March 29, 2011

Maple Street Press - Red Sox and Yankees 2011 Annuals

The Maple Street Press annuals are essential reading for any baseball fan. MSP strives to "publish high quality, authoritative, analytical, and insightful sports publications ... [and] provide insight into various aspects of sports and debunk commonly held beliefs and thoughts".

Unlike the spring preview magazines from Lindy's, Athlon, and The Sporting News, etc., which offer perhaps four pages per team, MSP devotes 128 AD-FREE pages per team -- for $9.99*, only a few dollars more than those other magazines.

* The price on my copies of the Red Sox and Yankees annuals, which I received from Cecilia Tan, who edited the Yankees edition, is $12.99, but the MSP website lists them at $9.99.

As I noted in my post about the 2010 Annual, I am not so much writing a review as pointing out some highlights and hopefully enticing you to run out right now and buy the damn thing.

The Globe's Chad Finn leads off the Red Sox Annual with a solid overview of the 2010-11 winter and how the roster shapes up for the coming season. Finn rightly criticizes the "snide and snarky skepticism" of some members of the Boston media "who measure a team's commitment to winning solely by its payroll". Thankfully, we all have many alternate places to get more thoughtful information.

Finn tabs first baseman Adrian Gonzalez "the right player at the right time" and says that while the cost in prospects to obtain him was high (not to mention his soon-to-be-announced contract extension), "it's still hard to believe that this deal is one the Red Sox will ever regret". After Boston went 22-26 in one-run games last year (and 6-12 in extra innings), Finn sees Dan Wheeler as "arguably [Theo Epstein's] shrewdest signing of the off-season".

WEEI's Alex Speier asks whether the team's extravagant spending on Crawford and Gonzalez constitutes a "radical shift" from the team's previous way of doing business.

Two articles highlight the hitting history (and future expectations) of Crawford and Gonzalez. Dave Cameron (Fangraphs) writes that Crawford ranks 6th among all MLB players in WAR (Wins Above Replacement, which considers batting, fielding and baserunning) over the last two seasons. Only Albert Pujols, Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, Joe Mauer, and Chase Utley have contributed more to their team's success than Crawford.

Finn reports, in writing about how Gonzalez should wear out the Wall, that Gonzalez hit .516 with a 1.479 OPS on his 95 fly balls to left field at pitcher-friendly Petco Park last year. Paul Swydan follows that up with an in-depth examination of Gonzalez's career, offering clear evidence why the Red Sox front office has lusted after Gonzalez for nearly a decade. In terms of stoking anticipation for 2011, it's the highlight of the magazine.

Swydan reveals how playing half his games in San Diego's Petco Park (where from 2008-2010, batters hit only .234) has depressed AG's numbers, yet his production is still among the best in baseball over the past three years. Gonzalez's .507 career slugging percentage ranks 85th all-time, and among the top 100 sluggers in baseball history, Gonzalez has the largest differential in home/road slugging -- by an incredibly large margin.
                 Slugging Percentage    
                 Career  Home   Road    Diff
Adrian Gonzalez   .507   .440   .568   -.128
Joe DiMaggio      .579   .546   .610   -.064
Mike Piazza       .545   .515   .572   -.057
Justin Morneau    .511   .488   .533   -.045
Eddie Matthews    .509   .488   .529   -.041
Bill Terry        .506   .487   .525   -.038
Travis Hafner     .517   .501   .533   -.032
Lou Gehrig        .632   .620   .644   -.024
* - Is any player as underrated as Gehrig? (Other than maybe Stan Musial.) Only three players in baseball history have a career slugging as high as Gehrig's home mark of .620 (Ruth, Williams, Pujols (and Gehrig himself, of course)) and it is still "low" enough to make the comparison to his road slugging the 8th largest differential of all-time.

Swydan includes a graphic that overlays Gonzalez's batted balls into Petco's outfield in 2010 onto the dimensions of Fenway Park. While any precise predictions made from this data would be highly suspect -- because of the numerous variables involved -- the graphics suggest that approximately 19 of Gonzalez's Petco flyouts would have been home runs at Fenway (most of them landing in the Monster Seats).

David Laurila has Q&As with John Lackey and Jose Iglesias; Brandon Magee summarizes the minor league system; Art Martone looks back at 1986; and Bill Nowlin details the Red Sox's 1911 cross-country spring training tour.
Cecilia Tan's introduction sets the tone:
"It was largely a winter of discontent for Yankees fans, and probably the front office too. ...

"[T]here is no denying that the Yankees were confident they would land [Cliff] Lee to shore up a rotation that last year had more soft spots than a rotten tomato, and that it was a disappointing blow when he didn't sign. ... And there is also no denying the envy with which New Yorkers looked north, where Boston fans were gleefully gloating about what they found in their Christmas stockings: Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez.

"Which isn't to say the Yankees did nothing. ... [stuff they did] ... If that all sounds like small potatoes, well, it is. ... [But] Cashman is still on the hunt ... The farm system is well stocked with trading chips ... Although Boston is strengthened, Tampa Bay looks weaker. It's going to be a long summer in baseball's toughest division, but then, it always is."
Dan Graziano of the Newark Star-Ledger has a lengthy and even-handed rumination over the good, bad and ugly of the Yankees 2010 season and the past winter.

There are features on Robinson Cano, hitting coach Kevin Long, the 2010 draft, and 6'8", 22-year-old pitching prospect Dellin Betances (who went to high school in Brooklyn).

David Golebiewski uses pitchf/x data to get a better assessment of how the starting rotation performed last year; David Laurila interviews Phil Hughes and ambidextrous pitcher Pat Venditte; and just like the Red Sox edition, there is an overview of every team in the farm system and a list of the top 10 prospects.

Alan Nathan attempts to uncover the truth behind Mickey Mantle's infamous home run at Washington's Griffith Stadium on April 17, 1953, a "tape measure" blast that as gone down in history as traveling 565 feet.

And since this is the Yankees, there are several articles on the team's history: recaps of all 13 MVP winners, Charlie Keller's performance in the 1941 World Series (the first time Brooklyn and New York tangled in the Fall Classic), and an excerpt from a book on the 1921 season, with the Yankees clinching the pennant during the season-ending series against Cleveland.

Both the Red Sox and Yankees annuals have full-colour pages on each of the expected starters (lineup and rotation), showing spray zones, hit zones, pitch zones, and various statistical splits.

In addition to these two editions, MSP also published 2011 annuals for the Twins, Tigers, Rangers, Cubs, Cardinals, Phillies, Mets, Reds, Brewers, and Atlanta.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

All these Gonzalez stats are making me RANDY!