Nick Cafardo's Dream Team
Today's Boston Globe features a notes column by Nick Cafardo in which he wonders why postseason performance is not taken into more consideration when GM's assemble their Big League rosters. Here's Nick kicking off the piece:
For many teams, it's about getting deep into the postseason, winning it all. Yet how much thought goes into rosters to make sure teams have the players that will perform once they get there?
He notes that the Angels have not experienced much postseason success since 2002 and even points out that Mark Teixeira's output (keep in mind he had a .550 on-base against the Red Sox in the LDS) was inadequate in the 2008 playoffs.
Since 2002, the Angels have been a consistent division winner, but they never seem to get very far. Why is that? Do they have players that just can't come up big in the biggest moments? The Angels added Mark Teixeira in late July and he provided some much-needed thump to their lineup. While Teixeira did more than his teammates in the playoffs (seven singles and one RBI in 15 at-bats), it wasn't enough.
He then goes on to ask Mark Shapiro and Theo Epstein how they think about postseason performance when they go about player acquisition. To their credit, both are kind enough not to say, "Dude, are you kidding me? I have thousands and thousands of plate appearances and innings pitched worth of evidence and I am supposed to rely on some tiny subset to drive my decision making? Are you serious?"
But you get the sense they're both thinking it.
"In this market and in my opinion, [seeking good postseason players] is one small attribute that could be an added bonus but not a real driver in a decision. Postseason experience and, really, pennant race experience is meaningful in the ups and downs of a pennant race but difficult to quantify, and the bottom line is performance."
"[Identifying good postseason players] is certainly not a primary consideration - more of a secondary factor at best," said Sox GM Theo Epstein. "Ted Williams didn't perform in the postseason . . . I would take him!"
Anyway, I thought I would assemble a roster Cafardo can go to battle with. Some postseason standouts who, once in the playoffs, would certainly shine and carry his team to a title. Because, you know, if they have done it over the course of two starts or 50 plate appearances, you can trust they will do it again. It's just how they're constituted. It's how they roll.
C Y. Molina .809
1B C. Chambliss .726 (um, 1976 people. it's about impact)
2B J. Offerman 1.024
3B S. Brosius .696 (8 home runs. guy's clutch. count the rings.)
SS D. Eckstein N/A
LF B. Agbayani .853
CF D. White .815
RF P. O'Neill see Brosius
Add Johnny Podres, Jack Morris, Sterling Hitchcock and Mark Wohlers to this crew and I can't think of a pluckier bunch to win me 79 games and a World Series title.
Ooh, This is Good
So I think this is just brilliant. Geoff Young, who writes the Padres blog Ducksnorts, has compiled a list of 21 outfielders that all put up careers within a relatively narrow band of performance output.
Two of the 21 players made the Hall of Fame but, as you will see if you just head on over there, there is little rhyme or reason when it comes to HOF enshrinement. The logic gymnastics performed by the electorate are always something to behold.
Anyway, so yeah, Jim Rice and Kirby Puckett are in and Reggie Smith and Dwight Evans and Jack Clark and Albert Belle and Jimmy Wynn are not. I am not saying that any of these players definitely deserve enshrinement (strike that, I do think Dewey belongs...and maybe Belle and Wynn), but the more interesting point is this: outfielders that hit pretty well are not in any way uncommon. Think about guys like Ellis Burks and Tim Salmon and Cliff Floyd and Moises Alou - this is the neighborhood Rice and Puckett take up residence in.
It's a nice neighborhood, but not as nice as the one where Brian Giles and Gary Sheffield and Reggie Jackson and Al Kaline live, and it sure as hell is not as nice as the Babe's and Barry Bonds and Teddy Ballgame's hood.
Rice and Puckett lend legitimacy to the Hall cases of dozens and dozens of outfielders on the outside looking into Cooperstown.
SG at the Replacement Level Yankee Weblog has posted the first of many 2009 season projections that we will be seeing. It's preliminary, of course, as there are a lot more moves to be made before the first pitch of the season is thrown. Moreover, SG admits that he has not factored in bench players as much as he will with his final projections.
Nonetheless, it's an interesting look. The AL East is loaded, the NL West is up in the air and the Angels run of excellence may be coming to an end. Head on over there. The comments are interesting, too.
Michael Knisley has a Hall of Fame ballot, which means he has an impact on who is elected and who is not, and we all consider the National Baseball Hall-of-Fame a venerable, prestigious institution.
Baseball Season in Full Swing
In Rich's Monday post, he previewed some of the marquee pitching match ups that help to make Opening Day as fun as it is. On Tuesday I reviewed Monday's action and as part looked at how some of the league's better pitchers fared. It was an interesting exercise I suppose but not necessarily instructive when it comes to informing our perspective on how these teams/aces may fare. Many of the pitchers who looked good will probably continue to look good while the pitchers that laid an egg will probably recover and have fine seasons. Except Barry Zito. I am pretty sure he's just bad now.
The last couple of days may have told us a lot more. Down-rotation starters, some of whom will not be long for a starting gig and some of whom will tip the balance of power in their respective division races, took to the hill. There were some standout performances from pitchers that will need to continue to be effective for their teams to get to where they want to be.
IP H BB SO ERA
Cueto 7.0 1 0 10 1.29
Wolf 6.0 4 2 5 1.50
Thompson 6.2 6 2 6 0.00
Danks 6.2 2 2 2 1.35
Owings 6.2 2 2 9 1.35
Marcum 7.0 3 1 8 3.86
Kuroda 7.0 3 0 4 1.29
Sonnanstine 6.0 6 0 4 6.00
Duchscherer 5.0 4 2 6 1.80
Of the pitchers on this list, only Micah Owings and Hiroki Kuroda toil for teams that anyone reasonably could have considered favorites. They belong, however, because the NL West might be the most competitive division in baseball and every last unexpectedly awesome performance an NL West team can get will be critical. The others above, should their first starts offer any sort of indication of how they pitch throughout 2008, might turn their teams from also-rans into immediate threats to vie for playoff contention.
Patrick Sullivan, 4/5/08, 9:18 a.m. EDT
* * * * * * *
Speaking of starting pitchers, managers Joe Torre and Bruce Bochy made curious decisions last Wednesday night in a NL West tilt between the host Dodgers and Giants. Twenty minutes before a game threatened by rain, Torre decided to go with Hong-Chih Kuo rather than scheduled starter Chad Billingsley. Bochy, in turn, opted to start Merkin Valdez in place of Tim Lincecum.
OK, I can understand those decisions. I mean, why waste Billingsley and Lincecum if the game is going to be called in the first five innings, as was expected? However, both managers turned to their young studs in relief *while* it was raining in the middle innings. Lincecum took over in the fourth and Billingsley in the fifth. The umpires halted the game with one out in the top of the fifth and the score tied 1-1.
The contest was resumed after a 90-minute delay. Billingsley, who faced four batters in one-third of an inning while being charged with one run, yielded to Esteban Loaiza. Lincecum, on the other hand, pitched before *and* after the rain delay. He played long catch before the game, got loose in the bullpen in advance of taking the hill in the fourth, warmed up again prior to resuming play in the fifth, and threw 84 pitches covering four innings during an outing that was spread out over three hours. In the first relief appearance of his career, Lincecum earned the victory while allowing four hits, four walks, and one run. He struck out four, including perhaps the biggest out of the game when Russell Martin took a called third strike with the bases loaded to end the seventh.
The Dodgers not only lost but they burned a start for Billingsley. The Giants picked up a win but did it in an odd way with respect to the handling of Lincecum. Put me in charge and I would have either started the young righthanders or not used them at all.
Rich Lederer, 4/5/08, 11:18 a.m. PDT
* * * * * * *
Staying with this theme, I can't help but be amused by Jered Weaver's performance yesterday (7 - 3 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 6) and the stats he has compiled over his first two starts (13.1 - 11 - 3 - 3 - 2 - 11, 2.03) as compared to the consensus in the analytical community, many of whom have chastised him for not being an ace or resorted to calling him an "innings eater."
Weaver can't win for losing. After he produced outstanding numbers in 2006, some writers and so-called analysts (you know who you are) jumped on the bandwagon while the perma bears scoffed at his results, pointing to his low BABIP as an indicator that the young righthander would not sustain the 2.56 ERA in 2007 and beyond. Duh! I mean, what would we do without such insightful analysis?
For his career, Weaver is now 25-10 with a 3.27 ERA. He has pitched in 49 games covering 297.1 innings while generating a 7.0 K/9 and 2.9 K/BB ratio. Make what you want of his stats. Small sample size. Lucky. Unsustainable. Whatever. All I know is that Weaver was one of the best college pitchers ever, set a consecutive scoreless innings streak as a member of Team USA, dominated minor league hitters, made it to the big leagues less than one year after signing a professional contract, and has excelled at the highest level.
That's a pretty good résumé for a guy who so many thought was nothing more than the second coming of Jeff Weaver.
Rich Lederer, 4/6/08, 07:18 p.m. PDT
Youth Is Served
It seems like we are at a nice point in time with regard to the emergence of quite a bit of young talent. With nothing more than this thought in mind, I decided to have a look at it. In 2007, four position players 24 or younger managed an OPS+ of 150 or better. In case there is little context around that number for some readers, it's Jim Thome's career mark and a figure that Jim Rice only eclipsed twice.
Here are the four players (min 200 PA's):
P. Fielder 156
R. Braun 153
D. Wright 150
M. Cabrera 150
Since 1957, it was just the fifth season in which four or more players 24 or younger bested the 150 mark. From 2000 to 2006, there were only nine such seasons, and Albert Pujols lays claim to four of them. Here are the remaining seasons (again, min 200 PA's).
B. Powell 176
R. Santo 164
D. Allen 162
R. Carty 161
J. Mayberry 168
J. Bench 166
C. Cedeno 162
C. Fisk 162
R. Blomberg 153
R. Hebner 152
J. Canseco 170
W. Clark 160
M. Greenwell 159
F. McGriff 157
J. Olerud 186
K. Griffey 177
J. Gonzalez 169
M. Piazza 152
The five best seasons of the last fifty years according to OPS+ for players 24 or younger?
Yr Age OPS+
R. Jackson '69 23 189
A. Pujols '03 23 187
W. McCovey '59 21 187 (just 219 PA's)
J. Olerud '93 24 186
D. Allen '66 24 181
Patrick Sullivan, 3/29/08, 1:49pm EDT
Up In the Air Part 2: National League Personnel Choices
Last week I took a look at some of the more intriguing position battles facing contending teams in the American League. For the National League I will broaden it a bit. Contending or not (and really who was I to say last week who was and who was not a contender), here are the most interesting decisions facing Managers in the NL.
Washington Nationals First Base & Shortstop
Nick Johnson / Dmitri Young & Cristian Guzman / Felipe Lopez
2007 NA .320/.378/.491
2008 (Pecota) .282/.402/.475 .292/.356/.467
2008 (Zips) .283/.422/.492 .287/.352/.459
2007 .328/.380/.466 .245/.308/.352
2008 (P) .257/.309/.456 .271/.343/.395
2008 (Z) .251/.301/.340 .264/.344/.383
Seems to me the Nats need a Human Resources expert more than they do someone with baseball expertise. Sure, Nick Johnson probably figures to outplay Dmitri Young in 2008 but how do you tell Young to take a seat on the bench after Johnson missed all of 2007 and Young was by all accounts both a tremendous performer and leader. As for shortstop, the 2007 disaster that was Felipe Lopez's season looks very much to have been anomalous. Same goes for Guzman's scorching start in 2007. He is an awful hitter.
There is also a logjam of sorts in the outfield. The Nationals personnel situation will be one to monitor this Spring.
Cincinnati Reds First Base & Center Field
Scott Hatteberg / Joey Votto & Ryan Freel / Jay Bruce
2007 .310/.394/.474 .321/.360/.548
2008 (P) .286/.368/.441 .277/.356/.495
2008 (Z) .261/.348/.374 .281/.357/.466
2007 .245/.308/.347 .319/.375/.587 (A+/AA/AAA)
2008 (P) .260/.334/.370 .270/.336/.513
2008 (Z) .264/.346/.376 .266/.317/.476
Like the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Cincinnati's hopes this season will rest on how Dusty Baker uses the resources at hand. According to Baseball America, Bruce is the very best prospect in baseball. Votto has a career .476 slugging percentage in five Minor League seasons. Now 24 and coming off a scorching September call-up last year, he seems primed for regular play. That Jeff Keppinger might now take over for the injured Alex Gonzalez seems to mean one more potential upgrade for the Reds. If Votto, Bruce and Keppinger combine for 1200 plate appearances in 2008, I think they can push Milwaukee and Chicago for the division.
Los Angeles Dodgers Outfield
Juan Pierre / Andre Ethier / Matt Kemp
AVG OBP SLG
Juan Pierre .292 .330 .358
Andre Ethier .292 .359 .465
Matt Kemp .300 .344 .484
I switched the format here and provided composite projections for 2008 only. Cory Schwartz of MLB Blogs' Fantasy 411 compiled these numbers.
We discussed it Tuesday in our Two on Two NL West Preview. The personnel is there for Joe Torre. It is now up to him to make sure playing time is granted to the appropriate individuals.
Colorado Rockies Second Base
Jayson Nix / Marcus Giles
2007 .229/.304/.317 .292/.342/.451 (AAA)
2008 (P) .274/.349/.419 .263/.314/.400
2008 (Z) .247/.346/.392 .257/.305/.384
I know it looks like the starting job is his to lose but I can't figure out this Jayson Nix thing. His career offensive totals in the Minor Leagues are such that it is hard to imagine he is a good enough fielder to merit starting consideration for a team aiming to win a World Championship. Moreover, Nix has spent two full seasons at both AA and AAA, not exactly characteristic of championship caliber talent.
Patrick Sullivan, 3/1/08, 11:59 AM EST
Jim Bowden In All His Glory
Rich has posted some good Spring Training photos before but I mean, really, doesn't this one take the cake? How awesome is that picture? Hat tip to Deadspin for pointing me to this and The Washington Times for the photo credit.
Patrick Sullivan, 2/23/08, 9:07 AM
The Value of Johan Santana?
I know, I know. Santana had just a year remaining before unrestricted free agency and demanded an extension in order to sign off on any deal. That matters, so I do not want to make this come off as an apples to apples comparison.
With that out of the way, let me now comment on something that I think is just astounding. The Twins may have yielded less for Santana than any of the other high profile deals involving youngsters/prospects this off-season. As far as I can tell, there have been five deals this off-season in which significant prospects (or at least good, very young MLB'ers) changed hands. Below is a summary of the deals, with Top 100 rankings by Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus, Keith Law of ESPN and John Sickels.
Johan Santana to the Mets. Mets return to Minnesota:
Age Pos KG KL JS
C. Gomez 22 OF 65 35 52
P. Humber 26 RHP NR NR NR
D. Guerra 19 RHP 79 80 36
K. Mulvey 23 RHP NR NR 37
Nick Swisher to the White Sox. White Sox return to Oakland:
Age Pos KG KL JS
G. Gonzalez 22 LHP 56 NR 29
De Los Santos 22 RHP 46 57 57
Ryan Sweeney OF (MLB in 2007)
Dan Haren to the Diamondbacks. Snakes return to Oakland:
Age Pos KG KL JS
B. Anderson 20 LHP 50 NR 48
A. Cunningham 22 OF NR NR NR
Dana Eveland 24 RHP NR NR NR
Greg Smith 24 LHP NR NR NR
C. Gonzalez 22 OF 26 42 39
Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett to the Rays. Rays return to Minnesota:
Age Pos KG KL JS
Delmon Young 22 OF .288/.316/.408 (MLB)
J. Pridie 24 OF NR NR NR
B. Harris 27 2B .286/.343/.434 (MLB)
Ryan Church, Brian Schneider to the Mets. Mets return to Washington:
Age Pos KG KL JS
L. Milledge 23 OF .272/.341/.446 (MLB)
Have a look at those packages and tell me, did the Twins get the best one? I am not sure they did. In fact, I think they may have received more for Garza and I think the Mets may have gave up more for two middling players from Washington. I know there are many variables that enter into a deal of this nature but I remain astounded that in this market, one in which top prospects have been changing hands for solid, established talent, Minnesota could not get more in return.
Patrick Sullivan, 2/3/08, 4:21 PM EST
Miscellaneous BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballots in Quotes
While there has been much discussion on these here intertubes about the BBWAA and who should and should not be admitted, the Hall of Fame is in no way affiliated with the organization other than, well, they always have been. The institution seems satisfied with its electorate, however. A smattering of direct quotes from a number of its voters who have publicly displayed their ballots follows.
