Monday, April 30, 2012

How is it that I have to defend Jim Edmonds to Cardinals Fans?

I've seen a lot of threads in my lifetime, mostly on Cards Talk which is a vile and reputable place filled with idiots and less occasionally where sane, rational and intelligent Cards fans go (Stl Legends), where the name Jim Edmonds comes up in conversations about the Hall of Fame.  Only thing is, I see more people saying he has no chance at it more than I see supporters.  And it isn't just a "He's close" thing I see a lot.  There are way too many "No chance" opinions.  I don't get it.  How is it that people--CARDINALS FANS!!--have no appreciation for Jimmy Ballgame?

Being a nerd, I'm going to take time out of my life to run some numbers and perform analysis about Jim Edmonds, his place in history, and hopefully enlighten some people about his candidacy.  Bias alert up front--I love Jim Edmonds.  When I was a kid, I would have done anything to see him play.  Never got the chance in person, but have seen enough of him on TV.  As an aside: I never understood the argument that "You had to see him to understand him!  You can't just use stats!" Isn't that why stats exist?  So people that never got a chance to see Player A get an idea for how good he was?  Don't stats record what happens on a ball field?  I'm getting off track.  Lets get this train rolling.

Here are the Major League CF in the HoF.  In parenthesis after each person I will include their EqA and WARP3.  I'll explain each of these in a bit below:
Lloyd Waner (.268, 16.9)
Hack Wilson (.315, 28.9)
Tris Speaker (.327, 106.8)
Duke Snider (.308, 45.3)
Edd Roush (.297, 21.4)
Kirby Puckett (.284, 40.9)
Willie Mays (.327, 151.0)
Mickey Mantle (.347, 94.0)
Lary Doby (.308, 35.4)
Billy Hamilton (.318, 59.2)
Joe DiMaggio (.328, 78.6)
Hugh Duffy (.289, 33.1)
Ty Cobb (.336, 119.2)
Max Carey (.283, 28.9)
Earle Combs (.300, 21.0)
Richie Ashburn (.289, 58.8)
Earl Averill (.303, 32.7)

OK, long list and it looks ugly, apologies.  Jim Edmonds has a career .298 EqA and a 72.7 WARP3.  I'm going to narrow it down to players inducted by the BBWAA because those tend to be the best of all time and a lot of the ones that did make it in sorta stink (Max Carey?  Edd Roush?  Really?) Of players that were voted in by the BBWAA (Puckett, Mays, Mantle, Speaker, Snider, DiMaggio, Cobb--Holy crap is that a short list!), Edmonds ranks ahead of Puckett and Snider in terms of WARP3 (Wins Above Replacement Player adjusted for all-time) and just about as many as DiMaggio (Greatest Living Ballplayer my backside!).

In baseball history, only 5 CF were as valuable to their teams as Edmonds.  5.  F.I.V.E.  And this makes him not a Hall of Famer because....?  He's not in the Mays/Mantle/Cobb class, but very few people are.  Edmonds definitely deserves to be a Hall of Famer.

A lot of people I talk to will cite Ken Griffey being better than Edmonds.  Well, they have almost the same EqA (Griffey had a .297 EqA to Edmonds .298), and nearly identical WARP3's (Griffey had a 78.2).  In fact, most advanced metrics have them being very close in production.  RC27 gives the edge to Edmonds (7.3 to 7.2), and BtRuns gives the edge to Griffey (507.7 to 336.7).  The BtRuns looks like a big difference, but Griffey played 5 more years than Edmonds and their average per year was only slighly more for Griffey (31 to 27).  Griffey gets a lot of credit for having 630 HR, and he should because its a remarkable number.  He was a great hitter and great player.  Maybe just a hair better than Edmonds, but the difference isn't much.  Both were great, fun to watch and should be headed for Cooperstown.

Added 5/1: Some people asked me about more traditional stats for Edmonds and the Hall of Fame.  Well, I say those traditional stats are worked into EqA (which gives you total offensive output per out) and the other stats.  But, here they are anyways:

Griffey: 284/370/538 (136 OPS+).  Averaged 38 HR per 162.
Edmonds: 284/376/527 (131 OPS+).  Averaged 32 HR per 162.

