Organizational Meetings: Giants
The Manny Ramirez news was unbelievable today, and I need some time to digest what happened. I'll write about the situation Monday, pushing organizational meetings to Tuesday and Thursday next week. This weekend I may make a short post about rumors that are flying around as well.
Moving on, today I hit the San Francisco Giants with my organizational meetings. Matthew Durham, a.k.a. the Southpaw, agreed to answer a few questions about his team. And I answer the same questions as well...
1) On the offensive side, the Giants have free agents in right field, and at shortstop, first base, and catcher. Jose Cruz Jr. and J.T. Snow are out the door. Would you pursue Rich Aurilia and/or Benito Santiago? Can Todd Linden and Lance Niekro+Pedro Feliz handle the RF and 1B positions respectively. Are Neifi Perez and Yorvit Torrealba to be trusted at SS and C? If not, who do you pursue for these positions?
Southpaw- J.T. may not be as gone as many may think. He's made far too much money in the past for what he's done (field, but not hit), but I wouldn't at all be surprised to see him come back in the $2-3 million range. The question will be if he can get more than that on a team he'd want to play for (it'll be tough for him to get paid AND play for a contender).
I'd let Santiago go, and I think he's already gone. Aurilia would be a better choice for the Giants to go after, especially since they've got Neifi Perez penciled in without him.
I would be surprised if opening day came around and there wasn't at least a new starting OF in the Giants organization, but I think that Todd Linden and Lance Niekro will be serviceable off the bench. From what I understand, Pedro Felix has been all but given a starting job next year. I keep hearing 25-30 HRs, but I think that's a result of a smaller sample size. I'd be more than happy with 15-20 and a decent OBP.
And as for behind the dish, Torreabla will be the 2004 Opening Day starter, barring a surprise transaction (FA signing or trade). A decent backup will probably be signed on the cheap. Someone like Brent Mayne.
The position that the Giants will need to pursue the most will be in the OF, with either a power guy in RF or an upgrade in CF (moving Grissom to RF). Steve Shelby and I love the idea of a Mike Cameron signing, and it makes sense with this team and park (I'm still not used to "SBC" yet).
Other than that, everyone's going to talk about Vlad and Sheffield, and while I think that the Giants have an outside chance to land one, I don't expect it at all. Vlad played for Filipe, and Sheff almost went to Oakland with Bonds a while back, but the reality is that neither will likely be in Orange and Black next season (unless they're in Baltimore).
Wait 'Til Next Year- An offense is hard to build in San Francisco, as it's so easy to just rely on Bonds (which I address in another question). The most important move for Sabean is to re-sign Rich Aurilia, and to not trust Neifi Perez with a 500AB job. He's a fantastic fielder and worthy of a bench spot, yet a wee bit overpriced, but his .600 OPS hitting is disgusting. Aurilia's a little injury-prone, but it a top-five NL SS when healthy. With him, Durham, Alfonzo, Grissom, and Bonds, there is a start.
J.T. Snow is probably gone, unless he can be retained for about one million. I'm leaning towards making a competition between Pedro Feliz, Lance Niekro, and a minor league free agent like Calvin Pickering. Feliz has 20-25HR power, but he may never get an OBP over .320. Niekro will give you a high average, but less power than even Snow did. If the team had a manager that could effectively balance the two, that would be nice.
Give the catching job to Yorvit Torrealba. In his time with the Giants, it isn't hard to predict his 2004 line, prorated to 400AB: .265/.330/.390. It isn't horrible, and sadly wouldn't put him in the lowest echelon of Major League catchers. Since the team has a pretty solid other five, don't worry about the catching position.
And finally, give right field to Todd Linden. Baseball Prospectus loves the guy, and even after a bad 2003 season, he's ready for a Major League job. Feliz could probably play a little there too, and Sabean would be smart to add a good defensive centerfielder (Goodwin again?), that could push Grissom to right occasionally. Again, Alou must do a good job of balancing to get the Giants back in the playoffs.
2) How much does the Jesse Foppert injury hurt the 2004 rotation? Does this put added pressure on Brian Sabean to re-sign Sidney Ponson or go after veteran Greg Maddux? Would you give Kevin Correia, Jim Brower, or Dustin Hermanson the 5th slot? If not, then who?
Southpaw- Jesse Foppert's injury will definitely hurt the Giants. With any luck, he could be back in the bullpen for the second half of '04, but that's probably a bit too optimistic. If he CAN get back in the 'pen next year, he could be starting (effectively) by the second half of '05, and that would be huge. TJ patients almost always have one down year before returning to form (see: Matt Morris, John Smoltz, etc.).
I don't expect Ponson back, regardless of the rotation's position. Schmidt's getting surgery and Woody appears to be on the decline (I still can't believe they chose to keep him over Ortiz, but alas), but I still don't see Ponson coming back.
I'd love to see Greg Maddux come to San Fran, but money will definitely be an issue. With the expected 2004 budget for the Giants, Maddux would need to take a slight paycut to join the team, and with Scott Boras as his agent, that may not be possible. With Maddux you not only get a quality starting pitcher, but also another pitching coach. He's going to help out some team more than they'll know.
As for the 5th spot, everything I've heard has Correia in the rotation, so he'll be there if they sign someone, and in the 4th spot if they don't.
WTNY- Foppert's injury won't hurt too much in 2004, as he didn't quite perform like they needed in 2003. He's a fantastic pitcher, but had a lot of us scratching our heads when the radar reading said 93 mph in the Majors, after 99 being typical in the minors.
I like Maddux a lot more than Ponson. Maddux, in a spacious SBC Park, could do some good damage, and would be a good teammate to Barry Bonds. Ponson is a giant question mark, and the team should let Kenny Williams jump all over him. Maddux is a much more sure thing, and would become the second starter on this team. If pushed, Maddux would hit 15 wins, have an ERA around 3.50, and pitch 150 innings.
I didn't see a lot of Correia, so I have a hard time trusting him. I like competitions for the fifth spot, and bringing in a few minor league free agents (Justin Thompson?) isn't a bad idea. Correia looked pretty good during the last two months, but make him prove it during the next six. Don't roll over Sabean.
3) Robb Nen will be back next season, taking over the closing job that was Tim Worrell's. With a budget expected to decrease, can Worrell be brought back? Should the Giants trade Felix Rodriguez? Who and what can we expect from the bullpen in 2004?
Southpaw- Robb Nen's a great pitcher, but his contract has been a major burden on the Giants payroll for its final 2 seasons (04-05), both of which were Player Option years. Nen is definitely better than Worrell, but not better enough to make up for the salary difference.
Worrell's gone if he can get "closer" money somewhere else. If he wants to stay, I'm sure the Giants would want him back. It may just come down to numbers.
Felix may be gone, but if the bullpen is on the shallow end expect him to stay on as insurance in case Nen falls.
WTNY- Nen's contract kills the Giants, and shows the dangers with good "show-up-in-the-ninth" pitchers. Worrell did fine with San Francisco, but should take big dollars somewhere else to return to middle relief. He's always been a very good pitcher, but an 'overbudgeted' team can't afford him.
Felix Rodriguez and Joe Nathan are important parts to the bullpen. I think both need to come back, and both need to never screw up. Nen should be a little shaky in his return, so the Giants need the seventh and eighth innings to be solid. I would also re-sign Matt Herges, whom played very well during his stay. That would give Nen three very good right-handed set-up men. Outside of that, there is Jason Christianson, Scott Eyre, and Jim Brower.
4) It seems the Giants philosophy has leaned on just putting average players on offense, and letting Barry Bonds do everything else. Does this put too much pressure on Bonds to stay healthy and active? Can we expect his level of play to decrease as he nears 40?
Southpaw- With a player like Bonds there isn't much else you CAN do, unless you've got very deep pockets. Bonds' salary is almost a quarter of the entire team payroll, so it's not easy to surround him with superstars, and his age prevents the team from rebuilding around him (see: A-Rod). The Giants window is as big as Bonds' time there, unless they pick up a masher like Vlad before Bonds retires.
The Giants success will likely always ride on the back of Bonds. If he stays healthy, they're an instant contender; if he's out, there isn't a large margin of error.
Bonds has been playing like a Superman for the last few seasons, despite being on the tail end of his career. I won't be surprised to see Bonds continue his dominance for a few more years, but age will eventually catch up with him if a random injury doesn't stop him first. Enjoy this while you can, because you never know when it will end.
WTNY- At some point the wonderful journey Bonds has taken us on will end. But in the meantime, it's stupid to bet against him. He's the smartest hitter in the Majors, and really changes a game. So in that sense, it's fair to surround him with eight average players. But having good hitters in front of him is important, because they can see such good pitches as a result.
I'm torn on my thoughts of Bonds breaking Hank's record. Does he have it in him? If he does, will Sosa and later A-Rod shatter the record? Is 700+ home runs as great a feat as it once was? Bonds likely will break the home run record, but won't hang onto it long. He'll never get to 800, but will one day end the argument of best baseball player ever. He may not be signing autographs during the weekends, but Barry Bonds is the best player from this, and any, generation.
5) Jerome Williams had a sensational rookie season, although he wasn't nearly as touted as Marlin Dontrelle Willis. What kind of numbers do you expect from Williams in 2004? What other young Giants should take a step forward?
Southpaw- I always expect a "sophomore slump" from rookies who do well, but I don't think that Williams will have too much trouble with his. He's been the guy the Giants have been big on for years, and that's one of the reasons he was brought up last season.
With a healthy staff next year he could start anywhere from 2-4, depending on how well Woody picthes, and if they sign another starter.
For info on who may be the next player up in the Giants orgainization, I'll forward you to Stephen Shelby (SS's SF Giants News). He's my reference point for all things Giants in the Minors.
WTNY- Williams is a stud. Although his 2002 was a little disappointing, Williams was the stud of the 2002 AFL, which led him into 2003 very nicely. He reminds many of Doc Gooden, but draw absolutely no press this season. If he pitches like a number two starter next season, don't be surprised. His stuff borders on that of Schmidt.
Looking in the system, the Giants have a lot of good pitchers. Boof Bonser will be up soon ,and a host of pitchers follow. The best being Merkin Valdez, or "El Mago." Valdez is really the only player who will justify the Ramon Ortiz for Damian Moss deal.
6) What was your opinion of Felipe Alou in his first season as manager? How do his styles contrast those of his predecessor Dusty Baker? And going to the front office, why do the Giants need to decrease payroll in they attract the best attendance numbers in the Majors?
Southpaw- Personally, I thought Felipe was good for the Giants. The Giants are big on former-Giants, and Felipe's a quality guy in general. It was a good fit. Dusty's a good manager too, but there was too much friction for him to stay.
Something I noticed in the playoffs was that Alou may have pulled some pitchers too soon, but then again, Baker's problem was usually letting them stay in too long, so maybe I'm just jaded.
As for the payroll, from how I understand it the Giants were actually OVER budget this season, which would explain the decrease. It's easy to look at attendance (which I thought was second to NYY) and say that they should maintain or increase the budget, but without having all the information it's tough to know for sure. In general I think that a majority of the owners make too much money while not improving their teams, but I don't think that's the case in San Francisco. It seems that Magowan really does care about the fans, but I could just be naive.
In the end it doesn't matter why they need to cut payroll, it just matters that the Giants (especially Brian Sabean) do what they can within their power to get better and go for that elusive San Francisco Championship.
WTNY- After having a year of Dusty in Chicago, I can't complain about another manager. Dusty is vastly overrated, a product of good GMs and big markets. He's been handed talent, and actually hasn't gone as far as he should have.
Felipe did well in 2003, but he was holding everything together at the end. The Bonds' death midseason was a distraction, mainly because Bonds' absence hurts the team so much. Jason Schmidt was a little overworked during the season, but probably had to be really babied.
7) Ray Durham and Edgardo Alfonzo had disastrous first seasons as Giants. Do you expect performance to increase from both of them in 2004, and to what degree?
Southpaw- I expect both to improve their numbers from 2004. With Edgardo, expect second half Alfonzo, not Playoff Alfonzo.
WTNY- Ray Durham will be my second basemen during fantasy baseball next year. He's a really good second basemen and leadoff hitter, but really didn't get the chance to prove himself in 2003. He will in 2004, when the Giants have him touch home 120 times.
8) Create a step-by-step offseason to-do list for Brian Sabean.
Southpaw- If I REALLY knew what to do, I'd probably be a GM, but here goes:
1. Sign an OF bat. Do it soon, get it out of the way. Protect Bonds in the lineup. Build from there.
2. Sign another SP, get Maddux if he'll come cheap (ditto for Pettite) otherwise get a second tier guy that won't hurt the budget.
3. Give Feliz his shot playing every day or put him in a package for a Sexon (likely) or Beltran (not likely).
4. Sign Hasagawa if you can afford him, trade Felix Rodriguez (J.D. Drew?).
5. Get us back to the World Series . . . Bonds won't lose twice.
WTNY- First of all, let me say I'm not a buyer on the Giants for 2004. They simply have too much money allocated towards Barry Bonds and Robb Nen, and likely can't succeed because of that. If Bonds gets hurt, this team becomes one of the worst teams in the division. I think signing Maddux is a good move, but I don't think Sabean should test McGowan's limits. The San Diego Padres are primed to win next season. But anyway, here is a recap of my moves:
1. Re-sign Rich Aurilia
2. Give Torrealba the catching job, Todd Linden right field, and a platoon of Felix and Niekro at first
3. Sign Greg Maddux, and bring in minor league free agents to battle with Correia.
4. Let Worrell go, but keep F-Rod.
5. Wait for the days when Williams, Foppert, Bonser, and Valdez make up a damn good rotation.
That's it for now, have a good weekend and watch the Manny situation.
More Damn Yankees
Yesterday, Alex Belth and Larry Mahnken answered questions about the Yankees future. There is perhaps no media subject more chronicled than Yankee offseasons. While most everone (me included) hates the Bronx Bombers come October, we love them in December. No other pro sports team floods as much money into their team, and with Steinbrenner, no player is ever out of reach.
Today, I'll take my stab at the Yankees, more specifically, my answer to question 8 from yesterday. Question 8 read: Create an Offseason To-Do List for the Yankees. Again, here is Alex Belth's answers:
a. Making pitching decisions. Sign Pettitte, trade Weaver for another front line starter.
b. Figure out the outfield. Move Bernie to left, and then either Sori to center and Matsui to right, or Matsui to center and Vlad or Sheff to right. Or Maybe get another center fielder and move Matsui to right.
c. Sign Hasegawa.
d. Figure out third base and second base. Move Aaron Boone.
d. Figure out if you want to trade Nick Johnson.
e. Get a left-hander in the pen.
f. Sign coaches.
And Larry Mahnken's answer:
1. Re-sign Andy Pettitte
2. Sign Vladimir Guerrero, Gary Sheffield, or Mike Cameron (in that order)
3. Sign Kevin Millwood or Bartolo Colon (in that order)
4. If step two fails, try to trade for Carlos Beltran, but without giving up Johnson
5. Re-sign Gabe White, pick up the option on Heredia
6. Improve the bench: get a backup catcher who can hit some, a backup infielder who can field some, a good defensive replacement center fielder, and a real pinch hitter (NOT Ruben Sierra)
Before I move on to my attempt, let me note two things I've come to realize about the Yankees...
1) They are the smartest team in baseball. While Aaron Gleeman may be onto something that Jeter's clutchness is a wee bit overrated, there's no questioning this team's intelligence. They run the bases intelligently, bunt well, and move runners over. They take walks and work counts.
2) New York has very bad defense. There aren't many things holding the Yankees back more than defense anymore. This must be resolved.
Now, for a brief overview of my answer:
1) Re-sign Andy Pettite and Felix Heredia
2) Name coaches
3) Trade Soriano
4) Trade for Vazquez
5) Reboost right side
6) Go cheap on bench and bullpen
Now, to go more in depth, here goes...
1) Re-sign Pettite and Heredia- While these two may seem like an odd couple, both fit in New York. Andy was raised in the Yankee system, and all his success has come in pinstripes. It's a good argument that without Pettite the Yankees wouldn't have advanced to the World Series, so in other words, the team must re-sign him. The man is loved in New York, and has more postseason wins than anybody...ever. He'll never see $11M associated with his name again, but three years at $21M sounds good.
Heredia pitched well after an August claim, earning Torre's trust and respect. He can retire lefties, and is a good second southpaw in the bullpen. He should be low on the priority list, as should the rest of the bullpen. All the AL rivals (Boston, Oakland, Minnesota) should have worse bullpens in 2004, so Steinbrenner and Co. should leave that on the backburner. If need be, trade for a player during midseason.
2. Zimmer is gone, Down is gone. Mazzilli and Stottlemyre are out the door. That leaves Joe Torre and Willie Randolph to pick up the mess. So, I had a revelation. Why not go with younger, more popular coaches in this situation. Sign Don Mattingly as hitting coach, David Cone to be pitching coach, and Luis Sojo for 1st base. Then find another funny-looking bench coach (Lasorda?) to give Fox great images of Torre and his funny-looking sidekick. God...I miss Zim.
3. Trade Alfonso Soriano to the Royals for Carlos Beltran- Let's see. The Yankees want to move Soriano to center, have him become more selective, and be an ideal middle-of-the-order hitter? Well, by trading Soriano you can have that player without all the development needed. Beltran is the player the Yankees want Soriano to be: he has one of the best SB success rates in baseall, has power from both sides, and plays good defense. He is a much smarter player than Soriano, thus he would fit better with the team. Beltran would allow the team to pass on Guerrero and Sheffield, and the Yankees would move Bernie to left and Hideki to right. That would result in a vastly improved outfield.
The Royals would do this deal, as it would give them three more years before free agency, at a position they need more. David DeJesus is ready to replace Beltran in center, but the Royals have no long-term option at second base. They can afford for him to be a hit or miss player, with potential greater than that of Beltran.
4. Trade Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera, and whatever prospects necessary (save Navarro), to acquire Javier Vazquez- Again, this would only give the Yankees a player for one season, but it would be worth it. Vazquez had a sensational second half, and would immedietly become in upper-tier of AL pitchers. He's a strikeout pitcher that wouldn't put a lot of stress on the players behind him.
And while Larry Mahnken is so sure about Johnson, I'm not sold. He's very injury-caliber, and hasn't produced well enough for me to be convinced he'll be a superstar. His baserunning mistakes were deadly in the playoffs, and like Soriano, his stupid antics don't belong with this team. But in Montreal they would be welcomed.
5. Revamp right side with Luis Castillo and Doug Mientkiewicz- Whew, talk about a defensive upgrade! Castillo is a switch-hitting second basemen that would add 50SB speed to the lineup immedietly. He seems to be a good guy to hae in the clubhouse, and don't let his playoff numbers confuse you: Luis Castillo is a great player.
Is there a more perfect player for the Yankees than Doug Mientkiewicz? He defends well, and would make Jeter and the rest of the infielders much better. Doug is a clutch hitter, and has a very sweet swing. He wouldn't be asked a lot of offensively, other than to hit 30-40 doubles in Yankee stadium. But, for a 2-year, $5M contract, the Yankees would be stupid not to sign.
6. Go cheap in bullpen and bench- First, the bullpen. Decline the options of Osuna and White. Make Karsay healthy. And then sign Mike Williams. He would come cheap, probably about $1M, and was a 40-save closer not that long ago. Williams would be a good set-up man to Rivera, and take the pressure off Karsay. Then, the rest of the bullpen is Chris Hammond, Heredia, and the loser of the Jeff Weaver v. Jon Lieber rotation battle.
The bench is easy to construct. No Ruben Sierra. In fact, the Yankees have a rich man's Sierra within their farm system: Fernando Seguignol. The 2003 IL MVP had a great season, is a switch-hitter with pop, and can play first and the outfield corners. David Delucci is a good fit here, and Enrique Wilson should be kept around. Either Erick Almonte or Andy Phillips should be considered for the backup infield bench spot. The backup catcher? Why not Todd Greene? His defense wouldn't effect the Yankees in the 30 games they ask of him, but his hitting skills (including pinch hitting) would really benefit the team. Plus, he comes cheap, to the tune of the minimum.
That's it. That gives me a 2004 Yankee lineup of:
Castillo- 2B- S
Jeter- SS- R
Giambi- DH- L
Beltran- CF- S
Posada- C- S
Matsui- RF- L
Williams- LF- S
Mientkiewicz- 1B- L
Boone- 3B- R
A rotation of:
A bullpen of:
Karsay- main set-up
Mike Williams- secondary set-up
Chris Hammond- Main southpaw
Heredia- 2nd LOOGY
Weaver/Lieber- Long relief
Finally, a bench of:
1. Seguignol- 1B/OF- S
2. Delucci- OF- L
3. Wilson- IF- R
4. Almonte- MI- R
5. Greene- C- R
Now, tell me that's not a good team. Tomorrow the Giants will be taking place in my organizational meetings, so be sure to check that. Plus, this weekend I'll throw some mad rumors I'm hearing onto the site, so keep visiting!
Organizational Meeting: Yankees
Today I'll move along in my organizational rankings, going to the New York Yankees. The format has changed for today, as two Yankee bloggers (Larry Mahnken from the Replacement Level Yankee Blog and Alex Belth from Bronx Banter) take their swings at my questions. My answers won't appear until tomorrow, so, no great loss for the reader. Enjoy...
1) It's no secret the Yankees will target right field in the offseason, as a Delucci/Rivera platoon isn't Yankeesque. Instead, the Boss is left to decide between Vladimir Guerrero and Gary Sheffield. Some reports say Steinbrenner prefers Sheffield, do you agree and why?
