the small town of Narrows, GA.  He hit over .400 not once, not twice, but three times in his career (1911, 1912, and 1922 at the age of 35!).  And, even with 4,189 hits, Cobb was far more than just a singles hitter (unlike the only man in history with more hits).  Cobb’s career SLG is over .500, because he led the league in doubles and triples several times.  His career OPS is .945.  And, he stole an amazing 897 bases!  He may not have been the nicest guy – but, he was definitely the best ever from Georgia.

Hawaii

The Aloha State has only produced 44 major league players, most of whom have had less than remarkable careers.  No Hall of Famers, and only six have ever appeared in an All-Star Game.  But, there are a few players who had decent careers over the years:  Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez (one of just two that appeared in more than one All-Star Game), and Charlie Hough.

There are a couple current players that were born in Hawaii that are decent contributors to their teams:  Kurt Suzuki (who has spent much of his career as a high-quality back-up catcher), and Kolten Wong (who is right around a league-average hitter, and one of the better defenders at second).

But, the Wailuku native with the nickname “Flyin’ Hawaiian” was the clear choice here…

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Shane Victorino – he was a 2-time All-Star, 4-time Gold Glove winner, and an important part of two World Series championship teams (Phillies in ’08, Red Sox in ’13).

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The Best Players from Each State (California, Colorado, & Connecticut)

As we roll on through the great states of the USA, we’ve come to the C’s.

California

Not surprisingly, the state of California has produced a large number of high quality players. Before we even get to the Hall of Farmers, there are so many names of players who appeared in multiple All-Star games…

Graig Nettles, CC Sabathia, Dwight Evans, Chase Utley, Mark McGwire, Keith Hernandez, Dave Stieb, David Wells, Jason Giambi, Ryan Braun, Nomar Garciaparra, Darryl Strawberry, and on and on the list goes. But, ahead of this list are the 24 Hall of Famers from The Golden State.

On the list from California, you have everything from the really old-school greats (like Frank Chance, the player/manager of the game’s first dynasty – the Chicago Cubs who went to 4 of 5 World Series from 1906-1910) to much more modern iterations of baseball greatness (like Dennis Eckersley and Trevor Hoffman who were inducted primarily for pitching one inning per game). On the pitching side, you have some of the absolute best there ever were. Randy Johnson, who struck out more than 4,800 batters in his career – the 2nd most all time. Tom Seaver, who won 311 games with a career ERA of 2.86.

But, for the absolute greatest, I have to go with a batter from California. No, it isn’t Barry Bonds, even though he technically has the highest WAR among all of them, and technically hit more HR than anyone. I just don’t think his pre-steroids numbers are quite as good. And, no, it isn’t even the great Joe DiMaggio, who only had 8 more strikeouts in his career than home runs.

For me, the greatest player to ever come out of California was a contemporary of DiMaggio – which turned out to be unfortunate for him, because his demeanor wasn’t as nice as Joe’s, which cost him more than one MVP award. I have to go with the last man to hit .400 for a season…

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Ted Williams – a career .344 batting average, with over 500 HR, and 2600 hits. 2 MVP’s (should have been about 5), 2 Triple Crowns, and holds the highest career OBP in history (.482). It’s hard to fathom what his total numbers might be had he not lost essentially five years to service in the military during WWII and Korea. For my money, Williams is the best pure hitter the game has ever seen. Which made this an easy choice, in spite of all the great players from California.

Colorado

The state of Colorado hasn’t produced a ton of major league talent. Just 94 players have come from The Centennial State. And only 7 of those have ever appeared in a single All-Star Game.

But, despite this seeming lack of quality production from this state, there are two Hall of Famers from Colorado. And, the choice of the greatest definitely came down to these two. It was a somewhat difficult choice, because they are both pitchers, but pitchers from very different eras, with very different roles.

Ultimately, I did not choose Rich “Goose” Gossage, in spite of his 300+ saves, 9 All-Star Games, and World Series championship in 1978. Instead I went with the only other pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the postseason, besides Don Larsen‘s perfect game in 1956…

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Roy HalladayHalladay won 2 Cy Young’s, and was runner-up on two other occasions. He led the league in shutouts on multiple occasions, as well as strikeout-to-walk ratio. He finished as high as 6th in MVP voting, and has an impressive career win pct. of .659. He was also selected for 8 All-Star games, and was inducted into the HOF just last month.