I visualized aging Dodger Tommy John and his surgically repaired left elbow - the tendon graft now bears his name and is as common as a tonsillectomy - totally dominating the Phillies in Game 4 of the 1977 LCS. That was a night when Steve Carlton slipped, slid and failed on a rain-swept mound that John handled as if he were in Dodger Stadium on a hot Sunday afternoon. Suddenly, Tommy John and his 288 wins during a long, injury-interrupted career looked Cooperstownish. He won't get in; this is his 14th year on the ballot, but he has both my vote and appreciation for what he meant to a dying era of pitching and pitcher.
- Bill Conlin, The Philadelphia Daily News, depending on his personal recollection of Tommy John's footing one evening on a Veterans Stadium mound in throwing his support behind the southpaw.
Jim Rice, the most feared hitter of his time in the American League...
- Bill Kennedy, The Times of Trenton, evidencing the most tired of claims. Rice was so feared, that Managers intentionally walked him less than 48 other players between 1974 and 1989, the span of Rice's career.
The best new names on this year's ballot are Tim Raines and David Justice. Rice beats both.
- Dan Shaughnessy, The Boston Globe, commenting on Rice "beating" Tim Raines. Raines's career WARP3 number, an imperfect figure that does a quick and dirty job of measuring output adjusted for playing environment, bests Rice's by over 40 wins.
Managers thought about intentionally walking him when he came to the plate with the bases loaded.
- Shaughnessy on Rice in the same article, making the baseless claim while going a step further and even apparently ignoring Rice's career .782 OPS with the bases full.
Going primarily on what I saw, rather than mere numbers, I cast my annual votes for the best reliever of the era, Goose Gossage; the best starting pitcher, Jack Morris; and the best outfielder, Andre Dawson.
- Jim Alexander, The Press Enterprise. Of relievers who appeared in at least 400 games during Gossage's career span, Goose ranks 20th in ERA+. Of starters who started 400 games or more from 1977 to 1994, Morris ranks 8th in ERA+ out of 20 qualifiers. Of outfielders who had 7,000 plate appearances or more between 1976 and 1996, Dawson ranks 15th in OPS+ out of 21 qualifiers.
Enshrinement in Cooperstown shouldn't be about numbers. If anyone thinks so, let's trash tradition and have a computer select the honorees.
The Hall of Fame should be about who starred and who dominated. And about who made an impact.
- Jon Heyman, Sports Illustrated, before proceeding to cite number after number in evidencing his choices for the Hall.
The ace of three World Series teams, it's an abomination he may never get in.
- Heyman (from the same piece) emphatically supporting Jack Morris, while choosing to pass over Blyleven. In case you missed it, Morris has already been devastatingly discredited vis-a-vis Blyleven by our very own Rich Lederer.
The reason I am in that 10 percent is that I think he was perhaps the best all-around shortstop of his generation and an underrated piece of the Big Red Machine.
- Heyman, who is not voting for Alan Trammell, on Dave Concepcion. There are no words.
He was an MVP, an All-Star Game MVP, a two-time batting champion, a seven-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove winner.
- Heyman, who is not voting for Tim Raines, on Dave Parker. Again, speechless.
Sorry, Yankees fans, but when you break it down, there were four brilliant years (1984-87), two very good ones (1988-89) and two decent ones (1992-93), and not much else. No.
- Ken Davidoff of Newsday commenting without any sense for irony on Don Mattingly while touting Rice's candidacy in the same piece.
Rich ''Goose'' Gossage: The very definition of ''lights out'' closer, this intimidator is the equal of already enshrined firemen Bruce Sutter and Rollie Fingers.
- Don Bostom of The Morning Call on the candidacy rationale for Goose Gossage, who ranks 39th all time among relievers who have appeared in at least 400 games with a 126 ERA+. Amongst the same group, the "very definition of 'lights out' ranks 74th with a 7.47 K/9.
The biggest debates for me were Tim Raines, who obviously was overshadowed by Rickey Henderson, but also if you take Vince Coleman's five top years, I would say he outperformed Raines, too, and I don't see Coleman as a Hall of Famer.
- Tracy Ringolsby, The Rocky Mountain News
For those interested, I would vote for Gossage (his sustained excellence warrants it despite my comments above), Raines, Blyleven and Trammell. I make the points above to highlight that more is needed than throwaway lines, conjecture and memory to credit/discredit any one player's candidacy.
- Patrick Sullivan, 12/29/2007, 12:05 EST
With a hat tip to Baseball Think Factory for directing me there, the peerless Joe Posnanski chimes in with this stream of consciousness Blyleven-Morris comparison.
Hmm, so you’re telling me that Blyleven has 33 more wins, 32 more shutouts, 1,223 more strikeouts, 68 fewer walks, an ERA that more than a half run better, an ERA+ that’s 13 points better, a better overall postseason record and five or six individual seasons that were better than Jack Morris’ best season … wow, can I have a few more minutes to think about this? Wait, Blyleven had a lot more losses too, so that, oh, he played for worse teams, yeah, that might have had something do with that, um, hold on, I need to sharpen my No. 2 pencil and think about this …
He goes on to explain his main problem with certain individuals in the Morris camp.
No, I hate the campaign for the same reason that comedian Gary Gulman hates Pepperidge Farm cookies. “They’re a good cookie, but they’re so full of themselves with their names, they’re so bombastic, they’re like, ‘Oh, this is the Milano, and this is the Bordeaux, and the Geneva, and the Brussels cookie, and I’m like, ‘Wow, what a world traveler, where did I run into you again? Oh, that’s right. Target.’”
That’s how I feel about a few (not all) of the Morris Hall of Fame people. Just be humble. Don’t get in my face with your, “Jack Morris was the greatest pitcher of his era,” garbage. Hey, if you want to say, “Look, here’s a guy who had some longevity, he threw a lot of innings every year, he pitched one fabulous postseason game, and, hey, he did win 254 games in his career,” I could see the argument. I probably wouldn’t vote for him, no but I could see the argument.
Wrong, Joe. Morris's exclusion would be an abomination. Jon Heyman told me so.
- Patrick Sullivan, 12/29/2007, 11:41 AM EST
We have another Hall of Fame ballot posted publicly, this one from Gerry Fraley of The Sporting News. There were a few problematic items on his ballot but as these things go, his rationale was somewhat sound.
Except for this. What follows is Fraley's reasoning for leaving Tim Raines off of his ballot.
Raines' case was hurt by his reluctance to run in all situations, as Rickey Henderson did. Raines seemed at times too concerned about preserving his stolen-base percentage.
- Patrick Sullivan, 12/29/2007, 12:09 PM EST
Center of Attention in So. Cal
One year after committing big money to centerfield, both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels have committed big money to, uh, centerfield.
On its own, I am not against this. If a team determines a given player to be an improvement and it makes sense financially to acquire the player regardless of positional incumbents, more power to them. Frankly, in the Dodgers case, ignoring the disaster that is Juan Pierre would be crazy. Unfortunately, I fear they may do something crazier; move Pierre to left.
But let's look with some historical perspective to try and deduce the likelihood that the Torii Hunter and Andruw Jones transactions work out.
Hunter has a career OPS+ of 104 and a figure of 112 since the 2004 campaign. He will be 33 years-old for the 2008 season. He was signed to a five year contract, so let's have a look at how some other center fielders have fared in their 33-37 campaigns.
Centerfielders with an OPS+ above 104 in their 33-37 Seasons
W. Mays '64-'68 158
J. Edmonds '03-'07 137
B. Butler '90-'94 120
B. Williams '02-'06 110
R. Yount '89-'93 110
B. Anderson '97-'01 109
S. Finley '98-'02 106
**Minimum of 600 games played
As you can see, since 1957 only three centerfielders in their 33-37 seasons have matched or bettered Hunter's 112 OPS+ that he put up from 2004 to 2007. Just seven have even managed to reach his 104 career mark during these years.
Jones will be 31 for the 2008 season and he is coming off a year in which he posted an 88 OPS+. He signed a two-year deal with the Dodgers. Since 1957, nineteen centerfielders who have managed to play at least 225 games in their 31 and 32 campaigns have equaled or bettered Andruw's 116 OPS+ that he notched from 2004 to 2007. Just three managed the feat coming off of a sub-100 OPS+ year in their 30 year-old season while just one had an OPS+ below 90 as Jones did.
B. Anderson 1994 96
D. Henderson 1989 98
W. McGee 1989 76
There are those out there crediting the Dodgers because they did not make a long-term commitment to Jones. I am not sure I agree with this, however. $18 million is a lot of money tied up in one player for a given season, and there is no guarantee that Jones bounces back to his old form. If history is any guide whatsoever (hint; it tends to be) Jones will have a tough time becoming the player he was before 2007.
Finally, and this applies to both players, it should go without saying that their respective defensive value figures to plummet as they get on in years. Jones may retain a good chunk of his skill but as Hunter approaches his mid-30's it's hard not to imagine a very painful decline phase that the Angels will have to endure.
I think both signings were a mistake.
- Patrick Sullivan, 12/8/2007, 5:22 PM EST
For my upcoming article on Monday, I used a metric (SLGSWING) that measures the value of a swing based on total bases per swing. While I don't really go in depth with the metric in the article, I think it's pretty neat, so here are the top and bottom 10 for the stat, which is just total bases/total swings taken. The top of the list is mostly populated by the usual good hitting suspects, especially guys who don't swing and miss too much, while the bottom is also pretty typical.
Name SLGSWING Swings
Moises Alou 0.252 559
Alex Rodriguez 0.251 1188
Albert Pujols 0.245 1032
Chipper Jones 0.244 972
Barry Bonds 0.243 630
Jeff Keppinger 0.241 390
Hanley Ramirez 0.239 1154
James Loney 0.239 624
Jorge Posada 0.238 902
Scott Hatteberg 0.236 568
Chris Woodward 0.118 272
Ryan Langerhans 0.117 426
Joe Borchard 0.117 392
Carlos Quentin 0.116 508
Paul Bako 0.115 305
Jerry Hairston 0.114 325
Jason Phillips 0.111 297
Andy Gonzalez 0.109 359
Adam Melhuse 0.107 206
Jason LaRue 0.082 404
A hitter has three major jobs when he is at-bat. He has to recognize if the pitch is a ball or strike, make contact with the strikes he swings at, and drive the pitches he makes contact with. I think that this stat gives a more granular picture of both bat control and strike zone judgment than other metrics because it's based on the individual swings rather than at-bats. Players scoring well with this measurement are getting the most out of each individual swing they take. I think somehow incorporating called strikes and balls into the value would give a better indicator of batting eye.
There's one odd name at the top, and I might be late to the party on this one, but I've never heard of Jeff Keppinger. Maybe he's near the top of this list because MLB pitchers haven't figured out how to pitch to him yet, but for a utility infielder with his minor league track record, it seems like he would warrent a consistent spot on an MLB roster somewhere.
- Joe Sheehan, 12/8/2007, 6:30 PM EST
Know Your Free Agents: Is Milton Bradley Worth a Shot?
I know, I know. His volatile history makes any investment in his future a risky proposition. But is it at all possible that we are dealing with a new Milton Bradley? He has always been a nice, above average outfielder who would put up 110ish OPS+ seasons with OK outfield defense, some injuries and a suspension or two mixed in. All in all, he netted out to about an average player.
But he turned into something new altogether this season after Oakland shipped him down "The 5" to San Diego. In 169 plate appearances with the Padres, Bradley put up a .313/.414/.590 line, good for a 167 OPS+ at pitcher-friendly Petco Park. Although he did not come anywhere close to qualifying for any batting titles, his 167 OPS+ was better than any of the qualifiers in the National League.
I am not really sure what to make of Bradley. He will be 30 next April, and his career numbers suggest that his stint with San Diego was anomalous. He is also injury-prone. But given the numbers being tossed around for some of the other free agent centerfielders, an enterprising GM might be well-served to take a gamble on Bradley. Maybe something has clicked for him, maybe he is more mature now, maybe he can get healthy enough to play 140 games or so, and given the discount he is sure to come at vis-a-vis his free agent peers, maybe he is worth tossing $5-to-10 million at for one season.
-Patrick Sullivan, 11/17/08, 3:51 PM EST
Know Your Free Agents - The Geoff Jenkins Edition
Geoff Jenkins has played his whole career - ten seasons - for the Milwaukee Brewers. When the Brew Crew decided on October 30th to decline his $9 million option for 2008, Jenkins became an unrestricted free agent. He is 33 years old, and has battled injuries over the years. He was born in Washington, grew up in California and had a great career at Southern California. He is a .277/.347/.496 career hitter.
He hits the market at a time when any number of teams could use a corner outfield bat. The question simply becomes whether or not Jenkins is worth the pursuit. Here are some key numbers that help offer clarity as to what sort of player a potential new team would be acquiring.
AVG OBP SLG OPS+
2005 .292 .375 .513 130
2006 .271 .357 .434 101
2007 .255 .319 .471 101
Three-Year Splits .274 .353 .474 NA
AVG OBP SLG
Vs. Right .262 .326 .482
Vs. Left .215 .282 .415
AVG OBP SLG
Vs. Right .306 .381 .490
Vs. Left .133 .265 .214
AVG OBP SLG
Vs. Right .307 .384 .538
Vs. Left .255 .354 .452
Advanced defensive metrics seem to suggest that Jenkins is a very good left fielder. Make me a General Manager and so long as I could use a left-handed stick with a steady corner outfield glove, I probably would not hesitate to offer Jenkins a two-year deal in the $12 million range or so.
Detroit Tigers left fielders posted a .673 OPS in 2007 while Cleveland left fielders were not much better at .718. I look for the Tigers to have Jenkins come in and hold down the fort until Cameron Maybin arrives in all his glory. I could also see Mark Shapiro and the Tribe inking Jenkins to become the player they would have liked to have had in Trot Nixon; a solid platoon corner outfielder who plays reliable defense and contributes solid production against right-handed hurlers.
- Patrick Sullivan, 11/4, 10:56 AM EST
Weekend World Series Blog
Here's a pretty comrehensive summary of Terry Francona's dilemma by Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe. Because there is no Designated Hitter in Fall Classic contests being played in National League parks, Francona has to sit one of his regulars.
The debate in Boston has become binary; it's either Papi or Youk who will sit (and I guess Francona agrees). Two options that should be on the table but apparently were not have barely been discussed.
First, Youkilis could move over to third base and replace Mike Lowell. Sure, Lowell has a great glove and has had a fantastic season. He has even had a great post-season. But Kevin Youkilis is hitting .396/.491/.750 in the second season and while placing too much stock on a small sample would be short-sighted, so too is ignoring as hot a hand as Youk's.
Here's the option I would have liked to have seen considered. Why not displace the weakest link of this Sox attack, centerfield? Coco Crisp has been a disaster and Jacoby Ellsbury has offered little relief. Both are phenomenal defenders, however, and with Daisuke Matsuzaka hurling tonight (a slight fly-ball pitcher) in Coors's spacious outfield, Francona is opting for defense. A Manny/Drew/Youkils left-to-right outfield would be about as bad as it gets defensively but the offensive upgrade of a scorching hot Youkilis over a freezing cold banjo-hitting centerfield duo would probably be justified. And remember, Youkilis played just about all of September 2006 in left field for Boston and held up just fine.
I rank the who-to-sit options thusly:
We'll see if there is any impact tonight.
- Patrick Sullivan, 10/27/2007, 11:26 AM EDT
Using sOPS+, which is defined here, the following table breaks down how well (or poorly) Boston and Colorado hitters do in all of the various pitch counts.
1st Pitch 111 130
1-0 Count 106 109
2-0 Count 106 110
3-0 Count 145 66
0-1 Count 94 104
1-1 Count 132 90
2-1 Count 108 146
3-1 Count 105 106
0-2 Count 93 129
1-2 Count 124 90
2-2 Count 100 100
Full Count 112 119
After 1-0 111 103
After 2-0 111 105
After 3-0 109 92
After 0-1 114 109
After 1-1 120 106
After 2-1 118 120
After 3-1 105 108
After 0-2 112 114
After 1-2 113 104
After 2-2 109 112
Three Balls 110 109
Two Strikes 116 110
As shown, the Red Sox are below average when it comes to hitting in 0-1 and 0-2 counts. They hit well on the first pitch and when ahead in the count. Colorado, which is a bit more of a free-swinging club, has had lots of success on the first pitch (.391/.401/.633 with 50 2B and 37 HR in 764 plate appearances).
I don't know if Josh Fogg can throw first and second pitch strikes past Red Sox hitters. Diasuke Matsuzaka, on the other hand, might be a good fit if he can keep the Rockies guessing all night with his assortment of pitches. It says here that the matchup favors Boston with or without Youkilis in the lineup.
- Rich Lederer, 10/27, 11:45 AM PT
As it turns out, Dice-K hasn't been effective when the batter has put the ball in the play on the first pitch. Opponents are hitting .350/.388/.675 with a 134 OPS+ in such situations. Fogg also hasn't had success when hitters have put the first pitch in play (146 OPS+). The Colorado righthander has gotten ripped the second time through the lineup (142 OPS+), which basically equates to pitch numbers 26-75 (OPS+ over 150).