Alex Belth- Sheffield is definitely George's kind of guy and vice versa. Sheff is high maintenance but a borderline Hall of Famer. He would fit with the Yankees for three seasons I think. If he stays healthy, there is no reason to believe that he wouldn't be very helpful for a winning team. If he plays in a losing situation, he could be an issue.
But if you want the better player--his back injury this past season notwithstanding---Vlad is the way to go. He's so young, and so strong and so good. People talk about how shy Guerrero is and how that wouldn't fit in here in New York. But again, if he stayed healthy, he would be a monster, because the guy doesn't have a conscience and he's just too good to suck.
I don't know if you can go wrong with either guy, except I worry about Sheffield staying healthy. Because if he gets hurt, it's like a super charged version of Danny Tartabull all over again. Personally, Vlad is my favorite player in the National League--I own a Vladi jersey and t-shirt--so I would be ecstatic if he came to play in New York. But as a baseball fan, I feel like it would be too much for the Yanks to have him. Let a weird guy like Vlad go to the Padres, or stay with the Expos.
Larry Mahnken- If the Yankees are going to target right field instead of moving Matsui to right, Bernie to left and getting a centerfielder, I'd prefer Guerrero over Sheffield. Sheffield is a better hitter than Guerrero right now, but Vlad is a better fielder and is seven years younger. They'll likely only lock up Sheffield for three or four seasons, and he shouldn't decline much in that time--but then, he might collapse. Vlad is a safer bet over the next few years, fits the Yankees' needs better, and will be productive longer. I'd go with Vlad.
2) The Yankees largest problems lie in defense and lineup construction. Can anything be done in the next six months to amend defensive defiencies? Will Torre ever realize Soriano isn't a leadoff hitter? What would you do with the defense and the lineup?
LM- First of all, let's specify where the Yankees' defensive problems are: up the middle. Aaron Boone is a pretty good third baseman, Nick Johnson is a good first baseman, Hideki Matsui is a pretty good left fielder, and whomever they stick in right is going to be okay. The weaknesses they have, unfortunately, are with the guys who have to cover the most ground: Bernie Williams, Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter. Bernie was never a great defensive player, he never took good routes to the ball or got a good jump, but he was very fast, and could make up for his mistakes with his speed, and was a good fielder. Now that he's slowed down, his defense is terrible, and any balls hit in the gaps are likely to fall in. Outs become hits, and singles become doubles.
When he filled in for Bernie Williams, Hideki Matsui did an adequate job. He's not a very good center fielder, but he's at least as good getting to balls as Bernie Williams, and he has a stronger arm, making him a better choice for center. If the Yankees sign a right fielder, swapping Bernie and Godzilla would be an improvement in the outfield, though it still wouldn't make them good, or even average. If they were to move Matsui to right, Bernie to left, and bring in a ballhawk center fielder like Mike Cameron or Carlos Beltran, they would probably have at least an average defense.
Derek Jeter is a horrid shortstop, everyone in the sabermetric community has long acknowledged that, watching him play shortstop would make you think that he had already retired and they had put his monument at shortstop. Problem is, either the Yankees don't know that, or they have no intention of ever doing anything about it. He's gonna be a shortstop until he decides that he's not going to be a shortstop.
If the Yankees had a good defensive second baseman, it wouldn't be so much a problem. Unfortunately, Alfonso Soriano is not a good defensive second baseman. He's not horrible, nowhere near as bad as Jeter--he's pretty decent going to his left. Unfortunately, he doesn't have much range to his right, and he's horrible at fielding the ball backhanded. So the Yankees have two middle infielders who can't go up the middle--you can see the problem here. Probably the most oft repeated phrase on Yankees' broadcasts is "ground ball up the middle, through to centerfield for a base hit."
So, what can the Yankees do about this? Well, they could move Soriano out to centerfield, something that the New York media is talking about. There are several problems with this strategy: it makes Soriano a less valuable player, he might be a terrible defensive outfielder, and the player who replaces him will be a lesser offensive player than Soriano, too. Another option is to trade Soriano, but the decrease in the Yankees' offense at second base would probably be far more than the increase in defense. And, of course, the Yankees aren't going to get equal value in a trade for Soriano anymore, now that he's about to become expensive through arbitration. Basically, the Yankees' options are either to become a worse team overall, or accept that they have a massive hole in the middle of their infield. The defense will cost them a few games, and might cost them a postseason series, but over the course of the season, the offense will win more games than the defense loses. Considering that Boston will likely be better, and Toronto is on the rise, I don't think that the Yankees can afford to drop any games in the standings, and so while they can make a move to improve the outfield defense, I think they'll just have to accept their crappy infield defense for a few years.
The best thing they can do is stay away from pitchers like David Wells and Jeff Weaver, and build a pitching staff around High-K pitchers like Mussina, Contreras and Pettitte--to keep the ball away from the defense.
As for the lineup, I doubt that Torre will ever accept that Soriano is the worst choice he has for batting leadoff. He believes that the first run of the game is more important than the second or third run, and that speed is a vital asset at the top of the lineup, neither of which are true. Speed is a good thing to have at the top of the lineup, to avoid double plays, but it can be utilized better at the bottom of the lineup, where the batters behind you are less likely to hit HRs and doubles, so stealing a base can create more runs for you. Using some of the rationale put forward by Joe Sheehan in a recent article, here's my ideal lineup, using the 2003 World Series roster:
R - Jeter (gets on base, has good speed, a little power but not enough to bat third, and hits too many ground balls to hit second)
S - Williams (Again, gets on base, doesn't have the power any more to bat cleanup, hits fly balls, which avoids DPs, switch hitter makes LOOGYs less effective)
L - Giambi (The best hitter on the team)
S - Posada (Good OBP, good power, but not as good as Giambi, switch hitter between lefties)
L - Johnson (Best OBP on team, fifth spot in order leads off innings second most on team after leadoff, good power to take care of first four batters' leavings)
R - Soriano (Good power to clear bases after high-OBP guys have batted, good speed avoids DPs with Johnson ahead of him and ground-ball hitting Matsui behind him, can steal bases to increase scoring chances with weaker hitters at bottom of lineup)
L - Matsui (Hits a lot of ground balls, so you'd want to bat him behind someone with good speed so you can execute a lot of hit and runs. Posada is about the worst guy to bat him behind)
R - Boone (Possibly the weakest hitting player on the team, but righty bat gets LOOGYs out after one batter)
L - Garcia (Adequate hitter against righties, useless against lefties, platoon partner Rivera is opposite)
AB- I agree with the majority of observers who think that Soriano is ill-suited for the lead off spot. I think hitting him somewhere 6-9 would be a place to start. I don't know what will make the kid a better fielder. I don't know if it's just a matter of concentration, effort and dedication on his part. He hasn't improved enough defensively. But there is no telling that he'd be a better out fielder than he is at second. Sure, he'd be able to use his speed, but who knows if he's got any instinct for it.
I think the idea of moving Soriano is an attractive one. Even though he had a miserable playoff, he is still young and dazzlingly talented. Most importantly, he isn't making tons of money, so he is movable. He certainly could be traded for a pitcher or a stellar infielder.
I would move Boone anyway you could, and personally, I would consider trying Jeter out at third. I know this would never happen with Torre around, but it would be interesting to see what would happen. I've heard people say that Jeter wouldn't be right for the hot corner, and other people who just think he should play anywhere but short. I would like to think of him in the mold of Robin Yount. Actually, with all the talk of Sori moving to center, wouldn't Jeter make a decent left fielder?
But then his numbers would be left fielder's numbers. And without much pop. Still, Chipper made the move. We'll sure see how much of a team guy Mr. Jeter is the day he's faced with moving from short. I would give it three to four seasons, depending on how quickly his skills decline.
3) Roger Clemens and David Wells won't be Yankees for much longer The team has Mussina, Contreras, and Jon Lieber penciled in for the rotation. How important is it to re-sign homegrown Andy Pettite? Can you give Jeff Weaver the 5th spot? If no, who are you targeting to round out the rotation, and what would you do with Weaver?
AB- I think they are in a position where they have to sign Pettitte. The beauty part for Andy is he's got the team by the balls. Sometimes players get lucky, and Pettitte---like Pudge Rodriguez---are the Grand Prize Winners this year. Last season Pettitte was terrific but sidelines with injuries. He went into the final year of his contract earning a whopping $11.5 million with a lot to prove. So he goes out and wins 20 games and is stellar in the playoffs and now the Yankees have to sign him or they look like schmucks. Pettitte has actually earned himself a bloated, handsome deal. I see the Yanks over paying to keep him. I don't know if that would be wise---to wildly over pay for Andy Pettitte--but with no other left-hander on the staff, it appears a likely scenario. And after all, this is the Yankees. They can afford it. I'm interested to see how much of Pettitte's decision is based on Mel Stottlemyre's future. Pettitte sure is in the driver's seat here. The bottom line is, unless he goes to a winning situation, Andy will regret ever leaving the Yankees.
LM- Well, I think Wells might be back next year, although his back injury might have cost them the World Series. They won't pick up his option, but I think Steinbrenner might sign him again, if only to annoy Torre. It is vital to re-sign Andy Pettitte. A rotation of Mussina, Contreras, Lieber, Weaver and DePaula would be great for most teams, and was pretty similar to what Boston threw out there this year, but the Yankees are a team that is focused solely on postseason success, and while the playoffs are largely luck, one of the things you can do to increase your chances of winning is to have three or four strong starters, the stronger the better. Pettitte is a pitcher who isn't hurt tremendously by the Yankees' defense, and the Yankees also can't afford to let him go to Boston.
I think the Yankees should take another chance with Weaver--though he shouldn't have been on the postseason roster, or even pitching at all in September. He's a good pitcher, although one who is exceptionally susceptible to getting hurt by the Yankees' defense. Early in the season, he was let down by the bullpen, defense, and just plain bad luck, but as he grew more frustrated, he made more bad pitches and started getting genuinely hammered. I think he can be a good pitcher for the Yankees, though never an ace. They would have been better off with Lilly in the rotation. Keep Weaver, unless you get a really good offer, and keep him the 5th starter.
I think that the Yankees should also be looking for another starters, I expect nothing out of Lieber. Colon and Millwood might seem excessive, but they really are replacing Roger Clemens. Both appear similar to me, Millwood is about a year and a half younger, but then, Will Carroll is reporting that Millwood is going back to Atlanta (What a steal! They get Millwood AND Estrada, and all they have to give up is a first round draft pick! WOW!)
So, saying they re-sign Pettitte and sign Colon (which, if Millwood goes to Atlanta, leaves Boston with nobody, which would be HUGE), the Yankees have this rotation:
If the Yankees re-sign Wells and move Weaver, then stick him in the fourth spot, because Torre won't realize what he's got in Contreras until June or July. That's a damn good rotaton. If the Yankees don't bring in a free agent pitcher, or let Pettitte walk, then I think that DePaula will get a shot at the rotation in March, though I don't think he'll make the cut, or stick very long if he does.
4) Alfonso Soriano is one of the hottest/coldest players in the Majors today. In April and September he hit .370 and .348 respectively, while in May and July he hit .229 and .240. 18 of his 38 home runs came in the first and last months of the season. Does this concern you, and do you believe the team should lock him up now, or let him go to arbitration the next few years?
LM- I know that you should look at what a player can do instead of what he can't do, so here goes:
Alfonso Soriano can steal bases with a high rate of success.
Alfonso Soriano can hit a lot of Home Runs.
Alfonso Soriano can get a hit on a high percentage of the balls he puts in play.
What he can't do is look for a good pitch to hit, lay off breaking pitches off the plate or high fastballs, or play defense. Those first two are what concern me most, and are the reason for his streakiness.
Maybe Soriano will develop some plate discipline--I doubt it. Maybe he'll sustain this current level his entire career, which would make him worth having on the team. But he's also a huge risk to drop off suddenly, so I'd let him go to arbitration, which takes the risk that if he improves, you'll have to pay a lot more money to lock him up, but if he falls off, you're not stuck with him.
The player I think they should lock up through arbitration and well beyond is Nick Johnson. The only concern with Johnson is injuries, if he stays healthy, I think he'll be one of the top five hitters in baseball in three years. Thing is, few people appreciate how good he is right now, and you can probably lock him up long-term cheaply, and have an elite hitter on your team for years to come for less than ten million dollars a year.
AB- I like Soriano a lot. He is an exciting kid to watch. But I also believe in getting rid of guys too early rather than too late. And I'd like to see some of Jeter's persistence and drive in Soriano. I'm happy either way, but if he stays, I expect more out of the guy. And I don't mean homers either. I mean he should stop trying to be Dave Kingman.
5) One achilles heel for the Yankees in 2003 was middle relief. The team will have Steve Karsay and Chris Hammond back next year. Would you pick up the options on Antonio Osuna and Gabe White? And whom else would you target on the market?
AB- Osuna is gone. And whatever. He wasn't great. I don't know about Gabe White. I wouldn't be terribly upset to see him back, but I'm not wed to him by any means. I think the guy Hasegawa is the most attractive reliever on the market for the Yankees, even if LaTroy Hawkins is getting more press. Hawkins is another kind of guy that George would wildly over pay. Much as he did with Steve Karsay, even though that was a different market.
The Yanks have to develop or acquire a nasty left hander for the pen too I think. Nellie won't be back. No great loss.
LM- Well, a large part of the Yankees' middle relief problems last season was Juan Acevedo, who made their bullpen look far worse than it was. It wasn't a good 'pen, but after the trade deadline, it started to come together, and regardless what the media said, they had a good bullpen going into the playoffs--just not a great one.
Hammond pitched well this season, but Torre stopped using him in September, and didn't use him in the playoffs until Game 5 of the World Series, where he was not sharp. If Torre actually uses him in 2004, he'll be an asset.
I don't know if I'd pick up White's option, that is pretty hefty for a setup man, but I would try very hard to bring him back. He's a good relief pitcher, a lefty who can get out righties, and he's probably the only good thing to come out of the Boone trade.
Heredia pitched well, and he's picked up his half of the mutual option. I think I'd probably pick up the team half, too. It's pricy for a LOOGY, but Torre seemed to trust him, and that's an important asset for a Yankees' releiver.
I'd let Nelson go, and I'd bring up Colter Bean, who it would seem is capable of being a Chad Bradford type pitcher. I wouldn't really look to the free agent market to get relief help. Rivera, Karsay, White and Hammond looks pretty good to me.
6) Who from the coaching staff do you expect back next year? Is there any coach, other than Torre, that would really be a significant loss for this franchise? Would Brian Cashman be a loss?
LM- Well, Zimmer is already gone, no loss there. Mel Stottlemyre is deciding whether or not to come back. He's good with veteran pitchers, but he didn't do much to help Jeff Weaver this season. If he wants to come back, I'd bring him back. Rick Down is gone, likely as the scapegoat for the Yankees' postseason offensive struggles, but he should be the scapegoat for Alfonso Soriano. Willie Randolph and Lee Mazzilli are likely staying, unless they get managerial offers somewhere.
Brian Cashman is, I think, a good GM, but he's not running to show by himself. Steinbrenner also seeks input from Randy Levine (who I think knows nothing about baseball) and Gene Michael (who knows a lot), as well as a bunch of other advisors, then makes the decisions himself, and has Cashman implement them. It's very much corporate, and it prevents the Yankees from doing anything "new". They'll always settle for the mediocre player who they at least know is going to be mediocre rather than the unknown player who might be great, but hasn't proven himself either way.
Would he be a loss? Yeah, but not a huge one. He doesn't have enough control as it is, and if he were moved out, it wouldn't change the direction of the team much.
AB- I think Willie will be back and Torre will be back. Maz is probably gone, Down is gone, Zim is gone. Stot will be back I think. Maybe not. If George gets his way, he'll lure Mattingly back to be the hitting coach, and that would be boffo for him. I would love to see the Yankees make a run at Rick Peterson, even though they may be too late--and ultimately too conservative---to appreciate what Peterson could do for their staff.
Peterson is the kind of guy I'd like to see get a hold of Jeff Weaver. I would assume Weaver will be moved at some point. He's still a qualtity arm. Probably destined to pitch well at some point in his career. It doesn't look like that can happen for him in New York. He's obstinant. The guy just doesn't listen. But he can turn it around if he wants to---but it'll take having an work ethic like Roy Halladay to do it. I wouldn't bank on his "make up" that's for sure.
Cashman will stay and get older and more bent. George will be all over him, but he'll also give Cash the resources to figure it all out too. The Yankees could learn from the aquisitions that Boston made last year---picking up second tier players like Millar, Ortiz, Mueller, and Walker, and making them all part of the puzzle. Boston's offense was more like the Yankees O of '96-2000 than the current Yankee team was. (Of course you'd have to add the mid-90s Indians to those Yankee clubs to equal Boston's 2003 team.)
I think Cashman is great, and have complete faith in his ability to build a winning team. The only question is, can George keep from meddling and making moves like Mondesi and Aaron Boone?
7) What kind of numbers do you expect from Jose Contreras, Jon Lieber, and Nick Johnson in 2004?
AB- If Contreras is healthy and can give the Yankees 200+ innings, that would be fantastic. I think he'd be good too. ERA in the high 3,s-to mid 4s. Lots of strikeouts. Some dominating games mixed in there. 15 game winner easily if he gets the run support.
LM- I think Contreras will win 15 games, have an ERA around 3.50, strike out 200 men, and make the All-Star team. I expect nothing out of Lieber. I expect Nick Johnson to hit .300, hit 25 HRs, have a .450 OBP, and cure cancer.
8) Create a step-by-step offseason to-do list.
LM- What I would do is:
1. Re-sign Andy Pettitte
2. Sign Vladimir Guerrero, Gary Sheffield, or Mike Cameron (in that order)
3. Sign Kevin Millwood or Bartolo Colon (in that order)
4. If step two fails, try to trade for Carlos Beltran, but without giving up Johnson
5. Re-sign Gabe White, pick up the option on Heredia
6. Improve the bench: get a backup catcher who can hit some, a backup infielder who can field some, a good defensive replacement center fielder, and a real pinch hitter (NOT Ruben Sierra)
AB- a. Making pitching decisions. Sign Pettitte, trade Weaver for another front line starter.
b. Figure out the outfield. Move Bernie to left, and then either Sori to center and Matsui to right, or Matsui to center and Vlad or Sheff to right. Or Maybe get another center fielder and move Matsui to right.
c. Sign Hasegawa.
d. Figure out third base and second base. Move Aaron Boone.
d. Figure out if you want to trade Nick Johnson.
e. Get a left-hander in the pen.
f. Sign coaches. (This one might have to be earlier, but whatever.)
Tomorrow I will answer all of the questions, and look at how the media is dealing with this situation. New York is always the most fun to analyze, because every beat reporter, every columnist, every writer in the world has an opinion on this issue. Damn Yankees.
Free Agents like crazy
Busy day in the Major Leagues, as rumors are flying and free agents are filing. Bartolo Colon rejected a 3-year, $36M offer from the White Sox, obviously delusional on what the current market will provide him. And staying in Chicago, Frank Thomas and Sammy Sosa have a week to decide on their futures, after that, their respective club will decide instead.
If you're yet to find a source with all the Major League free agents, ESPN has provided the best I've found. In today's article I'll write about my top all-free agent teams, at the Major and minor league level. So, if you need a minor league free agent list, head over to Baseball America. And over the next few months my site should be a transactional analysis haven, and that begins today with Grady Little's hiring and some more odds and ends.
Now to the free agents, beginning with my first all-free agent team at the Major League level:
C- Pudge Rodriguez- Marlin for sure in 2004
1B- Scott Spiezio- Weakest 1B class in recent memory
2B- Luis Castillo- Plenty of options available
SS- Miguel Tejada- Great road numbers, not getting enough press
3B- Robin Ventura- Talk about a weak class
LF- Carl Everett- Good left-handed bat, can also play center
CF- Mike Cameron- Another player with great road numbers
RF- Vladimir Guerrero- Trails only A-Rod and Prior in best young player rank
DH- Frank Thomas- Still a .400 OBP and 40HR threat
SP- Kevin Millwood- Consistent pitcher with ace-like performance
SP- Bartolo Colon- Eats innings like he does food
SP- Greg Maddux- Valuable in more ways than his pitching
MR- Shigetoshi Hasegawa- Can fill every role imaginable in 'pen
SU- Tom Gordon- Stuff finally came back, after long hiatus
CL- Keith Foulke- Oakland just waiting to get draft compensation
That obviously proves this isn't a strong year, especially on the infield corners. But, I would say it's a much deeper class than past seasons, which makes an honorable mention team worth noting:
C- Javy Lopez- Who woulda thought?
1B- Eric Karros- Will slug left-handers in platoon, provides good D
2B- Todd Walker- Postseason heroics will increase interest
SS- Kaz Matsui- And you thought Hideki has doubles power?
3B- Joe Randa- Consistent player that will hardly ever hurt you
LF- Royals LF Rondell White and Raul Ibanez
CF- Kenny Lofton- Wins wherever he goes
RF- Gary Sheffield- Second-best free agent
DH- Rafeal Palmiero- Nearing his end
SP- Andy Pettite- Yankees must re-sign homegrown stud
SP- Sidney Ponson- 2003 breakout star will get huge interest
SP- Miguel Batista- Gives manager so many options
MR- Tim Worrell- Still in middle relief, even after 38 saves
SU- LaTroy Hawkins- Yankees likely already calling
CL- Eddie Guardado- Who wouldn't want Everyday Eddie?
Players have 15 days following the World Series to file, and on that date I will give a much more detailed analysis of the free agent class, full o' predictions. So, keep coming back.
