The Best Players in Baseball, 2015 (by Edward)

Let’s have an argument.

Not that we aren’t already having one–or a few–right now.  Anyway, I like arguments.  I especially like arguments about baseball.  But arguments around here are complicated by the fact that a.) I’m always right about everything; and b.) We all know that each of us comes at an argument from a different place than our co-BJers, often without quite explaining exactly how–and the result is a mess all over everything.  What my post presupposes is: What if we didn’t?

Here’s the set-up:

Starved for baseball material before the World Series started, and generally ravenous for anything I can read about my favorite former Brave, I came across this article at a Cardinals fan-site.  At one point, the author names him “one of the 15 best position players in baseball.”  Because I’m a robot, my first thought was “duh.”  But then I had an unusual, human moment of skepticism when I wondered whether that’s actually something you can just say without backing it up.  You can certainly say “Jason Heyward is one of the 100 best position players in baseball,” and no one who knows anything about baseball will bat an eye.  And you can say “Mike Trout is one of the 15 best players in baseball,” and anybody who has ever seen a Subway ad will go along with it.  But Mike Trout is a long way from Jason Heyward, and 15 is a long way from 100, and I like to pin things down.

So who are the best position players in baseball?

  1. Specifically, based on recent performance, who are most likely to be the best position players over the next couple of years?
  2. I decided 30 was a good number because there are 30 teams in baseball.  So it’s like an imaginary draft where every team gets a first-round pick.  I bet they do this draft at a sleepover at Kenny Williams house, right after they crank call Ozzie Guillen.
  3. No pitchers on this list.  If there were, Kershaw would fall somewhere between #2 and #4.
  4. No 2015 rookies or players who got called up later in 2014–on the Show Me principle.  Carlos Correa and Mookie Betts and Kris Bryant (and maybe Kevin Pillar?) probably deserve to be listed here, but…Show Me.  Again.
  5. The whole package is what I’m considering.  This is still a list full of great hitters, but players with a less complete game will rank lower than if I were only considering hitting.
  6. Having a good season two years ago (2013) is important, but not as important as the most recent two seasons; e.g. having an off-year doesn’t hurt you much, but having two off-years in a row since your last really good season is something to consider.

To get my 30, I made a big list of players who have been good in at least one of the last 3 seasons, with “good” being defined as 100 or more Total Runs.  “Total Runs” is an all-encompassing stat like WAR that essentially adds up all the good and bad things a player does over the course of a season with the bat, on the basepaths, and in the field (basic definition here).  I couldn’t tell you whether it’s more accurate than either of the WARs, but I prefer it in a presentation for two reasons.  First, the idea that Bryce Harper has 171 of something is more appealing to me than the idea that he has 9.5 of something.  Wouldn’t you rather he had 171 famished barracudas charging him than nine and a half?  Second, where the WARs do their positional adjustment voodoo behind-the-scenes, the Total Runs Leaderboard shows exactly how many of the “runs” come from hitting, how many from fielding, how many from baserunning, and how many simply because a guy plays shortstop.  You probably should not trust the fielding numbers necessarily.  That said, I trust the fielding numbers and use them here as if they’re canon.

So there were a bunch of players.  I eyeballed the list and took out some real stinkers who clearly didn’t belong for one reason or another.  For the remainder I simply averaged their Total Runs from each season.  Well–that’s not quite right.  Actually, I gave them a weighted average to reflect the idea that a player’s most recent two seasons are more relevant than his 2013 season for the purpose of this list.  So 40% weight to 2015 and 2014; 20% weight to 2013.  (There is no scientific or statistical reason why I chose the 40-40-20 ratio as opposed to some other group of 3 numbers that add up to a hundred, if you were wondering.)  Then I ranked them according to those weighted averages.  (You can see the whole working list with individual season numbers for each player on this Google doc.)

Well that was pretty good, but there were some obvious holes.  For instance, there was this brash little demon who plays baseball like it’s just a natural part of his body’s homeostatic maintenance–he missed the top 30; and another guy who doesn’t do anything but hit home runs and change his name–he didn’t come close.  So I made some adjustments based on a few factors: age of the player (I moved some guys well into their thirties down a couple pegs); injury considerations (was one of his recent year totals only low because of missing a good chunk of play?).  Finally, when it was close, I gave the edge to the player who has proved more capable of having a monstrous season over a player who was consistently good.

