Bye Bye to a Bygone Era
The days of watching Ted Williams in left are over. And the wondrous Willie Mays no longer wears his uniform. Time marches on. Transition is inevitable. With each passing day, the game of our youth moves further into history. But those vivid images that are so much a part of our life will always remain.
--"When It Was a Game"
Warren Edward Spahn passed away last week at the age of 82. Spahn was best known for winning 363 games, tied for the sixth most in the history of baseball and tops among southpaws.
From Spahn's first full season in 1947 through his last great season in 1963, he finished in the top nine in wins in the National League every year and was in the top three 17 times. Spahn led the league in victories eight times, including five seasons in a row from 1957-1961.
Spahn also finished in the top eight in ERA in all but three of those years, having led the league three times in three different decades. Although Spahn never struck out 200 batters in a season, he led the league four years in a row from 1949-1952 (with a career high of 191 in 1950).
Although Spahn won just one Cy Young Award (in 1957), he arguably should be credited with five. Remember, the award itself wasn't even established until 1956, and it was only given to one pitcher in the entire major leagues until 1967. As such, one could easily make the case that Spahn deserved the Cy Young (had it been given out) in 1949 and 1953 when he finished seventh and fifth in the N.L. MVP voting, higher than any other pitcher. Spahn could also lay claim to the Cy Young in 1958 and 1961 when he came in second in the voting behind two A.L. pitchers (Bob Turley and Whitey Ford, respectively).
IP H R ER BB SO W L PCT ERA Spahn 5246 4830 2016 1798 1434 2583 363 245 .597 3.08 Lg Avg 5246 5190 2575 2269 1951 2725 292 292 .500 3.89Source: Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia
As shown, Spahn was better than the league average in every category except strikeouts. He had superior control, allowing substantially fewer walks, hit by pitches (42 vs. 108), and wild pitches (81 vs. 126) than the league average. Spahn also allowed fewer hits and home runs (434 vs. 499). Not surprisingly, the combination of fewer walks, hits, and home runs resulted in fewer runs and a vastly better ERA than the league average as well.
As great as Spahn's totals were, he "only" ranks 27th from 1900-on in career ERA as a percentage of the league ERA and 29th in terms of the absolute difference (among pitchers with at least 1500 innings pitched). Similarly, he ranks 38th and 41st, respectively, in baserunners per nine innings. By comparison, Pedro Martinez ranks first in all four measures. Spahn and Martinez are an interesting contrast. Spahn had good rate stats and great counting stats. Martinez has had good counting stats and great rate stats.
What really sets Spahn apart from Martinez and other more modern-day pitchers was his in-season and career durability. From 1947-1963, Spahn finished no worse than fourth in the N.L. in complete games every year. In fact, he led the league in CG for seven straight years from 1957-1963. Spahn's stamina and longevity is the primary reason why he ranks in the top ten in career totals from 1900-on in virtually every counting pitching statistic, including GS (9th), CG (5th), IP (6th), SHO (5th), and W (4th) as well as some of those one wouldn't put on a resume like H (5th), ER (8th), HR (6th), BB (10th), and L (T8th).
The Braves all-time great won 177 games after his 35th birthday, more than the career totals of Martinez and Curt Schilling and all but seven pitchers likely to be on an opening day roster in 2004. He also threw both of his no-hitters after the age of 39. Spahn pitched in the majors until 1965 when he was 44 years old, and he didn't leave gracefully, grumbling, "I didn't quit; baseball retired me." Spahn even pitched briefly in Mexico and in the minors for two years before finally giving it up for good.
Spahn holds the record for the most consecutive seasons facing 1,000 or more batters with 17--three more than his closest challenger (Christy Mathewson) and five more than third place (Walter Johnson).
MODERN BASEBALL HISTORY (1900-)
1 Warren Spahn 1947-63 17 2 Christy Mathewson 1901-14 14 3 Walter Johnson 1908-19 12 T4 Gaylord Perry 1966-76 11 T4 Steve Carlton 1970-80 11 T6 Cy Young 1900-09 10 T6 Robin Roberts 1950-59 10 T6 Phil Niekro 1971-80 10 T9 Vic Willis 1901-09 9 T9 Carl Hubbell 1929-37 9 T9 Bobo Newsom 1934-42 9 T9 Bucky Walters 1936-44 9 T9 Bob Friend 1956-64 9 T9 Don Drysdale 1959-67 9 T9 Jim Bunning 1959-67 9 T9 Claude Osteen 1964-72 9 T9 Mel Stottlemyre 1965-73 9 T9 Ferguson Jenkins 1967-75 9Source: Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia
Incidentally, Roy Halladay was the only pitcher in the majors who faced 1,000 batters last year. Halladay faced 993 batters in 2002 so the longest active streak of 1,000 BFP is one.
Based on the changed landscape of the game (i.e., five-man rotations and pitch counts limiting starters to 100-120 per game), we are unlikely to witness a pitcher of Spahn's magnitude in terms of raw stats again. If Spahn wasn't one of a kind, he most certainly was the last of his kind.
Warren Spahn. Hall of Famer. Decorated World War II veteran. A hero between the lines. A hero outside the lines. America salutes you. You will be missed by us all.
Stupid and Speculating
I feel like an idiot. I write a whole article Friday devoted to the Marlins signings of Castillo and Lowell, which I heard were to be announced that day. Since, neither has been announced, although the Lowell extension looks true. But the Castillo signing his a snag when the Chicago Cubs came into the fight, along with the Mets matching the Marlins 4th year vesting option move. So, the price is being dragged up by the slappin' switch hitter, and will probably settle close to $6M per season. Wow.
Now I don't want to report something before it happens, again, but there is speculation (ESPN radio 1000 in Chicago) that the Brewers have traded Richie Sexson to the Diamondbacks for Junior Spivey, Craig Counsell, Lyle Overbay, and Chris Capuano. Here, to start, are some statistics, along with my comments:
Counsell: .234/.328/.304 in 303AB
Overbay in MLB: .276/.365/.402 24XBH in 254AB
Capuano in MLB: 2-4 4.64 27/33 23/11
For his slugging first basemen, Doug Melvin has nearly built himself an infield for 2004. CBS Sportsline doesn't have Spivey as arbitration-eligible, so I'm going to assume that is true and say he won't be traded this winter. The team will play Counsell at shortstop, meaning one-time prospect Bill Hall will have to take his .300OBP act elsewhere. Spivey gives the team an excuse to not play Rickie Weeks right away, which actually should help his development. Same holds true for SS prospect J.J. Hardy, who needs some time in AAA.
I think the team will trade Spivey during next season, about the team Weeks is ready to contribute. The $3.4M Counsell will stick around though, as his value is supposedly better than sabermatricians realize.
Actually, Melvin could field a lineup that looks like:
1. Scott Podsednik- CF
He is in need of a shortstop and possibly a right fielder, although Clark showed flashes of brilliance last season. The team's rotation will have Sheets and Capuano, and probably Matt Kinney, Doug Davis, and Luis Martinez. God, they're bad. As for Arizona, they add a big bat for their lineup, and I imagine Brenly will field this lineup:
1. Matt Kata- 2B
Not a bad lineup, considering the successes of Kata, Cintron, and Hillenbrand. The rotation is a big question in Arizona, but I think Johnson, Webb, Fossum, De La Rosa, and a combination of Good, Patterson, or Edgar Gonzalez will claim the final slot. The team will realize Fossum is cut out for the bullpen about the same time that Mike Gosling bounces back from a disappointing season in the Pacific Coast League.
Overall, not a bad trade for both teams, although this is a nice move for the Diamondbacks after dealing away their ace. By taking out Counsell and adding Sexson, the team will pay Richie about $4.85M in 2004, which is quite a bargain. The team also lost $12M with Schilling, putting the team currently on the hook for about $58.4M, when considering the arbitration-eligible players. That gives Garigiola $8-11M to spend, although I don't really see where the work will be done. Maybe the team will move to sign Miguel Batista, which is the smartest option at this point.
Not bad for a weekend post, huh?
Turkey or Fish?
According to this column in the Florida Sun-Sentinal, the Marlins will announce the re-signings of Luis Castillo and Mike Lowell as early as today. According to Mike Berardino, Castillo will sign a three-year deal woth $15.5M, with a $6M option that could vest by plate appearances. Lowell's extension will be a four-year contract, believed to be in the $36-40M range. For the purposes of this column, I'm going to assume Lowell makes $9.5M in 2004, which would fall right in the middle of that range.
Before digging deeper into the Marlins, let's look at Lowell and Castillo splits:
Lowell Overall: .276/.350/.530
Castillo Overall: .314/.381/.397
Lowell's second half numbers look very shaky because he was injured, the sole reasoning his power went away completely. His OPS has increased each of the last three seasons, and he is likely to break .900 next season. Castillo has started striking out less, but he needs to improve his baserunning abilities to be top-notch. He fits very well in that second hole, and Fox documented the importance Pierre and Castillo played on the Marlins last season. I believe a large part of these signings were to draw a crowd to Miami, bringing back popular, Latino players to satisfy Miami's largest demographic.
Berardino also writes the team will non-tender both Juan Encarnacion and Braden Looper, assuming trades can not be worked out beforehand. But by this news going public, Larry Beinfest has lost any potential market he was hoping to harbor with these two. So using the information I presented this week, I can assume the following:
Signed for 2004: Juan Pierre (2.3), Mike Hampton (10), Mike Lowell (9.5), Luis Castillo (5.5)
Arbitration-Eligible: Brad Penny (2.5), Mark Redman (3), A.J. Burnett (2.5), Gonzalez (2.7)
Currently on the hook for: $38M
Last season's Opening Day payroll was a shade over $50M, and my belief is the team will allow Beinfest to reach $55M in 2004. After assuming $4M is spent on auto-renewals, the team will have $42M spent on next season's team. That would allow Beinfest to spend roughly $13M towards next season's team. Let's look at what kind of team the World Champion's will trot out there:
1. Pierre- CF
Ivan Rodriguez is the largest question mark this team has, but that question will be answered in the next ten days. Last season Rodriguez stipulated the team could not offer him arbitration this season, meaning if the team doesn't sign him by December 7th, he will be lost. Pudge was the heart and soul of last year's team, and the most popular Latino player of all. Beinfest and Boras are millions of miles apart, but as I said, all will be known a week from Sunday. Here's a look at the rotation:
1. Beckett- RH
The team will expect A.J. Burnett back early in the season, although I can't say I expect Pavano, Redman, Penny, and Burnett to all be Marlins next season. One will be either dealt or non-tendered, and that will be seen on December 20. Berardino hints that Mark Redman will be the player to go if Pudge is signed, but if the team is forced to go with Ramon Castro, that rotation above stays.
Jack McKeon's bullpen has many questions within itself, and those will grow when Looper is non-tendered. The team will probably look for one-time studs like Blaine Neal and Tim Spooneybarger to step up, along with a couple veterans they sign. Berardino says the team is closing in on Chad Fox, and is looking to add another reliever (a former closer of some type) after that. I would advise Mike Williams, who is only one season removed from 40 saves. Armando Almanza and Michael Tejera are two more, and I imagine someone of the Tommy Phelps or Allan Levrault variety.
Florida is trying desperately to avoid the 1997 sell-out logo, and will spend $15M next season (Castillo and Lowell) to prove it. Lowell will be able to escape his deal if Miami doesn't get a new stadium deal, and Florida is trying to buy their stadium on payroll. I fully expect Beinfest to realize Pudge's importance (along with Pudge seeing he has no market) and the two sides coming together for a deal. When that happens, the NL East is still wide open, although the Phillies are the favorites in 2004.
2004 favorites (assuming Schilling is in Boston): Phillies, Cubs, Padres, Red Sox, Royals/Twins, A's
Have a good weekend, check back if something worthy of posting happens. And, make your way over to Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT to see an exclusive interview with injury guru and fellow blogger, Will Carroll.
Tossing BP With Will Carroll
Will Carroll has catapulted himself into the big leagues of off-the-field baseball personalities during the past year. The multi-talented Carroll is an author with Baseball Prospectus, a host of Baseball Prospectus Radio, and the proprietor of the Will Carroll Weblog. His Under The Knife column, which is available to BP Premium subscribers, appears at least four times per week during the season. It is a must read for those of us who like to be on the cutting edge when it comes to injuries and potential health risks as well. BP Radio is a weekly one-hour radio show, and it is currently carried by 13 stations around the country.
Baseball Prospectus is one of the four most important sources of information (along with Baseball-Reference.com, ESPN.com, and the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia) for Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT. I am a BP Premium subscriber and found it so useful this past season that I recently re-upped for another two years.
I had the honor of interviewing Will during the past week in my ongoing off-season series of discussions with baseball's top online writers, analysts, and bloggers. Not surprisingly, Will gives us his valuable opinions without holding anything back. Pull up a chair and listen in.
RWBB: I'm curious. Are you an MD?
Will: That's probably the most common question I'm asked. I am not a physician, nor medical professional of any type. I have a background in sports medicine, but I am not a certified athletic trainer.
The next question I generally get is the following: "If you're not a doctor, why should I listen to you?" I figured out the answer after about a hundred failed attempts. I'm a translator and a pattern recognizer. If you have a medical background, you'll understand what a Grade II+ medial collateral sprain with meniscal involvement means without me. If you're a baseball fan, you know who B.J. Surhoff is. If you're not both--and who is, really?--then you're missing half the picture. I sit in the middle, trying to give my readers as much overlap as I can. Without talking down to anyone, I can usually translate the medical info into a baseball context and the baseball info into a medical context. I take what the medical professionals do and try to make it mean something to the BP reader, which is at a pretty high level to begin with. If I can do it in an entertaining fashion, it's all the better.
RWBB: When did you become interested in sports medicine?
Will: Birth. My father is in the field. I can remember seeing him work on Jimmy Connors or Andy Brown when I was four years old. (Brown was the last hockey goalie not to wear a mask. Does that sound like a good idea? "Mask? Nah, I can dodge those pucks.") If he'd been a shoe salesman, maybe I'd know shoes. My interest in the field has come and gone, but it's always been about a basic understanding of the athlete and what they go through.
RWBB: What prompted you to begin writing your Under The Knife column?
Will: I just thought I could add something to the conversation. I didn't think sports medicine was getting enough coverage--and still don't--and had just enough coffee in me to think I could do it. I was working on my novel--still unfinished--regarding a fictional Steve Dalkowski and, well, it's still sitting there, the third book on my "to do" list. I sent my first email to three guys, who all gave great feedback. I think the biggest inspiration was Lee Sinins. He was one of the "original three" and his links made me. It went from three to three thousand in a hurry, so a lot more people wanted this kind of stuff than I thought.
RWBB: How did you get hooked up with Baseball Prospectus?
Will: I had read BP since 1998 when Rob Miller (another one of the "original three") told me I had to read this book. He had kicked my head in two years running in our Front Office Baseball league, so I figured I'd better read it. It turned what I knew about baseball on its head, and it was exceptionally well written. I didn't understand the math--and still don't--but, wow, it was life changing.
Later on, Gary Huckabay sent me an instant message one day and asked if I'd like to write a piece for BP 2003. I was flattered and stunned and said yes way too fast. I got to know Joe Sheehan a bit and had corresponded with a couple other BPers and when I was asked to become part of the big Premium move, how could I say no? It's like the kid from the farm getting a call telling him he was going to play in Yankee Stadium. BP is the Yankees of baseball writing and I'm proud to wear pinstripes.
RWBB: You're of the belief that injuries are the hidden frontier of baseball knowledge. Please explain.
Will: I need more coffee for this one. Injuries have always been looked upon as something that just happens--tragedy, accident, darned shame. Or they become a destiny, like injury-prone, star-crossed, or worse, "might have been." No one, including MLB, took a serious look at what damage was being done to the game in any holistic sense. There were parts out there--Keith and Rany's PAP, MLB's "Redbook," the work Glenn Fleisig is doing--but there was no one place that tried to put it all together and make injuries a part of a baseball discussion. That's my goal; that and giving the guys behind the scenes in sports med some credit.
J.D. Drew, a good player? Can you answer that without discussing injuries? How did Rickey Henderson or Roger Clemens stay healthy for so long? (For both, it's one simple common thing.) Why did this guy come back so soon and this guy had the same injury and is still out? The paper said four to six weeks. Which is it and why? If my ace goes down with a blown cuff, how does it hurt my team and could we have prevented it?
Endless questions, but when I see someone drop a med head phrase in a column, I just love it. We don't see guys saying, "Damn, he's hurt" anymore. The smart ones are asking good questions now--or coming to me.
RWBB: Do you believe that baseball injuries can become a transparent statistical class like on base percentage and park factors?
Will: Darn good question. We don't have the stats to work with right now. I work from anecdotal evidence and the experience of the people that share their knowledge with me. The Redbook is amazing, but it's mostly raw data with some suggestions made in an actuarial sense. Good first step, but even people in the front offices of very smart teams didn't know what it was or have access to it. I think there will be "counting" stats like DL days and "derived" stats like DL Days over the average for this injury. There will probably be calculated stats, too. I'm toying with a formula that tries to approximate an injury percentage, but Nate Silver's way ahead of me with PECOTA's attrition rate. I used a simplified version this year on the Team Health Reports and it worked very, very well. Red Lights (the highest risk category) were 89% more likely to have a significant injury than an average player. We're working on seeing if DL days or DL dollars is a better measure, but the preliminary results are encouraging.
RWBB: Are teams generally aware as to the number of days lost or amount of payroll lost to injuries?
Will: In the broad sense, no. I'm sure they have it in a spreadsheet somewhere, but there are few GMs that could pop that out. They could say, "Damn, we're awfully banged up" or something, but there are few that really look at it and fewer that seem to do anything about it. San Francisco and Cleveland are really in the forefront with data, and New York has a secret weapon down in Tampa.
I only know of two teams that really take injury prevention seriously. All teams say they want fewer injuries but not many have a real plan for doing anything about it. It wouldn't be that hard to do. Heck, give me 1% of the money I save a team (and the right to hire the head trainer), and I'll do it for no salary. When you look at how teams fall apart due to injuries--the A's, the Cubs--or don't, in the case of the Marlins this season, it's a wonder that it's not more of a focus.
There are some really good teams, a lot of average teams, and a few teams that are about a half step shy of just saying, "Rub some dirt on it."
RWBB: You recently reached an agreement in principle to write a book this off-season on pitcher injuries. Give us a sneak preview of your work.
Will: Hell, I signed a contract and everything. The book is an amalgamation of the knowledge that's out there about pitching health. From mechanics to medicine, from surgery to stretching, I'm going to give both a broad overview and some deep insight. Well, that's the goal. Like UTK, it's just filling a niche. There's nothing out there like it, so I might as well write it.
It even has a title, "Saving The Pitcher." I'm really excited about the project because I'm working with some great people on it. That's something of a theme of my writing existence and even the radio show. It's the people I meet and get to know in the course of my job that makes it so amazing. If you'd told me a couple years ago that Nate Silver and I would walk up and talk to Rickey Henderson or that I'd interview Scott Boras or that I would stand on the field at Wrigley next to Ryne Sandberg, I would have laughed. If you told me I'd be writing full time, I wouldn't have believed you. I'm the luckiest boy in the world!
RWBB: When will "Saving The Pitcher" be published and by whom?
Will: I don't have a firm date for you, but Ivan R. Dee will publish it in the spring. It should be a few months behind BP 2004 and the new Neyer/James book on pitching, so budget accordingly. Some people think the Neyer/James book is competition, but if what I hear about it is true, they will actually be very complementary.
RWBB: What is your position on the significance of pitch counts and stress rates?
Will: It's all in the book but, until then, pitch counts are a decent measure. If you don't have a radar gun or a good knowledge of pitching mechanics, pitch counts aren't bad. You know where pitch counts would make the most difference? Little League. We kill these kids and then keep on riding the best ones in high school and college. Kerry Wood didn't have surgery because of being overworked as a rookie, though that didn't help. All the mileage he had on that arm built up and...pow...it was almost gone, if not for a miracle of surgery that's near common today.
RWBB: How do you feel about Pitcher Abuse Points?
Will: I wrote an article a long time ago attacking PAP and that was pretty dumb. PAP is, without a doubt, meaningful and the best system available today for measuring pitcher workload. It's pretty technical, which is a downside, and doesn't tell us much in a particular game, but it's definitely a great tool and, more importantly, a big step forward for the science of pitching.
My work on Velocity Loss is preliminary. It's promising but preliminary. Data collection is the big problem there. Until V-Loss is proven or not proven, it's my pet. Either way, PAP is the big dog on the porch and, in most long-horizon analysis, the best tool period.
RWBB: Which factors are the most relevant when forecasting the likelihood of injuries to pitchers in the future--age, pitcher type, mechanics, or overuse?
Will: All of the above? I think it's some combination of those. Mechanics are probably the most important. Mike Marshall's work with high speed films makes that point. If everyone could do what he teaches, I'd have nothing to write about other than Kaz Ishii taking one off his dome or that Barry Zito has calluses from his pre-game workout. Age is a big factor. Randy Johnson can do what Jerome Williams shouldn't do. Type is an interesting one. It's very subjective, but if we can find patterns, that's valuable. The Neyer/James book intrigues me greatly because what they're doing in categorizing pitchers may give me things to work with.
One or two other things that aren't often mentioned (outside of my upcoming book, of course) are that most pitchers are in terrible physical condition for pitching and that most pitchers don't throw enough.
RWBB: Name two or three pitchers who you believe could experience serious arm troubles next season?
Will: Arm only? Wow, I would have guessed Roy Oswalt last year, but his groin broke first. He's a good candidate again this year. He'll need to really concentrate on his mechanics and he's never been great at that. Houston has a problem keeping pitchers healthy in general so I worry a bit about Brandon Duckworth heading down there. I'm a bit worried about Josh Fogg's mechanics near the end of 2003. Would Kaz Ishii surprise anyone? Dewon Brazelton? I'm not worried about any of the Cubs pitchers, surprisingly. It hasn't caught up to them yet.
RWBB: In one of your recent articles, you mentioned Chan Ho Park as an early "breakout" candidate for 2004. Did you mean "breakout" or "breakdown?"
Will: Breakout. I mean, what's it take for him to look way better than last year or even 2002? Not much. What's he look like if he has 10 wins? Comeback player of the year? Here's a guy who had the bad luck of a horrid contract and the worst pitching coach imaginable for him all at once. There's enough left there, he's got the right people working around him, and he's a low risk pick at the right spot. The problem is, the Rangers aren't paying him like the White Sox did with Esteban Loaiza. Instead, they're paying him the GNP of an industrialized nation.
RWBB: That's for sure. Do you think teams are finally learning not to pay pitchers so much or not to give them such long contracts?
Will: I think in general teams are starting to notice that they can't insure contracts beyond three years and that certainly got their attention. I think it was Joe Sheehan that I was talking to about this, but he was telling me just how risk averse most teams are in their decisions and it's true, most teams don't go too far out on the limb for anything. That risk aversion permeates baseball. It's why we see the same old managers, why you get long term contracts for 'proven veterans' and why young guys have to fight so hard to make it.
Pitching is almost literally a coinflip proposition, injury-wise. Just over half of all pitchers will be on the DL at some point in a three-year period and some of those will be serious--elbow reconstruction, torn labrum. Rotator cuff injuries are way down, but tendonitis is up. Baseball's going to need to get a lot smarter on how to value players, especially pitchers. I'd pay for greatness and I'd pay for consistency. The rest seems replaceable to me. Granted, if I were running a team, I'd have a four man rotation, a thin bullpen, and...well, if I were running a team I'd be smart enough to get people around me that knew a lot more about this than me and I'd defer to them.
RWBB: How can the union and the owners work together to restore credibility on issues such as the use of steroids and other supplements or enhancements?
Will: Man, this would take a long time to answer plus I'm working on an upcoming piece for BP, so I hesitate to give an important but overblown issue short shrift. The MLBPA and the owners could implement a world-class drug testing policy much like those in place for Olympic sports. Perfect? No. Good for the sport? Not sure. Steroids are not the issue people make them out to be in paranoid, reactionary columns. If Ken Caminiti came on SportsCenter and said, "Five percent of baseball players are on steroids", would anyone freak out? If Jose Canseco said, "I know there are 82 players on the juice," would anyone buy his book? Maybe some of them used THG or another drug. Maybe some took hGH or used testosterone gel. I'd rather have drugs out of the game, but I don't think it's making a mockery of history either. If you take out steroids, do you take out creatine? If you take out hormones, do you take out protein shakes? There are all kinds of mines in this field--privacy issues, accuracy, false positives, etc.
One thing I do know. I would not want to be the first guy that tests positive. Counseling might not sound like a penalty--and it's not--but that guy is going to take some abuse in the press and on the field. Sadly, it's more likely to be a guy who's trying to be the next Scott Podsednik rather than the next Barry Bonds.
RWBB: How about the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative?
Will: BALCO? I'm not touching that until the grand jury is done. But remember, gossip isn't guilt and America is built on innocent until proven guilty--no matter what they're doing in Gitmo.
RWBB: Do you still stand by the exclusive story you broke for Baseball Prospectus last August that Pete Rose and MLB have reached an agreement allowing Rose to return to baseball in 2004?
Will: Absolutely. Unequivocally. What people forget is what we put on the line for that story. We'd have to be blithering morons to put ourselves so far out there without rock-solid evidence. It's a failing of me as a journalist that I didn't do some simple things at the very start, when the story was falling into my lap, that would have made this easier, but live and learn. I'm not a professional journalist any more than I'm an orthopedic surgeon.
Actually, the question as asked is off slightly from what we reported, but that's semantics. The basic point of the story is that Pete Rose will be back and yes, that will happen. If Bud's waiting me out, seeing if he can bring back the panic attacks, tell him he wins!
RWBB: You were expecting an announcement regarding Rose's reinstatement in late November. Why hasn't something been released yet?
Will: Bud and MLB will do this on their own time, for their own reasons. Since the story broke, people have pointed to the post-awards, pre-Winter Meetings period as the most likely. The announcement is still something MLB controls completely, so they'll do it when everything is right. John Erardi at the Cincy Enquirer thinks it will be early 2004 and he's done a great job following this.
RWBB: Do you think Rose will ever admit his wrongdoings?
Will: Someone close to Pete said recently, "What makes you think he hasn't?" Baseball's never been an organization that does things in broad daylight. Our original report said that Pete wasn't going to be asked to make a public admission of wrongdoing. He came pretty darn close in a recent TV interview. People overwhelmingly want him back in the game, with or without the admission, so even getting close is going to push that popularity higher. I'm guessing here, but I think he'll sign something and Bud will wave the document at the press conference, but we'll never see it. "Pete has met my conditions for reinstatement," he'll say. For most fans, that will be more than enough.
RWBB: Rose has already missed the mid-November cutoff to be included in next year's Hall of Fame balloting, reducing his window of eligibility for his election by the BBWAA to just one year. Is that correct?
Will: There's some debate on that but, by the rules I've seen and the people I've spoken to, you're correct. Someone told me it would have been a bad idea and hell on Pete's ego if he'd missed the Hall on a vote, but just think about this - let's say he's back in baseball and you see him at games and on the field. He's working with kids, he's keeping his nose clean, and he's being an ambassador for the game. Give him a year of that and people will be so used to seeing him in the game rather that out of the game that it will seem a lot more natural to think of him in the Hall.