Unless the umpire has a big strike zone, I see the Red Sox knocking Fogg out of the game before the fifth inning is completed. Whether Matsuzaka can make it through five will depend on if he can keep his breaking stuff and pitch count down. Either way, look for both bullpens to get a lot of work tonight.
- Rich Lederer, 10/27, 5:05 PM PT
Ladies and gentlemen, Rich Lederer!
- Patrick Sullivan, 10/27, 10:34 PM EDT
By the way, when it comes to watching baseball games on TV, I'm sure glad that I live on the west coast. It's absolutely ridiculous when a nine-inning game lasts 4 hours and 19 minutes and ends a few minutes before the clock strikes 1 a.m. on the east coast. Quoting my brother, "Didn't baseball games used to be shorter than football games?"
- Rich Lederer, 10/27, 9:59 PM PT
Much was made of Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia becoming the first pair of rookies to bat 1-2 in a World Series game and the only rookies to combine for seven hits in a Fall Classic contest. But I don't recall hearing or reading anything about the fact that these two youngsters were Pac-10 Players of the Year – Pedroia in 2003 and Ellsbury in 2005.
Pedroia played college ball at Arizona State and was the Pac-10 conference's co-POY (along with Stanford's Ryan Garko, who was a catcher back then). The Boston second baseman was a shortstop with ASU and, in fact, was named National Defensive Player of the Year in 2003 by Collegiate Baseball.
Ellsbury went to Oregon State and was the conference's co-POY (with Arizona's Trevor Crowe). An outstanding defensive center fielder in college and in the professional ranks, Ellsbury is fleet of foot and promises to be a .300 hitter with 30 to 40 stolen bases per year. Ellsbury and Pedroia are also known for their strike-zone judgment and makeup.
Boston has another Pac-10 Player of the Year – Jed Lowrie, who won the award in 2004 – in its ranks. (Interestingly, Pedroia, who was named POY the previous year as a sophomore, finished second behind Lowrie in his junior season.) A second baseman at Stanford, Lowrie has played mostly at shortstop in the minors. He may not have the quickness and range to handle that position in the majors, but there is little doubt that the switch-hitter can produce offensively at the highest level. Lowrie had a combined line of .298/.393/.503 (with 68 XBH, 77 BB and 91 SO) at AA and AAA this season.
Kudos to the Red Sox for drafting, signing, and developing these Pac-10 Players of the Year.
- Rich Lederer, 10/28, 9:10 AM PT
Four Better or Worse
Four playoff series. Four teams with two wins. Four teams with no wins. Four potential sweeps. Are the four division series a four-gone conclusion?
The two National League Division Series get the spotlight today. The Diamondbacks and Cubs will meet in Chicago, while the Phillies and Rockies will face off in Colorado. Lefthanders Rich Hill (11-8, 3.92 ERA) and Jamie Moyer (14-4, 5.01) are charged with the responsibility of staving their respective clubs from elimination. The youngster and veteran, of course, will need hitting support from their teammates in order to succeed.
Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee have combined to go 4-for-27 through two games in the series. The good news for this trio is that they will get the opportunity to make things right against Livan Hernandez, who is 4-8 with a 5.19 ERA on the road. The 1997 NLCS and World Series MVP has given up 19 HR in 102.1 innings while allowing more walks (47) than strikeouts (46) when pitching outside the state of Arizona.
The Phillies seemingly have an even tougher task than the Cubs. First of all, the NL East champs will need to win two games on the road. Secondly, Philadelphia needs to accomplish this trick against a team that hasn't lost more than once in its last 17 games! While it is fair to say that Colorado is the *hottest* team in baseball, it remains to be seen whether they are the *best* team.
But such a question is not as far-fetched as it would have been a month ago. The 3-H club in Matt Holliday, Todd Helton, and Brad Hawpe, plus rookie sensation Troy Tulowitzki and power-hitting third baseman Garrett Atkins head a strong offense. Manny Corpas, Brian Fuentes, and LaTroy Hawkins offer a formidable nucleus in the bullpen. Jeff Francis is a quality starter. As I see it, young, talented, and inexperienced starters Franklin Morales and Ubaldo Jimenez will determine just how far Colorado is likely to go in the postseason.
With the foregoing in mind, manager Clint Hurdle will send out Jimenez (4-4, 4.28 ERA, 1.30 WHIP) in tonight's game. After a couple of rough starts in August, the 23-year-old pitched well down the stretch, including a 10-strikeout performance vs. Arizona in the team's must-win finale. In Jimenez's only outing vs. the Phillies (at Philadelphia on 9/10), he held them to four hits, three walks, and two runs in six innings. The rookie didn't figure in the decision in the 6-5 loss.
- Rich Lederer, 10/6, 12:00 PM PT
Looking back at the 2005 draft
It's often said that it takes several years to properly evaluate a draft in any sport because it takes different lengths of time for players to mature and reach their potential. That being said, how good was the 2005 MLB draft? The first five picks went like this.
1. Justin Upton-ARI
2. Alex Gordon-KCR
3. Jeff Clement-SEA
4. Ryan Zimmerman-WAS
5. Ryan Braun-MIL
With Clement getting called up on Sept. 2nd, all five of these picks have now made their Major League debut. This might not sound like much, but since 1998 there has always been at least one top-five pick who didn't even make the majors for even a September call-up. Upton and Clement are the only two in the group to just have cups of coffee, with the other three players all essentially playing at least one full season. Zimmerman reached the majors first, a mere three months after he was drafted, while Braun is possibly the best rookie slugger ever. Gordon was better than both Zimmerman and Braun in college, and while he is having a tough year statistically, he has hit much better as the season has progressed.
Outside the top-5 picks, the draft still had a lot of value. The Rockies got Troy Tulowitzki with the 7th pick and Tulo has had a great rookie campaign as well. With the exception of Braun, Tulo might be having the best rookie year by an NL hitter. In the bottom of the first round, Craig Hansen and Joey Devine were taken, who at the time were seen as two sure bets to make the majors. They did make the majors in 2005, but struggled and eventually returned to the minors.
There are a bevy of other talented players who were taken in 2005 and so far have had cups of coffee (Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz) or a full season (Travis Buck, Matt Garza and Mike Pelfrey). It's amazing that so many players from this draft have already made the majors (and performed well), but it remains to be seen how many will have the staying power needed for a long career.
---Joe P. Sheehan
Is the Friday night game (or should I say the Saturday morning game) between the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers over yet?
Micah Owings hit his fourth home run of the season last night, tying Clint Hartung for the most HR by a first-year pitcher ever. Hartung also played seven games in left field for the New York Giants during his rookie season.
Player HR Year Age
1 Micah Owings 4 2007 24
2 Clint Hartung 4 1947 24
3 Don Larsen 3 1953 23
4 Ernie Wingard 3 1924 23
5 Kerry Wood 2 1998 21
6 John Montefusco 2 1974 24
7 Don Durham 2 1972 23
8 Tom Griffin 2 1969 21
9 Ken Tatum 2 1969 25
10 Eddie Watt 2 1966 25
11 Sonny Siebert 2 1964 27
12 Jack Curtis 2 1961 24
13 Gary Blaylock 2 1959 27
14 Babe Birrer 2 1955 25
15 Arnold Carter 2 1944 26
16 Clise Dudley 2 1929 25
17 Chad Kimsey 2 1929 22
18 Jess Doyle 2 1925 27
19 Wayland Dean 2 1924 22
20 Leo Dickerman 2 1923 26
21 Doc Crandall 2 1908 20
22 Tom Fisher 2 1904 23
Source: Baseball-Reference.com Play Index
Owings, who went yard twice in his last start vs. Atlanta on August 18, has now slugged four homers in the last month. He went 4-for-5 vs. the Braves while driving in six runs, scoring four times, and pitching three-hit ball through seven innings in a 12-6 victory.
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound RHP/RHB was a terrific two-way player for Tulane and Georgia Tech. Arizona drafted him in the third round in 2005. He went a combined 21-for-55 (.382) with a home run and 13 RBI with Tucson (AAA) and Tennessee (AA) in 2006. In his senior season in high school in 2002, Owings hit a single-season Georgia state record 25 home runs.
- Posted by Rich Lederer on 8/25/07 at 10:31 a.m. PT
Curtis Granderson hit two triples against the Yankees in that Friday night/Saturday morning game and now has 21 three baggers on the season. He is on pace to hit 26 triples, which would tie him for second in the modern baseball era.
SINGLE-SEASON LEADERS IN TRIPLES
MODERN ERA (1900-PRESENT)
1 Chief Wilson 1912 36
T2 Sam Crawford 1914 26
T2 Joe Jackson 1912 26
T2 Kiki Cuyler 1925 26
T5 Tom Long 1915 25
T5 Sam Crawford 1903 25
T5 Larry Doyle 1911 25
T8 Ty Cobb 1917 24
T8 Ty Cobb 1911 24
T10 Ty Cobb 1912 23
T10 Adam Comorosky 1930 23
T10 Earle Combs 1927 23
T10 Sam Crawford 1913 23
T10 Dale Mitchell 1949 23
Granderson has already tied for second in the post-World War II/Jackie Robinson era.
1 Dale Mitchell 1949 23
T2 Curtis Granderson 2007 21
T2 Lance Johnson 1996 21
T2 Willie Wilson 1985 21
T4 Stan Musial 1946 20
T4 Willie Mays 1957 20
T4 George Brett 1979 20
T4 Cristian Guzman 2000 20
T8 Garry Templeton 1979 19
T8 Ryne Sandberg 1984 19
T8 Juan Samuel 1984 19
T8 Carl Crawford 2004 19
The Detroit Tigers lead-off hitter is putting up some remarkable stats this year. With 32 doubles, 21 triples, and 16 home runs through Saturday's action, he is projected to produce 87 extra-base hits over the full season. Moreover, he has an outside shot at a 40-20-20 campaign. Here are the players who have accomplished this feat:
2B >= 40, 3B >= 20, HR >= 20
YEAR XBH 2B 3B HR
1 Jim Bottomley 1928 93 42 20 31
2 George Brett 1979 85 42 20 23
Source: Complete Baseball Encyclopedia
Granderson's splits are noteworthy. He is blistering righthanders but hasn't hit a lick against southpaws. He is also performing better on the road than at home.
AVG OBP SLG OPS
vs. RHP .323 .383 .603 .986
vs. LHP .154 .207 .269 .476
AVG OBP SLG OPS
Road .307 .358 .582 .941
Home .267 .336 .479 .815
Interestingly, while I was putting up this post, Granderson led off the NYY@DET game with an inside-the-park home run. He sliced a ball down the left field line that Hideki Matsui couldn't reach and the ball got past him and trickled into the corner, allowing the speedy Granderson to circle the bases for his 17th HR of the season.
- Posted by Rich Lederer, 8/26/07, 10:24 a.m. PT
Speaking of unusual statistical achievements, Jose Reyes leads the major leagues with 70 stolen bases and is tied for 50th on the single-season list. He is likely to become the first player to steal 75 since Kenny Lofton in 1996 and 80 since Rickey Henderson (93) and Vince Coleman (81) pulled that trick in 1988.
Twenty-eight of the top 50 seasons took place during the 1980s. Six of the eight 100 SB marks (led by Henderson's 130 in 1982) also happened during the "Elusive Eighties."
- Posted by Rich Lederer, 8/26/07, 6:45 p.m. PT
Short Stops for a Change
Alex Belth, the multi-talented writer who founded Bronx Banter, authored a piece on the evolution of shortstops at SI.com. He refers to Patrick Sullivan's study on this subject and includes a couple of quotes from me as well as contributions from Steve Treder, Glenn Stout, Mike Carminati, and Bill James.
Cal Ripken Jr., who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, is prominently featured in Belth's article. The focus is on offense and Belth concludes, "The slugging shortstop is not likely to disappear anytime soon." Starting with Honus Wagner and ending with a number of current shortstops, Belth asks, "Is this the best crop of hitting shortstops in history?"
Interestingly, Belth, Treder, Stout, and Carminati have all served as Designated Hitters at Baseball Analysts (see links in the sidebar on the left). Even Sully got his start here with a guest column entitled "A WARPed Study of Yankee CF and Red Sox LF." We're only missing James although he's been known to show up on our site from time to time.
- Posted by Rich Lederer, 7/28/07 at 12:05 a.m. PST
The latest coming out of Texas has the Rangers waiting until the very last minute to pull the trigger on Tex. Sticky Fingers Callahan, the team masseur, insists that Jon Daniels is going to make damn sure he gets full value here. Foxtrot Rosenthal and I exchanged emails last night about some insider-ey stuff and let me tell you, this Tex to Atlanta deal is the sweetest one on Daniels's table at the moment, but that is most certainly subject to change.
If Theo Epstein gets cold feet on Wily Mo Pena for Andy LaRoche, maybe Jonathan Broxton would sweeten the pot. You gotta just trust me here, this one makes sense fot the Dodgers. Did I mention Pena went 4-5 the other night and has a physique that any MedHead can get excited over?
If Dave Littlefield knew who Brandon Moss was, he might have a deal for Salomon Torres. Since Moss exceeded his two Minor Leaguer per other MLB team familiarity maximum, Littlefield took it off the table. He has now set his sights on Phil Hughes, who Wayne Krivsky informed him is one heck of a nice lookin' live arm.
Tampa Bay is looking to move Elijah Dukes. Aaron Schatz is working the phones to see if the Cincinnati Bengals offer of Frostee Rucker and Chris Henry will get it done.
The Red Sox are close to a deal. Don't ask me who they might be acquiring or what the terms of the deal might be. But my sources tell me something's imminent, and I would be remiss if I did not come on here and let you readers know that.
Finally, let me just say that being an insider is fun. A LOT OF FUN. But it comes with the hardship of having your inbox just absolutely inundated during times like these. Since you are my readers and I love you all so very much, and because I am configured with a moral fiber few could possibly understand (the Twins trainer confirmed this for me), I feel obliged to reply to every email. Please be sure to read all of my writings over the last six months before you email me to make sure you are not asking something I have already covered.
Be back soon!
- Posted by Sully, 7/28/07, 9:55 AM EST
Torii Hunter has been a pretty good player over the course of his nine-year career. A lifetime .271/.324/.470 hitter who has played a solid centerfield, Hunter has been a key component of some of the better Twins teams in the franchise's history. That this great Twins run has coincided with Hunter's tenure seems to have enhanced his standing, both in his own and the public's eyes.
See this story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune entitled, Suzuki's deal sets a higher bar for Hunter. Let's compare Suzuki and Hunter on a per 162 game average over the course of their respective MLB careers:
AVG OBP SLG OPS+ SB CS GIDP
Ichiro .333 .379 .439 120 40 9 5
Hunter .271 .324 .470 104 17 8 17
In Hunter's defense, Ichiro will be 34 to start next season while Hunter will be 32. But if he thinks Ichiro serves as any sort of proxy for the money coming his way, he has no argument at all. Ichiro is worth boatloads of money in off-the-field revenue and is a far better player than Hunter to boot. I don't doubt that some GM will grossly overpay for Hunter, but when jockeying for negotiating leverage, Hunter should shoot a good bit lower than the great Ichiro.
- Sully, 7/14/07, 1:21 PM EDT
Staying on topic, Andruw Jones will also be a free agent at the end of the season. Jones and Hunter head a strong class of center fielders that includes Mike Cameron and Aaron Rowand, as well as Milton Bradley, Eric Byrnes, and Corey Patterson.
If Ichiro Suzuki is an $18 million per year player, what are Jones and Hunter worth? How about Cameron and Rowand? As Sully pointed out, Ichiro is a special situation because of his off-the-field endorsement value. I would also argue that he is the most apt to put fans in the seats. As such, we can't compare Suzuki to the others without accounting for these non-statistical factors. In any event, which teams do you see stepping up?
Here is how the large-market clubs stand now:
NYY Damon 4 years/$52M (2006-09)
NYM Beltran 7 years/$119M (2005-11)
BOS Crisp 3 years/$15.5M (2007-09)*
CHC Pie 1 year/ (2007)
CWS Erstad 1 year/$1M (2007)**
LAD Pierre 5 years/$44M (2007-11)
LAA Matthews 5 years/$50M (2007-11)
* $8M club option in 2010 ($0.5M buyout)
** $3.5M club option in 2008 ($0.25M buyout)
The Yankees, of course, could move Damon to left field. In theory, the Dodgers could do the same with Pierre. The Mets and Angels are committed to Carlos Beltran and Gary Matthews, respectively. Coco Crisp could become a fourth outfielder, if need be. When it comes to Boston, the question isn't really about Crisp as much as it is Jacoby Ellsbury. Will the Red Sox let Crisp and Ellsbury battle it out next spring or will they look outside the organization for their next CF, even if means blocking Ellsbury's path to the bigs? The Chicago Cubs will face the same thought process as it relates to Felix Pie.
