Monthly Archives: December, 2012

Alan Trammell and What We Want the Hall of Fame to Look Like

I was six when Alan Trammell played his final game. I can’t say I remember seeing much of him with my own eyes. But I come from a family of Tigers fans, so much so that my parents had a dog before I was born named, you guessed it, Trammell.

So the issue of Alan Trammell’s Hall of Fame candidacy is of some importance to me, my family, and the majority of the state of Michigan. Trammell is a beloved figure from the ’84 World Series team and a less beloved figure from a less than perfect managerial stint prior to Jim Leyland’s (he’s found a better home as Kirk Gibson’s bench coach in Arizona).

But is he a Hall of Famer? He’s a great Tiger, but does he make the cut for baseball’s highest honor?

First, I guess I should make clear that the Hall of Fame voting and the BBWAA in general are a joke. Stubborn, self-righteous writers won’t vote for suspected steroid users despite no proof and some refuse to vote for anyone on the first ballot simply because Babe Ruth didn’t make it in unanimously on the first ballot, so no one should. Lots of things about the voting are silly, but let’s leave that aside and ask if Trammell should be in the Hall of Fame assuming the Hall of Fame is actually a good measure of real baseball value.

For a long time, I thought no. And so have most of the voters. 36.8% of the 2012 voters put Trammell on their ballots, which is a far cry from the necessary 75% needed for induction. But in recent years I’ve become a more sophisticated fan, especially in the area of comparing eras and positions.

Trammell doesn’t have any universally accepted counting stat thresholds like 3000 hits or 500 homeruns to rest his candidacy upon, but those marks aren’t necessary for induction, they are merely sufficient. Let’s examine Trammell’s candidacy.

Over 20 big league seasons, he played 2293 games, hit 185 homeruns, drove in 1003, scored 1231, and stole 236 bases. He hit .285/.352/.415, good for a .343 wOBA and 111 wRC+. With good defense, Fangraphs puts his WAR at a healthy 69.5 (Baseball Reference says 67.1).

I’m not going to go through the arguments for or against Trammell made by others, but rather I’m going to construct a case based solely on the evidence.

Let’s start my putting Trammell in the context of major league shortstops. In the simplest terms, Trammell in 16th in career WAR for a shortstop. Every retired player on the list ahead of him is in the Hall. Some behind him are in. Based on the players already in the Hall at short, it seems like Trammell has a strong case. But past decisions aren’t necessarily right, so we can’t just say Trammell should make it because other undeserving players have made it.

By all of the main counting stats, Trammell is somewhere between 14th and 21st all time for shortstops with no controls for era. He’s outside the top 30 in all of the rate stats, however. Again, we’re not controlling for era here. This is the crux of the problem with Trammell’s candidacy. If you look at his numbers, it looks like he played for 20 years and accumulated a lot of counting stats without ever rising to the to the rate levels of the other past greats.

But like I said, this ignores context. Offense shot up right as Trammell’s career was ending and only in the last few years has it headed back down. Let’s look at Trammell’s contemporaries. Shortstops who played from 1970 to 2000 (adding five years on each end). These are arbitrary end points, but during that 30 year span, only Cal Ripkin, Ozzie Smith, and Robin Yount have higher WARs.

Trammell’s case rests on being a very good shortstop at a time of lower offense. He wasn’t the best of his era and he isn’t the best at anything. He played well over a long career and had a peak that looked like a Hall of Fame peak. Trammell’s best seasons are Hall of Fame worthy, but some of his worst seasons drag down the overall resume. Trammell is a good study in what you think the Hall of Fame should be.

I’ve always been a “story of the game” guy. The Hall of Fame to me is a museum to the game’s history and it should include the players who are vital to understanding the game. For this reason, I’m for admitting the suspected steroid users. But where does that leave Trammell?

By counting stats, he should be in. By rate stats, he’s probably not good enough. But that’s before you factor in the context of his position and his era. If the threshold for induction is that you have to be better than the worst player who is in, Trammell makes the cut. If there is a more ideal definition I think his case is less clear.