Besides that, the Hall is pretty bogus. Hell of an honor, but if they wanted to futz with the rules to get Pete in, who will stop them?
RWBB: If Rose is elected to the Hall of Fame, do you think any of the 59 living members would boycott his induction ceremonies?
RWBB: Are you planning on attending the Winter Meetings in New Orleans on December 12-14?
Will: I'll be there with bells on. Well, not bells. That really isn't something that I would normally wear, especially in New Orleans. My business is based on talking to people, so when all of those people are in one place, I'd be a fool not to be there. I wish I had the freedom to be at the GM meetings, the owners meetings, and so on, but the Winter Meetings are still kind of Baseballapalooza.
Plus, New Orleans...that has to be better than Nashville and I had a blast in Nashville. Stand in a bar and there's Gammons over there and Cashman right there and...man, it goes on and on. It's mostly standing around and drinking and waiting, really. All the action goes on behind the scenes and Peter will beat me to all the good stuff!
RWBB: What can baseball fans expect from these meetings?
Will: I'd imagine it will be a lot like last year. The Expos are holding the game hostage since Vladimir Guerrero will set the market. We'll see one or two big deals, several minor ones, and signings of big but not huge names. The non-tender situation is what throws everything we think we know off. If we come out of these meetings with no major deals, then the collusion talk gets really loud and ESPN will start putting a microphone in Frank Coonelly's face.
RWBB: Who do you talk to on a regular basis to exchange information?
Will: You're kidding right? Name my sources? Not in a million years!
Oh, you mean people I speak to and respect their work? I speak with players, agents, doctors, clubbies, GMs, stat guys, fans that sit in the stands, and a guy that lives really close to the Yankees minor league facilities that owns a camcorder with the longest lens imaginable.
I speak with a lot of writers and I'm honored that people like Peter Gammons, Jayson Stark, and Rob Neyer read my stuff. I read as much as possible, but there's just so much junk out there. There are a really small number of really good writers in any medium. For every Stephanie Myles, there's someone on a beat that doesn't ask good questions. For every Matthew Leach, there's someone that toes the party line too closely. For every Alex Belth or Christian Ruzich, there's ten blogs by a guy who puts ketchup on hot dogs and moves his lips when he reads.
RWBB: I like my hot dogs plain.
Will: Same here. I always end up with something on my shirt otherwise! But seriously, there's not many consistently good writers out there. It's an issue that comes up because the Internet is finally starting to be taken seriously from a credibility standpoint. The BBWAA is debating allowing net based writers to join, but how do you set the conditions? How long would someone have to write and in what type of medium? Don't get me wrong, there's good writers out there and more coming, I hope. There's also a lot of noise, but everyone deserves to have a voice and that's the interesting thing for me. Teams should be grasping this and learning that they should be managing their communities better. Teams still think far too locally.
RWBB: Which teams have the best trainers and team doctors?
Will: No team has a bad staff. Some have bad results, but they're all qualified, hard working people that do their best. People get weeded out when they can't do the job to the level that is expected, or just by bad luck. Stan Conte is the class of the field, but he had a fluky bad year in 2003 (yet the team still won). Dave Tumbas, Sean Cunningham, Ron McClain, Jamie Reed, and Jim Rowe come to mind, but there are just as many deserving assistants, too, like the now-retired Barney Nugent, Paul Anderson, Chris Correnti, or Lonnie Soloff. Heck, Dave Tumbas just got let go by the Cubs in a move that really surprised me.
Doctors? Well, you probably know the big names. Andrews, Yocum, Kremchek, Conway, and Hawkins. The teams that are good integrate it all. They give the medical staff a say in personnel and in game decisions. Not overruling but just having a voice. Some trainers can say that a pitcher shouldn't go out and the manager will listen. Some doctors will say that a player shouldn't be signed. Very few teams do integration well.
RWBB: Which teams have the best facilities?
Will: All are pretty good and they have access to better. The newer facilities have a big advantage of course. San Fran and Cincy are world class.
RWBB: Other than injuries, what proprietary baseball knowledge is still inefficiently valued?
Will: Lots. More than lots. How do we value anything? We can't even agree on what "value" is! The lesson of Moneyball is that baseball is a very inefficient market. We don't have a great grasp on defense and what work is being done is such high level stuff that it will be years before it trickles down in a usable form.
RWBB: As a Chicago Cubs fan, what would you like to see Jim Hendry do this off-season and Dusty Baker do next season?
Will: First, I'd get a bench coach with a strong talent for game strategy. Dusty runs a great clubhouse, but he's been out managed and he runs a crap staff. I'd hire Tom House as pitching coach. Not that Larry Rothschild is bad, but Tom's better and has a relationship with Mark Prior. I'd try to convince Rickey Henderson that he'd be the best first base coach of all time. I'd try and work a deal for Alex Rodriguez. The Cubs are one of few teams that could absorb that contract. Maybe deal Kerry Wood, Juan Cruz, and a minor league pitcher, plus Alex Gonzalez.
I'd also like to get one more consistent arm in the pen and a new second baseman, maybe Fernando Vina. He's not my ideal, but he would fit in well, is an upgrade on Grudz, and he's got the proven veteran facial hair.
Will: Very much so. My reaction to the deal was a four-letter word. Still, I like Lee a lot more than I would have liked J.T. Snow or Rafael Palmeiro and his subliminal big black bat. I mean, does Viagra really think we don't get that message? Lee is a solid player who's probably slightly overpaid, but will fit right in. His father was with the organization and actually was the one that signed Choi, if I remember correctly. More than anything this deal really makes me re-think Larry Beinfest. He may really "get it" more than I thought.
RWBB: I agree although Marlins followers and mainstream baseball fans may view the trade as nothing more than an opportunity to dump salary. I don't see it that way myself.
Will: No, it's a good trade that happens to clear up some salary space. It will be interesting to see if the Marlins stick with their plan--and they had one--or if they really are the next Angels. Building around batting average is tough and they're going to lose several of their important pieces. Not sewing up Pudge quickly is the most surprising part of the early Hot Stove for me.
RWBB: Combining the Cubs and Baseball Prospectus Radio for a minute, what was it like to have Ron Santo as a guest on your radio show?
Will: Interviewing Santo was one of the highlights of the year. Sure, I turned into a fan during the interview, but man, why is he not in the Hall. I said it was bogus and here's one of the reasons why. Did you see the ceremonies where the Cubs retired his number? Here's a guy that's lost his legs, facing bladder surgery in days, they screwed him out of the Hall earlier in the year and all he wants to do is thank everyone for letting him be a Cub. Every team needs a Ron Santo, someone who is as good a human being as they are a player, someone that reminds you that "love of the game" isn't just an empty phrase.
RWBB: Speaking of the Hall of Fame, how do you feel about Ryne Sandberg?
Will: Sandberg is my childhood hero. How is he not a first ballot guy? I don't know, but I'm not rational about Ryno. Lee Smith got hosed, too. He should be in.
RWBB: I believe Santo and Sandberg are worthy of enshrinement, but I'm far from convinced when it comes to Smith. In my mind, he was a good relief pitcher who just happened to come along at the right time to get the maximum benefit from the so-called "save" stat.
Will: I think our valuation of relievers is too high in-season and too low when we're looking at their careers. It's odd to see the disconnect, but I think we'll have a sea change soon. Dennis Eckersley is coming up and he had such a singular career that it may force people to change how they look at it. He was a pretty good starter, but not great. He was a great closer, but not for long enough to match someone like Smith. If you put Eck in the Hall, then I think you have to start taking a harder look at relievers. I agree, the save stat alone shouldn't be putting these guys in. But just like Eric Gagne winning the Cy Young this season, some of these guys--the top ones like Smith--deserve recognition. We can't fault them their role or era that they played in. That was management. They were given the chance to play and they did very well. We're also going to see more and more guys of this era coming eligible without some of those 'magic numbers' like 300 wins and some of those magic numbers get altered by era. Is 500 homers magic? The game is always changing. God, I love it. When do pitchers and catchers report?
RWBB: Not soon enough, Will. Thanks for your time and hard-hitting answers.
Next week: Mike Carminati of the ever popular Mike's Baseball Rants will be in the hot seat. Expect a question or two about Joe Morgan.
Royals and Rumors
Happy Thanksgiving, hope everyone has a great day of festivities, and (for once), football. Today's column is filled with rumors and signings, kind of like a Friday column normally would be. But I'll have more substantial material tomorrow, so check back then. First off, let's please the Kansas City fans...
Allan Baird re-signed a triplet of Royals yesterday, and as usual, I'll throw some splits your way before analyzing...
Brian Anderson statistics:
Overall: 14-11 3.78 212/197.2 87/43
Joe Randa stats:
Curt Leskanic splits:
Overall: 5-0 2.22 38/52.2 50/29
Anderson will make $3.25M the next two seasons, Randa will make a hefty $3.75M next year, and Leskanic will earn $1.5M. In total, the Royals spent $8.5M towards their 2004 team, landing them at $31.4M so far, by my calculations. OK, here's what I know about the pitching staff next season:
1. Brian Anderson
Not bad, and so far the bullpen has Leskanic, Nate Field, Mike MacDougal, Jeremy Affeldt, D.J. Carrasco, and possibly Kris Wilson. I believe Affeldt has huge potential out of the 'pen, able to pitch in any role necessary. He can go long relief, middle relief, close, and come in to get lefties out. Leskanic can get right-handers out, but MacDougal actually showed a huge reverse platoon split. Signing one more right-hander, possibly Al Levine, is a possibility.
Randa will likely be one of two veterans signed, and I've made it no secret what I believe this team should do. My vote would be to put DeJesus and Guiel on the outfield corners, and sign Javy Lopez with the remaining money. That would give a very good lineup of:
1. David DeJesus- LF
That's a very good lineup, with even more potential. If Randa hits like he did in the second half, and Lopez was to continue his tear, they would have one of the more formidable offenses in baseball. DeJesus would switch with Guiel if he struggled, and Ken Harvey and Angel Berroa are likely to further improve next season. It's looking good in Kansas City, especially when considering the hits Minnesota and Chicago have taken thus far.
And after that rant, I'd like to briefly mention that Mark Kotsay is officially an A, while Sandy Alomar Jr. re-signed with the Chicago White Sox. I already wrote about Kotsay, and the 150AB that Alomar will steal from Miguel Olivo isn't substantial enough for me to spend time writing about. So, onto the rumors:
- Kaz Matsui has announced he is more than willing to change positions, which will officially count the Yankees in for negotiations. The Yankees are hoping to bring Matsui in to play second, and move Soriano to center. Bernie Williams would shift to DH, and Nick Johnson would then be featured in a deal for Javier Vazquez.
But, I must say I don't believe Matsui is as open as he is saying, I mean, he was voted best Japanese shortstop of all-time last season. He is fantastic on defense, and is probably using the Yankees to drive his price up. Ultimately, the Dodgers or Mariners will sign him, with emphasis on the latter. That leaves the Yankees with one other second base option...
- Luis Castillo is sitting in a very comfortable position, in the driver's seat with two very nice offers on the table. And yes, more are to come. Castillo was first offered a three year, $15.5M extension by the Marlins, to which he gave the response, "Let's wait and see." The Mets, according to the New York Post, countered with an offer in the $14M range over three seasons, apparently asking Castillo to ditch Miami to play in New York (for less money).
But, if Matsui turns the Yankees down, they're likely to go after Castillo, and the Red Sox and Cubs are supposedly interested as well. If Castillo plays his cards right, we could be talking $7M per for a sound defensive, light hitting second basemen. Let me just say I hardly advocate the signing of Castillo for the Cubs, as other options (Aurilia, Grudzi, Durham, Walker) would be more fiscally/statistically sound for this team.
- The Cubs are said to be one of the teams interested in Keith Foulke, the 'mystery' team of the bidding process. Foulke has received a four-year offer from the Red Sox, but will wait to hear offers from Oakland, New York, and Chicago. Keith isn't said to be interested in the Mets, as he wants to be pitching for a contender. Who knows how far the Cubs will go, as they are interested in three other pitchers as closers. Who?
- Tom Gordon, Rod Beck, and Ugueth Urbina are all expected to hear offers from the Cubs, all to take over Joe Borowski's job as closer. Borowski would then move to middle relief, where I believe he is much better suited. Gordon is drawing a ton of interest from the Devil Rays, Urbina will probably end up with the Mets, and Rod Beck remains a wild card. If the Cubs miss out on Foulke and Gordon, expect them to jump all over Beck. If the A's miss out on Foulke, I expect them to be interested in Rod. Funny, I haven't heard LaTroy Hawkins' name in weeks.
- No real news on Curt Schilling, as Epstein and Lucchino appear to be trying to keep the deal hush-hush. If Schilling doesn't get a three-year offer from Boston, he will spurn them and stay in Arizona. If he does, Boston will have an amazing rotation, and Richie Sexson will be a Diamondback next week...
That's all for today, I just can't stomach to write more. OK, I can't write puns. Dammit, see ya tomorrow.
Lee, Lee, and some salaries
Yesterday, Aaron Gleeman introduced a new stat of his, entitled "Gleeman Production Average," which is a more advanced statistic than OPS. He is trying to weigh on-base percentage and slugging percentage equally, basically by multiplying OBP by 1.8. He then divides by four, and you have a number synonomous to batting average. It's a good attempt, but if he calls it GPA, then multiplying his final number by 10 would give you a school-like GPA. Barry Bonds would have a 4.25, which makes a lot more sense. That came from a thread on Baseball Primer, during which I spent half my afternoon talking on. Between Gleeman, Patel, and Pinto's statistics, it's definitely a sabermatrician winter.
Then, news broke about my Cubbies. Derrek Lee for Hee Seop and an unimportant minor league (to be named later). I argued for this trade on both Primer and the Cub Reporter. Primer was a very negative source for the trade, and the Cub Reporter was filled with optimism. I'll make my argument a little later in this column, but basically, it's very stupid and close-minded for any REAL Cub fan to diss Jim Hendry. Read on if you want stuff on that.
But today I'm going back to salaries briefly, in which I've spent each of the last two days talking about. I gave rough estimates of where teams currently stood at, and how much money that would leave them on the free agent market. Numbers ranged from $4M to over $30M, obviously depending on the team and market. I wanted to establish what type of market there would be, and how much money would be sitting around for free agents.
So, I've added all the totals of how much teams will spend this offseason, for both the National League and the American League...
National League- $218M ($13.625M per team)
Major League Baseball- $391M ($13.033M per team)
The National League is slightly more this offseason, which is mainly helped by me adding the Curt Schilling trade int my accounts. I then used the Transaction Guy's free agents listing to discover there are currently 204 Major League free agents whom have filed for free agency and intend to sign. I say that because Roger Clemens, Albert Belle, and Dean Palmer are all likely finished. So, a little more calculating:
$391M/204FA= $1.917M per FA
So, by my calculations, the average contract signed this offseason will be just under $2M, although I must admit I don't know where this ranks in recent years. I'll try to figure out where that relates to past seasons, but I'm guessing it isn't as low as last season, but still below the Golden years (the Rodriguez, Ramirez, Hampton contract offseason).
This season's top 6 free agents, ranked by ESPN, read as follows:
1. Vladimir Guerrero- RF
These are the only six free agents that I estimate will earn $8M or more per year in contract, as they find themselves in the upmost echelon. I then went on to predict their contracts:
1. Guerrero- $14M per year
So, by my unprecise calculations, I guess the top six free agents will earn a combined $64M next season, or making up 16.37% of the money that will be spent on free agents. So, I re-run the calculations...
Money available: 391-64= $327M
Money per player: 327/198= $1.65M
So, after the upmost echelon, the average free agent will make $1.65M in the 2003-2004 offseason. Why is this interesting? You tell me. It will make a lot more sense when I compare this to past years, but this is a very introductory article. I'm trying to add stats to this site folks, bear with me for awhile.
OK, that's not exactly my niche, so I'm going to move to analyzing trades, my specialty...
Yesterday, the Cub's got Derrek Lee from the Marlins for 1B Hee Seop Choi and a future minor leaguer. To start my argument, let me re-emphasize the history of the Cubs. The last time Chicago was in the World Series was 1945, a.k.a the end of World War II. The last time the Cubs won the World Series was nearly a decade before World War I broke out. That is the longest drought in professional sports. We suffer, and we are mocked. Cubs fans would do anything to win a World Series, which was the gist behind some bad Old Style commercials in the Chicago area (I won't get into that).
So, let me go onto say that 2004 is the most important year for the Cubs since the late-60s. Haha, you're probably laughing right? I mean, us Cub fans say that every year. But I'm completely serious, for a number of reasons:
- This is the last contract year for Kerry Wood, Matt Clement, Derrek Lee, Moises Alou
So, I conclude that 2004, the first year I can remember that the Cubs could be the NL favorites, is very important. It's all about 2004. Our great farm system, good crop of young players doesn't matter, the focus is on next season. My belief is that any move to improve next year's team is a good one, which definitely (to me) meant trading Juan Cruz and Hee Seop Choi.
OK, I'll throw some stats out there:
Lee Overall: .271/.379/.508
Choi Overall: .218/.350/.421
Derrek Lee has amazingly positive indicators, because he hit much better on the road, after the break, and has improved each of the last three seasons. He mashes left-handers, but will contribute against right-handers very well. The Cubs will keep a left-handed 1B bat (Simon or Snow) on the bench to make the occasional start, but it won't be a straight platoon. Also, Lee won a Gold Glove in 2003, and has stolen at least 19 bases each of the last two seasons. Not only is he better (currently) offensively than Choi, but he also adds defense and speed.
Choi has as much potential, as any hitter under 25 right now, but that isn't important to Cub fans, as I explained earlier. While his OPS (and GPA) might be favorable because of a lot of walks, he doesn't make contact enough to be a factor in the Major Leagues right now. Scouts say he has a gaping hole on the inside half of the plate, and while I think he'll overcome that problem, it might take a little while. Chicago doesn't have time to waste developing players, Corey Patterson took long enough.
The only valid argument for naysayers is money. I will argue that the difference between Choi and Lee contracts aren't important, I mean I documented yesterday the Cubs had the money to make a big deal like this. But the argument is the Cubs should be worrying about different positions first. Should Miguel Tejada have been higher on the want list because Alex Gonzalez sucks? Maybe. But right now, the Cubs 3-5 (Sosa, Lee, Ramirez) is very good, and Gonzalez adds Gold Glove defense. They still have the money to address 2B, the fifth spot, and the bullpen, so I guess I can invalidate (is that a word?) that argument as well.
I loved the Lee-Choi trade, and I will definitely track their progress in 2004. My guess? How about a .120 difference in OPS, in favor of Mr. Lee. And whomever first pointed out that Derrek Lee's father was the one that signed Choi should be sainted, as that is the coolest fact I read all of yesterday. I'm going to have to refer to Tupac to conclude my article, as a quote from "Keep Ya Head Up" perfectly defines the Cubs philosophy for 2003-2004: "if you fall, stand tall and come back for more." See ya tomorrow...
Looking Into Salaries and Schilling
Even though the Curt Schilling trade is big news, that analysis is at the bottom of my post today, as I first wrote about the contracts and payrolls of all NL teams. To put it all in perspective, a day after I predicted Jon Garland's arbitration/renewal contract would be $2M, he signed for $2.3. I'm a little low on arbitration numbers, so I tried to work on that for today. Any feedback please e-mail me, those are always greatly appreciated.
Signed for 2004: Elmer Dessens (4), Randy Johnson (16), Matt Mantei (7), Curt Schilling (12), Craig Counsell (3.15), Steve Finley (6.75), Luis Gonzalez (8.5), Danny Bautista (4)
Arbitration Eligible: Rob Barajas (1), Shea Hillenbrand (3)
On the hook for: $65.4M currently
That "on the hook" number may be the most inaccurate of all the teams, as Johnson and Schilling have lots of deferred payments. If Schilling moves and Sexson comes, the number will decrease to $61.4M. The team is looking to drop payroll into the $70M range, so that leaves Garagiola $5M if he keeps Schilling, or $9M if he goes with Sexson. That money will go to RF and a starter to replace Mr. Schilling.
Signed for 2004: Paul Byrd (7), Mike Hampton (2), John Smoltz (11), Russ Ortiz (5.7), Andruw Jones (12), Chipper Jones (14), Ray King (1)
Arbitration Eligible: Mark DeRosa (1), Rafael Furcal (5), Jason Marquis (750k), Jaret Wright (750k)
On the hook for: $60.2M currently
AOL/Time Warner is looking to drop into the $90M range, so Scheurholtz has to decrease costs about $10M next year. Even if that's so, it gives him roughly $25M to work with. He can then put up the best offer for Sheffield, and even make a run at Millwood. If that's so, he better be committed to staring Estrada, LaRoche, and DeRosa. I didn't include Gary Mathews Jr., whom was claimed yesterday. He'll add about 800k to that pot.
Signed for 2004: Matt Clement (6), Mark Prior (1.6), Mike Remlinger (3.55), Damian Miller (3), Alex Gonzalez (4.5), Aramis Ramirez (6), Moises Alou (9.5), Sammy Sosa (16)
Arbitration Eligible: Joe Borowski (3), Kyle Farnsworth (1.5), Ramon Martinez (1.5), Kerry Wood (8)
On the hook for: $64.15M currently
Jim Hendry has money to spend, as the Tribune Company will probably touch $90M if needed. The team is looking to add a left-handed fifth starter, second basemen, possibly a catcher, and some right-handed relief. With that kind of money they can buy the best of everything they need. I've always endorsed a Miguel Tejada signing (then eat Alex Gonzalez's contract), although there are more popular rumors (Hitchcock, Hawkins, Walker). BTW, this leaves out Paul Bako and Randall Simon, whom I see as non-tender candidates.
Signed for 2004: Danny Graves (6), Jimmy Haynes (2.5), Sean Casey (6.8), Barry Larkin (700k), Ken Griffey (12.5)
Arbitration Eligible: Russ Branyan (750k), D'Angelo Jimenez (1), Jason LaRue (2), John Reidling (750k), Chris Reitsma (1)
On the hook for: $34.5 currently
The 58.4 mentioned as payroll is deceiving, as trades decimated that number by almost $15M. Carl Lindner is looking for a payroll around $40M, which will be a problem for the new GM, Mr. O'Brien. The team already has a lineup, but they desperately need pitching in all areas. Can he do that with $3-7M, no. Fans have to come to the stadium, and owners have to pony up the dough, it should go hand in hand.
Signed for 2004: Hampton (1.9), Denny Neagle (9), Charles Johnson (9), Todd Helton (11.6), Preston Wilson (9), Larry Walker (12.5), Mark Belhorn (490k)
Arbitration Eligible: Shawn Chacon (2), Scott Elarton (.5), Justin Speier (1)
On the hook for: $56.39M currently
Dan O'Dowd is in trouble. With his current payroll almost matching last season's Opening Day, I assumed Jay Payton to be a non-tender victim in mid-December. He will probably need to dump another player, with Todd Helton being the only name I've heard. But man, that's one Hell of a contract. I think ownership may have to raise payroll by about $5M in 2004, because after next season, O'Dowd loses the contracts of Neagle, Johnson, Wilson, and Walker, which will total almost $37M in spending money. Much of their prospects will be ready then, and in 2006, a new era begins.
Signed for 2004: Juan Pierre (2.3), Mike Hampton (10)
Arbitration Eligible: Juan Encarnacion (4), Derrek Lee (6), Mike Lowell (6), Brad Penny (2.5), Mike Redman (2.5), A.J. Burnett (2.5), Braden Looper (2)
On the hook for: $37.8M currently
Much of the Marlins team is arbitration-eligible or auto-renewable, so don't be shocked by the signed for 2004 status. The team likely will be able to raise payroll to about $55M in 2004, so Beinfest has about $17-20M to spend on the current market. He wants to sign Castillo, lock up Lowell, and get Rodriguez to stay. To do that and build the rest of a team, he probably will have to get rid of Derrek Lee, who may be an Oriole as I type this. There is also talk of either Penny, Redman, or Burnett getting non-tendered, although I don't see why that's necessary.
Signed for 2004: Brad Ausmus (2), Jose Vizcaino (1.2), Dan Miceli (600k), Jeff Bagwell (13), Jeff Kent (8.5), Craig Biggio (3), Lance Berkman (6.5), Richard Hidalgo (12)
Arbitration Eligible: Geoff Blum (1.5), Octavio Dotel (2.5), Wade Miller (2)
On the hook for: $52.8M currently
Drayton McLane constantly bitches about losing money, so the payroll next season will hover around $65M once again. The team has already sunk about $4M into Ausmus, Vizcaino, and Miceli, so if that's indicative on the rest of the offseason, Hunsicker should get fired. The team should non-tender Geoff Blum (they won't) and give Morgan Ensberg an everyday job. Signing Andy Pettite might work, but that would be one of their last moves. And no, there isn't one team who will take Richard Hidalgo at $12M.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Signed for 2004: Kevin Brown (15), Darren Dreifort (11), Kaz Ishii (2.6), Tom Martin (1.65), Paul Shuey (3.8), Hideo Nomo (8), Todd Hundley (6.5), Paul Lo Duca (3.9), Shawn Green (16)
Arbitration Eligible: Adrian Beltre (4), Eric Gagne (6.8), Guillermo Mota (1), Odalis Perez (4), Dave Roberts (750k), Alex Cora (1), Jolbert Cabrera (1)
On the hook for: $87M currently
If the team keeps all these players, Dan Evans will have about $25M to improve this team. That entails getting a first basemen, second basemen, left fielder, and more if possible to create a better lineup. Todd Hundley's contract might be the biggest joke in the Majors, right up there with Mo Vaughn. By signing all second-tier players, the Dodgers could still be a contender for 2004.
Signed for 2004: Richie Sexson (8), Geoff Jenkins (8.25)
Arbitration Eligible: Wes Helms (1), Dan Kolb (750k), Ben Sheets (2.25), Luis Vizcaino (750k)
On the hook for: $21M currently
The team hopes to drop payroll to $20M this season, but their current payroll already sits above that number. But if Richie Sexson gets moved as rumored, the team will be around $13M. Doug Melvin is trying to build with minor league free agents, and have landed some good ones, like Brian Bowles, Travis Phelps, and Trent Durrington. But if Sexson gets dealt he'll have about $5M to spend, and God knows they'll need it.
Signed for 2004: Livan Hernandez (6), Jose Vidro (7)
Arbitration Eligible: Tony Armas (2.5), Rocky Biddle (1), Orlando Cabrera (4), El Duque (3), Tomo Ohka (1.5), Scott Stewart (1), Javier Vazquez (8)
On the hook for: $34M currently
The Expos need a lot of help, and I don't know where they are going to get it. MLB will go up to $40M for the payroll next season, and that is it. That means the team should non-tender Orlando Hernandez, and think hard about trading Vazquez to the Yankees for Nick Johnson and Dioner Navarro. But, I wouldn't trade Vidro or Cabrera, and I'm all over the band wagon for Brad Wilkerson in 2004.