The Best Players in Baseball – 2015

RkPlayer3-yr W. TR Avg.2016 Team2016 Age
1Mike Trout156.4LAA24
2Paul Goldschmidt135.8ARI28
3Josh Donaldson148.6TOR30
4Joey Votto147.8CIN32
5Andrew McCutchen135.4PIT29
6Bryce Harper110.8WSH23
7Miguel Cabrera116.6DET33
8Buster Posey128.6SF29
9Manny Machado111.4BAL23
10Jason Heyward123.6Free Agent26
11Adrian Beltre127.2TEX37
12Nolan Arenado119.8COL25
13Anthony Rizzo124CHC26
14Jose Bautista116.4TOR35
15Giancarlo Stanton102.6MIA26
16AJ Pollock105.8ARI28
17Robinson Cano122SEA33
18Matt Carpenter121STL30
19Ian Kinsler134.4DET34
20Lorenzo Cain117KC30
21Dustin Pedroia101BOS32
22Brian Dozier117MIN29
23Dee Gordon119MIA28
24Hunter Pence116SF33
25Adam Jones115.6BAL30
26Yoenis Cespedes115.4Free Agent30
27Starling Marte114.6PIT27
28Andrelton Simmons114.4ATL26
29Kyle Seager114.4SEA28
30Carlos Gomez112.2HOU30

Some observations about the list:

  • The Marlins, Pirates, Tigers, Giants, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Orioles, Mariners, and expansion Free Agents all have multiple players on the list.
  • The Mets, Phillies, Brewers, Indians, White Sox, Dodgers, Padres, Yankees, Rays, and Athletics don’t place anyone.
  • Joey Votto is more incredible than any of us realize
  • Adrian Beltre is more incredible than any of us realize
  • Ian Kinsler (!) is more incredible than any of us realize
  • Mike Trout is exactly as incredible as all of us realize.
  • When it comes down to it, I’ll take Goldschmidt over Donaldson.  That was probably the toughest ranking.
  • Hooray defense!  When Andrelton learns to hit, watch out world.
  • Giancarlo Stanton earns the Most Fragile Player award, which is why he’s “only” ranked 15th
  • I didn’t get into ranking players after the top 30, but Freddie Freeman is probably somewhere in the 35-40 range.  We know he’s capable of a big season.  Here’s hoping he puts up 2013 numbers again.
  • Yes, Jason Heyward is one of the 15 best position players in baseball.  I can return to being a robot.

83 thoughts on “The Best Players in Baseball, 2015 (by Edward)”

  1. Interesting list, though I might quibble with a few of your criteria.

    • I get the “show me” principle, but… I think it needs a Kris Bryant exception. Any list of the best hitters in baseball is just incomplete without him. We had a pretty unbelievable rookie class this year, but failing a catastrophic injury there’s about a 0% chance that he isn’t awesome for a long time. Same with Ichiro in 2001. He already showed me.

    • Looking further down the list, A.J. Pollock feels too high for me — he’s only had one full season, and it was his age 27 season, and it was better than anything he’d ever done in the majors or minors. I feel like I need Pollock to “show me” more a lot more than I need Bryant to show me. So I might suggest refining the “show me” principle to include minor league performance and possibly draft position. Thus, Bryant, who crushed the ball literally everywhere, gave a performance exactly in line with expectations: he is who we thought he was. Meanwhile, though Pollock has been a part-time player for three years, he still has to do more to convince me this wasn’t a one-year aberration.

    • IMO, Bryce Harper is too low.

    • I feel like Nolan Arenado might be the most underrated player in baseball. How many casual baseball fans even know his name?

  2. Well written, well done. Thank you, Edward.

    I wonder if the Rockies would entertain swapping a couple or three of our pitching lottery tickets for Arenado. That boy’s a player,

  3. RE: the post above –

    I categorically reject any metric that lists Dee fucking Gordon as one of the 30 best players in baseball.

  4. @6, Because they don’t read Bravesjournal!