Trammell is vital to the story of the Tigers, but I don’t know how much he matters to the game as a whole. The fourth best shortstop of his era and a top 20 or 30 shortstop all time. If you like a big Hall of Fame, there is room for him. If you’re an exclusivity fan, he’s probably on the outside looking in.

Despite the quirks of voting, the Hall is still sacred ground. It does matter who gets in and who doesn’t. I’m left wavering on Trammell because I’m a story of the game guy and an exclusivity hawk. I want to induct players who were great and players that mattered. Greg Maddux is going in the Hall soon because he was great (and mattered), but I’m also more favorable toward Jack Morris because of his role in one of the great pitching classics of all time (Game 7, 1991 World Series) even if his raw numbers don’t warrant an inclusion in my book.

By my own standards, if I was redrawing the Hall of Fame, I think I would leave Trammell out. He doesn’t meet my own internal standards for the Hall, but he does mean the standards of the Hall as it currently stands.

Like I said, the Hall is a quirky place. Tim Raines isn’t in, but Jim Rice is. That doesn’t really add up. Hell, Pete Rose isn’t in the Hall. Voters have a lot of weird traditions and unwritten rules that don’t make sense. Certain voters see themselves as privileged gatekeepers to the point of ridiculousness. Bonds won’t make it because maybe he used steroids, but racists and wife beaters are just fine with them. The voters are the morality police without the moral compass.

As a Tigers fan, I want Trammell to get in. If I was designing my own Hall of Fame, I’d probably leave him out. But he belongs in this one. He has four years left of eligibility and he might get lost in the other battles raging over the Hall.

Given the criteria and the boundaries drawn by voters past and present, Alan Trammell belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Jhonny Peralta and a Lesson in Context

A decent number of Detroit sports personalities hate Jhonny Peralta. They think he’s a bad defender and unimpressive hitter. But they’re wrong and they’re wrong for an important reason. Position matters.

Peralta has been as durable as they come and hasn’t been on the DL in his entire career. He’s a lock for 145+ games and he’ll hit .250, walk a little less than average, and hit for average power. He’s not rangey, but he’s reliable on defense. He’s consistent. He’s shown the ability to hit .300 with a lot of power, but even if you don’t buy that ceiling, the floor is pretty stable and safe.

So if you look at a .264/.327/.422 hitter, you’re not thinking about a great player. But that actually depends. If that guy is hitting third and playing first base for you, you’re in trouble. But if he hits eighth and plays shortstop, you’re thrilled. This is a lesson in context.

In 2012, by WAR, Peralta was the 14th best shortstop in baseball with 2.6 (probably 13th if we don’t count Ben Zobrist who wasn’t a full time shortstop). Fourteenth is dead on average. In order to improve at shortstop, the Tigers would need to find a way to get a player who’s ahead of him on this list:

Alcides Escobar, Zack Cozart, J.J. Hardy, Asdrubal Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez, Derek Jeter, Starlin Castro, Erick Aybar, Elvis Adrus, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Ian Desmond, and Ben Zobrist.

Those are the shortstops who were more valuable in 2012 than Peralta. Those are all big league starters and their teams aren’t giving them away. Those guys were better than Peralta in a down year for Peralta. In 2011, Peralta was third among MLB shortstops in WAR with 5.2, trailing only Reyes and Troy Tulowitzki.

From 2006-2012, Peralta was the 12th best shortstop in baseball. This, remember, is a lesson in context.

The context is the position you play. Peralta is not a great hitter. His .324 wOBA since 2006 is very average. But shortstops are lesser hitters as a group. Peralta’s average-ness is actually quite valuable from the shortstop position. You can’t compare him to everyone, just the players who play his position, and against them, he stacks up well.

He’s an average to slightly above average shortstop. You can’t replace him with Danny Worth or Ramon Santiago and get better. 15-20 teams would be very happy to take Jhonny Peralta from the Tigers and improve their middle infield.

