Hall of Fame Scripts: Arguments against the PED class

While there are a multitude of issues facing the Hall of Fame currently, what to do with steroid-era players is the most challenging. After all, this one is in the hands of the voters. That’s not to say that the 10-vote limit and the fact that some of the writers seem to be making this process more about themselves than the institution aren’t major concerns.

This year for the first time, I had the privilege of casting a ballot for the IBWAA. Even though my vote was unofficial in nature, I took it very seriously, as I consider myself to be a well-read and historically driven student of the game. As you can see in my ballot below, I chose to leave off any player with even the smallest connection to the use of performance enhancing drugs. This decision did not come easily, as I used almost the entire amount of time allotted to me to submit my final ballot. I did an absurd amount of reading, talked with dozens of other writers and made sure to do my own research.

Here’s my 2015 IBWAA ballot (with my picks highlighted in yellow):

HOF Ballot

As I mentioned, my decision to leave players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens off my ballot was a tough one. From a pure numbers perspective, I effectively left two of the greatest players in baseball history out in the cold. I realize this, and although it was not fun to have to do, I will stick to my guns. I of course respect the opinions of the pro-steroid voters, as they are not without validity in their arguments. So it goes.

I realize some criticism is warranted in leaving players like Jeff Bagwell off the ballot, as it was never proven that he used. Hell, there was never concrete evidence that Bonds used either. In trying to be as fair as possible, I used a form of probable cause in my decision making. You know, the kind of skills that police officers use while on the beat. If they have probable cause that you committed a crime, they can pull you over. In that, any player that I even think may have been linked to steroids will not appear on my ballot. I realize that this may sound silly to some, but I didn’t want to make the mistake of voting for a player who juiced without every possible piece of information. Sure, there are going to be rare cases where I’m wrong and I left off a player who was actually clean. However, I’m willing to take that risk in order to make absolutely sure that my vote doesn’t taint baseball’s most sacred institution. Maybe more information comes out about a player in the future, absolving them of any dark cloud. In that scenario, I would gladly reconsider. For now though, this is how I chose to approach it.

There’s no doubt that it’s hard to decipher between those who used, those who probably did, those who may have and those who did not in an era where steroids were reportedly widespread. How widespread it really was though, we will probably never know. Before we close up shop, I just wanted to take a minute to critique the arguments of those who would call me crazy (and there have been many).

Tony Gwynn
Are we really willing to put steroid users right up with true Hall of Famers like Tony Gwynn?

Everyone was doing it: Wrong. Ken Griffey, Jr. was never linked to the use of performing enhancing drugs. Plenty others had great careers, and had them on the up and up. Many were doing it, but many also refrained.

It wasn’t illegal: While this is true to some degree, it still doesn’t exonerate those who used. Baseball looked the other way for the entirety of the 90’s and into the early 2000’s before cracking down. Some will argue that the home run races of this era brought baseball back after the ’94 strike. I understand the fact that athletes are always going to look for an edge over their competition. I get it. But to allow these factors to wipe away the fact that some chose to cheat would be foolish.

He was great before he started using: Just stop, stop it right now. Then why use? I’m sure those who use this argument would say “to gain an even greater edge”, but really? Do we have no morality? This argument has been paramount to those who support Barry Bonds’ candidacy.

His numbers outweigh his steroid use: No they don’t. It’s likely that a solid chunk of his numbers (at the least), especially those in relation to power came as a direct result of PED use. I really don’t get this argument. If the CEO if a big bank accumulates large quantities of money in a way that is clearly shady while there were no penalties for it, does that make it alright? It’s a slippery slope to be sure, but I don’t think that makes the way in which the funds were acquired any less wrong from a moral standpoint.

And finally, I’ll just leave this here. This has been copied directly from the BBWAA’s election rules via the Hall of Fame’s website.

5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

At the very least, this rule should give those who are quick to pencil steroid-users in on their ballots some pause.

Statistical credits: http://baseballhall.org/hall-of-famers/bbwaa-rules-for-election, http://baseballhall.org,
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/GTr8pP

Check out FantasyRundown.com for all of our latest articles and other great fantasy content!