One of the least publicized things in baseball are minor league free agents, likely because there are about 600 available every offseason. But players seep through the cracks, and every season more players make spending a quick buck on a minor leaguer worth every penny. Some of 2003's best:
1. Jeremi Gonzalez- Tampa Bay success story after 25IP in 1999-2002
2. Billy McMillon- Averages over .300 in AAA for four straight seasons before 2003
3. Luis Ayala- 10-game winner had thrown 7.2 innings in 2002, Mexico League vet
4. Ryan Freel- Good K/BB rates and versatility gave infielder 137AB
5. Amaury Telemaco- Once had a lot of promise, but nothing in 2002
6. Adam Melhuse- AAA vet will be Oakland back-up catcher next season
After seeing that, I have drawn two conclusions about what to look for in minor league free agents. First, a good indicator for success are pitchers who once had hype, but injuries had made them fall off the map. Hitters need a good track record of success, with walk rates as a key indicator. And, all players chosen should be entering their peak seasons.
So, here are 10 minor league free agents who bear watching in the offseason:
1. Justin Thompson- Former 15-game winner was in NWL this season
2. Ryan Kohlmeier- Ex-Oriole closer has been improving in AAA last two seasons
3. Donnie Bridges- Former Expo top prospect had good season in AA
4. Ed Yarnall- Once Yankee southpaw came back from Japan in 2003
5. Corey Thurman- Blue Jays Rule V pick with tons of potential
6. Trent Durrington- Utility player, .824OPS in AAA with 35 steals
7. Phil Hiatt- Utility infielder, proven AAA record, lacks plate discipline
8. Midre Cummings- No worse than any fourth outfielder in baseball
9. Edwards Guzman- Got time in Montreal, but could be '04 Melhuse
10. Olmedo Saenz- Gamble, but once was a good player for A's
Moving onto transaction analysis, where I have five moves to examine:
1- Red Sox fire Grady Little- I'm not supporting this move as much as Red Sox fans are. Little took this team far, and although his managing cost the Red Sox the World Series, let's not forget the World Series. And secondly, who else is there to replace Little next season? Don Zimmer would be my choice, just for the pure hilarity of it all. But whomever Theo Epstein comes up with will likely be an interesting choice.
2- Reds name Dave O'Brien GM- I'm a little skeptical, since O'Brien hasn't exactly been spending time in baseball's best organization, the Texas Rangers. I did predict he would be here, but I guarantee a long tenure. I see the Reds as a pretty bad team, with enough young studs to tempt the city for awhile. Losing Carl Lindner should be priority number one.
3- Greg Myers was re-signed to a one-year, 900K deal in Toronto- Well, there goes the 3rd best catcher available. Myers would have attracted numerous offers, since he is a veteran catcher who can hit right-handers and handle pitchers well. The Blue Jays will use him and Kevin Cash next season, as they prepare for the arrival of Guillermo Quiroz.
4- Brewers land first minor league free agent, Travis Phelps- Phelps comes out of the Braves system, and had a little success in AAA this season: 9-5, 3.47ERA, 77H/93.1IP, 91K/38BB. He has a chance of making the Brew middle relief corps next season, but won't find himself on a top minor league free agent acquisition list next year.
5- Rangers sign Billy Sylvester- Although Phelps won't be a big name, Sylvester has the stuff to do it. He has had amazing H/9 ratios as he's gone up the Atlanta pipeline, but has always walked too many guys. Have Orel Hershiser decrease his walk numbers, and the Rangers could have walked right into a solid set-up man for 2004.
Finally, let me mention I've added two new links to my left, Seth Speaks and Jeremy Heit's blog. Definitely go check those blogs out, as they give good output very regularly. I'll have my Yankees organizational meeting tomorrow, and if any of you missed the Atlanta one yesterday, the link is here.
Organizational Meetings: Atlanta Braves
Today I will begin my "organizational meetings" with the Atlanta Braves. I asked Brad Dowdy of No Pepper 9 questions about the Braves. I also give shorter answers to the same questions. The rest of the week will also likely have the Yankees and Giants. Enjoy...
1) Greg Maddux is likely to leave the Braves this offseason, opening a big hole in the rotation. With a rotation of non-power pitchers, would you move John Smoltz back to the rotation, why or why not? And if not, which power pitcher would you target?
No Pepper- I'm of the opinion that John Smoltz should continue to serve as the Braves closer. With his past and present arm problems, I don't see how he could stay healthy for the 180-200 innings that would be required of him. In the closers role, he is an elite player, and I would rather see him throw 75-85 high leverage innings than risk losing him for the season - and possibly career - if he goes back to starting. There is one question that I do not know the answer to - is there more stress on Smoltz's arm as a reliever, as opposed to being a starter? Meaning, is it tougher for him to get up and down in the bullpen and make 3-4 appearances a week, as opposed to starting every 5th day? If he were to start, would he work in the 93-94 MPH range with the fastball, instead of 97-98 when he comes in to shut the door? The only way I would be for him starting again would be if it is actually less stressful on his arm, which I don't think will be the case. Another issue that may keep Smoltz from returning to the rotation is money. Contained in his contract is a provision which pays him an extra $100,000 per start. The now budget conscious Braves front office may have a thing or two to say about him starting if it is going to add another $3 million to the payroll.
As far as what pitchers I would target, I think bringing back Kevin Millwood would be the best bet. Javier Vazquez is clearly the superior pitcher to Millwood in my mind, but the Braves, and I imagine other teams, will have a tough time dealing with the MLB Expos. Not to mention the fact that Expos GM Omar Minaya is interviewing for other GM openings as we speak. There may not be anyone in the Montreal front office that will be allowed to swing a deal for the non-free agent Vazquez. Millwood is the next best fit, and he is available. He has a proven track record, knows the team and city, the organization is comfortable with him, and he still has a home in the Atlanta suburbs. Despite the early season no-hitter, Millwood had a rough second half, keeping him within the Braves price range, but I'm sure his agent, Scott Boras, will have something to say about that. After Millwood, there aren't too many starters that are worth shelling out for. Colon's name is rarely mentioned, and Pettitte would be nice but we already have two other left-handed starters. After that group, it's really a crap shoot. I want no part of Sidney Ponson, who I was against trying to trade for last season. Miguel Batista and Carl Pavano would be decent middle of the rotation fall back guys, but I really don't want to see it get down to that point. The Braves really need a #1 caliber pitcher, and I think Millwood is it.
WTNY- Smoltz has stated that going under the knife one more time will result in his retirement. Asking 150+ innings from him substantially increases the probability Smoltz doesn't pitch in 2005. As a leader and a closer, he is invaluable to the franchise. Furthermore, it would likely cost an equal amount to rebuild a bullpen after Smoltz than it would to sign starting pitching.
There aren't a lot of power pitchers available this offseason, so the Braves have limited options. Javier Vazquez could be acquired in a trade, but I'm not sure his price tag (both $ and players) will equal his output. Sidney Ponson is available, but he's no sure thing, and not the type of pitcher needed. Basically, I present the Braves with two options: Kevin Millwood and Bartolo Colon. Both will receive interest from their 2003 team, but Colon's White Sox have more interest than the Phillies. Millwood's return to Atlanta would present an interesting story, and end the bashing Scheurholtz got for his trade in the first place. I also don't think it's a horrible idea to go after cheaper options, most notably Carl Pavano.
2) Paul Byrd will be back next season, after missing 2003 with an arm injury. What can you expect from him in 2004? Can he be the 2004 version of Shane Reynolds, or would you rather go with a rookie like Andy Pratt or Bubba Nelson?
NP- Paul Byrd will be back next year, but maybe not until after the All-Star break. So, if the Braves don't add another starter in the offseason, we may be looking at possibly 2 young/rookie starters instead of the likely one. That one could come from a long list of players: Jason Marquis, Jung Bong, and Trey Hodges - all of who spent time in the Atlanta bullpen last season, or Andy Pratt, Bubba Nelson, Adam Wainwright, and Brett Evert - each of whom would come from the minors. Once Byrd makes it back, I imagine he will be better than Reynolds was in 2003, but that isn't saying much. Anything better than a 4.25 ERA will be a bonus.
As for who will fill the 5th (and possibly 4th) starter role until Byrd returns - I think it will go to one of the minor leaguers. Most Atlanta fans want to see Wainwright, but I'd like to see him spend most of the year in AAA Richmond, with a possible late season call up. He is currently getting shelled pitching for Team USA in the AFL, and has a tendency to wear down late in the season, so another year under his belt would serve him well. Pratt and Nelson are just about ready, with Evert having an outside shot. I've stated in a couple of places that I think Pratt might get the nod with a good spring, and he is performing well so far in the Team USA trials.
WTNY- I wouldn't expect a lot from Byrd in 2004, as his health will always be a risk. His upside might be as a middle reliever in the bullpen, or replacing one of the starters. I think it is a better option to go with either a rookie, or a very cheap pick-up. Hold a competition between Pratt, Bubba Nelson, and some veterans that you can find around. John Burkett, Scott Erickson, Jason Bere are all examples of starters whom will have a hard time finding a job, but would supply solid innings. Throw Shane into that same category.
3) A huge hole for the Braves in 2003 was set-up relief, getting the ball to Smoltz. What are your thoughts on the three that ended the year doing it, Jaret Wright, Will Cunnane, and Kent Mercker? Do you believe they should be retained next year? What about Roberto Hernandez and Ray King? Who else would fill your bullpen?
NP- From day 1 through the playoffs, the 2003 bullpen was a problem. I never had to worry about running out of material for my blog. Heck, Roberto Hernandez even had his own category! Jaret Wright impressed me enough that I would offer him a deal for 2004, and let him set up for Smoltz. Same thing goes for Will Cunnane. I think Mercker will look elsewhere, and possibly end up back in Cincinnati. Ray King wasn't terrible, except with runners on base (.319 OPP AVG with runners on, .131 AVG without), but I imagine the Braves will pick up his $1 million club option, which is a reasonable sum. The Roberto Hernandez era should come to a crashing halt, as there is no way he gets resigned. Hopefully Darren Holmes won't be either, and I could go either way on Kevin Gryboski. As long as he is used strictly in situations where the Braves need to induce a double play, I'm fine. Asking him to start - and complete - a full inning is asking for trouble. The remainder of the bullpen should consist of at least two of the following: Jason Marquis, Jung Bong, Trey Hodges, Brett Evert, Bubba Nelson. The rest will make up part of the starting staff in Richmond.
WTNY- Entrusting Mazzone with the 2004 bullpen would be an interesting option. That would mean giving him players like Wright and Cunnane before Smoltz, and letting him go to work. Wright was hitting 96 in the playoffs, which gives him a whole lot of upside. Cunnane threw 20 solid innings, so he has made his case to be a set-up man next season. I'm not a big fan of Hernandez, Darren Holmes, Ray King, or Kevin Gryboski, and could see all of them leaving. Mercker was a solid veteran influence that would compliment with Smoltz well. After years of Maddux and Glavine, the Braves must have good advice readily available from veteran players, Mercker would give that.
Jason Marquis, Troy Hodges, and Jung Bong all give the Braves options as well. Marquis has the most upside, but also the most trade value. I think Hodges and Bong could both improve given the chance in 2004, as long as Mazzone lowers those BB/9 ratios. Rookies Andy Pratt and Bubba Nelson could fill those holes if needed, as both have relief experience. Problem is, they both have potential as starters. I really like Buddy Hernandez, whom didn't make the A's after being a Rule V pick, but had these numbers at AAA: 65H/71IP 82K/31BB.
4) The Braves will have three holes due to free agency departures, at catcher, first base, and third. If needed, the team could go with youngsters Johnny Estrada, Adam LaRoche, and Mark DeRosa. Which of these players would you trust with 400-500 at-bats, and whom wouldn't you? Why or why not? Do you believe any of the veterans (Lopez, Castillo, Franco, Fick) should be retained?
NP- This is a big question, so let's start with the easiest decision first, and go from there. Give Adam LaRoche the 1B job, and let Robert Fick go. LaRoche has proven he is ready for his shot with a big 2003 split between AAA and AA (combined .290, 20 HR, 33 2B). LaRoche also provides Gold Glove caliber defense according to those who have seen him play. Worst case scenario, have LaRoche platoon with ageless wonder Julio Franco. I heaped on the praise of Robert Fick in the first half of the season (.296 AVG/.354 OBP/.481 SLG), but his second half slump (.229/.307/.325), and subsequent postseason hatchet job, have soured many Braves fans on Mr. Fick.
The third base job should go to Mark DeRosa, but this is one area where John Schuerholz may go out and overpay for a "proven veteran". Someone like Vinny Castilla or Tony Batista, neither of whom do I want anything to do with. Andy Marte, my #1 overall Braves prospect, and the #1 3B prospect in the minor leagues according to Baseball America, is two years away, or less, from taking over at the hot corner. If DeRosa hits .280 with 15 homers and keeps the spot warm for Marte, I would be very pleased. I'd rather allocate the money saved to other areas.
Javy Lopez, Johnny Estrada - what to do with the catching situation? I honestly do not have a good answer. I'm not a big Estrada fan, mostly from an offensive standpoint. In his age 27 year, he posted career numbers in AAA (.328 AVG/.393 OBP/.494 SLG), and that's what bothers me. I'm not a major league equivalent guru, but he looks like a .270, 10 HR major league hitter to me, which is BIG drop-off from Lopez (I know, master of the obvious). But Lopez, who put together one of the greatest hitting seasons ever by a catcher, may have priced himself right out of the Braves plans. I think retaining him is a 50/50 propositon at best right now for the front office, and is not a priority. A lot will depend on other offseason moves, since a backup plan is already in place. My gut tells me he is gone, and I'd rather him be gone than overpaid.
WTNY- Here's a look at 2 catchers in AAA:
Player 1: .335-19-72 28 2B 29BB/22K in 373AB
Player 2: .328-10-66 29 2B 30BB/30K in 354AB
The first player is Tampa Bay catcher Toby Hall, whom won the 2001 International League MVP with those numbers. The second player in Johnny Estrada, the switch-hitting catcher John Scheurholtz acquired for Kevin Millwood. Hall's 2003 numbers (.253/.295/.380) are likely indicative of what Estrada would produce in the Majors. Pursuing Javy Lopez is a good idea, but don't considering giving more than two years at $10M.
At first base, there is two options. The first is to five the job to Adam LaRoche, and bringing Julio Franco back to platoon. My second choice would be to trade for a stud first basemen, which would eliminate the idea of re-signing Sheffield. More on that in question six...
The hot corner is the most difficult decision. First of all, don't give Vinny Castilla the job. DeRosa would be a good choice, and seems like the kind of player that does well when playing a lot. When he got time this season he produced, but he's no guarantee. Go with him if you're ready for a .750OPS, or sign Robin Ventura, the kind of winner the Braves like, to platoon with him.
5) In the NLDS, Chipper Jones proved to be a major liability in left. With both infield positions open due to free agency, is it time to move Chipper back onto the diamond? Where should he be playing next year, and what can we expect from him?
NP- Chipper Jones needs to stay in left field. He's been there for two full seasons now, and wasn't a Gold Glove caliber 3B to begin with, but moving him back and forth every year or two can only be detrimental to his already poor fielding. In 8781.2 career innings at 3B, Jones made 123 errors in 2426 total chances, for a fielding % of .949. In 2825.1 career innings in LF, Jones has 14 errors in 539 chances, for a fielding % of .974. With 3B being a much tougher position to field than LF, I call that about a wash.
What can we expect from Chipper in 2004? Pretty much what you got from him for the past 8 seasons: somewhere around .300/.400/.550, with 30 HR, 100 RBI, and 100 runs, and, of course, spotty defense in left. I could envision a scenario where Chipper could move back to third for 2004, but it would be highly unlikely.
WTNY- Don't move Chipper again. After witnessing Carlos Lee go from one of the worst outfielders in the Majors to average, I think left field is the easiest position on the diamond. Chipper probably wouldn't be very good anywhere, and Ventura, DeRosa, LaRoche, and Franco would all be better defenders on the infield corners. The more time he has in left, the better his defense, and offensive productivity will rise. Chipper's one of the least respected players in the game (along with Magglio Ordonez), and may have already locked up a place in Cooperstown. But after the Cub killing he did in the NLDS, I'm not sure I'll ever like Chipper Jones.
6) Gary Sheffield will be a free agent, likely courted by Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and the Yankees. Would you throw a lot of money at Sheffield to keep him around, set your priorities on Vlad, or go after a second-tier right fielder like Jose Guillen? Defend your choice.
NP- Schuerholz has to re-sign Gary Sheffield. As a lead in to question number 9, I think this is offseason priority number one. Of course, Guererro would be great, but there is no way the Braves could afford him. I imagine he will command more than the 6 yr/$85 million deal that Jim Thome signed last winter. Sheffield should go for less money, and fewer years. He is a premiere outfielder and perennial MVP candidate, and there aren't many solid outfield options available after you get past him and Vlad. How this goes will set the tone for the entire offseason.
WTNY- Scheurholtz needs another big bat, so it's either Sheffield or acquiring someone through a trade. Sheffield would be pricy, likely landing the exact same deal Jim Thome got last year. If you could find another player whom would give similar results at a cheaper price, he'd be a good fit. Oh wait...you can? Yes, Richie Sexson.
Sexson is the perfect player for the Braves. Relatively speaking, he comes cheap at $8M. This would allow the team to bring Javy Lopez back, as well as a second-tier RF. It would give them extra dollars to attract Kevin Millwood as well. In the deal you could put the two youngsters that lose jobs, Estrada and LaRoche, along with the starter that won't get a spot, Bubba Nelson. That should do it, and the Brewers might eat a million or two also. The Braves then go after a cheaper player with upside, either Guillen, Juan Gonzalez, Raul Mondesi, or Jose Cruz Jr.
7) The Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggested the Braves trade Andruw Jones for Javier Vazquez. Do you agree or disagree? Why? How important is Jones for the Braves?
NP- As much as I like Vazquez, I would be against trading away Andruw Jones to get him. With the possibility of losing both Sheffield and Lopez, the Braves can't afford to lose any more offense. It also goes without saying that Andruw provides great defense in center - just ask Tom Glavine. There are other free agent pitchers out there that I would prefer to focus on, rather than trading Jones for Vazquez. All of that being said, there is clearly room for improvement in his game. His approach at the plate is borderline criminal in certain situations, and he could benefit by dropping a few lbs. also. But there are no suitable replacements for a guy who is an annual threat to hit 30 homers, drive in 100, score 100, and provide Gold Glove caliber defense in center field.
WTNY- That would be a horrible trade. Jones value to this team is immense, as he cuts the outfield into a much smaller place than it is. Without Andruw, Chipper's defense would get talked about a lot more, and Braves' pitchers wouldn't succeed as much. The team is loaded with flyballers, and needs Jones. Plus, his bat ain't bad either.
8) Which Brave players do you expect jumps from next season? Will Mike Hampton continue to improve away from Coors? Will Horacio Ramirez be another Braves great homegrown pitcher?
NP- So many Braves players had big jumps in 2003, this is a tough one to answer. The two that you mention, Mike Hampton and Horacio Ramirez, both should improve on solid 2003 seasons. Hampton found his old self in the second half of the season, and I was clamoring for him to be the Braves #1 starter in the postseason. Ramirez started out strong, hit a rough patch in the summer, then finished out September (3-0, 2.41 ERA, 33.2 IP) as strong, or stronger, than anyone else on the team. I look for both of these guys to continue to improve in 2004.
Rafael Furcal had arguably his best season to date in 2003, but he still seemed to fly under the radar, as Javy Lopez, Gary Sheffield, and Marcus Giles exploded all around him. He posted career highs in Hits (194), Runs (130), Doubles (35), Triples (10), Home Runs (15), RBI (61), and OPS (.795), and was successful in 25 of 27 stolen base attempts, but was rarely mentioned outside of Braves circles. His 130 runs were the most by a Brave since Dale Murphy scored 131 times in 1983. After all of that, I still think Furcal can improve further in 2004, placing him among the elite shortstops in the game.
Jason Marquis is another one who I will throw out as a long shot breakout candidate. He could really surprise some people if he could get his head screwed on straight. If the Braves pull of any big trades this offseason, Marquis will be one of the first included, but if he sticks around, I'd like to see him groomed into a dominant setup man. He has been a starter for most of his career, with decidedly mixed results, but I think he has the stuff to shut down the opponent for 1-2 innings at a time, despite a terrible 2003 in the bullpen (6.23 ERA, 30.1 IP). The one thing I am not sure of is his attitude.
WTNY- Mike Hampton will be this team's ace next season, write that down. He really showed his old stuff and attitude late in the season, and should have the kind of year Darryl Kile did in 2001 (16-11, 3.09ERA). While he's not a great fantasy baseball pitcher, don't be hesitant to make him your third or fourth selection next year. I also love Andy Pratt, whom had a great season in AAA. The last selection would be Jaret Wright, who can go nowhere but up after an abysmal 2003.
9) Create a step-by-step offseason to-do list for John Scheurholtz.
NP- Offseason To-Do List for John Schuerholz:
1. Re-sign Gary Sheffield- This will set the tone for the entire offseason. If Sheff signs, the offense is in good shape, and allows the Braves to insert LaRoche at 1B and DeRosa at 3B, and let Javy walk. This also allows Schuerholz to allocate most of the remaining funds to improving the pitching. If Sheff signs elsewhere, we will might make a play on Lopez (still not sure he would sign, or that it would be the right move), and look at the second tier of outfielders to fill in in RF. I don't see the Braves in the Vlad conversation at all.
2. Sign a top free agent pitcher - preferably Kevin Millwood. There is a lot to like about bringing him back and making him the Braves #1 starter for the next several years. Vazquez is also a possibility, but I don't see the Braves getting a deal done with the Expos this offseason.
