WTNYNovember 19, 2003
Pair of Deals and lots more
By Bryan Smith

Busy day in the Majors, as I've got two trades and a signing to discuss. ESPN was quick to report a Mark Kotsay for Ramon Hernandez and Terrence Long deal, as it is yet to be finalized. But my guess is that it will be, so my comments are going up today. And if you haven't seen Christian Ruzich's new blog, you shouldn't be calling yourself a baseball fan.

In the proposed deal, the Padres would be netting the catcher Kevin Towers wanted, and a left-handed bat for the outfield. I talked about San Diego's claim of Henri Stanley a couple of days ago, but the Long acquisition ruins Stanley's, and Todd Sears' chances of making the team. Before I go too far into it, let's look at a few numbers:

Hernandez: .273/.331/.458
Hernandez vs. RH: .302/.365/.494 vs. LH- .208/.255/.376
Ramon at Home: .266/.332/.425 away- .280/.331/.488
Before Break: .266/.322/.447 after break- .288/.343/.471

Long: .245/.293/.385
Long vs. RH: .249/.302/.408 vs. LH: .236/.270/.329
Long at home: .277/.328/.460 away: .218/.263/.321
Before Break: .251/.300/.405 after break: .236/.282/.354

Wow, Long is bad. Long can hit right-handers a lot more than left-handers, and he can play left and center. That will be the extent of his playing time in San Diego. He was terrible away from Alameda, and he was God-awful after the All-Star break. He'll never get 400AB again, but with the Padres now going with a terrible outfield, he'll come into games late.

Hernandez, on the other hand, shows very promising numbers. His slugging percentage was .488 away from home, and it was .471 after the break. He actually showed a backwards platoon split, although it was the first time in his career in which that held true. I think he has the ability to top a .500 slugging percentage in San Diego, although it's unfair to expect a .350OBP. He's durable and powerful, and won't have problems behind San Diego's big guns.

So, as I see it, San Diego has shored up their 2004 starting lineup. It will look something like:

1. Mark Loretta- 2B- RH
2. Sean Burroughs- 3B- LH
3. Phil Nevin- LF- RH
4. Brian Giles- CF- LH
5. Ryan Klesko- 1B- LH
6. Ramon Hernandez- C- RH
7. Xavier Nady- RF- RH
8. Khalil Greene- SS- RH

Although, let me say I love Jonah Keri's idea of trading Nevin or Klesko for starting (Odalis?), and then going after Mike Cameron to play center field. That would really improve this team, and I would then be ready to hand them the divisional crown. After Sabean beat Towers to Pierzynski, it was essential for Kevin to make a quick deal. I think Hernandez will outperform A.J. in terms of OPS next season, and right now the Padres might be favored to win this division.

Oakland got Mark Kotsay in this deal, and landed Bobby Kielty in exchange for Ted Lilly. Let's look at the two hitters that Billy Beane has landed:

Kotsay: .266/.343/.384
Kotsay vs. LH: .236/.316/.329 vs. RH: .278/.353/.406
Kotsay at home: .266/.360/.353 away: .266/.324/.415
Before Break: .245/.329/.340 After break: .290/.360/.438

Kielty: .244/.358/.400
Kielty vs. LH: .300/.417/.500 vs. RH: .216/.328/.328
Kielty at home: .222/.321/.387 away: .267/.397/.416
Before Break: .252/.370/.420 After break: .233/.342/.376

I banked on Kotsay this season, probably overdrafting him in a few fantasy leagues. A bad back led to me later releasing him, and to him putting up only decent 2003 numbers. It's important to look at the platoon split, as Oakland has a few (Chavez, Durazo, Hatteberg) left-handers already. Eric Byrnes is going to platoon here, as he slugged .524 off southpaws last year. The numbers Kotsay posted after the break are indicative on his performance, and there is a strong likelihood that Kotsay is the 2004 Oakland A's leadoff man. There goes my Kenny Lofton idea.

J.P. Riccardi worked with Billy Beane a long time, and has noticed a flaw. He likes people too much. He chose Jeremy Brown in the first round, when he could have had him in the 8th. And with Kielty, he ended up paying a lot for a guy who didn't have a good season. But I like Kielty as well, so I think this will eventually work out for Beane. Kielty hits left-handers very well, but if he continues to hit so poorly vs. RH, Billy McMillon is going to steal some at-bats. He will be a major piece of the puzzle in 2004, and Beane is counting on him, and fellow "holy grail" acquisition Erubiel Durazo to lead them to the playoffs.

