Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Festivus!


In case you did not now, today, December 23 is the wonderful holiday Festivus created by Dan O'Keefe and popularized by his son Daniel, a writer for the show Seinfeld, where Festivus became a storyline in "The Strike" episode. 

Festivus is a simple, yet beautiful holiday that has only a few rituals:  

Festivus Pole:  This is the only display needed for Festivus, an unadorned aluminum pole.  

Airing of Grievances: Immediately after dinner is served, everyone at the table lashes out at each other and the world about how they have been disappointed over the past year. 

Feats of Strength: Festivus is not over until the head of the household is pinned in a wrestling match.  The head of the household usually chooses who will participate in the match, although it isn't unheard of for someone to run out (aka go to work the late shift at H & H) instead of wrestling. 

Additionally, Festivus miracles often will occur during the holiday. Whether they are legit miracles or dumb, mundane coincidences, the point is that they're real and they're spectacular!

The Festivus site has many Festivus-carols, so I decided to make my own.

Festivus Night
to the tune of "Silent Night"

Festivus night, holy night
The holiday is here, what a site
Gather around the aluminum pole
Unadorned yet full of soul
Festivus for the rest of us
Festivus for the rest of us

Festivus night, holy night
Dinner is served, now we spite
All who disappointed us over the year
Now is our chance to sneer
Airing of Grievances
Airing of Grievances

Festivus night, holy night
Nothing is calm, it's time to fight
Feats of Strength, the head has been pinned
We can rejoice, the holiday has end
A Festivus miracle
A Festivus miracle

With that said, I would like to wish you all a happy and healthy Festivus for the rest of us!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gustavo Chacin

The Astros resigned lefty Gustavo Chacin to a minor league contract today, and while that isn't big news for baseball purposes (he's 30 year old pitcher who hasn't been good since 2005) it should be noted that he is one of only a few players who's name-awesomeness to photo-awesomeness ratio is close to 1:1.  

The Evidence

Exhibit A: Gustavo Chacin (goose-TAV-o SHA-seen)

Exhibit B:

Need I say more? 

Hooray for Shaughnessy!

The 2010 AL Cy Young Award caused quite a debate with the best pitcher in the league, Felix Hernandez, having a surprisingly low win total.  While I am certainly glad that the voters got it "right" by my standards, I was a little saddened by the idea of the voters continuing to get it right.  As weird as that may sound, it would signal an end to these debates which in hindsight are often pretty fun.  I guess its a love/hate sort of thing.  It's not always enjoyable, and can often be frustrating, to argue about such things, but when it's for a case that you agree with so vehemently, dare I say those arguments become entertaining?

Anyways, in my brief period of sadness I forgot about the yearly Hall of Fame debate.   Recent awards have shown the the voters are leaning towards common sense, but that hasn't necessarily been the case for the Hall of Fame.  Lucky for us there is always Dan Shaughnessy!

Anything that this man writes is grounds for the FJM treatment, but I'll save you the time and just cut the the chase:
Finally, what do we do with Jeff Bagwell? He’s a career .297 hitter with 449 homers. He was an MVP. He won a Gold Glove. He had six straight seasons of 30 homers, 100 RBIs, and 100 runs. His career on base percentage is .408. Bagwell never tested positive for anything. But like a lot of players who will follow him to the ballot, he was a guy who made you wonder.
If you care about “character,’’ snubbing guys who tested positive (Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, and Manny Ramirez) is easy. Bonds and Clemens are under indictment. But they’re just the tip of the iceberg. What happens to Sammy Sosa, Pudge Rodriguez, and other players who made you raise your eyebrows? What do we do with Bagwell, who may just be a victim of cheaters around him? Where is this going?
My personal belief is that this isn't a black or white situation, it's quite gray.  Steroids were so intertwined with the game that it is impossible, at least for me, to simply single out players who used and ban them from the Hall.  I do, however, understand how people could feel the opposite.  Mark McGwire admitted to steroid use and Rafael Palmeiro was caught, if that means that they can forever say goodbye to the Hall in your mind then so be it.

What I don't understand is how someone like Dan Shaugnessy could leave Bagwell off the ballot because "he was a guy who made you wonder."  That is totally unfair and completely irresponsible.  It'd be extraordinarily convenient to have a way of finding out who used, for how long they use and how it effected their performance.  Unfortunately such a list doesn't exist.  We do have a small list of people who have either admitted to steroid use or have been caught, and if you feel safe enough judging those players, then fine.  But it's simply not OK to "wonder" about someone when there hasn't been even a hint of evidence suggesting that they did anything illegal.

I agree with Shaugnessy that the Hall and its voters will be facing a big issue in the upcoming years but it's based on people who have been caught, not on people who we may arbitrarily "wonder" about.  No kidding,  I'd rather someone vote for Lenny Harris and his pinch-hitting record than leave off Bagwell because of that reasoning.  I'm not sure I've ever disagreed with someone's voting process more than this and frankly, it should be grounds to at least consider revoking someone's voting privileges.

Remember that little preamble where I was basically glad that we still have this to argue about?  Yea, I'm over that.

Jon Heyman Still Doesn't Get It

Bert Blyleven.  Do you disagree?
It's admirable that Jon Heyman made his Hall of Fame ballot public, but his choices, reasoning and explanations just defy any logic, coherence or simple understanding of what makes a Hall of Famer.