3. Get the thoughts of starting out of John Smoltz's head. When he is healthy, he is one of the best, if not_the_best, closers in the game. That is irreplaceable. There is no need to go trading for a Billy Wagner, or signing an Eddie Guardado, or the like.
4. Do not spend $4 mil/yr on the LaTroy Hawkinses of the world for bullpen help. No offense to LaTroy, but the Braves pen will improve via addition by subtraction. Hernandez and Holmes should be gone, along with Mercker. Wright and Cunnane did a good job at the end of last season, and should be brought back. Ray King was decent, and the younger arms (Marquis, Bong, Hodges) are more experienced. Name the bullpen early on in the spring and assign roles: early inning replacement, LOOGY, 7th and 8th inning setup, and stick with it. Too many guys were used in too many different situations last season.
5. Stay away from overaged/overpriced veterans. There are going to be certain bench, and possibly starting, roles that are going to need to be filled via free agency. I am worried about Schuerholz filling the hole at third by resigning Castilla, or bringing in someone like Batista. Yuck. Give the job to DeRosa, and use the savings elsewhere.
6. Pull the 5th starter from the minors. We don't need any more Paul Byrd contracts, so let's fill the 5 slot with a guy like Andy Pratt. I think he is ready to make the jump. Ben Kozlowski who?
My projected 2004 Braves rotation: Kevin Millwood, Russ Ortiz, Mike Hampton, Horacio Ramirez, Andy Pratt
My projected 2004 Braves bullpen: John Smoltz (closer), Jaret Wright (main setup), Will Cunnane (secondary setup), Jason Marquis (secondary setup), Ray King (situational), Kevin Gryboski (situational), Jung Bong (situational/spot starter)
My projected 2004 Braves lineup: C Johnny Estrada, 1B Adam LaRoche, 2B Marcus Giles, 3B Mark DeRosa, SS Rafael Furcal, LF Chipper Jones, CF Andruw Jones, RF Gary Sheffield
Bench: 1B Julio Franco, 1B/3B Mike Hessman, IF Wilson Betemit/Jesse Garcia, OF Ryan Langerhans, C Free Agent
WTNY- Here's my list:
1. Trade Dave LaRoche, Johnny Estrada, and Bubba Nelson to the Milwaukee Brewers for Richie Sexson- Replaces Sheffield's bat in the lineup, and improves defense at first.
2. Re-sign Javy Lopez, sign Raul Mondesi, and Robin Ventura- Veteran influence is huge, and the lineup might be as potent as in 2003.
3. Grab Kevin Millwood- There are other options, but Millwood simply makes the most sense in this circumstance. While I believe it, don't count on Hampton to be an ace quite yet.
4. Keep Kent Mercker, make Andy Pratt 5th starter, then go with youngsters and minor league free agents in bullpen- Mercker is a great LOOGY, Pratt could be great, and bullpens are easy to find. Don't overpay for relievers!
2003 lineup: SS Rafeal Furcal, 2B Marcus Giles, LF Chipper Jones, 1B Richie Sexson, CF Andruw Jones, C Javy Lopez, RF Raul Mondesi, 3B Ventura/DeRosa
2003 rotation: Millwood, Hampton, Ortiz, Ramirez, Andy Pratt
2003 bullpen: Smoltz, Jaret Wright, Cunnane, Mercker, Buddy Hernandez, Jung Bong
Check back tomorrow for more, and the Yankees meeting should be on Wednesday.
You say goodbye and I say hello
I don't know why you say goodbye
I say hello
--John Lennon & Paul McCartney
The 2003 World Series will not only be remembered for the improbable victory by the Florida Marlins over the New York Yankees in six games but also the arrival of baseball's newest star, Josh Beckett, and the departure of its oldest star, Roger Clemens. In a touch of irony, Beckett's complete-game, five-hit shutout last night ended the career of Clemens, the player he grew up idolizing.
Beckett and Clemens have a lot of similarities. Both are Texans. Both are approximately the same height (Beckett, 6'5", and Clemens, 6'4"). Both are power pitchers, throwing fastballs in the mid- to high-90s. Both were highly touted as amateurs (Beckett, 1999 All-USA High School Baseball Player of the Year; Clemens, two-time All-America honors at the University of Texas and the winning pitcher of the 1983 College World Series). Both were drafted in the first round (Beckett, #2 in 1999, and Clemens, #19 in 1983). Both had outstanding minor league records. And both showed glimpses of stardom in their first couple of injury-plagued years in the big leagues.
Let's take a closer look at their records.
MINOR LEAGUE COMPARISONS
G IP H R ER BB SO ERA
Beckett 43 215 142 51 42 51 295 1.76
Clemens 23 151 104 28 26 37 178 1.55
H/IP WHIP K/IP K/BB
Beckett 0.66 0.90 1.37 5.78
Clemens 0.69 0.93 1.18 4.81
The minor league records of Beckett and Clemens are eerily similar in terms of ERA, H/IP, and WHIP. Josh and Roger also struck out well in excess of one batter per inning and their strikeout/walk ratios were both around 5:1. Beckett's superiority in strikeouts is probably more a function of the difference in the eras in which they pitched than anything else.
MAJOR LEAGUE COMPARISONS:
Totals Through Age 23:
G IP H R ER BB SO ERA
Beckett 51 274 239 119 101 111 289 3.32
Clemens 36 232 229 105 100 66 200 3.88
H/IP WHIP K/IP K/BB
Beckett 0.87 1.28 1.05 2.60
Clemens 0.99 1.27 0.86 3.03
Again, there are more similarities between Beckett and Clemens than differences. Through age 23, Beckett has generated more strikeouts per inning than Clemens did although the latter had much better control than the former. All in all, one might give a slight edge to Beckett.
Going forward, Beckett will need to step up his regular season totals next year in order to stay abreast of Clemens as far as age comparisons are concerned because The Rocket broke through the following year (1986) with one of the premier seasons of the past 20 years.
G IP H R ER BB SO ERA
Clemens 33 254 179 77 70 67 238 2.48
H/IP WHIP K/IP K/BB
Clemens 0.70 0.97 0.94 3.55
Clemens won the first of his six Cy Young Awards in 1986 and was named the American League's Most Valuable Player as well. Clemens is the only starting pitcher in either league to win the MVP since Vida Blue
captured the A.L. MVP in 1971.
Does Beckett have it in him to put up a 1986 Clemens-type year in 2004? The answer is a definitive "yes" based on his postseason performance.
G IP H R ER BB SO ERA
Beckett 6 42.2 21 10 10 12 47 2.11
H/IP WHIP K/IP K/BB
Beckett 0.49 0.77 1.10 3.92
Whether Beckett comes through or not is an entirely different question. He certainly has the talent and the makeup to take the next big step, but he will need to remain healthy over the course of a full season to have a chance. Skeptics may point out that Beckett has never started more than 23 games or thrown more than 142 innings in a year. However, it should be noted that Clemens had never started more than 20 games or pitched more than 133 innings prior to his breakthrough season in 1986.
Given Beckett's meteoric rise during the postseason, I would not want to bet against him. To wit, Beckett entered the playoffs with 89 professional starts and no complete games. Less than a month later and the big righthander has two, both shutouts.
Roger, Over and Out
When Clemens took the mound in Game Four, he became the third oldest pitcher ever to start a World Series game. The Rocket was 41 years, 2 months, and 18 days old. Only Jack Quinn (45 years) and Grover Cleveland Alexander (41 yrs., 7 mos., 13 days) were older when they started World Series games. Clemens was also only the sixth pitcher with 300 or more wins to start a World Series game. In fact, Clemens and Steve Carlton are the only two pitchers to have 300 wins at the time of a World Series start in the past 80 years.
Pitcher Team 300th Win World Series
Cy Young Boston (A.L.) 7/6/1901 1903
Christy Mathewson New York (N.L.) 7/5/1912 1912, 1913
Walter Johnson Washington (A.L.) 5/29/1920 1924, 1925
Grover Alexander St. Louis (N.L.) 9/20/1924 1926, 1928
Steve Carlton Philadelphia (N.L.) 9/23/1983 1983
Roger Clemens New York (A.L.) 6/13/2003 2003
Prior to The Rocket's start in Game Four, only nine members of the Hall of Fame appeared in their final game as an active player in the World Series. The only pitcher to accomplish that feat was Sandy Koufax, the starting and losing pitcher in Game Two of the 1966 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles.
Player Team Year
Frank Baker New York (A.L.) 1922
Travis Jackson New York (N.L.) 1936
Bill Terry New York (N.L.) 1936
Joe DiMaggio New York (A.L.) 1951
Johnny Mize New York (A.L.) 1953
Jackie Robinson Brooklyn (N.L.) 1956
Sandy Koufax Los Angeles (N.L.) 1966
Eddie Mathews Detroit (A.L.) 1968
Willie Mays New York (N.L.) 1973
>From a Josh Beckett questionnaire in 1999:
Major leaguer I admire most: "Curt Schilling (Philadelphia Phillies) and Roger Clemens (New York Yankees). I know we are in different leagues, but we're the same kind of pitchers. I don't consider myself them yet, but I think I can get there."
Who's in Right?
Not a lot to say today, other than a World Series note or two. I'll be beginning my organizatinal meetings next week, so definitely check back for that. Onto my thoughts...
Last night, for the first time in his Major League career, Alfonso Soriano played the outfield. After pinch-hitting in the eighth, Soriano stayed in, playing right field for one inning. Is this forshadowing for next season?
Bernie Williams had an oft-injured season, and Soriano moving to center is a very realistic possibility. For that to happen, these things would need to happen:
- Yankees sign a solid RF, either Sheffield or Vlad
- They trade Nick Johnson for a starter (possibly Vazquez?)
- Sign Luis Castillo to play second
The last note is interesting, as Castillo may draw more interest than most free agents. Both New York teams are extremely interested, as is Boston, Chicago, and the Florida Marlins. I've said time and time again the Marlins have to sign him, but can they win a signing battle with some of the highest spending teams in the industry? Probably not.
On a seperate note, I never mentioned Roger Clemens final start. Clemens may appear in Game 7 (if it gets that far), but after that his career is over. I won't be tuning in to see the 2004 Olympics, so seeing Clemens' last pitches was amazing. He was one of the top three pitchers of this generation, competing only with Greg Maddux, and to a lesser degree, Pedro Martinez.
The Red Sox should announce some time this week that Grady Little will not manage the team in 2004, which will come as a big surprise. I have no idea who Theo Epstein will target for the job, but my guess is that no manager will be off limits. Boston has a tough road ahead of them, but having Theo always makes them a Wild Card.
Free Agent Preview: Catchers
I probably won't do all these at once, but it was something interesting to write about. At some point I'll preview each position, so you have the low-down on free agents, with another day of predictions.
One quick note: Jose Cruz Jr.'s option was declined by the Giants yesterday. Let me reiterate that Cruz's actions in the NLDS had a large part in this happening. He was very good for the G-Men in the first half, but literally fell apart. The team may go with prospects Todd Linden and Tony Torcato next season, or re-sign Jeffrey Hammonds.
World Series note: Ya think Carl Pavano's free agency stock is bullish? HELL YA!
2003-2004 Top 10 Free Agent Catchers
1. Pudge Rodriguez
2003- Pudge had a breakout season in 2003, putting himself into the top echelon of catchers once again. Runners still don't steal against him, and he still has that vicious throw to first. Questions of his bad handling of a pitching staff were answered. He's a little old, as well as a little fragile. But he's a doubles power hitter that is very clutch and can bat anywhere in the lineup. Irreplaceable.
Suitors- The Marlins are the favorite to sign Pudge, as he truly loved playing in his hometown. New York (Mets) say they are interested, which would indicate Piazza may start playing first base everyday. And if Pudge were to really hit the free agent market, he would get phone calls from Baltimore, the Cubs, and San Diego.
#2- Javy Lopez
2003- Javy had a fantastic 2003, setting the record for home runs hit by a catcher. But he hasn't strung two good years together in a long time, and he's one of the most fragile catchers on the list. Catchers are supposed to fall apart at his age, and a extreme drop in power could be foreseen.
Suitors- Unknown. The Braves will try to re-sign him at their price, but if he doesn't they'll use Johnny Estrada. The same group of teams, the Orioles, Cubs, Padres will call.
#3- Benito Santiago
2003- Didn't have quite the season he did in 2002, but is still remarkably resistant to old age. Remember, he'll be 38 next season, and probably will be catching another three years. He's a great leader, and will help with the bat a little bit. His success story won't hurt in bargaining either. This guy is made to go to a winner, so expect a contender to call his number.
Suitors- This could very well be the Cubs' top choice at catcher. Dusty loved him in San Francisco, and he could split time with Damian Miller well. His age and experience would be good for a still relatively young pitching staff.
#4- Greg Myers
2003- Myers is another old catcher whom is resilient, as Myers had one of the leagues' best first halfs this season. He proved he's still capable of being in a platoon role, and could very well be in that kind of situation in 2003.
Suitors- In the fourth spot, we're already into backups. Myers will either go to a bad team where he'll platoon for the starting spot, or a good team where he won't play that much. The Rangers seem like a good fit, as do the Cubs. I've also heard the Tigers mentioned with his name, although that doesn't make too much sense.
#5- Brad Ausmus
2003- While his production increased in the second half, Ausmus isn't one-fourth the offensive player he once was, which wasn't a lot in the first place. He is good behind the plate, a great leader, and gets huge press from how well he handles the pitching staff.
Suitors- The Astros want him back, to tutor their prospect John Buck, as well as to tutor their young pitchers like Wade Miller and co. The Padres are the only other team I've heard linked to his name. But write this down: Ausmus is an Astro in 2004.
#6- Brent Mayne
2003- Mayne started the heavier platoon half for the Royals this season, and held the job the whole year. He didn't embarass himself, but didn't drastically change his fate for 2004. He's a poor man's Greg Myers, and interest in him will show that.
Suitors- The Royals have already turned him down, so he could go anywhere. Landing on a team like the Giants, whom are going to play Yorvit Torrealba a lot would be a good idea.
#7- Todd Pratt
2003- With good catchers in his way (Piazza, Lieberthal), Pratt never gets too many at-bats. But he always produces. Todd is one of the best backup catchers in the league, as he doesn't disgrace himself behind the plate, and hits with power. I could easily argue him into the five spot, as long as he gets less than 200AB.
Suitors- Who knows. Pratt should find a team where he'll get his 150AB and 10HR. The Red Sox actually make a good fit, yet they seem enfatuated with Doug Mirabelli. I heard the Mets as a rumor, and the Dodgers would make sense.
#8- Sandy Alomar Jr.
2003- He's still a leader, although it's foolish to believe he can handle 50G behind the dish. Putting him on a young pitching staff with 100-150AB is the best way to use him, and he'll surprise you every once in awhile.
Suitors- The White Sox will re-sign him, or he'll start thinking about retirement. Sandy is probably going to coach one day, so it's not bad idea to keep him as a "player-coach" for one season. Miguel Olivo is ready for 400AB, so the ChiSox really do seem like a perfect fit.
What? Baseball is still being played?
Those words in my titles are quotes of thousands of Americans today, not realizing that a very boring World Series is happening right now. Just sit back and imagine what a Cubs v. Red Sox series would have been like...sigh...
Not much to say today, as the days are getting pretty dull in the baseball world. But, here's what I see in the Yanks and Marlins, with some mixed in toughts about the next year.
New York may be the smartest team in baseball. Hideki Matsui has showed how much knowledge he has, which is also evident in his great average with RISP. Derek Jeter plays extremely smart, although defensive problems do exist. Ditto Bernie Williams and Jason Giambi. Aaron Boone was a perfect pick up, and Jorge Posada fits in the very smart trend. Soriano doesn't really fit in here, he's just very toolsy. I heard a Luis Castillo to the Yanks rumor somewhere, and it really would make sense. And I don't think dealing Soriano would be too much of a problem...
Is Mariano Rivera the best postseason player ever? Quite possibly. Rivera is a completely different pitcher in the playoffs, able to go two innings with relative ease. This team spends a year preparing for October, and Rivera shows that more than anyone else. And by the way, I love Jose Contreras. And Andy Pettite? He has to be re-signed. Don't think George will let homegrown Pettite leave, especially when he is nearing in on most postseason wins EVER. And with these Red Sox rumors, Steinbrenner won't let him leave Yankee stadium for the winter most likely.
Nick Johnson and Karim Garcia rub me the wrong way. They aren't Yankee caliber players, and probably should be gone next season. I've heard the Boss wants Javier Vazquez, and Johnson would definitely appeal to the Expos. Throw in Juan Rivera and another prospect, and it's a deal. Hell, get Adrian Hernandez and Drew Henson off your hands too. Then, sign Doug Mientkiewicz, whom seems perfect for the Yankees. He is a very timely hitter, and a smart player. He plays fantastic defense, and would save Jeter and Soriano daily. I mean, the Yankee infield might even be decent. In right field, go with Sheffield. Sit back and imagine this...
1. Jeter- SS- RH
2. Williams- CF- SH
3. Soriano- 2B- RH
4. Giambi- DH- LH
5. Sheffield- RF- RH
6. Matsui- LF- LH
7. Posada- C- SH
8. Mientkiewicz- 1B- LH
9. Boone- 3B- RH
Fry the Fish
Don't expect dismantling from the Marlins next year, but don't expect the same team either. I've said it numerous tiimes, but the Marlins first worry should be putting popular, Miami-type players on the field. Florida loves Jeff Conine, Ugueth Urbina, Pudge, Luis Castillo. Let 'em stay. Encarnacion? Out. Looper? Out. Ramon Castro? Out. Mike Lowell or Derrek Lee should be out too. Yes, throw Brad Penny in there too. I like the idea of signing Jong-Soo Shim, whom would add some Korean influence to a very hispanic team. Oh and in case I didn't mention it...non-tender Alex Gonzalez.
Josh Beckett and Dontrelle Willis have impressed me so much this postseason, not complaining about usage patterns. Beckett is one of the game's true gems, and should be sensational next season. The team will have A.J. Burnett in relief next year, another one of my favorite pitchers. But I don't like Penny, get rid of him.
The Lowell/Lee decision will be tough. Lowell will command more interest, and Lee has been in Florida a long time. But Lowell is extremely popular in Miami, and the trade would probably get a lot of bad press. But if you could find a cheap arm to replace Penny, along with restoring order to the farm system...do it.
That's enough for today...
News on the Horizon
In yesterday's article I said today would be devoted to writing about the Mets, and the job Omar Minaya and Jim Duquette will have. Instead, I have an announcement that will allow me to postpone it. Next monday I will begin running a set of articles entitled "Organizational Meetings." In these, myself and one of the web's best team bloggers will be answering detailed questions about the upcoming months of their club. I will be putting the teams in order of regular season standings, so the Atlanta Braves will start, followed by the Yankees. Stay tuned, as Wait 'Til Next Year will be your central source for the offseason.
So instead of writing about the Mets, I thought I'd check into the Arizona Fall League. I'm still gathering data on my big AFL project, in which I'll make a generalization about whether or not the AFL helps a prospect, and whom it will help. This will be done after the Organizational Meetings, sometime around when the AFL season ends. I will also have predictions based on my research about which players will breakout in 2004. Whew.
AFL midseason hitting report
Last season big Ken Harvey dominated the AFL, to the tune of a 1.287 OPS. This year's Harvey is Jonny Gomes, an outfield prospect for the Devil Rays. But unlike Harvey did this season, Gomes will spend the majority of 2004 in the minors, further refining his skills. Early research suggests that players whom go from the AFL to the Majors aren't helped or hindered dramatically. Gomes is a very toolsy player, 5 tools to be exact, whom hasn't quite put it together yet. He started to at the end of the season, and seems to be carrying it into the AFL.
A pair of Oakland 1B are doing very well, both Dan Johnson and Graham Koonce. Johnson leads the AFL in hits, RBI, and is 2nd in OBP. He dominated the Texas League in 2003, and seems to be heading down a similar path that Justin Morneau did. Koonce isn't playing in the AFL, but plays for team USA, whom has played games vs. AFL teams. He is hitting over .500, and proving that the Oakland re-signing of Scott Hatteberg rivals the bad decisions of signing Terrence Long and Chris Singleton. Yes, I really do believe Beane is overrated.
A pair of Cubs hitters, Jason Dubois and Brendan Harris are having very good first halves. Dubois is looking to follow the Todd Linden or Terrmel Sledge path, while Harris is trying to be 2004's Chase Utley. Texas hitters Adrian Gonzalez and Ramon Nivar are also having good seasons. Gonzalez will also try to follow the Morneau model, although he may get throw into the mix like Hee Seop Choi did. Nivar is similar to Jermaine Clark, putting up good numbers but isn't ready for the Majors.
More predictions when the season ends...
AFL midseason pitching report
Jerome Williams led the AFL in WHIP in 2003, and subsequently had a very solid rookie season. The Devil Rays are very enthused by this, as former top-five overall draft pick Dewon Brazelton is dominating for the Mesa Solar Sox. His WHIP is well below 1.00 in 14 innings, and he looks very rejuvenated. The Devil Rays are looking more and more bullish everyday, as a Gonzalez, Zambrano, Gaudin, Switzer, Brazelton rotation is looking mighty fine. Interesting note that Devil Rays players would win both the MVP and Cy Young if the season ended today.
Not many pitchers are having success yet, which is common in the AFL. Another that is jumping out is Neal Cotts, whom had a bad first experience with the White Sox this season. He's rebounded well in the AFL, only walking two men so far, but the ChiSox would be smart to shut him down cery soon. A good comparison may be Horacio Ramirez, whom had a very good 2002 AFL.