Connecticut

Can you believe that the little state of Connecticut has produced more than twice as many major league players as Colorado? And, many of them had decent careers – Mo Vaughn, Charles Nagy, Brad Ausmus, Dick McAuliffe, and Jim Piersall.

But, there are only three Hall of Famers from The Constitution State. And every one of them played in the dead-ball era. So, for now, the greatest player to come from the state of Connecticut is…

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Roger Connor – this Waterbury native played from 1880-1897 for the Troy Trojans, New York Gothams, and St. Louis Browns. Connor was a power-hitter, leading the league in SLG multiple times, and finished 2nd in the league in HR in multiple seasons. He finished his career with an impressive … 138 career HR, which was actually the all-time record. It was a record that would stand for 23 years after his retirement. And, in spite of the fact that he didn’t hit what we would consider to be a lot of home runs, he still had a career OPS of .883 – higher than the likes of Jackie Robinson, Sammy Sosa, Mark Teixeira, and Jose Canseco.

But, Mr. Connor may not hold his grip on this title much longer. There’s a young right fielder born in New Britain, CT that is charging up the leaderboard, by the name of George Springer.

The Best Players From Each State (Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, & Arizona)

If you’ve ever been to places like Texas or South Carolina, you know what I mean when I say … some people are VERY proud of their home state.  Some might even say, a little TOO proud?  But, that’s neither here nor there.  The purpose of the next series of posts will be to highlight the best players from each of the 50 states in the USA.  It will be based on the state the player was born in, so there may be some argument from those who know that a player graduated from high school in a state that was different from his birth state.  Be that as it may, we will begin today with all of the A’s.

Alabama

The state of Alabama has produced a surprising number of major league players, and several Hall of Famers.  Even a couple of the more dominant pitchers of this era can trace their roots to the Yellowhammer State – Corey Kluber and Craig Kimbrel.  But, let’s take a moment to appreciate just how many names are on plaques in Cooperstown from a state known more for college football…

Satchel Paige, Don Sutton, Joe Sewell, Heinie Manush, Monte Irvin, Willie McCovey, Billy Williams, Early Wynn, and Ozzie Smith, to get us started.  These are some great names in the history of the game.  But, as great as these are … they aren’t the best.  In fact, there are two names that stand out ahead of all these.  And, it was a terribly difficult decision.  Runner-up in the state of Alabama goes to…

Hank Aaron.  That’s right.  The man who holds the all-time record for RBI, total bases, and legitimate home runs is the runner up.  I think if he’d been born in pretty much any of the other 49 states, he would be #1 in that state.  But, it just so happens that Hank Aaron was born in the same state as…

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Willie Mays – Yes Aaron has more career HR and RBI than Mays.  But, did you know Aaron also has about 1500 more plate appearances?  The equivalent of more than two years’ worth of playing time.  And, Mays missed the entire 1953 season, serving in the military, which was right at the prime of his career.  These two players have nearly identical career batting numbers, with Aaron having the slight edge in batting avg. (.305 to .302), while Mays has the edge in OBP (.384 to .374).  And, even though Aaron has the lead in HR, Mays has the higher SLG.  For me, it came down to speed and awards.  Mays stole 338 bases, compared to Aaron’s 240.  It was also Mays’ speed that allowed him to play an amazing CF, and win 12 Gold Gloves at one of the most important positions on the field.  Mays also won ROY and 2 MVPs, while Aaron won just one MVP.  What a crazy choice to have to make right off the bat!  I have a feeling it will only get easier from here.

Alaska

Not surprisingly, the largest state in our country has actually produced very few major league ballplayers.  Only 12 players to don a professional baseball jersey were born in “The Last Frontier.”  And, of those twelve, only one is currently on a major league team’s 40-man roster (Tony Barnette – Chicago Cubs).  The most prolific batter to come from Alaska was Josh Phelps, who really only spent about 5 seasons at the major league level, primarily with the Blue Jays.  He showed some promise as a rookie, winning AL rookie of the month in August and September of 2002.  But, he never produced as a consistent major league player.