New York Mets
Signed for 2004: Mo Vaughn (6), Tom Glavine (10.5), Al Leiter (8), Mike Stanton (3), Steve Trachsel (5), Dave Weathers (3.6), Mike Piazza (15), Cliff Floyd (6.5), Roger Cedeno (5)
Arbitration Eligible: Joe McEwing (750k), Timo Perez (1), Scott Strickland (1), Vance Wilson (750k)
On the hook for: $66.1M currently
That figure is assuming Mo Vaughn's threat to play next season is false, and the Mets get to collect on $11M in insurance. If Vaughn tries to play, that number goes up to $77M, and Jim Duquette doesn't have breathing room. As is, Duquette has $20-25M to spend, on a 2B, CF, RF, and a closer. Luis Castillo, Mike Cameron, Jose Guillen, and Keith Foulke are at the top of their wish list. Can that be achieved with $20M? Probably not. Hopefully it's not Fernando Vina, Kenny Lofton, Raul Mondesi, and Jose Mesa though. But hey, it's the Mets.
Signed for 2004: Billy Wagner (8), Rheal Cormier (3), Randy Wolf (4.25), Mike Lieberthal (7.5), David Bell (4.2), Jim Thome (10.5), Pat Burrell (4)
Arbitration Eligible: Vicente Padilla (2.5), Placido Polanco (3), Jimmy Rollins (2.5), Amaury Telemaco (750k), Valerio De Los Santos (750k)
On the hook for: $51M currently
Ed Wade is moving into a new stadium next season, so the team should have a payroll nearing $75M. If the Schilling trade goes down, the team won't take long to re-sign Kevin Millwood or to land Bartolo Colon, acquring their main offensive need. The team's offense is set in stone, and an ace will put a rotation in place. After that, Wade will add to a bullpen that currently features Wagner and Cormier. The Phillies are going to be very tough next season, very tough.
Signed for 2004: Kris Benson (6.1), Brian Boehringer (2), Jason Kendall (8)
Arbitration Eligible: Joe Beimel (750k), Mike Lincoln (750k), Brian Meadows (750k), Abraham Nunez (750k), Saloman Torres (1), Kip Wells (2.9), Craig Wilson (1), Jack Wilson (1)
On the hook for: $25M currently
This is another team bitching about payroll, so it will be slashed to $35-40M for next season. The infield could include Wilson, Freddy Sanchez, Bobby Hill, and Jack Wilson, with an outfield of Jason Bay, Tony Alvarez, and J.J. Davis. That would be the ultracheap version, although Joe Randa is one target the team has. The team doesn't have a lot of needs, and don't be too suprised if they fall to a payroll betwen $30-35M. That sucks for PNC Park, as the nicest stadium in MLB deserves better baseball.
San Diego Padres
Signed for 2004: Ryan Klesko (6.5), Mark Loretta (1.25), Phil Nevin (8.5), Brian Giles (9), Trevor Hoffman (2.5), Brian Lawrence (800k), Kevin Jarvis (4.25), Jay Witasick (1.75), Ramon Hernandez (2.375), Terrence Long (3.9), Akinori Otsuka negotiation rights (300k)
Arbitration Eligible: Adam Eaton (1), Mike Mathews (500k)
On the hook for: $42.625 currently
This is before the team actually signs Otsuka, which will take the current payroll to about $44M. This is a very complete team, but they should fight hard to get David Wells. I mean, they won't even give him a guaranteed contract? C'mon, it's not like Chuck Finley is any better. But, I really like this team, and with the D-Backs recent demotion, this will be a battle with San Fran, LA, and the Pads. Right now, the Pads are in front.
San Francisco Giants
Signed for 2004: Jason Christensen (2.3), Robb Nen (9), Felix Rodriguez (5), Kirk Rueter (5), Jason Schmidt (8.5), Edgardo Alfonzo (8.5), Ray Durham (6), Neifi Perez (2.75), Barry Bonds (16), Marquis Grissom (2)
Arbitration Eligible: Jim Brower (1), Scott Eyre (750k), Pedro Feliz (1), Matt Herges (1), A.J. Pierzynski (2.2)
On the hook for: $68M currently
This team's payroll will be $75M next season, which doesn't give Brian Sabean a whole lot of breathing room. A bullpen can already be conceived by this, and the team is one starter away from a rotation. Pierzynski helped shore up the offensive situation, but 1B, SS, and RF are all still empty. That's a lot with only $7M to spend.
St. Louis Cardinals
Signed for 2004: Jason Isringhausen (6.75), Matt Morris (12.5), Woody Williams (8), Mike Matheny (2.75), Edgar Renteria (5), Scott Rolen (11.25), Jim Edmonds (9), Eli Marrero (2.25), So Taguchi (1)
Arbitration Eligible: J.D. Drew (4), Albert Pujols (8), Kerry Robinson (750k)
On the hook for: 71.25M currently
The team's payroll will be about $85M again next season, which gives Jocketty about $12M to build a pitching staff. I've already wrote moving Pujols to first is a bad idea, as John Gall can take that spot for about $300,000. With his $12M, Jocketty needs a good set-up man, a LOOGY, one #3 starter, and a #5. It won't exactly be easy, but this team doesn't need to be wheelin' and dealin' to keep up with the Cubs.
First, before I go into too much analyzation, let's look at some numbers and splits for Curt Schilling in 2003:
Schilling- 8-9 2.95 144/168 194/32
And onto the numbers of those acquired by the Diamonbacks (Brandon Lyon, Casey Fossum, Jorge De La Rosa, and Michael Goss):
Lyon- 73/59 50/19
Fossum in MLB: 6-5 5.47 82/79 63/34
De La Rosa (AA): 6-3 2.80 87/99.2 120/36
Here are some scouting reports I've fished up, one from John Sickels on De La Rosa, and some quotes from old Baseball America's about Casey Fossum...
John Sickels of ESPN on De La Rosa: He has a fastball clocked as high as 94 mph. His slider is very good, and he improved his ability to change speeds this year. His biggest problem right now is still command, as his mechanics can be inconsistent, which hinders his ability to throw strikes where he wants them.
Baseball America in 2000 (Fossum #10 BoSox prospect): "Fossum is about as polished as a pitcher coming into professional baseball can be...If you don't like Fossum, you see him as a situational lefty with a low ceiling. If you do, you see him as an effective No. 4 or 5 starter who will move fast to the big leagues."
What's funny with Fossum is that at the beginning, BA praised a low-90s fastball and hard slider, but in 2002 wrote his slow curve was his only real pitch. I saw him in Spring Training before 2002 throwing harder, but his hard slider isn't what it used to be. He attacks hitters well, but his stamina is a major problem. A swingman is really the best you will see from him at this point, sad considering his early hype.
Schilling would be an amazing acquisition for Theo Epstein, and immedietly place him in the upper echelon of GMs. Schilling apparently wants a contract extension, and if Epstein satisfies that need, he is offically waiving Pedro good-bye after next season. Also, this move will put the team too far into the red, so Theo will have to non-tender or trade Byung-Hyun, and make Arroyo the 5th starter. And, I don't think the team can sign Keith Foulke, they'll have to accept Williamson in the closer role.
Curt pitched much better on the road last season, although Fenway Park is very small. His ERA will still be under 3, and the Red Sox rotation, and lineup, will be better than their arch rivals. Lyon won't be missed, as Theo was trying to get rid of him since the All-Star Break, and Fossum never had a spot on this team. De La Rosa is the big loss, and Goss is much more of a Duquette acquisition than an Epstein choice.
I don't like the loot for the D-Backs, but I'll have to wait to see what they give up for Richie Sexson before I judge too thoroughly. I imagine the sum would be Junior Spivey, Casey Fossum, and De La Rosa, although that's purely my opinion. I think the D-Backs are keeping Lyon, although he's not the best pitcher in the world.
There is no question the Red Sox won out on this trade, and there is no way Joe Garigiola got fair market value for Curt. But just like the Kotsay deal, this one isn't over until it's over.
See ya tomorrow...
Looking Into Salaries (Part One)
First of all, if you didn't check my weekend post, do so now. It has analysis on the Tino trade, Escobar and Appier signings, and as many rumors as I could think of.
This week will largely be devoted to suggestions my readers made, and next week I'll get into Organizational Meetings again. Today, by request of Avkash Patel of the Raindrops, I'm writing about future salaries. Part One will be looking into 2004 salaries of AL teams, Part Two will be for NL teams, and three will be seeing who is on the hook for how much after next season. The Yankees are a prime example, as they look to be $70M in the hole as early as 2005. Ouch.
Being Payed in 2004: Kevin Appier (12), Ramon Ortiz (2.42), Aaron Sele (8.5), Troy Percival (7.5), Kelvim Escobar (6.25), Ben Molina (1.9), Troy Glaus (9), Garret Anderson (5), Darin Erstad (7.5), Tim Salmon (9.5)
Arbitration Eligible and Projected Salaries- Jarrod Washburn (5), Ben Weber (1.5), David Eckstein (2)
On the hook for: 78.07 currently
The Appier contract sucks, as the Angels have to pay him over ten million to pitch for Kansas City. The team has said they will raise payroll to 85-90 million next year, giving Stonemann about 7 million to work with. Remember this doesn't include any auto-renewals, which will drive payroll about about 2-3M. With these signed players, the team only lacks a 1B, SS, DH, and a little in the bullpen.
Signed in 2004: Omar Daal (4.5), Buddy Groom (3), Marty Cordova (3.5), David Segui (7)
Arbitration Eligible: Jay Gibbons (3), Jerry Hairston (2), Jason Johnson (5), Luis Matos (1.5), Mora (3), Brian Roberts (1), B.J. Ryan (750k), Willis Roberts (750k)
On the hook for: 35M currently
Although DavidSegui and Omar Daal will take up 11.5M to suck next season, the team will have about $30M to spend. I have assumed that Damian Moss will be non-tendered, which is a pretty safe assumption. With this taken into consideration, the team needs a C, 1B, 3B, RF, 2-3 starters, 2 MR. A lot.
Boston Red Sox
Signed for 2004: Alan Embree (2.75), Derek Lowe (5), Pedro Martinez (17.5), Ramiro Mendoca (3.6), Mike Timlin (2.5), Tim Wakefield (4.35), Jason Varitek (6.7), Nomar Garciaparra (11.5), Kevin Millar (2.7), Bill Mueller (2.1), Johnny Damon (8), Manny Ramirez (20.5)
Arbitration Eligible: Byung-Hyun Kim (4), Doug Mirabelli (900k), Trot Nixon (5), David Ortiz (3), Scott Sauerbeck (1.6), Scott Williamson (2.5)
On the hook for: $104.2M currently
Uh-oh, Epstein is in trouble. With the current players on the roster, he is already over last season's Opening Day Payroll, and I'm assuming Jeremy Giambi and Damian Jackson get non-tendered. The team will go up to $110M next season, giving Theo next-to-nothing to spend. This signed team lacks a second basemen, no starters if Arroyo or Fossum gets a spot, and about 2-3MR.
Chicago White Sox
Signed for 2004: Billy Koch (6.375), Esteban Loaiza (3.5), Paul Konerko (8), Jose Valentin (5), Frank Thomas (6), Magglio Ordonez (14)
Arbitration Eligible- Mark Buehrle (3.5), Brian Daubach (1), Jon Garland (2), Carlos Lee (5), Scott Schoenweis (1.5), Kelly Wunsch (1)
On the hook for: 56.875 currently
Ken Williams has about 10 million to spend this offseason, although he's trying to trade either Konerko, Lee, or Ordonez for more breathing room. This team would lack just a 2B, SP, CF, and set-up. Peter Gammons reports they are once again on the trail for Bartolo Colon, but then Carlos Lee and another player would have to get dealt. Is Colon that good? No. Sign Alomar, Ponson, and then worry about the rest after the non-tenders.
Signed for 2004: Milton Bradley (1.43), CC Sabathia (2.45), Mark Wohlers (1), Bob Wickman (5.3), Ricky Gutierrez (3.82), Omar Vizquel (7.5), Matt Lawton (6.75)
Arbitration Eligible: John McDonald (750k), David Riske (1.5), Jake Westbrook (1)
On the hook for: 31.5M currently
The team is likely slashing payroll again next year, giving Mark Shapiro about 40M to work with. The offense can pretty much be constructed as is, although Shapiro is said to want a 2B. I didn't touch the Danys Baez situation here, and he could pose even more problems. The team will need a 2B, SP, and MR with about $7M.
Signed for 2004: Matt Anderson (4.3), Danny Patterson (2.8), Bobby Higginson (8.85), Dmitri Young (7.125), Damion Easley (6.65), Eric Munson (?2?)
On the hook for: 31M
And this is about all Dambrowski has to work with, maybe about 4M on the free agent market. And he wants Miguel Tejada? Ha, possibly the funniest rumor in years. The team will need to build around auto-renewals, and likely non-tender Warren Morris is the only Tiger up for arbitration. It will be a slow few years in Detroit.
Kansas City Royals
Signed for 2004: Kevin Appier (300k), Mike Sweeney (11)
Arbitration Eligible: Carlos Beltran (9), Darrell May (1), Kris Wilson (750k)
On the hook for: 22.9M
OK, so the Royals can easily keep Beltran and Sweeney, giving Baird about 10-12 million to patch the other holes. He is said to want a corner outfielder, although I would go with Guiel and DeJesus. Going after a C (Lopez?) would be a nice move, and the team needs another veteran starter and lots of relief help. This is a good team to do a column on, I'll do so soon.
Signed for 2004: Joe Mays (5.75), Eric Milton (9), Brad Radke (10), Christian Guzman (2.25), Corey Koskie (4.5), Jacque Jones (4.35), Torii Hunter (8)
Arbitration Eligible: Doug Mientkiewicz (3), Luis Rivas (1.5), JC Romero (1.5), Johan Santana (3)
On the hook for: 52.85M
This team may non-tender Luis Rivas and trade Mientkiewicz or Eric Milton. They are looking to re-sign both Shannon Stewart and Eddie Guardado, although I would just choose Stewart. I'll write more when I do their organizational meeting, but I have big plans for the Twinsies. But let me say, Terry Ryan has about 13M to spend on an open market.
New York Yankees
Signed for 2004: Jose Contreras (7), Chris Hammond (2.4), Steve Karsay (5), Jon Lieber (2.45), Mike Mussina (14), Mariano Rivera (8.9), Jeff Weaver (6.25), Jorge Posada (6), Jason Giambi (10), Derek Jeter (17), Hideki Matsui (7), Bernie Williams (12)
Arbitration Eligible: Aaron Boone (4), David Delucci (1), Karim Garcia (1), Nick Johnson (3), Alfonso Soriano (8), Enrique Wilson (750k)
On the hook for: 115.75M currently
Well, even if they keep everyone currently on their roster, Brian Cashman has a lot to spend. Conceivably, this team could add Sheffield (12), Colon (12), and two good relievers (10?), and sit right around 150M for next season. Why trade Johnson or Soriano. Just go to camp with this team, and let the pieces fall into place. Believe me, they aren't far from more rings.
Signed for 2004: Tim Hudson (4.55), Jim Mecir (3.3), Mark Mulder (4.4), Barry Zito (2.7), Eric Chavez (5.2), Jermaine Dye (11), Mark Kotsay (5.5), Scott Hatteberg (2.325)
Arbitration Eligible: Chad Bradford (1.5), Erubiel Durazo (3), Frank Menechino (500k)
On the hook for: 43.975 currently
Well, Billy Beane doesn't have a lot more to work with. Phil Rogers suggestion the team may non-tender Durazo is stupid, although they may do so to Menechino. This team already would have a lineup and rotation in place, although signing a backup C (i.e. Pratt) would be a smart move. Basically that would leave Billy Beane $5M to spend on a bullpen, and more importantly a closer.
Signed for 2004: Jamie Moyer (6.5), Kaz Sasaki (8), Dan Wilson (3.5), Bret Boone (8), Edgar Martinez (4.5), Jeff Cirillo (6.725), Greg Colbrunn (1.75), John Olerud (7.7), Raul Ibanez (4.3)
Arbitration Eligible: Ben Davis (1), Ryan Franklin (3), Carlos Guillen (3), Gil Meche (2), Joel Pineiro (3), Ichiro Suzuki (7), Randy Winn (3.5)
On the hook for: 73.475M currently
In this, I assumed the team to non-tender Freddy Garcia and to keep Randy Winn, as those are the moves I would do. That leaves Bill Bavasi with a little more than $10M to sign a very good SS and to get some solid middle relief into that team. And, oh yeah, they could also use another cheaper starter. Well, I guess you can say I'm not bullish on the M's next season!
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Signed for 2004: Tino Martinez (1.5), Paul Abbott (600k), John Halama (750k)
Arbitration Eligible- Marlon Anderson (1.5), Rob Bell (750k), Jeremi Gonzalez (2), Aubrey Huff (4), Adam Piatt (500k), Damian Rolls (500k)
On the hook for: 12M currently
I don't really know how much this leaves the inept Chuck LaMar, although I'm guessing about $13M on the current market. Spending that money on Tom Gordon, Mike Cameron, and Arthur Rhodes would put them very close to a .500 contender, although that is leaving the team without a 3B. Well, I know the first order of business should be firing LaMar!
Signed for 2004: Alex Rodriguez (20), Chan Ho Park (13), Jay Powell (3), Jeff Zimmerman (4.3), Todd Van Poppell (3), Einar Diaz (2.5), Herbert Perry (1.7), Rusty Greer (7.4), Mark Teixeira (2.1??)
Arbitration Eligible- Francisco Cordero (1), Michael Young (2)
On the hook for: $60M currently
Well, I think the opening day figure for 72.941 is a little low, because I thought the team wanted to significantly drop payroll to 70M for this season? Well, John Hart has about 10M to spend on this team, which includes a cheap corner outfielder, Palmiero, and 1-2 cheap starters. I think Hicks might be unrealistic hoping for $70M next season, unless he really does accept that Manny for A-Rod deal.
Toronto Blue Jays
Signed for 2004: Pat Hentgen (2.2), Frank Catalanotto (2.3), Greg Myers (900k), Carlos Delgado (18.5), Eric Hinske (800k), Vernon Wells (700k)
Arbitration Eligible: Roy Halladay (10), Ted Lilly (2.5), Trever Miller (750k), Cliff Pollitte (1), Pete Walker (750k), Chris Woodward (1.5)
On the hook for: 41.9 currently
Well, there is still a lot to do for a team that is nearing last season's payroll. With about 5 million, Riccardi is hoping to add one more starter, a good late-inning reliever, and a middle infielder. Paul Quantrill is the reliever they are hoping for, but even Ben Sheets may be asking too much. Toronto will need a $50M payroll to succeed next season, and then the team will lose Carlos Delgado the following year and start to compete.
That's it. E-Mail me with any corrections, and let me reiterate this is vastly unofficial, I made up all the arbitration figures. But I did work hard on this, so don't bash me in e-mails too much! Have a good one...
Tino, Escobar, Appier
As promised, Tino Martinez was traded to the Devil Rays, with the Cardinals sending $7M of the $8.5M Tino is owed through next season. Tampa sent Evan Rust, a 25-year old reliever, and a player to be named later. Let's look at some numbers:
Tino Martinez- 273/352/429
Evan Rust at AA- 1-3 2.65 28/34 35/15
So, Tino can't hit left-handers, and struggled away and after the break. But hey, he's got that veteran presence we all love. He goes along with Paul Abbott and John Halama under the category of Piniella acquisitions, indicating how little pull Chuck LaMar has on this franchise. He is a yes man, and it's a matter of weeks (in my mind), before Jim Bowden sits atop the D-Rays.
I thought that maybe one bonus Tino had was defense, but the statistics proved me wrong. He was 7th in the National League with 1.79 defensive win shares, thanks to the boys over at www.baseballgraphs.com. And using Dave Pinto's new defensive statistic, Martinez was 12th among first base regulars. Who was top on that list? None other than former Devil Ray, Travis Lee.
Lee is a very similar player that will provide a little less veteran leadership, and a little more on defense. At the plate, Lee hit 275/348/459, which is virtually the same production from the plate. If Lee ends up signing for $1.5M or less, this wasn't the right move. If he gets $3M, than Lou and LaMar have a little defense. Tampa still will sign a 3B (Tony Batista?), and a RF (Carl Everett), so their offense is hardly finished.
While much press has come from St. Louis that Albert Pujols will play first next season, I don't see it happening. John Gall is one of their better prospects, and here are his stats from AAA last season:
John Gall at AAA- 312/368/473 16HR/73RBI
Not bad at all. So Gall will come in and play first base, and we will see the following lineup from the 2004 St. Louis Cardinals:
1. Bo Hart- 2B
Rust is a solid addition, and could pitch in the 2004 bullpen that so far only has Jason Isringhausen, Kiko Calero, and Cal Eldred. Rust will probably battle with the likes of Jimmy Journell and Mike Crudale for a spot. He's a hard-thrower, and him, along with Gall, will make St. Louis forger Mr. Martinez.
Next transaction: Kelvim Escobar signs with the Anaheim Angels for three seasons, worth $18.75M. Let's see the statistics:
Kelvim Escobar as starter- 12-8 3.92 162/163 136/70
For his totals I left out about 15 bad relief appearences, although they are included in the home, away, and pre-all star game splits. Escobar finally found his niche in 2003, pitching very well in the Toronto starting rotation. He was very good on the road, and will be moving from the Majors 5th best stadium for hitters, to the 25th.
Escobar throws his fastball 95mph, and can throw a mean breaking pitch. He walks a lot of people, and may join the few and proud of topping the 100 marker over one season. He struck out less people per inning after the break, probably because he didn't have any relief appearences the final three months.
Lee Sinins reports this won't decrease interest in Bartolo Colon, but if the Angels can snag Colon I imagine Jarrod Washburn would be non-tendered. But right now, we are looking at a rotation in Anaheim of:
Jarrod Washburn- LH
And remember, Ervin Santana and Bobby Jenks are getting closer to Anaheim everyday. The Blue Jays knew this was coming, ever since Kelvim turned down a two-year, $10M offer from Riccardi. J.P. has already added Ted Lilly and Pat Hentgen, and Sinins writes the team will have interest in Ben Sheets. One Batter's Box thread gives a good offer of Jayson Werth, Kevin Cash, and Brandon League.
Good move by the Angels, although the Blue Jays won't be missing too much. And if this ends the interest in Colon, he may have no choice but to sign with New York.
Finally, the Kansas City Royals signed Kevin Appier for the league minimum of $300,000. This isn't exactly an impact signing, after considering Appier's 2003:
Appier in 2003: 8-9 5.40 120/111.2 55/43
Kevin didn't pitch particularly badly with the Royals, although one of his four starts only went two innings, due to a sore elbow. Obviously that has been checked out, and Kevin will be back with average or below-average six inning starts in 2004. Baird can't go wrong here, as 300K is nothing, and Appier can't go wrong, because Anaheim still owes him $12M. Right now, the Royals rotation has Appier, Runelvys Hernandez, Jimmy Gobble, Miguel Asencio, and Darrell May. I'm assuming Jeremy Affeldt will be in the bullpen, pitching very effectively next season.
So that's the transactions I've seen. The Mark Kotsay-Ramon Hernandez deal is still yet to be finalized, and Kevin Towers will take the offer away if Beane doesn't accept it by tomorrow. So, that's an interesting thing to watch out for. Other news and rumors:
- The Baltimore Orioles are close to trading for Derrek Lee, apparently for young pitching. Lee will make about $7.5M in 2004, and the Marlins wish to save their money for Mike Lowell, Luis Castillo, and...
- Ivan Rodriguez isn't close to signing with Florida. Pudge wants 5 years and $50M, the Marlins want 2 years and $15M. I would say that is pretty far off, wouldn't you? Other than Florida, only the Cubs are showing a lot of interest in Rodriguez.
- Tony Graffanino will probably sign with the Red Sox some time next week, and fellow infielder Jeff Cirillo is going to be released this offseason. Boston is planning on non-tendering Jeremy Giambi, and avidly pursuing Adam Kennedy when he is non-tendered. TGraff and Kennedy would platoon at second.
- The Yankees will not pursue Vladimir Guerrero, and hopes David Well's will take a non-roster invite. The Padres remain interested in Wells, and would probably guarantee a contract. Andy Pettite is drawing interest from New York, Houston, and now Boston.
- Guerrero may be left with just the Orioles and Expos, with Baltimore picking up the MLB trash. This would leave Miguel Tejada to just the Angels, Dodgers, or the Cubs. Gary Sheffield wants the Yankees, but is unimpressed with their offer. Supposedly, Atlanta currently has a better offer. If the Braves lose out on Sheffield they'll likely sign Millwood, and the Phillies will trade for Schilling.
- Sterling Hitchcock is gaining interest on the free agent market, notably from the Cubs. Chicago is also interested in left-hander Eric Milton, who may go to the Red Sox. Boston is also pursuing Jarrod Washburn in a trade.
- A few 40-man roster waiver claims: Walter Young (1B) claimed by Orioles from Pirates, Duaner Sanchez (RP) claimed by LA from Pirates, Mario Ramos (LHP) claimed by Oakland from Texas, Edwin Almonte (RP) claimed by Boston from Mets, Matt Guerrier claimed by Twins from Pirates. Pittsburgh has too many players, and left off a bunch from the 40-man. Another interesting one is Chris Shelton, a C/1B who raked in A+ last year. More on potential Rule V picks next week.
Have a good weekend and I'll be back on Monday.
Baseball Questions, Answers, and Musings With David Pinto
David Pinto has been writing Baseball Musings, one of the most widely read baseball blogs, since March 2002. David was the lead researcher for ESPN's Baseball Tonight for ten years, and he also hosted Baseball Tonight Online on ESPN.com. He is currently on the professional staff at the Center for Intelligent Information Retrieval at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
David is originally from Bridgeport, Connecticut but now resides in Western Massachusetts. He has an A.B. and a C.S.S. from Harvard University.
I had the privilege of interviewing David during the past week for the third installment of my series this off-season with the best writers and analysts in the baseball blogging world.
RWBB: How old were you when you began watching baseball games?
RWBB: If you had to name names, who would you be inclined to give the most credit to?
RWBB: It sounds to me like you're an anti-Pete guy.
RWBB: Thank you, David. We'll all be following your comments this winter and throughout next season. Your daily entries are enjoyed by us all.
[Reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]
A few odds and ends on a Friday. I have AL Central OPS reports below, and I'll post AL East, along with news on a transaction if need be. I fully expect that to be Tino Martinez becoming a Devil Ray, when I'll get the chance to write 500-1000 words bashing the Devil Rays. Ahh...good times.
First, a little foreign news. Kaz Matsui, the next big-name player to come overseas, announced he is surely coming to America. This wasn't headline material, as it was seen coming. I wrote earlier the rumors to the New York teams were idiotic, and he'll end up on the West Coast, or Baltimore. Yesterday I said he'd be good in Seattle, likely hitting forty doubles in the two-hole.
Fellow Japanese middle infielder, Tadahito Iguchi, announced he will wait a year to pursue the Major Leagues. I wrote about Iguchi a few weeks ago, and speculation had been he would land with the New York Mets. He broke out in 2003, and will use next season to build on his breakout season. Next year, he'll have the title of the best Japanese import of the year. This season, he's the third best foreign player.