Timothy is a co-owner, head editor and sometimes writer at The Sports script. Follow him on Twitter @TKing978!

Transaction Scripts: Santana, McCarthy & Masterson

Can a healthy Masterson fix his command and rebound on his former club?

Woah, what a couple of days. A flurry, no, a blizzard of deals were made at baseball’s Winter Meetings yesterday. The storm is by no means over, as there are still some big name dominoes that have yet to fall. While the blockbuster deals involving Jimmy Rollins, Matt Kemp, Yoenis Cespedes and others have stolen the headlines, some notable free agent veteran arms have found new homes. Overlooked by some, these transactions will have immediate fantasy repercussions.

Ervin Santana finally gets a multi-year deal

Santana pitched well for Atlanta in 2014, winning 14 games behind a 3.95 ERA and 179 strikeouts. One of the few big league pitchers to ever successfully rehab and pitch through a partially torn UCL, Santana was unable to land a multi-year contract over the past couple of years due to free agent draft pick compensation and uncertainty around the elbow. However, Santana has been remarkably durable throughout his career, failing to reach 150 innings only one time since 2005. The Twins seem comfortable with him, as they gave him a 4-year deal (with an option attached) for 54 million dollars on Thursday. He’ll slot in behind an improving Phil Hughes in 2015.

There’s no doubt that Santana benefited greatly from his short stay in the National League. He saw his strikeout rate (K%) balloon to 21.9%, his best since 2008. Santana, who turns 32 today, took advantage of facing the opposing pitcher. According to Mike Petriello of Fangraphs, Santana fanned 23 of a possible 60 pitchers in their plate appearances last year. The right-hander got almost 2% more swings and misses in 2014 then he did the year prior as well. He did this by fooling the opposition into chasing pitches outside the zone, again seeing a 2% increase in his O-Swing%.

The move to Target Field should be good for him. He, like former gopher ball machine Phil Hughes has historically had a problem with the long ball, something that the Twins’ new stadium has fixed for Hughes. Like Hughes, Santana has evolved a bit in recent seasons. Since 2011, he’s induced grounders at least 42.7% of the time. Couple this with Target Field’s uncanny ability to depress power and Santana should be quite comfortable rocking the Minnesota pinstripes in 2015.

Of course, he doesn’t come without his concerns either. We know about the UCL, and that’s not something that just goes away. In fact, there are really no stories of pitchers successfully being able to overcome that completely until they go under the knife. Santana also threw more sliders than any other pitcher in baseball over the last two seasons. In case you weren’t aware, sliders are elbow mutilators. Nevertheless, Santana is a slightly above average arm and if he can avoid landing on the disabled list, he will probably wind up being a pretty good value for the Twins over the course of his contract. What they are paying him is comparable to what Brandon McCarthy and Fransisco Liriano got in their respective deals, with the inly caveat being that Santana has been lightyears more durable. The verdict here is that Santana will likely continue to be a solid SP4 or 5 for your mixed league fantasy team. Unfortunately though, his whiff rate is going to come down some.

Brandon McCarthy is Hollywood’s newest talent

The Dodgers have been nothing short of busy. They shipped off Dee Gordon, Dan Haren and Matt Kemp on Thursday in return for Jimmy Rollins, Yasmani Grandal, Howie Kendrick and several prospects. They also cleared salary room for future transactions. To replace Dan Haren they signed veteran right-hander Brandon McCarthy to a 4-year contract. McCarthy will be immediately inserted into one of baseball’s best starting rotations that includes the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu.

McCarthy is an anomaly. He tossed a career-high 200 innings in 2014 between Arizona and New York, but he’d gone past 111 innings just one other time in his career. McCarthy drastically outperformed his ERA last year before being shipped to New York. Once he got the Bronx, things corrected themselves. Go figure. After the trade, McCarthy was money, posting a 7-5 record with a 2.89 ERA in 14 starts. He was one of the best pitchers in baseball down the stretch.