    @2, Little Brycie is probably too low. If it’s just me guessing, his next few years are going to look a lot like this year, which puts him, in my mind, a tick behind Trout. I think he has put it together. I made myself a slave to my methods here a bit, though: his 2014 season was not good, and his 2013 was very good without being brilliant. So I stand by the method even though I disagree with it like you do.

    I was probably a little aggressive on Pollock. It’s the 2014 broken hand on an inside pitch by Johnny Cueto that left him only playing 75 games– the line’s almost identical to 2015–but was he going to sustain it? Short seasons were tricky, but his short season hitting line was far better than, for instance, Harper’s that same year.

    @7 I have the same misgivings…

  5. It sounds like they were prepared to fire him the first minute he gave them an excuse, and given that the Angels have only managed to make the playoffs once in Trout’s first four full seasons, I think it’s very possible that Wren still would have managed to get himself canned after Fredi choked away a pennant despite having the best player in baseball.

  6. Very cool. Always fun to come up with a system and then see what it spits out. I would argue for an even greater age adjustment (Votto, Miggy, and Beltre seem too high, Harper and Arenado too low), and I’m mystified by Pedroia’s inclusion, especially as it doesn’t seem earned by your system. He’s dropping off just as you’d suspect an undersized, max effort middle infielder to do in his 30s. What gives?

  7. We should sign Jason Heyward. It’s actually a no-brainer if he wants to come back to Atlanta. Any other outfielder we sign will A) be over 30, B) not be as good, and C) still cost almost as much, D) suck by the 2nd half of his contract.

    Not only that, but a) this is the one year we won’t have to sacrifice a top-10 pick to sign a premium FA, and b) 26-year-old free agents don’t happen very frequently.

    He’s just so much better than anyone else who will be available to us that we should bite the bullet and pay him what it takes.

  8. I agree, John. (@11) I’ve always been on the “resign him in 2016” bandwagon. It’s only money, and Markakis/CF/Heyward looks better than Olivera/CF/Markakis by some degree.

  9. @10, On second consideration, I am also mystified about Pedroia. Mistakes were made. But hey, the list is etched in stone.

    If I prorate his 2015 season over 135 games–which is how many he played in 2014–he grades out right around Carlos Gomez and a handful of other guys who just missed the cut the first go-round.

  10. I think we missed our chance to sign Heyward the minute we gave Fredi an(other) extra year to manage the club.

  11. If we actually resigned Heyward I would reconsider my stance on this team at the moment. Since that won’t happen though, I guess I won’t.

  12. If we thought there was even a remote chance of signing Heyward then the Markakis deal would never have happened. We’d have just played Terdo in RF this past year.

    Or…that’s what I’m telling myself to make the whole thing make some sense. I still don’t know why we signed Markakis for a stretch of purpose-ful tankage. It just doesn’t compute.

  13. From previous thread…

    I actually think Smitty’s take on Richt/UGA is fairly close to mine. Also, some of D.N. Nation’s take is fairly undeniable – you can certainly criticize elements of Richt’s regime, but he brought the program back to prominence & he has been extremely unlucky as well.

    As currently constituted, this team’s offensive skill positions (QB, backfield, receivers not including Malcolm Mitchell) are lacking. Taking the chance on Bauta is certainly worth long conversation, but I don’t go crazy about it.

    We know what Lambert is and what he is not. I’ll also assume that, in a couple years of practices, Brice Ramsey has shown to the staff what he is not as well. Bauta threw one awful pick & there were 2 that weren’t his fault. He also threw 4 perfect balls (3 for 1st downs, another for a potential TD) that were dropped. The suckitude in Jacksonville was a real team effort.

    Back to Richt: I’ve also thought that, since the 6-7 season back in 2010, Richt has always been 2 blowout league losses away from entering genuinely dangerous waters. And now, apparently, it’s here. No matter the circumstances, the head coach has to own the failure. No fanbase takes well to embarrassment.

    An Aside: Yes, there have been freakish injuries to the team’s very best players—that’s just chance. No strength coach could’ve prevented the weird sideline injuries that found Chubb and Gurley (the 1st one vs. LSU in ’13, not the 2nd one vs. Auburn in ’14 – he shouldn’t have been in the game there.) No strength coach could’ve prevented the hit on Aaron Murray’s knee or Keith Marshall’s knee. No strength coach could’ve prevented Malcolm Mitchell blowing out his knee while celebrating a Gurley TD vs. Clemson. That’s just freaky, unlucky shit.