Jason Frasor is a good example of why numbers tend to lie in pitching this time of the year. In 2002, the great triumvrate of Brent Hoard, Ryan Larson, and Phil Seibel were in the top 10 in WHIP. Bad pitchers can succeed here, and it doesn't necessarily translate to future success. But Frasor did strike out 50 in 38 AA innings while in relief, so he may be a good Rule V pick. Note: Dan Carrasco of the Royals had a sensational 2002 AFL.
The only other pitchers truly succeeding thus far are Chris Young and Ben Fritz. Young had a sensational 2003, after being dealt to Montreal for MATT HERGES. He's 6-6, and very projectable. He reminds me of Jeremy Griffiths, the Mets farmhand whom had a good AFL, and a solid 2003. Expect some of the same from Young next season.
I'm very excited to look more into the AFL and the mysteries behind it. If you don't check back for the Organizational Meetings, be sure to come back when the AFL closes.
Hope everyone had a good weekend, no notes on the World Series because I'm not watching it. But let me just say that keeping Luis Castillo should be a huge priority for the Marlins. Today I'm going to be writing about team's with job vacancies, the Reds, Mariners, and Mets. Each situation provides difficulties for the new general manager, with little economic resources to do so.
Reds- Dan O'Brien
Mariners- Mike Port
Mets- Omar Minaya/Jim Duquette
The Reds were a pitiful team during the second half, going only 26-43. The team had injuries in the entire outfield, along with the third base and shortstop positions. The end of season rotation was completely different than the one that began the year, and half the bullpen had been dealt away. The team sold out, trading Aaron Boone, Jose Guillen, Kent Mercker, Gabe White, and Scott Williamson. Dan O'Brien's job will be the same as his predecessor, Jim Bowden: find pitching.
Offense is not something the Reds have a problem on. Their outfield of Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey, and Austin Kearns is one of the best in the game when healthy. Dunn should have a very good 2004, and Kearns should establish himself as one of baseball's true threats. It's anyone's guess what to expect from Griffey, if anything. And for that reason, and his gaudy contract, it is virtually impossible to deal Junior away.
If the team is focused on deals, trading Sean Casey is the best option. Casey doesn't hit like a first basemen should, and some of his antics (although he's a fantastic leader) haven't been great PR. It will be difficult to deal him unless the team takes on someone else's bad contract, preferably that of a pitcher. One name that comes to mind is Livan Hernandez, whom the Expos might need to deal this winter. Outside of Montreal, there aren't many other places Casey could go. The Giants might spend money if the price was cheap, or the Braves could swing a deal. But trading Casey is an easy way to land pitching, and save some money.
The infield remains a big question for the Reds. D'Angelo Jimenez played fantastic after being acquired from the White Sox, and he will be the second basemen and leadoff man. The team also found Ryan Freel from their AAA club, whom proved to have a bat capable of handling the shortstop position. So O'Brien must be able to push Juan Castro and Ray Olmedo aside, and give the job to Freel and occasionally Barry Larkin. At third, go with Brandon Larson. Sure the last two seasons Larson has been unable to put his minor league stats onto paper...he's a great hitter. At first put Adam Dunn, whom would move in from left. And in his left field position, split time between Wily Mo Pena and Steve Smitherman.
One thing O'Brien won't lose sleep over is his bullpen. First-Round pick Ryan Wagner looks to be a fantastic reliever, and I believe is the Majors' next Troy Percival. The team went with Chris Reitsma in the closer role late, but he is better suited for middle relief. Failed starters Danny Graves and John Reidling will return to the bullpen, where they've had considerably more success. And Phil Norton, a southpaw acquired from the Cubs, played very well in September.
But it will be the rotation that holds the Reds back, not allowing the team to make a run at the division. Jimmy Haynes is under contract, and can be an ineffective innings-eater at the back end of the rotation. Hopefully the prize for Sean Casey will be a Major League starting pitcher, one that the team can thrust into action. Jose Acevedo pitched fantasically in four starts, and will be all but handed a starting role. Brandon Claussen and Aaron Harang, acquisitions from deadline deals, will have chances at jobs along with homegrown products John Bale and Josh Hall. I would also reccomend this team tries to find a diamond-in-the-rough, because an Esteban Loaiza would really help this club.
Pat Gillick put great teams on the field the last two seasons in Seattle, yet couldn't find a club capable of reaching the postseason. Call it his lack of deadline acquisitions or team's without depth, there have been problems with the M's. Gillick's replacement must be ready to deal at all times, and provide Bob Melvin with a lot of options.
The Mariner offense will be hurting in 2004, as both Edgar Martinez and Mike Cameron are expected to walk away. This will leave Bret Boone as the only condierable power source, which provides a big need in left field. While the team always thought Chris Snelling would be their player, signing a Raul Ibanez-type player would be a good idea. This would push Randy Winn into centerfield, where he is better suited for.
Limiting Jeff Cirillo's playing time is important, so grabbing a shortstop (so Guillen plays third) is a must. The team has Japanese owners and a huge Japanese following, so signing Kaz Matsui is very likely. He should be a doubles hitter in the Majors, also capable of stealing twenty or thirty bases. The DH position will have a huge hole, as Edgar Martinez has been so important for the team the last five seasons. Ellis Burks is an option, and he's had an OPS over .900 three of the last five seasons.
Stud Rafeal Soriano will make his presence heard in the rotation next year, becoming the first of many starter prospects to reach the Majors. He will join Jamie Moyer, Joel Piniero, Gil Meche, and Ryan Franklin in a very formidable rotation. Freddy Garcia will either be traded or non-tendered, with emphasis on the latter. He proved to be way too inconsistent, and Bryan Price was unable to fix his problems. If Meche or Franklin struggles, Rett Johnson, Clint Nageotte, or Travis Blackley will be up immedietly.
Much of the Seattle bullpen may walk during this winter, including Armando Benitez, Arthur Rhodes, and the all-important Shigetoshi Hasegawa. It's very important the team signs Hasegawa, although both Benitez and Rhodes won't be huge losses. Julio Mateo pitched fantasically in the second half, and should replace Benitez in the set-up role. Sasaki will be healthy next season, and must pitch like the closer we saw during his rookie year. J.J. Putz, Aaron Looper, Aaron Taylor, and Brian Sweeney are all in-house options to fill the remaining spots. Signing a LOOGY somewhere off the market might be important too.
More on the Mets tomorrow...
First off, let me apologize to my readers for a not-so-good week. I only made two posts, and one was my complaining on a Cubs loss. I know bitching about a playoff team losing falls to a lot of deaf ears, but I needed to put it on paper. I have a lot of potential things going on with this site in the next few weeks, so stay tuned. I'm sorry Red Sox fans, I know how you feel. And to the Dodger fans? Read on...
Los Angeles Dodger Minor League Report
On the Major League level, the Dodgers are a lost franchise. The team lacks an owner (for now), so Dan Evans has been left clueless if he's employed. The team will pay Darren Dreigort and Kaz Ishii one-sixth of their payroll in 2004, and don't get me started on Todd Hundley. But while the team is bearish in Los Angeles, Evans has created a good minor league system. The team matches good drafts with international signings well, and have a very good group of top prospects.
It all starts in the pitching department, where the team owns two of the Majors top three pitching prospects. Edwin Jackson spent the entire season pitching for Jacksonville (AA) at 19 years of age, and held his own. He then got a September call-up and pitched fantastically, even beating Arizona ace Randy Johnson. The other prospect is Greg Miller, an 18-year old southpaw. Miller started the year in the Florida State League, before a mid-season promotion to AA. He dominated the Southern League, allowing 15 hits in 26.2 innings, while striking out 40. He will likely start at the same level in 2004, but could move very quickly if he continues pitching so well. In 2005, the Dodgers will have 21-year-old Edwin Jackson and 20-year-old Greg Miller pitching in the same rotation.
The other two great players in the system are hitters,and both spent much of the year in Vero Beach (high-A). Franklin Gutierrez broke out in 2003, becoming one of the Majors' top five OF prospects. He hit 24 home runs during the regular season, batting near the .290 range, and has a big arm. He finished the year in AA, hitting .313/.387/.597 in 67 at-bats. James Loney struggled this year, due to a big wrist injury. First base prospects all across the minors dealt with this problem in 2003, from Stokes to Adrian Gonzalez to Loney. Much of his loss in power is due to that, but his solid average of .276 should be the monitor of success. He'll be a 20-year-old in AA next season, after being one of the nation's best prep players before the 2002 draft. Both Loney and Gutierrez should have everyday jobs in 2006, and the Dodgers offensive problems will be subsequently gone.
Beside Jackson, Los Angeles will likely employ two other rookies next season. Joel Hanrahan was the Southern League Pitcher of the Year before a late season call-up to the PCL. He is a sinker/slider pitcher in the same mold as Kevin Brown, and will likely benefit from his advice. Hanrahan should join the rotation next year, bumping either Dreifort or Ishii (Dreifort) to the bullpen. The other rook is Koyie Hill, whom is a top 10 catcher. Hill lacks real weakness, and reminds me of a young Brad Ausmus. He won't be the first to play in any All-Star games, but he'll help his team behind the plate. It's possible Hill will move Paul Lo Duca to either first or left, as the Dodgers value his bat highly. With three touted prospects entering rookie status next year, don't be surprised to see a Dodger pick up the NL Rookie of the Year.
The rest of the talent in this system is in the low levels, where Evans has really got some interesting players. He has the middle infield stocked, although shortstops are very difficult to project. The best middle infield the Dodgers have isn't a shortstop, he's a second basemen. Delwyn Young hit fantastically in the South Atlantic League, although his defense is sub-par. He reminds many of Victor Diaz, the prospect the team dealt for Jeremy Burnitz. Some say Evans was actually staking his bet on Young becoming a better player than Diaz. The other big middle infield prospect is Chin-Lung Hu, a Taiwanese prospect whom debuted in the Pioneer League. Hu already has Major League defense, and hit over .300 with the Ogden Raptors. But, he's only 5-8, so his doubters wonder if that bat will continue to progress as he moves through the system. The other middle infielders are Reggie Abreu (2B), and Joel Guzman (SS), whom are both very raw. The only other real hitter in this system is Reggie Abercrombie. He is an outfield prospect with all the right tools, but can't put it on paper. He has the speed, the power, and the arm to make it in the Majors, but he will be in the PCL next season. If he learns to play center as well as he can right, and he shortens his swing, he'll join Miller in the 2005 Dodger class.
The rest of the pitching in the Dodger system is intriguing as well. Chad Billingsley, the team's first-round choice, is the best, as his fastball and curve were more refined after he was drafted. Brian Pilkington is a former top-five draftee whom put up solid numbers in the FSL this season. Mike Megrew is a big leftie teenager in a similar build to Greg Miller, although he doesn't throw nearly as hard. The team has chosen to put Marcos Carvajal in relief his first season, and he struck out 50 in 38 innings. He's a good prospect, but it's hard to hype a pitcher before he reaches full-season ball.
What's really interesting about this system is that I could see the 2004 ROY go to Jackson, Miller in 2005, Gutierrez or Loney in 2006, Young in 2007, and Billingsley in 2008. Keep your eye on Dodger blue!
Top 12 Prospects
1. Edwin Jackson
2. Greg Miller
3. James Loney
4. Franklin Gutierrez
5. Joel Hanrahan
6. Delwyn Young
7. Chad Billingsley
8. Koyie Hill
9. Brian Pilkington
10. Xavier Paul- OF
11. Chin-Lung Hu
12. Reggie Abercrombie
And no folks...I don't want to hear about curses ever again.
OK folks, I've been bad about posts in the last week. I went on vacation, and then had my eyes glued to a TV screen. The last week was the hardest I've ever had to endure as a baseball fan...as a Cubs fan.
It's hard for me to put everything on screen right now, which may sound cheesy. But I am a die hard fan of the Chicago Cubs, and no one knows this feeling but fellow fans. I wasn't alive in 1969, 1945, or 1908; hardly coherent for 1984 and 1989. 1997 was a joke; this was my year.
Billy Goat, Billy Buckner, Don Young...it doesn't matter. I don't care about Steve Bartman, whether he lives 45 minutes from me, or 45,000 miles. This loss was about Josh Beckett, Alex Gonzalez, Kerry Wood, Kyle Farnsworth, Dave Veres, and Dusty Baker.
Now don't get me wrong, I've been a Baker fan all year, he was a fantastic manager. And yes, I think Baker is a good manager. But there is something that holds him back from being a great manager, it holds him back from owning World Series rings. It's loyalty, it's the ability to manage in the playoffs. In three games, Jack McKeon had it, Dusty did not.
If you're managing for the Cubs: understand when to take out a pitcher, and never EVER let Dave Veres pitch. Good night, and Eamus Catuli.
The Rocket vs. Pedro: The Sequel
Does it get any better than the game three matchup? Well, I guess it does! How 'bout The Rocket vs. Pedro, game seven?
Roger Clemens vs. Pedro Martinez. The New York Yankees vs. the Boston Red Sox. American League Championship Series. Game seven. Winner goes to the World Series. Yankee Stadium. The Bronx Zoo. The House that Ruth Built. The Curse of the Bambino. Rematch of game three, otherwise known as Beanball in Beantown. The Rocket's final start against his former team. Maybe the last game of his major league career. Two of the ten best pitchers in the history of baseball going head to head once again.
Clemens and Martinez have faced each other five times, including last Sunday's game. The Red Sox have won three and the Yankees have won two. Pedro is 2-1 and Roger is 1-2. Will the Yankees and The Rocket even the score on Thursday?
TELL OF THE TAPE
Roger Clemens Pedro Martinez
Height 6'4" 5'11"
Weight 235 180
Birthdate 8/4/1962 10/25/1971
Throws Right Right
2003 17-9, 3.91 14-4, 2.22
Career 310-160, 3.19 166-67, 2.58
Cy Youngs Six Three
Which pitcher would you want on your side starting the big game? Mychael Urban in his Full Count column
for mlb.com asked 95 players representing all 30 teams who they would vote for as the "Best Clutch Starter in the Game". The respondents selected Pedro number one with more than one third of the votes. Clemens tied for seventh with 5% of the votes.
Pitcher Team Votes
Pedro Martinez BOS 32
Roy Halladay TOR 19
Curt Schilling ARI 11
Randy Johnson ARI 9
Kevin Brown LA 9
Mark Prior CHC 6
Esteban Loaiza CWS 5
Roger Clemens NYY 5
Mike Mussina NYY 4
Tim Hudson OAK 4
Russ Ortiz ATL 3
Bartolo Colon CWS 3
Jason Schmidt SF 3
Roy Oswalt HOU 2
Jamie Moyer SEA 2
Greg Maddux ATL 2
Eleven tied with 1.
Note: Some of the players polled mentioned more than one pitcher, so the number of answers is higher than the number of respondents.
At their respective peaks, the above question would have made for a much livelier debate. I don't think Pedro has ever been as dominant as Roger was in the latter's 20-strikeout, no walk, three-hit shutout vs. the Seattle Mariners in 1986. On the other hand, as great as Clemens has been for 20 years, he has never pitched as well over a full season as Pedro did in 2000 (1.74 ERA vs. 4.97 for the league with only 128 hits allowed and 32 walks in 217 IP while striking out 284 for a K/BB ratio of nearly 9:1 and a WHIP of less than .75).
Load up the VCRs and DVD recorders. This is one you may want to show your grandchildren.
Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT
The Rocket vs. Pedro
Does It Get Any Better Than This?
American League Championship Series. New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox. Game Three. Series Tied 1-1. Roger Clemens
vs. Pedro Martinez
. Red Sox aces past and present. Nine Cy Young Awards. Clemens scheduled to pitch at Fenway Park for the last time. Tickets going for more than $1,000 on eBay. A surefire ESPN Sports Classic.
Clemens and Martinez have faced each other four times in their careers but only once in the postseason. The following is a brief review of their matchups:
The first time they went head to head was in the ALCS on October 16, 1999. Clemens lasted only two-plus innings and allowed five runs on six hits and two walks. Martinez pitched seven scoreless innings and struck out 12 as the Red Sox pummeled their arch rivals 3-1 at Fenway Park.
The second head-to-head confrontation took place on May 28, 2000. Martinez outdueled Clemens in a 2-0 Red Sox victory, tossing a complete game shutout while scattering four hits and striking out nine. Clemens also pitched a complete game, allowing only five hits while striking out a season high 13 batters. Trot Nixon hit a two-run home run with two outs in the top of the ninth inning to beat Clemens and the Yankees. After hitting two batters, Pedro induced Tino Martinez to ground out to second with the bases loaded to end the game.
The third matchup occurred less than three weeks later on June 14, 2000 but failed to fulfill the excitement of the previous game as The Rocket left the game after only one inning with a strained groin, an injury that placed him on the disabled list the following day. Pedro went six innings and allowed one run but did not get credit for the victory as Boston rallied late to defeat New York, 2-1.
The last time Clemens and Martinez paired up was on April 14, 2001. The Yankees won, 3-2, but neither Clemens (6 IP, 2 R, 5 K) nor Martinez (7 IP, 2 R, 9 K) were involved in the decision.
Boston Red Sox, 3-1. New York Yankees, 1-3. Pedro Martinez, 2-0 with a 0.93 ERA. Roger Clemens, 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA.
Rather than writing a preview of this afternoon's game (several of which can be found on espn.com, mlb.com, and a multitude of baseball blogs), I thought it made more sense to provide a Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT stamp on this historic matchup.
The Rocket vs. Pedro:
G GS CG IP H R ER HR BB SO W L
Clemens 607 606 117 4278.2 3677 1672 1517 321 1379 4099 310 160
Martinez 355 288 41 2079 1553 667 597 149 554 2426 166 67
CAREER RATE STATS
ERA WHIP BAA OBP SLG OPS
Clemens 3.19 1.18 .231 .295 .339 .634
Martinez 2.58 1.01 .206 .266 .315 .581
ALL-TIME LEADERS (1900-2003)
RUNS SAVED ABOVE AVERAGE RSAA
1 Lefty Grove 668
2 Walter Johnson 643
3 Roger Clemens 613
4 Greg Maddux 540
5 Grover C Alexander 524
6 Randy Johnson 461
7 Pedro Martinez 453
8 Christy Mathewson 405
9 Tom Seaver 404
10 Carl Hubbell 355
Clemens has led the league in Runs Saved Above Average (RSAA) six times (1986, 1990-1992, 1997, and 1998). Martinez has led the league four times (1997, 1999, 2000, and 2003). [The RSAA totals are the amount of runs that a pitcher saved vs. what an average pitcher would have allowed under the same conditions. It's essentially the same stat as Total Baseball's Pitching Runs. The stats are adjusted for the year, league, and home ballpark in an attempt to compare the player's performance to the average player in his environment.]
The following rankings are based on the pitchers' statistics vs. the league average, both in terms of the absolute difference and the ratio. A minimum of 1,500 innings pitched was required for inclusion.
ERA DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE
1 Pedro Martinez 1.87 2.58 4.46
2 Lefty Grove 1.36 3.06 4.42
3 Randy Johnson 1.25 3.10 4.35
4 Hoyt Wilhelm 1.24 2.52 3.76
5 Roger Clemens 1.20 3.19 4.39
6 Lefty Gomez 1.16 3.34 4.50
7 Greg Maddux 1.16 2.89 4.05
8 Kevin Brown 1.12 3.16 4.29
9 Whitey Ford 1.10 2.74 3.84
10 Walter Johnson 1.07 2.17 3.24
ERA RATE PLAYER LEAGUE
1 Pedro Martinez 173 2.58 4.46
2 Ed Walsh 152 1.82 2.76
3 Walter Johnson 149 2.17 3.24
4 Hoyt Wilhelm 149 2.52 3.76
5 Three Finger Brown 148 1.93 2.85
6 Lefty Grove 144 3.06 4.42
7 Addie Joss 144 1.89 2.72
8 Randy Johnson 140 3.10 4.35
9 Greg Maddux 140 2.89 4.05
10 Whitey Ford 140 2.74 3.84
11 Roger Clemens 138 3.19 4.39
Clemens has led the league in ERA six times (1986, 1990-1992, 1997, and 1998). Martinez has led the league five times (1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, and 2003).
HITS/9 IP DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE
1 Pedro Martinez 2.55 6.72 9.27
2 Nolan Ryan 2.19 6.56 8.75
3 Randy Johnson 2.11 7.02 9.13
4 Sandy Koufax 1.95 6.79 8.74
5 J.R. Richard 1.89 6.88 8.77
6 Sid Fernandez 1.85 6.85 8.70
7 Lefty Gomez 1.62 8.23 9.85
8 Andy Messersmith 1.57 6.94 8.51
9 Hoyt Wilhelm 1.56 7.02 8.58
10 Bob Feller 1.55 7.69 9.24
12 Roger Clemens 1.49 7.73 9.22
HITS/9 IP RATE PLAYER LEAGUE
1 Pedro Martinez 138 6.72 9.27
2 Nolan Ryan 133 6.56 8.75
3 Randy Johnson 130 7.02 9.13
4 Sandy Koufax 129 6.79 8.74
5 J.R. Richard 127 6.88 8.77
6 Sid Fernandez 127 6.85 8.70
7 Andy Messersmith 123 6.94 8.51
8 Hoyt Wilhelm 122 7.02 8.58
9 Bob Turley 121 7.19 8.71
10 Bob Feller 120 7.69 9.24
13 Roger Clemens 119 7.73 9.22
Clemens has led the league in hits per nine IP three times (1986, 1994, and 1998). Martinez has led the league five times (1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, and 2003).