Which leaves us with pitching options, and the obvious choice for the best player from Alaska …

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Curt Schilling – In my opinion, this Anchorage native belongs in the Hall of Fame.  Considering his contributions to two different World Series teams, including co-MVP of the 2001 champion Diamondbacks, he belongs in the Hall.  But, for now, he can claim the title of greatest from the state of Alaska.  With 216 wins, 3,116 strikeouts, 6 All-Star appearances, and three runner-up finishes in the Cy Young, Schilling stands out head and shoulders above the rest.

Arkansas

The Natural State has probably produced more quality baseball players than you would expect, considering the size of the state.  Even among those who aren’t enshrined in Cooperstown, there are some very good players here:  Torii Hunter, Preacher Roe (a fellow alum of my alma mater), Cliff Lee, Rick Monday, A.J. Burnett, and Johnny Sain.

Six Hall of Famers hail from Arkansas, including Dizzy Dean, Travis Jackson, Arky Vaughan, George Kell, and Brooks Robinson.  It turns out that not picking Robinson here was every bit as difficult as not picking Aaron in Alabama.  Robinson won 16 Gold Gloves at 3B, an MVP in ’64, two World Series championships with the Orioles in ’66 and ’70, and was the World Series MVP in ’70.  But, as impressive as those numbers are, I have to give the nod to…

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Lou Brock – I would dare to say that both Brock and Robinson’s careers are remembered primarily for one particularly amazing skill.  Robinson for his defense at third, and Brock for his ability to steal bases.  And since these two men set the gold standard in those categories (two categories that are impossible to compare), the decision had to come down to something that could be compared.  And, when you compare overall offensive production, Brock comes out on top.  He has more hits than Robinson (3,023), more doubles and more triples, in spite of having about 500 fewer plate appearances.  Brock has the higher batting average, OBP, SLG, and OPS.

Arizona

I was shocked by the numbers I saw from the state of Arizona.  Alabama and Arkansas rank 24th and 33rd, respectively, in the nation in population.  Both have produced a large number of high-quality, and even Hall of Fame worthy baseball players.  So, when I turned to Arizona, knowing that it is the 14th largest state by population, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that there have only been 115 players to even come from this state – only 8 of whom have even appeared in a single All-Star game.

Choosing the best player produced by The Grand Canyon State was actually quite easy.  He has more All-Star Game appearances (4), hits (1,998), 2B (416), 3B (41), HR (256), RBI (907), and stolen bases (243) than anyone else.  And, since he is an active player, his claim as the greatest from Arizona should hold up for a while (or, so one might think).  For now, I give you…

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Ian Kinsler – in addition to his offensive production, Kinsler, born in Tucson, has won two Gold Gloves.  But, how long will his numbers remain at the top?  Because lurking not far behind him, with just 3 years under his belt is …. Cody Bellinger.

Opening Day … What A Day!

And so it begins.

The 2018 season began with a BLAST as Ian Happ launched the first pitch he saw from Jose Urena into the right field seats. And Marlins Park erupted … thanks to the overwhelming presence of Cubs fans in Miami. So, the first pitch of the Major League season included the first strike, first hit, first extra-base hit, first run scored, first home run, and the first (of what looks to be many) Marlins deficits.

Giancarlo Stanton hit his first HR as a Yankee – and, wouldn’t you know it, he did so with a little flair. In his first AB in the new uni, he hit the hardest opposite field home run in baseball, since 2015. Oh, and just for kicks, he also was the first Yankee to have 3 XBH and 4 RBI on Opening Day since Roger Maris.

The Orioles’ pitching dominated the Twins all day long. And, with a 2-0 lead going into the 9th, the Orioles sent in their closer. But, a lack of control by Brad Brach, led to some very patient at-bats by the Twins hitters. And, after giving up 2 walks and 2 hits, the game was all tied up. But, two innings later, it was Adam Jones who stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 11th. And, on the first pitch he saw from Fernando Rodney … swing, drive, home run, game over. 3-2 Orioles.

The Red Sox looked like they were going to cruise to an easy victory over the Rays, as they were up 4-0 heading into the bottom of the 8th. But, the Rays scored six runs in the inning. It culminated in an impressive at-bat by the veteran, Denard Span. With the bases loaded, a full count, and two outs in the inning, Span turned on a pitch, and drove a triple into right field, giving the Rays a 5-4 lead. They would go on to win 6-4.