Eerie, isn't it?

As always, I'm open to hearing people's opinions on this.  I'm willing to listen if someone has a legit argument against Edmonds inclusion in Cooperstown.  I will probably disagree with their position, but I will listen.  And defend their right to say it to the death.  Maybe not death, per say.  Maybe more like to the...back spasm?  That sounds better than death right?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Details of conversation between Colletti and Ethier's Agent Found

Ned C. : "Hey Nez!  How's it going, my good friend?"

Nez Balelo: "Fine Mr. Colletti.  How are you?"

NC: "I'm doing fine.  The reason why I called was...well, you know how we have new owners."

NB: "It was in the news."

NC: "I told them that I want to start talks on an extension with Andre Ethier.  And they are cool with it!"

NB: "Oh.  I'm glad to hear that.  Say Ned?"

NC: "Yessir?"

NB: "Didn't you give Juan Pierre a $44 million contract in 2007?"

NC: *awkward silence for 1 minute, then* "Oh, you remember that?"

NB: *Eyes light up and $$ appear on each eyeball.  The sound of a thousand cash registers ca-chinging to the Hallelujah Chorus plays in the background.*

I am so looking forward to the overpay Neddy's going to do on this one.  Ethier's a really good player, and from what MLBTR has posted, is looking for 14-15 mil over 4-5 years.  Ethier is just now hitting 30, which means that in this contract he'd be getting 15 mil as a 35-36 year old OF.  That's a lot to be paying, especially since he hasn't played more than 139 games in the last 2 years and doesn't walk a whole lot (career 363 OBP) while providing decent power.  This has backfire written all over it, cause once he hits those 34-35-36 years, that lack of OBP can really bite him where, as my mother would say, "The Good Lord split him." as his OPS will start to tank.  But, this is Ned Colletti we're talking about here.  I'm sure he'll do the right thing.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Someone's insane here

And I bet it isn't me.

I was looking through some old news on the St. Louis PD earlier today, where I found this gem from a Rick Hummel article.  Usually when I post things like this, I end up making fun of the author.  But in this case, Rick didn't do anything wrong.  However, Lou Susman almost did.  And I think he should be institutionalized for it:

McCarver revealed that he had been offered a chance to be Cardinals general manager in 1985 by Lou Susman, who was running the Cardinals’ front office at that point. But McCarver said he just had signed a four-year extension to continue as one of the New York Mets’ broadcasters.

Tim McCarver.  Being a GM.  For a Major League Baseball team.  Predicted record: 20-142.

Fun assignment kids at home: In one minute, list as many people as you can who would be a better GM than Timmy McCarver.

Here's what I got:

1) Charles Manson
2) Joe Buck
3) Me
4) Foment
5) My First Grade teacher Mrs. Fritzen
6) My mom's mother
7) George Washington
8) Jon Lovitz
9) Alex Trebeck
10) Pat Sajak
11) Bob Barker
12) Abe Lincoln
13) Harriet Tubman
14) Rupert Murdoch
15) Burt Reynolds
16) Sean Connery
17) Nicholas Cage

Feel free to add to it below.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

New York Yankees - Looking at the Rotation

Alright, time to wrap up the AL East. It’s time to look at the Yankees rotation. Truth be told, I was dragging my feet about this one, hoping against hope that the rotation would go through one stellar turn before I wrote this, and in the end... didn’t happen. So here we are: a staff that was expected to be anchored by CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda has been the exception to the rule that good pitching wins ball games. The defending AL East champs have gotten almost no value out of their starting rotation so far and if it weren’t for a stellar bullpen it’d be easy to see the Yanks doing no better than the dumpster fire that has been the Boston Red Sox so far.

Sabathia has been ugly over his first 4 starts, though his WHIP, walk rate, and strikeout rates have all been solid, he’s giving up home runs at about twice his normal pace. Despite being 31 years old Sabathia is in his 12th big league season. With all of his peripherals looking pretty good, his ERA will likely start to follow. As is the case for all of the Yankees pitchers, his BABIP is exceedingly high, and if last season is any indication, it could well stay that way.