The former Athletic has made 30 starts just one time in his career (2014). The problem with McCarthy has always been his health. Check out his graphed injury history, courtesy of Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs:

McCarthy Injury HistoryYour guess is as good as mine as to how his shoulder is still attached. He’s missed an almost infinite amount of time with throwing shoulder injuries throughout his career. You could always, always, always pencil McCarthy in for a DL stint, but it didn’t happen in 2014. Is it just a fluke that he was able to get through an entire season without landing on the DL? Maybe. Jeff Sullivan has a different take. Maybe, just maybe Brandon McCarthy has turned a corner in the health department.

Supposedly he started a new workout routine last winter which allowed him to get his body in better shape. Lifting heavier weights helped him physically in order to deal with the long, grueling season. This theory may have some staying power as his average fastball velocity went up more than 2% between 2o13 and last season. It’s probably safe to assume that his shoulder is feeling pretty good if he’s throwing the ball harder.

As I mentioned, he really struggled in Arizona before being shipped to the Bronx. However, his peripheral numbers were still solid. Some bad luck was likely the culprit there. After the move, McCarthy dominated. He and catcher Brian McCann tried a new approach to keep hitters off balance, and it worked. This included throwing a ton more four-seam fastballs up in the zone, laying off the sinker and mixing in his cutter about 20% of the time. These adaptions helped McCarthy post the best groundball rate (GB%) and strikeout percentage (K%) of his career, 52.6% and 20.9% respectively.

Digging deeper, McCarthy allowed a lot less contact and in turn induced a ton more whiffs. He increased his swinging strike percentage (SwStr%) by a robust 2.9%. Steamer projects McCarthy and free agent right-hander James Shields to have very similar 2015 seasons. Shields, 33 is two years older than McCarthy and will come at a much higher free agent cost. If McCarthy can stay healthy, and that is a big if, the Dodgers may have acquired a #2 for the price of a #4. More whiffs, better velocity, a more articulate use of his arsenal and a finally healthy shoulder may make Brandon McCarthy a steal in the ladder portion of your fantasy draft next year.

Justin Masterson returns to Boston

In an effort to rebuild their rotation, the Red Sox seem to be going the way of the groundball. They’ve acquired Wade Miley, Rick Porcello and now Justin Masterson, who pitched for the team in 2008 and 2009. Compared to the market, Masterson came relatively cheap and represents a low-risk addition to their rotation. Boston has guaranteed Masterson 9.5 million dollars for his services in 2015, with incentives if he reaches certain innings thresholds.

The trend here is to force the opposition to beat the ball into the ground. Masterson definitely fits that mold. The lanky right-hander has never recorded a groundball rate (GB%) below 53.6% in his career, an impressive feat. In 2013 at age 27, Masterson broke out. He won 14 games for Cleveland en route to a 3.45 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and a massive spike in strikeouts. He seemed primed to enter free agency after 2014 and demand a big contract. However, Masterson regressed and was an almost complete mess a year ago. Between Cleveland and St. Louis, he posted a career-worst 5.88 ERA, earning himself a demotion to the Cardinal bullpen by year’s end.

While Masterson definitely got unlucky in the BABIP department last year, he pitched ineffectively. His strikeout to walk ratio fell to a career low 1.68 after he posted a solid 2.57 the year prior. Masterson has always had an issue with the free pass, but his walk rate (BB%) ballooned to just under 12% in 2014, something he could just not overcome. Opposing batters hit .278 off of Masterson last year as opposed to .220 in 2013.

In all fairness, Masterson did deal with a knee injury for the entirety of 2014 that he admitted he couldn’t get right. It had a negative impact upon his performance, as we can see in his pretty drastic dip in velocity from the year prior, an almost 3 MPH dip in fastball speed. Masterson is a two-pitch hurler, and last year he reverted back to throwing his heater more than 80% of the time. During his breakout 2013, he used the fastball less in favor of more sliders. It will be interesting to see if he goes back to what worked for him during that season and use his slider more again.

Masterson is a solid arm with walk issues and problems putting left-handers away. However, if he can move back to using some of the adjustments that made him so successful in 2013, we’re looking at a fantasy-relavant starting pitcher. If he can’t get his walk issues back in check, then he’s best left of off your draft board.