The White Sox are the most likely team to be in the market for one of these free agent CF. To the extent that these free agents go elsewhere, the Braves, Twins, Padres, and Phillies will need to find suitable replacements. The latter could turn to Michael Bourn, a 24-year-old speedster who can run 'em down but is unlikely to be much of a threat at the plate.
Cleveland, Detroit, Seattle, Tampa Bay, and Toronto won't be in the market for a center fielder during the off-season. In theory, there are a number of potential suitors but, realistically speaking, there are only a handful of teams likely to dole out the big bucks for a Jones or Hunter type.
As for me, I see the Yankees stepping up and making a run at Jones or Hunter, especially if Alex Rodriguez opts out of his contract. Put me down for Jones signing with the NYY and Hunter going to the CWS. I can see Cameron returning to the Padres and Byrnes to the Diamondbacks (although as a LF). I don't have a particularly good feel for Rowand but will take a wild guess and say that Oakland or San Francisco ends up with him. Neither Bradley or Patterson will draw much interest and will wind up signing shorter-term deals in the hopes of testing the market once again.
- Rich Lederer, 7/14/07, 11:30 PM PST
For All the Marbles
It's an exciting time in college baseball with the College World Series in full swing. You can read all about the teams involved by checking out Rich's CWS preview.
This afternoon, Arizona State defeated UC Irvine 5-4 and will face Oregon State on Monday. ASU won despite the fact a couple of its top players were kept off the score sheet.
Sophomore first baseman Brett Wallace, who projects as a first round pick in 2008, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Despite the off-day, the Toronto Blue Jays are likely going to regret not signing the slugger after taking him in the 42nd round of the 2005 draft (he fell due to signability concerns), after he graduated high school.
Junior shortstop Andrew Romine, who was drafted in the fifth round by the Angels in 2007 and is the son of former big leaguer Kevin Romine, also went hitless and was 0-for-3.
Some other prospects picked up the slack, though, including Eric Sogard, who was drafted 81st overall by San Diego in the recent amateur draft and has been likened to Boston Red Sox' second sacker Dustin Pedroia.
Sogard had the best day at the plate for Arizona State, save perhaps for junior outfielder Matt Spencer (drafted in the third round by Philly), who went 2-for-3 and drove in three runs in the seventh spot in the lineup. Sogard went 3-for-4 on the day while batting in the third hole, but did not score a run, nor did he drive one in.
Sophomore Ike Davis went 2-for-3, scored two runs and drove one in on a solo homer. He also walked. Left-fielder Tim Smith, who was drafted in the seventh round by Texas, went 1-for-3.
Arizona received some outstanding pitching performances from freshman hurlers. Starter Mike Leake, who was 13-1 on the season, threw seven innings and allowed four runs to keep ASU in the game. He was picked up by Jason Jarvis, who tossed two innings of hitless ball and picked up the win. Leake was drafted in 2006 by the Athletics in the seventh round, while Jarvis was taken by the Angels in the 25th round.
The immediate and distant future looks bright for ASU.
Happy Father's Day to one and all.
-Posted by Marc Hulet, 6/16/07, 11:13 p.m. EST
The College World Series action continues today with Louisville vs Mississippi State, which is currently underway. Rice will face North Carolina this evening.
Last night, Oregon State defeated Cal State Fullerton by the score of 3-2. Freshman hurler Jorge Reyes went six innings for Oregon State and allowed only three hits and one run. He out-dueled 50th overall draft pick and future Arizona Diamondbacks' prospect Wes Roemer, who went eight innings and allowed seven hits and three runs, although one was unearned.
Junior outfielder Nick Mahin had the best offensive day for Cal State Fullerton and went 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBI. Oregon State had a couple of key offensive performances from senior outfielder Scott Santschi, who went 2-for-3 with a homer and two RBI, and junior catcher Mitch Canham, who went 2-for-4 with a stolen base. Canham was taken with the 57st overall pick of the recent draft by San Diego.
Louisville's offence broke out today as they crushed Mississippi State 12-4. Seven of Louisville's starting nine had at least two hits.
-Posted by Marc Hulet, 6/17/07, 2:13 p.m. EST
Freshman third baseman Chris Dominguez led the offence with three hits, including two homers and three RBI. Senior first baseman Daniel Burton also had three hits, a homer and drove in three runs.
Freshman Justin Marks received the start for Louisville and went 5.1 innings and allowed three earned runs, while walking five and striking out five.
Freshman Chad Crosswhite received the start for Mississippi but did not fair as well. He lasted only 2.1 innings and allowed five runs on seven hits.
Freshman centerfielder Jeffrey Rea led the Mississippi offence with three hits in the lead-off position but failed to come around to score. Freshman second baseman Brandon Turner had two hits and drove in three runs.
-Posted by Marc Hulet, 6/17/07, 7:45 p.m. EST
2007 Draft: Picks and Pans
The first televised draft in the history of baseball is now behind us. ESPN2 did a commendable job in bringing us the first round but failed miserably beyond that. The draft show basically turned into Baseball Tonight, focusing more on highlights from the early games on Thursday than providing its viewers with coverage of the supplemental round (as previously promised).
Jim Callis, Keith Law, and David Rawnsley added draft expertise that was missing inside the studio at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex. While Peter Gammons always offers interesting tidbits here and there, I found myself wanting to hear from Callis, Law, and Rawnsley more than the little time that each was allotted.
ESPN analyst Steve Phillips lost all credibility with me when he compared Josh Vitters to Bobby Crosby. Vitters and Crosby both hail from nearby high schools. I've seen both of them play at the amateur level—Vitters at Cypress High School and Crosby at Long Beach State. The former is a much better hitter and the latter is a much better fielder. Vitters could never play shortstop and Crosby doesn't hit enough to man third base. Now I know why Phillips is a former GM. I'm just not sure why he is a current analyst.
Here's hoping next year's coverage is longer and that ESPN puts its vast resources to better use.
I have to say that I am very impressed with the strategy employed by the Arizona Diamondbacks on draft day. Teams theoretically are not supposed to draft for need - and I don't know if the team did or not - but things seem to have really worked out for them.
- Posted by Rich Lederer, 6/9/07, 8:25 a.m. PT
After using their first pick (ninth overall) to take high-ceiling, prep pitcher Jarrod Parker, the club added three polished and promising college pitchers in the next four rounds: Barry Enright (Pepperdine), Sean Morgan (Tulane) and Wes Roemer (Cal State Fullerton). Any person who has followed the D-Backs even from afar knows that the team's biggest weakness has been pitching (aside from groundball machine Brandon Webb and a couple others). Those three college pitchers - if signed - should move very quickly and could be helping Arizona in a wide-open division within two or three years.
The club also addressed an organizational weakness with the addition of college catcher Ed Easley (Mississippi State) with a pick in the supplemental round. With a few "safe picks" in the bag, Arizona then took another high ceiling player who oozes tools: shortstop Reynaldo Navarro (Puerto Rico).
D-Back fans should be absolutely thrilled with their clubs' first six picks - and those players taken in rounds five through seven were not too shabby either. General manager Josh Byrnes and scouting director Tom Allison have this team headed in an exciting direction, especially when you consider the talent already on the field in Arizona.
As always, there were several curious picks in the first round, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates at No. 4. Instead of taking Matt Wieters, who was clearly the best player available, the Bucs opted to go with Dan Moskos, a lefthanded pitcher out of Clemson. My first reaction was, "Why did Pittsburgh take another college pitcher and a southpaw at that?" Well, it gets worse than that. I learned afterwards that the Pirates want him to close even though Moskos wants to start.
- Posted by Marc Hulet, 6/9/07, 5:25 p.m. ET
Moskos pitched superbly in the closer role for Team USA last summer. He recorded an ERA of 0.86 with six saves in 21 innings pitched over 18 relief appearances, allowing just eight hits and four walks with 35 strikeouts. A power pitcher, maybe Moskos can become a B.J. Ryan-type lefty closer. However, his last start vs. Mississippi State on Friday night left a lot to be desired.
IP H R ER BB SO
5.0 9 6 5 0 4
You can have the relief pitcher at No. 4. Give me the big bat, especially a switch-hitting catcher with a rocket arm. Oh, and if it is all about not wanting to deal with Scott Boras and saving money, then there were still plenty of other choices out there, including Jason Heyward, a 6-4, 220-pound, power-hitting outfielder with a mature approach at the plate despite not turning 18 until August. I like his ceiling and apparently so do the Atlanta Braves.
I was even more shocked when the Milwaukee Brewers chose Matt LaPorta with the seventh pick in the overall draft. Maybe general manager Doug Melvin and scouting director Jack Zduriencik know something we don't. Rather than guessing, I would hope that Milwaukee worked out LaPorta in left field before the draft because most scouts are skeptical about his ability to play anywhere other than first base. There aren't many who question his bat, but his defense and foot speed leave a lot to be desired.
- Posted by Rich, 6/10/07, 7:45 a.m. PT
Incumbent first baseman Prince Fielder is only eight months older than LaPorta. With the Prince of Milwaukee leading the league in HR (22), SLG (.645), and TB (149), and second in OPS (1.026) and OPS+ (169), the Brew Crew seems as set at 1B as can be for at least the next 4 1/2 years. Maybe LaPorta can pull a Frank Howard or Greg Luzinski or even a Pat Burrell or Carlos Lee and hit enough to overcome his weak fielding in left field. Perhaps Melvin thinks he can flip LaPorta to another team at some point. Or is it possible that Bud Selig winked and told the team that he would put them back in the AL so Fielder or LaPorta could DH?
If Milwaukee took him for trade purposes, then count me as someone who believes management made a huge mistake in taking LaPorta. Only time will tell.
Most teams are known for preferring specific types of players in the draft; the Oakland Athletics favor college players, some teams like a good mix of college and prep players, while teams such as the Atlanta Braves traditionally prefer to nab high school players. So it comes as a bit of a surprise to see that the Braves took only three prep players with their first 15 picks (13 rounds).
- Posted by Rich, 6/10/07, 11:15 a.m. PT
There could be a number of reasons for this. Perhaps the Braves felt their system is beginning to thin out so they wanted some players that could move quickly, or perhaps they simply took the best players available with each pick and it is simply a coincidence. Regardless, the prep players that they took are intriguing and offer plenty of upside.
With their first pick (14th overall), the Braves grabbed Georgia high school outfielder Jason Heyward, who simply oozes tools and is (obviously) a local boy. Baseball America stated in a recent scouting report that Heyward has more potential than almost any player in the draft, aside from a healthy Andrew Brackman. With raw plus-plus power, Heyward could be challenging another Georgia high schooler - Jeff Francoeur - for playing time in four to five years.
Iowa high school infielder Jon Gilmore was the Braves' second choice with the 33rd pick in the supplemental round. Gilmore struggled through injuries this season, but was excellent on the showcase circuit last summer. He was expected to last until the second or third round but by popping him early, Atlanta will probably keep him away from Wichita State. One knock on Gilmore is that he spends all his energies on hitting and neglects his defense.
The Braves third prep pick was California two-way player Freddie Freeman, who is relatively inexperienced on the mound but throws 90-93 mph with a solid slider. I'm not 100 percent sure if Atlanta plans to have him pitch or play first base. My guess is that they plan to first try him as a hitter, as he is a 6-5, left-handed batter with plus power potential. If all else fails, it is easy to convert a player back to a pitcher, rather than the other way around (unless your name is Rick Ankiel). Freeman is a Cal State Fullerton recruit.
The third pick in the first round that raised my eyebrows was when the Minnesota Twins selected Ben Revere at No. 28. I had seen his name on lists but knew next to nothing about him. The more I learned, the less I liked. The 5-9, 165-pound speedster out of Lexington Catholic HS (KY) sounds as if he is in the mold of Juan Pierre or perhaps Al Bumbry, Lance Johnson, and Mickey Rivers. I don't think you build winning ball clubs taking these types of players in the first round.
- Posted by Marc Hulet, 6/10/07, 4:05 p.m. ET
I'm not sure what scouting director Mike Radcliff's marching orders were, but I would have preferred Ryan Dent out of Long Beach Wilson HS (CA) over Revere. Although not quite as fast as Revere, Dent, who was selected by the Boston Red Sox with the No. 62 pick in the draft, has a stronger arm and a much more advanced bat. I believe Dent, a shortstop in high school, would make a better all-round CF than Revere.
Other than the two college seniors—Matt LaPorta (MIL/#7) and Casey Weathers (COL/#8)—with little or no leverage, if anybody taken in the first round signs for less than slot, I would imagine that it would be Revere.
University of Tennessee officials were likely the most excited people in baseball to see promising prep outfielder Kentrail Davis plummet from first round consideration to the 14th round, where he was scooped up by the Colorado Rockies. Davis - a Scott Boras client - is a Tennessee recruit.
- Posted by Rich, 6/10/07, 6:00 p.m. PT
Here is the scouting report I wrote, but was not able to post, on Davis when he fell:
Kentrail Davis, OF, Theodore High School (AL)
Height/Weight: 5-9, 195 | DOB: 6/29/88
Davis currently possesses a line-drive swing, but he has significant power potential, about as much as you can pack into a 5'9'' frame. He has been compared to Kirby Puckett. Davis is swift on the base paths and covers a lot of ground in the outfield. He has a strong throwing arm but his defensive skills are raw. An all-around work-in-progress, Davis is attractive because of his five-tool potential. He has shown better in summer showcase, than during the school season. He is represented by Scott Boras.
-Posted by Marc Hulet
Interestingly, I like Davis as a No. 1 pick far better than I like the Rockies' actual first round pick... with all apologies to Vanderbilt closer Casey Weathers. I just absolutely hate to waste a first round pick on a future closer or set-up man. Weathers is a great player and a great second round pick.
Davis is extremely raw, as pointed out in the above profile, but if he reaches his ceiling he will have a much bigger impact as an everyday player than Weathers ever will pitching two or three times a week. But I rate their chances of signing him as 30/70.
- Posted by Marc Hulet, 6/10/07, 9:33 p.m. ET
Long Beach Wilson beat Anaheim Canyon 5-1 to win the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Section Division I championship on Friday night at Dodger Stadium. Wilson (32-3) is likely to maintain its #1 ranking in the country when Baseball America releases its final poll on June 18. The Bruins won their first CIF-SS title since 1950.
Senior lefthander and UConn signee Elliott Glynn pitched a complete game to win his ninth game of the season. Glynn also contributed to the victory with a run-scoring double that nearly left the yard in the top of the seventh.
The Bruins and Comanches featured two of the nation's top prep shortstops in Ryan Dent (who went 1-for-1 with three walks, an RBI and two runs scored) and Christian Colon. Both players are special talents and expected to be selected in one of the early rounds in the MLB draft on Thursday. Wilson's Dent and Anaheim Canyon's Colon have committed to UCLA and Cal State Fullerton, respectively. However, the most gifted player on the field may have been Wilson center fielder Aaron Hicks, who is only a junior. Look for Hicks, who played in the Area Code Games last summer after his sophomore season, to be one of the most highly sought high school players in next year's draft.
Speaking of UCLA and CSF, both schools won the first two games of their respective Regionals on Friday and Saturday. UCLA will play the winner of the Long Beach State-University Illinois-Chicago game in the Long Beach Regional on Sunday evening. CSF is scheduled to take on the winner of the Minnesota-Fresno State contest in the San Diego Regional. The teams that emerge victorious in these two Regionals will vie in the Super Regionals next weekend.
Elsewhere, Michigan upset Vanderbilt, the #1 overall seed, 4-3 to advance in the winner's bracket in Nashville. UC Irvine surprised Texas 3-1 and is the lone undefeated team in the Round Rock Regional. Oklahoma State (14-3 over Arkansas in the Fayetteville Regional) and Mississippi State (3-0 over Florida State in Tallahassee) were the other upset victors over seeded clubs.
Rice (Houston), North Carolina (Chapel Hill), and Arizona State (Tempe) are the only seeded teams without a loss. Virginia (Charlottesville), Mississippi (Oxford), Arizona (Wichita), Missouri (Columbia, MO), and Louisiana Lafayette (College Station) are sitting pretty in their respective Regionals.
The Myrtle Beach and Columbia, SC Regionals were rained out on Saturday. Clemson-Coastal Carolina and South Carolina-UNC Charlotte will face off in second round action on Sunday.
- Rich Lederer, 6/3/07, 12:25 a.m. PST
Every year right after the MLB amateur draft, I make a mock draft to test myself on my drafting skills (ie. dumb luck). It's more for fun than anything else and it's interesting to look back after a couple of years to see how I did compared to "the pros."
I always have a pretty good idea of what players I want to take in what round before the real draft occurs, but I always wait to draft my players until after to make sure I don't significantly over or under-draft a player. I also never take one of the Top 10 players chosen.