BASERUNNERS/9 IP DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE
1 Pedro Martinez 3.46 9.55 13.01
2 Mike Mussina 2.68 10.55 13.23
3 Curt Schilling 2.49 10.19 12.68
4 Walter Johnson 2.33 9.85 12.18
5 Tiny Bonham 2.19 10.41 12.60
6 Cy Young 2.19 9.33 11.51
7 Bret Saberhagen 2.18 10.47 12.65
8 Carl Hubbell 2.14 10.62 12.77
9 Ed Walsh 2.13 9.16 11.29
10 Addie Joss 2.11 8.94 11.05
14 Roger Clemens 2.03 10.93 12.96
BASERUNNERS/9 IP RATE PLAYER LEAGUE
1 Pedro Martinez 136 9.55 13.01
2 Mike Mussina 125 10.55 13.23
3 Curt Schilling 124 10.19 12.68
4 Walter Johnson 124 9.85 12.18
5 Addie Joss 124 8.94 11.05
6 Cy Young 123 9.33 11.51
7 Ed Walsh 123 9.16 11.29
8 Christy Mathewson 121 9.64 11.67
9 Tiny Bonham 121 10.41 12.60
10 Bret Saberhagen 121 10.47 12.65
18 Roger Clemens 119 10.93 12.96
Clemens has led the league in baserunners per nine innings twice (1986 and 1997). Martinez has led the league five times (1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, and 2003).
STRIKEOUTS DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE
1 Nolan Ryan 2536 5714 3178
2 Randy Johnson 1705 3871 2166
3 Roger Clemens 1279 4099 2820
4 Walter Johnson 1191 3509 2318
5 Rube Waddell 1090 2267 1177
6 Dazzy Vance 1086 2045 959
7 Steve Carlton 981 4136 3155
8 Bob Feller 963 2581 1618
9 Sandy Koufax 958 2396 1438
10 Pedro Martinez 943 2426 1483
STRIKEOUTS RATE PLAYER LEAGUE
1 Dazzy Vance 213 2045 959
2 Rube Waddell 193 2267 1177
3 Nolan Ryan 180 5714 3178
4 Randy Johnson 179 3871 2166
5 Sandy Koufax 167 2396 1438
6 Pedro Martinez 164 2426 1483
7 J.R. Richard 163 1493 918
8 Dizzy Dean 160 1163 725
9 Van Lingle Mungo 160 1242 775
10 Bob Feller 160 2581 1618
22 Roger Clemens 145 4099 2820
Clemens has led the league in strikeouts five times (1988, 1991, 1996-1998). Martinez has led the league three times (1999, 2000, and 2002). Clemens has led the league in strikeouts per nine innings three times (1988, 1996, and 1998). Martinez has led the league five times (1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, and 2003).
STRIKEOUTS/WALKS DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE
1 Pedro Martinez 2.49 4.38 1.89
2 Cy Young 2.30 3.74 1.43
3 Curt Schilling 2.29 4.22 1.93
4 Bret Saberhagen 1.89 3.64 1.75
5 Mike Mussina 1.82 3.56 1.74
6 Dennis Eckersley 1.68 3.25 1.57
7 Christy Mathewson 1.68 2.96 1.29
8 Jon Lieber 1.67 3.60 1.93
9 Deacon Phillippe 1.60 2.88 1.28
10 Ferguson Jenkins 1.53 3.20 1.67
25 Roger Clemens 1.25 2.97 1.72
STRIKEOUTS/WALKS RATE PLAYER LEAGUE
1 Cy Young 261 3.74 1.43
2 Dazzy Vance 239 2.43 1.02
3 Pedro Martinez 232 4.38 1.89
4 Christy Mathewson 230 2.96 1.29
5 Deacon Phillippe 226 2.88 1.28
6 Walter Johnson 225 2.57 1.14
7 Curt Schilling 218 4.22 1.93
8 Dizzy Dean 212 2.57 1.21
9 Lefty Grove 211 1.91 0.90
10 Bret Saberhagen 208 3.64 1.75
34 Roger Clemens 173 2.97 1.72
Clemens has led the league in strikeouts divided by walks four times (1987, 1988, 1990, and 1992). Martinez has led the league three times (1999, 2000, and 2002).
WINS DIFF PLAYER LEAGUE
1 Christy Mathewson 108 373 265
2 Walter Johnson 90 417 327
3 Grover C Alexander 87 373 286
4 Lefty Grove 80 300 220
T5 Eddie Plank 71 305 234
T5 Warren Spahn 71 363 292
7 Roger Clemens 70 310 240
8 Greg Maddux 67 289 222
9 Whitey Ford 59 236 177
10 Three Finger Brown 58 208 150
T17 Pedro Martinez 49 166 117
WINS RATE PLAYER LEAGUE
1 Andy Pettitte 148 149 100
2 Pedro Martinez 142 166 117
3 Christy Mathewson 141 373 265
4 Three Finger Brown 139 208 150
5 Sam Leever 138 173 125
6 Dizzy Dean 137 150 110
7 Lefty Grove 136 300 220
8 Lefty Gomez 135 189 140
9 Whitey Ford 134 236 177
10 Mike Mussina 133 199 149
25 Roger Clemens 129 310 240
Clemens has led the league in wins four times (1986, 1987, 1997, and 1998). Martinez has led the league once (1999).
WINNING PERCENTAGE PCT
1 Pedro Martinez .712
2 Sam Leever .692
3 Whitey Ford .690
4 Lefty Grove .680
5 Randy Johnson .669
6 Vic Raschi .667
7 Christy Mathewson .665
8 Roger Clemens .660
9 Sal Maglie .657
10 Andy Pettitte .656
Clemens has led the league in winning percentage three times (1986, 1987, and 2001). Martinez has led the league three times (1999, 2002, and 2003).
Source: Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia
Roger Clemens has won a record six Cy Young Awards (1986, 1987, 1991, 1997, 1998, and 2001), while Pedro Martinez has won three Cy Young Awards (1997, 1999, and 2000). Clemens has also won a Most Valuable Player Award (1986).
Conclusion: We're looking at two of the ten best pitchers of all time. Clemens has better career totals and Martinez has better rate stats. One could argue that The Rocket could be ranked as high as third all time based on quantitative stats, while a case could be made that Pedro is number one all time based on qualitative stats. As it currently stands, Roger's combination of cumulative and rate stats are superior to Pedro's. The latter's cumulative totals will obviously grow over time, but his rate stats may slip slightly as he ages. In any event, Clemens and Martinez rank high enough in both departments to warrant inclusion among the Top Ten Pitchers of All Time.
Getting back to the matchup at hand, October 11, 2003 may not be Ali vs. Frazier (III)--aka The Thrilla in Manila--but it has the potential of becoming one of the most talked about baseball games ever. As famed boxing announcer Michael Buffer would say, "Let's Get Ready to Rumble".
Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT
Hey y'all, unfortunately I don't have a long post today, I'm going on vacation in a matter of hours. So, I will promise three organization breakdowns on Monday (yes, even though it's a holiday). Today is a notes day, but I got some interesting stuff below:
- Miguel Tejada wants to play for Art Howe again? The day before he wasn't ready to leave Oakland? The week before he initiated a conversation with Angel owner Arte Moreno? Wow, what a confusing guy. Tejada will be a big prize this offseason, but cross the Mets and A's off immedietly. Both are committed to youngsters at shortstop (Reyes and Crosby), and Tejada doesn't fit in. Anaheim would make sense, as would the Chicago Cubs!
- The Mets instead will go after another Oakland A, pitching coach Rick Peterson. There is no better pitching coach in the business, no one else understands pitch counts like Peterson. This would be reuniting him with Art Howe, a perfect match. The Mets need some guidance from a pitching coach, and Peterson might be the second best in the business (behind Dave Duncan of course).
- Another Oakland A coach that might not be back next season is Terry Francone. He will be given an interview for the White Sox job, along with Gaston, Guillen, Perlozzo, and Backman. All signs point to Cito Gaston, who would make the most sense with a team of veterans going for the championship. In Baltimore, expect Sam Perlozzo, the 2003 bench coach to battle Eddie Murray for the job. Perlozzo would be the solid baseball decision, while Murray might be the most popular public relations option. This choice will tell us a lot about the Flanagan/Beattie combo.
- Yesterday, Baseball Prospectus had their best chat ever, with Kevin Towers. A few points Towers made:
1) He isn't comfortable with Ryan Klesko playing an outfield corner. He also states he doesn't want to deal Klesko, which would open up Phil Nevin to a possible deal.
2) Towers likes a leftie in the rotation, and will pursue David Wells, Sterling Hitchcock, and Chuck Finley for the 5th starter slot.
3) Trevor Hoffman will be back.
4) Brad Ausmus and Benito Santiago are popular 2004 Padre catching options, but Towers sees them as fallback choices. He says the team is pursuing a few trades, with 3 playoff catchers (2 AL, 1 NL). He's talking about A.J. Pierzynski, Ramon Castro, and likely Ramon Hernandez. Pierzynski makes a lot of sense for this team, and is probably Towers' first choice.
- David Eckstein heading back to Boston is a popular option. The team will likely non-tender Adam Kennedy, but also have good second base options in Chone Figgins and Alfredo Amezaga. So, sending Eckstein to Boston, where he could succeed Todd Walker is a popular idea. Eckstein is the OBP-type the Red Sox would love, and you have to figure he'd be a popular player in Beantown.
- A few notes from Yankee pitching yesterday:
1) Steinbrenner has to re-sign Pettite. Andy doesn't think he's going to be back, despite the fact he's a career Yankee. I don't think I've ever seen a pitcher who works so well despite giving up a lot of hits. Pettite is the essence of a playoff pitcher, although he doesn't quite get the press of Mariano Rivera or David Wells.
2) Jose Contreras looked awesome last night. When I said Contreras would be top-five in Cy Young voting next year, I was serious.
When I wake up Sunday morning, I expect the Red Sox to be up 2-1 in the series (Clemens gets out of the game early), and the Cubs and Marlins to be notched at two apiece (Wood and Willis each throw good games). Check back on Monday for the Indians, Dodgers, and a mystery team...
This Millenium Is Ours
What I'm thinking after a day of Championship Series viewing:
- Why doesn't Dusty pitch-hit for Mark Prior in the bottom of the 6th inning, in an 11-2 game, after he had thrown 94 pitches? A nine-run lead is a great time for Juan Cruz to get some work, and Prior would be much better rested for Game 6 (or Game 5 on 3 days rest?). Dusty took the Cubs to the NLCS, but he also might take them out of the playoffs (don't think Zambrano's bad pitching isn't his doing).
- I really hope the Cubs don't confuse Alex Gonzalez with a good player and don't pursue Tejada as a result.
- David Ortiz MUST be re-signed by the Red Sox. There hasn't been a player that plays with more heart in recent memory.
- Will Carroll suggested it, and I've been thinking: is Mike Lowell better to trade than Derrek Lee. I've always said the team should deal Lee, and put Cabrera in left. But, trading Lowell (Dodgers?) would be a good move, and would free up a lot of money. This team must start keeping core players, whom currently include Pudge, Castillo, Urbina, and Dontrelle. Don't take the ability to pack 70,000 into one stadium lightly.
Organization #5- Chicago Cubs
Organizational Record- 324-360 (.474)
AAA Iowa- 70-72
AA West Tennessee- 65-73
A+ Daytona- 66-71
A- Lansing- 69-66
R Boise- 27-49
AZL Cubs- 27-29
Top 5 Draft Pick Performance
1. Ryan Harvey- .235/.339/.431 6XBH in 51 AZL AB (OF)
2. Jake Fox- .240/.321/.400 in 50AZL AB AND .260/.330/.490 in 100 A- AB (C)
3. Tony Richie-.175/.266/.211 in 57 A- AB (C)
4. Darin Downs- 0-2 6.57 48H/38.1IP 32K/17BB in 13 AZL Appearances (LHP)
5. Sean Marshall- 5-6 2.57 66H/73.2IP 88K/23BB in 14 NWL starts (LHP)
While injuries and underperformance played a key role in a subpar 2003, the Chicago Cubs farm system still ranks among the elite. The Cubs are backloaded with pitchers that have high ceilings, allowing each pitcher to be taken slow.
Almost every pitcher in this system missed time at some point, giving worry to the way in which the team is handling pitchers. Angel Guzman, the top prospect, missed most of the season after arm surgery in early June. Andy Sisco missed time, Bobby Brownlie was shut down early, and Justin Jones had shoulder soreness.
But, they can pitch. Guzman was one of the best pitchers in the Southern League before his injury, and may have been a September call-up this season. Instead, Guzman will eye the 2005 season to debut in the Cubs rotation. The effects of surgery aren't supposed to make him any less of a pitcher, as that 70 slider (on a scouting scale), will still be there next season.
Andy Sisco has yet to touch his potential on the field, but his body still awes scouts. Built like Randy Johnson, Sisco didn't dominate Midwest League hitters as he was expected to. He'll move to Daytona next year, where he'll spend the full season in the Florida State League. Bobby Brownlie, the team's 2002 first-round pick, was signed and played in Daytona this season. He pitched extremely well, even despite his velocity being down. The team made a good decision shutting him down early, and there isn't a minor league pitcher whom should break out more than Brownlie in 2004.
Chadd Blasko held the breakout role this season, keeping an ERA below 2.00 in twenty-six starts. For some reason the FSL gave the Pitcher of the Year to Florida's Nick Ungs, while it was the former-Purdue grad that deserved it. He'll be in an all-star rotation in West Tennessee next season, and he must better the whole team to figure in the Chicago picture.
While all the aforementioned players look great, the two highest ceilings in the organization are Justin Jones and Felix Pie. Jones is a southpaw whom had only 16 low-A starts, before complaining of shoulder soreness. His H/9 is always under 9, while the K/9 is over 10. He needs to put together a healthy season, and then will be mentioned in the top-five prospect debates. Pie is a Dominican outfielder looking to follow similar paths of Sosa and Vladimir Guerrrero. He showed a little plate discipline and a lot of speed this season, but not quite the power that is expected to develop. He plays a great outfield, and will be more than capable in center or right.
The Cubs are breeding arms like no one else in the Majors, yet the stress must be to keep these players healthy. If Kerry Wood escapes Chicago after 2004, the Cubs are more than ready to throw someone into the fire. And when Sosa leaves in a few seasons, Felix Pie will continue the Dominican trend. Cubs fans: this millenium is ours.
Top 12 Prospects
1. Angel Guzman- SP
2. Felix Pie- OF
3. Justin Jones- SP
4. Andy Sisco- SP
5. Bobby Brownlie- SP
6. Chadd Blasko- SP
7. Ryan Harvey- OF
8. Jae-Kuk Ryu- SP
9. Brendan Harris- 3B
10. Sean Marshall- SP
11. David Kelton- OF
12. Ron Bay- SP
Check back tomorrow, for a Double Dish of organizational reports. I'm 2-1 so far in the playoffs, and quite happy about it. Derek Lowe will be a little tired tomorrow, as the Yankees will even up this series. Yes, Cubs and Yankees are still the right WS picks.
9. Sean Ma
Buc is Cub backwards
Wow, great Cubs game. But, what I learned for the future is about the Cubs' bullpen. Yes, I would love to have a team with Remlinger, Farnsworth, and Borowski. They all bear down on right-handers very well, and all finished the season well. But, the 'pen seriously lacks depth. Mark Guthrie had a horrible September and lost last night's game, Dave Veres was responsible for a Division Series loss, and Alfonseca is terrible. The team doesn't need to pursue a closer, but right-handed middle relievers are a good idea. I would also go with Todd Wellemeyer, whom started fantastically in the Majors....
#4 Organization- Pittsburgh Pirates
Organizational Record- 399-288 (.581)
AAA Nashville- 81-62
AA Altoona- 78-63
A+ Lynchburg- 76-59
A- Hickory- 82-54
SS Williamsport- 46-30
GCL Pirates- 36-20
Awards and League Recognition
Eastern League Cy Young- Sean Burnett
Carolina League MVP- Chris Shelton
South Atlantic League MVP- Jorge Cortes
Top 4 Draft Picks Performance
1. Paul Maholm- 2-1 1.83 25H/34.1IP 32K/10BB in 8 NY-P starts (LHP)
2. Thomas Gorzelanny- 1-2 1.78 23H/30.1IP 22K/10BB in 8 NY-P starts (LHP)
3. Kyle Pearson- 3-2 2.05 26H/26.1IP 25K/10BB in 9 GCL appearances (RHP)
4. Craig Stansberry- .307/.370/.434 14XBH in 166 NY-P AB (3B)
While many will look at the 2003 Trade deadline and infer the Pirates sold out, they actually built a great farm system. Other big decisions, like taking Brian Bullington and making John Van Benschoten a pitcher were huge decisions.
The Pirates have four big pitchers at the top: Bullington, Van Benschoten, Sean Burnett, and Ian Oquendo. Van Benschoten has the highest ceiling, a converted NCAA Home run champ. He is still learning the art of pitching, but has mid-90s heat and a 12-to-6 curve. Bullington is out to prove that the top draft pick wasn't wasted, and has similar tools to the top pick. He has the traditional four pitches, with his slider being his out pitch. Burnett is a soft-throwing a leftie that hasn't had a bad season since joining this organization. For some reason, you have to believe in this kid, whom has had three straight years with improving K/BB rates. Oquendo has super-high potential, but this was his first big season. He must take his big curve to the next level in 2004, and then he could be the top choice.
It was the mid-season acquisitions that turned this organization from solid to top-five. Freddy Sanchez is a great middle infielder, a future second hitter whom has Bill Mueller potential. Yes, I think it's possible for him to win a batting crown at one point. Jason Bay will be Giles' replacement next season, which are extremely large shoes to fill. But he more than proved himself in the PCL, and even impressed Lloyd McClendon in September. Finally, Cory Stewart is an Independent League signing made prospect, whom has quickly become the second-best southpaw in this system. There is a decent possibility that Stewart will be the first of the starters to reach the Majors, which is by mid-season in 2004.
The final group of Pirates prospects are hitters that have produced, but lack the skills. Chris Shelton and Ryan Doumit are following the Criag Wilson path, although both have good skills. Shelton threw out 26% of basestealers, which indicates he may stay behind the dish. Doumit is lesser defensively, and will may be behind Walter Young on the Pirates' first base depth chart. J.J. Davis is a former first-round pick that hit 26 homers in the PCL this past season, and will have the Pirates RF job next year. Davis is a former pitcher whom has turned his power on the last two seasons.
Dave Littlefield was told to drop payroll a couple of seasons ago, and is still working at that at. By landing Sanchez, Bay, Stewart, and Bobby Hill, he's proving he can identify solid prospects. The next route is to turn these players into solid Major Leaguers, and put the Pirates into the playoffs again.
Top 12 Prospects
1. John Van Benschoten
2. Brian Bullington
3. Sean Burnett
4. Ian Oquendo
5. Freddy Sanchez
6. Jason Bay
7. Chris Shelton
8. Cory Stewart
9. Jose Castillo
10. Ryan Doumit
11. J.J. Davis
12. J.R. House
Well, I'm 1-0 in Championship Series predictions so far. In the Boston-New York game one, expect the Yankees to pull out a close game. Mark Prior should pitch a big game for the Cubs, while the North Siders will beat up Brad Penny. Peace...
Angels and Alameda
Last night, one of the great divisional series in history ended. The Red Sox-A's series was fantastic, and a treat to watch. What amused me was knowing that the Red Sox won, while one could argue they didn't outplay Oakland in one game.
Looking into some interesting match-ups, Zambrano and Beckett debut tomorrow, while Wakefield and Mussina will go in the ALCS on Wednesday. But the most interesting matchup is Pedro vs. Clemens in the Fenway opener (Game 3), where theoretically, Clemens' last start may come on Yawkey Way. But, it unfortunatly looks like will miss a Dontrelle Willis in Wrigley homecoming (although it has happened once this year.)
Onto my organization report for the day. Today was extremely busy for me, and I couldn't quite decide on my fourth team. So, today will be only one team, going a little more in-depth. That means one day in the near future, hopefully for the weekend, I'll have three in one day. But moving on...
#3 Organization- Anaheim Angels
Organizational Record- 353-340 (.509)
AAA Salt Lake- 68-75
AA Arkansas- 70-70
A Rancho Cucamango- 74-66
A Cedar Rapids- 66-77
R Provo- 54-22
AZL Angels- 21-35
Awards and League Recognition
California League Pitcher of the Year- Ervin Santana
Pioneer League Pitcher of the Year- Abel Moreno
Top 5 Draft Picks Performance
1. Brandon Wood- .308/.349/.462 in 78 AZL AB AND .278/.348/.475 in 162 Rleague AB (SS)
2. Anthony Whittington- 0-3 8.03 31H/24.2IP 20K/17BB in 9 AZL appearances (LHP)
3. Sean Rodriguez- .269/.332/.380 15XBH in 216 AZL AB (SS/3B)
4. Bob Zimmerman- 4-2 4.50 57H/48IP 17K/8BB in 10 Rookie League starts (RHP)
5. Brad Balkcom- .290/.345/.427 14XBH in 131 Rookie League AB (OF)
It isn't often that a team goes from hoisting a championship banner to a transition year, but hey, they say California is a different world. While the Brewers were my top choice because they had the best top ten in baseball, the Angels have the best top five.
The future of Angel baseball lies in five players: Casey Kotchman, Jeff Mathis, Dallas McPherson, Ervin Santana, Bobby Jenks. Kotchman, Mathis, and McPherson all have top two arguments in their respective positions, and Santana and Jenks are both top ten potential for pitchers. The highest ceilings belong to Jenks and McPherson. The latter has forty home run potential, but may need to learn a new position with Troy Glaus locked into the hot corner. Jenks has Cy Young, 200 K potential, but his control has always been a worry.