That is, of course, because Korean first basemen Lee Seung-yeop is right behind Matsui. Seung is in town this week, disappointed he is yet to receive a contract offer. He'll be putting on a show in Los Angeles, hoping the Dodgers offer some dough. He's a very good fit there, and Lo Duca could play first vs. left-handers to ease Lee into Major League play. I mean, Hell, he can't be worse than Fred McGriff!
Finally, the Padres spend $300,000 yesterday to retain negotiating rights of Japanese closer Akinori Otsuka. A look at the last three seasons for Otsuka, thanks to japanesebaseball.com...
2001: 26Sv 48G 42H/56IP 82K/15BB 4.02ERA
It looks like the days are gone when Otsuka pitches multiple innings, so he'll really be used in the set-up role next season. I don't know if this means Rod Beck is gone or not, but my guess is yes. Beck will catch on somewhere, with my gut telling me Chicago, Boston, or Oakland. Otsuka obviously has fantastic control, but his numbers aren't quite as dominant as Kaz Sasaki's were. But Sasaki's impact was huge, and I think this is a nice attempt by Kevin Towers, who is pulling every cord to improve this team.
40-man rosters were due by yesterday at midnight, so next week I'm hoping to write an article on the best Rule V options available. Walter Young, a solid first base prospect of the Pirates, didn't make Pittsburgh's forty, so the Baltimore Orioles claimed him on waivers. Solid pick-up, but the Pirates will be fine at first base since Ryan Shelton or Doumit will have to move there. Nothing strikes me as surprising off the bat, but my weekend job is to find some solid available players. That and fan suggested articles coming next week.
Big day for college recruiting yesterday, and if I knew anything about college baseball, I'd be happy to pass it on...
My prediction of Sheffield to the Yankees is a gimme, and the Danys Baez situation is the most confusing in baseball. There really is a flaw if Mark Shapiro can pay him near the minimum next year. But if so, nice loophole find by Shapiro...
I have to admit, that's all, except for some OPS reports below. Enjoy...
Chicago White Sox
Kansas City Royals
Recap time. Here are the players who have very positive indicators from the last three years:
Carl Everett- OF- Free Agent
And for those with negative tendencies:
Christian Guzman- SS- Twins
Have a good weekend and check back if anything worthy of note happens...
Thanks everyone who has sent in e-mails for article suggestions, they have definitely helped. I'm going to write a few of them next week, so stay tuned for that. I'm also hoping some more Organizational Meetings get posted next week, and I'm looking forward to that. I'm sorry to announce the Seattle Mariner e-mails I sent out went unanswered, so I'm going to have to tackle Seattle on my own...
First off, let me say I was correct in predicting Raul Ibanez would come to Seattle. But hell, I didn't think it would be that fast! Ibanez signed quickly, bringing in a three-year deal worth a total of $13M. It is a lot of money to pay someone who just exited their prime seasons, and the guys at U.S.S. Mariner are in a frenzy about the signing. While I disagree with David Cameron that John Vander Wal would have been a better choice, Matt Stairs may have. Anyway, let's check out some Raul stats:
Well, those numbers don't exactly help Bill Bavasi's case. Ibanez can't hit left-handers at all, and really struggled with power away from Kauffman Stadium. He's moving to Safeco Field, which isn't exactly a haven for power hitters. His numbers in the second half were a little stronger, but that holds true throughout his career. Ibanez is a platoon case waiting to happen, and Bavasi will see a .275/.325/.425 season if he isn't careful.
But, rumors are the Mariners will still go after Mike Cameron, with the intent of platooning Randy Winn and Ibanez in left. Winn hit .314/.368/.491 vs. LH in 2003, and .323/.379/.490 during the last three seasons. So if Bavasi sticks with this, he'll keep a very good defensive outfield vs. LH, and he'll have a pretty solid platoon combination in left field. White Sox fans are very happy, as the rival Royals lose a solid leftie bat, and those Freddy Garcia for Carlos Lee rumors go away.
We'll deal with Garcia in a minute, but let me close the hitting. There is obviously another gap in this lineup, and Bavasi must fill it with a shortstop. Normally, I would support Miguel Tejada for this job, but given cash consideration and Safeco field, I'm going to choose Kaz Matsui. He is more of a doubles hitter than Tejada, and his speed will provide a spark with Ichiro at the top. It would make Seattle's lineup look like:
1. Ichiro Suzuki- RF
That's not bad, but it's pretty imperative the team signs Mike Cameron. While his bat is getting worse and worse in Safeco, he helps the team in so many other ways. Also, the team really lacks a real #5 hitter, but that was Ibanez's former role with the Royals. They are getting old fast, but this lineup would definitely compete with those indivision.
Getting back to Freddy and the pitching, I think it's imperative the team trade Garcia. Rafeal Soriano is more than ready for the rotation, and the way he pitched down the stretch, he'd likely be more effective than Freddy was. I don't know what Garcia would yield on the market, but an overpaid effective reliever would seem like a good fit. If Garcia was to stay, the rotation would look like this, along with second half ERA:
1. Jamie Moyer- 3.59
But, by bringing in Soriano, and his sparkling 1.14 ERA, this rotation has some spark. And while Franklin has a lot of positive indicators, his K/9 rate has decreased every season thus far in the Majors. If any member(s) of this rotation were to struggle, the trio of Rett Johnson, Clint Nageotte, and Travis Blackley will be ready to take over. Hell, by midseason the Mariners could be sporting Jamie Moyer and 4 pitchers well under 25 years of age.
The real scare of the Mariners is their bullpen, which is currently employing two members. Kazuhiro Sasaki is becoming decreasingly effective in his old age, and if needed Soriano might move back to close at some point. I really like Julio Mateo, the other returning member who put in fifty solid games last season. He is very capable of going multiple innings, and really doesn't hurt himself with the walk.
Bringing back Armando Benitez isn't a bad idea, as he gets a lot more flak than he deserves. Armando holds right-handers to an OPS under .600, and left-handers under .650. He would be a very solid set-up man, and could take over Sasaki's position if necessary. But like all relievers, Bavasi must be careful to overpay. Waiting to see Keith Foulke's contract is important, because if he can only net $4 or 5M per, the market goes way down. The team also needs a LOOGY, and probably have a price they'd like to match. Arthur Rhodes could be brought back, although I think he'll re-join Lou in Tampa. Mark Guthrie is a name no one is talking about, and I don't think he'd be a bad addition.
The last two bullpen spots are unimportant, and could easily be filled by younsters. Bobby Madritsch, the 2002 Independent League Pitcher of the Year, had very good K/9 numbers in AA, and could be a valuable second leftie/long reliever in the bullpen. Aaron Looper and Aaron Taylor will likely battle for the final slot. I'm a big proprietor of going with cheap bullpens, and to have an effective starting lineup, Bavasi must go cheap.
Staying in the AL West, I caught a lot of criticism from a certain Billy Beane fan in my inbox yesterday, who seemed to strongly disagree with my comments. Avkash thinks the Oakland deals were made about money first and talent second. While I would normally agree, I just can't in this situation. Beane lost Miguel Tejada and Keith Foulke from his payroll, so the $2M he'll save with Kielty and Kotsay aren't THAT important. In my mind, Beane becomes enfatuated with players easily, and while they are good choices, he could overpay at times. He's a very good GM, don't get me wrong, but he ain't the best in the bigs.
Also, Patel disagreed with my bashing of the Scott Hatteberg extension and Jeremy Brown choice. He says Brown was a money pick, and while he could have grabbed him in the 8th, he needed to save money. And this, I must admit, is pretty true. Brown signed for $350,000, which was the lowest at that time. Oakland payed their next two picks in the 700s, which indicated they did have some money to spend. And hell, Blue Jays solid prospect David Bush was picked 55th, and only signed for 100K more than Brown. Believe me, Bush is higher on my prospect chart than Jeremy.
Finally, I also got an e-mail from someone who noted the ridiculous rumor of Miguel Tejada going to the Tigers. Miguel has some better options, although it would be fun to listen in on Dambrowski's offer to Miguel. Miguel is going to either Anaheim or the Cubs, with the Orioles having an outside chance. Also, the A's claimed Mario Ramos off waivers, the same player sent to receive Carlos Pena two seasons ago. For all the bashing I do of Beane, he is very good on claiming people off waivers. Ramos still has potential, and I think the A's could be the team to transform him into the John Halama type.
Finally, here are the OPS trends for AL West players, without comments today...
Reviewing, only two players, Carlos Guillen and Garret Anderson had positive indicators. Guillen will probably build on a .753 season, and Anderson needs about 20 walks to reach the .900 plateau. If he reaches it, Peter Gammons will launch a nationwide campaign for his election of MVP, President, and Boston Mayor.
Mike Cameron, Ichiro, Jermaine Dye, and A-Rod have had three seasons with OPS on the decline. Cameron would reverse that outside of Safeco, but inside who knows? Ichiro could very well have a .775 season next yar, staying with his decline rate. Dye really can't get worse than .514, and might even be back in the 700s next season. A-Rod, well, .996 ain't bad. If he declines to .990, I don't think anyone will care. Decline or not, he's the best baseball player alive, end of story.
The Worst MVP Seasons Ever
The American League and National League Most Valuable Player Awards were announced on Monday and Tuesday. I wholeheartedly endorse the selections. In early October, I picked Alex Rodriguez as the MVP in the A.L. and Barry Bonds as the MVP in the N.L. Both players maintained their reputations as the best player in their respective league although A-Rod's MVP was only the first of his career, while Bonds' MVP was his sixth--a major league baseball record. Barry's MVP also proved to be an unprecedented third in a row.
I found two players who won the MVP award with seasons that cannot be justified by any statistical measure whatsoever. The worst MVP season in American League history belongs to Roger Peckinpaugh in 1925. The worst MVP in National League history belongs to Marty Marion in 1944. The common thread was the fact that both players were shortstops on pennant-winning teams. Peckinpaugh was with the Washington Senators (96-55) and Marion was with the St. Louis Cardinals (105-49).
Interestingly, Marion is the only player in the history of baseball who was voted the MVP despite having batting, on base, and slugging averages below the league mean (excluding pitchers).
AVG OBP SLG OPS Marion .267 .324 .362 .686 N.L. Average .270 .338 .380 .718Marion's OPS that year was .032 below the league average and his OPS+ was 91, indicating his productivity was 9% below par on a park adjusted basis. Marion's Runs Created Above Average (RCAA) was minus four, which also suggests he was a subpar player offensively. In fact, Marion was such a mediocre hitter at best that he batted seventh in all six World Series games that year.
To Marion's credit, he compared favorably to his peers at shortstop that year by creating 18 runs above his position average (RCAP). From a purely offensive standpoint, Marion's year was similar to Orlando Cabrera's season in 2003 in terms of BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+ relative to the league and position, as well as RCAA and RCAP.
In fairness, it should also be pointed out that Marion was the premier defensive shortstop of his day. However, it is my firm belief that no matter which fielding measure one uses, it would be impossible to conclude that his defensive prowess overcame his offensive shortcomings to such a degree that he was more valuable than any other player in the league that year. Baseball Prospectus rates his defensive play at 123 for 1944, meaning he saved 23 more runs per 100 games than the average fielder. According to BP, Marion's defense saved the Cardinals 32 runs for the entire season.
On a combined basis, Marion's contributions were worth about seven to nine wins according to BP's Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP). Marion also had 20 Win Shares in 1944, which equates to approximately six to seven wins. Based on these measures, let's give Marion credit for seven wins that year. How does that compare to others? Well, for one, Marion ranked sixth on his own team in Win Shares with just over half of the team (and league) leader, Stan Musial (who had 38). Musial's totals work out to 13 wins, which is validated by BP's various WARP totals ranging from 11-13 wins.
Taking a look at more traditional stats, let's see how Marion fared vs. Musial:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO AVG OBP SLG Marion 144 506 50 135 26 2 6 63 1 43 50 .267 .324 .362 Musial 146 568 112 197 51 14 12 94 7 90 28 .347 .440 .549Am I missing something here? I recognize Marion was a shortstop and Musial a right fielder and center fielder that year, but there is no way that Marion can overcome his offensive deficiencies to justify his selection over Musial. Stan the Man tallied 84 RCAA and 70 RCAP vs. -4 and 18, respectively, for Marion. To put those numbers in perspective, Musial ranked first in RCAP and Marion, 17th. Musial also happened to lead the league in OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+ that year and was number one in hits, doubles, extra base hits, and total bases as well. The only stat in which Marion finished in the top ten was the almighty category of sacrifice hits (5th with 16).
Although not of the defensive importance of Marion (by position or quality), it should be noted that Musial was an above-average OF (with a BP rating of 109 in RF and 108 in CF). Overall, Musial's defense was worth about 15 runs or 17 fewer than Marion. On the other hand, Musial created 77 more runs offensively than Marion using Baseball-Reference.com's definition or an additional 88 runs above average using Lee Sinins' Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia's methodology.
All in all, I believe an objective analysis would conclude that Musial was worth 60-70 more runs than Marion in 1944 and was a much more deserving choice for MVP honors. Working against Musial was the fact that he had won the award the previous year, and it is my belief that voters generally tend to favor new names over previous winners. It may seem like Bonds is the exception, but he actually could have won another two or three MVPs earlier in his career had voters taken a more objective viewpoint when casting their ballots.
I won't go into as much detail with respect to Peckinpaugh, but suffice it to say that his numbers are no better than Marion's when compared to the league average.
AVG OBP SLG OPS Peckinpaugh .294 .367 .379 .746 A.L. Average .297 .367 .416 .783Like Marion, Peckinpaugh's OPS+ was 91. And, almost identical to Marion, Peckinpaugh had a RCAA of minus four and a RCAP of 17. Peckinpaugh also finished 17th in RCAP, exactly the same as Marion.
Ol' Rog must have been one helluva shortstop, right? Well, not actually, at least according to BP's analysis. Peckinpaugh's fielding rating was 101, and he saved his team a total of two runs above an average player for the entire season.
Peckinpaugh must have made up for his lack of rate stats and defensive wizardry with big-time raw numbers, no? What would you say if I told you that Peckinpaugh had a grand total of 124 hits? No, he wasn't a slugger. To wit, he only had 24 extra base hits, including just four home runs. Well, he must have walked a ton, right? Nope. He had 49 bases on balls. Stolen bases, you ask? A whopping 13. In fact, Peckinpaugh did not place in the top ten in any department.
Peckinpaugh had 15 Win Shares in 1925, meaning that he was responsible for five wins. (The 15 Win Shares, I believe, are the lowest ever accorded an MVP.) BP's WARP gives "Peck" credit for about four-and-a-half wins that year. Call it five wins, whether it be by Win Shares or WARP. Amazingly, Peckinpaugh tied for tenth in Win Shares on his own team and there were three players in the A.L. (Al Simmons, 34; Goose Goslin, 31; and Harry Heilmann, 30) who had more than twice his total. If the voters were looking for a player on the first place team, why not pick Goslin? If they were looking for a shortstop, why not Joe Sewell (who had 24 Win Shares)?. Goslin, believe it or not, failed to place in the top ten because writers were limited to voting for only one player per team back then.
The only award that Peckinpaugh should have earned that year was in the World Series when he deserved to be named the MVP for the Pirates. Peckinpaugh made a record eight errors, several in key spots, as the Senators allowed the Pirates to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the World Series. Of note, the Senators made only one other error the entire series.
A final and almost unbelievable common thread for Marion and Peckinpaugh:
Marion had the 15th worst OPS in the N.L. in 1944, while Peckinpaugh had the 10th worst OPS in the A.L. in 1925 among players who qualified. There may have been greater injustices served in the MVP voting over the years, but it's safe to say there have never been worst seasons by the award winners than the ones that Marion and Peckinpaugh forged nearly 60 and 80 years ago.
Pair of Deals and lots more
Busy day in the Majors, as I've got two trades and a signing to discuss. ESPN was quick to report a Mark Kotsay for Ramon Hernandez and Terrence Long deal, as it is yet to be finalized. But my guess is that it will be, so my comments are going up today. And if you haven't seen Christian Ruzich's new blog, you shouldn't be calling yourself a baseball fan.
In the proposed deal, the Padres would be netting the catcher Kevin Towers wanted, and a left-handed bat for the outfield. I talked about San Diego's claim of Henri Stanley a couple of days ago, but the Long acquisition ruins Stanley's, and Todd Sears' chances of making the team. Before I go too far into it, let's look at a few numbers:
Wow, Long is bad. Long can hit right-handers a lot more than left-handers, and he can play left and center. That will be the extent of his playing time in San Diego. He was terrible away from Alameda, and he was God-awful after the All-Star break. He'll never get 400AB again, but with the Padres now going with a terrible outfield, he'll come into games late.
Hernandez, on the other hand, shows very promising numbers. His slugging percentage was .488 away from home, and it was .471 after the break. He actually showed a backwards platoon split, although it was the first time in his career in which that held true. I think he has the ability to top a .500 slugging percentage in San Diego, although it's unfair to expect a .350OBP. He's durable and powerful, and won't have problems behind San Diego's big guns.
So, as I see it, San Diego has shored up their 2004 starting lineup. It will look something like:
1. Mark Loretta- 2B- RH
Although, let me say I love Jonah Keri's idea of trading Nevin or Klesko for starting (Odalis?), and then going after Mike Cameron to play center field. That would really improve this team, and I would then be ready to hand them the divisional crown. After Sabean beat Towers to Pierzynski, it was essential for Kevin to make a quick deal. I think Hernandez will outperform A.J. in terms of OPS next season, and right now the Padres might be favored to win this division.
Oakland got Mark Kotsay in this deal, and landed Bobby Kielty in exchange for Ted Lilly. Let's look at the two hitters that Billy Beane has landed:
I banked on Kotsay this season, probably overdrafting him in a few fantasy leagues. A bad back led to me later releasing him, and to him putting up only decent 2003 numbers. It's important to look at the platoon split, as Oakland has a few (Chavez, Durazo, Hatteberg) left-handers already. Eric Byrnes is going to platoon here, as he slugged .524 off southpaws last year. The numbers Kotsay posted after the break are indicative on his performance, and there is a strong likelihood that Kotsay is the 2004 Oakland A's leadoff man. There goes my Kenny Lofton idea.
J.P. Riccardi worked with Billy Beane a long time, and has noticed a flaw. He likes people too much. He chose Jeremy Brown in the first round, when he could have had him in the 8th. And with Kielty, he ended up paying a lot for a guy who didn't have a good season. But I like Kielty as well, so I think this will eventually work out for Beane. Kielty hits left-handers very well, but if he continues to hit so poorly vs. RH, Billy McMillon is going to steal some at-bats. He will be a major piece of the puzzle in 2004, and Beane is counting on him, and fellow "holy grail" acquisition Erubiel Durazo to lead them to the playoffs.
And let me go off on a few Oakland tangents. To anyone saying Oakland will use Jeremy Brown next year: you are an idiot. I think Minnesota's rushing Joe Mauer too much, and he's the Majors top prospect. Brown, he ain't in the top 50. Oakland is prepared to use Melhuse, and don't be shocked if they sign Todd Pratt, who slugs lefties and walks a lot. Also, I was re-reading Moneyball. Hatteberg, the supposed posterchild of the book, is now the antichrist. If the book is about spotting inefficiencies and managing resources, why sign Scott to an extension. Graham Koonce has the patience and power philosophy Oakland loves, at an eighth less the cost of Scott. God, Beane is SOOO overrated.
With this, Beane is done fixing that offense. It needs little tweaking, so you'll see some variation of this:
Oakland vs. RH Oakland vs. LH
OK, finally, moving onto Toronto. I'm going to team the acquisition of Pat Hentgen ($2.2M) into this, and analyze Riccardi landing two pitchers. Let's see those numbers (W-L ERA H/IP K/BB):
Lilly: 12-10 4.34 179/178.1 147/58
Hentgen: 7-8 4.09 150/160.2 100/58
Lilly was another player I chose in my fantasy draft, but he proved a little too wishy-washy for my fantasy needs. He's a great pitcher and I love watching him, but is it ever going to completely come together? It did in the second half, which seems to be Riccardi's motives behind both of these moves. Lilly's ERA will suffer a bit moving to the Skydome, but I think he'll be a better pitcher than 4.34. He'll have a 4.00 ERA next year, when he would have had a 3.50 in Oakland.
Hentgen is an interesting addition, and a little expensive as well. If J.P. waited on this, he probably could have saves 700K or something along those lines. Hentgen had a disastrous first half that was even worse than the numbers, because there are 22 effective relief innings in that 5.25 ERA. He really got his stuff back in the second half, and became the Hentgen of old. He was virtually the same inside and outside of Camden Yards, so I would ignore that. I can't call him an innings-eater, just another Riccardi gamble. He's a decent third starter, and will do a helluva lot better than Cory Lidle last year.
In case you didn't realize it, this really does mean Escobar and Lidle are both gone. Kelvim is said to be deciding between Philly and Anaheim, and should be on a team in days. Lidle might be a tiny one-year deal, my guess with the White Sox, who coveted him a year ago.
Continuing on with rumors, the Reds have finalized their list of managers to 4: Dave Miley (interim), Jerry Manuel (ex-manager), Brian Graham (Player Development guy for Pittsburgh) and John McLaren (Pinella's bench coach). My guess? Miley and Graham will be eliminated, and O'Brien's first decision will be down to Manuel and McLaren. I would urge not to go after Manuel, but it probably will be the former Manager of the Year.
And finally before I get to the OPS numbers, let me say something about a pair of shortstops. Kaz Matsui is not going to the Yankees nor the Mets, and Alex Rodriguez isn't going anywhere, much less the Mets. Matsui will go where he can play shortstop, and that is disputed with the New York teams. Ultimately, Little Matsui's decision is between Baltimore, Anaheim, Seattle, and Los Angeles. Texas is not going to trade A-Rod, and they really should stop bitching about it. John Hart ultimately has $50 million for 24 players, and A-Rod. I don't think Billy Beane would be bitching with that situation.
OK, to continue my look at OPS numbers, here are the 3-year trends for NL West players, which are a little over 30 players:
San Fran G-Men
The Airless Boys
OK, recap. Here are those precious few NL West sluggers with positive indicators:
A.J. Pierzynski- C- Giants
And that is it. Pierzynski's numbers will decline in Pac Bell, Payton will be abysmal outside of Denver, and I don't think it is possible for Loretta to top .813. So that just proves the NL West is a very old, and diminishing division. Here's some more proof, those with negative indicators:
Paul Lo Duca- C- Dodgers
Of those, expect Lo Duca, Finley, Long, and possibly Walker to really feel the heat. McGriff should be better in a hitter's park, Green could bounce back, and Walker should be more motivated after Clint Hurdle verbally tore him to shreads.
That's it for today. Pray for more trades in the next 24 hours, and send me an e-mail! I would love suggestions for articles you'd like to see, or your list of favorite baseball books. Thanks a lot!
Big transaction news- Texas signs Andy Fox- Well, Buck Showalter signs another old friend, as Fox signs a minor league contract with the Rangers. While three of his eight seasons in the Majors have seen him hit below .200 (two out of his last three), Fox was relatively useful in 2002. He stole 31 bases in 38 tries, although his OPS didn't near .700. He plays almost every position on the diamond, although his defense is subpar. Not even worthy of the money spent on a minor league deal in my book.
Also, the Astros signed Jose Vizcaino to an insane $1.2M contract, as Gerry Hunsicker continues to be vastly overrated. I mean, Drayton McLane must have been hoping Hunsicker would go to New York so Purpura could finally take over. $1.2 to Vizcaino? Insane. Save it for the starting.
As these weeks in baseball are really slow, I need some help. While giving you statistics to indicate 2004 success is interesting to you, some of it isn't as exciting as other stuff. If you have any suggestions or ideas for articles you'd like to see, drop me an e-mail at email@example.com. I appreciate it.
Anyway, I move on today to the NL Central, looking at OPS numbers from 2001-2003 for almost 40 players. It may suprise you who is on the decline...
St. Louis Cardinals
Once again, those with three straight seasons with climbing OPS numbers:
Eric Karros- 1B- Free Agent
To fantasy owners, only Karros, Patterson, LaRue, Renteria, and Kendall matter from that group. And even Karros likely won't, as I don't see him reaching 500AB again during his career. But Patterson could be a late-round steal, LaRue can be a last round pick to be your catcher, Renteria is about to become the "5th shortstop," and Kendall may be a top-five catcher next season.
Those players to watch out for, as they've had declining OPS stats:
Randall Simon- 1B- Cubs/FA
I would stay away from all these players save Dunn, as there will likely be better options available than Sosa, Bagwell, and Berkman when they are chosen in any fantasy draft. Write that down, and e-mail me if you have any suggestions.
Looking to 2004
In a recent Peter Gammons column, Peter notes a few projections, in which players have either positive or negative statistical trends. I've always found this to be a good method, so much of this week will deal with that. I have put together OPS numbers of each of the last three seasons, and we'll see which players have three straight seasons with numbers going up or down.
Today, we begin with the NL East...
New York Mets
OK, let's recap. Here are the players I listed who have had three straight seasons with OPS numbers going up:
Rafael Furcal- SS- Atlanta
OK, and now those with three straight down years?
Robert Fick- 1B- Free Agent
Wow, some big names. Of that, I think we'll see these numbers run true for Derrek Lee, Mike Lowell, Brad Wilkerson, and maybe Mike Lieberthal. Fick, Piazza, and maybe Floyd should have bad 2004s. I'll be back tomorrow...
Bantering Throughout The Bronx With Alex Belth
In just over one year, Alex Belth has become one of the giants of the baseball blogging world. His Bronx Banter is a must read for thousands of Yankee loyalists and baseball fans alike. In fact, it is one of several blogs that I make a habit of checking every day.
Alex has earned a well-deserved reputation for conducting great interviews with several well-known baseball writers, such as Allen Barra, Jim Bouton, Pat Jordan, Jane Leavy, Michael Lewis, Rob Neyer, and Buster Olney. He has also had the privilege of interviewing filmmakers Ken Burns and Ethan Coen as well as the former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association Marvin Miller and Negro League star Buck O'Neil.
I thought it might be fun to turn the tables on Alex and interview him in the second installment of my off-season series of questions and answers with baseball's best analysts and bloggers.
RWBB: Earlier this month, you celebrated the first anniversary of Bronx Banter.
Alex: The year flew by, let me tell you.
RWBB: What have you enjoyed the most since becoming a major fixture in the baseball blogging community over the past year?
Alex: I would have to say it's the feeling of community. I like belonging to something. I also like the fact that there is room for so many different opinions and angles. It's not as if every baseball blog is the same. I love the variety, and I love being able to learn so much about baseball from these websites. But most of all, I appreciate the friendships I've made with bloggers and readers alike.
RWBB: What is it like to eat, breathe, and sleep Yankees, Yankees, Yankees?
Alex: For the most part, it's great. Sometimes it's enervating, but I really can't complain, right? I used to feel a lot of liberal guilt and angst because I rooted for U.S. Steel, but I've learned to come to grips with that. Every team has a cross to bear, and if that's the Yankees cross, so be it. That's the way they've always been. What does turn me off is the self-congratulatory schmaltz. All that shit they pump out on the YES network. It's so unnecessary. There are too many people who root for the Yanks that are simply frontrunner jerks. Some guys feel like the Yankees are entitled to win every year and that's obnoxious. I actually feel humbled and blessed to root for them.