You might think Peralta is lackluster on offense, but you have to realize the bar is lower for shortstops than it is for players on the corners.

His defense is also hotly debated. A lot of people think he’s terrible. The advanced metrics actually seem to love him. He’s posted a 9.9 UZR each of the last two seasons (meaning he’s been a win better than average at short each year). A lot of his critics read these numbers and scoff and say he benefits from good positioning by the coaching staff.

But you can’t deny what UZR is telling you. It might not mean Peralta is great on defense, but it does mean that he is getting to enough balls to be worth a win a season on defense. He might be getting aid from his coaches, but it is happening. Brendan Ryan would outperform him in the same context, but Peralta is performing well, even if someone else could take the Tigers’ coaches and use them even better.

I’ve read other metrics and watched with my own eyes and I think it’s fair to say Peralta is good going to his left and a little less rangey going to his right. He has good hands and generally makes accurate throws. With the help of good positioning, he’s helped the Tigers win on defense. He might not be miraculous himself, but remember, this is a lesson in context. In the situation he plays in, he is doing well.

So while a lot of people complain about Peralta, he’s clearly an average or better shortstop and is very durable. He’s also cheap at $6.5 million a season. Excellent shortstops are rare and expensive. Peralta is cheap, durable, and pretty good. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

The Tigers are a good team with a lot of star power. Peralta is a good compliment. He’s a good, cheap player at a position with few true stars. The people who want to get rid of Peralta need to take a long hard look at the rest of the league.

The league average production at shortstop in 2012 was .256/.310/.375. That looks an awful lot like the Peralta floor. You can’t compare him to Prince Fielder. Fielder plays first base and the league average first baseman in 2012 hit .257/.330/436. Way more walks, way more power. It’s a different position, so it’s a different set of expectations.

Jhonny Peralta is a guy you want to hang on to if you’re the Tigers, not a guy you need to replace.

Indians Get Swisher, Laugh Like Mr. Burns

Nick Swisher is underrated and Nick Swisher is now a Cleveland Indian. He’ll likely replace Shin Shoo Choo in right field, but can play left, first base, or DH over the course of his four year, $56 million deal (vesting option could take it to 5/70).

Most people figured Josh Hamilton would get more than Swisher on the free agent market, and we now know they are right. Hamilton got 5/125, which is more than 4/56. But that’s because Hamilton is overvalued and Swisher is undervalued. This is a great deal for the Indians. A great one.

Swisher is a young 32 and this deal will cover his age 32-35. Those are past his peak years, but not way into Alex Rodriguez territory. Swisher played his first full season in 2005 and was a full time player from 2006-2012. Over the last seven seasons, Swisher has never played fewer than 148 games. He’s never hit fewer than 22 homeruns. He’s had a walk rate under 12.3% once. He’s had an OBP under .355 once. He’s been an above average hitter and an average or better defender.

He’s been worth less than 3.0 WAR once in that span. All of these “onces” came during his worst season in 2008 where he was still an okay player.

Even if you figure he’ll decline into this thirties, he’s been a model player. Consistent power and patience mixed with solid defense. You can write him down for a 3 win season. He’s getting paid to be worth 2-3 wins over the next four season each, so if there is no salary inflation, he should be worth it. But there will be inflation, so he’s a steal.

Also, at $14 million a season, the risk isn’t so high that he’ll fall off the table and drag the team with him because he doesn’t have that $25 million price tag of Hamilton.

Swisher is essentially provides consistent, reliable production at the level that Hamilton averages out to. He’s a 3-4 win player with power. That’s what Hamilton is, but Hamilton has the amazing ceiling and flashes of brilliance mixed with the terrible lows.

With no inflation, Swisher needs to accumulate 11-12 wins to earn his deal. Hamilton needs to accumulate 25 wins. I’d much rather take the Swisher contract with a lower ceiling than the Hamilton contract with the bottomless-pit-like floor.