The A’s came from behind twice to tie up the Angels. Once, when they were trailing by 4 in the 5th inning, and again in the 7th when they were down a run. Then, it was a wild 11th inning. With one out, Boog Powell hit a drive that just barely went off the top of left-fielder Justin Upton’s glove. Powell hustled out a triple, on a close play at 3rd. Then, Scioscia decided to walk the next batter, and go with a 5-man infield, with a slider-pitcher on the mound – hoping the batter would roll over a pitch and into a double play. Marcus Semien didn’t oblige – hitting a line drive into center-field (where no one was located) for a walk-off single.

The Phillies were up by five going into the bottom of the 6th. But, after 2 runs by the Braves in the 6th, and 3 runs in the bottom of the 8th, it was a whole new ballgame. Then, in the bottom of the 9th, with 2 outs, and a runner on 2nd, the Phillies decided to intentionally walk Freddie Freeman. So, what does Nick Markakis do? He drives a 3-run walk-off HR into right-center.

Extra innings, walk-off home runs, 21 runs scored in a single game . . . this is why Opening Day is one of the best days of the year.

How Does Ruben Amaro Still Have a Job?

amaroRunning a baseball team is NOT an easy job. I get that. And, to those who are able to do it well, I am more than willing to give credit. But, I don’t believe that holding on to a GM for year after year after year of decline makes any sense. And if I’d written this article about 4-5 years ago, the name in the title might have been Jim Hendry.  But, in 2015, it’s time for a change in Philadelphia.

Ruben Amaro Jr. is now in his 7th season as the GM of the Phillies.  He took over as the GM in November of 2008, after the Phillies had just finished winning a championship. His first three seasons looked promising – winning the division each year. But, this wasn’t a team Amaro built. He inherited a winner. And, each year, the team finished one step further from a championship – losing the World Series, then losing the NLCS, then losing the NLDS.  Since that 2011 season, the team has yet to finish above .500.  And, at the rate they’re playing this season, they’ll be guaranteed a losing record about half-way through August.

But, a few losing seasons isn’t an automatic hook.  Just look at some of the teams that are playing well this season.  The Twins, the Cubs, the Astros – they’ve all endured a few bad seasons of late.  But, if you looked closely at what those clubs were doing, you would have noticed that there was a rebuilding taking place.  Right now, even as all three of those teams are poised to make playoff runs, those are three of the strongest farm systems in the game.  These are three teams that are now primed to succeed in 2015 and beyond.

So, after three consecutive seasons at or below .500, and as they’re well on their way to the worst record in baseball in 2015, what does the future look like for the Phillies?  In a word – bleak.  The farm system feeding the Philadelphia team is generally ranked in the bottom 1/3 of baseball.  Usually somewhere around #21.  They have just 2 prospects in the top 100 in baseball, and their best prospect is still at least a year away from the majors (J.P. Crawford – a SS who has played just 21 games at AA).

The moves (and lack of moves) made by Amaro has turned a team that looked like a perennial contender into a team with no hope on the horizon.  Let’s start with the first big move made by Amaro – acquiring Roy Halladay.  This transpired after the 2009 season.  In December of ’09, he maneuvered a trade that looked promising.  Halladay essentially replaced Cliff Lee (whom they shipped off to Seattle), and they even got a couple top prospects from Seattle in the process.  There were a lot of other moving parts, but let’s keep it simple.  Halladay was given a 3-year extension for $20 million per season, which would carry his contract through the 2013 season.  Four years of Roy Halladay for a sum of just over $75 million.  The story was that the Phillies were worried Cliff Lee was going to want a 6-7 year deal worth over $20 million per season.  So, they were able to get Halladay for 4, at a slightly cheaper rate.

Problem #1 with this logic – Lee is two years younger than Halladay.  The 2010 season was Halladay’s age 33 season.  Yes, Halladay won a Cy Young that year.  But, the wheels came flying off his career in spectacular fashion half-way through his contract with the Phillies.

Problem #2 – Amaro turned around and signed Lee the very next offseason to a 5-year deal worth over $100 million!  That contract, by the way, will pay Lee $50 million over 2014 & 2015 – during which time he has pitched a total of 81 innings (and probably won’t be pitching again until close to August).