    Back to the point, changing coaches can go several ways. Just be as sure as you can be about which guy you bring in. If you bring in the wrong guy, it can set the program back for years.

    It’s important to note that Georgia people have always had a sense that we’re better than we are. In Dooley’s 25-year career, for example, he had a dozen years where his team won 5, 6 or 7 games. He was 8-10-2 in bowl games. It’s just that his highs came quickly & they were often unexpected (upsets of Alabama & Michigan in his 2nd year, a couple of SEC titles in the midst of Bryant’s long run in Tuscaloosa) and, of course, there was the 43-4-1 run between 1980-83.

    If Dooley had coached in this era, I’m not sure he would’ve been around long enough to have that glorious, Herschel-led run. It’s hard for me not to think about that when considering a new coach. Nonetheless, if UGA’s going to change captains, I see a few scenarios:

    Best-case scenario: Auburn.
    This is what happens when you have Little Brother Syndrome, living in the Crimson shadow—-no patience, not even for guys who brought historical success.
    A coach goes undefeated, but people can’t wait to get rid of him. The next guy wins it all & then he’s not good anymore. The next guy wins an unexpected league title & now his team is disappointing. Will he survive 2 consecutive years like this one?
    Still, Auburn has little patience for “down years,” but they usually come back just fine.

    Worst-case scenario: Tennessee.
    Fans become tired of the guy who got the best results in more than a generation. Then, they keep hiring the wrong guy & running up quite a bill for former coaches.
    You always expect Tennessee to bounce back, but it’s taking longer than anyone ever believed. The coaching carousel set back recruiting & made the K-town bean counters nuts.

    Another scenario: Ray Goff. All UGA people of a certain age remain scarred from that time. You offer Dooley’s job to a string of guys who keep turning it down (Remember Glen Mason, who accepted the job & then returned to… Kansas?) & you end up hiring a “program guy” manifestly unprepared for the job. Along with the fallout from the regrettable Jan Kemp Scandal—-UGA raised its admission standards for athletes to a point that was higher than every public SEC school—-Goff’s regime negatively impacted the program for years.

    Bottom Line: I’m not against bringing in a new coach. After all, Richt came in & won an SEC title in his 2nd year. But I’m also one (among the apparent quiet minority) who believes that Richt can still win as soon as next year, especially if this new QB is the bee’s knees. Sometimes, all it takes is that one great player—-just ask Vince Dooley or Mack Brown.

    BTW: Oh, and that Herschel-Era team really was great. All you can do is beat the teams you play & you never have to apologize for winning.

  14. The record against “good teams” (defined as finishing the season in the top 25) from 2007 to now is way below .500. Something like 10-25 or close to that. The contingent that is afraid of “becoming Tennessee” doesn’t realize that we’re already there and have been for quite a while.

    Does the team look well-coached? That’s the only question that matters.

  15. Georgia’s record the last 5 years or so has been propped up by an hisotrically awful collection of SEC East teams. Relying on wins and losses as the reason to keep Richt around seems like missing the point. Georgia doesn’t look well coached, whether they bully their way to 9 or 10 wins against crappy competition is kinda irrelevant.

  16. @21

    But you can say that about most coaches. Not everyone can be in the SEC West. 10 wins is 10 wins.

    The question is whether or not having a coach that probably can’t win an NC is a fatal flaw or not and maybe the point gaz is getting at.

  17. When all the fanbases on your schedule want you to keep your coach, you have the wrong coach.

  18. Richt has had them at the doorstep of a National Title twice.

    Winning ten games when your best player and the keystone of your offense goes down would be impressive to me.

    The only SEC program I want to see down is Florida. It is good for the conference to have a good Bama team. Tennessee doesn’t play anyone else consistently from the west. I don’t hate Georgia, I do hate Florida and hope they go on probation forever.

    Richt is the best coach UGA has ever had. It would be beneficial to the rest of the east if they can him. Especially this year when you will have to super overpay for a coach due to all the openings.

