It used to be that somewhere in the first 10 days of November, those red and blue STATS, Inc. books would arrive, and we would disappear for three days, or hope that we had a couple of cross-country flights. Then, last year, they stopped, and there was a huge offseason void, sort of like taking away Thanksgiving.
So God bless Bill James. He vowed that there wouldn't be another November without one of those books, so he's put together the Bill James Handbook 2004 through Baseball Information Solutions. Now we know some of these "facts" to at least be self-evident:
Billy Wagner's high-octane fastball will be a welcome sight in Philadelphia in 2004.
That Billy Wagner in 2003 threw 159 pitches over 100 mph. According to those who record such numbers in ballparks across the country, every other pitcher in baseball legitimately topped 100 mph a grand total of 40 times. Think about that. Bartolo Colon was next, with 12 pitches over 100.
For the "It's Good to be Bartolo Colon" segment on E!, Colon is listed as throwing the most pitches over 95 mph of any AL pitcher (636), and had the second highest average fastball velocity (93.4) to C.C. Sabathia (93.9). Kerry Wood (95.5) and Jason Schmidt (95.0) had the highest average NL velocity and were 1-2 in pitches over 95. In case you were wondering, Greg Maddux had the third slowest average fastball (85.4) of any NL pitcher.
Yes, it is good to be Colon and be a free agent. Let's see, he led the AL in complete games, was ninth in baserunners per nine innings, second in innings pitched, second in lowest stolen base percentage against, seventh in percentage of pitches for strikes & he's good, and is going to be rich and likely a Yankee.
And while the Yankees and Red Sox pursue Curt Schilling, he may be 37, but his average fastball was 92.3 mph last season. Schilling's on-base percentage against was second in the NL, his strikeouts per nine innings was third, his 6.06 strikeout/walk ratio was No. 1, his lifetime quality-start percentage is 68.0 percent, fifth behind Barry Zito (71.2 percent), Pedro Martinez (70.8 percent), Randy Johnson and Maddux. Schilling has 803 strikeouts in 684 innings the last three seasons.
In Shannon Stewart's last six seasons, he's been on base between 36.4 percent and 37.7 percent of the time, a metronome of consistency. As for free agents, Mike Timlin's last three years have produced a 162/42 strikeout/walk ratio, while Fernando Vina's on-base percentage the last four years: .380, .357, .323, .309, is a bad sign for a leadoff hitter.
If you wonder why Eric Chavez wins gold gloves (some claim he has the quickest first step of any modern third baseman), he led all players at that position in range factor, double plays, chances and assists.
Geoff Jenkins is a wonderful player who plays hard all the time, but the last time he played at least 125 games was 2000.
Pedro Martinez leads all active pitchers in career ERA, winning percentage, lowest opponents' batting average, fewest baserunners per nine innings, lowest opponents' on-base, slugging and OPS. He has held opponents in his career to a .583 OPS -- which means every batter he has faced is slightly less dangerous than Cesar Izturis, whose career OPS is .589.
There is no question that Josh Beckett was great in the postseason, and has an astounding career in front of him. But he was drafted second overall in 1999, has a 17-17 career record and has made $5.5 million in his professional career. Zito, who is less than two years older than Beckett, was selected ninth overall in that draft. Zito's numbers: 61-29, 3.12 ERA with the best active quality start percentage and has made less than $4 million total.