Statistical credits: Startribune.com, Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com, ESPN.com, Baseballheatmaps.com

Photo cred: http://goo.gl/z5Sy6q (Masterson), http://goo.gl/MQJIs7 (McCarthy graph)

Check out FantasyRundown.com for all of our latest articles and other great fantasy content!

Timothy is a co-owner, head editor and sometimes writer at The Sports script. Follow him on Twitter @TKing978!

The Fantasy Forecaster: Baseball 9/10/14

The dynamic duo is back! In this, the final 2014 installment of TFF: Baseball, Ricky, Tim and Jeff give a look ahead to 2015.

You can stream on-demand here.

You can also subscribe/download on iTunes here. Leave a rating, don’t be shy!

Make sure to follow Timothy (@TKing978), Ricky (@rickygangster) and Jeff (@InfirmaryReport) on Twitter!

New to daily fantasy baseball? Head over to FanDuel.com and use Promo Code SCRIPT and get 100% match on your first deposit!

The Fantasy Forecaster: Football 9/9/14

Ricky was joined by fellow TSS writer Doug Moore and they discussed the week that was around the NFL while taking your questions!

You can stream on-demand here.

You can also subscribe/download on iTunes here. Leave a rating, don’t be shy!

Make sure to follow Ricky (@rickygangster) and Doug (@DMM0822) on Twitter!

The guys will be back next week (September 16)! Get your questions in on Twitter using the #TSS tag.

The Fantasy Forecaster: Baseball 9/3/14

Ricky and Tim are back with another episode of The Fantasy Forecaster: Baseball! In this episode, they discuss H2H playoff tips and tricks, James Paxton, Carlos Carrasco, Buster Posey, Mookie Betts and much more! Of course, the show includes a visit from Jeff of the Infirmary Report as he outlines all of the injury news around the league.

You can stream on-demand here.

You can also subscribe/download on iTunes here. Leave a rating, don’t be shy!

Make sure to follow Timothy (@TKing978), Ricky (@rickygangster) and Jeff (@InfirmaryReport) on Twitter!

The guys will be back next week (September 10) with their final show of the season, with a look-ahead to 2015 and beyond. Get your keeper questions in on Twitter using the #TSS tag.

New to daily fantasy baseball? Head over to FanDuel.com and use Promo Code SCRIPT and get 100% match on your first deposit!

The Fantasy Forecaster 08/27/14

With Ricky on hiatus, Timothy hosts The Fantasy Forecaster! In this episode, he is joined by Jim Finch of Fantasy Assembly. The talk about Adam Wainwright’s struggles, Gregory Polanco, bullpens, Manny Machado’s long-term outlook, Justin Verlander as a closer and a whole lot more (seriously, we’re not just saying that).

You can stream on demand here.

You can also subscribe/download on iTunes here. Don’t be shy to leave a positive rating or comment, either!

Make sure to follow Timothy (@TKing978) and Jim (@TheJimFinch) on Twitter!

We will be back next Wednesday (September 3) with all of the news from the MLB roster expansion and to help guide you in round 1 of your fantasy playoff matches!

New to daily fantasy baseball? Head over to FanDuel.com and use Promo Code SCRIPT and get 100% match on your first deposit!

The Fantasy Forecaster 08/20/14

Ricky and Tim are back with another episode of The Fantasy Forecaster! In this episode, the guys are joined by Andy Singleton from Level Up Fantasy. They discuss the red hot Mike Fiers, under-owned starting pitchers, whether Josh Hamilton is still ownable in mixed leagues, pitchers who may face an innings cap and their early 2015 top 10 ranks. Of course, the show includes a visit from Jeff of the Infirmary Report as he outlines the injury news around baseball.

You can stream on demand here.
You can also subscribe/download on iTunes here. Don’t be shy to leave a positive rating or comment, either!

Make sure to follow Ricky (@rickygangster), Timothy (@TKing978), Jeff (@InfirmaryReport) and Andy (@PeoplezPen) on Twitter!

We will be back next Wednesday (August 27) to recap all of the hottest topics in fantasy baseball. Make sure to tune in!

New to daily fantasy baseball? Head over to FanDuel.com and use Promo Code SCRIPT and get 100% match on your first deposit!

