Posted by Steve
Ok, not really. But I heard a sneak preview of the Journal-Sentinel’s season grades when Tom Haudricourt was on the radio yesterday, and I just knew I’d end up writing this post. Sure enough, I read the article this morning, and here I am.
To be fair, it seems very difficult to grade baseball players on a traditional ‘report card’ scale. Unlike a test or something, you can’t really get a 100% because there is no ceiling on how great of a season a baseball player can have.
How-EVAH, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to disagree with many of the grades given by Tom Haudricourt and Anthony Witrado.
Might as well start with Ben Sheets, who received a B plus. This for a pitcher with the following rankings among NL starters: seventh in WPA, sixth in WHIP, fifth in ERA and seventh in k/bb. He was without question one of the ten best starters in the league, and it was probably more like sixth. And this somehow warrants just a B plus, which by the way was a lower grade than Gabe Kapler? Everyone wants to talk about CC Sabathia coming in and saving the Brewers season (and rightfully so), but if it weren’t for Ben Sheets their season wouldn’t even be in position to be saved. The Brewers do not make the playoffs without Ben Sheets this year.
Moving on to Dave Bush, who received a C. By definition, a C is an average grade. Well what, exactly is average about a 4.18 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP, which was fifth in the league? In case you were wondering, Dave Bush got a lower grade than Seth McClung, Mike Rivera, Manny Parra and Mitch Stetter.
Rickie Weeks received a D plus. Now, bear with me here. Weeks was a pretty big disappointment this season considering the expectations I and many others had for him in 2008. But just look where he finished overall: A .342 OBP all with the lowest batting average on balls in play in the NL. That BABIP, along with his 12.5% walk-rate, does two things: one is it shows he had a better season than his batting average indicates, and two is there is reason to expect his numbers will be better next season, if not much better. I admit I may be reaching a bit on this one, but that’s only because of his defense. I remain excited about Weeks’ offensive potential, and I think he can still be an average second baseman defensively. The error totals distort his defense, as his range this year was improved.
J.J. Hardy received a B. He was fourth in the NL in OPS among shortstops and had the best season of his career. Not a terrible grade, but I would have gone a bit higher.
Now for the players who were graded too highly. Corey Hart received a B minus. Haudricourt discussed this grade on the radio yesterday, and his biggest reasoning was that Hart was an All-Star. Great logic there. He also said Hart was working on an A until September. I have seen other people make reference to his awful September ruining his season, too. Well, yeah, his September was gawdawful, but he was having a pretty bad season even before September. After August 31, Hart had a .321 OBP, which is bad for anyone—much less a corner outfielder. This one doesn’t get any simpler than this: Corey Hart was a starting right fielder who had a .300 on-base percentage for the season. According to WPA, Hart was the fifth worst starting outfielder in the NL. Not right fielder, but outfielder. That is a bad, bad season—probably worthy of a D minus or something because of all the plate appearances he had. Yet they gave him a B minus.
Only two Brewers received some form of an A. One was obviously CC Sabathia, who got an A plus. The other? Guesses? It was Gabe Kapler. Look. I enjoyed posting those Beefcake pics as much as you liked looking at them, but let’s not get carried away. The dude had an .838 OPS in part-time duty with many of his plate appearances coming in advantageous platoon situations. Not only that, but his BABIP was a whopping 34 points above his career norm, which means that he had to get very lucky to do it (and there’s no reason to expect that again next season).