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Posts Tagged ‘Don Mattingly’

(The following was originally published at SB*Nation’s Pinstripe Alley)

In addition to the Hot Stove, baseball warms up the winter months with Hall of Fame debate. From the time the ballot is released until the votes are counted in early January, arguments are made for and against various candidates, often with a considerable degree of disagreement and usually with some form of exaggeration. As a result, for those players on the borderline, the process can be somewhat demeaning.

This year, Bernie Williams is making his first appearance on the ballot, and judging by popular sentiment, he isn’t likely to come close to enshrinement. Although Williams’ case deserves much closer scrutiny than many seem willing to give, as a borderline candidate, there really is no right or wrong answer regarding his candidacy. With that in mind, it seems more appropriate to consider the best players who are not in the Hall of Fame instead of trying to determine which of them actually belong.

At the Baseball: Past and Present blog, Graham Womack recently completed a survey based on exactly that premise. For the second straight year, Womack polled an electorate made up of baseball writers and researchers and compiled the results into a ranking of the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame. Included in this baseball version of purgatory were several players who spent most of their careers in pinstripes, prompting a further question: who are the 10 best eligible Yankees without a plaque in Cooperstown?

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In what has likely been the most dismal season in the 128-year history of the Dodgers’ franchise (some older Brooklyn residents might dispute that assertion), there have been a few stars shining out in Hollywood. Amid the dark clouds of financial distress, fan violence, and dwindling attendance, the Dodgers’ have managed to maintain respectability on the field thanks in large part to three men who could be in line for off-season recognition.

Although it seems as if the Cy Young is already being engraved with Roy Halladay’s name on it, Clayton Kershaw remains within striking distance of claiming the award. In fact, Kershaw actually enjoys a slight advantage over the Phillies’ ace in traditional statistics like wins, innings pitched and ERA in addition to striking out an extra batter per game. Although Halladay rates better in ERA+ and both calculations of WAR, the difference isn’t insurmountable, nor likely meaningful enough to resonate with what is still more of an “old school” voting bloc.

Clayton Kershaw vs. Other Cy Young Contenders

Player Tm IP W L SO ERA ERA+ OPSa+  BWAR fWAR
Clayton Kershaw LAD 213.2 18 5 231 2.36 156 59 6.0 6.6
Roy Halladay PHI 210.2 17 5 204 2.44 159 62 6.5 7.7
Cliff Lee PHI 210.2 16 7 211 2.44 159 66 6.3 6.2
Cole Hamels PHI 194 14 7 171 2.60 149 57 5.4 5.0
Ian Kennedy ARI 202 19 4 178 2.90 135 82 4.9 4.2

Source: Baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com

Matt Kemp has an outside chance at finishing the year as a 40/40 man and incredibly remains in the running for a triple crown. Normally, a player pursuing either accomplishment, not to mention both, would garner daily national attention, but because of all the distractions surrounding the Dodgers, the center fielder’s potentially historic season has gone largely unnoticed. In addition to ranking among the leaders in most traditional statistical categories, Kemp is also a darling of the sabermetric crowd. His average WAR (bWAR+fWAR/2) easily ranks as the best in the National League, while his OPS+ and wOBA are not far off the pace. All things considered, Kemp has been the best player in the National League, but too many will discount his MVP credentials because the Dodgers have never been in the pennant race. Unfortunately, that sentiment is likely to cost him any chance at winning the award even though there isn’t a player in the league who has provided more value to his team.

Matt Kemp vs. Other MVP Contenders

Player Tm PO PA HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS+ wOBA bWAR fWAR
Matt Kemp LAD CF 618 32 107 .317 .396 .561 165 .409 8.6 7.1
Ryan Braun MIL LF 573 27 96 .331 .398 .579 163 .427 6.8 6.5
Joey Votto CIN 1B 644 28 94 .320 .427 .553 165 .419 6.6 7.0
T. Tulowitzki COL SS 596 30 105 .306 .376 .552 135 .394 5.8 6.6
Justin Upton ARI RF 622 30 86 .299 .379 .551 150 .400 4.7 7.0

Source: Baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com

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For most of his career, Derek Jeter has been a mainstay atop the Yankees lineup. Since the start of the 1998 season, the Captain has started only one game lower than third in the batting order, and that time he was called upon to hit cleanup. That’s why the idea of shifting Jeter back toward the end of the order has become such a controversial topic.

Don Mattingly was a fixture in the three-hole for over a decade.

Even before the ink dried on his new four-year extension, there were rumblings about how long Jeter would last as prominent figure in the batting order. Joe Girardi has always been quick to deflect that speculation, but with his shortstop hitting .242/.308/.263, the questions are likely to begin once again.

During Saturday afternoon’s telecast on YES, Michael Kay broached the topic of batting order position with Paul O’Neill by asking him about the time he permanently replaced Don Mattingly in the coveted three-hole. Although the conversation was inspired by Nick Swisher’s constant movement throughout the lineup, it was impossible to not think of Jeter, which made O’Neill’s further elaboration all the more interesting.

Manager Buck Showalter, who earlier this season reacted harshly when asked about switching Mattingly and O’Neill, began contemplating the new-look lineup last month and then discussed it with both players”. – Jack Curry, New York Times, July 21, 1994

Although Mattingly had frequently batted second and fourth during his prime, the third slot was his primary home since he first emerged as a superstar in 1984. As the 1994 season progressed, however, an impending lineup change seemed unavoidable. Nonetheless, even with O’Neill batting over .400 well into June, Showalter continued to resist the change by deflecting the mounting questions. Soon, however, the Yankees’ manager could no longer put off the inevitable.

The changing of the guard finally took place on July 20, 1994 in Oakland. Although O’Neill incorrectly recalled that the occasion occurred in Texas, his memory was dead on in one regard: Mattingly was exceedingly gracious when it came time to make the change. Always the consummate teammate, Mattingly deflected any notion of resentment and fully embraced the decision. In other words, he did what Captains do.

If I was the manager, I would have done it a long time ago with the way Paul is seeing the ball. I talked to Paul about it. You want to try to get him the most at-bats.” – Don Mattingly, quoted in the New York Times, July 21, 1994

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April was usually a frustrating time for Mattingly.

Don Mattingly turned 50 today, which for any Yankee fan growing up in the 1980s is a little startling. Although the team suffered through one of its longest championship droughts during Mattingly’s tenure, Donnie Baseball was still able to capture the hearts of an entire generation, so it’s hard to think of him as being a relic from an another era.

During his playing career, Mattingly’s birthday was always easy to remember because it seemed as if he never quite got going until after it passed. Long before Mark Teixeira became famous for his early season struggles, Mattingly turned slow starts into an art form. Whether he was in his prime or toward the end of his career, April was usually a frustrating time for Mattingly.

If it seems as if the Yankees have been through this before with Mattingly, it’s because they have. Everyone knows what to expect now, a plodding start followed by a fast summer. If it’s cold, so is Mattingly. Even in his magic years, Mattingly was no better than an ordinary April hitter.” – John Heyman, Newsday, April 19, 1994

Mattingly, Month by Month

Split PA R HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS
April/March 1001 124 11 122 0.266 0.338 0.381 0.719
May 1248 172 41 185 0.325 0.380 0.502 0.882
June 1290 163 34 173 0.307 0.351 0.449 0.800
July 1349 189 42 195 0.324 0.367 0.508 0.875
August 1341 176 45 199 0.309 0.358 0.487 0.845
Sept/Oct 1492 183 49 225 0.305 0.352 0.477 0.829

Source:  Baseball-reference.com

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