Problem #3 – The best prospect the Phillies got back from Seattle (Phillippe Aumont – a 2011 1st round pick), has turned out to be a sub-par relief pitcher, who took his first stab at starting at the major league level last week – 4 IP, 7 BB, 2 HR, 6 ER.

Problem #4 – The best prospect the Phillies sacrificed in this deal (Travis d’Arnaud – a 2007 1st round pick), was 7th in ROY voting last year, and outside of a couple unfortunate injuries this year, has played very well (.873 OPS as a catcher).

Perhaps some of this would have been impossible to predict – but, signing aging pitchers to 4 and 5-year deals doesn’t usually work out.  So, even if you miss on a couple big free agents or a bad trade, good draft picks will keep your farm system healthy.  So, let’s take a look at Amaro’s draft picks that have made a significant impact at the MLB level . . . [crickets].  Well, how about draft picks that have made some contribution at the MLB level? – just one.  Ken Giles, a 7th-round pick in 2011, looks like a good set-up man.  He might even become a quality closer one day, if he can cut down his WHIP a little (currently 1.27).  But, that’s it.  That’s the list.  No one else drafted by Amaro has made anything close to significant contribution at the major-league level – through 6 years of drafts.  I’ll concede the fact that the Phillies’ top 2 prospects are their last two 1st-round picks.  But, those are also the only two they have in the top 100 in baseball.

Now we come to the biggest reason the Phillies’ future is grim:  trades – but, primarily, the lack thereof.  During the 2011 season, they made a trade-deadline deal for Hunter Pence, in an effort to boost their offense.  There’s no question Pence had an impact, and was a big part of the Phillies’ run to the playoffs.  But, they still lost the NLDS – and traded away two top-100 prospects to Houston (Jarred Cosart & Jon Singleton).  This move made even less sense a year later.  By the end of June in 2012, the Phillies were 10 games out of 1st, and 8 games below .500.  So, Amaro figures Pence is a good trade chip, as he’s nearing the end of his contract.  Another trade-deadline deal sends Pence to the Giants (who went on to win the World Series), and in return the Phillies get . . . 3 guys who were never once ranked in the top-100 prospects.  Only two have even made it to the majors, and the best of the lot was Nate Schierholtz, a journeyman outfielder who retired with a .253 average in parts of 8 major-league seasons.

Of all the players Amaro could have traded – he gets rid of the only starting position player on the team under the age of 30?  And for essentially nothing of any consequence?  Meanwhile, over the last 3+ seasons he has continued to pay an aging Chase Utley $15 million per year (he was 33 in 2012, and could have been traded at a number of points in the last 3 years for prospects), Ryan Howard is making over $20 million per year (he was 32 in 2012, and even with his steep contract and lagging numbers, if Amaro would have eaten some of that contract, he could have at least received something in return), and Jimmy Rollins continued making $11 million per year until he was finally traded for two mediocre prospects this past offseason (which sadly, are the Phillies’ #4 & #5 prospects in their system).

And, what about Jonathan Papelbon?  Signed after that 2011 season, but the team hasn’t been anywhere near contention since.  Several teams over the years would have given up a quality prospect for Papelbon.  But, here he is, 34 years old, making $13 million per year, doing nothing of significance for the Phillies.  But of all the boneheaded non-moves Amaro has made – the worst has to be his dealing with Cole Hamels.  Hamels is a legit stud ace.  And everyone has been waiting for the Phillies to pull the trigger on that trade for a couple years now.  But, we just keep waiting.  And, the price teams are willing to pay keeps getting lower and lower and lower.  If Hamels and Papelbon are still on the Phillies roster at the end of the 2015 season, Amaro should be looking for employment elsewhere.

The Phillies should have been in “rebuilding” mode 2-3 years ago.  Instead, their fans have suffered through what is going to be 4 seasons of sub-par baseball, while their GM has done nothing to help their future.  Now, they’re stuck looking up at the rest of the NL East, and appear to be poised to remain there for a few more years.  How does Ruben Amaro still have a job?