Kuroda is going to experience some rough starts as he adjusts to a much more potent division and away from the very pitcher friendly parks of the NL West. Kuroda has been up and down in his 4 starts, pitching very well against the Angels, and pitching well enough to get a win almost any other day of the week against the Rangers and their new phenom Yu Darvish. He has however also had two very rough starts. As Kuroda settles in he should make adjustments to the AL. Expecting his numbers from last season would be unrealistic, but expecting to see some balance of the two pitchers he’s been so far is very plausable.

Phil Hughes has not looked good so far, going less than 3 innings in his most recent start, and compiling an ugly (7.88) ERA so far. Hughes’ fastball has been moving well, but his changeup isn’t very far along, and he’s been leaving his curveball up and very hittable so far. Unfortunately for Hughes as noted at River Ave Blues, a starting pitcher can not survive on one pitch. His BABIP is very high, more so than the team average by a fair bit but Hughes seems to give up hits to the outfield in droves. He needs to work on getting the ball down in the zone  if he expects to still be in the rotation at mid-season.

Ivan Nova has been the most consistent Yankee starter so far, and that is due in large part to what appears to be absolutely pinpoint control so far. He’s walking less than 1 batter per game, and striking out more than 1 per inning. He’s giving up a lot of hits, but his BABIP is sitting at a very robust .389, and that likely will fall if he is willing to relinquish some of the flashy stats for more ground balls.Nova’s giving up more fly balls and more line drives than last year, which are likely coming from a more strikeout friendly pitching approach. Nova hasn’t been unhittable, but he’s been very good so far, so it’s hard to say he needs to start looking to induce more ground balls, though it appears he can certainly turn that on if he has to.

Freddy Garcia has been worse than Hughes so far, and a lot of that looks to be his command failing him. Garcia isn’t a fireballer, he lives on the corners of the plate with nothing but smoke and mirrors. If Garcia can find his control there’s no reason he can’t perform as well as he did last year. Garcia’s BABIP is extraordinarily high sitting at .419 which spells disaster for a contact pitcher. Asking for him to return to last season’s 3.62 ERA might be a bit hopeful, but he can certainly pitch better than he has so far, and for his own sake he’ll have to with Andy Pettite likely to make his big league return in about two weeks. Garcia’s control is the X factor here, if he can start locating pitches he’ll start seeing much better results but at the moment his command is terrifyingly inconsistent.

As a bonus: Andy Pettite has been pitching pretty well in his minor league appearances trying to ramp up to 100 pitches. He has been locating balls very well keeping near a 3:1 strike to ball ratio so far. Pettite is not going to inject any youth into the rotation, but there is very little to say about decline over his 16 major league seasons, there may be some rust but Pettite’s return might be just what the Yankees need to start reversing their rotation woes.

As I said in the opening, the Yankees are the exception that proves the rule, for about 5 innings per game, they’ve received the worst pitching in the league, but have been able to overcome that and currently hold a 10 - 8 record. Jeter’s strong start has helped mask an otherwise unspectacular start for most of the lineup, and without major contributions from the bullpen, the Yanks would not be in a position to compete right now. I’d look for the rotation to turn it around, or for Cashman and Girardi to start shaking things up.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tampa Bay Rays - Looking at the Rotation

As we’ve made it past the 16th game of the season, we’ve seen 3 full passes through just about everyone’s rotation, and continuing the theme of evaluating team’s rotations, today we’ll look at the Tampa Bay Rays. I feel like I’m repeating myself, but it’s not really a surprise that the financially constrained Rays have a young pitching staff, with 30 year old James Shields and 29 year old Jeff Niemann being the oldest pitchers being handed the ball every 5th day.