RWBB: How does your girlfriend Emily feel about your infatuation with the Yankees?
Alex: She doesn't understand the fanaticism, the need to suffer. She doesn't get why I take it so personally and let myself lose sleep over something I have no control over. Having said that, what she does appreciate is how passionate I am about the game and the Yankees. But it could be anything. She's turned on by the fact that I'm so involved in something. The funny part is that she's become a big fan, too. And I don't think that is something she would have ever anticipated. I wouldn't have either. I mean I've always viewed sports and girlfriends like church and state. They have to co-exist but I never try to mix them. If I am going to blow off going out to dinner and movie with my girlfriend in favor of watching a Yankees-Tigers game in the middle of July, then there is either something wrong with me or the relationship. But, as it turns out, Emily likes watching the games. I'd come home and there she would be with the game on. That blew me away. I told this to Will Carroll at one point this summer and he said, "Marry her already." What I can't get over is that Em and I have completely different tastes in the arts, but we both like baseball. Go figure.
RWBB: When you commented on my interview with Lee Sinins last week, I noticed you mentioned that Reggie Jackson was not only Lee's favorite player but yours as well.
Alex: Well, I first started really paying attention to baseball when I was seven or eight years old. I was born in 1971. By the time I became aware of the players' names and faces, Reggie was the biggest star around. He had a candy bar for crying out loud. Each time a Yankee player came up to hit, I wanted them to hit a home run. Reggie was their home run hitter, so I naturally gravitated to him.
By the time I came around, my pops didn't have much use for the game. He rooted for the Mets inasmuch as he rooted for anyone. Only one thing was for sure as far as baseball went: he hated the Yankees. Now if he had been an active fan, perhaps he would have seen to it that I rooted for the Mets, but I don't think it mattered to him really. My uncle Fred was a Yankee fan, however, and it mattered to him that I became a Yankee fan. And that was that. After all, I was from Manhattan. It wasn't a tough choice.
But from the start, I remember, if not exactly fighting with my dad, then at least some sense of friction that I rooted for the Yankees. I don't know that it was my first baseball memory, but as far back as I can remember my father railed against George Steinbrenner's boorishness, his arrogance. Steinbrenner was a bully, and an out-of-town bully to boot. Dad didn't care much for Billy Martin either. The truth is, as much as my dad despised George and Billy, he possessed similar character traits. At that point, my dad was drinking heavily and his alcoholism cost him his career in the TV business as well as his marriage. He was manipulative and a bully, too. I wasn't aware of that stuff at the time, but I did know that the one Yankee my old man did hold in some regard was Reggie Jackson. He appreciated Reggie's showmanship, not to mention the fact that he was intelligent and well spoken. So I think the fact that I could connect just a little bit with my dad through Reggie made me care even more about Jackson.
RWBB: You hear a lot of stories about father-son relationships and baseball.
Alex: My dad took a lot of heat from family members because of his drinking. I naturally came to his defense. I think I also felt that Reggie needed defending as well because he was usually getting negative attention. The press was on him, his teammates were on him, George was on him. Reggie needed me. My dad had a kind of grandiosity and self-importance that made him like Reggie, too. I think, as a kid, my hero worship of my father and Reggie were tangled up together. I thought that when Reggie hit a dinger, that maybe my dad would be able to come through on one of his many promises, too. That's what made sitting through all the strikeouts tolerable. Somehow, when Reggie would hit a single, it just didn't resonate in the same way. The strikeouts were more meaningful.
I'll tell you what though: I'll never forget watching Reggie's first game back in New York when he was with the Angels. It was the first year after my folks had split. He hit a bomb off Ron Guidry, and the entire stadium chanted, "Steinbrenner Sucks." That was one of the happiest nights of my life.
RWBB: Being a baseball fan must have made your job as a production assistant on the Ken Burns documentary, "Baseball" all the more enjoyable.
Alex: That was my first film job when I left college after the fall semester of 1993. An old friend, Jerry Michaels, hooked me up with an intern position on the "Baseball" project. Initially, I worked for free, but then Ken saw to it that I got paid as a post-production assistant. That was great because I wouldn't have been able to afford to stay on otherwise.
RWBB: Did you work in New York on this project?
Alex: Ken makes his movies in his adopted hometown of Walpole, N.H. There was practically a small army of editors, assistants, sound and music editors who had been working on the "Baseball" series for several years. I came on during the final months of the project when they brought the finished episodes to New York to mix the sound.
RWBB: What a way to start your career.
Alex: It was a dream job, and I looked forward to going to work every day. It was an ideal first gig for a few reasons. One is because it was about baseball and I had drifted away from the game during my college years. Oh, I still followed it some, but without any real passion. The previous fall, my interest was sparked again when Joe Carter hit the walk-off homer to win the World Series. I felt rejuvenated on the spot. Getting a chance to work on Ken's movie was an extension of that rediscovery. I learned something new every day. I felt as if I was getting in touch with an old friend, a long lost love.
RWBB: You must have come into contact with some of the well-known interviewees and consultants along the way.
Alex: Spike Lee stopped in once to check out one of the reels on the Negro Leagues. Carly Simon was there a bunch. She contributed a song to the soundtrack. I remember Roger Angell showing up, in a tweed sports jacket one day. I was very excited to see him and very disappointed by what he looked like. I had never seen a picture of him before although I was very familiar with his work. He was a stuffy old guy. I don't know what I had expected. In his interview sessions for the movie, Angell sucked on a throat lozenge and rolled it around in his mouth the entire time. So the mixer had to go through his scenes, frame by frame and clean up all the clicking and popping that came through on the audio track. Bob Costas came in one day too. I'll never forget it. The crew was in the middle of a reel change and everybody was quiet. In glides Costas. I notice him out of the corner of my eye. But nobody else looked up. So he looks around the room and announces, "What a hallowed moment." I nearly slapped my forehead, but rolled my eyes instead.
RWBB: Which celebrity encounter had the most impact on you?
Alex: Without a doubt, Buck O'Neil. He came into town for a screening in the spring of '94, and it was my job to pick him up at his hotel and escort him around the city for the afternoon. I was already familiar with how special he was from what I had seen of him in the movie, and he was even more charismatic in person. You know that saying about how a person can light up a room? I've run into a lot of actors and celebrities, but Buck O'Neil was the first person I ever met that I could say that about.
I picked him up at his hotel on Park Avenue. He was wearing a suit and looked elegant. It was a sunny afternoon, and he was easy to be around, naturally charming. We hailed a cab and headed over to the Jackie Robinson Foundation to meet with Rachel Robinson. What I remember most about that cab ride were Buck's hands. They were enormous. Like mitts. They looked like Rodin sculptures, I kid you not. I could barely take my eyes off of them.
RWBB: A giant in more ways than one.
Alex: We got to the Jackie Robinson Foundation and Rachel Robinson greeted us along with her assistant. I really thought I was hot shit being there with Buck because I had heard that Rachel Robinson was a cold fish. She didn't pay me any mind, but I didn't care. They escorted us around offices, and there were framed photographs of Jackie everywhere. We eventually settled in a conference room and sat down at a big, round table. I don't remember much of the conversation but what I do recall is that Robinson's eldest son, David, was in the office that day. He didn't live in the States--he lived in Africa--but just so happened to be in town. At one point, he came into the room and Rachel Robinson introduced him to Buck. Buck stood up and reached across the length of the table to shake David's hand. He told David how important his father had been. Buck made a whole speech to him and would not let the guy's hand go as he spoke. And remember, Buck has these great big hands. You should have seen the look on David's face. I've rarely seen a person so uncomfortable. It's like he wanted to disappear. I could only imagine how difficult it must be to have a father who was as famous as Jackie Robinson, but I could sense it must have been tough watching David Robinson that day. That may explain why he chose to live half way across the world.
RWBB: Speaking of pioneers, you have been asked to write a Curt Flood biography geared to a young audience. That must be a challenge in view of the fact that Flood is not a name that would resonate with many kids today.
Alex: It's a challenge for several reasons, the first being that I've never written a book before! That is daunting enough. Another trick is that this is a book aimed at high school kids. I mean who has a more sensitive bullshit detector than teenagers? I think I'll be able to handle it, but it has been a learning experience for sure. I think that Flood is a compelling character though. He sacrificed his career for a principle. Flood fought the law and the law won. I think teenagers can identify with that sense of injustice. He called himself a "child of the Sixties" and I think that's spot on. A lot of people were making huge personal sacrifices during that period so he wasn't unique in that regard. What I want to make clear is that he also paid a price for those choices. I think this is what could be an eye-opener for the young reader who has grown up watching their favorite athletes showing off their Hummers on MTV Cribs.
RWBB: Of the authors you've interviewed, whose book did you enjoy reading the most?
Alex: That's hard to say. I liked Jane Leavy's and Michael Lewis' books very much. I don't know that I have a favorite baseball book, but I if I had to pick a favorite writer I would probably chose Angell. Or Tom Boswell. Or Pat Jordan. Depending on my mood.
RWBB: Jim Bouton's book "Ball Four" was one of my most enjoyable reads ever. I was an impressionable teenager at the time, and it opened up my eyes to what took place off the field. How would you describe him?
Alex: Bouton is a jock, a '60s type of guy. He could have come right out of the movie "Mash". He's funny and sarcastic and a bit irreverent.
RWBB: I loved the part in your interview when Bouton tells Moose Skowron that the players of today are better than in their days. I think it takes a big man for a former athlete to admit that.
Alex: I think Bouton is a realist. That's why he is funny, because he has common sense and can see things for what they are. That's why he's so gifted at satire. He's not sentimental in the traditional sense, that's for sure.
RWBB: Do you sense that Michael Lewis was caught off guard with the popularity as well as the controversy of "Moneyball"?
Alex: I would tend to doubt it. It's my impression that Lewis has already dealt with a certain amount of celebrity. I don't know enough about him really, but I would guess that "Liar's Poker" was a bigger book than "Moneyball" has been. I think that Lewis is more amused and intrigued by the controversy surrounding "Moneyball." Here he is, a talented journalist who falls into a story, which becomes a big book. I think Lewis is aware that he's not a baseball insider, and likes it that way.
RWBB: Do you have any other baseball writers or personalities on tap for interviews in the future?
Alex: I do have a wish list, sure. But I'll tell you, I was lucky to talk to many of my favorite personalities this past year. Hopefully, I'll be able to talk to them again next year, too. But I would like to do an interview with Bernie Mac, who is filming a baseball movie, and John Sayles, the guy who directed "Eight Men Out". As far as writers go, just off the top of my head I'd like to interview Tom Boswell, Donald Hall, Glenn Stout, Will Carroll, Steven Goldman and Alan Schwarz for starters.
(Editor's note: Carroll has agreed to do an interview for Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT and will be featured in late November or early December.)
RWBB: OK, let's have some fun. Who would you select for your all-time favorite Yankees team? Let's go position-by-position, starting with catcher.
Alex: Joe Girardi would be my catcher.
RWBB: That's an interesting pick.
RWBB: First base?
Alex: Don Mattingly.
RWBB: What was your attraction to Mattingly?
Alex: Mattingly played his whole career with the Yankees. His bad back robbed him of his greatness, but he was the one constant through the bad years. Mattingly had a certain work ethic, and I think he set the tone for the championship teams of the '90s.
RWBB: Second base?
Alex: Willie Randolph. Willie was a quiet professional. He did everything well. If Reggie was Jackie Gleason, then Willie was Art Carney. He was happy playing second banana.
Alex: That's a no brainer. Derek Jeter. He loves playing and is a pleasure to watch.
RWBB: Many sabermetricians love to hate Jeter.
Alex: It's strange. The saber crowd devalues him and the casual fan overvalues him. No one agrees how to assess Jeter as a player. It's almost held against him that he is on the winning team.
RWBB: Moving over to the hot corner...
Alex: That's an easy one. Graig Nettles. Great with the glove and very good offensively, too.
RWBB: Name a trio of outfielders.
Alex: Dave Winfield, Bernie Williams, and Reggie. Winfield was a great athlete but never had what it took to be another Reggie. Bernie has been my favorite player as an adult. I don't think I've ever been as proud of a player as I am with Bernie.
RWBB: Who would you select as your four starting pitchers?
RWBB: Give us a lefty-righty combo for the bullpen.
RWBB: Well, Alex, I don't think anyone is more qualified to close the interview than Goose and Mariano. Thanks for sharing your time and insights.
Check back next weekend for an interview with David Pinto of Baseball Musings, one of the kingpins of the baseball blogging world.
[Reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]
Since news as been dead the last week, I thought the A.J. Pierzynski trade was good enough to make a weekend post. In case you don't know the exact terms, they are:
A.J. Pierzynski and either cash or a P2NL for Joe Nathan, Boof Bonser, and Francisco Liriano
At first glance I thought Brian Sabean was nuts for giving up so much young talent, but my views have cooled. Sabean is obviously big into the TINSTAPP theory, reasons behind trading Ainsworth, Nate Bump, Kevin Olsen, and lots of others in the past. Guys like Jerome Williams and Jesse Foppert are rare, but getting high value for everyone else is the theory. And, it added a little offense for Mr. Bonds.
The Giants need offense, as the first base, shortstop, and right field positions are all open during the offseason. To do so, Sabean has brought in a left-handed doubles hitting catcher that can hit anywhere in the lineup. His OPS has risen each of the last three seasons (763, 773, 824), and hits both lefties and right-handers. Some are other positives are Pierzynski's road line (328/381/486), and numbers after the break (332/391/450) are very positive indicators. Pac Bell (or whatever the Hell it is) is a big park, but I think that will fit into Pierzynski's doubles style. I expect he'll have an OPS a little above .824 next season, with his career high in RBI.
What this means for the G-Men is Yorvit Torrealba, who many thought was ready to start, moves to the bench. While Torrealba didn't hit lefties well in 2003 (.212 in 33AB), he did very well in 2002 (.385 in 26AB). My guess is he'll battle for a spot with Alberto Castillo, or will be included in another deal Sabean pulls off. But, Yorvit won't be getting 200AB here anytime soon.
This deal also means that San Francisco trusts Robb Nen a lot for 2003, and will not be moving Felix Rodriguez. If Worrell doesn't return either, it's a must to re-sign Herges. A one-time great bullpen is losing arms very quickly. But what this means for the Minnesota bullpen is an entirely different ordeal. Joe Nathan is suberb against right-handers (.136BAA), while left-handers hit .275 last season. It surely means LaTroy Hawkins won't be invited back, and it also infers the team is leaning towards starting Grant Balfour.
It will be very hard to predict Nathan's success next season, as there are some confusing indicators. He had a 1.99ERA at home, but his road ERA is 3.99. He won't be in a big stadium next season, so we'll see if that makes a difference. But, there is no question that Nathan gradually improved as the season went on, which explains his 3.59 first half ERA, versus a 1.59ERA after the break. Using Joe against right-handers will give him much success next season, and I think a 2.50ERA in 70-80 innings is what you can expect.
The other players in the deal are highly regarded pitching prospects, one of which has a blog named after him. Boof has had Baseball America top ten rankings of 11 in 2001, as high as 2 in 2002, and he dropped to six before last season. In 2002, BA said he had "maturity and talent" and noted a 92-95mph fastball. His secondary pitches "show promise", but he has trouble throwing them for strikes. Opponents were hitting just .203 before this season, and that didn't go up much this season. Boof had a pretty good season at AA, going 7-10, with a 4.00ERA. He allowed only 122 hits in 135 innings, striking out 103 while walking 67. The strikeout rate is the lowest of his career, and the walk rate remains high. Bonser will be in AAA next season, and will likely take Eric Milton's spot in the rotation in 2005.
Francisco Liriano is a much different player, as his track record is hardly existent. Liriano threw just nine terrible innings in 2003, before shoulder problems shut him down the rest of the season. While Baseball America did rank him number six in the organization before 2003, they did say the largest concern was his shoulder. Liriano is a hard-throwing leftie that had three Major League-ready pitches before his injury. He is still a very good prospect, with a considerable amount of upside. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of Johan Santana.
To clarify, Pierzynski is the only player set to make money next season, somewhere in the $2-3M range. I wonder if this signals the Giants won't bring Rich Aurilia back, which would be a huge mistake. Anyway, this trade fit to both teams needs, as it gave the Twins extra cash for Guardado and Stewart, along with a replacement for Hawkins. The Giants landed one of the league's better catchers, and another bat around Mr. Bonds...
Quickly, other news:
- Mike Timlin was re-signed for $2.5M, a good deal for Boston. Timlin had a sensational postseason, and definitely has gas left in the tank.
See ya Monday...
AFL Update (American Division)
As the days are narrowing done for the Arizona Fall League, I decided to give you readers a look at what prospects are doing well, and who looks bullish for 2003. Before I start let me mention that if you didn't know mandatory steroid testing was going to happen, you are an idiot. And, Piazza really has no chance of being dealt. Nice to see Darryl Strawberry back in the game, maybe Doc Gooden can make Mel Stottlemyre's spot next season?
Mesa Solar Sox (D-Rays, Cubs, Orioles, Rockies, Braves)
Well, this team has been home for some of the league's best hitting, as the home run leader and the batting champ play for the same team. It's all been exciting, as the 2003 #1 draft pick made his pro debut.
Delmon Young has 48AB so far in the AFL, and they are going wonderfully. Delmon has a fourth of his hits going for doubles, with Joe Sheehan reporting power to the opposite field. Young has tried all three outfield positions, although it's thought his home is in the corners. He's a very special athlete, and after this debut, and a legit #2 prospect in this franchise.
That's because #1 is occupied by the Majors' best shortstop prospect B.J. Upton. B.J. is finished with the AFL, after only 24AB. He has some of the game's best plate discipline, and his power is thought to be developing. Like Derek Jeter at a similar age, Upton was horrible on defense this year, making more than 40 errors. I've read most of them are on bad throws, so it's thought to be a correctional problem. Upton hit AA this year, and might be ready full-time by 2005.
Joining Upton and Young on prospect sheets are Devil Rays Jonny Gomes and Dewon Brazelton. Dewon has had probably the best AFL of a pitching prospect, after a few disappointing seasons. Brazelton was a top-ten choice in the same draft that has produced Joe Mauer, Mark Prior, Mark Teixeira, and Gavin Floyd. He fell out of Lou Piniella's favor midseason and got demoted...to high-A! Brazelton has allowed 26 hits in 33 innings, while striking out 36. He'll get a chance to redeem himself in the Tampa rotation next season, which is suprisingly getting too many applicants.
Gomes, the final Devil Ray prospect of note, started the AFL off as it's hottest hitter. Since, his batting average has cooled to .299, although his 17 walks are higher than any other number I saw. Gomes is second in home runs, and is one of the more toolsy players alive. He has become very disciplined, and needs to add batting for average to his resume. After this display, we think he has the power down.
But one player Gomes can't touch is Jason Dubois, the HR leader with 9. Dubois is a Cubs RF prospect that was chosen in the Rule V draft by the Toronto Blue Jays last year, yet failed to make their team. He's hit .358 in Arizona, although his 2/27 BB/K ratio is a cause for concern. The Cubs should totally exploit his good season and trade him ASAP, as there are players above him (Kelton), and below him (Pie), that stand higher on the depth chart.
The only other Cubs to note in the AFL are IF Brendan Harris and P John Webb. Harris is a third basemen, who also has the range to play second and short. He hits for a very high average, .302 in 96AB, but lacks real power. Scouts say it will come, yet I remain very skeptical. Harris would be extremely valuable if he can play the middle infield well, a trait he's managed in past years. My guess is he makes the Cubs in 2005 as a utility infielder, unless he hits for more power in Iowa in 2004.
Rockies hitters aren't flourishing in the AFL, as Rockie hopefuls Brad Hawpe and Jayson Nix are both well below .300. Hawpe is a 1B/OF that nearly won the high-A triple crown a season ago. Nix is a bad fielding second basemen with Bret Boone offensive upside. Sheehan says Chris Buglovsky, a prospect never mentioned, was one of the best prospects he saw there. But, Buglovsky's numbers hardly match that praise, and he'll remain collecting dust in the mid-20s on Rockie lists.
There are only two more players worth talking about on this team, Braves players Richard Lewis and Brett Evert. Lewis is leading the league in average, hitting .409, and has played a very good 2B. With Marcus Giles big breakthrough Lewis has no place to go, although the Braves will probably send him packing in the next deal possible. I always mention how they should go after Richie Sexson, and a LaRoche, Lewis, and Brett Evert deal might work. Evert is a big right-hander that otherwise will get a chance at an Atlanta starting spot next season. I don't think he'll make it, but his 34K in 29.1IP indicate his future may be in relief.
No Oriole prospects were good enough to write about.
Peoria Saguaros (Mets, Rangers, Brewers, Padres, Marlins)
Let me start off by saying Mets 3B prospect David Wright may be my favorite prospect in the nation. The kid has a good glove, great plate discipline, and developing power. While Andy Marte is an obvious choice for the best third base prospect, Wright is not far behind, and has surpassed Dallas McPherson. Wright's hitting .341 in the AFL, with an OPS well above .900. He's a very good prospect, and I expect his AA numbers this season to be great.
While Wright is doing well, the Mets have struggling prospects in Justin Huber and Matt Peterson. Huber is an Australian catcher who was lapped this season by Guillermo Quiroz and Dioner Navarro, dropping quickly on prospect lists. He's hitting just .233 in the AFL, and probably is headed back to AA after an injury-prone 2003. Peterson is a college draftee that probably has no gas in the tank after a very good season in high-A. Peterson is the type that has explosion potential, and may be a Met top prospect one day. For now, Mets fans should just worry about his 6.35 ERA.
Speaking of struggling prospects, none is worse than Marlin Jason Stokes. Stokes, rumored by BA to have 50-homer potential, has hit .145 in 62 at-bats. .145, with one walk! He's falling quickly, and may even be behind former organizational teammate Adrian Gonzalez, who is on the same team once again. Gonzalez is doing pretty well in the AFL, after a late-season surge with the Rangers. Adrian also has seventeen walks, compared to only nine home runs. The former top choice in all of baseball has John Olerud offensive similarities, but 2004 will be huge for a bright star.
Let me say that the play by Ranger prospects Jason Bourgeois and Ramon Nivar has been pretty good. Nivar will challenge for an outfield spot next season, although he doesn't bring much more than a solid batting average. Better baserunning skills will make Nivar the perfect leadoff hitter, likely setting up Michael Young and A-Rod in a good 2005 Texas team.
Finally, I want to mention #2 draft pick Rickie Weeks has also had an encouraging camp. Weeks has walked 12 times in 72 at-bats, while managing a .319 batting average. He doesn't look secure at second, and has been tried on the left side as well. Ultimately Weeks will stay to the right side of the bag, but he must show increased fielding dedication in AA next year.
Scottsdale Scorpions (Dodgers, Angels, Reds, Astros, D-Backs)
I said the Angels had the best top-five prospects in all of baseball not long ago, but that's not going very well in the AFL. Casey Kotchman, the first basemen, leads the Angel hitters with a .261 batting average. Catcher Jeff Mathis, who sits right behind Mauer on prospect lists, is barely hitting over .180. And McPherson? Despite a late regular season surge, he's hitting just .218 in Arizona. Ouch.
Arizona has quite the middle infield pair of prospects playing in Arizona, Scott Hairston and Sergio Santos. Hairston is the best second base prospect, behind Weeks, in all of baseball. He skipped a level in 2003, and will probably be in AA next season. After hitting .360 in the AFL, watch out. Santos is a high school shortstop draftee that had a very good 2003. He's struggling in Arizona, and his 22 strikeouts are way too high for 96AB.
That's it and have a very good weekend.
OK, now I'll have a real post. I was living in a fantasy world the last week or so, or should I say Florida, and now have baseball on the mind again. There's a lot of baseball things to talk about in the next few weeks: rumors, prospects, and more Organizational Meetings. First, I wanted to clear up some of the buzz. I've heard a rumor on almost every team, so I decided I'd address them today.
First of all, let me say that Alex Rodriguez or Nomar Garciaparra will not get traded. I guarantee it. In fact, the only time Rodriguez will EVER get traded is if the Rangers take Manny Ramirez's contract or Darren Dreifort and Shawn Green's. That's it. Nomar won't get traded this offseason, and the team will go hard in negotiations with him. Since I think the Angels, his top choice, will solidify SS over this winter, I foresee Nomar locking himself in Boston for oh, the next 15 years.
The other big name being thrown around is Curt Schilling. Via Lee Sinins, I've heard three Schilling rumors:
1. Schilling for either Nick Johnson or Alfonso Soriano
OK, first of all, the Diamondbacks would be much more inclined for the second option, so I think the first is void. Richie Sexson would provide economic help (when subtracting his cost from Schilling's), as well as increased power. The Brew Crew would save tons of money, while getting a premium bat, and the Yankees would get their ace, and likely go sign a Doug Mientkiewicz type.
The third option is what really bothers me. Aren't the Cardinals much more inclined to trade for Soriano and Weaver than Johnson and Bautista? If they are interested in Johnson, this Tino Martinez to the Devil Rays rumor must be true. I really don't understand Tampa here, because if they ponied up a little more, Derrek Lee would be theirs. Martinez doesn't have any baseball skills to speak of, and would have the same effect Vinny Castilla had in Tampa.
Tampa rivals Toronto and Baltimore have also been home to some rumors, but from the free agent market. Toronto has been rumored to be interested in Pat Hentgen, Paul Quantrill, and Tom Gordon. All three make a lot of sense, but I hope Riccardi is thinking about offering Halladay that big extension anyday now. Baltimore may not bid higher than $15M a year on Vlad, and supposedly like Mike Piazza. I didn't know Baltimore had a highly gay population. Just kidding.
Staying in the AL, I heard the crazy rumor that the Chicago White Sox were thinking about trading Magglio Ordonez. Bad idea. But, that must mean that Ken Williams loves Carlos Lee as much as I do, and sees him as a hugely important aspect of this team. Williams is also trying to swing a Odalis Perez for Paul Konerko deal, which I could see happening. Dan Evans acquired Konerko for the White Sox way back when, and both Perez and Konerko fit in the 2003 underachiever category. Bad contract for bad contract ain't such a bad idea.
Kaz Matsui, who's attracted interest from every West Coast team, may pull out of his decision to come to the United States. Supposedly he wants to represent Japan in the 2004 Olympics, and is thinking of accepting a two-year deal in Japan. I don't see why he would do this, but I guess I don't particularly understand the whole loyalty issue very well.
Milwaukee has impressed me this offseason, being heavy players in the minor league free agent market, and demanding solid value for Sexson. They have a great minor league system, and if they want to drop payroll $10M next year to save resources, who cares? Sexson must go, even if it means to the in-division Cubs.
The rumors I've heard are that Chicago would give up both Hee Seop Choi and Juan Cruz to acquire Sexson. That is a very considerable amount, but perfectly documents how low the stocks of Choi and Cruz are right now. I'm still high on them both, and I think they should be playing 1B and starting respectively in 2004.
Cub rival Houston is considering making a play for Roger Clemens, rather than Andy Pettite. Andy is rumored to be seeking a five-year deal, which would be pretty disastrous for the team that inks him. With his fragile body, a three-year contract is much smarter. And I agree with Alex Belth in the fact that Pettite would hardly succeed in Minute Maid Park. Oh and by the way, the Astros signed Dan Miceli. Whoopee.