2015 Predictions: NL East

NL-EastThe NL East has been one of the busier divisions this offseason.  Of course, everyone knows about the Scherzer deal, and the Stanton contract, and all the moves the Marlins have been making.  But, is it really going to make a difference in the playoff picture?  Well, that remains to be seen.  I’ll be revealing my playoff picks after reviewing each division.  If Shields signs with Miami (one of the rumored suitors), then that would likely change things.  But, for now, here is how I see this division playing out:

  1. Washington Nationals (96-66)
  2. Miami Marlins (84-78)
  3. New York Mets (79-83)
  4. Atlanta Braves (76-86)
  5. Philadelphia Phillies (67-95)

I’m not very surprised by these standings.  Even before I did my own statistical analysis, this is about what I would have predicted.  You might could make the argument that the Braves and Mets could be switched.  But, that’s about it.  Here’s where I came down on each team…

Washington

They will finish with the best record in baseball for a number of reasons.  They have the best starting rotation – not just in their division, but also in all of baseball.  They have the best bullpen, offense and defense in the division as well.  And, as if that wasn’t going to make life easy enough, they have possibly the worst team in baseball in their division, and two of the worst offenses in the entire game in their division.  The Nationals will get some competition out of Miami, but the rest of the division pales in comparison.

Miami

The Marlins’ front office has done a nice job this off-season, in putting together their major-league team.  Granted, I do believe that it was at the expense of their farm system, which may come back to bite them in a couple years.  But, they have put together a very competitive team at the major league level.  While the Nationals are running away with the best . . . well, everything . . . the Marlins are right behind them in this division with a very nice starting rotation (Fernandez, Alvarez, Cosart & Latos).  That alone would lead to a lot of wins.  But, even though they have probably the second best offense in the division, once you get past Stanton, it isn’t exactly going to make pitchers nervous.  Morse was a nice addition, but he’s getting older, and you’re counting on his out of the ordinary production from last year (his highest OPS since 2011, and one of only two seasons he has remained healthy his entire career).  Beyond that, the lineup has some above-average hitters (Ozuna & Yellich), but it’s certainly not a dominant offense.  And, what concerns me even more is the fact that the bullpen in Miami is not stellar.  It isn’t ugly.  But, it is going to allow a decent number of hits and walks (average WHIP among the best relievers is 1.21). In a different division, I’m not sure how well Miami would do.

New York

Mets fans should be excited about the future – just, not 2015.  They have some very nice young pitching (Harvey, DeGrom, Wheeler) that’s likely to get even better when prospects like Noah Syndergaard make their way to the majors.  But, that’s about the extent of what there is to be excited about in New York.  The bullpen might be the second best in the division (Parnell, Familia & Edgin are very good), but it’s still not exactly elite.  And, the offense, which was middle-of-the-pack in the NL last year, isn’t getting any better.  The addition of Michael Cuddyer sounds nice.  But, closer inspection reveals that he’s going into his age 36 season, only played 49 games last year, and has had inflated stats from playing in Colorado.  Until they can bring in (or up) some quality offensive production outside of Duda, this team won’t get very far.

Atlanta

2017.  I believe that’s the target.  That’s when the Braves will move into their new stadium north of Atlanta, and that’s likely the next time they will field a competitive team.  I think the Braves have made some good moves that have provided some quality prospects (3 of their top 6 prospects have come as a part of the Gattis & Upton trades).  But, it has left an already weak offense with just one batter to be excited about – Freddie Freeman.  So, here’s my question:  how close do you think Freeman gets to a .400 OBP this season?  He’s going to be pitched around so often that, if he can be patient, he’ll draw well over 100 walks.  But, don’t be surprised if his power numbers drop even more from last year.  Because he is the Atlanta offense, and even an aging Nick Markakis can’t help.  Kimbrel is phenomenal, and Teheran, Wood & Hale look to make a decent rotation.  But, those guys are likely going to lose a lot of 2-1 and 3-2 games with this offense.

Philadelphia

If it wasn’t for Atlanta’s putrid offense, the Phillies would be the worst in the division in every single category.  Once you get past Hamels, you may not have even an average pitcher left in the entire rotation.  Other than Papelbon, the bullpen is littered with guys whose WHIPs are 1.34, 1.40, 1.42.  And, the only reason I rank their offense a notch above Atlanta’s is because they have some young guys that played decently last year, and who look like they may improve to be above average batters (Ben Revere & Cody Asche).  The Phillies’ farm system isn’t terrible, but it could use a boost.  Why a team headed toward almost 100 losses is trying to hang on to Papelbon and Hamels, I do not know.  Those two could net the quality and volume of prospects that could have this team competing again in just 2-3 years.  If this team loses less than 90 games – Sandberg should be manager of the year.