The Indians are a small market club and have a lot of work to do to build a winner. But in the weak AL Central, contention is probably not too far off. They have a solid young infield and catcher and an outfield that is serviceable. One more good bat and some rotation upgrades could get the Tribe near the top. Swisher is a good step in the right direction.

It will take some luck for the Indians to play with the Tigers in 2013, but anything can happen. Nick Swisher is a reliable player at a good price and he’s a fun loving guy who went to school at Ohio State. He seems like a natural fit for the Indians. He’d have a been a great fit for a lot of teams. It’s a little surprising a bigger market club didn’t offer more money, but fans in northeast Ohio will be glad they didn’t.

Grade: A

Does Bonderman Have Something Left?

Jeremy Bonderman hasn’t thrown a pitch in professional baseball since 2010 and it looked like he was hanging up his cleats for good. He saved his money wisely and seemed ready for a backwoods retirement in obscurity.

But he couldn’t quite close off that part of his life. The former Tiger hurler who spent eight seasons in the major leagues is trying to make a comeback, and yesterday, his hometown Mariners made that comeback a possibility by signing him to a minor league contract. Jeremy Bonderman might not be done after all.

Bonderman went 67-77 with a 4.89 ERA in 207 games with the Tigers from 2003-2010, including some durable and effective seasons from 2003-2007. In 2006, he posted a 3.29 FIP and 6.1 WAR, which were both career bests. He was by no means a great starting pitcher in the mold of Johan Santana or Roy Halladay, but he was the Tigers workhouse until Verlander took over that role.

The whole of his career is respectable and unimpressive. He made it to the big leagues early because the Tigers were terrible and needed pitchers and because he left high school a year early and got his GED so he could enter the draft at 17. He’s also famous for causing Billy Beane to throw a chair through a wall. Yes, that’s a real thing.

But that 2006 campaign was great. Only Johan Santana and Brandon Webb had better FIPs and WARs. Aren’t those a couple of names from a time long since passed?

The potential was always there for Bonderman, who had a solid fastball and an excellent slider. He worked year after year on a changeup, but it never materialized and injuries soon caught up with him. He had four above average major league seasons, one of them great, before his 26th birthday. Most pitches don’t hit their peak until ages 26-30. Bonderman’s came long before.

Bonderman will spend the entire 2013 being 30 years old. He’s missed two years being semi-retired, and he’s still thirty.

If the arm speed is still there and the fastball and slider can still work, he could be a good piece out of the bullpen. I always thought he could thrive in the pen. When the injuries came, I thought they should have moved him to the back end of the ‘pen, but alas, it never happened and he walked away from the game.

Until now. Now, Jeremy Bonderman is making a comeback. I’m not sure if there’s a more romantic quest in sports than the grizzly veteran seeing if he has something left. Think The Rookie or Bull Durham. Think about the awesome Sports Night episode, “The Sword of Orion,” in which part of the story centers around Dan’s desire to watch a washed up starting pitcher start a comeback in an exhibition game with the Baltimore Orioles.

Something about a comeback speaks to us at a very emotional level. The idea of thinking something is over, only to find out that there is still time, is a powerful feeling. So we love when athletes try to conquer father time and mother nature and play beyond when we thought they could.

I’m dying to see Bonderman make this comeback. I’ll be waiting up for West Coast games, just hoping he’ll get the call. I want to see what he has left. The look in a man’s eye when he realizes there’s a little bit left in the tank that no one thought he had, that’s the look we live for.

The idea of a peak is everywhere in life. Some people peak in high school when they’re named prom king. Some in college. Baseball players in their late 20s. Others in their 40s. Whatever and whoever it is, we all peak. But what comes after the peak is still meaningful. There’s still something there. The party isn’t over.

The best days of Bonderman’s career may be over, but there may yet be days ahead. He might have another pitch, another game, another season, or another five seasons. He might have nothing left. But Bonderman was a big piece of some of my earliest baseball memories and I’ll be cheering like crazy for him. I love comebacks and I’m dying to see what Bondo has left, even if it’s just one more pitch.