Cheers to Major League Baseball for every award so far, except NL Rookie of the Year. That subject has been much documented across the blogosphere, so I won't dive into it. Back tomorrow, I'm going to try and finish my second reading of Moneyball tonight.
Back too soon
Hey everyone, I just got back from Florida. It's late. Not gonna be doing much writing today. But, I will be back tomorrow, so check back then. And if you haven't sent me your list of favorite baseball books, get on that.
Let me thank Score Bard for putting me on the Periodic Table of Bloggers. It's always a privelage to stand alongside some of my blogging heroes, testament of the fact that this site has come so far, so fast. Thanks to you guys.
The AFL is closing soon, and I'll be spending a couple of upcoming pieces on that, and how if effects the prospect rankings.
In case you haven't read these, here are some links:
God Bless America, and here's to all the men and women who have fought for this nation, although I am a day late.
Pre-Winter Prediction Classic
Today, as GMs have begun to meet and talk trade, I decided to run some predictions. These are predictions of the 2004 season, one of four or so I will do. One is now, before everything gets started, the next is December 19 or so, before the second wave of free agents. The third preseason prediction classic should run days before pitchers and catchers report in early February, with the last coming the final week of March. So, since
After a very solid winter, the Yankees are the talk of the AL East. Gary Sheffield is an obvious upgrade in right field, and the bullpen is improved with Shigetoshi Hasegawa in middle relief. Andy Pettite and newcomer Bartolo Colon (to replace the fat void left by David Wells) fill out a pretty good rotation that sees ace Jose Contreras at the top, Mike Mussina second, and Jeff Weaver narrowly beating out Jon Lieber in the fifth spot.
But, it won t be all-New York in the East, as the Red Sox are to be reckoned with. In their last season as true powerhouses, the Red Sox offense looks just as good as it was in 2003. Adam Kennedy is a Boston favorite at second, and all has been forgiven for Manny, who is two-for-three in the Triple Crown race. Byung-Hyun Kim is a pretty good fifth starter, considering the breakout year Bronson Arroyo is having. Scott Williamson is being hyped for his great closing skills, although talk of a committee begins everytime he gives up a home run.
The rest of the AL East isn t special...again. The Blue Jays will not continue their trend of third-place finishes, as improved Oriole and Devil Ray teams pass them. Vladimir
Moving on to the league s most futile division, the AL Central. The Royals are leading the division, although they stand a measly five games above .500 through 81 games. Minnesota, who managed to bring back Stewart and Guardado (to a one-year deal), have fallen apart, blaming the losses of Doug Mientkiewicz and A.J. Pierzynski. Justin Morneau is not having that huge Rookie of the Year-type season, rather looking like the 2004 version of the 2003 Hee Seop Choi.
Just beneath those two teams are the underperformers, the White Sox and the Indians. Chicago had high hopes for Sidney Ponson, whom is already injured for the season. Esteban Loaiza isn t quite the player he is last season, and the team will give Mark Buerhle to St. Louis at season s end. Injuries have limited Robbie Alomar s time, giving the city of Chicago a look at Aaron Miles, a 5-8 classic whom has won the town s heart. But most of all, it s the non-tender of Carlos Lee that is still hurting. Cleveland is bouncing back, since Brandon Phillips and Travis Hafner couldn t have been that bad, that much. Alex Escobar is still showing potential, but needed to be benched after having 100Ks through 60 games.
Cleveland pitching is still pretty bad though, constantly bailed out by the likes of Todd Walker and Jody Gerut. But, David Riske was sure a good choice at closer. And, let s not talk much about the Tigers. Let s just say that Delmon Young ripping everyone on the Tigers besides his brother wasn t good for clubhouse chemistry. But Delmon is sure doing good, on pace to hit 30 jacks in high-A.
While Billy Beane keeps getting credit for the A s, it s the pitching that is making the difference. Rich Harden is sensational, and Justin Duchscherer is getting the job done in the fifth hole. It looks like the decision to give Rod Beck the closer s role was a good one, as he already has 23 saves through June. The offense is much improved now that Jermaine Dye is above .250, and since Terrence Long has been released. A Ramon Hernandez injury tuned us in on Adam Melhuse s potential, and Graham Koonce is considered the Rookie of the Year favorite. In my opinion, it s the spark Kenny Lofton
Anaheim is looking awfully smart now that Miguel Tejada has reemerged, along with Rafeal Palmiero s veteran influence on the lineup. Darin Erstad is finally staying
Seattle was up early, but are quickly falling out of the race. Edgar Martinez and John Olerud have missed some time due to broken hips, ya know bones are so fragile at that age. Kaz Matsui is giving the team an all-Japanese one-two punch, although Mike Cameron is really missed. I did call the Raul Ibanez prediction right, but the guys at
Texas can t find themselves, but justify it by saying they ll go after Kerry Wood in a couple of months. The team s just praying that John Hart will get the clue and give
The NL is a different story, where the 2003 postseason doesn t make sense anymore. Philadelphia has an Atlanta-esque 15-game lead in the NL East, bragging they are the
Florida did manage to keep a lot of their players...on the injured list that is. Conine, Lowell, Pudge, Beckett, and Looper are all bandaged up. Tim Spooneybarger looks to be a solid closer though, and Jack McKeon is doing a good job limiting A.J. Burnett s workload. He ll be in a Red Sox uni in a matter of weeks. And...the Mets suck.
Chicago has been wonderful in the NL Central, capturing 15 of their last 18 games. Richie Sexson has been the bat they needed, but their worried about money after the
Jeff Bagwell is thinking about retiring, as Houston has all but fallen out of the race. Morgan Ensberg has even been thrusted into the leadoff role, as Craig Biggio s .220
St. Louis is swarming to take the Wild Card spot, since they ve finally found some pitching. John Thomson and Ted Lilly were good signs, and Chris Carpenter is the
Milwaukee is fourth in the division, largely because of the additions of Hee Seop Choi and Juan Cruz. Trent Durrington is doing well at second base, and J.J. Hardy and Corey Hart are about to get their shots on the left side. The team couldn t get rid of Geoff Jenkins, but Bud Selig s idea to put Lenny Harris into right field wasn t a good idea. A Selig countdown clock is enthrusted in Miller Park, leading into a huge litigation suit. George Bush backs Selig, and Fidel Castro inquires about buying the team. Ya know, he did once play for the Yankees.
San Diego is making a run at the NL West, only being threatened by the Diamondbacks. David Wells has done well in San Diego, but Adam Eaton and Jake Peavy are the biggest stories of the division. Sean Burroughs starts to find some power in that bat, and another Phil Nevin injury allows Xavier Nady to get some quality at-bats. Hoffman has become a great closer again, claiming he doesn t need stupid eyeglasses to make him effective (see Eric Gagne). And Barry Bonds? He s bitching about how the media doesn t respect him, and makes 1,724 threats to retire. Talk of him breaking Hank s record ends, as we all begin to see his real age.
That s it, and if you haven t sent me your favorite baseball books, please do so. Oh yea, and go Bulls!
Pre-Winter Prediction Classic
Today, as GMs have begun to meet and talk trade, I decided to run some predictions.
After a very solid winter, the Yankees are the talk of the AL East. Gary Sheffield is an
But, it won't be all-New York in the East, as the Red Sox are to be reckoned with. In
The rest of the AL East isn't special...again. The Blue Jays will not continue their trend
Moving on to the league's most futile division, the AL Central. The Royals are leading
Just beneath those two teams are the underperformers, the White Sox and the Indians.
Cleveland pitching is still pretty bad though, constantly bailed out by the likes of Todd
While Billy Beane keeps getting credit for the A's, it's the pitching that is making the
Anaheim is looking awfully smart now that Miguel Tejada has reemerged, along with
Seattle was up early, but are quickly falling out of the race. Edgar Martinez and John
Texas can't find themselves, but justify it by saying they'll go after Kerry Wood in a
The NL is a different story, where the 2003 postseason doesn't make sense anymore.
Florida did manage to keep a lot of their players...on the injured list that is. Conine,
Chicago has been wonderful in the NL Central, capturing 15 of their last 18 games.
Jeff Bagwell is thinking about retiring, as Houston has all but fallen out of the race.
St. Louis is swarming to take the Wild Card spot, since they've finally found some
Milwaukee is fourth in the division, largely because of the additions of Hee Seop Choi
San Diego is making a run at the NL West, only being threatened by the Diamondbacks.
That's it, and if you haven't sent me your favorite baseball books, please do so. Oh yea,
Whatcha talkin' 'bout, Willis?
Now the world don't move to the beat of just one drum
--Lyrics by Alan Thicke, Gloria Loring, and Al Burton
The selection of Dontrelle Willis over Brandon Webb as the National League Rookie of the Year on Monday is more comical than the popular show of the late 1970s and 1980s starring Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges. Even Mr. Drummond is scratching his head over this one.
G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO
Personally, I tend to favor pitchers who throw more innings with fewer hits, earned runs, and home runs allowed while also striking out more batters. Unless one is a control freak, the raw stats make a strong case for Webb over Willis.
Maybe I'm missing something in the rate stats.
ERA WHIP K/9 K/BB BAA OBP SLG OPS
Nope, it's not that. Webb beats Willis across the board. Lower numbers when it matters. Higher numbers when it matters. Eight-for-eight.
So what could it be?
Ahh, the ol' won-loss category. Geez, I nearly forgot. Even though Webb beat Willis up and down and around in every stat in which the pitchers have some say in the matter, Willis had more wins and fewer losses than his rookie counterpart.
I guess voters didn't take into account the fact that Florida's offense scored 34 more runs than Arizona's or that the team won seven more games overall. Perhaps they think Willis was the one responsible for the difference in these two teams win totals rather than the other way around.
In any event, it is obvious that the voters didn't pay attention to the fact that Florida's Pro Player Stadium favors pitchers and Arizona's Bank One Ballpark favors hitters. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Pro Player Stadium is rated 94 for pitching (meaning the park helped pitchers by 6%) while Bank One Ballpark is rated 109 (meaning the park hurt pitchers by 9%). In fact, Webb's adjusted ERA is 165 (or 65% better than the league) and Willis' is 122 (22% better).
Alternatively, it might be enlightening to take a look at Lee Sinins' favorite stat for pitchers -- Runs Saved Above Average or RSAA. Webb ranked fifth in the N.L. with 39 while Willis finished tied for 34th with 12. In other words, Webb saved 27 more runs above the average pitcher than Willis (or approximately one per game).
Another way to evaluate Webb vs. Willis on a more level playing field is to compare their performances on the road.
G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO BAA ERA
C'mon now...2.27 vs. 3.63? Not only should Webb have won the ROY Award, but it should have been a unanimous decision--at least with respect to these two players. A vote on behalf of Scott Podsednik is an entirely different matter, but there is no way one can justify voting for Dontrelle Willis over Brandon Webb.
Diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks, I guess.
As a favor, let me ask all my readers to send me their top five or ten favorite baseball books of all-time. Remember, my e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm on vacation in Florida, and it's late, so there won't be much today. Although, I do find it important: my top-five free agents at each position, along with a few quick thoughts on where they'll end up...
That's it...and thanks for the book suggestions!
Around The Majors With Lee Sinins
Lee Sinins is best known as the creator of the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia, a product that I use extensively when researching, analyzing, and writing articles for Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT. The Encyclopedia is available via CD and can be ordered by visiting Lee's website at http://www.baseball-encyclopedia.com. Lee also produces daily Around The Majors reports to his e-mail subscribers at no charge. His research and encyclopedia have been cited numerous times online and in newspapers throughout the country.
Lee is a proud alumnus of Syracuse University, home of the National Champions as he is quick to point out, where he received degrees in U.S. History and Political Science. Lee also has a degree in computer programming, along with a law degree.
I caught up with Lee and gave him the third degree (or should I say his fifth degree?) in the first of a series of interviews this off-season with the game's best analysts and bloggers.
RWBB: Lee, how long have you been a baseball fan?
Lee: Since I was 7 years old, back in 1978.
RWBB: What is it about baseball that you like the most?
Lee: I love everything about it. The games, the drama of a pitching duel, the back and forth of a slugfest, a pennant race between good teams (before the wild card made that just about defunct), the history and so much more.
RWBB: You have been a vocal critic of the wild card system.
Lee: I've written a lot about it over the years. The wild card system has destroyed numerous pennant races. It is illogical that a team that can't be the champions of a subdivision of a whole should be eligible for the championship of the whole. It makes as little sense as having a player who's not the best on his own team be named mvp. (Editor's note: The use of lower case letters is at the behest of Lee to show disrespect for the award.) I still have no idea what was supposedly wrong with the four division setup from 1969-1993. The switch was nothing more than change for the sake of change.
RWBB: You are well known in baseball circles as the creator of the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia. What motivated you to produce this product?
Lee: I was a big fan of the old Fanpark Baseball Encyclopedia. However, they stopped making it. Also, while it had a lot of the functions of the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia, it didn't have all of them.
RWBB: It sounds like you stepped in to fill the void created by the demise of the Fanpark Encyclopedia.
Lee: While I was at computer school, I realized early on that I could create an encyclopedia that can do everything I want and which I could keep up to date. So, the Encyclopedia was born.
RWBB: The newest version of the Encyclopedia with statistics from the 2003 season is now available. Did you add any new features this year?
Lee: This year I added the ability to sort using team statistics.
RWBB: Give an example of how this sort could be used.
Lee: The Red Sox set the major league record for highest slugging average in a season in 2003. Using the new team sorting feature, you can get the top ten, or top whatever number you want. Or, if you wanted a specific team's top ten, or a leader list for a particular time period, those options are also available.
RWBB: One of the beauties of the Encyclopedia is that a user can sort in absolute and relative terms.
Lee: That's right. When we combine the team sorting with the "vs. average" feature, we can compare each team to their league's average and generate that leader list. Compared to the league average, the 1884 Cubs become the leaders, the 1927 Yankees are the modern day (1900-) leaders, and the 2003 Red Sox fall to 10th (7th since 1900).
RWBB: What are some of the features of the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia that are unavailable online or in printed reference sources?
Lee: In online or printed sources, you are just stuck with the player's stats. There's no way to sort them. There's no way to create your own leader lists. That is a major difference between the Encyclopedia and other sources.
RWBB: I like using the Encyclopedia to compare a player's stats relative to the league.
Lee: Yes, every player has his own average player line, customized to his own career.
RWBB: Switching gears, please explain your Around The Majors reports.
Lee: Each day, I write the ATM reports with baseball news, commentary, statistics and rumors. Each Sunday during the season, I send out a complete stat report.
RWBB: Are you planning on publishing a 2004 edition of the Player Comments Book?
Lee: Yes. But, this time, I'm just planning on making it in Adobe format. The sales from the first edition weren't high enough to justify the low profit margins after the printing costs.
RWBB: You do not acknowledge the Hall of Fame and instead have created Baseball Immortals as an alternate to Cooperstown. What is the difference between the two?
Lee: The major difference is I use my own judgment when making the selections to Baseball Immortals, while I've long given up on figuring out what criteria the voters use for the hall of fame. (Editor's note: Once again, the lower case is intentional).
RWBB: Give an example of a player who has been enshrined by Cooperstown yet is not a Baseball Immortal.
Lee: About a quarter of their members aren't Baseball Immortals, so there are many to choose from. A good random example is Rabbit Maranville. Maranville had minus 280 Runs Created Above Average and an OPS 73 points under his league average. Maranville had 14 years with a double-digit negative RCAA, compared to just two with a positive figure and never more than seven in a season. He's grossly unqualified even for a Hall of Average.
RWBB: Rabbit was a slick fielding shortstop at a time when baseball placed a bigger premium on defense. Is there any way you can measure his value in the field?
Lee: I believe that the gap between fielding is far smaller than the gap between hitting. In Maranville's case, I find it unbelievable that he could have saved his team 280 runs in his career, and that would be what he would have needed just to get himself up to the level of an average player.
RWBB: Let's go in the opposite direction. Pick a player you have selected as a Baseball Immortal but is not a HOFer and give us the rationale for his inclusion.
Lee: One of the best examples is Dick Allen. He had 511 RCAA, four years with 50+ RCAA and six years with at least 40. Allen's .912 OPS was 205 points above his league average and he hit 215 more HR than his league average.
RWBB: For what it's worth, I believe Allen is much more deserving than Maranville, too. As stat heads, are we too preoccupied with numbers rather than a player's overall contribution to his team and/or the game?
Lee: I'm definitely a big believer in things being measurable.
RWBB: That doesn't surprise me.
Lee: Statistics, when used properly, give us an accurate assessment of a player's value. However, they are subject to so much misuse with far too many people using them improperly.
RWBB: What is the single most important statistic from an offensive standpoint in your opinion?
Lee: Runs Created Above Average. A hitter's job is to produce runs for his team and RCAA measures the amount of runs a player added or cost his team.
RWBB: What is the most important stat for pitchers?
Lee: Runs Saved Above Average. A pitcher's job is to save runs for his team and RSAA measures the amount of runs the pitcher saved or cost his team.
RWBB: How do you feel about average value vs. replacement value as used by Baseball Prospectus and others?
Lee: I hate replacement value. I wrote a lot about this in my Player Comments Book and intend to just about repeat that verbatim in the next edition.
RWBB: Give us a sneak preview.
RWBB: Average value is easier to quantify than replacement value.
Lee: League average isn't just some abstract concept. Rather, it is the level that separates whether a player helps his team win or lose games. If, for example, the league averages 4.81 runs per team per game, like the 2002 AL, it means that a team has to score more than 4.81 runs to win the average game. So, a player who has 4.81 runs created per 27 outs is performing at an average level, not pushing his team more towards winning or losing, while 4.82 and above moves his team more towards winning and 4.80 and below moves them more towards losing.
RWBB: There has been a lot of discussion about the importance of on base percentage vis-a-vis slugging average. Which one do you believe is of more value and why?
Lee: I give a slight edge to on base average because it has a little better correlation with runs scored. But, I also put a lot of value in slugging.
RWBB: Do you favor rate stats or counting stats?
Lee: I can't really choose between them. I have to go with both.
Lee: Every day, I retrieve every online article at ESPN Local, which purports to collect all of the articles from all of the teams' local papers. Most of my baseball reading is to collect material for the ATM reports. For the most part, I pay a lot more attention to the content of the articles than to bylines.
RWBB: OK, Lee. Time for the lightning round. Which team is your favorite?
RWBB: Who is your favorite baseball player of all time?
Lee: Like most people, I'm partial to my favorite player of my youth, which was Reggie Jackson.
RWBB: Who is your favorite active player?
Lee: Bernie Williams.
RWBB: If salary was not a factor, which player would you pick first if you were going to build a baseball team for the next 5-10 years?
Lee: I'd say a team would get more out of what is left of Barry Bonds' career than anyone else in the majors.
RWBB: Who is the most overrated player in the game today?
Lee: Alfonso Soriano.
RWBB: Who is the least appreciated great player today?
Lee: Although he's gotten a lot of press, I still don't think people have appreciated how great Jason Giambi's been over the past five years.
RWBB: If you were the manager and needed to win the seventh game of the World Series, who would you pick to start that game among all the pitchers ever?
Lee: For a single game, I'd have to take Pedro Martinez. But, that does not make him the best pitcher ever.
RWBB: That begs my next question. Who do you think is the best pitcher ever?
RWBB: Thank you for your time, Lee. This has been a most enjoyable discussion.
Lee can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
Check back next weekend for an interview with Alex Belth of Bronx Banter, one of my most enjoyable daily reads.
[Reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]
More in Beantown
Theo Epstein isn't going to have a trying offseason. The Manny Ramirez saga, along with the new managerial search, may be the two largest stories coming from Beantown. The 2004 team is basically already constructed, with a few minor details here and there. Instead, the Red Sox are likely coming up with a post-2004 plan, when much of their team reaches free agency. Expect a similar team in 2004, with a similar win total, but in 2005, all bets are off. In 2005, we'll start to see Theo's version.
Theo's worries: Manny's mind, his kind of manager, replacing Todd Walker, and filling out the pitching staff. Not bad. All of the team's first and second-tier players will be back, as Walker and Mike Timlin serve as the biggest worries. Theo will probably strive harder to help that bullpen than he did last season, and he'll surely pretend to rustle some feathers. Such as offering Andy Pettite a big deal so that Steinbrenner is forced to beat it out, thus overpaying the southpaw. Another, will be feeling out interest for Manny.
But for Manny, the AL's second best hitter, only one team will likely be calling. After reviewing every team, I've come to the conclusion that only the Los Angeles Dodgers could afford the best left fielder, save Bonds, in the Majors. But in doing so, the BoSox would be forced to take on Darren Dreifort's abysmal contract, that has three years and $36M waiting to be paid. Theo will find out quickly that it isn't worth it, and he'll have to accept Manny in left for a very long time. Pampering him becomes priority #2, because he could quickly become a cancer for that club.
The managerial situation I'm going to stay out of. My gut tells me it will be Francona, simply because he was taught for the last year under the Oakland A's philosophy. He'll have to do that with Boston, just with a lot more personalities. Epstein was just in firing Little, simply because it Red Sox management is firmly backing their GM choice, they must allow him to choose his manager. We'll see how he fares.
Todd Walker, despite postseason heroics, is and should leave next season. Yesterday, it was pointed out that Walker is a Type A free agent, giving Boston two more draft picks next June. I really like Jacobs and Kuhn's idea to replace him...Adam Kennedy. He is a very similar player, just with more brains and less power. Kennedy would fit well, but like Walker, demand a platoon partner. I thought Damian Jackson did an OK job, and I really like the idea of Eric Young. Eric has power and speed, and could also occasionally spell Damon in center.
But it's said the Red Sox focus will be on pitching. But where? Pedro, Wakefield, and Lowe already have rotation spots next season. And I agree with Jacobs and Kuhn that it's ludicrous to not give Byung-Hyun Kim and Bronson Arroyo the fourth and fifth slots. Kim has #2 starter potential, and Arroyo would be much better than John Burkett. I also would go after Maels Rodriguez, the Cuban defector that is rumored to throw 100. If Maels is to be a reliever, allow him to set up Williamson. If not, send Arroyo to middle relief.
It's the bullpen where Theo was most criticized in 2003, largely due to the early failures of the closer by committee philosophy. By the end of the season, I was impressed by the bullpen, and found it to be better than the Yankees and A's. Kim will be gone next season, although he's much better suited for a rotation slot. Williamson will be back, and after he pitched in the postseason, will be handed the closing role. Southpaws Alan Embree and Scott Sauerbeck are back too, giving a couple of very solid LOOGYs. I would re-sign Timlin, who was unhittable for most of October. Then, put Ramiro Mendoza into the back of the bullpen, but be aware of what he does. Mendoza is, by career numbers, very weak in April. Lower his workload in the first month, and you will see much better results. Then, get Arroyo, Fossum, Maels, or another middle relief player for the bullpen. So, my 2004 Red Sox team:
Not bad, but then the floodgates break open. After 2004, Variek, Nomar, Mueller, Nixon, Ortiz, Lowe, and Pedro are all free agents. The team will have to be very creative to create another winning team, but creativity seems to be Epstein's strong suit.
Much of the decisions will be based on two players in Pawtucket, Kevin Youkilis and Kelly Shoppach. If both play well, then neither Varitek or Mueller should be retained the following season. If one struggles or is dealt, the team should retain their veteran. Jeremy Giambi, who needs to have a big 2004, may decide Ortiz's future. If Giambi comes up big next season, Epstein will be very hesitant to pay Ortiz significant money.
But it's Nomar and Nixon that have no back-ups. Nomar should be a career Red Sox, as Boston's pride is in the bat of their Nomah. He's the second best shortstop in the game today, and expect those home runs to rise again next season. Nixon should be retained, simply because the Red Sox have no adequate replacement. This offseason is the year for RF, so next season's class will be a little weak. Trying to get Nixon to sign a four-year deal now (worth about $20-24M?) would be the best move.
The pitching is the larger question mark. Pedro is an easy decision: Let him go. He's going to complain to every media source that will listen, but continue giving him the cold shoulder. Javier Vazquez will be a free agent in one season, and he is a much better option than Pedro. Vazquez will give you innings, strikeouts, and a lot less worry than Pedro will. Plus, Vazquez will cost about $12M per next offseason, compared to the 15-18 that Pedro will command.
The decision on Lowe is yet to come. The team could have Fossum, Arroyo, and De La Rosa in a rotation in 2005, to go along with Wakefield and Vazquez. In that scenario, Lowe is history. So I would wait with Lowe as well, to see how the three youngsters pitch, and to discover who is the real Derek Lowe. Basically, this could be the Red Sox in 2005:
So, it's going to be interesting at least. In coming weeks, I'll write an article about when I think the Yankees will start to go bad, because with their aging, and bloated contracts, it will happen at some point. So, watch out for some investigation on that in the future. Other than that, have a good weekend and see ya Monday...
Organizational Meeting: Red Sox
Well folks, today you get off lucky, I'm not writing. For the Red Sox organizational meeting I have two bloggers answering questions. One is Ben Jacobs, who writes the fantastic Universal Baseball Blog Inc. He's a sportswriter for a Rochester newspaper, and his weekly fantasy football column always helps. The other is Jeff Kuhn, writer for The House that Dewey Built, a very Bostonian Blog. Both are worth checking out, of course, only after you read what they have to say here...
1. Theo Epstein has done some different things during his short tenure, but nothing comes close to the Manny Ramirez saga. Epstein has admitted the Ramirez contract was terrible, and that the Red Sox have little interest in retaining him. Is Manny tradeable? If they can't trade him, will this move backfire and play a negative role in making Manny part of the team?
Ben Jacobs- Manny is definitely tradeable. If Mo Vaughn and Mike Hampton got traded, then Manny can certainly get traded too. The real question is whether or not Manny is tradeable in a way that makes sense for the Red Sox. And I have a hard time seeing that. Basically, there are only two ways I could see the Red Sox trading Manny.
The first is if some team is willing to take Manny while not giving the Red Sox much in return if the Red Sox will eat a couple million dollars per year on Manny contract. I could see Epstein doing that to save most of the money Manny is owed, but I don't know why any team would want to do that. If they weren't willing to claim him and pay the entire contract, they probably aren't willing to trade for him and pay 90-percent of his contract.
The second way is if the Red Sox trade him for another team's bad contract. However, the only way I think Epstein would do that is if the other team's bad contract is much shorter, like two or three years instead of Manny's five years. I'm not sure what teams would be interested in doing that and I'm really not sure if the Red Sox have any interest in doing that. I think Epstein already said they're not going to take on another bad contract.
Also, the Red Sox are not going to pay a large portion of Manny's contract just to get rid of him. He is, after all, still a premier hitter. In fact, in my opinion, he's the third-best player in the majors when you only consider offensive contributions. The Rockies paid for Hampton not to pitch for them anymore because Hampton was terrible in Colorado. The Red Sox are not going to pay for Manny to be an All-Star somewhere else.