And let me go off on a few Oakland tangents. To anyone saying Oakland will use Jeremy Brown next year: you are an idiot. I think Minnesota's rushing Joe Mauer too much, and he's the Majors top prospect. Brown, he ain't in the top 50. Oakland is prepared to use Melhuse, and don't be shocked if they sign Todd Pratt, who slugs lefties and walks a lot. Also, I was re-reading Moneyball. Hatteberg, the supposed posterchild of the book, is now the antichrist. If the book is about spotting inefficiencies and managing resources, why sign Scott to an extension. Graham Koonce has the patience and power philosophy Oakland loves, at an eighth less the cost of Scott. God, Beane is SOOO overrated.

With this, Beane is done fixing that offense. It needs little tweaking, so you'll see some variation of this:

Oakland vs. RH Oakland vs. LH
1. Kotsay- CF 1. Scutaro- 2B???
2. Crosby- SS 2. Crosby- SS
3. Chavez- 3B 3. Kielty- LF
4. Durazo- DH 4. Chavez- 3B
5. Kielty/McMillon- LF 5. Byrnes- CF
6. Hatteberg- 1B 6. Durazo- DH
7. Dye- RF 7. Dye- RF
8. Melhuse- C 8. Hatteberg- 1B
9. Ellis- 2B 9. Pratt- C

OK, finally, moving onto Toronto. I'm going to team the acquisition of Pat Hentgen ($2.2M) into this, and analyze Riccardi landing two pitchers. Let's see those numbers (W-L ERA H/IP K/BB):

Lilly: 12-10 4.34 179/178.1 147/58
Lilly at home: 7-5 3.95 83/86.2 65/25 away: 5-5 4.71 96/91.2 82/33
Before Break: 5-7 4.96 110/105.1 80/37 after: 7-3 3.45 69/73 67/21

Hentgen: 7-8 4.09 150/160.2 100/58
at home: 4-4 3.95 78/84.1 57/32 away: 3-4 4.25 72/76.1 43/26
Before Break: 1-5 5.25 81/73.2 43/31 after: 6-3 3.10 69/87 57/27

Lilly was another player I chose in my fantasy draft, but he proved a little too wishy-washy for my fantasy needs. He's a great pitcher and I love watching him, but is it ever going to completely come together? It did in the second half, which seems to be Riccardi's motives behind both of these moves. Lilly's ERA will suffer a bit moving to the Skydome, but I think he'll be a better pitcher than 4.34. He'll have a 4.00 ERA next year, when he would have had a 3.50 in Oakland.

Hentgen is an interesting addition, and a little expensive as well. If J.P. waited on this, he probably could have saves 700K or something along those lines. Hentgen had a disastrous first half that was even worse than the numbers, because there are 22 effective relief innings in that 5.25 ERA. He really got his stuff back in the second half, and became the Hentgen of old. He was virtually the same inside and outside of Camden Yards, so I would ignore that. I can't call him an innings-eater, just another Riccardi gamble. He's a decent third starter, and will do a helluva lot better than Cory Lidle last year.

In case you didn't realize it, this really does mean Escobar and Lidle are both gone. Kelvim is said to be deciding between Philly and Anaheim, and should be on a team in days. Lidle might be a tiny one-year deal, my guess with the White Sox, who coveted him a year ago.

Continuing on with rumors, the Reds have finalized their list of managers to 4: Dave Miley (interim), Jerry Manuel (ex-manager), Brian Graham (Player Development guy for Pittsburgh) and John McLaren (Pinella's bench coach). My guess? Miley and Graham will be eliminated, and O'Brien's first decision will be down to Manuel and McLaren. I would urge not to go after Manuel, but it probably will be the former Manager of the Year.

And finally before I get to the OPS numbers, let me say something about a pair of shortstops. Kaz Matsui is not going to the Yankees nor the Mets, and Alex Rodriguez isn't going anywhere, much less the Mets. Matsui will go where he can play shortstop, and that is disputed with the New York teams. Ultimately, Little Matsui's decision is between Baltimore, Anaheim, Seattle, and Los Angeles. Texas is not going to trade A-Rod, and they really should stop bitching about it. John Hart ultimately has $50 million for 24 players, and A-Rod. I don't think Billy Beane would be bitching with that situation.