  19. @18

    As a Tennessee fan, I can tell you that the initial setup here is way more Tennessee than Auburn. Of course, you’re not guaranteed to drift out to sea for a decade like we did necessarily. You could not make a stupid hire (Lane Kiffin) and you’d be fine. You just can’t have this hire blow up in your face unexpectedly (though some will argue how unexpected it really was), because then you find yourself having to make a panic hire (Derek Dooley) and then you’re really on a bullet train to hell.

  20. @24

    I must confess, I’ve never understood the “If people from other fanbases are saying nice things about your coach, it’s time to get a new coach” philosophy. It pre-supposes that everything is a Byzantine game of reverse psychology and that nobody is willing to tell you what they really think.

    I, a Tennessee fan, think that, on balance, Alabama would probably benefit from keeping Nick Saban as their coach at this point. Clearly, they should now fire him.

  21. All I hear is Auburn and Florida and Tech fans saying they hope Richt stays at UGA forever. That’s most certainly NOT because they think he’s a good coach. It’s pure snark.

    A really good coach at UGA would win big. We just haven’t had the good fortune of experiencing it yet. The best argument for keeping Richt is that nobody trusts the admin to hire someone good as his replacement. I’ll buy that one. It’s kinda depressing, but I’ll buy it.

    Richt is without a doubt UGA’s best coach ever. He’s done great things and is a great role model. But it’s been 15 years and it’s gone stale. It’s not like he hasn’t had a fair shot. He’s had more time than pretty much all of his peers. He makes $4 million a year. The team on the field is a total disaster. It’s time for a new voice.

  22. Given Richt’s overall record, I might imagine that there are more than a few fanbases that would love to see Richt replaced.

    Do you think Georgia Tech is rooting for Richt to be replaced? Richt is 12-2 against them.

    How ’bout Tennessee? He’s 10-5 vs. them.

    Auburn? He’s 9-5 vs. them.

    What about mighty LSU & Alabama? He’s 7-7 against them. In fact, against the SEC West, he’s 32-14.

    The only SEC school that has a winning record vs. Mark Richt is Florida (a very big 10-5).

    He’s also 3-1 vs. Clemson and he’s 9-5 in bowl games.

    Here’s how it breaks down:

    Florida: 5-10
    South Carolina: 9-6
    Tennessee: 10-5
    Vanderbilt: 13-2
    Kentucky: 12-2
    Missouri: 2-1

    Auburn, 9-5
    Alabama, 3-3
    LSU, 4-4
    Arkansas, 6-1
    Ole Miss, 6-0
    MSU, 3-1
    A&M, 1-0

    You can criticize plenty about Richt, but all those games happened & they all count. We know all too well the heartbreaks along the way, but his overall record is more than pretty good.

  23. This is a question born of my astonishing ignorance of college football, but I’ve never quite understood why in college football, your top recruiter is also your head coach: it stands to reason that some people will be terrific at recruiting but not necessarily great at coaching, and vice versa. (Same with why I’ve never understood how so many NFL teams have a coach who is also their GM.) I mean, I understand that it’s good for a kid to know the guy he’ll be playing for, but I can easily imagine that a great coach might not be a naturally gifted recruiter.

    So, is it possible that Richt’s problem is that he’s better at one than he is at the other? In general, as an athletic program, how do you solve that problem? Do you just jam powerful assistant coaches down the guy’s throat? Or do you pretty much have no choice but to accept that his weaknesses are impossible to address as long as he’s your coach?

  24. @30

    Well, all big-time college football programs have a recruiting coordinator (almost always one of the assistant coaches). I think at the end of the day, though, kids and their parents (more to the point) want to know the guy who’s going to be in charge and coaching them. So that pretty much always makes the head coach the de facto head recruiter by necessity. And I also think that, within reason, you might rather have a head coach that’s a knockout recruiter and a little iffy on the tactical side than have a tactical genius who’s not a great recruiter. Talent means a lot and can vary wildly from team to team in college football.

    The NFL coach/GM thing basically stems from trying to lure coaches away from other places to coach your team and/or trying to keep coaches you already have from leaving, I think. Chip Kelly is tired of having to deal with the team that somebody else puts together, so he kind of/sort of/maybe hints that he might think about leaving and the Eagles offer him personnel control. The Falcons badly want to lure Dan Quinn to be their head coach so they dangle the ability to select his team to get him to leave his job as Seattle’s defensive coordinator. And so forth.