If Manny is still with Boston in 2004, and I think that's the most likely scenario, I don't foresee any problems. If anything, it may help the situation. Manny is a bit of a head case and he's very immature. He doesn't really want to be in Boston, but he signed a big contract so he's not really in a position to say he won't play there. He's put up excellent numbers in each of his first three years with the team despite frequent reports of unhappiness. He and his agent reportedly even initiated the process of Manny being placed on waivers when they said Manny wanted to play in New York. Obviously, the Red Sox can't trade Manny to the Yankees, so the Red Sox gave the Yankees the one possible option to acquire Manny. That the Yankees didn't go for it is not something Manny can hold against the Red Sox. Furthermore, if he complains during this season that he wants to play elsewhere, the Red Sox can tell him to be quiet because nobody else wants him at his salary. If he really wants to go, he can make the monetary concessions, not them. There's even a chance, just a small one though, that Ramirez will be motivated by 29 teams saying that he is not worth what he's being paid. So, I think Manny will be fine in Boston even after this.
Jeff Kuhn- I think Manny is tradable simply because he might be the best right handed hitter in baseball. Everyone who followed the saga knows that there is 5 years/$100 million left on the deal, and Manny makes $20 million this year. That isn't entirely accurate. $20 million of his deal is deferred with very little interest, which makes Manny's deal more palatable then ARod's or Giambi's. I honestly think he wasn't claimed because GM's think Theo is desperate to dump him, and they think they can talk him into paying some of the contract and taking a bad contract. I can see Jim Duquette saying give me Manny and $5 million a year and I guess I can part with Tom Glavine. I just hope if that happens, then Theo has the good sense to hang up. Manny isn't a vocal leader, and he seems to only care about hitting a baseball. I don't see this hurting the clubhouse any. If he sticks around, he'll be the meat in a Ortiz/Millar hugwich soon enough.
2. Rumors were flying that if someone claimed Ramirez, the Rangers would send Alex Rodriguez to the Red Sox for a package containing Nomar Garciaparra. In New England, "Nomah" is everyone's favorite player. Could Epstein possibly trade Garciaparra or let him walk; is Nomar supposed to be a career Red Sox?
BJ- New England loves Nomar with a passion and would definitely be very upset if he does not finish his career with the Red Sox. However, Epstein doesn't really seem to care what New England thinks, which is a good thing for the Red Sox. Most fans are pretty irrational most of the time, and you definitely don't want to make your decisions based solely on what they think is best.
That doesn't mean I think the Red Sox should definitely get rid of Nomar, however. If he's willing to sign a reasonable contract extension (maybe four years at around $12 million per year), I would certainly like to keep him in Boston. He's probably never going to be the hitter he was before hurting his wrist, but he's still one of the best shortstops in baseball. However, if the Red Sox get the sense that Nomar doesn't really want to sign an extension and he would rather go play in California in 2005, I wouldn't be afraid to make a bold move.
I would consider trading Nomar for prospects and trying to sign Miguel Tejada. Tejada didn't deserve to win the MVP award in 2002, but he is an excellent player. He's probably better than Nomar defensively, and he's not that much worse offensively. The problem with that plan is that if you don't get Tejada, your next option is to sign Rich Aurilia, who would be a significant downgrade from Nomar.
Also, along the same lines as trading Nomar and signing Tejada, I would seriously consider trading Johnny Damon for prospects and trying to sign Mike Cameron. Cameron is probably a little bit better than Damon defensively and he could at least match Damon's numbers offensively if he was playing half of his games in Fenway rather than SafeCo. Unfortunately, this plan has the same problem as the Nomar plan. If you miss out on Cameron, your next option is Kenny Lofton, who would be a significant downgrade from Damon.
JKThe days of "career" players are all but over, with a nod to Biggio, Larkin, Bagwell, and Frank Thomas. I think there would have been some serious backlash if Nomar was traded for a guy that is perceived as having destroyed baseball's financial structure. I think eventually, Nomar will be allowed to walk, and if the Angels, Padres, Astros or Dodgers don't bite, the Sox will resign him. The Astros will be the wild card because of the Mia factor.
3. What does a good GM do with Pedro? He is probably the best "first 100 pitches" pitcher I've ever seen pitch, but he really can't go beyond that these days. He is eating 17.5 million next season, and will be bickering the whole time about a contract extension. Really, what do you do with Pedro?
BJ- The Pedro Martinez decision is the most cut-and-dry decision the team has, in my opinion. You keep him on the team to pitch for 2004, you offer him arbitration at the end of the season and you collect draft picks when another team signs him.
Basically, you can't trade Pedro because he has a big contract with just one year left on it and you'll never get equal value for that deal. So, you have to keep him for next season and hope that he can stay healthy enough to make his 29 or 30 starts and give you around 180-190 innings with a very good ERA. If he does that, then the $17.5 million is being spent reasonably well.
However, under no circumstances do you offer Pedro a contract extension, unless it's a short and relatively cheap one that he will turn down anyway. Pedro is a very proud man and he's going to want a long contract worth a lot of money. He'll clamor about respect and how a team should be willing to give him a long contract because he's a great pitcher and they don't want him pitching against them. There are certain truths about Pedro, however.
First, he's very prone to injury. He hasn't made more than 30 starts in a season since 1998. Second, the Red Sox have babied Pedro a lot in recent years. That may be part of the reason he hasn't started more than 30 games, but it was also supposed to be the reason he'd be a healthy and dominant pitcher in the post-season. The problem is, that didn't happen.
After being coddled all season long, Pedro had a 4.76 ERA in four playoff starts. Even if you had taken him out after seven innings in game seven against the Yankees (as many people thought Grady Little should have), his post-season ERA would have been 3.86. That's just not good enough for somebody who gets paid as much as he does and gets babied as much as he does and gets free reign to say and do anything as much as he does.
If you can't count on Pedro to give you 30 starts (and you certainly can't count on him for more than 30 starts) and you can't count on Pedro to be absolutely amazing in the playoffs, then why would you give him a ton of money and a long contract? He's one of the greatest pitchers of all time, but he'll be 33 after the 2004 season and he'll be a big, big risk.
JK- I think you make him an offer in the neighborhood of 4 years/$60-65 million. If he takes it, pray that his arm stays on his body. If he doesn't, well you pray Steinbrenner doesn't open his purse. The thought of Pedro in a Yankee uniform sends a chill down my spine.
4. Should Grady Little have been fired? Who should manage the 2004 Red Sox and why?
BJ- Yes, Grady Little should have been fired, but not because of what happened in game seven of the ALCS. Grady just didn't fit in with what the Red Sox front office is trying to do. From what I understand, he almost completely ignored anything that had to do with statistics. It's not just that he wasn't the progressive coach they wanted, it's also that he bordered on insubordination with his complete and utter disdain for anything statistical or new.
As for who the new manager should be, I think it should come from the group of Glenn Hoffman, Bud Black and Terry Francona. I don't really know enough about each person specifically, but they all seem to fit the profile that the Red Sox are looking for and I trust Epstein et al to pick the best of the three.
The reason I think one of them should be hired instead of a retread "experienced" manager like Mike Hargrove or Davey Johnson is that the Red Sox are trying to be forward-thinking in the way they run things and they need an open-minded, forward-thinking manager on the bench. They don't need somebody sitting on the bench who will say, "I've always done things this way and I ain't changing for some 29-year-old whiz kid."
Boston has people in place who are capable of making something very special happen in the near future. Now, they need to hire somebody who can help them -- who can work with them -- to make that happen. Grady was frequently working against them, or just ignoring them all together.
JK- Grady Little should have been fired before this season. He did a better job in 2003 then he did in 2002, but his bullpen managing was terrible. Two stories will always piss me off about that whole thing. One was Grady not wanting to bring Williamson in game 7 because Scotty had a canker sore. Grady thought he was too stressed. Another was in Baltimore when Lowe had given up some pretty sharply hit line drives. Pitching coach Dave Wallace picked up the phone to call for someone (Mike Timlin I think), and Grady put his hand on the phone and said "We'll see how he does". Lowe gave up 5 runs in that inning, and the Sox lost 11-2.
A guy I've heard some good thing about is Joe Maddon, the Angels bench coach. He public said that he wants the job, and feels that statistical analysis is important in this day. I think the field manager is pretty unimportant as long as they execute the organization's plan, something Glenn Hoffman, Bud Black, and Maddon have said they would do. It was also something that Grady Little refused to do. If I was to rank them, I would say Maddon, Hoffman, Black, then Francona.
5. Todd Walker was the hero of this postseason, bailing out the team on numerous occasions. But, he really is a very platoonable player, susceptible to good left-handed pitching. Do you re-sign Walker, or save the money for pitching? Would you go with Bill Mueller at second and Youkilis at third? Who plays second?
BJ- Walker is a pretty good hitter for a second baseman, but he's also an average fielder at best. Also, as you said, he's really only a good hitter against righties, so it's probably not a good idea to give him the $3.5-4 million he'll probably want. Especially since there is a cheaper -- and probably better -- version of him that will probably be available this off-season.
It sounds like the Angels are going to non-tender Adam Kennedy, who is a better defensive player than Walker and who hits righties about as well as Walker does. Kennedy made $2.27 million in 2003 and I'd guess that he'd be willing to sign for about that for 2004.
Whether you re-sign Walker or sign Kennedy, you need to go out and find that person a platoon partner. Lou Merloni's a fan favorite, but he's never been all that good against lefties and this year he stunk against them while pounding righties. The best solution would be Placido Polanco, who has had an OPS of at least .880 against lefties three of the last four years (it was .790 in 2001). However, I don't know exactly what his situation is with Philadelphia, so he may not be available. Mark Grudzielanek would be another option, although he's been more inconsistent against lefties and he would have to take on heck of a pay cut over what he made in 2003.
You mentioned Kevin Youkilis, and he presents another intriguing possible option. The Red Sox could use the switch-hitting Bill Mueller at third and the left-handed hitting Adam Kennedy at second against righties and use the right-handed hitting Youkilis at third and Mueller at second against lefties. This would allow Boston to ease Youkilis into the majors, which would be a good thing because he's probably not ready to be there full-time yet. The nice thing about Youkilis is that even if he's not hitting, he probably won't be a complete drain on the offense because he takes a lot of walks.
There is one other thing I'd like to mention about Youkilis. He got a lot of press this season because he was mentioned in Moneyball and he had a .487 OBP at Portland and he got on base something like 70 games in a row at one point. If all that has caused his value to climb to the point where teams are itching to trade for him, then I'd trade him. I think he'll be a fine major leaguer, but it's not a sure thing and this could very well be the high-water mark for his value. If you can get real talent in return for him right now, I think it would be a good idea.
JK- Walker did the Red Sox a huge favor from a business stand point. He played well enough to be a type A free agent, and he did his best bashing in October, so it is fresh in other GM's minds. It's a no-brainer to offer Walker arbitration. If he accepts, good, we have a steady player at second, if he doesn't then we get two draft picks. If Walker doesn't resign, then my kind of pet project is Mark Bellhorn. Not only does he fit the organizational profile (high OB%, high slug) he plays a decent second base, he's a switch hitter, he's gonna be cheap because he was jerked around by Dusty Baker and buried by Clint Hurdle. Youkilis needs some seasoning at AAA before coming up to the big club. Mueller at second and Youk at third should be last resort.
6. The Red Sox second-tier players (Varitek, Ortiz, Mueller, Nixon) are all free agents after 2004 (along with Nomar and Pedro). All the second-tier guys are leaders (Varitek, Mueller), or Boston favorites (Ortiz, Nixon). Who gets re-signed, and why?
BJ- This is, to me, the toughest question facing the Red Sox. Of the four guys you mentioned, Mueller's the easiest because he doesn't really have the option of becoming a free agent after the 2004 season. The Red Sox have a $2.1 million option on him for 2005 (with a $0.3 million buyout) and I think they'll exercise it unless he's completely terrible in 2004.
The other three are all much tougher decisions, and you didn't mention Derek Lowe, who will also be a free agent after 2004 and also presents a difficult decision. It's really hard to say what the Red Sox should do with all of these players, so I'll try and go player by player and say as much as I can about the situation.
Jason Varitek will make $6.7 million in 2004. He will turn 33 very early in the 2005 season and the Red Sox have a catcher in the minor leagues named Kelly Shoppach who should be ready for the majors in 2005. So, I'd try to re-sign Varitek next off-season, but if he asks for a deal longer than three seasons and for more than about $6 million per season, I'd say thanks but no thanks. Varitek gets a ton of credit for being a wonderful handler of the pitching staff and a bulldog who goes all out and motivates the team and really helps out on defense, but that's all stuff that's pretty hard to quantify. The numbers seem to indicate that he's a bit overrated on defense. His bat is certainly worth keeping if he hits like he did in 2003 or like he was before the injury in 2001, but it's not a good thing if he hits like he did in 2002 or 2000. Plus, catchers tend to start falling apart pretty quickly right around age 33. Varitek's important to the Red Sox, but not so important that they need to break the bank for him.
Trot Nixon is another guy that everybody loves to have around. He'll turn 30 on the same day Varitek turns 32 next spring and he has not ever shown any ability whatsoever to hit left-handed pitching. He made $4 million this season and will likely be due a significant raise in arbitration. I like Trot and I'd love to see him signed to an extension because he can absolutely demolish right-handed pitching, but he's not worth more than $6 or 7 million per year, if that much, in my opinion. I think the Red Sox should try to sign him to a four-year deal worth about $25 million. That way they get his age 30-33 seasons and they avoid arbitration this year.
Regardless of whether they keep Nixon past 2004, they're going to need to find him a real platoon partner for 2004. Gabe Kapler's a fine bit player, but when all you're looking for is somebody who can play right field and hit lefties, you can do better. Reggie Sanders and Brian Jordan would both be fine options if you could convince them to take a small salary and a part-time role, but I doubt that's a possibility. Eduardo Perez had a 1.126 OPS against lefties this year and a .997 OPS against lefties last year and he would probably be a fine option to platoon with Nixon. In fact, a Nixon/Perez platoon might provide almost as much offense as Manny Ramirez does.
David Ortiz was an absolute bargain this season because he made $1.25 million dollars. He's already said that he'd like a contract extension before next season. I'd probably be willing to give him a four-year deal for around $20 million. He'll turn 28 in a couple weeks, which means the entire contract would pretty much be during his prime, and there's no reason to think he can't perform like he did this year if he stays healthy. He hasn't been very good against lefties the past two years, but he showed some ability to hit them before that so he might not need a strict platoon.
Derek Lowe is 30 years old and will make $5 million in 2004. He had a great season in 2002 and an average season in 2003. I think his 2004 season will be somewhere in between and I'd probably be willing to give him three more years (after 2004) for around $21 million.
Another question facing the Red Sox is what to do with Kevin Millar. He's 32 years old and not very well conditioned and he looks like a prime candidate to decline next year (or at least not improve). Millar posted some of the best counting stats of his career this year, but he also posted some of the worst rate stats of his career. If the Red Sox keep him around for 2004, he probably shouldn't play 148 games again. I'd limit him to around 120 games at most and give Jeremy Giambi (who should be willing to sign for less than the $2 million he got last year) at least 80 games between first base, designated hitter and left field. Giambi was probably injured for a lot of this season and should be a better hitter next season. Ortiz probably shouldn't play against lefties that often (Giambi doesn't have as severe a split) and Manny will also need some days off.
Another option would be to trade Millar for whatever you can get and make Giambi and Ortiz your primary first baseman and DH. You could then sign somebody who hits lefties well (like Eric Karros or Julio Franco) to give those two the occasional day off. The reason I'd consider trading Millar for very little is that he has a $3.5 million option for 2005 that is guaranteed if he gets 800 plate appearance between 2003 and 2004. Since he got 618 PAs in 2003, it's a virtual lock that his option would become guaranteed if he returns in 2004. I don't mind having Millar around for 2004, but I don't really want him around in 2005.
Yet another option would be to trade away both Millar and Ortiz and trade for Derrek Lee and make Giambi the DH. You might even be able to swing a deal with Florida for Lee that includes Ortiz.
JK- Nice little mess Dan Duquette left the Sox, eh? Mueller will be 34, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him walk. I think Nixon and Ortiz get locked up for a few years this offseason, since they will go to arbitration anyway. Varitek is an interesting case because he will be 34, and a catcher. Carlton Fisk and Benito Santiago are the only two catchers I know of that have played more then one season at a high level after the age of 34. Not only that, the Sox's best prospect is catcher Kelly Shoppach. I think 'Tek gets a extension offer this offseason for a few seasons, and then an offer to coach in the system. More likely is that Varitek is somewhere else in 2005. Also, Williamson, Kim, and Lowe will be free agents after 2004 too. It's a big mess.
7. I thought that by the end of the season, Theo had built himself a pretty good bullpen. Does Mike Timlin need to be re-signed after a dominating postseason? Is Scott Williamson ready to close big games? Will Alan Embree bounce back? And, most importantly, what role does Byung-Hyun Kim play next season?
BJ- I feel pretty good about Boston's bullpen for 2004. I think Mike Timlin should be brought back if he's willing to sign for around $2.5 million and I think Williamson is perfectly capable of handling the closer's role. He has performed well as the closer in Cincinnati and, from what I understand, he had a lot of issues at the end of the season that contributed to his poor performance.
What I'd really like is to see the Red Sox start using the closer's role the way Oakland does. I'd give Williamson the role this season and let him rack up 35-40 saves. I believe he'll be eligible for free agency after 2004 and all those saves would probably make him a Class A (or Type I or whatever it is) free agent, which means the Red Sox would get nice draft picks when another team signs him in the 2004 off-season. Then, the Red Sox can just go get somebody else to be their closer (maybe even somebody they already have like Brandon Lyon or Casey Fossum).
As for Embree, I think he'll be fine next year. It's silly to think he'll ever have as good a season as he had in 2002, but I don't see any reason why he can't give the Red Sox 60 innings with an ERA in the mid-3.00's.
Byung-Hyun Kim should, in my opinion, be a starter next season. I think Kim is a great reliever, even in 2003 when people were treating him like the worst closer in the history of baseball, but there are three compelling reasons to move him into the starting rotation.
First, weird things seem to happen when he's in the bullpen. I don't know why and I don't know that it would continue to happen, but there always seem to be incidents when Kim is in the bullpen. Plus, the worst incidents seem to happen against the New York Yankees, who just so happen to be Boston's biggest rivals. There's no reason to test this situation when there's a perfectly viable alternative.
Second, he has more value as a starter. Kim posted a 3.38 ERA in 72 innings as a starter this season, which is pretty good. He did only average six innings per start and his strikeout rates were significantly lower as a starter than as a reliever, but I think he's capable of being a very nice starting pitcher. If he could give the Red Sox 190 innings (30 starts at six and one-third innings per start) with an ERA around 3.25 to 3.50, he would be one of the best fourth starters in the majors, if not the best.
Third, Kim wants to be a starter. If the Red Sox give him a shot at starting for an entire season, he may be more inclined to stay with the team when he becomes a free agent (which I think is also after the 2004 season. The 2004 off-season is going to be a very busy one).
JK- Mike Timlin is one of my favorite Sox from 2003. The fan in me would love to see him back. However, I'm not sure how smart it would be to sign a 38 year old middle reliever who might ask for big money. His case is actually much like Walker's, in that he is also a Type A. I would love to get Timlin back for similar money.
As for Williamson and Embree, they will be fine. Williamson is a guy that I would give the ball to in any situation. The same with Embree. I have nothing but confidence in those two for the back of the bullpen. Kim needs to be given a role, and kept there, no matter what. When he came to the Sox, he started and pitched well. Grady got nervous though and started him in the bullpen between starts and I think it messed with his arm some. Then you make him the closer and pitch him in five straight games? I would like Kim to be in the rotation next year. He has the ability to be the 2nd starter on a lot of teams.
8. Pedro and Tim Wakefield are givens next season. The team will also bring back Derek Lowe, another given. Should Jeff Suppan get brought back? Should prospects Bronson Arroyo (IL Pitcher of the Year) or Jorge De La Rosa get shots? Does Casey Fossum deserve another look? What players should Epstein bring in to fill the rotation?
BJ- As you said, Pedro, Wakefield and Lowe are givens. That leaves two spots available. My hope is that those two spots will be filled by Kim and Bronson Arroyo. I talked about Kim in the previous question, so I'll just talk about Arroyo here.
For some reason, he only pitched 17.1 innings for the Red Sox this season, but he only gave up 10 hits and he struck out 14 batters. Also, as you said, he was the IL Pitcher of the Year after posting a 3.43 ERA with 155 strikeouts and 23 walks in 149.2 innings for Pawtucket. Arroyo will be 27 when the 2004 season starts and his strikeout and walk rates have improved each of the last two seasons. In 2001, Arroyo had 88 strikeouts and 49 walks in 154.2 innings between Pittsburgh and AAA. In 2002, he had 138 strikeouts and 43 walks in 170 innings between Pittsburgh and AAA. In 2003, he had 169 strikeouts and 27 walks in 167 innings between Boston and AAA.
It's time to see what Arroyo can do as a full-time starter. His numbers are impressive and the few times I've seen him pitch his stuff has looked good. At worst, I think he'd be a serviceable fifth starter just like John Burkett was. At best, I think he could put up numbers worthy of being a second or third starter on most teams.
I do think Casey Fossum deserves another chance and he'll probably get a long, hard look in spring training. It seems unlikely to me that the Red Sox will just hand out the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation this winter. There will probably be a competition of sorts in spring training and I'm sure Fossum will be involved in that competition. I think Fossum has good enough stuff to be a starter, but I'm not sure if he has the durability to be a starter. He has a very slight build (he's listed at 6-1, 165 pounds, but he may not be even that heavy) and he's been somewhat injury-prone during his career. I think he might be more valuable as a reliever and, as I mentioned earlier, he could eventually be an option for the Red Sox at closer.
Jorge De La Rosa put up some very impressive numbers in AA, but it seems to me that he could use a full season in Pawtucket before he gets a job in Boston. He's only 22 years old, so I don't see any reason to rush him to the big leagues before he's definitely ready.
JK- I'd take a flyer on Arroyo in the rotation coming out of camp, with Fossum, who has one more option year, in Pawtucket to get stronger. Unfortunately, I think Fossum might be better suited for relief. I think DLR starts the year in Pawtucket too, and I fully expect the Red Sox to take the Earl Weaver approach to breaking him in. One year in long relief, and build him up until he is winning 20 in the bigs. One interesting pitcher to look at for the rotation is Jose Jimenez. He was terrible in Colorado this year, but he is an extreme groundball pitcher. The less balls hit in the outfield in Fenway the better. One forgotten fact about Jimenez is that he threw a no hitter as a rookie for the Cardinals. I think realistically, Colon/Millwood/Pettitte is a pipedream. Ponson has a torn labrum, and there is no way I would sign him to more then a one year deal.
9. Give a step-by-step offseason to-do list for Theo Epstein, as well as your predicted/desired 2004 Red Sox lineup.
BJ- 1. Hire a new manager as quickly as possible. Determine who the best candidate is as soon as you can and give him the job immediately. The players currently on the team and the free agents who might consider coming to the team will want to know who they will be playing for. Don't make them wait too long.
9. Here's my desired 2004 lineup:
Bullpen: Scott Williamson, Mike Timlin, Alan Embree, Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon, Ramiro Mendoza
Desired line up vs. RHP
Desired line up vs. LHP
I'd like to thank Ben and Jeff, and remember you'll get my answers tomorrow, so stay tuned for that.
Today, I'm gonna break from the organizational meetings and address some of the issues I've neglected recently. Let me thank you for reading this, as I've just had my best week ever. I'm glad this site is becoming a daily read for some of you, and I always appreciate e-mails. Tomorrow the Red Sox meeting will be up, so definitely come back for that.
Moving on to my thoughts...
First, the Phillies have traded for Billy Wagner. Obviously, this deal has two sides. For Philadelphia, it's a great deal (more on that in a minute). But for the Astros, I'm going to have to agree with Will Carroll, "Nice deal, but only if they get Pettite. Otherwise, the Cubs OWN this division the next two years." The Astros need to spend the eight million they just shed, and they need to spend it in the rotation. A fivesome of Oswalt, Miller, Redding, Robertson, and Duckworth is nice, but it could be better. Throw in Andy Pettite, boot out Duckworth, and this is a contending team.
For the Phillies, this is a sensational deal. Billy Wagner has been in the top ten in Baseball Prospectus' reliever reports for two years, and in all but one since 1998. He was third this season, behind Game Over Gagne and new teammate Rheal Cormier. Assuming they re-up Terry Adams, this is a very good bullpen. Without Duckworth, the rotation isn't as set in stone. Randy Wolf, Vicente Padilla, and Brett Myers are locks. Prospect Ryan Madson and Amaury Telemaco may fill it out, but Ed Wade says the team has a little flexibiliy to add another starter. No matter what, the Phillies are the 2004 NL East favorite.
And just to clarify, it will be Octavio Dotel closing games in 2004, and closing them well. Gagne is the best closer in the NL, Wagner is second. It is very possible that next season Dotel will surpass Smoltz and become the best. Of course, that's assuming Jimy Williams doesn't throw him two innings every night. Taylor Buchholz, the main prospect in the deal, will definitely be in the Astro top five. He'll likely be able to debut in 2005, allowing the Astros to then trade/non-tender Tim Redding. But as I said, we'll have to address this down the road...
Speaking of unaddressable subjects, the Chicago White Sox named Ozzie Guillen their manager on Monday, giving him the slight edge over Cito Gaston. I liked a certain Baseball Primer post that mentioned the ironies between Guillen and Tony Pena a year ago. Guillen will push the White Sox, demanding hustle, and improving the clubhouse. He likely learned a lot in Florida, possibly as much as Gaston knows as a 2-time champion.
This move ensures that Robbie Alomar will be back, as he is said to speak with Ozzie twice a month. They are very good friends, and the White Sox were interested in retaining him before anyway. This will also help Jose Valentin's chances in returning, although I think that would be the completely wrong direction to take. Aaron Miles and Tony Graffanino might not be such a sexy duo, but I guarantee their level of performance would rival the Alomar and Valentin combo.
A lot of Ken Williams decision lied in the fact that Guillen makes the White Sox a more attractive option to free agents. He will have an attitude that is unlike many other managers, and Williams is gambling that it makes Chicago's south side a better choice. Maybe, Williams thinks, this will entice Bartolo Colon to accept his offer. Colon has been tabbed by me as the first dumbass of the hot stove league, rejecting a three-year, thirty-six million dollar deal. Believe me, he won't get that chance anywhere else. My conspiracy theory is he wants more years, because he may get injured during the course of the deal.
While Colon decided to not stay in Chicago, Frank Thomas didn't. He accepted six million dollars for this season, but will actually be on the hook for three more years, at twenty-four million. This was a good decision for Thomas, but it ensures the White Sox must trade either Carlos Lee or Paul Konerko. And Konerko's contract is pretty unmoveable, meaning Lee, the team's second best hitter, is likely gone. Without Colon and without Lee, this is a third place club...
One left fielder I have neglected to mention in the past week is Manny Ramirez, and the waive heard 'round the world. Theo Epstein is making his prescence known, basically calling Dan Duquette a retard out loud. It was a decent option, but a pretty crazy idea. There was about a 1% chance that someone would claim him, and now the Manny controversey will follow him all of next year.