OK, to continue my look at OPS numbers, here are the 3-year trends for NL West players, which are a little over 30 players:

San Fran G-Men
Benito Santiago- 664, 765, 753- Getting old, and will be below .753 next year
A.J. Pierzynski- 763, 773, 824- Three up, but matching .824 in Pac Bell? Doubtful.
J.T. Snow- 750, 704, 805- .704 is low and .804 is high, he's a .750 player
Ray Durham- 803, 824, 807- Durham is very consistent, a definite .800 player
Rich Aurilia- 941, 718, 735- .941 was a joke, he's a 700-750 player, no more
Edgardo Alfonzo- 725, 850, 725- Amazing what that .850 with the Mets made him
Barry Bonds- 1378, 1381, 1278- I promise you, Bonds will be less than 1.278 in '04
Marquis Grissom- 654, 831, 790- He will sit around .800 the next few seasons
Jose Cruz Jr.- 856, 755, 780- Somewhere between .780 and .856 next season

LA Dodgers
Paul Lo Duca- 917, 732, 712- It will keep going down, Lo Duca was never that good
Fred McGriff- 930, 858, 750- He'll be better than .750 outside Dodger Stadium
Adrian Beltre- 721, 729, 714- In Los Angeles, he'll never top .750, he will elsewhere
Robin Ventura- 778, 826, 741- Tough read, but probably right around .750
Jeremy Burnitz- 851, 676, 786- In a hitter's park, he'll top .786
Shawn Green- 970, 943, 815- Three down, but it won't be lower than .815

'Zona D-Bax
Junior Spivey- 777, 865, 759- Will live between .750-.800 for awhile
Shea Hillenbrand- 682, 789, 782- Gets way too much bad press for nearing .800
Craig Counsell- 721, 699, 632- Three down, but should bounce back in 2004
Luis Gonzalez- 1117, 896, 934- Won't be touching .934 ever again
Steve Finley- 767, 869, 863- Will be a little below .863 next season

The Airless Boys
Charles Johnson- 771, 670, 775- In Coors he's .775, elsewhere he's .675
Todd Helton- 1117, 1006, 1088- Such an underrated player, always above 1.000
Jay Payton- 669, 839, 866- The Coors effect is amazing, three straight up
Preston Wilson- 825, 758, 880- Living to potential or helped by thin air?
Larry Walker- 1111, 1023, 898- Three down, but I think he'll be .850-.950 next yr.

Ryan Klesko- 923, 925, 810- Will be back above .900 on very good 2004 team
Mark Loretta- 698, 791, 813- What the Hell? Expect .750-.800 in '04
Phil Nevin- 976, 757, 826- I don't have any projection for this guy
Ramon Hernandez- 724, 648, 789- Hernandez will top .800 next season
Terence Long- 747, 688, 678- Three down, and will be lucky to ever top .700
Brian Giles- 994, 1072, 941- He'll be above .950 in '04

OK, recap. Here are those precious few NL West sluggers with positive indicators:

A.J. Pierzynski- C- Giants
Jay Payton- LF- Rockies (I wouldn't trade for him)
Mark Loretta- 2B- Padres

And that is it. Pierzynski's numbers will decline in Pac Bell, Payton will be abysmal outside of Denver, and I don't think it is possible for Loretta to top .813. So that just proves the NL West is a very old, and diminishing division. Here's some more proof, those with negative indicators:

Paul Lo Duca- C- Dodgers
Fred McGriff- 1B- Dodgers
Shawn Green- RF- Dodgers
Steve Finley- CF- Diamondbacks
Larry Walker- RF- Rockies
Terrence Long- OF- Padres

Of those, expect Lo Duca, Finley, Long, and possibly Walker to really feel the heat. McGriff should be better in a hitter's park, Green could bounce back, and Walker should be more motivated after Clint Hurdle verbally tore him to shreads.

That's it for today. Pray for more trades in the next 24 hours, and send me an e-mail! I would love suggestions for articles you'd like to see, or your list of favorite baseball books. Thanks a lot!