James Shields has pitched very well so far, in fact his ERA+ is 5  points better than last year’s Cy Young candidate season. Shields has been up and down from year to year, having two very good years in ‘07 and ‘08, but regressed to league average in ‘09 and had a very rough 2010 (5.18 ERA). He followed up that very weak campaign with a 2.82 ERA and a 3rd place finish in Cy Young voting last year and if the early season is any indication, he’s looking to make a run at it again this season. He’s striking out fewer batters so far, but his walk rate is very close and he’s keeping the ball on the ground, garnering nearly 2 ground outs for each fly out, and has only given up 1 home run over 29 and ⅓ innings. I’d look for the strikeout rate to come back up a bit, and with it a few more fly balls, but if he can keep runners off base like he has been (1.091 WHIP) he’ll be positioned for another spectacular year.

Jeff Niemann is a bit more consistent across the board, he’s a league average pitcher who isn’t really doing any given thing wrong. He’s given up 2 home runs so far in 15 and ⅓ innings, which runs right in line with his career average, much like his ERA sitting about .05 below his career number. The two things I can’t see him sustaining are his WHIP (0.978) and his strikeout rate (25% of batters faced). The WHIP will normalize as his BABIP comes back to earth from the .205 it sits at now, but that kind of strikeout rate is going to burn up his pitch count in a hurry. Niemann’s stats will regress and normalize, but he shouldn’t stray too far from being a league average pitcher.

David Price has the same amount of service time as Niemann despite being 3 years younger, and has put together a very respectable resume over the last few years. Price’s ERA is very good at the moment, and he’s certainly shown the ability to keep it right where it is now, but with his peripheral stats where they are now, that isn’t likely for the whole season. Price doesn’t give up a lot of home runs, but right now he’s only given up 1 over 24 innings, which is excellent for him but not likely to be sustained. He’s walking almost 4 batters per 9 which is a bit high for him. The walk rate wouldn’t concern me if his strikeout rate wasn’t down along with it. Price’s WHIP and BABIP are a bit higher than his career averages, but could certainly remain about where they are.

Matt Moore at 23 years old he’s experiencing a rough start to what could be his first full year in the majors. in 19 and ⅓ innings his walk rate and strikeout rate are near identical, which can’t remain that way if he looks to execute on the flash of skill we saw last year or in the playoffs against the Rangers. Moore’s minor league stats are pretty much right in line with what he showed at the end of last season, high strikeout totals, a few walks, but overall keeps the ball in the yard very well. Who knows what he’ll do after breaking camp with the big club this spring, but he’s looked rough so far. I don’t expect to see his AAA numbers in the AL East, but he can certainly start to adjust and get the ball down more. Moore probably won’t be a Cy Young candidate, but I can’t see him staying this far below league average for long if he expects to hang with the big club all year.

Jeremy Hellickson, last year’s Rookie of the Year winner has come out of the gate in mid season form. His ERA is excellent, though not Cy Young worthy, though his walk rate is up, and his strikeout rate is down some regression and growing pains are to be expected in his second year. His 10 walks and 16 hits in 19 and ⅓ innings aren’t pretty, but he hasn’t been stung too bad by them yet. If Hellickson is to be productive through the season he’ll do well to adjust some there, but having only given up 7 earned runs so far, obviously it’s working for him just fine.

The Rays have a very good young rotation and are able to count on both Price and Shields to pitch like aces. If Moore and Hellickson can settle down and get their command back to where it was a year ago, this rotation could carry a much lesser offense to a respectable record. I fully expect to see the Rays vying for a playoff spot late in the season.

Continuing the theme: Looking at the Blue Jays Rotation

Continuing the theme, I’d like to look at the Toronto Blue Jays rotation, and what it means to their team going forward this season. Much like the Orioles, Toronto has a very young rotation, lead by the two 27 year olds Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow, the staff is very green, but of the 6 pitchers that have recorded starts for Toronto this year, there are only 2 total question marks there, both of whom are vying for the 5th starters job.