As we all know by now, the major discrepancy between Heyman's ballot and simple logic isn't the inclusion of Jack Morris on his ballot, but the stance that he was a better pitcher than Bert Blyleven.  The case for Jack Morris usually considers the following:
  1. Clutch pitching, headlined by his 1991 World Series Game 7 performance--10 innings 1-0 shutout.
  2. Impressive 254 wins and 175 complete games
  3. 3 World Series rings
  4. Excuses for his high rather ERA, as Heyman notes: "Morris has a high lifetime ERA, 3.90. But some of that is due to the 6.19 and 5.60 marks he put up in his final two seasons. And part of it is due to him pitching to the scoreboard, which the very best pitchers could do."
  5. The "you had to be there" stance.  Since the numbers don't quite add up (3.90 ERA, and less wins than many pitchers in the Hall and out of the Hall) Morris supporters resort to a "gut feeling" or some intangible argument.
I understand that Hall of Fame voting can be a very personal matter, and if you are going to include Morris because of some "gut feeling" about him being better than his numbers may indicate (Reason #5), then fine, include him, whatever.  I don't have a problem with that.  My problem comes when you use his numbers as reasoning, because then your entire argument falls apart (Reasons 1-4).  

If you want to include Jack Morris, but not Blyleven, your argument should start and end with the 5th point.  In points 1-4, Blyleven will always come out on top, it's simply a matter of fact as his numbers are better.  Essentially when you criticize Blyleven's numbers, you are simultaneously criticizing Morris'.  The only argument for Morris is the intangible, "gut feeling" "you had to be there" argument.  Saying anything else beyond that just undermines Morris' case.

For instance, just look at some of Heyman's comments on Blyleven:

"The scarcity of complete games in recent years has also shined a light on some his lifetime achievements."

If the scarcity of complete games in recent years shines light on *some* of his lifetime achievements, why highlight Morris' 175 complete games as reason for his inclusion when Blyleven had 67 more?

"[He] never dominated even one season or certainly a series of seasons. He never finished higher than third in the Cy Young balloting and only four times finished in the top 10, meaning he was never considered among the two best pitchers in his league during his time."

Two things.  First, the fact that voters were stupid to not give Blyleven more love shouldn't hurt him now. Second, Jack Morris never finished higher than 3rd in the Cy Young balloting, meaning he was also never considered among the two best pitchers in his league during his time.  Ah, let's give a third thing, just because Blyleven wasn't considered great, doesn't mean he wasn't great.  I suppose when evolution wasn't "considered" a fact it meant it wasn't right?

"Blyleven was never considered to be in the category of the game's best pitchers during his career. He simply outlasted almost everyone else and kept pitching effectively into his 40s. He never led the league in wins or ERA"

We've already been through this, and Morris was never considered to be in the category of the game's best pitchers during his time either.  Also Blyleven didn't pitch effectively in his 40s, at age 39 he had an ERA over 5, he didn't pitch at age 40 and at age 41 he was below average.  Anyways, in what world should it be held against Blyleven that he pitched longer and more effectively than Morris? Just a few points ago it was fine to dismiss Morris' last few seasons as an excuse for his high ERA, if we do the same for Blyleven his ERA drops to 3.14 from 3.33, again,over half a run better than Morris'.

"He only received MVP votes twice, finishing 26th in 1973 and 13th in 1989." 

Here we go again, if voters made a mistake in the 70s, we shouldn't compound their mistake in 2011.  Plus, it's not like Morris was a great MVP candidate.  He received MVP votes in 5 separate years compared to just 2 by Blyleven but he finished 13th twice, 15th, 20th and 21st.  Neither pitcher was ever a legitimate MVP candidate, making this point rather useless.

"According to baseball-reference.com, he ranks 936th alltime in MVP shares at 0.09."

This may be true, but if one is going to site a statistic on baseball-reference.com, this is cherry-picking one that is both unimportant and the only one where Morris may outrank Blyleven.  We've already established that Morris received more MVP votes, instead of going down that path again let's take a look at some actual important measures on baseball-reference.com that tell us perhaps who *should* have won more awards:

WAR: Blyleven 90.1, Morris 39.3.  That's a pretty darn huge difference.  Maybe you think that WAR is a great way of comparing pitchers and maybe you don't, but almost statistic with that large of a discrepancy should tell you something.  And it's not like WAR is just any old random statistic, it's a pretty well established one at this point. 

ERA+: Blyleven 118, Morris 105.  At least according to ERA, Blyleven was legitimately better than Morris, and did it over 1,000 more innings too.

Also, baseball-reference.com has 4 Hall of Fame stats, let's take a look at each one:

Black Ink Test, average HOFer ~40: Blyleven 16, Morris 20
Grey Ink Test, average HOFer ~185: Blyleven 237, Morris 185
Hall of Fame Monitor, average HOFer~ 100: Blyleven 120, Morris 122
Hall of Fame Standards, averag HOFer ~50: Blyleven 50, Morris 39

Now, Blyleven doesn't blow Morris out of the water here, but he's definitely better.  Morris beats him in 2 of the tests, but both are minor differences, and in one (Black Ink) neither of them qualify.  

What seems to happen every year in the Morris v. Blyleven Hall of Fame debate is that Morris supporters who lived to see both players pitch have this intangible, gut feeling that Morris was the better pitcher.  That's their opinion and I'm not going to kill them for having it but even those people (like Heyman) don't feel comfortable relying on just that for their argument.  And in the process of using reason to explain why Morris is a better pitcher, their argument always come up short, likely because there is no reason to explain Morris as a better pitcher.  It may seem counter intuitive, but less is more in the Morris HOF debate because once you bring numbers into the equation, there is no justifiable reason to include Morris and not Blyleven.

This type of problem comes up all the time, and quite frankly, I'm getting pretty tired of it-- if you don't like  statistics, then don't use statistics.  Heyman and co. come off sounding pretty stupid when they cite an MVP shares statistic but run for the hills when someone brings up a valuable statistic, that, you know, tells us how good a player is like ERA+ or WAR.   If you rely on just what you saw while you may seem pretty ignorant at least you'd be consistent.  