Let's take a look back at my last four drafts (tables include what round I picked them in, their name, the team that actually drafted them and where they were really drafted):
1. Chad Billingsley Los Angeles (NL) 24th overall
1S. Anthony Gwynn Milwaukee 2nd round
2. James D'Antona Arizona 2nd round
3. Tim Moss Philadelphia 3rd round
4. Tony Richie Chicago (NL) 4th round
5. David Marchbanks Florida 7th round
Chad Billingsley is a pick I am still elated about and, at the time, I was torn between drafting the Angels' Brandon Wood or the Dodgers' right-hander. I can't say I'm pleased with the way the Dodgers have handled Billingsley, but he still has the stuff to be a star in the starting rotation. The walks are worrisome though (69 in 111 career MLB innings).
Anthony Gwynn, son of Padres star Tony, has the chance to be an average starting center fielder or a very good fourth outfielder. James D'Antona has really turned his career around as of late after struggling in his first three pro seasons and could contribute in Arizona at some point this year. Tim Moss was released by Philly earlier this season, Tony Richie has struggled with injuries and David Marchbanks was last seen in the independent leagues.
1. Taylor Tankersley Florida 27th overall
1S. Jay Rainville Minnesota 39th overall
2. Eric Beattie Detroit 2nd round
3. Mark Reed Chicago (NL) 3rd round
4. Josh Baker Milwaukee 4th round
5. Brad McCann Florida 6th round
Taylor Tankersley hasn't been as impressive as I thought he would be in pro ball, but he is still a key part of the Marlins' bullpen. I liked Jay Rainville more than Homer Bailey mainly because Bailey has no interest in baseball whatsoever when he's not on the diamond (it's just a job to him) so I thought that could keep him from reaching his potential. Rainville has struggled with injuries and missed all of 2006.
Eric Beattie came down with Steve Blass disease and has walked 17 batters in nine A-Ball innings this season. I was really excited about catcher Mark Reed (brother of Seattle's Jeremy) but he has developed young catchers syndrome and has stalled in the low minors. Josh Baker was the forgotten man in the Rice University rotation behind Jeff Niemann, Wade Townsend, and Phil Humber but he had a solid college career. His pro career, like his former teammates, has been slowed by injuries. Brad McCann, older brother of Brian, has stalled in High A-Ball with Florida.
1. Cesar Carrillo San Diego 18th overall
1S. Michael Bowden Boston 47th overall
2. Daniel Carte Colorado 2nd round
3. Nick Weglarz Cleveland 3rd round
4. Kevin Whelan Detroit 4th round
5. James Avery Cincinnati 5th round
The dreaded Tommy John surgery struck Cesar Carrillo, who was dominating the minors before his elbow problems. Michael Bowden has looked very good in a hitter's haven in Lancaster this season. He should develop into a solid No. 3 starter, or perhaps even a No. 2 and was a steal at the 47th pick. Daniel Carte is looking like a fourth outfielder or 'AAAA' player. Raw Canadian Nick Weglarz still has a long way to go but he's young and has power potential. Kevin Whelan helped Detroit obtain Gary Sheffield from New York and looks like a future set-up man in the majors. Another Canadian - James Avery - is looking solid in Double-A for Cincinnati.
1. Kasey Kiker Texas 12th overall
1S. Steve Evarts Atlanta 43rd overall
2. Brett Anderson Arizona 2nd round
3. Chad Tracy Texas 3rd round
4. Garrett Olson Minnesota 4th round
5. Mark Melancon New York (AL) 9th round
It's too early to really comment on this draft, although I am not overly happy with my first round pick. I wanted Billy Rowell, but he was grabbed with the ninth pick by Baltimore. I was then torn between Pedro Beato, Adrian Cardenas, and Kasey Kiker. I had been hoping for a prep hitter or a college pitcher, but I didn't like any of the available players. I felt really nervous about taking three high school pitchers with my first three picks... I guess I've been watching Jays' general manager J.P. Ricciardi for too long.
Steve Evarts has some make-up issues that worry me, but Brett Anderson has been very good in A-Ball. I love Chad Tracy's offensive potential, but I'd like to see some better patience at the plate in A-Ball. Garrett Olson doesn't look like he'll have the power to play third base everyday in the majors. Mark Melancon has undergone Tommy John surgery and will be out until 2008.
Well, I don't think any Major League scouting directors should be worried about losing their jobs to me, but I think I did a solid job considering the limited number of scouting reports I had to go on, especially in 2003 and 2004. But scouting is definitely a fascinating job.
Any suggestions on what players I should target in my 2007 draft?
- Marc Hulet, 5/19/07, 12:04 p.m. EST
I found out last week that the Enhanced Gameday system had been tested on 5/10 in Colorado. According to Dan Fox, the system was just being tested and the locations of pitches weren't very accurate, but I figured I'd take a look at the data anyway. The system only tracked 91 pitches in the game, 35 for Aaron Cook and 56 for Noah Lowry, the two starting pitchers. Pitches, especially breaking balls, are thought to break less in the higher altitude of Denver and I wanted to see if the Gameday data confirmed this.
I looked at Cook first because I already had an idea about how his pitches moved. I have two starts for Cook in my database, the game at Coors and his start on April 8th at San Diego, and the pitch charts for each game are below. For some reason, of the 35 pitches tracked for Cook 30 were sinkers, so I can only compare his sinker across the two outings.
The first thing that jumps out at me from looking at these two charts is the differences in movement of his sinker at Coors compared to Petco. There's a huge possibility that the differences on the charts are the result of something other than an actual difference in how a ball moves at altitude, such as a calibration error or other technical glitch, so be careful with what you make of this. However, the differences between the two starts are so extreme and the break of pitches has been shown to be relatively consistent across parks, that I think this is somewhat of a real phenomenon. The biggest difference in Denver is that the horizontal break of the slider is almost seven inches less than in San Diego. Cook's sinker also ended up almost two inches lower in Denver. It appears that the sinker gets more downward action in Denver, but loses action in on right-handed hitters. Here's a chart showing just the sinkers for both games to further highlight the differences.
I'm looking at Lowry now and I'll post something about him later tonight.
- Joe Sheehan, 5/20/07, 7:32 p.m. EST
J.J. Hardy has been nothing short of "dyn-o-mite" over the first six weeks of the season. He hit a grand slam off Joe Smith (who Marc Hulet recently covered) yesterday to tie him for the National League lead in home runs and runs batted in. (The runs that Smith allowed were the first in 18 games and 16 innings.)
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS+
35 147 25 49 11 0 11 34 0 1 13 21 .333 .385 .633 167
Hardy also ranks second in TB (93) and RC (36); fourth in H, XBH (22), and SLG; sixth in OPS (1.018) and OPS+; seventh in AVG; and tied for ninth in 2B. He is one of three non-1B/corner OF in the top 10 in OPS (the other two being Chipper Jones, 4th, and Chase Utley, 10th).
Combine Hardy's offensive accomplishments with the fact that he is the shortstop on the team with the best record in baseball and one doesn't need to look up VORP, WARP, or Win Shares to know that J.J. has been the National League's Most Valuable Player thus far.
- Rich Lederer, 5/13/07, 7:25 a.m. PST
Sticking with the National League Central, the 2006 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals faced a tough off-season and lost five of the seven pitchers who started at least 13 games for them during their championship season: Jason Marquis, Jeff Suppan, Mark Mulder, Jeff Weaver and Sidney Ponson.
Ponson had worn out his welcome in St. Louis, while playoff hero Weaver (2.45 ERA in five starts), Marquis and Suppan left for greener pastures (and wallets). Weaver took a lucrative one-year deal from Seattle in the hopes of increasing his value for 2008 and spurned a multi-year offer from the Cards. Mulder, though technically still with the club after re-signing as a free agent, is rehabbing his shoulder after having surgery late in the 2006 season and has yet to throw a pitch for the club in 2007.
The Cardinals surprised a lot of people by filling the holes in the 2007 rotation with two relievers: Braden Looper and Adam Wainwright. 2006 rookie Anthony Reyes was also given an expanded role. To finalize things, the Cards then dipped into the free agent pool and came away with the enigmatic Kip Wells.
So how is the new rotation doing? Probably not too well given the Cardinals are nine games out of first place with a 15-19 record. To make matters worse, the Cardinals lost ace Chris Carpenter to elbow surgery (bone spurs). Carpenter was re-signed last December to a five-year, $65 million contract with an option for 2012 and has battled injuries throughout his career.
W-L ERA IP H BB-K
Chris Carpenter 0-1 7.50 6.0 9 1-3
Anthony Reyes 0-5 5.03 34.0 28 10-28
Adam Wainwright 3-2 5.01 41.1 55 18-26
Braden Looper 4-2 2.66 44.0 40 14-26
Kip Wells 1-7 6.51 47.0 45 22-36
Randy Keisler 0-0 5.65 14.1 17 4-5
Brad Thompson 0-0 1.80 5.0 6 1-2 (as a starter)
W-L ERA IP H BB-K
Jeff Weaver 0-6 14.32 22.0 50 7-12
Sidney Ponson 2-5 6.93 37.2 54 17-23
Jason Marquis 5-1 1.70 47.2 30 13-24
Jeff Suppan 5-3 3.00 54.0 57 10-28
The current Cardinal starters are 8-17, while their departed starters from 2006 are a combined 12-15. But Marquis and Suppan combined have more wins than the seven starters the Cardinals have tried this season. Ouch.
- Marc Hulet, 5/13/07, 10:45 a.m. EST
The Toronto Blue Jays probably think they're cursed. The team has now lost its starting left fielder Reed Johnson, third baseman Troy Glaus, catcher Gregg Zaun, three-fifths of its rotation in Roy Halladay, Gustavo Chacin and Victor Zambrano, its closer B.J. Ryan and its set-up man Brandon League - all for a month or more, save (maybe) for Glaus.
The Jays' minor league system has also been hit hard, with six starting pitchers suffering from mild to serious shoulder injuries: RHP Billy Carnline, LHP Eric Fowler, LHP Ricky Romero, LHP Chi-Hung Cheng, LHP Davis Romero and RHP Robert Ray. Fowler, Ricky Romero, Davis Romero and Cheng are among the Jays' top 30 prospects, according to Baseball America.
Only 2005 first round pick Ricky Romero and Ray have made appearances this season. Every club's system suffers through injuries but it seems unusual for so many top pitchers to suffer from the same type of injury at the same time.
- Marc Hulet, 5/13/07, 7:35 p.m. EST
Looking Forward to Draft Day
The Major League Baseball amateur draft is about one month away and I am - as always - excited. There is nothing quite like the feeling of watching your favorite team infuse the farm system with a new wave of talented prospects, all of whom have clean slates and could be the next great player.
Two teams - the San Diego Padres and Toronto Blue Jays - stand to benefit more than any other team this season. The Padres have six picks in the first and supplemental first rounds. The Jays have five and then add another two in the second round, as does San Diego.
If you listen to Baseball America - and many minor league watchers do - both Toronto and San Diego desperately need good drafts as their minor league systems are ranked 25th and 29th respectively out of the 30 major league clubs.
Toronto and San Diego took different approaches to the first round last season as Toronto took the top prep hitter in Travis Snider and San Diego signed Matt Antonelli, a player with a lower ceiling but he was considered a "safe" college pick. Both Snider and Antonelli had respectable debuts in 2006 and have raked in 2007. Snider batted more than .400 in April in the Midwest League and Antonelli batted .291 with three homers and more walks than strikeouts in the California League.
Other clubs who stand to benefit from multiple picks in the first few rounds include Texas, San Francisco, Arizona, Washington, Cincinnati, Oakland and the New York Mets. San Francisco is an interesting case as the club has five picks in the first and supplemental first rounds, but lost its second, third and fourth round picks for signing free agents Barry Zito, Rich Aurilia and Dave Roberts.
- Marc Hulet, 05/06/07, 10:18 a.m. EST
Staying with the theme here, I would like to point our readers to the 2007 Draft Order (courtesy of Baseball America) at the bottom of the sidebar on the left-hand side. It lists all of the first and supplemental round picks, as well as the changes in the second, third, and fourth rounds.
As Marc mentioned, the Padres have six picks (#23, 40, 46, 57, 63, and 64) and the Blue Jays five (#16, 21, 38, 45, and 56) in the first and supplemental rounds. As you can see, Toronto has two of the top 21 spots (its own plus Texas' #1 at 16 as compensation for losing Frank Catalanotto, a Type-A free agent). However, don't feel sorry for the Rangers. Although TEX lost its #1, the organization added the 17th and 24th overall choices in exchange for Carlos Lee (HOU) and Gary Matthews, Jr. (LAA).
The only other team with two first-round picks is the San Francisco Giants (#22 and 29). With the rapid-fire success of Tim Lincecum (who is making his MLB debut tonight on ESPN's Sunday Night Game of the Week), perhaps the Giants will be motivated to take a couple of college players with the potential of rising quickly through the system to help replenish baseball's oldest roster.
- Rich Lederer, 5/6/07, 9:30 a.m. PST
One of the more intriguing names, if not stories, of this year's draft is Max Scherzer. The righthander out of the University of Missouri was drafted 11th overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2006, yet remains the only player chosen in the first round who has not come to terms with his team.
Scherzer, who signed with the independent Fort Worth Cats of the American Association in April, made his first start on Friday night and threw 3 2/3 innings (54 pitches) of no-hit ball. A scout I spoke to that evening shared a direct report from within his organization: "four-seamer was 94-98, two-seamer 91-93, slider 86-87, and the changeup was in the low-80s." He said Scherzer's four-seamer was "explosive" and used words like "sink" and "bore" when discussing his two-seamer.
Working in Scherzer's favor is the fact that this year's draft is thin on college righthanders. His situation is not unlike Luke Hochevar's last year. Hochevar, who was drafted in the supplemental round (40th overall) in 2005 by the Los Angeles Dodgers, failed to ink a contract, re-entered the 2006 draft, and was selected by the Kansas City Royals with the #1 pick. He earned a bonus of $3.5 million.
Scott Boras represents both pitchers and can certainly make the case that Scherzer could be taken as high as #2 (behind Vanderbilt's David Price) in June, remaining firm in his bonus demands at or above the $3M mark rather than slot money of $2M or so (which apparently is the sum Arizona's GM Josh Byrnes has offered). Although the two sides have not spoken in a long while, the Diamondbacks have until May 31 to sign him. If they do, it wouldn't be the first time the club made a last-minute deal to acquire their #1 selection. Just two years ago, Arizona hooked up with Stephen Drew right before the deadline.
If the Royals don't select Scherzer, he could go to the Washington Nationals at #6. Mike Rizzo, the Diamondbacks' former scouting director, joined the Nats last July and may push for taking Scherzer. Just how high Scherzer goes is likely to be a function of his pitching prowess between now and then, his health, and the amount of money agent Boras will demand this time around.
- Rich Lederer, 5/6/07, 10:30 a.m. PST
Draft day came a month early for the Yankees when Roger Clemens announced to the fans from the press box in the bottom of the seventh inning that he was returning to the Bronx. Clemens reportedly agreed to a $28 million contract, pro rated to about $4.5M per month (or about $18M if he is on the roster on or about June 1).
The seven-time Cy Young Award winner will be joining his buddy Andy Pettitte, Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina, and eventually Phil Hughes in a starting rotation that could go from decimated to one of the best in a matter of a month or two. However, one note of caution is warranted: in five seasons with the Yankees the last time around, the Rocket's ERA ranged from 3.51-4.60 with an average of 3.99. Pitching to DHs rather than pitchers and to AL East opponents instead of NL Central, the 44-year-old is unlikely to match the numbers he put up in Houston the past three seasons.
- Rich Lederer, 5/6/7, 3:45 p.m. PST
Ready for The Show?
2006 first rounder Tim Lincecum is slowly becoming a household name, at least with MLB prospect watchers. The diminutive (5'11'' 160 lbs) but hard throwing righty is dominating Triple-A in his first full season.
Here is what Baseball America had to say about Lincecum before the draft:
[Lincecum's] fastball, already a plus pitch, improved a grade as he added nearly 15 pounds of muscle and has reached 98 mph this season, often sitting between 91-96. His power curveball already was one of the best in the country and has become more effective now that he also shows a slider he can throw for strikes... His unorthodox delivery has been described as resembling a pinwheel as he rocks back, makes his body do most of the work and seemingly brings his lightning-quick arm along for the ride... His delivery, resilient arm, size and stuff remind many scouts of Angels setup man Scot Shields, and most scouts think Lincecum will thrive in a relief role. His present stuff rivals any pitcher in the draft, and he should move quickly.
But based on his solid pro showing as a starter in 2006 and 2007, the Giants see Lincecum as a starter, and so they should. As of April 27, Lincecum had been very, very good for Fresno:
W-L ERA GP IP H BB-K BAA
Fresno 3-0 0.36 4 25.0 9 11-32 .113
Left-handed batters are hitting .083 against Lincecum. With runners in scoring position, he has yet to allow a hit in 5.1 innings. Although it is early in the season, it seems Lincecum is at least as ready to be in the majors as fellow 2006 first rounders: Seattle's Brandon Morrow and New York's Joe Smith.