Looking at Ricky Romero’s stats, he looks very legitimate, His strikeout rate is down from the last two season, but his walk rate is right in line with the two previous seasons. He’s consistently lowered his hits per 9 each season since he came into the fold in 09, but I can’t expect that to last for too much longer. His Ground ball to fly ball rate has been consistent, but his BABIP is progressively getting lower, that’s unsustainable, but even if it normalizes he’s been able to keep the ball down, which has helped him to a lot of double plays, even with a very solid career WHIP sitting at 1.292 (over the past 2 years it has been 1.129). Romero has been very good, and at 27 he’s been a very dominant pitcher for the Blue Jays and with very little changing over the past few years I don’t see why that can’t continue.

Brandon Morrow has been effective as well, though holding onto a career ERA about .8 runs higher than Romeros. Morrow has only been a full time starter for the past two seasons, and may finally be looking to hit the 200 inning barrier. He has been more or less league average over his career, but that doesn’t mean he’s not an effective innings eater. I don’t see Morrow regressing significantly, though his strikeout rate is down and he’s already given up 7 home runs (1/3 of his total from last season). I can’t say I expect Morrow to keep up his current pace, his BABIP is an outstanding .192, and while his career BABIP is a bit higher than league average, this screams luck to me as much as anything else. He does appear to be inducing many more ground balls this season than he has in the past, and whether that’s by design or by small sample size it has been a huge boon to his overall stat line, though when the ball is put into the air, it’s been traveling.

Henderson Alvarez has only 10 major league starts under his belt prior to this season, but has been able to put together a pretty good stat line so far. His biggest points of concern are a much lower strikeout rate (3.7/9 this year vs 5.7 last) and giving up almost 2 hr/9 so far. These are correctable stats that will balance out over the season to give us a better idea of who Alvarez is. Did his stat line last year come more from the small sample size, or was that the Alvarez that the Jays will get over the course of this season? Only time will tell.

Kyle Drabek has a very appealing stat line so far. He’s walking about 5 per 9, which isn’t good news, but that number is significantly better than the 6.3 per 9 he had last season. He’s getting 7.5 strikeouts per 9 as well, which is significantly higher than last year’s 5.8. I expect these numbers to normalize somewhat, but aside from a ridiculous change in BABIP (.239 this season against .314 last year) he’s not doing much differently. Once his BABIP comes back up a little bit, he’ll start to look a bit less impressive, but likely better than last year’s 6.06 ERA. His FIP (5.52) and xFIP(5.13) indicated that he was somewhat victimized by bad luck last year, but still well below league average. His FIP(4.37) and xFIP(3.97) so far this season indicate the same thing as the drastic change in his BABIP, he’s got better luck this year than the folks that won the mega millions a few weeks ago. Drabek will likely come back down to earth over his next few starts, but he may well be a much improved version of last year’s pitcher.

Joel Carreno & Drew Hutchison have each gotten a start for Toronto so far, but neither has got enough of a history at the major league level to really speculate on.

Overall, while their offense may be underperforming, the rotation appears to be due for an overall slight regression, and with no clear cut 5th starter, the Blue Jays will more than likely be battling more with the Orioles than with the Rays, Yankees, or Red Sox.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Matt Holliday

I've mentioned before here that I am a Cardinals fan.  As such, I root for my team, all players and staff of the team.  I don't start booing guys that are starting to stink up the joint due to being injured, especially when a player may have been the best closer in club history.  (Yes, Izzy was better than Number 42, but I digress)  I spend a lot of time on Cards Talk and St. Louis Legends because I like to discuss Cardinals baseball with reasonable people, which I believe comprises a lot of most fan bases.  That being said, there's been a lot of vitriol towards Matt Holliday.

Holliday is struggling to start this season.  Coming into tonight's (4/23) game against the Cubbies, he was hitting 216/266/378 with only 3 HR.  A lot of people are getting on his case because he was expected to slide into Albert Pujols' spot in the order and produce like he always has.  Apparently, after 79 PA, there is a vocal minority raging against him.  There are two criticisms of him that I want to discuss here.

1) He isn't "clutch".  Without talking about what clutch is and whether or not it exists, I'm going to assume people mean that he doesn't come through late in games when the score is tight.  While I don't care for the close and late stats on BR, mostly due to them being small sample sizes, his OPS in those situations is 911.  His career OPS?  924.  He's pretty much the same hitter in every situation.  And he's awesome in every situation.