  25. So, is it possible that Richt’s problem is that he’s better at one than he is at the other?

    I think Richt is a fine head coach, with a little much loyalty to his assistants even if they underperform. I think he’s a very good recruiter, with the caveat that he tends to under sign (as noted in the previous thread) and he tends to recruit heavily at RB, where guys are churned up like ground beef. Part of his problem during the last run at true national championship quality was that his top tier offensive players kept bolting school in the sophomore and junior years. Matt Stafford, then Knowshon Moreno, then Gurly (who was hurt more often than not at UGA) and as soon as Chubb gets a full season in post injury, he’s gone as well.

  26. #30
    Richt is a guy who’s considered a terrific recruiter and one who’s more versed in offense. (He’s a former QB.) But he’s been hit-&-miss with his defensive coordinators. (FWIW, I think he has a winner with Jeremy Pruitt.)

    But he’s not really considered a “detail guy,” which is the first thing many talk about when discussing Saban & Meyer. Richt’s obviously not in that category. Nobody else is either.

    Also: It should be noted that Richt’s biggest recruiter in recent years was former offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, who’s now the head coach at Colorado State.

  27. @34 just saw that and couldn’t stop laughing. too bad we don’t have the team to take advantage.

  28. This Auburn fan would be only too happy to see Richt go. The odds of them hiring someone worse far exceed that of them hiring someone better.

  29. At least we know the Natspos are pretty messed up. They have a tendency to piss off everyone including their own people.

  30. Actually, Georgia is at a very similar position to where we were in the Goff years. We recruited a lot of good talent. We seemed to have inexplicable losses. Some from obvious coaching decisions. Some from players being undermotivated or so motivated they choked.

    If you take the Goff years and add 1 win per season, then he would have still been coach at least 5 more years out.

    I have long thought that the risk of being worse without Richt was more than the chance of being better without Richt. I think being the main state school in the 3rd richest recruiting state which is also next to the best recruiting state is a sufficient advantage that averaging 8 to 9 wins should be easy. So, we are risking one game of downside.

    And comparing to the Braves, how many on here are willing to risk a problem to “go for it.” Georgia fans are tired of underperformance.

    If the Alabama game ends up a 10 point loss, you beat Tennessee, you go maybe 20 to 17 against Florida, then we don’t feel gut punched. Actually, Georgia fans are starting to feel nut punched.

    The 12 man on the field penalties. THAT is coaching. Crap special teams play. That is coaching.

  31. Everything at the negotiations went great until Black found out they had to re-vote to pay him every 3 months.

  32. @45, Man I love that post.

    Best quote from the WaPo article: “The Lerners made Jeffery Loria appear decisive and considerate.”

  33. That’s not even the best part. I’ve stated my opinion repeatedly that Bobby Cox was one of the worst ingame strategists I’ve ever seen. (not trying to pick a fight on this. Just my view).

    Only two guys with 5+ seasons as managers come to mind as chronically worse game managers than BC. One of them is Dusty Baker.

    And good on Bud Black for telling them to stuff it.

  34. Yeah I can’t say I’m upset that the division rivals will have Dusty Baker managing them instead of Bud Black.

  35. The good thing about Dusty for the Nats is that he will be able to manage the prima donnas in the clubhouse, because nobody in baseball is as bad as a clubhouse with Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent. He will likely have a lot more success in keeping Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper and even Jonathan Papelbon from mouthing off to the press.

    But this is an absolute clown show. Can we please fire Fredi and hire Bud Black now?

  36. Only two POC managing in MLB, and both are lousy. Not a good look.

    How long before Harper is accused of basepath-clogging?

  37. In all fairness, Baker and Fredi aren’t exactly lousy. They’re probably somewhere on the slightly-below- to slightly-above-average spectrum. There are a lot of guys who are worse than both of them. But I’d prefer that we be managed by a guy who’s better than them.

  38. From MLBTR:

    Entering the winter, there’s an argument to be made that Atlanta should be increasingly aggressive in free agency (after having already shown just that trait on the trade market). After all, if the team hopes to be prepared for legitimate contention in 2017, this robust free agent market might present the right moment to strike.