In his argument to not include Blyleven, Heyman for some reason unknown to me, brings up Bobby Abreu as a comparable player to Blyleven, where numbers don't tell the entire story:
I've already seen hints from the numbers guys that they believe Abreu could have a strong Hall of Fame case based on his statistics, which currently include a .296 lifetime average, eight seasons of 100 RBIs and eight of 100 runs scored. I can imagine him becoming the next Blyleven, a very good player whose career numbers lead to an Internet campaign on his behalf. To me, both were excellent players who were consistent, durable and compiled impressive numbers. But they're not Hall of Famers.
If you put Blyleven's lifetime numbers through a computer, the computer would probably determine that he (and Abreu, for that matter) is a Hall of Famer. But the game is about human beings, not just numbers. It's about impact. 
This would be a worthwhile point if  the "numbers guys" believed Abreu to have a strong Hall of Fame case.  It may be true that Abreu in his prime was maybe a tad underrated, as is ability to draw walks and steal bases at a great percentage, occurred without much attention.  But, it's likely the non-numbers guys that will point to his life time average and RBI totals as reason for enshrinement.  The "numbers guys" will actually point to his awful defense and overall value not being able to justify himself as a Hall of Famer.  Heyman tries using Abreu to bait you into believing that you can't rely on statistics, but he fails pretty miserably with Abreu being a pretty piss-poor example.

While I think it's quite stupid and wildly disagree with Hall of Fame voting coming down to intangibles, "you had to be there" arguments and as Heyman so eloquently says, "impact", that's each voter's prerogative on how they want to measure a Hall of Famer.  But please, stop trying using reason, logic or statistics to back up your choice when those things simply don't exist in your argument.  It's not that there isn't a case to be made for Morris as a Hall of Famer, it's that the argument for Morris would need to occur after Blyleven gets in.

At least we don't have to argue about Jeff Bagwell, right?  Wait, you're telling me Heyman decided he's not worthy but Don Mattingly, Dave Parker and Dale Murphy are?  Until next time...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Zack Attack!

The Royals traded Zack Greinke to the Milwaukee Brewers for a 2010 fantasy baseball SS sleeper gone wrong (Alcides Escobar), a late-season fantasy surprise CF (Lorenzo Cain), and two pitching prospects one of which has been suspended twice for using marijuana (Jeremy Jeffress) and another who hasn't pitched above single-A ball (Jake Odorizzi).
The Brewers are hoping this cover is still
true.  The Royals? Who knows what they think

The Royals have hands-down the best farm system in all of baseball, and one of the best in recent memory, but what they don't have is up-the-middle kind of players on offense.  Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers are all top flight hitting prospects, but they're corner outfielder/infielder types, not shortstops or center fielders.   So, when Greinke demanded to be traded, those were two positions the Royals wanted to fill as Yuniesky Betancourt and Melky Cabrera are more than just inadequate long-term solutions, they're among the worst regulars in major league baseball.

I understand the Royals logic before they traded Greinke. They have prospects all over the diamond except up the middle, so if they're forced to trade Zack Greinke (and he did demand a trade) they should try to fill their weaknesses.  Makes sense. The problem is in the end they just didn't get much at all in return.  All else equal it would be smart for the Royals to choose the SS/CF package, but all else wasn't equal and the Royals didn't even try to find what else there was.  

The Royals appropriately didn't want to risk having his value slip by holding on to Greinke for too long, but that only makes sense if, you know, get value in return for Greinke.  When you are trading someone like Zack Greinke, who is one of the best pitchers in baseball, is young and signed to a reasonable deal, you expect to get a possible star player in return.  The Royals chose quantity over quality which in this scenario is easy to quantify, as a horrible decision.

The Brewers, safe to say, did pretty, pretty good in acquiring Zack Greinke.  As a small market team who can't afford to resign Prince Fielder and in a market deep with 1b/DH types, the Brewers were smart to not trade Prince for $0.50 on the dollar or ride him out on a sub-par team and watch him leave in 2011.  By gutting their farm system the Brewers fixed their rotation adding 2 top pitchers (Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum) to go along with Yovani Gallardo and the 4th best offense in the NL last year, instantly becoming playoff contenders.  This time next year the Brewers may, and very likely will, be waving goodbye to Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks but that was a realistic scenario before this trade, and because of it they may be waving goodbye with an NL Central ring on their hand, or whatever else teams give out these days, which doesn't happen very often in Milwaukee.     

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Russell Martin to the Yankees, Bad Analysis Follows

The Yankees signed Russell Martin with full knowledge that he would need knee surgery.  They've appropriately been criticized in the media, giving $4M to a catcher with a hip issue that needs additional surgery for his knee isn't necessarily the greatest news but Wallace Matthews (as usual) takes it a little to far
what does the revelation that the Yankees went ahead with the signing of Martin, at a reported $4 million, despite the fact he will need surgery to repair a torn meniscus before he ever squats behind a plate, say about their faith in Montero?
Well, probably one of two things.
The first is that, despite their public pronouncements to the contrary, the Yankees are not at all convinced the 21-year-old Montero is anywhere close to being ready to assume everyday catching duties for a major league team.
The second is that, despite their public pronouncements to the contrary, the Yankees are probably quite willing to include Montero in a trade package to acquire a starting pitcher now that Cliff Lee has remembered how much he loved Philadelphia.
And the third is that when Cashman issued his "Plan B is patience" proclamation on Tuesday, that patience may not have extended to waiting for Montero to be ready.
As convenient as it would be to have the Russell Martin signing signal revelation as to the Yankees thoughts of Jesus Montero, it's simply nothing more than a minor signing.  Jorge Posada won't be the every day catcher next year and instead of completely relying on a 21 year old who could use some extra seasoning in the minors (as well as the added benefit of preventing his arbitration clock from ticking) the Yankees decided to give a former all-star catcher a chance to redeem himself.

The fact that the Yankees signed Russell Martin does not mean that Montero isn't "anywhere close to being ready", that the Yankees are "quite willing to include Montero in a trade package" or that they suddenly have no more patience in Montero.

Minor knee surgery included, the Yankees were smart to give Montero an insurance policy in Russell Martin -- in case he isn't ready, not because he isn't ready.