Catching Up on All the Moves in Baseball

Last weekend, I had the nerve to go on my honeymoon and missed writing about a lot of baseball trades and signings. To atone for such indiscretions, here’s a post about everything I missed while I was following my wife around the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Blue Jays acquire R.A. Dickey from the Mets, Sign Him to an Extension

This deal also included Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas in exchange for John Buck, Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, and Wuilmer Becerra. The Dickey extension is for two additional seasons and $25 million with a club option for 2016.

This is a very solid deal for the Mets in my book as they deal one year of Dickey plus two less than glamorous pieces for some prospects with really high upsides. d’Arnaud isn’t a sure thing, but he’s a top 10 prospect in baseball who can provide legitimate offense from behind the plate, and the other prospects are also potential contributors in the future. I’m not going to break down each of these guys at length, but the value is good for the Mets.

The Jays gave up a lot, but they also got a lot in return. Thole and Nickeas will be useful, but Dickey could be a difference maker. Over the last three seasons he’s been a great starter and capped it off with a Cy Young this season. He’s old and a knuckleballer, but he’s very effective. He’ll make just $5 million in 2013, so he’s a steal. If he maintains similar levels over the course of the extension, the $12 million per season price tag is a steal. If you buy him as someone who can maintain this level of performance, his 4+ WAR levels are worth about twice what he’ll make over the course of this deal.

The Blue Jays paid a premium for his services via trade, but they are right on the cusp of contention. With the addition of Melky Cabrera, Maizer Iztruis, and most of the Miami Marlins, the Blue Jays are easily within a couple wins of a division title and Dickey could make that difference. We’re not great at predicting baseball down to the precise win totals of a team, but we do have a good idea of about where the Blue Jays will fall in 2013 and we think that will be near a spot in the standings where a couple wins could make a big difference.

Grade (Mets): B+, Grade (Jays): B+

Astros Sign Carlos Pena, 1 year, $2.9 million plus incentives

Pena hits for a low average. He walks and hits homeruns. He’s solid on defense at first. While that makes him a below average player, it makes him like the second best Astro. Houston moves to the AL this season so Pena will largely play the role of DH at Minute Maid Park and should see some time at first.

In context this is a great move, even if it isn’t much of anything on a large scale. Pena should provide some offense for a bad team and they’ll get that offense at likely below market value because he has such a low batting average. Any true contender would have trouble selling a .190 hitter to their fan base, but the Astros don’t have that problem. This should pay off, even if it’s the difference between 67 wins and 69.

Grade: B

Cubs Sign Edwin Jackson, 4 years, $52 million

Edwin Jackson is 29 years old. He has made 31 or more starts in seven straight seasons. In the last six seasons, he’s thrown 183 innings or more each year with an ERA at 4.42 or below. Decent strikeout numbers, a few too many walks.

He’s not great, but he’s been close to a 4 WAR pitcher three of the last four seasons and close to a 3 WAR pitcher in the other. He’s pretty good. If you want him to be your ace, that’s a problem. But he’s better than average. If we figure over the next four seasons that he’ll be somewhere between 2 and 4 WAR, we’d offer him $10-$25 million per season depending on inflationary projections.

Obviously the $25 million is at the very high end and you don’t offer contracts with inflation built in. The Cubs have him for $13 million a year. At that rate, he needs to be worth 2 to 3 wins if there is no inflation (and there will be). He’s hasn’t been worth less than 2 WAR since 2008.

This is a good deal for the Cubs because most people seem to undervalue Jackson because he performs worse than we think he should given the quality of his raw stuff. He feels like he should be a #2, but he’s really been more of a #3 type guy and his ERA tends to look a little bloated at times. If you check the FIP, he looks better.

If he’s the same guy over the next four seasons minus a little aging as he has been for the last four, this deal will work out for the Cubs.

Grade: B

Rangers Sign A.J. Pierzynski, 1 year, $7.5 million

The Rangers lost out on Greinke, Hamilton, Upton, and pretty much everyone else they’ve wanted in the last twelve months. But gosh darn it, they got A.J.