    All told, the offseason promises more of the same creativity out of Atlanta, albeit with a nearer-term focus. And we can’t discount the possibility of a big surprise out of this creative front office duo.

    1) Duh.
    2) Still, grab the popcorn. I want MOVES. I want SIGNINGS, TRADES, CRAZY STUFF HAPPENING! We have cash, prospects, motivation, circumstances, the full Monty.

  39. Hey Sansho @10–how far would you drop Votto, Cabrera, and Beltre? My intuition tells me they can’t continue to be this good, but damn, they haven’t really slowed down yet. Do you take Votto and Cabrera out of the top 10? Beltre out of the top 20?

  40. The Dusty-as-pitcher-killer is actually an out of date talking point. He was horrible with the Prior/Wood Cubs, but he was actually pretty good with the Reds. Johnny Cueto didn’t seem much the worse for wear for his six years as a young pitcher under Dusty, this fall.

    IN other, more important news, Dr. Know of Bad Brains is apparently on life support. This is a tragedy.

  41. I’ve been hearing this pushback a lot today, and I don’t totally buy it.

    Two data points: Aaron Harang and Homer Bailey.

    Harang in 2008:

    Homer Bailey in 2009: He threw 14 starts and 89 2/3 innings in the minors, then made 20 starts and threw 113 1/3 innings in the majors, and Dusty had him throw an awful lot of pitches:

    The next year, Bailey had shoulder inflammation. You know all about his up-and-down track record since then.

  42. Alex, @49: While there is nobody on the Nats who is a prima donna on the Bonds scale (who could be?), the idea that Dusty is some sort of miracle worker in the clubhouse I would strongly disagree with. He enabled the Bonds stuff to get out of hand — it was on his watch that Bonds had his BALCO drug dealers as permanent guests in the clubhouse along with his personal trainer, personal strength coach, personal semi-private locker room with his own private TV and recliner. Baker allowed all that stuff to go on for years and the hatred in the clubhouse for Bonds (remember the HR non-celebrations?) and general bad karma was allowed to ferment and fester on his watch, completely unchecked. It was even worse as Baker should have had the cred to have said to the guy, Hey, I played with Hank Aaron and he never needed this junk. Baker’s attitude with Bonds seemed to have been to simply ignore the situation and let it rot. I don’t think he’s going to run a taut clubhouse with these guys. He’s always seemed genuinely oblivious to his surroundings to me.

  43. Dusty has been friends with the Bonds family since Barry was in diapers. It will be interesting to see how much of Bryce Harper’s shit he puts up with.

  44. Even though I think Harper will seek free agency no matter what the Nats do, I’m going to guess that it will be impressed upon any incoming Nationals manager that Harper is to be coddled.

    Tough stuff about Dr. Know.

    Two of the greatest rock shows available on youtube are Bad Brains gigs. One is from CBGBs in NYC in 1982. The other? Spring Break in Daytona Beach, Fla., in 1987. (I shit you not.) If you just watch the first song of both of these shows, almost the entire canon of heavy metal will suddenly seem pointless & hopelessly contrived. There’s no manufactured intensity here—-it’s as real as it gets.

    Posi-thoughts for Dr. Know, but watching these, I’m reminded that H.R. is one of the greatest frontmen in the history of rock music. It’s a shame those guys sabotaged themselves so bad, because onstage they were so much better than everyone.
    “The Big Takeover” at CBGBs—from 0:35 to 3:30. Note the desperation.
    “I” from Spring Break stage—from 0:14 to 3:30. Note the ’80s fratboys & corporate sponsorship.

  45. @55

    Probably not too far, as the question you seem to be attempting to answer is who will be the best players in 2016. My completely non-systematic and least disruptive adjustments might be to twin Votto and Miggy under Machado and relocate Beltre to Cain’s neighborhood. Then get rid of Pedroia and elevate Harper to #1, based not so much on his stats in comparison to Trout but rather by looking at their respective chins.

  46. How am I just now learning that Dusty Baker wrote a freaking book about the Monterey Pop Festival? This changes…well, not everything, but some things….