As much as Wallace Matthews would like you to think otherwise, a one-year contract to Russell Martin just doesn't undermine Montero's development and everything the Yankees have said about the matter.  In general I am a fan of the local ESPN sites, but in general Wallace Matthews is often wrong.  

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sorry, Happy Friday

Sorry for the recent drought of posts but I'll be back to blogging on Monday.  Sometimes when you don't have a job, that search becomes more important than even Ben's Baseball Bias.

Anyways, for all you goyim waiting for Christmas, I'll leave you with this for the weekend. Happy Friday.

UPDATE: Rats, the embedded link won't show up, anyways here's the URL:
http://www.spike.com/video/snl-christmas-song/2783184

Bar none, the best Christmas son in history.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Baseball Bloggers Alliance Day!

Proud Member Of
For those of you do not know, this  little blog of mine is part of something bigger,  the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  The BBA was founded in 2009 by president Daniel Shoptaw "to foster communication and collaboration between bloggers across baseball."  Although I'm merely a newb it's become abundantly clear in my short time being involved that the BBA has done just what it has set out to do.

Each year, the BBA members (as a part of their requirement) vote on the major awards as well as the Hall of Fame.  The 2010 BBA Award Winners can be found here.  The BBA awards may not carry the same weight as their MLB counterparts, but you can't deny the fact their names are better.  The award for the best pitcher is named after Walter Johnson, the most valuable player award is named after Stan Musial and the best relief pitcher in each league receives a Goose Gossage Award.  I'm not sure about you but if I'm Mariano Rivera, I'd rather have a few Goose Gossage's on my mantle over the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year.  

Today, December 10th, on Baseball Bloggers Alliance day, I would like to thank Daniel Shoptaw and my fellow bloggers for all the great work that has been done.

If you would like to check out the other members, and I hope you do, they can be found here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Winter Meetings: Who Won and Who Lost?

The Winter Meetings are over so let's choose the winners and losers!

WINNERS

Any Free Agent: Teams are undoubtedly spending more money this offseason, benefiting all free agents.  Last year Jim Thome got $1.5M, during the Winter Meetings Carlos Pena  received $10M, and the White Sox gave out 3 and 4 year deals for Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn.

Jayson Werth: The Phillies were willing to give him 3 years and the Red Sox apparently 5, so naturally he signed for 7 years and $126 Million from the Nationals.    

Boston Red Sox:  The Red Sox needed a left fielder, so they went out and signed the best one in baseball.  Then they moved Kevin Youklis over to third and needed a first baseman so they went out and traded for arguably the best one not named Albert.  

Derek Jeter: On the open market he's signing a 2 year deal, on the Yankees he gets 3 and over $50M. 

San Diego Padres: They received a nice, fair return for Adrian Gonzalez and traded a few replaceable relievers (especially given their park) for their likely 2011 starting shortstop (Jason Bartlett) and center fielder (Cameron Maybin). 

People's Ability to Hear: More people "overheard" things this week than in the history of mankind.  This is a fact. 

Baltimore Orioles:  Nothing major, but a lot of solid moves.  In 2010 Miguel Tejada and Cesar Izturis played on the left side of the infield, in 2011 Mark Reynolds and JJ Hardy will be there.  Upgrade!  Plus, signing Koji Uehara (55/5 K/BB) for one year and $3M when the Tigers gave 3 years to Joaquin Benoit is a total steal.  

The State of Arkansas: I think the Rangers and Yankees quadrupled the state's tourism for the year, maybe decade. 

Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers traded a guy who posts pictures of himself online playing "Edward Fortyhands" with a finger mustache (Brett Lawrie) for a great pitcher (Shaun Marcum).

Pittsburgh Pirates: They've done nothing to actually help the team all that much but they're trying and being aggressive and at this point the Pirates get points just for doing that.  

Luke Scott's Unintentional Comedy: The dude said Obama wasn't born in America!

LOSERS

Kansas City Royals: You don't get credit for building up the minor league system during the Winter Meetings.  A couple of years ago GM Dayton Moore claimed to want to improve the teams OBP, this week they signed Jeff Francoeur (.300 OBP) and Melky Cabrera (.317 OBP).  

Justin Upton:  Before the meetings started Upton was the hot rumor.  When the meetings ended nobody came up with a legitimate offer and Upton's feelings were hurt.

New York Yankees: Any time the Red Sox get 2 top 20 players and the Yankees get nothing, it's a loss.  

Tampa Bay Rays: They're too smart of an organization to not put together a solid team once this offseason is over but right now they've lost Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Joaquin Benoit and Jason Bartlett; they stand to lose Rafael Soriano and the only rumors they're involved in are regarding them trading more players away for salary relief.  

Personal Twitter Accounts: As much as I love baseball, hearing about every unsubstantiated rumor gets to be pretty, pretty annoying.

Minnesota Twins: I thought they weren no longer considered such a small market team but they traded JJ Hardy for some peanuts just to save a few bucks.  Granted they're pretty good peanuts, maybe even roasted, but they're still peanuts for a starting shortstop.  

Los Angeles Angels: Crawford was their guy, and they lost him.

Luke Scott's Respectability: The dude said Obama wasn't born in America!

Boston Strikes Again!

First they traded the farm for Adrian Gonzalez, now the Boston Red Sox have signed Carl Crawford to a $142M 7 year deal, the largest in team history…until of course Gonzalez resigns with them for likely even more money.   Although Adrian Gonzalez won’t sign an extension until the 2011 for accounting/luxury tax reasons, the Red Sox essentially have spent ~$300M this offseason, mimicking the New York Yankees 2009 strategy on how to win a World Series after missing out on the playoffs: Spend, spend, spend!

Other teams need not attempt this strategy as only the Yankees and Red Sox are qualified to do so.  Overall I don’t think you can accurately state that baseball suffers a competitive balance problem because of signings like this, which will inevitably be claimed. You can, however, say that only a few teams (maybe only 2) can spend their way to consistently be competitive.   