Former White Sox, jerkish personality aside, this should be a good fit for the Rangers. He’s a durable lefthanded hitting catcher who hits for power. That’s not an easy thing to find. He doesn’t walk, but he rarely strikesout. The defense is suspect at times, but he’s usually commended for his ability to lead staffs.

He’s going to be somewhere between 1 and 3 WAR, just like he has been his whole career, in 2013. If he hits for a lot of power, look toward the high end. If he doesn’t, expect the low end. He’s durable and respectable at the plate. For $7.5 million, you’re only asking him to  be better than 1 WAR for it to payoff and he should be able to handle that.

Grade: B+

Brief Thoughts on Minor Moves

Phillies sign Mike Adams: Too long for a reliever, but should help.

Red Sox sign Stephen Drew: One year deals are low risk. Should be a good stop gap with some upside and they have the money to spend.

Rays sign the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona: No bad one year deals and the Rays are good at turning these guys into valuable pieces. Can’t hate it.

Marlins sign Placido Polanco: Past his prime and injury prone. In his heyday, he was a master. Now, he might be more of a bench player than a starter. But the Marlins are terrible, so it’s a decent move.

Pirates sign Francisco Liriano: At 2 years and $14 million, there is some risk he’s terrible and they’re out a non-trivial amount of money. But the Pirates need to thicken up their rotation and he could be useful in the pen if it comes to that. I wouldn’t love this deal, but the dollar value is low enough that it could really be a steal if he finds his form for just one of the seasons.

That should get you caught up on the happenings around the league and I have no plans to walk around theme parks for quite some time. We’re less than two months from pitchers and catchers and we’ll have coverage of everything that happens.

While We’ve Been Gone

I’ve been in Florida on my honeymoon for the last few days, so we haven’t been running any fresh content, just review pieces for the NL East. If you’re looking for coverage of the big moves, especially the Dickey trade, fear not! Fresh content will be coming in the next few days and throughout the holiday season.

Thinking About the Strasburg Shutdown

One of the biggest stories in baseball this season was the Nationals shutting down Stephen Strasburg. I liked it. Lots of people didn’t.

The argument against the shutdown was that they had a shot at a title and he would help them get there. We also don’t know enough about Tommy John recovery to know if he needed to be shut down.

But I think they had to do it. He wasn’t just a year and a half removed from Tommy John surgery, he had never thrown more than about 120 innings in a season before. How would his arm respond to a bigger workload after the surgery?

They didn’t need him to make the playoffs. That much is clear. Could he have made a difference in the playoffs? Sure, but he also could have pitched terribly, we’re just guessing. Gonzalez was lights out in the regular season and laid an egg in the NLDS.

I’m a big believer in building innings slowly. He already threw 40 more innings than he had ever thrown. I would be weary of going much higher than he did if he hadn’t had surgery, but the surgery sealed it for me. Strasburg is the future of that team, you can’t risk a second surgery because second Tommy John’s lead to careers in the bullpen.

We don’t know a lot about what causes injuries to pitchers, but what we do know is that pitching tired is a factor. Strasburg had never thrown this many innings and had missed an entire season. This sounds like a recipe for fatigue. He would tell you he isn’t tired because he wants to be a team guy, but I would wager he was tired.

It’s one thing to wear him out and make him tired going into next season, but it’s another to risk another injury. If he was my investment, I would shut him down. They had a good team and made it to the playoffs anyway.  I would bet they’ll be back.

He’ll have something to say about that.

2012 Season in Review: National League East

It was a big season for the NL East. The Marlins spent big. The Mets had R.A. Dickey. The Phillies underperformed. The Braves bounced back. The Nationals rose to the occasion.

I predicted the big year from the Nats and the poor showing by the Marlins. I thought too highly of the Phillies and sold the Braves a little short. For a breakdown of how I viewed each team’s 2012, I wrote full pieces on each club.