2) He isn't better than Lou Brock.  As I've mentioned before, I love talking about the Hall of Fame.  And, me being a Cardinal fan, I love Lou Brock.  Mostly because he was a good hitter and helped my favorite team win 2 World Series in the 1960s.  Having said that, Matt Holliday is SO far ahead of Brock it isn't funny--in fact, you might be insulting Holliday with such a remark.  To keep things short, Matt Holliday has an RC27 of 7.6.  Lou Brock has an RC27 of 5.2.  9 Hollidays would outscore 9 Brocks by almost 2.5 runs a game.  Matt Holliday's SecA (which takes into account steals--which is what Brock is known for) is 344 and Brock's is 252.  And, for good measure, Holliday's OPS+ is 136 and Brock's is 109.

Cards fans, we're better than this.

Monday, April 23, 2012

In a world where sucking makes you good.

Ron Gant on MLB Tonight about the Twins:

"They've been playing really good baseball of late."

The Twins are 3-7 in their last 10, 5-11 overall.

Want to rethink that adjective there Ron?

Added: Harold Reynolds: "You'll trade an out for a run anytime."  No.  The only time you trade outs for runs are:
1) Pitcher at the plate and you're almost guaranteed the out anyways.

2) It's the winning run.

3) It's late in the game and one run could be what decides the game.

In every other situation you never want to trade an out for anything.

Welcome to the Revolution Harold and Ron!

EDIT: Then they mention that Greinke wasn't allowed to pitch pivotal games on the road in the postseason.

NLCS Game 5

I guess the series being tied 2-2 with the chance to head home with the series lead isn't pivotal enough?

Baltimore Orioles: The Young Rotation that Just Might

The Orioles have been making a little bit of noise each year, usually in picking up players that they can flip, or a veteran or two to guide their clubhouse, they have now however got a pretty solid 5 man rotation, without a single member over 29 years old. The oldest pitcher on the Orioles staff is 29 yr old Jason Hammel who was received from Colorado along with Matt Lindstrom for Jeremy Guthrie. Getting that much value out of Guthrie, who should be looked at as nothing more than a reliable innings eater, and shows how clever the people that Baltimore has at the top of their organization really are. That isn’t to say that Hammel is an ace, but to say that he’s younger and slightly cheaper than Guthrie with the ability to produce similar results.

Looking at the Rotation, now 3 full turns through, Baltimore is going to experience some growing pains but they’re looking to be a much improved team from last year. Of the starters only Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz are holdovers from last season’s club.  Matusz put together a pretty good 2010 season, before only turning in 12 starts in 2011, but at 26 still has room to grow and improve as a pitcher. Arrieta has similarly produced slightly below league average results but looks to be growing into himself as a pitcher at the major league level and could prove to be a respectable 3 or 4 pitcher.

Tommy Hunter who was received along side Chris Davis  from Texas for Koji Uehara has shown some great skill having put together a very good year in 2010 and a respectable 2009 looks to be struggling a bit with his walk rate up about 1 additional walk per 9 and having given up 6 home runs already, he will need to make adjustments to come close to the potential he showed in Texas.

Wei-Yin Chen rounds out the rotation as the international signing that rounds out the rotation. Chen has pitched lights out so far, despite often having men on base (1.385 WHIP slightly higher than CC Sabathia so far this season) he has been able to keep the ball on the ground, and keep his ERA to a sparkling 2.60 over 17.1 innings. Chen may well be the anchor that the Orioles need to keep this rotation moving throughout the season.

The team has been winning despite their less than stellar production from the rotation but if this rotation can put it together throughout the long season, the Orioles might well be able to pull a coup (by their standards) and avoid the bottom of the division this season. That said, Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold, and Adam Jones aren’t likely to keep up this torrid pace, but if the team begins producing as a whole, the race in the AL East could look a good bit different than it has in recent years.

Super Subs or Super Replaceable?