All-Time Greatest: Philadelphia Phillies

The Philadelphia franchise is one of the oldest in all of baseball.  Established in 1883 as the Philadelphia Quakers, they have remained a part of the National League for 131 seasons.  The team was often referred to as the “Philadelphias” in their early years, and that was soon shortened to the “Phillies.”  The team adopted the nickname officially for the 1890 season.  Aside from being one of the oldest teams in all professional sports, the Phillies also have the dubious distinction of having lost more games than any other team in any professional sport (10,462).  Only 23 times in the history of baseball has a team finished the season with a win percentage at or below .300 – the Phillies have done it 6 times, including 5 times from 1938-1945!  No other team in baseball has played that poorly more than 3 times in their history.  They have finished in last place more than twice as many times as they have made it into the playoffs (31-14, respectively), and they own the modern Major League record for most consecutive losses – 23 in 1961.  The Phillies were also the last of the 16 teams that comprised the major leagues from 1901-1961 to win a World Series – something they didn’t accomplish until 1980.

But, in spite of their woeful history, there have been some bright spots for the Phillies.  World Series champions in 1980 and 2008.  Three consecutive division championships from ’76-’78.  And, 5 consecutive division championships from 2007-2011.  They’ve had 5 different players win 7 MVP awards, 4 different players win 7 Cy Young wards, and 4 Rookie of the Year winners.  They have retired 5 players’ jerseys, and there are 10 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame who spent their primary careers with the Phillies.  I also find it intriguing that a team with so much turmoil, could have in their history 2 of the greatest to ever play their position (LHP & 3B).  Well, without further ado, here are, in my opinion, the 5 greatest Philadelphia Phillies of all time:

robin-roberts-hof-25. Robin Roberts (’48-’61) – elected to seven consecutive All-Star games, Roberts was the National League’s starting pitcher in five Mid-Summer Classics – tied for the most in the history of the game.  He was a workhorse the first half of his career – starting 37+ games seven consecutive years, leading the league in starts six of those years, and complete games five times.  In 1950, he became the first Phillies pitcher to win 20 games in a season since 1917 (see #3 below).  He went on to 20-win seasons in 6 consecutive years from ’50-’55 – leading the league in wins every year from ’52-’55.  He also finished in the top-7 in MVP voting five times from ’50-’55.  After he was sold to the Yankees after the ’61 season, the Phillies announced that they would retire his jersey #36 in a ceremony prior to a Spring Training game between the two clubs.  Roberts’ jersey was the first one ever retired by the franchise.  He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976.  On the Phillies’ all-time lists, among pitchers with at least 1000 IP, he ranks 2nd in wins (234), 7th in WHIP (1.17), 2nd in strikeouts (1871), 4th in K/BB ratio (2.61), and 10th in ERA+ (114).

ChuckKlein_display_image4. Ed Delahanty (1888-89; 1891-1901) – one of the best hitters of his era, Delahanty was the first major league player to bat over .400 in three different seasons.  To this day, he ranks 5th all-time with his career .346 batting average.  In 1896, he hit four home runs in a single game, becoming just the second player in baseball history to accomplish such a feat.  But, what makes his feat stand out, is that he is still the only one to ever do so by hitting four inside-the-park home runs.  During his years with the Phillies, Delahanty led the league in doubles 4 times, triples once, HR twice, RBI 3 times, stolen bases once, batting once, OBP once, SLG 4 times, and OPS 4 times.  He came within .012 batting points of winning the triple crown in 1893, and .013 of the same in 1896.  He ranks 2nd on the Phillies’ all-time batting list (.348), 5th in OBP (.414), 10th in SLG (.508), 5th in OPS (.922), 2nd in runs scored (1368), 3rd in hits (2214), 2nd in doubles (442 – surpassed just this past season by Jimmy Rollins), 1st in triples (158), 2nd in RBI (1288), 3rd in stolen bases (411 – also just passed this last year by Rollins), 3rd in OPS+ (153 – including 3 of the top 4 single seasons in Phillies history), and 2nd in runs created (1351).  Delahanty was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1945.  His career was cut short by one of the more mysterious deaths in baseball.  In the midst of the 1903 season (just one season after leading the league in batting), he was kicked off of a train for what the conductor described as drunk and disorderly behavior.  Delahanty then tried to walk across the International Bridge between Buffalo, NY and Fort Erie, near Niagara Falls.  There are various theories and stories about how it happened, but Delahanty fell/dove/was pushed off the bridge, into the river, and swept over the falls.  A tragic end to a magnificent career.

