She Came in Through the Bathroom Window   (09/28/01)

This year has been full of surprises that were beyond even the wildest imaginations.  The most obvious, of course, is Barry Bonds threatening the single season home run record.  Here's a guy who's led the league in homers just once in his 15 year career (46 in 1993), and now at age 37 is threatening to hit 70 or more.

But his isn't the only stat line that makes one boggle.

Ichiro Suzuki needs 3 hits to break Shoeless Joe Jackson's rookie record for most hits in a season at 233.  This coming from a guy that most people - myself included - thought would be not much more than an average outfielder.  It looks like the Japanese Leagues might be a lot better than the AAA equivalent many statisticians assign them.  Ichiro has also got an outside shot to break the single season at bats record.  He's at 663 right now and the record is 705, set in 1980 by Willie Wilson.  The Mariners have 9 games left and if Ichiro averages 4.5 ABs per game, he'll end up at 704.

Another Mariner, Bret Boone, needs 5 hits to break 200, which would be 45 more than he's ever had in a season.  He also has 35 homers which is 11 more than he's ever hit and he's hit them playing in a park that is one of the toughest in the majors for home runs.  He's also already driven in 40 more runs than he ever has in a single season - he's got 135 - and has a remote shot of breaking the major league record for a second baseman of 152, held by Rogers Hornsby. He's already broken the AL RBI record for a second baseman.  Who'da thunk it?

Jose Hernandez has a real shot at breaking Bobby Bonds single season record for most strikeouts in a season.  Currently he's at 177 and needs only 12 more to tie.  In the next 9 games, the Brewers will face Colorado, St. Louis and Arizona.  Against those teams this season, Hernandez has just 24 Ks, but there is a very good chance that he'll face Denny Neagle (1 K every 2.6 ABs in his career), Darryl Kile (1 K every 2.9 ABs) and Randy Johnson (1 K every 1.6 ABs).

OK, I knew Albert Pujols was gonna be good, much better than anything the Cards were proposing at third.  However, I had no idea he'd be this good this fast.  He looked awesome in last years Arizona Fall League and, like many players before him - Mike Piazza, Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter and Scott Rolen to name a few - carried it over to an award winning rookie season.  More on that in a second... but Pujols could become only the second rookie - Ted Williams was the other - to finish the season with a .300 batting average, a .400 on base percentage and a .600 slugging percentage... very exclusive company indeed.

About the AFL... this year, I'm getting together with the folks at Mastersball to offer a fantasy guide for the Arizona Fall League.  It'll have appraisals of all the prospects which'll include preliminary gauges of their future value.  Granted, a lot can happen in just a short season of the AFL, and that's why there'll be an update of their progress both on this site and in the next Mastersball Fantasy Annual.

Once There Was a Way

Who should be the O's closer next season?  Well, if you're looking at the numbers, there's little doubt it should be... Buddy Groom?  He gets little or no respect but he's been the O's best reliever by far this season, believe it or not.  Groom has stranded the highest percentage of runners of any reliever with more than 20 opportunities (81%), has the highest groundball-to-flyball ratio of any pitcher on the team (more than 20 games), has the best save percentage by far (86% - compared to 71% for both Kohlmeier and Roberts), has allowed the fewest baserunners per inning (1.11) and has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio (48 to 9) of any Oriole pitcher.  Making Groom the closer is a slam dunk that only a major league manager could miss.

Here Comes the Sun

With 9 games left, it's looking very likely that Rickey Henderson will reach all three milestones he set out to get this season: the all-time walks record (he got that early this season), the all-time runs scored record and 3000 hits.  I remember a few years back, I think it was 1996 or 1997, that Cubs broadcaster Harry Carey suggested that Henderson was an iffy candidate for the Hall-of-Fame.  That's not to say that there was any validity to his opinion, but it does demonstrate how little respect the man gets.

True, his career on base + slugging isn't that exciting (.824).  However, when you add up his walks, net stolen bases (SBs minus caught stealing) and all the bases from his hits, he's got 7,693 total bases.  Here're the all-time leaders in that category:

Hank Aaron........8425 (23 seasons)
Babe Ruth.........7861 (22 seasons)
Ty Cobb...........7817 (24 seasons)
Stan Musial.......7780 (22 seasons)
Willie Mays.......7765 (22 seasons)
Rickey Henderson..7693 (23rd season)
Carl Yastrzemski..7436 (23 seasons)
Pete Rose.........7367 (24 seasons)
Frank Robinson....6920 (21 seasons)
Ted Williams......6910 (19 seasons)

Henderson came into this season with 7,474, so it's quite conceivable that if he decides to play another year - or rather some team decides they need a lead-off hitter who got on base at a .374 clip in 2001 and stole 25 bases with a 81% success rate... still fine numbers by any standard - that he could finish the 2002 season ahead of everyone but Hank Aaron.  Should he accomplish that, will there be any doubt that he is not only THE greatest lead-off hitter of all time, but also one of the most productive players ever?