The Red Sox, who once famously called the Yankees the Evil Empire, will now  join the Dark Side once their admissions check is cashed and accepted.  The team that had previously refused to shell out an extra $10M for a marquee free agent or trade the future for the now, has swallowed their last bit of “we’re not the Yankees” pride and are playing with the big boys, spending  roughly $300M and losing three prospects on just two players this offseason.  Actually they’ve likely spent even more because those prospects (along with the draft pick surrendered to sign Carl Crawford) have monetary value as shown here. According to my rough calculations the Red Sox have basically spent $350M, which is on par with what the Yankees spent in 2009, and could possibly be more depending how the prospects turn out.

The $142M and maybe more importantly, the 7 years, may seem like a lot for Carl Crawford, but that’s the luxury of having the financial muscle and the wherewithal to flex it.  Carl Crawford doesn’t fit the profile of most hitters who receive big money like this, in fact there is actually no comparison, but the fact Crawford is different doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad contract.  There is no rule that states a player must be a power threat to deserve a long term deal.  The name of the game is production, and over the past few years, Carl Crawford has been among the most productive hitters in the league. Since 2008, Carl Crawford ranks 4th in the American League in FanGraphs WAR, with only Kevin Youklis, Joe Mauer and Evan Longoria besting him. 

Carl Crawford’s production is based on his fielding prowess and base running, two skills that often require one specific skill, speed, something that also tends to fall as players age.  But Crawford is still young (29), is currently one of the best players in the league and shows no reason why he shouldn't remain one of the best players in the league for 5 or so more years.  The Red Sox very well may be overpaying Crawford when he's 34 and 35, but that's the price you have to pay to have one of the best players on your team for the other 5 years, and I'm not sure that's such a bad thing to have.

Quick Thoughts

Sick Brag.
The Kansas City Royals finally made the move we all knew they eventually would, signing Jeff Francoeur to a one year $2.5M deal.  If signing one incompetent outfielder wasn't enough, Royals GM Dayton Moore went out and signed Melky Cabrera to a $1.25M deal with incentives.  That's two outfielders with above average arms to overshadow their defensive efficiencies and with bats that have OPS+'s of 88 and 86 since 2006.  If the war on WAR (wins above replacement) has confused you, and you don't quite get the concept of replacement level, these two players are replacement level.  When someone says Jayson Werth had 5.0 WAR last year just think, Jayson Werth gives the Nationals 5 more wins than Jeff Francoeur or Melky Cabrera could.  Got it?

It's easy to sit here and laugh about how the Royals acquired Frenchie, as we have joked about it for over a year, but in the grand scheme of things this isn't necessarily that bad.  The "process" may have taken a little longer than expected, but Moore has built the best farm system in baseball.  In 2011 the Royals aren't expected to win, they're just expected to ease in some of their top prospects, and as long as Frenchie and the Melk Man are appropriately used as place holders, it won't hurt the "process".  Of course it's $3.75M that they could have easily not been spent, and of course the Royals will have some ghastly black holes at the bottom of their lineup, but so long as Alex Gordon is starting every day and Will Myers, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer get PT when they arrive, these signings will be forgotten soon.

BUT, and this is a pretty big but, if this kind of move dictates what Moore will be doing in 2012 and 2013, when the Royals are expected to be winning, then it'll be a problem.  A great farm system, and the Royals have an amazing one, can go a long way in building a great team but you can't only build from the farm.  You need some outside help.  Even the Rays had to sign Carlos Pena and trade for Matt Garza.  For what it's worth the Seattle Mariners recently signed Jack Cust for 1 year at $2.5M and Cust would have been one of the best hitters on the Royals last year but the Royals chose to sign Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera.  Again, Frenchie and the Melk Man as good character guys and place holders for the future talent is fine, but Moore is going to have to start making some smart decisions, bringing in outside talent if the Royals are going to truly succeed.

Cliff Lee rumors are heating up, especially now that Crawford is off the board (more on that later today).  The Yankees are rumored to have given in to Lee's demands, offering a 7th year, the Rangers are visiting Lee in Arkansas for a third time and after missing out on their main target (Crawford), the Angels are focusing some attention on Lee.  I'll gladly report rumors of teams talking to Lee, but at this point speculating on which team is ahead at this point just seems pointless.  We'll know about where Cliff Lee signs when he's, well, signed.  

Paul Konerko and Some Prospect History

Konerko is staying in Chicago to join future bash brother Adam Dunn for a reported $37.5M over 3 years.  If Carlos Pena gets $10M after an atrocious 2010, then ~$12M a year for 3 years is reasonable for Konerko.  Konerko has been very consistent throughout his career and is by all accounts a great clubhouse guy as team captain -- if he simply does what he has been doing since he started on the White Sox he'll earn his keep.

However, it's hard to tell how players will age as they approach their mid to late 30s.  Not everyone ages gracefully or even gradually, and since Konerko has no defensive value, he'll have to avoid years like 2003 and 2008 to make due on his contract.  Also working against Konerko is the fact that players with his skill set don't tend to age that well.  Konerko is coming off of his best year yet so there are no grounds to assume he'll stop producing, but age is a funny thing and in 2 years the White Sox can't be too shocked if this contract looks bad.

Still, with what we know about Konerko it looks like a fine contract as they are trying to compete next year and aren't paying Konerko above his market value.

As I searched for a nice Konerko pic for this entry I couldn't help but notice the gem above, which reminded me how Konerko was traded twice even though he was a top prospect.  So, I decided to indulge into a brief history of Paul Konerko, as his history of being traded is interesting during the Winter Meetings and offseason, when many prospects much like Konerko are traded or rumored to be.