Grover_Cleveland_Alexander3. Grover Cleveland Alexander (1911-1917, 1930) – Old Pete Alexander may have spent more time with the Cubs organization, but his best years were unquestionably in Philadelphia.  His rookie season, he led the league in wins, shutouts, and innings pitched, finishing 3rd in MVP voting.  He would go on to lead the league in wins 4 more times (4 of the top 7 win totals in Phillies history), ERA 3 times (all 3 of which rank in the top 7 ERA’s in Phillies history), strikeouts 5 times, and WHIP twice (including the best season in Phillies history – 0.842 in 1915), in 7 full seasons with the Phillies (he only pitched in 9 games in 1930, at the age of 43 – his final season in the majors).  He won back-to-back-to-back pitching Triple Crowns in 1915, 1916 & 1917.  In 1915, Alexander was instrumental in leading the Phillies to their first ever pennant.  He ranks 3rd on the Phillies’ all-time ERA list among pitchers with at least 1000 IP (2.18), 3rd in wins (190), 1st in win pct. (.676), 3rd in WHIP (1.075), 6th in K’s (1409), 5th in K/BB ratio (2.51), 1st in shutouts (61), and 1st in ERA+ (140).  Alexander was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1938.  Had he spent more of his career with the Phillies, he likely would be even further up this list.  As it is, the 40% of his career he spent in Philadelphia was spectacular.

Steve Carlton 19802. Steve Carlton (’72-’86) – what a difficult decision it was to try and figure out how to rank the top 2 Phillies in history.  I don’t think I’ll get much argument from anyone regarding who the top 2 are – but, I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone’s split 50/50 on how to rank them.  4 Cy Young awards (first to ever accomplish such a feat), two more top-5 finishes, five top-10 MVP finishes, 10 All-Star games, and one Gold Glove.  He won the pitching triple crown in 1972, his first year with the Phillies, which was an amazing feat, considering his 27 wins that season accounted for 46% of his team’s 59 wins that season – an all-time record.  He led the league in wins four times, and strikeouts five times – leading to his rank with the second most K’s all-time by a LHP, and the second most wins all-time by a LHP.  On the Phillies’ all-time lists, among pitchers with at least 1,000 IP, he ranks 10th in ERA (3.09), 1st in wins (241), 4th in win pct. (.600), 9th in WHIP (1.21), 5th in K/9 (7.38 – including 4 of the top 25 single seasons in Phillies history), 1st in K’s (3031 – including 4 of the top 6 single seasons in Phillies history), 8th in K/BB ratio (2.42), and 7th in ERA+ (120).  Carlton was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994 on his first ballot.

20.mike-schmidt1. Mike Schmidt (’72-’89) – back-to-back MVP’s (’80 & ’81), plus a 3rd MVP at the age of 36; 5 more top-10 MVP finishes; 12 All-Star games; 9 consecutive Gold Gloves, and a 10th one also at the age of 36 – all at one of the most difficult positions on the field; 6 Silver Sluggers (an award they didn’t start giving out until 1980, when he was already 30 years old); 1980 NLCS & World Series MVP.  Okay, I think that might be just about all the awards he won.  As for other achievements, he also led the league in HR eight times, RBI four times, OBP three times, SLG five times, OPS five times, and OPS+ six times.  He is, in my opinion, the greatest all around third baseman of all time.  There’s a reason he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1995 on his first ballot with what was then the 4th highest percentage ever (96.52% – which is still the 7th highest ever).  He ranks 5th all-time on the Phillies’ SLG list (.527), 6th in OPS (.908), 1st in runs scored (1506), 1st in hits (2234), 1st in total bases (4404), 1st in HR (548), 1st in RBI (1595), 6th in OPS+ (147 – including the best season in Phillies history, when his was 198 in ’81), and 1st in runs created (1757).  Schmidt’s #20 jersey was retired in 1990, the season immediately after he retired.