Kotchman is one of the most oft-injured players in the minors, and must put together a 500AB season. I see a lot of John Olerud in Casey, although some could argue more towards Rafeal Palmiero. Anyway, there aren't many sweeter swings in the game than Kotchman's. A lot of sabermatricians would argue Mathis over Baseball America favorite Joe Mauer, since Mathis has been putting some balls over the fence. But Jeff has also hit more than seventy doubles in two seasons, and you can expect some of those to be flying out in Anaheim. It isn't everyday that a average defensive catcher can put up 30HR seasons, and Jorge Posada is a great comp. Santana dominated the California League before some struggles in the Texas League, and I need to see another good season before I jump on the bandwagon.
And more so than in the past, this Angels system has pretty solid depth. The Provo and Cedar Rapids teams were filled with talent, and the upper levels weren't dry either. First, let me point out Alberto Collapso and Erick Aybar, whom will go up the ladder as a middle infield combo. Callapso is by far the superior, being a little faster and having a little more pop. But both are very similar players, and should follow similar trends. They also have Howie Kendrick, a 2B whom put up big numbers in even lower levels. One pitcher to watch out for is Rafeal Rodriguez, whom Kotchman's father likens to Francisco Rodriguez.
Despite all this depth, the Angels recently axed their scouting director. Why? Bad drafting. The Angels top five did miserably, and were pretty bad choices. I thought Texas shortstop Omar Quintanilla was a more solid pick than Wood, whom didn't show many strengths in pro ball. I also liked the other Oakland A's first round pick, Brad Sullivan, a Houston right-hander whom fell two spots after the Angels. Anaheim's first three selections were college players, and only Balkcom played from an elite university. This team must start to utilize the draft more, as there won't be so many Warner Madrigal steals in the future.
This offseason Angels ownership has highlighted Miguel Tejada as thier top priority. Since shortstop has become a fairly deep position in the organization, this puts Alfredo Amezaga on the trade market. But, look for the top five to hit the Majors full-time in 2005, with the next crop following two to three years after. There won't be another World Championship banner in the Angels immediate future, but there is sure going to be some good baseball.
Top 12 Prospects
1. Jeff Mathis- C
2. Casey Kotchman- 1B
3. Bobby Jenks- RHP
4. Dallas McPherson- 3B
5. Ervin Santana- RHP
6. Alberto Callapso- 2B
7. Rafeal Rodriguez- RHP
8. Erick Aybar- SS
9. Steven Shell- RHP
10. Warner Madrigal- OF
11. Howie Kendrick- 2B
12. Joe Torres- RHP
That's it for the day, I'd like to finish with one comment: Cubs in six.
Organization Reports Begin
CUBS WIN! This was definitely one of the great weekends in baseball history, marked with some great Marlin and Red Sox wins, and the Cubs first postseason series win in 95 years. Baseball is on a huge upswing, and I think we'll remember the Division Series as more fun than the World Series.
One quick divisional series note: I think Pudge's great series likely sealed his fate to stay a Marlin, and Jose Cruz should land on the free agent market as a result of his horrid play.
The next three weeks I will do organziational reports, in order of my rankings. These reports will include organization records, prospect rankings, draft performance, and my own analysis. Today, I'll debut with the Brewers and Blue Jays. Enjoy...
#1 Organization- Milwaukee Brewers
Overall Minor League record: 322-365 (.469)
AAA Indianapolis- 64-78
AA Huntsville- 75-63
A+ High Desert- 42-98
A- Beloit- 75-61
SS- Helena- 48-28
R-League- Brewers- 18-37
Awards and League Recognitions
Southern League (AA) MVP- Corey Hart- 3B
Midwest League (A-) MVP- Prince Fielder- 1B
Pioneer League (SS) MVP- Lou Palmisano- C
Top 5 Draft Picks Performance
1- Richie Weeks- .349/.494/.556 10XBH 15BB/9K in 63 low-A at-bats (2B)
2- Tony Gwynn Jr.- .280/.364/.326 9XBH 32BB/31K in 236 low-A at-bats (OF)
3- Lou Palmisano- .391/.458/.592 21XBH 18BB/29K in 174 SS at-bats (C)
4- Charlie Fermaint- .300/.327/.420 7XBH 3BB/19K in 100 R-League at-bats (OF)
5- Bryan Opdyke- .272/.364/.388 10XBH 16BB/25K in 103 R-League at-bats (C)
It wasn't long ago that the Brewers were the most laughable franchise in all of baseball. All that has changed, thanks to the new Doug Melvin regime. The team has used high draft picks well, as the last five picks (Sheets, Jones, Krynzel, Fielder, Weeks) all play large roles in the team's future.
I believe the Brewers are taking the same path the Minnesota Twins did five years ago, letting prospects take over the field. This Milwaukee organization has prospects at every position, along with more than enough pitching depth. They are also starting to take the OBP-approach to drafting, as seen by the high OBP and BB/K ratios of their top five draft picks. It's also interesting to note that the club's first five picks were all hitters, as Melvin has realized drafting pitchers is simply a crapshoot.
While the organization didn't finish .500 as a whole, the center of attention should be on the AA and low-A franchises. The Southern League Huntsville team was solid all-around, housing prospects Brad Nelson, J.J. Hardy, Corey Hart, Dave Kynzel, Mike Jones, Ben Hendrickson, Luis Martinez, and Ben Diggins. The Midwest League Beloit team was solid as well, and Prince Fielder, Richie Weeks, Anthony Gwynn, and Manny Parra were the big names there. Much of the team's prospects will debut in 2004, and the team should be completely prospect-laden in 2005.
Next year will be a transition season for the club, mixing veterans while trying to incorporate youngsters. This season the club discovered Scott Podsednik, Dan Kolb, and Matt Ford, all of whom play roles in the future. There are many rumors the team will deal Richie Sexson in the offseason, largely to make room for Brad Nelson and later Prince Fielder. Oft-injured Geoff Jenkins will stay, as the organization's one weakness seems to be corner outfielders. Ben Sheets will make a large amount of money next year, and must prove why he was drafted before Barry Zito.
By finishing the Major League season with a 68-94 record, the Brewers will have either the fifth or sixth pick in the 2004 Amateur Draft. The team will likely target advanced pitchers and corner outfielders, two areas of need. I love the way they've drafted the last five years, which is a great sign for Bud Selig and company.
Look for the team to debut Mike Jones, J.J. Hardy, Dave Krynzel, Corey Hart, and Brad Nelson next season, possibly topping Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in the NL Central. But, this team's future will be in 2007, long after Prince Fielder succeeds. It's also interesting to note that much of the club's success will be after Bud Selig leaves the Commissioner Office and regains control of the organization. Conspiracy? I think not.
Top 12 Prospects
1. Prince Fielder- 1B- More power than anyone in the minor leagues
2. Richie Weeks- 2B- Second basemen with a third basemen's bat
3. J.J. Hardy- SS- Will be solid 20/20 player in the Majors
4. Brad Nelson- 1B/OF- 40HR or flame-out potential
5. Mike Jones- RHP- One of best curveballs in minors, but injury risk
6. Manny Parra- LHP- Underrated left-hander prospect
7. Corey Hart- 3B- Former first basemen has converted well, doubles power
8. Dave Krynzel- CF- Kenny Lofton comparisons unfair, but solid leadoff potential
9. Luis Martinez- LHP- One of minors largest breakout stories
10. Lou Palmisano- C- Third-Round steal?
11. Ben Hendrickson- RHP- Huge potential if he rebounds from injury
12. Anthony Gwynn- OF- Brewers taking family blood into account
#2 Organization- Toronto Blue Jays
Overall Minor League Record: 370-327 (.591)
AAA Syracuse- 62-79
AA New Haven- 79-63
A+ Dunedin- 78-62
A- Charleston- 57-76
SS Auburn- 56-18
R-League Pulaski- 38-29
Awards and League Recognition
Eastern League MVP- Alexis Rios
New York-Pennsylvania MVP- Vito Chiaravolloti
Top 5 Draft Picks Performance
1- Aaron Hill- .361/.446/.492 in 122 SS AB and .286/.343/.345 in 119 low-A AB (SS)
2- Joshua Banks- 7-2 2.43 58H/66.2IP 81K/10BB in 15 SS starts (RHP)
3- Shaun Marcum- 1-0 1.32 15H/34IP 47K/7BB in 21 SS relief appearances (RHP)
4- Ken Isenberg- 7-2 1.63 40H/60.2IP 57K/19BB in 13 SS starts (LHP)
5- Justin James- 2-1 3.20 34H/39.2IP 42K/11BB in 13 SS appearances, 8 starts (RHP)
To succeed in the high-spending AL East, the Toronto Blue Jays are going to need to utilize drafts and trades to milk the most out of their organization. Locking up former Billy Beane right-hand man J.P. Riccardi was a great start.
The Jays youth movement has already begun at the Major League level, with Josh Phelps, Orlando Hudson, Eric Hinske, Vernon Wells, and others leading the way. The team lacks pitching at the Major League level, and locking up Roy Halladay and Kelvim Escobar have become top priorities as a result. As was the team's pitching-laden draft, drafting four hurlers with their top five picks.
An interesting note is the team's top three prospects, Guillermo Quiroz, Alexis Rios, and Dustin McGowan are not the types of players Riccardi would normally employ. But it was the former front-office that liked catchers (Werth, Cash), athletic high school outfielders (Stewart, Wells), and high-school pitchers (Halladay). These three players are the future of this team, while Riccardi is quick to point to his prospects, like Russ Adams and Jason Arnold.
Riccardi pointed to 2004 as an important season for his club, as it will likely be the team's final with slugger Carlos Delgado. The lineup will likely start to mix in prospects Kevin Cash, Gabe Gross, and Arnold, while placing their hopes on the shoulders of Delgado, Wells, and Halladay. It's unlikely this team will compete next year, probably falling behind the high-spending Orioles. But once their host of young pitching hits the Majors, watch out.
Top 12 Prospects
1. Guillermo Quiroz- C- Forget collapsed lung, Quiroz has it all
2. Alexis Rios- CF- Legitimate batting crown potential
3. Dustin McGowan- RHP- Should hit Majors in big way in 2004
4. Aaron Hill- SS- Riccardi's boy, huge pick
5. Brandon League- RHP- Numbers haven't caught up with potential
6. David Bush- RHP- Numbers are way over his potential
7. Gabe Gross- OF- Rebounded from disappointing 2002 campaign
8. Russ Adams- 2B/SS- Should be a solid, Knoublach-like player
9. Kevin Cash- C- Needs a big year in 2004, but gold glove potential
10. Jason Arnold- RHP- Dominated AA, but struggled after promotion
11. Joshua Banks- RHP- Leads the way for dominating Auburn pitching
12. Vito Chiaravollito- 1B- I don't care if skills aren't there, he won the Triple Crown
HM- Note that former top prospect Francisco Rosario is returning in 2004, and should re-emerge as a big-time prospect.
That's all for now folks...
Make Room For MVP #6 In The Bonds Portfolio
My National League MVP top ten list (excluding pitchers) is as follows:
Rank Player Team Pos
1 Barry Bonds SF LF
2 Albert Pujols STL LF
3 Gary Sheffield ATL RF
4 Javy Lopez ATL C
5 Todd Helton COL 1B
6 Marcus Giles ATL 2B
7 Scott Rolen STL 3B
8 Edgar Renteria STL SS
9 Jim Thome PHI 1B
10 Richie Sexson MIL 1B
"THE QUAD" STATS
Rank Player Team Pos TOB OBP TB SLG
1 Barry Bonds SF LF 291 .529 292 .749
2 Albert Pujols STL LF 301 .439 394 .667
3 Gary Sheffield ATL RF 284 .419 348 .604
4 Javy Lopez ATL C 187 .378 314 .687
5 Todd Helton COL 1B 322 .458 367 .630
6 Marcus Giles ATL 2B 244 .390 290 .526
7 Scott Rolen STL 3B 251 .382 295 .528
8 Edgar Renteria STL SS 260 .394 282 .480
9 Jim Thome PHI 1B 269 .385 331 .573
10 Richie Sexson MIL 1B 272 .379 332 .548
BA/OBP/SLG (OPS) STATS
Rank Player Team Pos BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Barry Bonds SF LF .341 .529 .749 1.278
2 Albert Pujols STL LF .359 .439 .667 1.106
3 Gary Sheffield ATL RF .330 .419 .604 1.023
4 Javy Lopez ATL C .328 .378 .687 1.065
5 Todd Helton COL 1B .358 .458 .630 1.088
6 Marcus Giles ATL 2B .316 .390 .526 .916
7 Scott Rolen STL 3B .286 .382 .528 .910
8 Edgar Renteria STL SS .330 .394 .480 .874
9 Jim Thome PHI 1B .266 .385 .573 .958
10 Richie Sexson MIL 1B .272 .379 .548 .927
While everyone seems to have a favorite A.L. MVP (A-Rod
for the sabermetrically inclined and anyone from Shannon Stewart
to David Ortiz
to Miguel Tejada
for the touchy feely crowd), the choice in the N.L. comes down to Barry Bonds
vs. Albert Pujols
. Rate stats vs. cumulative stats in the eyes of many. The major difference for me is that Bonds' rate stats are historically significant whereas Pujols' cumulative stats are not.
2003 All-Time Rank
OBP .529 5th
SLG .749 11th
OPS 1.278 7th
TA 1.731 5th
2003 All-Time Rank
TOB 301 >100th
TB 394 37th
RC 174 54th
RCAA 101 T47th
As great as Pujols' numbers were this year, Bonds' were even better. Another way of looking at their relative values is to ask yourself the following questions:
1. Would a Giants team with Albert Pujols and without Barry Bonds been better off or worse off?
2. Would a Cardinals team with Barry Bonds and without Albert Pujols been better off or worse off?
According to Lee Sinins of the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia and Around The Majors report, Barry Bonds created 115 runs above average (RCAA), while Pujols had 101. The next best player on the Giants had 8. The next best player on the Cardinals had 42 and Pujols had five teammates who had more RCAA than Bonds' best teammate.
The bottom line is that the magnitude of Barry's stats and significance to his team this year were superior to Albert's contributions, no matter how hungry voters may be to come up with an MVP other than Bonds.
Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT
National League "Quad" Leaders
As a follow-up to the American League article, I have prepared lists of those National Leaguers who did the best job of getting on base and accumulating bases (both in terms of the number of times as well as the percentage of times). The four categories of "The Quad" are times on base, on base percentage, total bases, and slugging average.
The leaders are as follows:
Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies led the National League in the number of times on base with 322. Helton also led major league baseball in this category. He had a fantastic season, ranking first in TOB; second in BA (.358), OBP (.458), TB (367), R (135), and BB (111); third in SLG (.630) and OPS (1.088); and sixth in RBI (117). The third or fourth best offensive stats in the league, unadjusted and adjusted.
N.L. LEADERS TIMES ON BASE
Rank Player Team TOB
1 Todd Helton COL 322
2 Albert Pujols STL 301
3 Barry Bonds SF 291
T4 Bobby Abreu PHI 284
T4 Gary Sheffield ATL 284
6 Luis Gonzalez ARI 273
7 Richie Sexson MIL 272
8 Lance Berkman HOU 271
9 Jim Thome PHI 269
10 Jason Kendall PIT 265
Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants led the N.L. in on base percentage with .529, .071 higher than Helton's second place finish and .102 above the A.L. leader. Bonds had another season for the ages, ranking first in OBP, SLG (.749), OPS (1.278), and BB (148); second in HR (45); third in TOB (291) and BA (.341); and sixth in R (111). And to think that Barry did all this playing half of his games at Pac Bell Park rather than Coors Field or some other hitter friendly stadium.
N.L. LEADERS ON BASE PERCENTAGE
Rank Player Team OBP
1 Barry Bonds SF .529
2 Todd Helton COL .458
3 Albert Pujols STL .439
4 Brian Giles SD .427
5 Larry Walker COL .422
6 Gary Sheffield ATL .419
7 Lance Berkman HOU .412
8 Bobby Abreu PHI .409
9 Chipper Jones ATL .402
10 Luis Gonzalez ARI .402
Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals led the N.L. in total bases with 394. Pujols also led the major leagues in this category. Albert had a great year, ranking first in TB, BA (.359), and R (137); second in TOB (301), SLG (.667), and OPS (1.106); third in OBP (.439); fourth in HR (43); and fifth in RBI (124). First or second on every voter's MVP ballot.
N.L. LEADERS TOTAL BASES
Rank Player Team TB
1 Albert Pujols STL 394
2 Todd Helton COL 367
3 Gary Sheffield ATL 348
4 Richie Sexson MIL 332
5 Jim Thome PHI 331
6 Preston Wilson COL 322
7 Jeff Bagwell HOU 317
8 Javy Lopez ATL 314
9 Luis Gonzalez ARI 308
10 Jay Payton COL 307
Bonds not only led the league in on base percentage, but he also finished atop the leaders in slugging average with a mark of .749. Bonds beat out Pujols by .082 and crushed the A.L. leader by a remarkable .149. Barry's rate stats for 2003 place his season among the very best ever. Only Babe Ruth (1920, 1921, and 1923), Ted Williams (1941), and Bonds (2001 and 2002) have had years with a higher OPS than the 1.278 that Barry posted this year.
N.L. LEADERS SLUGGING PERCENTAGE
Rank Player Team SLG
1 Barry Bonds SF .749
2 Albert Pujols STL .667
3 Todd Helton COL .630
4 Jim Edmonds STL .617
5 Gary Sheffield ATL .604
6 Jim Thome PHI .573
7 Richard Hidalgo HOU .572
8 Sammy Sosa CHC .553
9 Richie Sexson MIL .548
10 Geoff Jenkins MIL .538
Helton, Pujols, and Gary Sheffield are the only three players who finished in the top ten in all four categories, and it should be noted that Helton and Pujols were in the top three across the board. Bonds, Jim Thome, Richie Sexson, and Luis Gonzalez made the top ten three times. As explained in the A.L. Quad article, I would give strong consideration to these seven players in my MVP voting as well as Javy Lopez and Jason Kendall given the difficulty of their positions and perhaps Jim Edmonds and Preston Wilson for their play in center field--the most demanding outfield position. Of these eleven, I would discount Helton, Wilson, and Gonzalez the most for the benefits of their home ballpark.
I will post my top ten for the N.L. MVP (excluding pitchers) on Saturday.
Improving on 119
My eyes hurt, I've just spent the last two hours or so looking at Detroit Tiger statistics. But, there have been some interesting findings, and I think Dave Dambrowski will start working at improving this team.
First, to attack the hitting:
Notable Hitters vs. LH (OPS)
Craig Monroe (.968)
Brandon Inge (.760)
Shane Halter (.705)
Eric Munson (.675)
Carlos Pena (.640)
Bob Higginson (.642)
Ramon Santiago (.479)
Notable Hitters vs. RH (OPS)
Carlos Pena (.837)
Eric Munson (.778)
Bob Higginson (.712)
Ramon Santiago (.617)
Craig Monroe (.600)
Shane Halter (.542)
Brandon Inge (.527)
Wow, those are some notable platoons. Criag Monroe is a great hitter vs. left-handers, but couldn't touch a Major League rightie. The two Tiger young hitters, Munson and Pena, can slug RH very well, but are terrible vs. lefties. Switch-hitter Ramon Santiago shows a big affinity to right-handers, while Shane Halter favors southpaws. And Brandon Inge, a HACKING MASS All-Star, is pretty solid against lefties. I also didn't include Ben Petrick in the discussion, although he also prefers left-handers.
Alex Sanchez, while not a great hitter, has no real platoon spread. Neither does Dmitri Young, the team's most talented slugger. Cody Ross, a young outfielder, hit lefties very well in his debut, but struggled against right-handers. And, there really is no second basemen on this team (Omar Infante and Warren Morris don't count).
Well, I have the Dambrowski want list. This is basically my opinion of how to best improve this team by spending virtually no money.
1. Sign either Ben Grieve or Orlando Palmiero- Both these guys would make good platoon partners with Criag Monroe. Grieve is the more risky choice, but he could always return to his old form, and he did post an .841 OPS vs. RH in 2002. Palmiero probably could put up an .800, but doesn't have a ceiling.
2. Sign a 2B, either Tony Graffanino, Juan Castro, or Chris Stynes- My pick would be Graff, whom I've seen do solid here in Chicago. He's a solid hitter with doubles power, and will take a walk on occassion. Castro is renowned for his defense, but hit above .250 this season. I don't like Stynes, but he used to be a very good hitter.
3. Sign Brent Mayne- Mayne is a LH catcher with an affinity to right-handed pitchers. He is a veteran, and could probably help the Tiger staff. He would platoon with Brandon Inge until he proves to be a more reliable catcher.
4. Sign Fernando Tatis- Definitely worth the risk. This gives Alan Trammell the option to bench Munson against some lefties, and you're hoping Tatis returns to form. It's likely he'll draw no interest from other teams, so this should be a gimmee.
That would give the Tigers this lineup vs. RH:
1. Sanchez- CF
2. 2B signee
3. Young- DH
4. Pena- 1B
5. Munson- 3B
6. Higginson- LF
7. Grieve- RF
8. Mayne- C
9. Santiago- SS
And vs. LH:
1. Sanchez- CF
2. 2B signee
3. Young- 1B
4. Monroe- RF
5. Ross- LF
6. Munson/Tatis- 3B
7. Petrick/Pena- DH
8. Inge- C
9. Halter- SS
And that, is a much improved lineup. Now to the pitching...