Paul Konerko was drafted as a catcher with the 13th pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1994 amateur draft out of Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Konerko stayed at catcher until he was moved to first base in 1996.  Catcher or first base though, Konerko destroyed minor league pitching as we can see here:

Year
Level
AB
R
H
HR
RBI
BB
SO
BA
OBP
SLG
1995
A+
448
77
124
19
77
59
88
0.277
0.361
0.455
1996
AA
557
78
141
29
86
72
85
0.300
0.397
0.543
1997
AAA
483
78
156
37
127
64
61
0.323
0.407
0.621

After his monster 1997 season in AAA Konerko (22 years old) was approprietly ranked #2 on Baseball America's list of top prospects and started the year on the Dodgers going into the 1998 season.  The Dodgers had Erik Karros at 1b but Konerko's bat was too good to keep down so Konerko was moved all over the field getting time at first base, third base and left field.  Konerko struggled in his first 18 games in 1998 batting .197/.275/.197 in 69 plate appearances and was sent down to Albuquerque, the Dodgers AAA affiliate where he appropriately raked to the tune of a .379/.436/.701 line in 24 games.  Earning his way back to the majors on May 24th, Konerko continued to struggle over his next 31 games (89 PAs) playing all over the field again inconsistently and was promptly traded on Independence Day to the Cincinnati Reds along with Dennys Reyes for reliever Jeff Shaw.

Jeff Shaw was a great reliever before and after the Dodgers acquired him, but the Dodgers, after seeing the #2 prospect in all of baseball step up to the plate 239 times playing inconsistently at foreign positions, decided to give up on him.  Mistake.  As good as Shaw was he wasn't great and he was done with baseball 3 years later.  Meanwhile Konerko has been a consistent power threat for over a decade.*

*You would think the Dodgers would learn their lesson, that trading young, valuable prospects for a relief pitcher is never a good idea but during this years trading deadline the Dodgers got the "reliever fever" again when they traded prospect Andrew Lambo and  starter James McDonald to the Pirates for reliever Octavio Dotel.  And as careless and short-sighted as that deal seems now, the one with Konerko was probably worse at the time.   

ANYWAY, now on Cincinnati, Konerko entered a game on July 10th in the 8th inning and proceeded to start in the next 10 games but couldn't find a rhythym going 7/48.  Konerko played here and there for the next week until he was sent down again to AAA although this time to Indianapolis, the Cincinnati Red's AAA affiliate.  As he always did, Konerko hit in the minors, batting .327/.402/.540 in 150 at bats until he was called up in September with the expanded rosters.  Playing here and there in parts of 9 September games, Konerko finally showed some signs of light going 6/18 with 3 walks and 6 RBI.

But that wouldn't be enough.  Konerko was blocked at 1b by the Reds own top 1b prospect, Sean Casey, and that November Konerko was traded to the Chicago White Sox for center fielder Mike Cameron.  The next year, at 23 years old in 1999, Paul Konerko was finally given consistent playing time at a specific position and he accordingly started to hit; .294/.352/.511 in 142 games with 24 HR and 81 RBI.  While it's hard to call that a bad swap for Cincinnati (in fact when you take defense and position into account, Cincinnati got the better end of the deal, until of course they traded Cameron a year later in a huge package for Ken Griffey Jr.) it is interesting that two teams traded the #2 prospect within just a few months of each other.

As the offseason is in full swing we hear rumors upon rumors about trades, often involving top prospects, and  Paul Konerko was definitely one of them years ago.  While I would struggle to call it a bad swap for Cincinnati (in fact when you take defense and position into account, the Reds likely got the better end of the deal) it's interesting that two teams would give up on the #2 prospect in baseball after seeing him for only100 or so at bats.  So, next time your teams top prospect is struggling, have some patience because he may pull a Konerko.  

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Carlos Pena to the Cubs

Carlos Pena and the Chicago Cubs reached an "Adrian Beltre Bounce-Back" like agreement, a 1 year deal for $10M.

With the way the market has gone so far this offseason, this has to be considered a great deal for the Cubs. If Ty Wigginton can get a 2 year deal as a weak hitting, no field utility player and Jayson Werth can get $126M then Carlos Pena at $10M qualifies as a steal.  The Cubs needed a first baseman, preferably lefty, with power and they got just that for only a one year deal.

Yes, Carlos Pena had a dreadful 2010, but a lot of that was a product of bad luck.  There is this thing called BABIP which stands for batting average on balls in play and for his career Carlos Pena's BABIP is .279. That means that we can reasonably expect for 28% of the balls Pena puts into play to become hits. Last year, Pena's BABIP was .222 which tells us that an inordinate amount of balls that Pena put into play were turned into outs.

It is possible that Pena is suddenly a significantly worse hitter now than ever before, but it's also possible that it was just a matter of chance. Pena is still relatively young (33) and walked and struck out at the same rates as last year, so while he may not be the player he was in 2007-2008, the Cubs are betting on his 2010 being a product of some bad bounces and for only a one year commitment at $10M, it's a bet worth taking.   

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Jayson Werth, Sham-WOW

Bigger rip-off, Werth for $127 Million or the ShamWow?
In December 2006 two players signed deals for 7 years and $126M-- Barry Zito with the Giants and Vernon Wells with the Blue Jays.  Fast-forward to December 2010 and we have Jayson Werth signing a 7 year $126M deal
with the Washington Nationals.  The Nationals have to be crossing their fingers that this deal doesn't end in a similar fate as those other two deals.  Jayson Werth right now is better than either Vernon Wells or Barry Zito were at the time of their signing but he's also a few years older.  Moreover, Jayson Werth who at 31 years old has 18.7 career WAR will get more money than Matt Holliday did last year with 21.9 career WAR at the age of 29.

Now, teams have been spending more money this winter, showcased by middle relievers getting 3 years (Benoit), backup catchers getting $21M (Buck) middling starting pitchers in their 30s getting $35M extensions (Arroyo) but any way you want to slice it, this is a vast overpay for the Nationals.  The rumor was that Werth was going to sign a contract in between the 4 years $60M that Jason Bay signed and the $120M that Matt Holliday got.  But the Nationals blew Werth out of the water offering more money than Matt Holliday.  Crazy.  Scott Boras clients usually don't sign early with Boras sometimes even taking so much time to the detriment of his client (see Damon, Johnny).  When Werth showed a willingness to accept a deal this early, that should have been a sign to the Nationals that this was too much, but of course there should have been a million other signs like his age (32 on opening day), his injury history in his early years, the (bad) history of contracts like this (and we even failed to mention Alfonso Soriano) and the fact that the Nationals aren't going to competing in the next few years.