Boy, you're gonna carry that weight...

This will be the last regular weekly update of the Sandbox Mock Draft League.  The next update will come after the season is over, either next Monday or Tuesday, depending on whether there're playoff games to decide the division champs and wild-cards.  The way things are currently going, I fully expect there to be at least one extra game, maybe two to sort out the NL playoff picture.

I believe in being accountable for what I write.  I think it's an important part of building trust with you, the readers.  I try to keep things fresh and entertaining, but my first priority is to get things right.  If I have an opinion about something, I make sure it at least makes sense.  There are simply way too many "experts" out there who fire off the first thing that comes to mind and label it "insight" or this week's hot tip (I'm finding this especially true on fantasy football sites).

I will give you as much statistical support for my opinions as I can, and lacking that, explain my hunches to the best of my ability.  But more than that, I also want you to see my track record, to let you judge for yourself if I know what I'm talking about, or just wasting your time.  Nothing bugs me more than some self-proclaimed expert popping off about a player but is either nowhere to be found or claims you misinterpreted what he was saying when that player's season goes in the dumper.  Whether I'm right or wrong on something, you'll always know where to find me.

A close second on my annoyance scale is some "expert" claiming you should trust him because he's won a lot of leagues or won last year's expert's league.  Hey, that's nice you won, dude, but one year does not a reputation make.  Winning one season can be as much a product of luck as any kind of evaluative or intuitive skill.  That's why should I win this league, you won't hear any reference to it next year when it's time to evaluate next season.  The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding.

Anyway, back to accountability... this week, I've included links to each owner's pre-season evaluation of their players, their teams and the draft in general.  In the final installment next week, I hope to include some post-season comments from each of the owners.  A couple have agreed to it already, and hopefully all will contribute.  Their comments will be about what went right, what went wrong, which players surprised them, which players they picked up when they were hot hoping to get a month out of them but ended up getting a season, etc.  I'm hoping that the exercise will give you - and me - better insight into how to evaluate players for next season.

And in the end...

As for this season, Bill Hasselman and Ben Davis are now my catchers du jour.  I also picked up Jose Offerman to cover second base on Thursday when Jose Vidro and the Expos have the day off.  Other than that, I re-acquired Javier Vazquez to honor his contributions to the team this season and, on a more practical note, to give my team a representative look of the personnel that it had this season.

Many times, when you look back at your previous teams, you'll look at your finishing roster and wonder, "how did I win (or how did I lose) with this team?"  And then you'll remember that you traded all your power for stolen bases and saves at the end of August in hopes of moving up in a couple of categories.  I like to finish with as many major contributors as possible on my squad; it just helps me review what went right, what went wrong and how I could have improved my team's chances.  As you probably know, winning fantasy sports games isn't just about what you do during the season... it's also about what you learn when the season is over and before the next season begins.

The Standings

                                    Starting P        Relief P         Hitters FP
Rank  Team                        FP    G   FP/G    FP    G  FP/G    FP    G   FP/G   Total
1     ...Jumanji!                2665  151  17.6   1088  130  8.4   4773  1478  3.2    8526
2     SF Mock Woodmen            2240  153  14.6   1079  133  8.1   5057  1491  3.4    8376
3     BaseballHQ Bombers         2675  158  16.9    944  134  7.0   4369  1480  3.0    7988
4     Sandbox Sports             2290  154  14.9   1173  137  8.6   4345  1487  2.9    7808
5     Fantasy Baseball HQ        2557  154  16.6   1136  140  8.1   3963  1492  2.7    7656
6     The Write Stuff            2406  146  16.5   1009  131  7.7   4118  1427  2.9    7533
7     Dr. Stats Juggernauts      2738  153  17.9    978  129  7.6   3694  1412  2.6    7410
8     WSS Hurlers                2486  156  15.9    727  131  5.5   3732  1412  2.6    6945
8     Desert Dwelling Scalawags  2035  162  12.6    625  131  4.8   4285  1475  2.9    6945
10    Press Room Pundits         2135  153  14.0    822  137  6.0   3923  1483  2.6    6880