News flash: the Tigers have too many relievers. Yes, you read that correctly, too many. Here's why:
1. Fernando Rodney was voted by International League managers to have the best fastball in AAA, a level which he dominated as closer.
2. Franklyn German is a year removed from being the best relief prospect in baseball, and also did extremely well in a demotion to AAA.
3. Expensive Matt Anderson did a good job in his second tour in Comerica Park.
4. Another expensive reliever, Danny Patterson, finsihed the year solidly in middle relief.
5. Chris Mears landed a few saves, as long as a solid performance in the bullpen. But, he's no starter.
6. Matt Roney was a Rule V pick also tried in starting, although he proved to be a solid long-leftie in the bullpen.
7. Chris Spurling was another one of the Tigers' Rule V picks, and he blossomed towards the end of the year.
8. Jamie Walker was the team's best reliever, and is one of the league's best unknown LOOGYs. He likely could draw interest on the trade market.
9. Another leftie that did well was Eric Eckenstahler. The tall leftie only allowed five runs in 15.2 innings, with an ERA under 2.00.
Here are my cuts:
Trade Walker for whatever you can get, and send Mears, Eckenstahler, and Brian Schmack to AAA. Wilfredo Ledezma, the team's final Rule V pick, is said to have some promise, so put him in the AAA rotation as well.
The starting rotation doesn't look so promising. My belief is Jeremy Bonderman should head to AAA to start next season, forming a AAA rotation of:
1. Jeremy Bonderman
2. Wilfredo Ledezma
3. Rob Henkel
4. Kenny Baugh
5. Preston Larrison
6. Andy Van Hekken
And believe me, all these players could benefit by going on a six-man rotation. That means, in the Majors I left Mike Maroth, Nate Cornejo, Nate Robertson, and Shane Loux.
Maroth pitched decently, showing promise in at least one month (June). He could take a big turn at one point, like Mike Redman did, but in the least he's a leftie that will eat innings. Nate Cornejo is a right-hander, but he should be good for 200 innings. He'll get smacked around, but hopefully his sinker is good enough that day to pitch out of jams. Nate Robertson showed great potential in his August call-up, mixing solid starts with ugly ones. As did Shane Loux, who had an ERA less that 2.00 in AAA until July. That would leave the Tigers with four starters, including three lefties. That puts Dambrowski in the market for one right-handed pitcher, someone who at least will draw some attention. My choices would be Scott Erickson, Cory Lidle, John Thomson, and Freddy Garcia. And, that's written from my least choice to my highest. So naturally, expect the Tigers to get Erickson.
Here's a recap of my 2004 improved Tiger squad...
Catchers: Brent Mayne, Brandon Inge
Infielders: Carlos Pena, 2B signee, Ramon Santiago, Shane Halter, Eric Munson, Fernando Tatis, Dmitri Young
Outfielders: Bobby Higginson, Alex Sanchez, Craig Monroe, Ben Grieve, Cody Ross
Starting Rotation: Lidle/Erickson, Maroth, Cornejo, Robertson, Loux
Bullpen: Fernando Rodney, Franklyn German, Matt Anderson, Danny Patterson, Matt Roney, Chris Spurling
That's all for now. And, I'm going to the Cubs game today!!!!!!!
Time To Give A-Rod The Nod
My American League MVP top ten list (excluding pitchers) is as follows:
Rank Player Team Pos
1 Alex Rodriguez TEX SS
2 Carlos Delgado TOR 1B
3 Manny Ramirez BOS LF
4 Bret Boone SEA 2B
5 Jorge Posada NYY C
6 Vernon Wells TOR CF
7 Bill Mueller BOS 3B
T8 Nomar Garciaparra BOS SS
T8 Alfonso Soriano NYY 2B
T10 Aubrey Huff TB RF
T10 Magglio Ordonez CWS RF
"THE QUAD" STATS
Rank Player Team Pos TOB OBP TB SLG
1 Alex Rodriguez TEX SS 283 .396 364 .600
2 Carlos Delgado TOR 1B 300 .426 338 .593
3 Manny Ramirez BOS LF 290 .427 334 .587
4 Bret Boone SEA 2B 258 .366 333 .535
5 Jorge Posada NYY C 238 .405 249 .518
6 Vernon Wells TOR CF 264 .359 373 .550
7 Bill Mueller BOS 3B 237 .398 283 .540
T8 Nomar Garciaparra BOS SS 248 .345 345 .524
T8 Alfonso Soriano NYY 2B 248 .338 358 .525
T10 Aubrey Huff TB RF 259 .367 353 .555
T10 Magglio Ordonez CWS RF 256 .380 331 .546
BA/OBP/SLG (OPS) STATS
Rank Player Team Pos BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Alex Rodriguez TEX SS .298 .396 .600 .996
2 Carlos Delgado TOR 1B .302 .426 .593 1.019
3 Manny Ramirez BOS LF .325 .427 .587 1.014
4 Bret Boone SEA 2B .294 .366 .535 .901
5 Jorge Posada NYY C .281 .405 .518 .923
6 Vernon Wells TOR CF .317 .359 .550 .909
7 Bill Mueller BOS 3B .326 .398 .540 .938
T8 Nomar Garciaparra BOS SS .301 .345 .524 .869
T8 Alfonso Soriano NYY 2B .290 .338 .525 .863
T10 Aubrey Huff TB RF .311 .367 .555 .922
T10 Magglio Ordonez CWS RF .317 .380 .546 .926
No Ichiro Suzuki
, everyone at ESPN's favorite one month ago. No Shannon Stewart
and how he awoke the Twins. No David Ortiz
and his clubhouse presence. No Miguel Tejada
and his intensity. No Garret Anderson
and his coolness. I'm just going by the facts. Pure and simple. Stats. Productivity. Objectivity. Cutting to the chase, A-Rod's stats are as good as anyone else's--and he plays a Gold Glove shortstop to boot. 'Nuff said.
Check back on Friday and Saturday for the National League "Quad" honorees and MVP top ten.
Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT
American League "Quad" Leaders
The regular season has concluded and the major newspapers and cable networks were quick to list the leaders in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in--the favorite stats of the media and casual baseball fan. But how many sources listed the real leaders, those who performed the best quantitatively and qualitatively in getting on base and driving runners around the bases?
The way to win baseball games is to score runs when at bat and prevent runs when in the field. With respect to the offensive end of the game, the four components of "The Quad" (times on base, on base percentage, total bases, and slugging average) are the true determinants of run production. The traditional Triple Crown stats are OK, but they have become a lazier way of determining value in this day and age of more sophisticated analysis encompassed in the study of sabermetrics.
Let's drill down into the stats and take a look at the American League players who did the best job of getting on base and accumulating bases (both in terms of the number of times as well as the percentage of times).
Carlos Delgado of the Toronto Blue Jays led the American League in the number of times on base with 300. Delgado had an outstanding season, ranking first in TOB, OPS (1.019), and RBI (145); second in OBP (.426), SLG (.593), HR (42), and BB (109); fourth in R (117); and seventh in TB (338). A top two or three MVP candidate no matter how one slices or dices it.
A.L. LEADERS TIMES ON BASE
Rank Player Team TOB
1 Carlos Delgado TOR 300
2 Manny Ramirez BOS 290
3 Jason Giambi NYY 284
4 Alex Rodriguez TEX 283
5 Vernon Wells TOR 264
6 Aubrey Huff TB 259
T7 Bret Boone SEA 258
T7 Frank Thomas CWS 258
9 Magglio Ordonez CWS 256
10 Ichiro Suzuki SEA 254
Manny Ramirez of the Boston Red Sox led the A.L. in on base percentage with .427. Ramirez had an excellent year, ranking first in OBP; second in TOB (290), BA (.325), and OPS (1.014); fourth in SLG (.587); fifth in R (117) and BB (97); seventh in HR (37); and eighth in TB (334). One of the top three seasons in the league offensively but his contributions need to be discounted somewhat for his less than exemplary attitude and missing important games down the stretch.
A.L. LEADERS ON BASE PERCENTAGE
Rank Player Team OBP
1 Manny Ramirez BOS .427
2 Carlos Delgado TOR .426
3 Jason Giambi NYY .412
4 Edgar Martinez SEA .406
5 Jorge Posada NYY .405
6 Bill Mueller BOS .398
7 Trot Nixon BOS .396
8 Alex Rodriguez TEX .396
9 D Mientkiewicz MIN .393
10 Derek Jeter NYY .393
Vernon Wells of the Toronto Blue Jays led the A.L. in total bases with 373. Wells had a breakthrough season, ranking first in TB; third in R (118); 4th in BA (.317) and RBI (117); fifth in TOB (264); eighth in SLG (.550); and tenth in HR (33). Given the importance of his defensive position and play, Wells should be listed among every voter's top ten in the MVP balloting.
A.L. LEADERS TOTAL BASES
Rank Player Team TB
1 Vernon Wells TOR 373
2 Alex Rodriguez TEX 364
3 Alfonso Soriano NYY 358
4 Aubrey Huff TB 353
T5 Garret Anderson ANA 345
T5 N Garciaparra BOS 345
7 Carlos Delgado TOR 338
8 Manny Ramirez BOS 334
9 Bret Boone SEA 333
10 Magglio Ordonez CWS 331
Alex Rodriguez of the Texas Rangers led the A.L. in slugging percentage with a mark of .600. Rodriguez had another superb year, ranking first in SLG, HR (47), and R (124); second in TB (364) and RBI (118); third in OPS (.995); fourth in TOB (283); and eighth in OBP (.396) and BB (87). The combination of A-Rod's offensive and defensive contributions should warrant winning the MVP Award although I wouldn't hold my breath on this happening given the number of times he has been overlooked in the past.
A.L. LEADERS SLUGGING PERCENTAGE
Rank Player Team SLG
1 Alex Rodriguez TEX .600
2 Carlos Delgado TOR .593
3 David Ortiz BOS .592
4 Manny Ramirez BOS .587
5 Trot Nixon BOS .578
6 Frank Thomas CWS .562
7 Aubrey Huff TB .555
8 Vernon Wells TOR .550
9 Magglio Ordonez CWS .546
10 Garret Anderson ANA .541
Delgado, Ramirez, and Rodriguez are the only three players who finished in the top ten in all four categories. Wells, Aubrey Huff, and Magglio Ordonez made the top ten three times. My preference for MVP voting is favoring those players who ranked first in these four categories the most times, the top ten the most times, and giving utmost consideration and respect to all catchers, second basemen, and shortstops (and perhaps third basemen and center fielders) who make any of these lists, especially those who also field their positions well. In that regard, I would point out the six players mentioned above as well as Bret Boone, Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Alfonso Soriano, and possibly Bill Mueller. Of these twelve, I would rate Jeter's overall contributions the lowest given his less than stellar defensive play as well as the fact that he only played in 119 games.
I will post my top ten for the A.L. MVP (excluding pitchers) this evening. I will also post "The Quad" leaders for the National League tomorrow morning, followed by my top ten for the N.L. MVP (excluding pitchers) Friday night.
Short and Sweet
I opened up my inbox yesterday to see one of my favorite titles, "Baseball America Prospect Report." That means the Arizona Fall League has started, and I'm working on a big article about that. I'll have it up in the next few days, and basically its explaining why you should pay attention. But today is just gonna be a notes day, leading with my Division Series thoughts...
- The Marlins have had a great run at things, but they need some changes next season. Trade Derrek Lee, Juan Encarnacion, Brad Penny, and Braden Looper. Re-sign Pudge, Luis Castillo, Ugueth Urbina, and that Korean outfielder I've talked about before. Then, lock-up Mike Lowell for a long, long time. Juan Pierre was an awesome acquisition, he's Kenny Lofton reincarnated. But, that bullpen needs a lot of help. Rick Helling in a bullpen is pathetic, as was Jack McKeon using him yesterday. Chad Fox was a solid pick-up, and Spooneybarger will be good next season. But, they bullpen should be considered before late July.
- Ray Durham is going to have a big 2004. He was hurt this season, but Pac Bell is made for his doubles power. I'm going to wait on 2B next year in the fantasy draft, and jump on Durham.
- Yesterday's hero? Mark DeRosa? Yep. Marcus Giles doesn't start, and DeRosa hits the game-winning double in the eighth inning. Vinny Castilla is a free agent at the end of the season, and I think the team should throw DeRosa in everyday at third. That would give them extra money to trade for Richie Sexson, and to find an adequate right fielder.
- Todd Walker batted third last night. True, it was just Little's way to go leftie, rightie, leftie, and so on, but he did go yard twice. Walker's had a fantastic season, and is jumping up the top of free agent lists. The Red Sox will pursue retaining him, and I imagine he'll be wooed by the Indians, the Cubs, the Mets, and maybe the Dodgers.
- Drifting away from playoffs, and into transaction analysis. Yesterday, the Pirates claimed 30-year old right-hander Jason Boyd off waivers from the Cleveland Indians. I like this move, since Boyd had a 6.54 H/9 ratio. He's a 6-3 rightie that doesn't strike out a lot of guys, and probably walks too many. But, its good to see the Pirates working the waiver wire, and there's a possiblity he'll become a good set-up man.
- Griffey back in Seattle? That's the newest rumor, but that would first require a GM. U.S.S. Mariner has a few ideas, and it's hilarious to hear Billy Beane rumors. He turned down the Red Sox folks, he ain't coming to Seattle. Griffey would take sense, and the Mariners easily have enough in the farm system. The question really comes down to, would Griffey ever swallow his pride and return home?
- In the world of managerial hirings, Eddie Murray was granted permission to talk to the Orioles. I really expect this to happen, but I agree with Dave Pinto that he definitely must work on his media relations. In Chicago, it sounds like its down to Cito Gaston vs. Ozzie Guillen. I think Guillen is way too young and inexperienced, but Gaston seems like the perfect guy for the job. By the way, what's happening with Jim Tracy? I love the guy, and would hire him in a second. Larry Bowa will keep his job until next season begins, which makes no sense. Expect Jerry Manuel to join the San Francisco Giant staff next year, and Hargrove will probably head to the Boston bench.
- There's going to be some sweet trading this offseason. Here's the top 5 available:
1. Javier Vazquez
2. Curt Schilling
3. Billy Wagner
4. Carlos Lee
5. Richie Sexson
- I hear the Yankees are interestred in LaTroy Hawkins, which makes a lot of sense. My guess is it comes between the Bronx Bombers and the Cubs.
- Looks like I'm 6-0 so far in playoff games. Today, I'm going with the Yankees in a blowout and the A's on a Zito masterpiece.
- Finally, I'm thinking about making some changes on the site. If you read this site everyday, please e-mail me. I'm thinking about creating a joint blog to this where I post random thoughts like the ones above, not just about next year. Or, I could put all of that into one blog, or I could just keep it the way it is. Just a thought, but I was hoping to get some reader response on the issue.
Division Series notes, and the other 15
A few notes from the division series games:
- The Torii Hunter "triple" showed why the Yankees defense is so bad. Bernie Williams is not a center fielder anymore, and Alfonso Soriano is worthless at second. God knows the Yankees won't address this issue anytime soon, but it's definitely holding the back.
- Shannon Stewart must be re-signed.
- Barry Bonds talking about retirement is crazy. Watching the Giants play, I realized how bad that team would be without Bonds. Schmidt pitched a sensational game, and it was those two and Edgardo Alfonzo that won this game.
- Josh Beckett looked fantastic, I've never seen such movement on a high-90s pitch since...
- Kerry Wood. The Cubs must re-sign him to a long-term deal, he's such an integral piece. The guts he showed with the double, the back-handed stab, and a great performance demands his eternal stay in the Windy City. Would Mark Prior be as effective without Wood? I'm not so sure.
- Finally, the Braves must make a conscious effort this offseason to return to pitching. There aren't many teams with more pitching depth in the minors, but this bullpen is terrible. I think they should let Sheffield go, trade for Richie Sexson, and spend the remaining money on a great bullpen.
And now to the real article, a quick synopsis on the other half of the Major League teams this offseason.
Milwaukee- BUYERS/NEITHER- The Brewers finished under $30,000,000 for this season, and probably won't next season. There's rumors they want to trade Sexson, to give more money for Doug Melvin to spend. Getting Bubba Nelson and Adam LaRoche from Atlanta would be great, and it would help the move for the future. This team should get an innings-eater for the rotation, and make some trials on a few more hitters.
Minnesota- NEITHER- Carl Pohlad allowed Terry Ryan to increase payroll after the successes of 2002, but that won't happen next year. If I had to guess, I would bet the team goes below the $67.8M they spent this season. Signing Shannon Stewart is a must, he proved to be the ultimate sparkplug for the team. They will non-tender Doug Mientkiewicz, and likely lose Rick Reed, Eddie Guardado, and LaTroy Hawkins. Adding a cheap fifth starter, a 2004 Kenny Rogers, is a good idea. They should also sign one more reliever to help finish games with Jesse Crain, Juan Rincon, and J.C. Romero.
Montreal- SELLERS- I can't think of anything more despicable about baseball than the current state of the Expos. The payroll should decrease about five million next year, landing at about $40M. Vladimir Guerrero is out the door, and Javier Vazquez is likely right behind him. Tomo Ohka is rumored to be non-tendered, and Fernando Tatis is gone. The team should sign a cheap center fielder, a cheaper third basemen, and a starter. The next GM, Minaya is probably gone, must be able to work with a low budget. But Terrmel Sledge should definitely be playing right next season.
New York Mets- SELLERS- Would you pour more money into this team? No, neither will Fred Wilpon. Signing Mike Cameron is an increasing possibility, but that will be about it. I think the team would be smart to find a stopgap at second, and a cheap right fielder. Also, trying to land the next Tom Gordon would be intelligent as well. There is no blueprint to rebuilding a team, and the Mets need a couple of years for sure.
New York Yankees- NEITHER- George Steinbrenner can't really add money next year, but he definitely will keep it at the same place. Gary Sheffield is the team's top priority, and will surely be manning right field next year. The team will need a fifth starter, and probably will pursue Curt Schilling to fill the spot. Also, expect a set-up spot to be filled. The Yankees will once again to be favored next year.
Oakland- NEITHER- Billy Beane won't be moving payroll dramatically, but he must rebound after the loss of Miguel Tejada. The top two priorities are surely a right-handed bat in left field, and a closer to replace Keith Foulke. Also, Ted Lilly should be traded at some point in the offseason.
Philadelphia- BUYERS- Moving into a new stadium will allow the team to jump in payroll. Kevin Millwood is probably out the door, but the team is hoping to replace him with ex-Phillie Curt Schilling. Also, building a bullpen is also important. Mesa, Williams, Cormier, Wendell, and Adams are probably out the door. Ed Wade will be spending all of his money finding another way to boost payroll.
Pittsburgh- NEITHER- Just like the Reds yesterday, the Pirates already dropped payroll enough during this season. The team will be re-signing Matt Stairs, but Reggie Sanders is out the door. Jason Kendall may be traded to the Padres, depending on how much money the Pirates will hang onto. The team will probably drop in the thirty million dollar range until they have to re-sign their young studs. Pirates fans: count down the days until Bullington, Burnett, and Van Benschoten...you won't compete until then.
San Diego- BUYERS- Another example of what a new stadium can do. The team has already added Brian Giles, yet they are hardly done. Jason Kendall may be the next Pirate to make the switch, depending on how much more than Xavier Nady they must pay. The team also is looking at signing a southpaw, like David Wells or Sterling Hitchcock. Also, Towers must decide between Rod Beck and Trevor Hoffman.
San Francisco- NEITHER- It's funny that the team with the league's largest attendance can't keep their payroll. Tim Worrell or Felix Rodriguez is gone, and they have to rebuild in the infield. Rich Aurilia must be kept, and Sidney Ponson should be as well. J.T. Snow is gone, along with Benito Santiago. My guesses at replacements? Pedro Feliz and Yorvit Torrealba.
Seattle- NEITHER- Mike Cameron is gone. But, Edgar Martinez must be kept. The team will sign Kaz Matsui at short, and Carlos Guillen will be playing third. Randy Winn is going to take over in center, meaning Chris Snelling or a free agent is going to take over in left. Freddy Garcia will probably be non-tendered, hopefully opening up a slot for Rafeal Soriano.
St. Louis- NEITHER- Edgar Renteria must be kept, and Fernando Vina must go. The rotation must improve, to the degree of Matt Morris, Woody Williams, Dan Haren, Brett Tomko, and either Chris Carpenter, Garrett Stephenson, and Jason Simontacchi. The bullpen must get better next year, because Jeff Fassero and Cal Eldred are not adequate.
Tampa Bay- BUYERS- They say Gary Sheffield and Mike Cameron are at the top of their lists. But neither will be signed. But Carl Everett is a more realistic goal, and the team should also re-sign Julio Lugo. I would also target a third basemen if I were them, but who knows what Pinella will do. The rotation and bullpen don't need too much help, but a little veteran influence can't help.
Texas- SELLERS- Lots of money will be thrown out the money in Texas. They will not win the division next year, guaranteed. Next season is simply about getting Teixeira, Nix, Nivar, Gonzalez, and other rookies acclimated to Major League life. Don't get me wrong, if Kerry Wood ever comes here, than they'll be a lock for the playoffs. But Tom Hicks must get more dedicated to sign pitchers, and no, Chan Ho Park doesn't count. Re-signing John Thomson would be a good first step.
Toronto- NEITHER- Lock up Roy Halladay. Re-sign Kelvim Escobar and Frank Catalanotto. That is pretty much all the things on the J.P. Riccardi wish list this offseason. Don't be surprised if they go after Ted Lilly, or throw some more outfielders at pitchers. I dunno.
Check back tomorrow...