More on that last point, the Nationals will be paying  a total of $36M to Jayson Werth in 2011 and 2012 for the team to not compete.  Further, at the end of his contract Werth will be making $36M when he's 37 and 38.  There is a small window, in 2013-2014, where Werth may be productive enough to earn his salary at the same time that the Nationals can expect to compete.  For that small window, the Nationals decided to spend an extra $72M.  Oh, and I forgot to mention that Werth plays the same position as the Nationals best prospect, Bryce Harper.  And if they expect Werth to not be an everyday right fielder by the time Harper is ready that just reaffirms how irresponsible of a move this was.  Again, crazy.

There isn't any reasonable excuse for this kind of irresponsible spending but there may be an explanation and  it may have been in reaction to Adam Dunn leaving where Ryan Zimmerman said:
"Knowing that we had one of the three top free agents on our team and we didn't want to resign him, it's frustrating for us as players," Zimmerman said. "We're not in the front office. We don't make the decisions, and we don't have to write the checks. But we're getting to the point on our team where we're supposed to wait it out, wait for the young guys, start doing some things and start making some moves. Not only are we ready for that, I think the fans are, as well. We've trusted the front office, and we still trust them. But we want to best possible team on the field." 
 [...]
"When you add a guy like that, a bona fide No. 4 hitter, it lengthens your lineup a ton - a guy that would be hitting fifth is hitting sixth," Zimmerman said. "It makes the other team notice. I think all of us notice what they (in the front office) do. We've trusted their plan the whole time, and now it's getting to that point where it's time to do some things. We know we have a good young team, but we need a few pieces. Obviously, you're not going to do all that in one season, but you can add a piece here and add a piece there."
Ryan Zimmerman's opinion may, and likely should, carry some weight in the Nationals front office as he's their best player, but if that's the case then they'd be better off with Dunn for 4 years than Werth for 7 years.

I'm sure you didn't need to read my 2 cents on this deal to realize this was a bad move by the Nationals but I'm going to leave you with 2 more thoughts, or cents if you will:
  1. This deal doesn't prove that bad teams have to spend more on free agents.  As Keith Law mentioned, that would require good teams to get free agents at a discount, and as the Yankees will tell you, that just isn't the case.  Bad teams do, however, make stupid decisions and this is definitely qualifies as one.
  2. Don't let anyone fool you into thinking this deal will change or attempt to change the atmosphere in the Nationals' clubhouse.  When the Mets (over)spent for Pedro Martinez people claimed that Pedro changed the culture of the Mets, allowing them to bring in Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado--that even though Pedro Martinez was paid $53M to have only one good season, it was well worth it-- baloney.   Winning changes the clubhouse, not careless spending.  

Monday, December 6, 2010

Quick Thoughts

Players like Derek Jeter and Adrian Gonzalez deserve their own post, players like Shaun Marcum, Bronson Arroyo and Mark Reynolds do not...

Maybe the Reds put value into Arroyo's music?
Earlier this offseason the Reds picked up Bronson Arroyo's  option protecting him from free agency.  That move sparked a few criticisms as the Reds were likely overpaying him but that was only a little bit compared to the extension they just gave him.  Arroyo is the perfect 3rd or 4th starter, a capable innings eater that won't hurt you and for that the Reds decided to give him a 3 year extension for $35M.  Wow.  Over the last 4 years the best FIP that Arroyo has had was in 2009 when it was 4.50.  Consider this a pure ERA move as Bronson Arroyo has had a 3.86 ERA over the last 2 years and a move the Reds are likely going to regret.  


Mark Reynolds was traded today to the Baltimore Orioles and in return the Diamondbacks get relievers David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio.  Originally Chris Tillman was mentioned in the rumors and I was completely against the deal as I don't think Mark Reynolds is worth a young starting pitcher.  But, for two OK relievers you'll generally always take the everyday position player.  However, let's not fool ourselves into thinking that Mark Reynolds is, you know, all that good.  His basically been a poor defender his entire career and his lone calling card, hitting, isn't so great when you consider his context. 6.4, 2.1, 24.8, -0.3, those are Mark Reynolds' park adjusted runs above average over his career.  The outlier is his sole legitimate hitting season in 2009 when he had a 3.6 WAR, the other seasons in his career Reynolds has basically been an average player.  

Reynolds has 2 years left on his contract paying him $5.0M in 2011 and $7.5M in 2012.  While it's not a lot of money, the Orioles will probably have to get Reynolds' current production as he moves into a tougher park to hit in (although still a hitters park) in the more advanced league.  It's not a lot to ask for and a team like the Orioles are better off with Reynolds at 3b than a Miguel Tejada or Garrett Atkins, but don't think the Orioles are getting the 44 homer 2009 version of Mark Reynolds.  

The Adrian Gonzalez trade is getting all of the headlines, but living slightly under the radar is the Brewers trade acquiring starting pitcher Shaun Marcum from the Jays in return for top prospect Brett Lawrie.  The Brewers aren't likely trying to compete in 2011 but they desperately need pitching and Marcum is a darn good one.  After missing all of 2009 recovering from Tommy John Surgery Marcum displayed fantastic control (1.98 bb/9) putting up a great 3.64 ERA which was backed up by his 3.74 FIP.  Further, Lawrie currently plays 2b which is blocked by Rickie Weeks and if he moves to the OF he's blocked by Ryan Braun and Corey Hart.  Although Lawrie is quite the prospect he doesn't have a real place on the Brewers and in getting Marcum the Brewers can piece together a rotation and not be tempted to sign guys like Jeff Suppan.  Marcum should slide nicely into the Brewer's #2 slot behind Yovani Gallardo.  While they'll struggle with the rest of their rotation, getting Marcum is a great start.  