Here’s how 2012 shook out:

east st

And here are the playoff odds across time:

east odds

This is how I see the division next season:

2013 st

And a final look at my 2012 grades:

2012 grades

The National League East was one of the better divisions in baseball in 2012 and there’s a lot of talent for next season. I like the Nationals to repeat in 2013, but there are a lot of interesting teams…except the Marlins. They will be terrible.

NL East Cy Young: R.A. Dickey

NL East MVP: David Wright

2012 Season in Review: Washington Nationals

98-64, 1st in the NL East

Lost in the NLDS to the Cardinals

The Washington Nationals were my team to watch in 2012. I said on The Guy Show in March that they would win the East and go to the World Series. While the second part of the prediction didn’t come through, it was way closer than what most people thought. The Nationals were baseball’s best regular season team and came within an out of the NLCS.

The offense doesn’t jump off the page, but they played well together. Ian Desmond (5.4), Bryce Harper (4.9), and Ryan Zimmerman (4.5) all had great years. Danny Espinosa (3.8) and Adam LaRoche (3.8) were also very good.

The starting pitching was extraordinary as well. Gio Gonzalez (5.4), Stephen Strasburg (4.3), Jordan Zimmermann (3.5), Edwin Jackson (2.7), and Ross Detwiler (1.8) made all but 11 of the teams 162 starts. They also got a lot of great innings out of their bullpen.

The Nationals were in command of Game 5 of the NLCS until they weren’t in the final innings and lost to a little of that Cardinals magic.

But two big stories dominated the Nationals season. First, the Nationals are contenders now. They played well and didn’t go away. Most people will agree that they’re the favorites in the National League again in 2013.

The other story was the Strasburg shutdown, which was a huge controversy all season. I’m on board with the shutdown, but a lot of people thought it cost them. (Look for a post on this next week!)

As the offseason has gone on, the Nats have added Denard Span and Dan Haren, so they should be set to contend again in 2013, but it’s hard not to look back at 2012 and enjoy it. The Nationals brought winning baseball back to DC for the first time in decades, and there’s no sign of slowing down.

2012 Grade: A

Early 2013 Projection: 94-68

2012 Season in Review: Atlanta Braves

94-68, 2nd in the NL East, 1st Wild Card

Lost in the Play-In Game

The Braves had a great season after a disappointing end to 2011, and in any other season, would have made the playoffs. Unfortunately, the new rules sent them into a one game playoff against the Cardinals to earn a spot in the postseason. In this game, a very questionable infield fly was called, and their last shot at a rally was killed.

But losing a coin-flip game shouldn’t dampen the success of the 2012 Braves. The Braves outfield of Heyward (6.6), Bourn (6.4), and Prado (5.9) was all-world in WAR and played superb defense. Uggla (3.5), Jones (3.0), Simmons (2.2),Jones (3.0),  and played superb defense. Prado at a rally was killed.

a spot in the postseason. In this game, a v McCann (2.0), and Freeman (2.0) showed what a complimentary starting lineup looks like. Every single Braves position player hit the 2.0 starter threshold, and some did so in less than a full season.

The pitching was strong too led by a bonkers-good Kris Medlen (3.9) in the second half. Hudson (2.6), Minor (1.4), and Hanson (1.0) made a full season of starts to varying success, but found good outings from the rest of the piecemeal rotation in Beachy (1.5), Maholm (1.0), and Delgado (1.0).

The bullpen was taking names in 2012 as well. Kimbrel’s 3.6 WAR was an incredible mark for a reliever and the rest of the group posted solid numbers.

In sum, this was a very good club. The offense was great and the starters were solid. The bullpen was lights out. The Braves ran into the poor fortune of having a good season in the first year of a silly new playoff format. They were six games better than the Cardinals during the season but were thrown into a coin flip game to generate fake drama and it cost them. Who knows what would have happened if they had earned a real playoff spot under the old system.

But 2012 was Chipper’s farewell season and most Braves fans will remember that as well. They’ve parted with Bourn and added BJ Upton, so the 2013 Braves should be equally as competitive.

2012 Grade: B

Early 2013 Projection: 91-71

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