I agreed with Ben Jacobs, who in a fantastic post, detailed why the Devil Rays should have bit. They want Gary Sheffield, who will likely turn down any option. But in Ramirez, they would have landed the American League's best hitter, with an already-negotiated contract. That would give them very little other options the rest of the winter, but make them a much better team. This club, this lineup, is actually pretty good:
1. Julio Lugo- SS
Not bad at all. If the Red Sox are really intent on dealing Manny, the Dodgers are the only place to look. If the BoSox were to take on the Darren Dreifort deal, which wouldn't hurt, the teams could do it. Basically, LA throws Dreifort, Joel Hanrahan, and a bag of balls for Ramirez. It would give the Red Sox a good prospect in Hanrahan, lots of potential in Dreifort, and some more money to spend. More on this in the BoSox offseason meeting tomorrow...
The Red Sox managerial search will be a strange one, although I believe Bud Black should ultimately end up with the job. Ex-Red Sox manager Grady Little will interview for the Baltimore job this week, in which he stands zero chance of getting it. Basically, it will be a battle between Lee Mazzilli, Yankees 3rd base coach, and Eddie Murray, their first interview. The Mariners GM quest is still yet to end, and I really do believe they were just waiting for Cashman. Now, it's really down to business...
I really like Cashman's decision to fire Rick Down and tab Don Mattingly as coach of the Yankees. In my Yankee opinions, I said, "Sign Don Mattingly to be hitting coach, David Cone to be pitching coach, and Luis Sojo for 1st base." Well, Mattingly and Sojo are now Yanks, and Mel Stottlemyre is yet to announce he won't return. But when he does, let's hope Cone gets his chance. And when Mazzilli leaves 3rd base? Something tells me it won't be Bucky Dent...
And welcome back Edgar Martinez, or did we ever think you were gone? Come back tomorrow for the Red Sox.
Organizational Meeting: Oakland A's
Lots of news today, including the Billy Wagner deal and Ozzie Guillen managerial hiring. Tomorrow is going to have to be a notes column, with all those things inserted. But today, I was lucky enough for the guys over at Elephants in Oakland to answer a few questions. And oh yeah, I did the same. Enjoy...
1) Billy Beane is highly touted across the Internet as a great GM, but contracts like Terrence Long, Jermaine Dye, and even Ramon Hernandez really have hurt this team. I mean, why extend Scott Hatteberg's contract, and why couldn't he give Jason Giambi a stupid no-trade clause? Do you agree that Beane lets his ego into his decisions? Isn't it ironic the team that preaches OBP finished 10th in their statistic, only .04 ahead of the Baltimore Orioles?
Elephants in Oakland- It's true that Billy Beane seems to fall into the same trap as most GM's when it comes to finalizing a multi-year contract with a player. And let's make that clear, we're talking position players. With pitchers, Billy Beane is reaping huge benefits in the long term deals completed involving the Big Three - Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito. But let's also take the distinction a bit further, Billy has also not tied himself up into several other bad long term contracts; Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, Jason Isringhausen and Ray Durham all left via free agency. All have been hurt or not played up to expected levels since leaving the A's. Crystal ball stuff? No. But the A's saved themselves about $100 million over the market value on top of what those players received in the free agency market.
The Scott Hatteberg contract was thought by most to be a sign and deal contract. After all, what is to become of Erubiel Durazo? What about Minor League Player of the Year Graham Koonce, who looks to be a late blooming version of Jeff Bagwell (with a lower batting average)? Koonce's line so far - .654/.700/1.115. Don't look now, the A's have Don Johnson tearing up the Arizona Fall League (.372./.481/.628 and a ton of RBI).
Billy Beane has often been heard to mutter that is he ever pays more than $1 million for a first baseman he deserves to be fired. $2.5 million for Hatteberg a year for two years must mean Beane is willing to forgo his severance pay and benefits, too.
The Jermaine Dye deal is an albatross. He was hurt and he's not that bad, nobody in MLB was as bad as Dye last year.
Terrence Long just seems to be against all traditional logic. His numbers were supposed to steadily improve, instead they have dropped off a cliff and they were then driven to another cliff where they were shot, stuffed into a bag and then pushed off the cliff into a river. Which headed for another cliff.
Ramon Hernandez deal is well worth every penny. He is not a catcher for his bat, he is a catcher because of the way he handles the pitching staff and the home plate umpires. This is baseball, not fantasy league baseball, after all. Hernandez had a down year statistically in 2002 as he had some residual effects from a wrist injury suffered in the 2001 playoffs. His 2003 season was a very good year. Let's break it down a little differently;
Giambi's contract is ridiculous and if were written on anything other than NY Yankees stationary it might be labeled one of the worst in professional sports. There is wide misconception that the A's did not offer Giambi a favorable deal and the specifics of that deal were made know by a Bay Area sports writer by the name of Glenn Dickey. Later the confirmations came out, but well after Giambi had already had his press conference. You have to remember, the A's are not a team to waste time or money with media relations unless they have to. They have too many other things to do. Billy Beane is no fan of the media and time talking to the press is time he and Paul could be scouring numbers and going over player reports. Take a look at the A's organization and one word comes to mind in regards to staff: thin.
Glenn Dickey is not a sports reporter. He is a writer who happens to write about sports. Dickey doesn't swallow anything fed to him by teams as the Associated Press and local beat writers too often do. The negotiations with Giambi went on for months and there was a long period during the 2002 season when the silent partner of the A's, Ken Hoffman was looking to sell. Billy Beane has a clause in his contract that he can get out if ownership changes hands, so this was a dicey few months.
This put anything Billy Beane was doing as a GM into a wringer as they really didn't know what numbers they could deal with until Hoffman backed down from the ledge. By then the season was over and Giambi's agent was using his public relations department to start feeding the media reports on how badly the A's were treating Giambi. Which is ridiculous, because the A's built their entire advertising campaign around Giambi. They pushed hard for his MVP in 2001 and again in 2002.
This calls into question the motives of Giambi. People forget sometimes why he wore 16 with the A's and 25 with the Yankees. His father, John Giambi, raised both Jason and the Giambi who would not slide and huge Mickey Mantle fans. In a media guide way back in 1997 Jason Giambi lists as his career goal/dream to play for the New York Yankees. Was there ever a doubt he was going to wear pinstripes? Nope.
In fact, Billy Beane effectively handcuffed Brian Cashman and the Yankees in the negotiations. They drove the price up so high and included so many contingencies and clauses, Giambi is stuck in New York until his early late 30's. The A's made a good offer in salary on the suggested numbers by Giambi and his agent. When they matched the salary numbers, Giambi and his agent wanted a limited no trade clause. The A's complied. Then Giambi's camp wanted a no trade clause.
The big question here is: why?
Two years into the deal and Giambi would have been a 10/5 guy anyway, giving Giambi the right to refuse any trade to any team for any reason. So what would be the point of an 'unlimited' trade clause? There's no value there as the A's would not have seen a need to trade him, anyway - remember the media campaigns. So why then the no trade clause issue? Because it was the last straw. Billy Beane had other things to deal with and playing Giambi's agent for a chump and screwing the Yankees at the same time was eating into Beane's schedule. By most accounts, the A's countered at least three different deal breakers that were publicly leaked.
So Giambi, eventually, could point the finger at Oakland and keep his reputation as a nice guy and that he was willing to settle for less money. Please. When in fact, he and his agent felt they were using the A's to get a better deal out of the Yankees. Which is stupid. You just ask George Steinbrenner for the checkbook and he hands it over, anyway. Giambi was always going to New York and it had to be in 2001 because the 2002 free agent market crash that was projected would have killed the big payday.
The Yankees have, essentially, a very good defensive first baseman in Nick Johnson they may have to trade because they'll have too many first basemen and DH's (Johnson to Seattle for Ichiro?). Bernie Williams can't throw and there is steam picking up on the rumor that Alfonso Soriano will move to the outfield with the aging Williams moving to DH. Giambi is average at first, even when healthy and that seems like it won't happen, ever. He has a nagging hamstring injury that has bothered him since his time with the A's and his knee is at the top of a long laundry list. How do you get that hurt playing first base and DH'inng?
As far as the Billy Beane ego trip everyone else has been taking, it's a falsehood. Beane is actually a very grounded person who doesn't fit the mold of the traditional crusty baseball GM. Because of his bold moves and the press he gets because of those moves he has been painted as an egomaniac.
Michael Lewis' book...if Michael Lewis asked to write a book about your work place, wouldn't you defer? This is the guy who wrote Liar's Poker for McGwire's sake. Plus, he's married to Tabitha Soren! Beane was a fan of Lewis' and Lewis lives in the Bay Area, which helped the matter along. It was only supposed to be a short series of articles for a magazine, but the material was too rich. How many books are written on the Cubs, Red Sox and Yankees each year? How many of them actually mean anything? Zero, because they are all worship pieces and ridiculous picture books with fancy typeset.
People seem to think the focus of Moneyball is Beane. He is not. He is an example. The problem is that if 15% of America is illiterate half of the remaining 85% do not know how to read. Moneyball struck nerves because the GM's were wearing their Emperor's entire wardrobes. Any educated baseball fan knew about the SABR and Jamesian theories. Most just did not know how gullible and how very clueless most baseball front offices are. Bud Selig was right (has that every been written?). MLB needs to eliminate about a third of its teams. But not because they don't make enough money; just to put them out of their misery.
Wait 'Til Next Year- Billy Beane is a fantastic GM, but I'm hesitant to call him the best in the business. Let's give that label to Scheurholtz (for now), and wait on Beane.
The Long and Hernandez extensions were good in theory. The idea of tying a player up through his arbitration seasons is good in theory: oftentimes you can have a very good player for a longtime (see Hudson, Mulder, Zito, Tejada). But sometimes, especially in the case of Terrence Long, it backfires. Now, you're on the hook for $3M a year to a player not worthy of a Major League contract. Beane has to be careful when making these arbitration extensions, because Long's contract is ugly.
Scott Hatteberg, on the other hand, was a very stupid move. With Graham Koonce having the season of his life, Dan Johnson not far behind, why make this move? Koonce is ready, and has legit 40HR, 100BB potential. Instead, he'll have to play around Hatteberg, since he got his name published in a Lewis book.
If the story is true that 6 years, $91M with a no-trade clause could have locked up Giambi, it should have been done. No ifs, no ands, not buts.
2) The A's lost two big advocates of their philosophy this off-season when Rick Peterson and Paul DePodesta left the team. Will this effect Billy Beane, or will the A's beliefs live on?
EiO- Well, Paul DePodesta isn't going anywhere, yet (Dodgers, if anywhere). And Peterson had probably done as much as he could with the A's. There is reason to believe the A's can continue to take the schema of preparation Peterson has created and continue. Don't forget, the A's allowed Peterson to go and he left on better than great terms. There's no reason to think Peterson wouldn't be open to suggestions or advice to the new pitching brain trust (Curt Young). They'll be spending time together in Alabama this winter, anyway.
WTNY- I believe this will really hurt Beane. One of the points I took away from Moneyball was how much DePodesta really helps this team, especially on draft day. Oftentimes in the book, they refer to DePodesta's computer, and the analysis he has done for the team. If he leaves, that will be gone, and Billy Beane will have to discover which button to click with on the mouse.
Rick Peterson will hurt, but not as bad. His principles have been established, and they can probably find someone to continue with that. Look for Beane to go after someone like Mike Marshall, who would really help the club.
3) With Rich Harden a mainstay in the rotation, the A's promise to have four great pitchers next season. Would you hold onto Ted Lilly, or try to deal him for a J.D. Drew type? Is PCL pitcher of the year Justin Duchscherer a good enough pitcher to succeed in the Majors?
EiO- We're not sold on Harden or the decision to bring Harden along this soon. Especially the decision to bring Haden in for a relief appearance in the ALDS when a homerun could win the game and decidedly turn the series. 97 mph fastballs have a tendency to supply their own velocity when redirected.
Ted Lilly? Which Ted Lilly? If the A's could get a lot for Lilly in trade, they should go for it. Lilly is an enigma wrapped inside a riddle, inside a fortune cookie crushed inside a spoiled brat's clenched fist. Lilly could be had for 3 years at a $2-3 million a year. That's rather pricey for a fourth starter considering Justin Duchscherer and Joe Blanton are on the verge of making the jump.
Duchscherer has pitched more innings than he ever has this year and he's currently pitching for TEAM USA. He may need a few months off to recover from his off-season. Duchscherer is ready, no question. But his body might collapse by Spring Training. If not Duchscherer, don't fret, Billy Beane will have someone else ready to step in and don't be surprised if it comes from an unusual source (Keith Foulke, anyone?)
The A's are loaded in their minor league system with right-handed arms. Casting Lilly off for a prospect with a hefty bat wouldn't be out of the realm of possibilities. Not Jury Duty D. Drew has more issues with his knees than Bud Selig has with the Hair Club for Men.
WTNY- Lilly should be gone. I bet a lot on him in 2003, and he was way too inconsistent. For as good as the A's rotation will be next season, it's much better to spend 300K on Duchscherer than $3M on Lilly. This team needs to worry about their offense and their bullpen, so Lilly is off the hook.
Duchscerer proved himself this season, and in the spacious A's ballpark, he'll benefit a lot. He doesn't hurt himself by walking people, and should be a solid Major League pitcher. Is a 4.50ERA good enough for the 5th starter of a fantastic A's rotation? That's around what Duchscherer might have, and I really compare him to Jae Seo of the Mets.
4) One of the main reasons the team isn't pursuing Miguel Tejada is their top prospect, Bobby Crosby, is ready. What do you expect from Crosby this season? Would the team be smart to lock-up Eric Chavez or save the money to keep the great pitchers in Oakland?
EiO- Bobby Crosby might seem ready, but his footwork was horrible last year in the few appearances he made and the A's called him up it seems, just to cool him off. It was most likely just jitters, but it wasn't pretty. He looked like he was going to trip over his own feet a few times and he didn't do a whole lot at the plate. There are questions about his range and he could eventually swap with Mark Ellis. Ellis is an exceptional fielder and played short in college. Ellis should have a gold glove for his work this year, but the award is biased toward hitting stats.
If Crosby can swing .280/.340./.460 most everyone will be happy. His defense will be the key. The A's pitchers get a lot of groundballs (exception Zito and Lilly's off days). The giant egg that Tejada laid in April actually makes the transition easier to swallow. If the free agent market turns soft, Tejada may return for a single season, but it's in that 10-15% chance of happening area.
The A's should consider platooning Eric Chavez with a scarecrow against left-handers. Chavez is the poster boy for wasted talent. There are whisperings of a self-confidence problem and social anxiety disorder. This is a guy with a ton of talent and a marshmallow psyche. He may not be worth locking up in a long-term deal as he may take several years to realize his own personal potential and to become a complete player. Not in the five-tool sense. Chavez gives at-bats away and often looks lost at the plate. Against left-handers he often looks like he is hoping to work a walk rather than have to swing the bat. Compare that to ten-day periods when he launches balls above the plexi-glass 480 feet away in the bleachers at the Network Associates Coliseum and consistently gets on base as if his dog was waiting at first base for him.
WTNY- Crosby is more than ready..he's ready for a Rookie of the Year season. I think we can expect 30 doubles, 20 home runs, and a .280/.340/.450 line.
I wouldn't lock-up Chavez yet, because his head is way too far up his ass. To have as much talent as he has, and to hit lefties at such a despicable pace is pathetic. Let him go somewhere else if he wants to, and save the money for that rotation. Plus, I'm sure the great selection of Mark Teahen will pay off at some point (insert sarcasm).
5) Another of the A's many beliefs is you can find a closer with ease. Billy Taylor, Jason Isringhausen, Billy Koch, and Keith Foulke. Who is the 5th name on that list? Is Moneyball reliever Chad Bradford capable of holding the job?
EiO- Chad Bradford was the best pitcher in baseball in 2003 at not allowing inherited runners to score. He is much more valuable as a set-up man than a closer. The A's could turn to Chad Harville as a closer and as future trade bait. Jeremy Fikac was in the mix until his Arizona Fall League experience turned into possible months of rehab (shoulder). In reality, the A's might be the first team to go with the closer by committee and simply the last guy to be on the mound at the end of the game gets a save. As dumb stat if there ever was one.
Keith Foulke does want to stay in Oakland. For $6 million a year and if Ken Macha pulls his head out of his ass and uses the pen correctly, the A's could have as good a bullpen as a starting rotation.
WTNY- No, Chad Bradford shouldn't be closer. I like him in his current role, and I think the A's shouldn't put closer pressure on him. Instead, sign a cheap reliever, like Rod Beck, to a one-year deal. Or, use Tim Lilly to acquire one.
6) After Moneyball, five of the A's top six draft picks flunked out. Was Moneyball a bad thing for the franchise, and specifically the players yet to touch stardom. Won't the book be laughed at if players like Jeremy Brown and Mark Teahen never have success?
EiO- Two years and they already flunked out? Isn't that a little heavy-handed? How long does it usually take for a player to progress through a minor league system? How many top picks usually pan out? Moneyball did put a lot of unnecessary pressure on a few players. And Brown was out with an injury, so let's not jump off the bridge until we get to it. Most players take a few years to find themselves in the A's system. With the exception of A ball, the A's system had successful teams. We could go into theory and giving into the team concept and disregarding personal glory, etc. We won't. It was an odd year for the organization.
WTNY- The A's system took a hit this year, although Joe Blanton and Bobby Crosby aren't a bad one-two. Shane Komine blossomed as well, so he'll find himself in the top 10. Nick Swisher still has a lot of potential, but he probably wasn't ready for AA in 2003. Look for the A's to send him back there in 2004, and for him to follow the path of Gabe Gross. Swisher should be playing center for the A's in 2005, and justify Beane's selection. Blanton will replace Hudson in the rotation in 2005, and pitch very well. I'm not bullish on Brown, but he has until 2006 to get ready. Ramon Hernandez has two more seasons left on his contract, so Brown can take some time to redo AA, and to have a full season in AAA. I like Ben Fritz, and I can see him having a good 2004, if he plays in high-A. Note to Billy Beane: take it slow with these players. I don't like Teahen, and I don't think he'll ever reach the Majors.
7) The A's have already made a good claim this offseason, when they grabbed Marco Scutaro off waivers. It seems like there will be a Spring Training battle at second, where Mark Ellis will fight Scutaro, Esteban German, and Frank Menechino for the job. Who would you choose for the job, and who should lead off for the A's next season?
EiO- Expect Frank Menechino to be traded - he was seen in street clothes in the Yankees dugout during the playoffs. Esteban German is basically a singles hitter and long tried the A's patience. Scutaro has decent numbers, but they aren't enough in comparison to Ellis' defense. As far as a leadoff hitter, we're a long way from April. The A's outfield is about to be overhauled, and the Winter Meetings will be a lot of fun.
WTNY- Trade Ellis. He doesn't fit the A's philosophy, and there are players on the market who do. Read below to see what I do with the second base position, but I think it's a different philosophy. Scutaro was a very good claim, but I think he'll need to prove it again in 2004.
8) Create a step-by-step offseason to-do list for Billy Beane, along with a projected 2004 lineup.
EiO- FROM THE DESK OF THE BEST LOOKING GM IN BASEBALL A 2004 To Do List
2. Trade Terrence Long or take him for a very long drive and reunite him with his stats. Get anyone with a pulse to take his place. Don't over look AAA and sign a free agent like you did last year. Eric Byrnes was there the whole time and Chris Singleton was $1 million wasted on a fourth outfielder.
3. Hire a public relations firm to handle the media for once. It may cost a bit, but it's better than having to answer stupid questions from the local beat writer idiots. Have the slobbering fools chase after carefully worded press releases and puff pieces rather than questioning the franchise books for a change.
4. See if you can trick Vladimir Guerrero's agent into a meeting.
5. See what Jermaine Dye is worth and then act on it. The long-term plan no longer involves Dye. See if Theo Epstein wants to try and drag Manny Ramirez through three or four other teams and dump his salary in a few different places (Arizona, Chicago, Florida). Dye might be able to be a cog in that scenario. Plus, there's at least one minor leaguer on the list to be had.
6. Consider propping up the other guys in the front office; Eric Kubota, David Forst and Danny McCormack in a larger role to deter much of the public focus. A season in the shadows could be better than another year of burn in the spotlight. Everyone else in baseball will know who is still behind the controls.
7. Continue begin wishy-washy on GM interviews and vacancies. Make sure every new GM hire knows they were a second choice at best.
8. Projected 2004 line up:
WTNY- My to-do list and starting lineup:
1) Get rid of Lilly, Long, and Ellis- These players don't fit in, and make way too much money. Lilly may have to be non-tendered, and Long may have to be released. Ellis could be traded, but your not likely to take in much of a player (maybe a LOOGY to replace Rincon?). This will free up some extra cash, as the focus should be on offense.
2) Sign Jose Cruz and Kenny Lofton for the outfield- Cruz walked 102 times in 2003, and no, that's not a misprint. He's a gifted player, and I know he's very capable in left. He could split time there with the likes of Eric Byrnes and Billy McMillon, but give him the job. Lofton is perfect for this team, as he employs the plate discipline philosophy, and is a tremendous leadoff hitter. Byrnes would be a great 4th outfielder, and could spot all three positions at times.
3) Sign Tony Graffanino for the infield- Graffanino would play second vs. all right-handers, and 3rd vs. the left-handers. Against lefties, Esteban German would step in at second base. Also, give Graham Koonce most of the time at first/DH, possibly sitting out against the occasional tough leftie. Scott Hatteberg would be a good bench player, and Durazo is still the 'holy grail.'
4) Get Rod Beck to close- Let's face it, this guy can pitch. He may not be pretty, but he can do it. He's nearing a save milestone, and pitched in nearby San Diego last season. He still wants to close, and in Oakland he could do it. Also, sign a cheap LOOGY to replace Ricardo Rincon.
My 2004 projected lineup:
Bench: Melhuse, Byrnes, Hatteberg, German, and McMillon
Check back tomrrow, we got notes. Red Sox on Thursday!
Major League Baseball is the best on the planet. Nowhere else, the Olympics, the Asian Leagues, anywhere can replicate the kind of baseball the MLB plays. Since Jackie Robinson, our national past time has been promoting all minorities to be a part of the game. First it was African-American players, then Hispanic players of all kind. Asian pitchers were next on the horizon, and Cuban pitchers didn't wait long to follow.
Ichiro was the first Asian position player, Hee Seop Choi was the first Korean. The trend of going outside of American borders is growing, with five foreign players looking to go straight to the Majors next season. Hideki and Contreras did well in 2003, and they are only helping us see the conversion rates between different countries and here. Maels Rodriguez, Yobal Duenas, Kaz Matsui, Tadahito Iguchi, and Lee Seung-yeop will continue.
Suzuki and Matsui have taught us one thing: Japanese players can play. We are starting to learn how to turn Japanese stats into a projection for Major League performance. I ran a variety of statistics (H/AB, 2B/AB, 2B/H, HR/AB, HR/H, BB/AB, K/AB) for Suzuki and Matsui's statistics in the Majors, their career Japanese stats, and their last three seasons in Japan. I combined all those totals for both players, and compared them against each other. Here are the results (first number is Japanese career vs. MLB totals, second is last 3 years in Japan vs. MLB):
H/AB: .008 better in Jap.; .026 better in Jap.
2B/AB: .006 better in Jap.; .010 better in Jap.
HR/AB: .038 better in Jap.; .046 better in Jap.
BB/AB: .075 better in Jap.; .099 better in Jap.
All those numbers are relatively close, so we can infer a Japanese player's batting average will take a .015 hit when coming to the Majors, they will hit about an equal number of doubles, 4% less home runs, .080 less walks, and 5% less strikeouts. Here are Matsui and Iguchi's career Japanese stats, and their last 3 seasons:
Matsui career: .309H/AB, .058 2B/AB, .032HR/AB, .081BB/AB, .162K/AB
Iguchi career: .259H/AB, .047 2B/AB, .047HR/AB, .103BB/AB, .230K/AB
So, after using those stats, and the Hideki-Ichiro conversion, I have these predictions for these players in 2004, given 600AB:
Matsui: .295, 31 doubles, 15HR, 24BB, 72K
Matsui is a decent shortstop, that would be good for 10-20E a year in the Majors. He has above-average speed, and could be counted on for 25SB. He just turned 28, so a 4-year deal wouldn't be a bad idea. Interested teams include the Dodgers, Giants, Cubs, Mets, Angels, Orioles, and mainly, the Seattle Mariners.
Iguchi is an above-average second basemen, and can even play a decent shortstop. He has Gold Glove potential at the right side of the bag, and is merely average to the left. He has sensational speed, likely good for about 40-50SB. Tadahito will turn 29 in December, so a 3-year deal would be much smarter with him. The Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox, Indians, Angels, Dodgers, Cubs, and the Mets would show interest. My gut tells me his best choice would be for the Mets, playing in Hideki's town.
The process of defecting from Cuba is a long and tedious onem that includes escaping Castro's iron fist, finding political asylum or residency in another country, and then being signed by a Major League team. Players that don't find residency elsewhere are subject to the June Amateur Draft, and will see far less money. Jose Contreras has 'residency' in Nicaragua, and expect Maels Rodriguez and Yobal Duenas to follow his lead.
Rodriguez, like Contreras, was one of Cuba's best pitchers, setting the single-season strikeout mark. He was reported to throw between 98-100 mph, with Pedro-like control. However, that scouting report was deemed moot after Rodriguez was reported to be in the upper-80s this last year. Maels says he can still pitch 100, and will demonstrate that sometime in the near future. Other Cubans who came before him at a similar age were Livan Hernandez, who had immediete success with the Marlins, and Danys Baez, whom has struggled with the Indians.
Much of Rodriguez's future will depend on what role Major League scouts deem is the best for him. Can his arm handle 200IP, or is he better suited to be a closer? Will the high-90s fastball stay with him 120 pitches, or just 40? The Red Sox promise to be court Rodriguez, as he could serve as a starter or a closer with them. New York should put in a phone call, and the Indians could be involved as well. The Phillies, Mets, Cubs, Cardinals, and Dodgers promise to be National League teams with interest.
Yobal Duenas is a different story, as he isn't following a worn path. I can't think of one Cuban position-player before him, so it will be difficult to project his statistics. Duenas is a 31-year old second basemen, whom at one point was the Cuban stolen base champ. He is said to be past his prime, and teams will be slow to bite on him. Boston would sign him if it helped their chance at Rodriguez, assuming Duenas is cheap. Anaheim may be interested, and the Mets will put in a phone call. Also, expect the Cubs and Dodgers to pursue Duenas as well.
Lee Seung-yeop will also be the first of his kind...the first position player to come from the Korean Professional League to the Majors. So it's impossible to predict his performance, even Hee Seop Choi's numbers are moot. We know Seung-yeop can hit the long ball, as he's broken the Asian Home Run record. He hit .301 this season, along with 144RBI.
If I was held at gunpoint, I would bet Lee posts a .260 average, with about 30 home runs. Think Mark Teixeira in 2003, but without Teixeira's later potential. Who knows who will bite, but I know the Dodgers, Giants, Mets, Orioles, and even Devil Rays will have interest.
Well folks, that's it for today. I'll have the Oakland A's Organizational Meeting up in the next couple of days, with the Red Sox following. So, keep reading...