Super-subs” - the term being bandied around for bench players willing to play any position, any time. Certainly there’s a great amount of value to a team to have these players. Who wouldn’t want to be able to look at their bench and know that they can make a late game switch at almost any position without putting a huge defensive liability in the field for the sake of a pinch hit or two? The Rays have Ben Zobrist, the Dodgers Jerry Hairston Jr., the Diamondbacks Willie Bloomquist, the Phillies Ty Wigginton . To a lesser extent players like Wilson Betemit, Michael Young, and Maicer Izturis have filled a similar role for their respective teams, a player willing to hold down the fort at any infield position on any given day.

Certainly the ability to cover the infield, the corner outfield, or in extreme cases, even center field in a single bench player is excellent for the team, but what does it mean to the players? Michael Young has been a fixture with the Texas Rangers for several years, and has been able to make all star appearances despite not always having a defined position each season, while Ty Wigginton has played for a new team just about every 2 years over his 14 year career despite his respectable numbers and defensive versatility. That is not to compare the two directly, that would be near impossible, but Wigginton has put up the kind of numbers where he could come to a team and get playing time 4 out of 5 games to rest a given starter, while putting up slightly below league average defense with slightly above average offense (1.2 oWAR vs -1.1dWAR average over his career), given that your typical bench player is either an aging veteran whose defensive abilities has all but completely left them, or a player who has never been able to put it together with their bat, but can give you no worse than league average defense at a few positions, Wiggy seems like an absolute gem that has been frequently tossed aside, too valuable to settle for league minimum, not quite good enough at any given thing to cement himself into a team’s everyday lineup.

Surely offensive production out of these players would be the thing to cement them into a given lineup, it has done exactly that for Michael Young and Ben Zobrist, but with only a handful of guys in the league who would be happy to fill in for your team’s everyday shortstop on Monday, break in his first baseman’s glove on Tuesday, and be shagging fly balls in left field on Wednesday, it’s something of a miracle that these guys don’t get tied up on 3-4 year contracts more often.

Of the players mentioned 2 have played for only one team, and 4 have played for 4 or more, and all of them are over 30 years old. Since none of them have missed a year in the majors since they were in their mid 20s, what’s keeping teams from extending them beyond a 1 or 2 year contract? Of those listed, only Zobrist, Young, and Izturis are on more than 2 year contracts, and the 4 others are on 2 year deals, all of whom have been traded or became free agents in the last year with only  Bloomquist resigning with the club he had been with the year prior.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Oh I'm so glad that Ozzie is back

Ozzie Guillen has returned after a suspension due to his mouth.  Now, he says something that is really dumber than his previous comments.

"(The bullpen) is what makes a good or bad manager," Guillen said.  "Today I am a genius."

How many errors do you spot in that last sentence?  The overall sentiment is correct, which is what kills me about this quote, but who would ever agree with Ozzie Guillen being a genius?  I dare you to give me an example of him being a genius on any day.  And don't give me that 2005 World Series victory.  That was a fluke because his philosophy was totally backwards.  They rode an extremely over-performing pitching staff to a luck World Series win.  Ozzie had nothing to do with it.

Sorry for the crass tone, but the thought of Ozzie Guillen being called a genius by anyone, even himself, makes me feel dirty inside.  I need to take a shower now.

Hitting into the Shift

I am a Yankees fan, as such I read River Ave Blues pretty regularly. Recently they’ve been putting together a short series on Mark Teixeira’s swing, most importantly, the difference between his left and right handed swings, and what has gone wrong with his lefty swing. Teixeira has been labeled as a “victim of the shift”, largely because his pull happy swing has made it very easy to load up the right side of the infield with 3-4 men and basically make an impenetrable wall of defenders that will smother any ground ball he puts into play. Tex isn’t the first, nor will he be the last man to suffer the effects of this shift.