As for the Blue Jays perspective, while most teams are struggling to find pitching it's actually somewhat of a surplus for the Jays.  Rickey Romero and Brandon Morrow made great strides last year and with Brad Mills, Brett Cecil, Mark Rzepczynski and Kyle Drabek behind them, Shaun Marcum became expandable.  Brett Lawrie won't be able to help out the team in 2011 but the Jays didn't really expect to compete then.   

I would call this trade a draw but I have to side with getting the proven pitcher who still has a few years before he hits free agency over the prospect without a position.  Yes, the Blue Jays dealt from a position of strength, but it wasn't like Marcum was going to leave in 2012 like Adrian Gonzalez would from the Padres.  FanGraphs mentions that Toronto may be gathering pieces for a future trade so we may need to reserve judgement, but for now although it doesn't necessarily hurt the Blue Jays, call it a win for the Brewers.  Plus, there is always this.

Finally, the Cardinals signed DH outfielder Lance Berkman to a 1-year deal worth $8M.  $8M seems steep for a free agent like Berkman when you compare it to last year where Vlad Guerrero got $5M and Jim Thome got $1.5M but everything that has occurred this offseason tells us that more money is being spent, so that may not be a fair comparison.  Berkman was hurt last year, lost his power and forgot how to hit lefties but when you can get on base, and the Big Puma can, you can still be a productive hitter.  Berkman won't hit .300 or hit 30 homers but he should get on base about 40% of the time and provide Pujols and Holliday opportunities for RBI without affecting their long term payroll and ability to keep Mr. Pujols.  Not a great signing as there will undoubtedly be cheaper/similar DH/OF players that are signed late in the offseason, but not a bad one either on a one-year deal.  

Adrian Gonzalez (A)gone to Boston

Adrian Gonzalez: From bust to beast
The trade that was on, then off, then back on is now apparently on for good, whether or not the Red Sox can reach an agreement with Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox have acquired him for three prospects Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, Reymond Fuentes and a PTBNL. 

First things first, Adrian Gonzalez is obviously an awesome player (duh) at a ridiculously cheap price ($6.3M) but he is still only on the books for 2011. Also, while you may look at the names above and say "that's all the Padres got!" we must be reminded that days of the Texas Rangers haul for Mark Teixeira (Teixeira and Ron Mahay for Beau Jones, Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Matt Harisson) are long gone, teams value prospects much more now than before.  So, with that now said, the Padres actually got a good return for Gonzalez.

The three prospects the Padres received were were on the Red Sox list of top 10 with two of them (Kelly and Rizzo) likely top 100 prospects in all of baseball.  Since you may not know too much about them let's have a quick overview:

Casey Kelly: Kelly was drafted as a two-way player but finally gave in to the Red Sox request to become a full-time pitcher in 2010.  On paper the results may not look to shiny as his ERA was 5.31 in double-A last year.  However, his 4.03 FIP, young age for the league (20 years old) and glowing scouting reports are more indicative of  his value.  Kelly routinely throws in the low 90s and has a surprising amount of control for all three pitches (fastball, curveball and chanegeup) for what you think a two-way player would have.  Before the 2010 season Kelly ranked as the 24th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America, was considered the Red Sox top prospect and after the season Jon Sickels still had good things to say about Kelly so impressive 2010 results or not, this is a great prospect.  Like any pitcher, Kelly will benefit greatly with the change in league and ball park.  Kelly shouldn't start the season on the Padres but he should finish there finally settling behind Mat Latos atop the Padres rotation.

Anthony Rizzo:  Rizzo projects to the the Padres future replacement at first base for Adrian Gonzalez.   Any prospect would struggle to replace Adrian Gonzalez' performance for the Padres, and Rizzo will have trouble to duplicate his performance but he profiles to be an adequate replacement.   Petco will surely stifle his performance, but he has alot of power (25 homers in the minors this year), patience (9.6% BB rate in AA as a 20 year old) and defensive value at first base.  

Reymond Fuentes: Fuentes is a teenage (19) CF with blazing speed having stole 42 bases this year in 47 tries.  Fuentes is a lot of potential but as a third player in a deal that's a risk worth taking.  Plus, even if Fuentes' bat doesn't fully develop a defensive minded CF with great speed projects to be very useful in Petco's spacious outfield.

As far as the Red Sox are concerned there are no surprises here-- Adrian Gonzalez is a premier player and Kevin Youklis will gladly move to 3b for a player of his stature. If Gonzalez simply duplicated his performance in San Diego with the Red Sox he'd be great but obviously knowing Peto's effect on hitters they may be able to expect more:

 Home OPS
      Road OPS
2010
0.821
0.980
2009
0.859
1.045
2008
0.788
0.946
2007
0.760
0.928
2006
0.815
0.905

It should be noted that the move to the AL will hurt Gonzalez but I have to believe that Petco's park factor hinders performance more than the change in leagues does.  Plus, Fenway is one of the better hitter's parks to play in and should play into Adrian Gonzalez' ability to hit the ball the other way off of the Green Monster.  Gonzalez is a monster player both with the glove and the bat and will obviously help the Red Sox on their quest to return to the post season in 2011.   

This is definitely a great move for the Red Sox but it also confirms that Adrian Beltre will be moving on.  So, before we get too excited and crown the Red Sox as the 2011 AL East Champions we should remember that Beltre had an outstanding 2010 season putting up 7.1 WAR, a higher number than Adrian Gonzalez has ever had.   Adrian Gonzalez is a better, younger player than the other Adrian, but he's replacing Beltre, not joining him and there is a distinct difference there.  

Overall this is a good trade for both sides.  The Red Sox finally get the player they've been tied to for about two years now and the Padres were smart not to let a surprise 2010 distract them from their long term plans getting at least 3 solid prospects in return.