The biggest problem is that the Giants don't have a spot for him in the rotation. The National League West club has a solid starting rotation and two other young pitchers in the bullpen that could be starting for most teams.
ERA IP H BB-SO
LHP Barry Zito 3.70 24.1 20 11-15
RHP Matt Cain 1.55 29.0 11 13-21
RHP Matt Morris 2.49 25.1 24 12-12
LHP Noah Lowry 3.38 26.2 22 13-13
RHP Russ Ortiz 4.50 26.0 33 7-14
RHP Brad Hennessey 3.24 8.1 8 1-3
LHP Jonathan Sanchez 5.14 7.0 7 5-7
So what do you do with Lincecum? Do you leave him where he is until an inevitable injury occurs? Do you bring him up and throw him in the pen as a long reliever and spot starter, while sending down Hennessey or Sanchez to get extra minor league seasoning? Or do you replace fifth starter Russ Ortiz, who appears to be rejuvenating his career?
Either way, it's a nice problem to have, especially for an aging team such as the Giants.
- Marc Hulet, 4/29/07, 10:30 a.m. EST
While on the subject of "Ready for The Show?," let's take a look at a number of other highly regarded arms in Triple-A who stand a reasonable chance of being called up before the All-Star break.
Pitcher AGE ORG LG IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA
Homer Bailey 21 CIN INT 21.1 12 6 4 2 9 13 1.69
Yovani Gallardo 21 MIL PCL 23.0 14 6 6 0 7 33 2.35
Matt Garza 23 MIN INT 19.0 20 10 6 2 10 18 2.84
Adam Miller 22 CLE INT 25.0 23 9 8 0 8 23 2.88
Jeff Niemann 23 TB INT 25.0 23 10 10 4 9 30 3.60
Kevin Slowey 23 MIN INT 18.2 9 3 2 1 1 20 0.96
Andy Sonnanstine 24 TB INT 30.0 21 11 9 3 6 37 2.70
Check out Yovani Gallardo's stats: 12.9 K/9 and 5.5 H/9 without allowing a home run. Gallardo's numbers matched up well with those of Phil Hughes and Homer Bailey last year in the Florida State (A+) and Southern/Eastern (AA) Leagues, but the second-round pick in 2004 has never quite gotten the acclaim of his fellow first rounders from the same draft. He just may turn out to be the best of the three.
- Rich Lederer, 4/29/07, 9:45 a.m. PST
The above post serves as a nice segue to another first-round selection from the 2004 draft. Jered Weaver made his third start of the season yesterday, holding the Chicago White Sox scoreless for 5 2/3 innings. Weaver's outing was not only in sharp contrast to his previous start against the Detroit Tigers when he couldn't even get out of the second inning but it showed that he and his brother Jeff are not one and the same:
Pitcher OPP IP H R ER HR BB SO
Jered CWS 5.2 6 0 0 0 0 5
Jeff KC 0.1 7 6 6 0 1 0
Pitcher IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA
Jered 13.1 17 11 8 2 4 11 5.40
Jeff 11.1 31 23 23 2 4 7 18.27
Pitcher IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA
Jered 136.1 111 47 43 17 37 116 2.84
Jeff 1579.1 1703 877 821 194 432 1051 4.68
Although Jered has thrown less than 10% of Jeff's career innings in his one-plus seasons in the big leagues, it is pretty obvious that the brothers are not one and the same as so many have suggested.
The younger Weaver's velocity and command were acceptable yesterday. He was throwing 88-91 in the first inning and working mostly in the high-80s the rest of the game. The tall righthander had more than two times the number of strikes as balls and didn't walk a batter. However, he was a little too fine and threw too many pitches (107) for not completing six innings. What impressed me the most, however, was his changeup. Great arm action with the same arm speed as his fastball, yet the change of pace was clocked at 79-81 or about 8-10 MPH below his four seamer. He wasn't afraid to pull the string against RHB and, in fact, used it effectively vs. Jermaine Dye before blowing a fastball by him up and in for his fifth strikeout on his 107th and last pitch of the game.
- Rich Lederer, 4/29/07, 11:00 a.m. PST
I will keep the "Ready for The Show" theme alive and point out that it's about time the Astros found a place for Hunter Pence. At 10-13 and four games behind the Milwaukee Brewers, one has to wonder what sort of difference Pence might have made had he been starting in place of Chris Burke all along.
AVG OBP SLG
Burke - 2007 .219 .329 .329
Burke - 2006 .276 .347 .418
Pence - 2007 (PCL) .341 .398 .588
Pence - 2006 (TEX) .283 .357 .533
Two notes; First, Corpus Christi, where Pence played in 2006, plays as one of the tougher hitting parks in the Minor Leagues. Second, Pence slugged a ridiculous 1.071 in 28 Grapefruit League at bats this season. There was plenty of evidence there to suggest Pence was ready to contribute at the Big League level. Tim Purpura disregarded the evidence and sent Pence to Round Rock to start the season.
So my question in a situation like this is "What has changed Tim Purpura's mind in a month?" Did it just dawn on him that Pence would be the superior option? If not, what's the excuse? Baseball teams are in the winning business and should put those players that will best help them achieve that end in the lineup. This is especially true for a team like Houston, who, even if they do qualify for the postseason will likely only do so by the skin of their teeth.
If the Astros end up just a few games out of the playoffs, you can think back to April when their offense couldn't get going and Hunter Pence was tearing up the Pacific Coast League.
- Patrick Sullivan, 4/29/07, 2:15 p.m. EDT
Outfielder Travis Snider was arguably the best high school hitter available in the 2006 draft and he was taken 16th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays. However, shortstop Billy Rowell was the first prep hitter taken at No. 14 by Baltimore.
Here is what Baseball America, the definitive voice on the baseball amateur draft, said about Snider before the draft:
Toronto was prepared to draft [Matt] Antonelli, but now they're hot and heavy for Snider, arguably the best hitter available in the draft. Concerns about his weight (the 6-footer checks in at 240) are outweighed by his impressive, polished bat.
Snider's powerful left-handed swing generates above-average bat speed and raw power, and he's become noted not just for hitting lots of home runs, but for hitting lots of long home runs. He does a good job of hanging in against left-handed pitchers and staying back on breaking balls, trusting his hands. His work ethic earns raves from scouts; he organizes practices three times a week for his Jackson High team, which was undefeated through 21 games, and gives hitting lessons to local children as a senior class project.
Snider's selection is noteworthy simply because the Jays had never seriously considered a high school player with the first overall pick since general manager J.P. Ricciardi's tenure began on Nov. 14, 2001.
college prep juco
2002 30 15 5
2003 33 7 10
2004 35 5 12
2005 29 12 8
2006 32 8 8
In those five years the Jays signed only seven of their 47 high school picks. Four of those came in 2006 (Snider, OF Mikal Garbarino, IF Luis Fernandez, and IF Jonathan Del Campo).
So far Snider is having a great season in the Midwest League:
AVG OBA SLG AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB-K
Lansing .362 .382 .623 69 25 7 4 1 13 4-11
He's also not having any trouble fitting in with his teammates - most of whom are three to four years older than he is (the average team age is 22).
"I feel like I can go out every day and not feel like the young guy or being the first rounder, or whatever. There is so many great personalities in [the clubhouse]," Snider said. "The biggest thing for this team this year is our camaraderie. Everyone sees eye-to-eye and I wouldn't say that we have one spoken leader. I would say that we have a lot of guys here who just go out and play the game the right way and we've got a great manager and a great staff below him and I think that we have some good pieces here. Hopefully we can just put them together and continue to win baseball games."
With Snider's solid start to his first full season, Jays fans are already beginning to ask when Snider will be promoted. But that is one of the furthest things from his mind.
"The personal success is something that I can't say that I don't care about, but to me it is not the No. 1 thing. I just want to go out there without putting the pressure on myself to get moved up to Dunedin or to make it to Double-A by the end of the year," Snider explained. "Obviously those thoughts are going to go through any guy's head because that is the name of the game, but for me - as it was in Pulaski [Rookie Ball] - it is just for me to go out there and have a good year and let the Blue Jays, [director of player development] Dick Scott and those guys make the decisions - when they feel I'm ready or if I'm ready."
"I feel comfortable with the staff and the organization that whenever they think that I'm ready, I'm going to go and that is all that I can ask for."
Perhaps in part due to Snider's success and maturity, Ricciardi has already gone on record in the local Toronto media stating that he is willing to have more prep players drafted this year, although he is still leery of high school pitchers due to their unpredictability. Toronto has seven picks in the first two rounds of the 2007 draft so scouting director Jon Lalonde will be busy.
A special thanks to Chad Hillman
- Marc Hulet, 4/29/07, 3:30 p.m. EST
To follow up a little on Rich's post about the Weavers, here's Jered's pitch chart from Saturday.
You can really see the difference in average speed between his fastball (91 MPH) and off-speed pitches, particularly his changeup (82 MPH) in this chart. The difference in speed might help to account for the nine swings-and-misses at his changeup. Weaver was also able to command his changeup effectively and of the 24 changeups he threw, 17 were strikes (71%), compared with 63% of his fastballs. However, of the six hits he gave up, two were off of his changeup. This could be somehow related to the pitch, but I'd want to look at more than two singles before I start damning his changeup.
One cool thing I learned over the weekend is that a negative horizontal break on a pitch means that the pitch moves away from left handed hitters, while a positive break means the pitch moves away from right handed hitters. Using this idea, which I'll look at more in-depth in the future, you can see that Weaver's fastball moves slightly in on a right hander, and his changeup breaks more towards a right hander.
- Joe Sheehan, 4/29/07, 11:30 p.m. EST
Is Alex Rodriguez any good? After last night's game against the Red Sox, it looks as if I should bump up the over/under on his home run total to 52. Man oh man. 12 HR in 15 games. Let's see now, that projects to 130 dingers for a full year. I don't think he will slug 100 but how 'bout 62?
ARod is in pretty good company when it comes to Yankees home run hitters. Let's take a look at the top 10 single-season HR leaders for the Bronx Bombers:
1 Roger Maris 1961 61
2 Babe Ruth 1927 60
3 Babe Ruth 1921 59
T4 Mickey Mantle 1961 54
T4 Babe Ruth 1928 54
T4 Babe Ruth 1920 54
7 Mickey Mantle 1956 52
T8 Lou Gehrig 1936 49
T8 Lou Gehrig 1934 49
T8 Babe Ruth 1930 49
Roger Maris, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Lou Gehrig. ARod's name would fit in there just fine. In fact, he happens to sit in 11th place now (with 48 in his MVP season in 2005). How about Joe DiMaggio, you ask? Tied for 14th with 46 in 1937, his second year in the majors. Take a second look at that list and you'll notice that Rodriguez is already number one among all right-handed batters. After DiMaggio, you have to go all the way down to 28th to find the next RHB (Alfonso Soriano, 2002, and the Yankee Clipper, 1948, with 39).
In the meantime, Rodriguez passed Stan Musial and Willie Stargell for 25th on the all-time home run list with 476. He is a shoo-in to become the youngest player to hit 500 (beating out Jimmie Foxx) and could rank among the top 20 before the year is out.
For those of you who get worked up about Barry Bonds passing Hank Aaron, relax. Alex Rodriguez is going to pass them both by the time he hangs 'em up.
- Rich Lederer, 4/21/07, 8:15 a.m. PST
Speaking of all-time greats, which spot in the batting order did Jackie Robinson hit more often than any other? Would you believe fourth?
According to Dave Smith, the creator of Retrosheet, Robinson had more at-bats hitting cleanup than all of the other positions in the batting order combined. Smith created the following table, which details Jackie's batting performance by each spot in the lineup.
Position AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI HP BB SO SF AVG OBP SLG
First 80 15 25 6 1 1 14 0 10 7 0 .313 .389 .450
Second 999 205 288 55 12 22 110 18 120 66 0 .288 .375 .433
Third 645 130 207 32 4 20 90 12 110 41 0 .321 .429 .476
Fourth 2483 496 818 157 32 79 439 35 382 139 2 .329 .426 .514
Fifth 112 18 31 5 0 1 12 2 18 9 0 .277 .386 .348
Sixth 290 47 84 12 5 7 45 3 58 12 5 .290 .407 .438
Seventh 191 26 48 3 0 6 17 2 34 10 1 .251 .368 .361
Eighth 49 7 12 1 0 1 5 0 6 2 1 .245 .321 .327
Ninth 28 3 5 2 0 0 2 0 4 4 0 .179 .281 .250
Despite never accumulating 20 home runs in a season, Robinson was a highly productive hitter in the four hole. He could do it all. Hit for a high average with decent power, walk, and run the bases as well as anyone from his era.
Interestingly, Jackie scored 13% more runs than he drove in while batting fourth. I wonder if anyone else has ever had such a ratio of R/RBI from the cleanup spot?
- Rich Lederer, 4/21/07, 4:30 p.m. PST
Pitching Duel - Doc Throws 10
When a pitcher throws nine innings, allows six hits and only one run, he expects to win the ball game. However, that was not the case when Detroit's Jeremy Bonderman faced off last night against Toronto's ace Roy Halladay.
Halladay responded by throwing a 10-inning complete game victory. He allowed six hits and only one run. He also struck out two and did not allow a walk. Both pitchers allowed one home run (Halladay to Magglio Ordonez and Bonderman to Alex Rios).
This was the first 10-inning performance by a starting pitcher in the major leagues since St. Louis' Mark Mulder threw a shutout against the Houston Astros on April 23, 2005. Interestingly enough, Halladay also threw one other 10-inning win in his career and it was against the Tigers on Sept. 6, 2003. He threw 99 pitches and allowed only three hits. His opponent, Nate Cornejo, threw the game of his life and allowed no runs and only five hits in nine innings of work. In both 2003 and 2006, snake-bitten reliever Fernando Rodney lost the game in the 10th inning.
Yesterday, Halladay - known as 'Doc' to Toronto fans - put on a pitching clinic. The 29-year-old right-hander topped out at 92 mph and threw 107 pitches (70 strikes). Halladay survived with only two pitches - his fastball and curveball, although he threw three versions of his fastball: a two-seamer, cutter and an occasional four-seamer. Halladay also has a change-up, but rarely utilizes it in games.
In his early days, Halladay would dial his four-seam fastball up to 95-97 mph but it lost a lot of movement. In his second season, in 2000, Halladay was hit hard and posted a 10.67 ERA in 19 games (13 starts).
The former No. 1 pick and one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball was demoted all the way to A-Ball to work with Mel Queen, the pitching coach he first found success with early in his pro career. Two years later Halladay won 19 games in the majors and had a new-found philosophy on pitching, which has continued to evolve over time. He now focuses on inducing groundballs and pitching to contact to keep his pitch counts down, as he has suffered through various forearm ailments in recent years.
On Friday night, Halladay was in fine form. Despite an average fastball speed, he got 22 of his 29 outs on the fastball, with the other seven coming on the curve. Both his strikeouts were a result of the knee-buckler. With eight exceptions, Halladay started each batter with a fastball.
He "struggled" early in the game against the free-swinging Tigers and threw 16 pitches in the first inning, followed by 13 and then 15. Halladay then got the heart of the order, Gary Sheffield, Ordonez and Carlos Guillen, 1-2-3 in the fourth. He threw another 15 pitches in the fifth and 10 in the sixth. After that, perhaps smelling victory or simply rising to the occasion, Halladay did not throw double-digit pitches again in an inning. He retired Ordonez, Guillen and Sean Casey on eight pitches in the seventh and then finished the game with six pitches in the eighth, nine in the ninth and nine in the 10th.
This game was a great lesson for every pitcher or fan out there who believes you have to throw 95 or 100 mph to be a successful hurler. Smarts, command, control and changing speeds can help you go a long, long way. Just ask Halladay about it while he's polishing his 2003 Cy Young Award.
- Marc Hulet, 4/14/2007, 5:00 p.m. EST
Win, Place, and Show. Cole Hamels had his worst outing of the young season yesterday, yet recorded his first win. The 23-year-old hurler was removed from the game for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the sixth inning with the score tied 5-5. The Phillies scored two runs in the inning and held on for an 8-5 victory over the Astros.
DATE OPP RESULT IP H R ER HR BB SO DEC
4-4 ATL L, 3-2 7.0 4 0 0 0 1 8 -
4-9 @NYM L,11-5 6.0 6 3 2 0 3 7 -
4-14 HOU W, 8-5 6.0 8 5 5 1 0 3 W
Hamels gave up two earned runs in 13 innings in his first couple of starts, but the bullpen blew both wins. On April 4, Tom Gordon cost the southpaw his first by allowing two runs in the top of the ninth to tie the game and the Braves scored the game winner in the 11th to beat the Phillies 3-2. Hamels exited his second start on April 9 with a 5-3 lead but Geoff Geary and Jon Lieber surrendered seven runs in the eighth to the Mets to strip him of another win.