As per Wikipedia, Ryan Howard, David Ortiz, Jason Giambi, and Barry Bonds, and Willie McCovey are all examples of shift victims. The most remarkable thing about the shift is the lengths to which people go to thwart it. Tex has developed an uppercut swing to avoid the infield, though this has only served to keep his stats depressed, he’s still pulling the ball, aiming for the right field porch in Yankee Stadium, but now, in lieu of readjusting (which I say because this problem has not been extant his entire career) his swing and accepting that he has power to all 3 fields, Tex is locked in on ripping the ball to right field.

Not everyone adjusts their swing to combat the shift, and for some of the power hitters (David Ortiz) it may not really be necessary, but the shift has caused problems for the defensive team (Johnny Damon stealing 2 bases on a single pitch because of the shift). That said, obviously the shift works, if not nobody would be doing it, but what’s interesting is that the batters are only willing to fight it so much. Leaving the left ½ of the infield wide open is begging for a good bunt toward 3rd. if it gets past the pitcher, it’s a hit every time. A lot of the players who suffer the ill effects of the shift however are power hitters, and are reluctant to see their power numbers dwindle for even a month during the season to “correct” the shift.

For someone like Tex who’s not exactly an excellent base runner, the bunt might be a hard sell, but you can’t help your team with a bunch of fly balls to right-center field without a man on 3rd. Getting on base helps your team, creating opportunities for the other batters in the lineup is something these guys need to recognize. It doesn’t matter if it’s a walk year or you’re in the heart of a 10 year contract, you need to help your team, and getting on base is a great way to do that. If a batter’s going to beat the shift, they need to stop thinking about their power numbers and start thinking about their on base percentage. I’d be just as happy to see Teixeira with a .480 OBP and a ..310SLG  as I would be with seeing 30 homeruns and a .340 OBP. Take the bunt, get on base, leave the bat in the 4 or 5 hitter’s hands.

The LA Dodgers: A Look Ahead

What can we expect from the Dodgers going forward? With new ownership headed by Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson, there’s bound to be some cultural shift there. Something important to realize is that, they are not going to be a free spending team. They will not be the Nationals, the Yankees, the Red Sox, absolutely not. They will however probably sit somewhere in the middle of the league’s payroll, trying to blend the big market, big money team mentality with the model used by Tampa Bay to sustain success.

Kasten is the former President of the Atlanta Hawks, Braves, and Thrashers as well as the Washington Nationals. Kasten isn’t very much interested in the free agent market and believes strongly that he can build a team near solely from the farm system. Magic however wants to see some flash, not just building their team from within and making their own stars, but he wants to go out and get an Albert Pujols, a CJ Wilson, etc. This will be the constant battle for this team, which section of ownership is in the driver’s seat at any time, or are they going to work together actively so that everyone’s voice is heard at the top?

Now, Kasten did preside over the Braves for a very long time, including their ‘95 World Series, and the run through 86 through 2003. This was not by any stretch a bad team, but if that is the type of talent Kasten hopes to bottle up in LA he is going to need a lot of luck, and a patient fanbase. While I agree with Kasten that spending on the free agent market rarely nets a fair return as far as WAR/million spent, it will be a necessary evil for his team over the next few years to maintain a watchable product.

Currently the Dodgers are ranked 22nd in minor league depth by Minor League Ball, 24th Baseball Prospect Nation, and Keith Law (yeah, the link is to the fanatic, but for those of us without MLB insider access, it was that or taking my word on it) ranks them 12th solely on pitching depth. If we are to disregard Keith Law, or at the very least weigh his opinion equally with the two that rank the team much lower because they haven’t really got any bats in AA or AAA, you can see that if the Dodgers are to take the West, they will have to bend a little bit in Magic’s direction and pull in a few free agents, whether they be above average role players, or a couple of really dominant guys, trying to balance rebuilding your farm system with having a competitive team at the major league level is no easy feat, and only gets harder if you decide to ignore free agency. The Dodgers have some very good talent on the roster, though they certainly have room to upgrade, and if they can add a piece or two to really put it all together, they will be in an excellent “win now” situation without having sacrificed their future to do it. *Note: I am aware that the Dodgers are off to a 9-3 start. The Mets are 7-5 and so are the Orioles, a hot start does not make your team a lock for the playoffs.*