  47. ESPN posted its 2016 MLB power rankings, and it ain’t very encouraging for the home team:

    29. Atlanta Braves

    They have a lot of young pitching, but most of it was bad. The offense was the worst in the majors. They went 25-48 in the second half. Yuck. The final year in Turner Field will not have a memorable send-off.

    30. Philadelphia Phillies

    I could be wrong here. It’s very possible that the Phillies will be better than the Braves.

  48. #68
    I had a high-school teacher/football coach who once blithely mentioned that he attended the Monterey Pop Fest.

    So, as a teen music fan, I excitedly responded, “Really? You saw Hendrix & The Who & Otis Redding? What was that like?”

    He just winked & smiled back. I think I know what he meant.

  49. @69

    They seem to be assuming that none of our young players will improve, especially as they say that the Phillies could be better. Not that that’s saying much, but Yeah. Right.

  50. Olivera rocking a .941 OPS in Winter ball, albeit through 17 at-bats, and also playing…LEFT FIELD! Lucas Sims also dominating. The rest? Not so much…

  51. @69
    As is, I’d say that’s accurate. However, the Braves have 30MM to spend and could have much, much more if they can package Bourn, Maybin, and Swisher the right way.

  52. @Buster_ESPN: The Braves are transitioning Hector Olivera to the outfield; Atlanta coach Bo Porter working with him now on his defense.

  53. Also something of note, the Braves only owe Swisher 10MM and Bourn 9MM in 2016. In a market where there’s not a whole lot of spenders, 2 veterans on 1-year deals might intrigue some teams. The Braves could satisfy other’s needs by trading the 2 veterans (and Maybin) and satisfy their own giving themselves 30 more million to play with in this market chock full of talent.

    Furthermore, with the lack of spenders, there’ll be some teams out there overpaying in the trade market. The Braves would be very smart to shop Shelby Miller. IMO, he’s the only sell-high left on this team (well, maybe Adonis Garcia).

  54. Really don’t think the braves can or should shop Miller at this point. Teheran will probably get shopped though

  55. @75 Ain’t nobody taking Swisher or Bourn unless the Braves pay nearly all of their salaries so there is no scenario whereby we can free up that cash. Unless maybe we take a back-loaded longer term contract back in exchange and I don’t see that happening.

    I’ve already said it but Lucas Sims is our best prospect, and I thought that before he started working at 94-98 in Arizona (allegedly, I tend to be skeptical of reported velocities in the AFL). If he carries what he is doing in Arizona into spring training he opens the year in the rotation with Folty in the pen, assuming we don’t sign a FA starter (and Minor is healthy, a big ‘if’ obviously).

  56. Folly clearly isn’t a starter. He needs to be in the pen. Our rotation is still awful but Sims could help in that regard.

  57. @79
    We shall see. The plethora of good free agents will want multi-year deals, and there will be many teams who cannot afford multi-year contracts with the “There’s no such thing as a bad 1-year contract” mentality. Whether they eat some or not, I bet they trade at least one of them, and I wouldn’t doubt it if they have to eat <2MM.

  58. Reports are out that this move to LF for Winter Ball is permanent. Shopping list now contains a 3b, not a LFer! There are surplus third basemen out there in Alex Guerrero and Javier Baez.

  59. All I will say on UGA and Richt is this:

    1) As a Florida fan, I’m definitely not scared of him. But then, as a Florida fan, I’ve literally never been scared of Georgia.
    2) Florida’s defense is great, but c’mon, Georgia. How is it that you haven’t had a real QB in either of the past two years? Hell, Florida hardly had a real QB (Treon Harris completed 11 passes over BOTH games!) and you still got crushed both times.
    3) If you can a guy who can consistently get you 10 wins, you’d better be damn sure the next guy you bring in is at least as good. This year, that guy is going to USC, not Georgia. It’s much more likely that you end up with Ron Zook or Will Muschamp than Urban Meyer.

    This is easy to say, since I root for a program that recruits itself and has won 3 national titles and 8 SEC titles in my lifetime, but when you’ve got a guy who has you there every damn year, you can’t just dump him. At least wait until he has a legitimately bad year, not a just one where he didn’t quite meet expectations. 7-6 or a loss to Vandy or something like that.

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