For the season, Hamels is 1-0 with a 3.32 ERA. He has struck out 18 batters and allowed only four walks in 19 innings. Cole didn't give up his first home run until Houston's Jason Lane took him deep in the fourth inning on Saturday despite facing the powerful Atlanta and New York lineups in his first two starts. Last year, Hamels allowed 19 long balls in 132 1/3 IP. If the former first round pick can continue to cut down on his home runs and walks, he could rapidly become one of the best starters in the league as I predicted last year after his major league debut to the consternation of a few readers.
- Rich Lederer, 4/15/07, 9:15 a.m. PST
As everyone reading this site knows, today is the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's Major League Baseball debut. More than 80 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Robinson broke the color barrier when he took the field on April 15, 1947. The event was unquestionably one of the most significant in the history of the game and the world of professional sports.
Major League Baseball will honor Robinson in a nationally televised game this evening between the Dodgers and Padres. All of the Dodgers will wear Jackie's No. 42 - retired league-wide in 1997 - on the back of their jerseys tonight. Appropriately, Chris Young, who wrote his senior thesis at Princeton on Robinson (as reported by ESPN The Magazine's Jeff Bradley), will be on the mound for San Diego. The game features a half-hour pre-game ceremony attended by Commissioner Bud Selig, Robinson's widow Rachel, Hank Aaron, and Frank Robinson, among others.
As we honor Robinson, let's not forget Larry Doby, who broke the color barrier in the American League two-and-a-half months later. At a minimum, the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers should hold Larry Doby Day on July 5 when the two teams meet for an afternoon tilt in the finale of a three-game series. It would only be fitting for the Indians to wear Doby's No. 14 on their backs that day.
Robinson and Doby were not only pioneers but great players and even better men.
- Rich Lederer, 4/15/07, 4:40 p.m. PST
Now that we are four and five games into teams' seasons, things can go one of two ways as far as pitching goes. The number fours and fives in starting rotations either get lit up or turn heads with some excellent performances. Last night was definitely more the latter. St. Louis, the Cubbies, Kansas City, Colorado, Texas, Arizona, the Mets and Cincinnati all rode strong outings from down-rotation starters en route to victory.
Starter IP SO H BB R ER Team Result
Adam Wainwright 7 4 5 3 1 1 Win, 4-2
Rich Hill 7 6 1 0 1 1 Win, 9-3
Jorge De La Rosa 7 5 4 3 1 1 Win, 3-1
Jason Hirsh 6.2 8 6 0 1 1 Win, 4-3
Robinson Tejeda 7 1 2 3 0 0 Win, 2-0
Micah Owings 5 6 1 3 0 0 Win, 7-1
Oliver Perez 7 6 5 0 1 1 Win, 11-1
Matt Belisle 6 6 4 1 1 1 Win, 6-1
Rotation depth is hard to come by, and yet critical to any team's hopes. If yesterday was any indication, there are some teams whose outlook might be considerably sunnier than many had thought.
- Patrick Sullivan, 4/7/2007, 10:46 EST
On the less than sunny side of the street, Francisco Rodriguez is not pitching nearly as well as his major league-leading three saves might suggest. His latest came last night in a 5-2 victory over the Oakland A's. All three of his saves were recorded after entering the contest with a three-run lead, the maximum allowable to earn a save when entering the game at the beginning of an inning.
K-Rod's first save on Opening Day against the Texas Rangers was his best performance. He pitched one inning and retired the side in order. It was a cheap save in that he had a three-run lead but at least the man who led the American League in saves in each of the past two seasons pitched well.
Frankie's second save took place on Wednesday in a day game that I attended. He was brought into the ninth inning once again with a three-run lead over the Rangers. It should have been an easy save but it was everything but. Rodriguez allowed one run on two hits and a walk. He ended the game by striking out Nelson Cruz with the tying run on base and the winning run at the plate. A little bit too exciting for Mike Scioscia's wishes.
Scioscia went to his main man the following evening vs. the A's in another game I attended. Rodriguez probably felt out of place as the score was tied 3-3 when he jogged in from the bullpen in left field to start the ninth. He struck out Shannon Stewart and got Milton Bradley to pop out. Up to the plate stepped Mike Piazza who deposited a 1-1 fastball over the wall in right-center field for his 420th career home run. Huston Street shut down the Angels in the bottom half of the inning and Rodriguez was charged with his first loss of the season.
With two saves and a loss, K-Rod was asked to nail down Friday night's victory with another commanding three-run lead. He made it interesting, allowing a one-out single to Todd Walker followed by a double to Travis Buck. Walker may have tried to score under normal circumstances but had no reason to head home down by three runs in Exhibit 37 as to why ERA is a less than desirable indicator of a reliever's performance. Rodriguez then got Marco Scutaro to line out to right before whiffing Bobby Kielty to end the game.
Frankie has pitched well one time in four games, yet has a MLB-leading three saves to show for his efforts. He is throwing 93-96 MPH but doesn't seem to have a clue where his fastball is going and his slider hasn't had the type of bite that we have become accustomed to seeing in the past. Is it the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end for K-Rod? I don't know, it might be neither. After all, the season is less than a week old. But he looks more like Don Stanhouse than his old self in the early going.
- Rich Lederer, 4/7/07, 8:20 a.m. PST
The season is less than a week old, yet the standings are already beginning to take shape in a manner that probably leaves few surprised.
In the American League, Baltimore has won one game out of five and sits in last place in the East. Three of our four panelists picked the O's to finish at the bottom of the division. The 5-1 Angels have the best record in baseball. In our AL West Preview, I wrote, "I'm more confident predicting the Angels to win than I am any other team in any other division." The Halos are off to a fast start without the likes of Jered Weaver, Bartolo Colon, Chone Figgins, and Juan Rivera. I see this team getting stronger over the course of the season although its winning percentage will obviously regress from the current .833 mark toward a more normalized level of .550-.575 for a first place club.
Over in the National League, was anybody - I mean ANYBODY - caught flat footed by Washington's start? The Nationals are 1-5 and looking more like the 1962 Mets than not. I can't fathom the team losing fewer than 100 games. This is, by far, the worst club in all of baseball. The Nats are averaging less than three runs per game while allowing seven. The pitching staff, if you can call it that, promises to be one of the worst in the post-expansion era. In our NL East Preview, I said, "The Nats are a lock to give up more than 900 runs and could conceivably allow 1,000 or more." Well, they are on pace to give up 1,134 and their ace John Patterson has started two of the team's six games.
In the meantime, kudos to the Mets for their outstanding start. They beat the Cardinals up and down and around in the opening series and have now scored 34 runs while allowing only 8. I'm not at all surprised by the team's offensive firepower but perhaps underestimated its pitching. The Redbirds, on the other hand, are 1-4 and have scored just 7 runs while giving up 27. This team is highly dependent on Albert Pujols (which is a good thing), Scott Rolen, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and, to a lesser degree, Jim Edmonds and Jason Isringhausen. I still think St. Louis is the class of the NL Central but the margin of error is razor thin.
Speaking of the Central, the Astros are not doing themselves any favors in trying to lure Roger Clemens back in June. Houston won't be interested in him or the Rocket won't be interested in them if the club isn't playing at least .500 ball and looking as if it has a legitimate shot at winning the division.
Lastly, the San Francisco Giants, a team all four of our panelists picked to finish dead last in the NL West, looks like a club in a heap of trouble. The starting pitchers aren't all that bad - Barry Zito is Barry Zito and Matt Cain is one of the most valuable pitching properties in all of baseball - but the offense is in need of a Barry Bonds circa 2001-2004 season in order to avoid scoring fewer runs than any team in the majors.
- Rich Lederer, 4/8/07, 9:40 a.m. PST
One of this Spring's interesting subplots is the transition that Jonathan Papelbon is making from closer to starter. Papelbon was one of the most dominating pitchers coming out of anyone's pen last season and how he adjusts to a starting role will be worth watching. Despite what the northeast media circus would have you believe, however, Papelbon is not the only reliever to have experienced considerable success in 2006 who is making the switch for this coming campaign. Adam Wainwright, whose dominance throughout 2006's postseason helped propel St. Louis to a World Series crown, will also be a starter in 2007.
The two could not have taken more different paths to get to where they are now. Papelbon was Boston's closer all of last season, dominating virtually everytime he was handed the ball until hurting his shoulder on September 1. For his part, Wainwright toiled in relative obscurity (otherwise known as "middle relief") for a club fighting to stay above .500. Still, they were both very effective in 2006.
G IP ER H BB SO WHIP
Papelbon 59 68.3 7 40 13 75 0.77
Wainwright 61 75.0 26 64 22 72 1.15
Just as Papelbon's season crumbled, Wainwright's became interesting. Jason Isringhausen, the longtime St. Louis closer, finally shut it down after his September 6th appearance in Washington. He had battled injuries and ineffectiveness all season long. So for the stretch run, as St. Louis was looking to wrap up a Division crown, it was Wainwright who would be seeing St. Louis's higher leverage innings. He performed well enough to earn Tony LaRussa's confidence and would be entrusted as St. Louis's closer for the postseason.
So while Papelbon's future hung in the balance and many wondered if his shoulder would heal in time for him to start the 2007 season, Wainwright emerged as one of the game's fiercest and most dominant relievers. No matter what happens the rest of the way, Wainwright's place in St. Louis baseball lore is secure. Wainwright threw just under 10 innings for St. Louis in the postseason, allowing no runs, just 9 baserunners while striking out 15. He notched four saves.
This season both Wainwright and Papelbon come to Spring Training ready to take on broader responsibilities for their respective clubs. Neither has started regularly before in the Big Leagues, but something tells me both will acquit themselves just fine in their new roles.
Speaking of relievers turned starters, Braden Looper got pounded today although the Cardinals came from behind to pull out a 9-5 spring training victory over the Atlanta Braves. After retiring the first two hitters, the righthander gave up four runs before getting a third out in the first inning. He pitched three innings and did not allow a run in the second or third.
- Patrick Sullivan, 3/17/2007, 9:33 AM EST
Looper has now started four times this spring. His stats are as follows:
IP H R ER BB SO ERA
14 17 5 5 3 6 3.21
St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan believes the 32-year-old Looper, who has appeared in 572 contests without a GS, can be an effective starter. Drafted by the Cardinals in the first round with the third overall pick of the 1996 amateur draft, Looper pitched four games for the Redbirds in 1998 before getting traded (along with Armando Almanza and Pablo Ozuna) to the Florida Marlins for Edgar Renteria. He tossed more than 70 games for the Fish every year from 1999-2003, then signed as a free agent with the New York Mets in January 2004. Braden served as the Mets closer for two years before reuniting with Duncan and Tony LaRussa.
Looper has a career ERA of 3.57 and has never had a year where his ERA+ was worse than the league average. The eight-year veteran relies on a hard sinker and a split-fingered fastball to get more than his fair share of grounders. He tends to give up a lot of hits (617 in 607 1/3 career IP) and will need to keep the ball down to succeed in his new role. The cousin of Aaron Looper, who pitched six games for the Seattle Mariners in 2003, would do well to develop a changeup to improve his effectiveness vs. LHB:
AVG OBP SLG OPS HR PA
vs. RHB .234 .297 .306 .603 16 1506
vs. LHB .306 .372 .464 .836 30 1107
How Wainwright and Looper fare as starters will go a long way in determing the fate of the defending champs in 2007.
- Rich Lederer, 3/17/07, 2:09 p.m. PST
For the Record
Former Dodgers relief pitcher Clem Labine passed away on Friday. He was 80. Steve Henson of the Los Angeles Times wrote an excellent obituary, highlighting the career of the man who once appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Based on a link provided by Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts, I also read an obit by MLB.com's Ken Gurnick, which included the following tidbit:
At one point, Labine retired future Hall of Famer Stan Musial 49 consecutive times.
Even though Tom Lasorda called Labine "one of the finest pitchers to ever play the game," I didn't think Gurnick's statement passed the smell test. As such, I checked Labine's pitching vs. batting record at Baseball-Reference.com. I scrolled down and learned that Musial was 1-for-13 with 4 BB vs. Labine. I clicked on Stan the Man's name and was directed to a more detailed page. I was reminded that the data only covered 1957-on (which is as far back as Retrosheet, the provider of this information, goes - at least at this point in time).
Given that Labine made his major-league debut in 1950, it was clear that the pitching vs. batting record was incomplete. I sent my friend Dave Smith, the creator of Retrosheet, an email with "Hyperbole?" in the subject title, asking if he could shed some light on this subject. Dave wrote back, "Hyperbole is way too polite a word. I first prepared this report in 1999 when I saw the story for the first time. Here are the numbers. I will contact the MLB site to explain how incorrect the claim is - he didn't even face him 49 times!"
Career results of Stan Musial vs Clem Labine:
AB H 2B 3B HR BB HP SO SF RBI AVG OBP SLG
42 10 1 1 1 6 0 2 0 3 .238 .333 .381
A little investigative work later and the fable was removed from Gurnick's article.
Update: As it turns out, there are a number of sites guilty of perpetuating this myth.
- Rich Lederer, 3/2/07, 8:00 p.m. PST
I'm going to be a guest on Grant Paulsen's Minors and Majors show on XM Satellite Radio on Saturday morning at about 11:30 a.m. ET. If you're an XM subscriber, you can hear it live on MLB Home Plate (XM 175).
- Rich Lederer, 3/2/07, 9:50 p.m. PST
I have to give Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus some props for going public in his latest Future Shock article and admitting that he was "dead wrong" on Jered Weaver last year. Goldstein wasn't the only one who missed the boat on Weaver, but he is the first to admit his mistake. Under "Players I Was Lower On Than Most" in his Systems Retrospective, Kevin wrote the following:
Los Angeles Angels
Player: Jered Weaver, RHP
What I said: "... hard to project as more than a No. 3 or 4 starter."
What happened: Weaver cruised through Triple-A, and won 11 games in 19 big league starts with a 2.56 ERA, which would have been good enough for the American League lead if he had enough innings. Following one of his early big league starts, a pro scout emailed me with simply, "If that's not a top of the rotation starter, I don't know what is." I was dead wrong, and provided his early-season arm troubles don't become a long-term concern, he'll probably rack up some genuine ERA titles down the road.
- Rich Lederer, 3/3/07, 9:15 a.m. PST
I caught some of the March 1st Colorado Rockies game and of course I was checking out Todd Helton. Looks like the position and loading of the hands is still similar to last year, but physically, he looks like a beast. Hasn't shaved since end of last season, and apparantly he has added back any/all of the weight he lost last year - and it doesn't look like he did it with pizza and ice cream. Not that I have seen much of Helton on TV in the past, but he looked impressive in the close-up they had of him at the beginning of the game. Looks like he is ready to get after it this year.
- Jeff Albert, 3/3/07, 2:55 p.m. CST
During my baseball playing days, I didn't have any real grasp on what made a hitter a valued offensive contributor. I was a back-of-the-baseball-card, triple crown numbers kind of guy. In addition, I took a great deal of pride in the fact that I rarely struck out.
When all else is equal, striking out infrequently is better than the alternative, but rarely is everything equal. I mention all of this in light of Mike Schmidt's recent comments about Adam Dunn and Pat Burrell, during which he referred to the pair as "mediocre" and cited their high number of strikeouts as the reason why.
Pat Burrell is not "mediocre." Adam Dunn is sure as hell not "mediocre." Both strike out a lot, but both also make outs of any kind more rarely than most of their peers. And yet here is what Dunn had to say regarding Schmidt's criticism. From a piece by Jayson Stark of ESPN.com:
"Well, that's a Hall of Fame opinion. I'm not proud of it, either. But I don't need somebody going around saying it when I already know it. I don't need to hear it from people. I think some of these guys forget how hard the game was."
It's nice that Dunn processes criticism and wants to get better but I am surprised that he does not seem to recognize just how good of a hitter he is. And I bet he is not alone in this regard. Perception becomes reality, even to the most accomplished players. I wonder if, say, Bobby Grich and Dwight Evans realize how good they were. Dunn may have struggled in 2006 for Cincinnati but still is a career .245/.380/.513 hitter, Hall of Fame neighborhood numbers if he can sustain them over a long career. There is a tendency by baseball fans, players and media - heck, by humans - to dwell on what an individual cannot do instead of appreciating all of the things a given person does well.
Dunn may strike out a lot and he arguably is falling a bit short of his potential, but he is a very good player. It would be nice if the next time someone points out all of the strikeouts Dunn racks up, that the critic would give equal play to Dunn's ability to draw bases on balls and his impressive yearly HR per AB numbers.