The Fantasy Forecaster 08/13/14

Ricky and Tim are back with another episode of The Fantasy Forecaster! In this show, they discuss Michael Pineda’s return to the bigs, the struggles of Alex Rios, streaking power hitters (Carter and Stanton), Kyle Hendricks emergence and more! The guys are also joined by Jeff from the Infirmary Report and he outlines all of the injury news from around the league.

You can listen on-demand here.

Make sure to follow Ricky (@rickygangster), Timothy (@TKing978) and Jeff (@InfirmaryReport) on Twitter!

We will be back next Wednesday (August 20) to recap all of the hottest topics in baseball. Don’t miss it!

New to Daily Fantasy? Head over to FanDuel.com and use Promo Code SCRIPT and get 100% match on your first deposit!

Phil Hughes; Now Featuring Success

Phil HughesIf anyone ever needed a change of scenery, man was it Phil Hughes. He’s been a revelation for the Twins in 2014, and it looks as though the 3-year, 24 million dollar deal they gave him in the winter may not end up being so bad after all. Notorious for serving up the long ball, Hughes has settled right into his new surroundings and has, in fact, thrived. After allowing a whopping 59 dingers over his last two seasons in the Bronx, Hughes has given up just 11 this season. The former 1st round pick has historically been a hurler that generates a lot of fly balls. Yankee Stadium is not kind to those types of pitchers, especially when facing left-handed batters.

But is the change of scenery the biggest factor in his success this season?

In short, no. The dimensions of Target Field depress power, but given that Hughes home ERA is an atrocious 5.17, it does not appear to be the game changer. Hughes has been brilliant in road games, recording a 2.78 ERA in 81 innings. Is Hughes finally evolving as a pitcher? Given his pedigree it shouldn’t be all that much of a shock. Remember way back in 2006 when Baseball America had Hughes ranked as the MLB’s 4th best prospect? It’s also not like the right-hander is old, he just turned 28. Late bloomer?

Hughes currently checks in as the #39 overall starting pitcher, according to ESPN’s Player Rater. Although there have been some bumps in the road this season, his overall body of work has been solid. But what is the driving force behind this success? Variance? Actually, no. His BABIP (.344) is inflated and should see some regression to the mean.

Now that we know it’s not just the new home ballpark, what is it?

Hughes is basically a two-pitch pitcher, although he does mix in a curveball on occasion. The deuce obviously acts as his change-of-speed offering. He of course throws a fastball (he’s got two-seam and four-seam flavors). And for the first time since 2011, he is throwing a noticeable percentage of cutters. Hughes has scrapped his slider (23.8% in 2013) for it, and seems to be the difference.

The cutter has been a key component to his turnaround. Hughes is fanning batters at the highest rate of his career (21.6%) since becoming a full-time starter. Even more impressive is the impeccable command with which Hughes has thrown the baseball in 2014. He’s posted an absolutely ridiculous 2.4% walk rate (he has just 15 walks all year). Yep, that means he is walking less than one batter per nine innings. That would be better than Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez and Johnny Cueto. Not bad, eh?

Of equal importance has been Hughes’ ability to induce ground balls, something that he has never been able to do with much consistency. If his current rate (37%) holds, it would mark a career high. Hughes is no longer solely relying on his outfielders to make putouts, he’s using his cutter to force hitters to hit the ball into the ground. With that, his fly ball rate is all the way down to 39.1%. Yes, you guessed it: that would also be a career best.

Hughes sure looks like a top-40 arm moving forward. Although given his splits he’s more of a road-only start (as strange as that may sound). He’s owned in too few leagues (Y! 45% and ESPN 31.2%) as well. We aren’t looking for Hughes to morph into the fantasy stud he was once supposed to be, but if I showed you his 2014 line so far through mid August: 14QS, 12W, 3.88 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 134:15 K:BB would it really matter whether his name were Phil Hughes? You’d want him on your roster.

Statistical credits: ESPN.com, Fangraphs.com, BaseballAmerica.com, Foxsports.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/xIU3si

Timothy is a co-owner, head editor and sometimes writer at The Sports script. Follow him on Twitter @TKing978!