- Patrick Sullivan, 3/3/07, 5:25 PM EST
Some Things Are Better Left Alone
In his latest Lies, Damned Lies article (subscription required), Nate Silver attempts to improve upon the Defensive Spectrum that Bill James created nearly 30 years ago. As much as I normally like Nate's work, his three-demensional version adds little or no value to the original spectrum. Worse yet, it is much more convoluted than James' KISS approach.
James introduced the Defensive Spectrum (shown below) in the 1979 Baseball Abstract and elaborated on it in more detail than ever before in the 1982 Baseball Abstract.
DH | 1B | LF | RF | 3B | CF | 2B | SS
As a player grows older, and in certain other cases, he tends to be shifted leftward along this spectrum. Sometimes he moves in dramatic leaps, like Ernie Banks, a shortstop one year and a first baseman the next, or Rod Carew, from second to first. Sometimes he crawls unevenly along the spectrum, like Pete Rose. Sometimes, like Willie Mays, the only movement in a player's career is within the area covered by one position; that is, the player moves gradually from being a center fielder who has outstanding range to being a center fielder with very little range. But always he moves leftward, never right. Can you name one aging first baseman who has been shifted to second base or shortstop to keep his bat in the lineup?
James conceded that certain young players whose position-specific skills are either undeveloped or under-utilized can move rightward but noted these shifts are always dangerous and often disastrous. He also pointed out the implications of the leftward drift in building a ballclub, including the need "to allow the talent at the left end of the spectrum to take care of itself, as it will, and to worry first about the right end."
Silver states, "...while it's nice to dream of a day when every college will teach a Sabermetrics 101 course, and this poster will be hanging prominently on the wall, I know that probably won't be the case." Let's hope not. James' poster will more than suffice, thank you.
- Rich Lederer, 2/24/07, 11:25 a.m. PST
Jason Varitek... Manny Ramirez... Dustin Pedroia... David Ortiz... Julio Lugo...
One of these things is not like the other,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
Thanks to our good pals at Sesame Street, we see that Pedroia is the odd man out in the Boston Red Sox' lineup. The 2004 World Series champions have a veteran-ladened lineup, which does not often feature a raw rookie in its midst.
The 5'9'' second baseman has only 89 at-bats in the majors and he struggled during his debut in the fall of 2006 by hitting .191/.258/.303. Even so, the Red Sox have seen enough to feel comfortable with Pedroia in the starting lineup.
On the plus side, the 23-year-old walked seven times and also struck out only seven times in the majors. In fact, Pedroia has never struck out more than he has walked. Based on his minor league numbers, he has all the makings of a solid No. 2 hitter on a very powerful team.
His career minor league numbers are .303/.392/.454 and Pedroia has the pedigree as a former second round pick in 2004, drafted 64th overall. In their 2004 draft preview, Baseball America stated:
Pedroia's tools are below-average across the board, but people have learned not to sell him short. Scouts expect him to be a big leaguer, and probably an everyday player. He's not physically gifted at 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, but Pedroia is a classic overachiever and possibly the best player in college baseball. He has a great work ethic and exceptional sense of the game. He's hard-nosed and competitive, and without peer as a team leader. He's a blood-and-guts player who thrives under pressure and makes everyone around him better.
The only real threats to Pedroia's playing time are utility player Alex Cora and non-roster invitee Joe McEwing. It appears safe to say that Pedroia (barring injury or a complete collapse) will play a key role in the successes of the Red Sox this season. My guess is that he'll be in the top three in Rookie of the Year voting.
- Marc Hulet, 2/24/07, 9:36 p.m. EST
There have been a number of questionable moves this past off-season, but the one team that continues to puzzle me the most is the Baltimore Orioles.
The Orioles went into the off-season looking to make some noise in an effort to convince fans that they were serious about competing with Boston, New York and Toronto. But what they ended up with was a bunch of middle relievers past their prime and a couple of back-of-the-rotation starters.
RHP Jamie Walker, 35, three years/$12 million
RHP Chad Bradford, 32, three years/$10.5 million
RHP Scott Williamson, 31, one year/$0.9 million
RHP Danys Baez, 29, three years/$19 million
RHP Jaret Wright, 31, $7 million in 2007
RHP Steve Trachsel, 36, $3.1 million in 2007
RHP Jeremy Guthrie (waivers), C Adam Donachie (Rule 5) and OF/IF Freddie Bynum (minor trade)
The funny thing is that Baltimore traded young reliever Chris Britton away (for Wright), who may be a better option than any of the four veteran relievers they brought in.
As well, they did nothing to address their offence, which placed (in the American League):
10th in Doubles
12th in Triples
11th in Homers
11th in Total Bases
8th in On-Base Percentage
10th in Slugging Percentage
7th in Average
Another puzzling thing is that one of Baltimore's better power threats, Jay Gibbons, is feeling ignored by the Orioles. Instead of giving Gibbons a shot to prove himself defensively, they continue to trot out the declining Kevin Millar to first base.
"It doesn't appear that I will get a fair shot, and that is all I am looking for," Gibbons said. "I don't know what the reasoning is. I am not going to pout about it. I am here, and what I really want is to win. But do I think I should be given a shot to win a job? Absolutely. Why not?"
AVG OBP SLG VORP
Gibbons .277 .341 .458 11.8
Millar .272 .374 .437 15.5
The stats are similar, but Gibbons' ceiling is arguably much higher... especially with the power numbers.
For a team that is already struggling to convince players to come to Baltimore (even for above-market offerings), the player grumblings do not help.
- Marc Hulet, 2/25/07, 5:22 p.m. EST
If you listen to this mp3 from Baseball Prospectus, you will be treated to Will Carroll and Kevin Goldstein conversing about Goldstein's Top 100 prospects list. And you will hear Goldstein say the following:
"There's only two prospect lists that matter, Baseball America's and mine"
I'll steer clear of offering further commentary regarding my thoughts on either Carroll or Goldstein but let me just say that I urge everyone to check out the work of Bryan Smith and John Sickels and then decide for yourself if you agree with Goldstein.
- Patrick Sullivan, 2/25/2007, 9:24 p.m. EST
At the request of my friend Alex Belth, I wrote a guest column for Bronx Banter. The article is entitled "Bernie and the Yanks (From the Outside Looking In)." I make the case that Williams could still be a useful member of the team and wonder why the situation has deteriorated to its current standstill after a successful partnership that began on Bernie's 17th birthday in 1985. Check it out.
- Rich Lederer, 2/26/07, 6:59 a.m. PST
Spring Has Sprung
The Weekend Blog is a new feature that will run on Saturdays and Sundays. Be sure to check back throughout the weekend to stay abreast of our latest posts.
Miguel Cabrera won his arbitration case, the first time a player has gotten the better of his team this year. The 24-year-old third baseman, who hit .339/.430/.568 last season, will earn $7.4 million in 2007 (vs. $472,000 in 2006). Cabrera received the third-highest payout ever awarded in arbitration, trailing only Alfonso Soriano ($10M) and Andruw Jones ($8.2M).
It's too bad the Marlins and Cabrera seem to be at odds with each other. Cabrera is an Albert Pujols-type talent and should be taken care of in a similar manner. Pujols and the Cardinals avoided arbitration by agreeing to a seven-year extension after the slugger's third season. Pujols earned $7M in 2004, $11M in 2005, and $14M in 2006, and he will receive $15M in 2007, and $16M in 2008-2010 with a club option for $16M in 2011 (or a $5M buyout if not exercised).
I wonder what Pujols would be worth in today's market? Can you say "partner?"
It's funny how the off-season plays out sometimes. Players like Jason Marquis and Jeff Weaver obtain what some might call ridiculous contracts, while others settle for much less than they're worth. One example of this would be Ronnie Belliard, who just signed a one-year, minor league contract with the Washington Nationals, according to a press release I received from the Nats' media department this morning.
- Rich Lederer, 2/18/07, 12:20 a.m. PST
In 2006, Belliard hit a combined .272/.322/.403 with 30 doubles, 13 homers and 67 RBI in 147 games with Cleveland and St. Louis. Acquired by St. Louis on July 30 in exchange for Hector Luna, Belliard earned a World Series ring as he started 14 of the Cardinals' 16 post-season games at second base.
Those numbers certainly appear good enough for a two or three-year deal at about $3 or $4 million per year. So what happened? Well, Belliard isn't a pitcher. While the market for pitchers exploded (again) this off-season, the market for position players - outside of Alfonso Soriano and Vernon Wells - did not take a huge jump.
The 31-year-old second baseman does not find himself in an enviable position (pun not intended). The Nationals already have Cristian Guzman (returning from injury) at shortstop with two years remaining on a four-year, $16.8 million contract. They also have former shortstop Felipe Lopez at second base. In an ideal world, the Nationals would simply eliminate Guzman, the weakest of the three players, but he still has $8.4 million on his contract and zero trade value.
The leaves Belliard to battle for a back-up position and hope for an injury to Guzman or Lopez. But he also has a fight on his hands for two backup infield spots with Bernie Castro, Joe Thurston, Jose Macias, D'Angelo Jimenez, Tony Womack, Josh Wilson, Tony Batista and Kory Castro.
It should be an interesting (ugly?) spring for the Nationals.
Carlos Zambrano's arbitration case is scheduled for this Tuesday. The Cubs are looking to compensate the fiery righty $11.025 million for his 2007 services while Zambrano would like $15.5 million. To the extent that one must look after their own monetary self-interest, I understand where each side is coming from but it is hard to understand Chicago's longer-range strategy here. How did it get to this point? You do the drunken sailor thing all off-season with the likes of Alfonso Soriano, Mark DeRosa and Jason Marquis and then when it comes time to address your 25-year old horse, you tighten the purse strings?
- Marc Hulet, 2/18/07, 11:29 a.m. EST
Since 2003, Zambrano has been one of the very best in baseball. He's the type of player you want to lock up pre-arbitration, the way the Cards did with Pujols, the Indians did with Grady Sizemore and the Twins did with Johan Santana. Offering a young player a lucrative pre-arb contract, financial security for life, in exchange for a below open-market pricetag is a great way to stockpile talent affordably while forging goodwill with your players. The Cubs are either blind to this phenomenon or they drastically undervalue the great Zambrano.
Save for four years in Philadelphia for college, I am a lifelong metropolitan Boston resident and a longtime sports fan. As such, I am no stranger to the Dan Shaughnessy mail-in. Put simply, Dan's a lazy jerk. He deliberately insults readers, players and anything else you can think of with regularity. He seldom has any insight to share. Dan's also probably the wealthiest and most well-known Boston sportswriter, a sad commentary indeed on the state of sports journalism. Dan gets a rise out of people, which gets him airtime on local sports radio and television, which theoretically sells papers for the Boston Globe. Although given the paucity of papers the Globe sells these days, maybe it turns out Dan is as dilutive to the Globe's brand as The Globe is to the New York Times's brand.
- Patrick Sullivan, 2/18/07, 12:47 p.m. EST
Today's offering from The Curly Haired Boyfriend (Carl Everett's name for Dan and probably his greatest contribution as a Red Sox) has Shaughnessy on display in all his hacktastic glory. There's an introductory, elitist shot at Ft. Myers.
Position players are scheduled to "report" Tuesday, and their first workout is supposed to be Thursday at the minor league complex at the dead end of Edison Road in this godforsaken town.
And far be it from me to defend Curt Schilling and his love of microphones, but the irony of Dan Shaughnessy calling another a "Blowhard" is just too rich to ignore.
We have rejoiced in the retirement of Keith Foulke and we won't sleep until the Sox make a decision on the 2008 contract extension for the Big Blowhard himself, the inimitable Schill.
And then there's the old CHB standby, the reader alienation jab.
This Sox talk is enough to fill the sports hole for the nightly news at 6 and 11 and keeps the fan-boy bloggers breathlessly e-mailing one another 24/7. Our local baseball team is finally filling the void left in the wake of the Patriots' stunning loss at Indianapolis four weeks ago today.
All of this, mind you, is just a lead-in for Shaughnessy's favorite target, Manny Ramirez. There are almost too many displays of unprofessionalism and personal contempt to display here but I will lay out a few of the highlights below.
There's been no word from Camp Manny since he curiously quit in the middle of the crucial Yankees series at Fenway in late August.
In case you are wondering, Dan is referring to the five-game sweep the Yanks laid on Boston when the AL East was still a race in 2006. The funny part about Shaughnessy's mentioning of this series is that Ramirez was the only guy on the team to show up for the "crucial series" in question, hitting .727/.850/1.455 over the five games.
Nothing from Manny's teammates who loathe his attitude but bite their tongues and say nothing in the hope that Manny will return and post his customary .320, 35, 110.
Just trust Dan. He knows Manny's teammates "loathe his attitude" and there is no evidence required and Dan would appreciate it if you would kindly stop asking questions. Back to Dan-O's fan alienization routine.
But he also has a propensity to shut it down, and we never know why. And please, don't be a stooge and attempt to perpetuate the farcical theory that Manny was too wounded to play last September. Every man in the Sox clubhouse knows what went down; teammates simply wouldn't say anything on the record, lest they risk "losing" Manny.
The amazing part of the Manny-fan relationship is that most Boston baseball customers, who are normally critical and discerning, have lost their minds when it comes to Mr. Ramirez. The timeless rules and standards don't apply. Manny can hit. It's a joy to watch him hit. And it's pretty clear that he's incapable of offending the sensibilities of most Sox fans.
Said another way, "I have a press-pass and you don't and I know things that you can't and Manny is lazy and that's just how it is."
And then there's the grand finale, a jab with a tinge of racism mocking Manny's intelligence.
Can't wait for that Manny Moment when he sees Daisuke Matsuzaka for the first time and asks teammates, "Hey, who is that Japanese guy and why is he wearing Johnny Damon's number?"
Well Dan, you've altogether parted with any sense of professionalism or even civility. But hey, maybe Around the Horn will ask you to be a regular next season.
Keith Foulke's retirement announcement took just about everybody by surprise, including his new team the Cleveland Indians. The Indians signed Foulke this past off-season, despite his declining numbers and injuries, to a one year, $5 million contract (with an option for 2008 at $5 million). In all honesty, the last time he was effective was 2004, when he saved 32 games for Boston and posted a 2.17 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 83 innings. Knee injuries sapped him of his effectiveness the previous two years.
- Patrick Sullivan, 2/18/07, 4:52 p.m. EST
What this does now to Cleveland is it thrusts Joe Borowski into the closer's role. Borowski, for those of you who are not overly familiar with him, is somewhat similar to former Cleveland Indians closer Bob Wickman (now with Atlanta). Borowski does not throw hard - he works in the upper 80s with his fastball and also features a splitter and a slider - but he has solid command.
The former 32nd round draft pick has experience as a closer and he saved 33 games for the 2003 Cubs and 36 games with the surprising Marlins of 2006. However, last season Borowski walked 33 batters in just under 70 innings, which is not a good sign. He is headed over to the American League where there is one more powerful hitter to worry about in the lineup.
The other affect Foulke's retirement has on Cleveland is that the team has one more spot available for the glut of bullpen hopefuls. Jason Davis, who is out of options, is more likely to stay in Cleveland now as a long man. Veteran Roberto Hernandez will likely slide into the setup role vacated by Borowski. Newcomer Aaron Fultz should secure the LOOGY role on The Tribe. When healthy the last three years, Matt Miller has put up solid numbers and should have the inside track on a spot. Rafael Betancourt, a rare mainstay in the Cleveland bullpen the past three years is almost assured of a spot as well.
That leaves one spot, should Cleveland go with a 12-man rotation, for Tom Mastny (three options remaining), Fausto Carmona (one), Rafael Perez (two) or Fernando Cabrera (one). Perez could have the inside track if the Indians want a second lefty in the pen. Veteran Cliff Politte was also recently signed to a minor league deal.
The 2007 spring bullpen battle may not be quite as cutthroat as we expected, but Cleveland should still have a relatively successful staff even without Foulke.
Speaking of the Washington Nationals, as Marc Hulet discussed in the second bullet point above, has anyone - including GM Jim Bowden or manager Manny Acta - taken a close look at their starting rotation?
- Marc Hulet, 2/18/07, 6:42 p.m. EST
John Patterson, at $850,000, is the highest-paid pitcher on the staff. He has thrown more than 100 innings in a season once yet has already been named as the Opening Day starter. The candidates for the other four spots include such notables as Jason Bergmann, Matt Chico, Joel Hanrahan, Shawn Hill, Mike Hinckley, Mike O'Connor, Beltran Perez, Tim Redding, Billy Traber, and Jerome Williams (who had one of the lowest K/BF rates of any pitcher in the minors last year).
As Tim Kurkjian detailed a few days ago in an article for ESPN The Magazine, "the top nine potential starters won 11 major league games among them last year." Good luck Nats fans. There is almost zero chance that your team will lose fewer than 100 games this year.
- Rich Lederer, 2/18/07, 10:28 p.m. PST