Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Santana to the Metropolitans

So you want the most dominating pitcher over the last over the last six seasons? You think you are a big shot and but don't want to have to go into a bidding war during the 2008-09 Hot Stove League? Or maybe you believe that you are one piece away from being a champion and want to enter your new stadium with a ring ceremony?

Check out the rest of my article here.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I Can't Confirm This, But....

"We do not have any reports of fatalities yet, but we believe that the death toll may be in the hundreds of millions. Beaverton has only a population of about eight thousand, Tom, so this would be quite devastating." Field Reporter (South Park, 2005)

What am I trying to say? That at least I am willing to speculate on what may be. Currently the Baltimore Orioles are reported to be trading lefty pitcher Erik Bedard to the Seattle Mariners for highly touted outfield prospect Adam Jones, reliever George Sherrill, minor league pitcher Chris Tillman and another player yet to be named. This report is via ESPN.com that states the trade is simply awaiting the players to complete their physicals and for Baltimore ownership to approve of the deal.

This report has yet to be confirmed, but if history is any indicator (and yes, I am using FoxNews and South Park as my historic references of choice) this deal is as good as done-note I am being incredibly sarcastic, but I don't have much more to write about aside from No Child Left Behind.

Keep in mind, as more information comes available, I will add on comments and grades. For now, I will discuss the players that are said to be involved and insight into whom I believe may be added.

To start, the center piece of this trade, Erik Bedard. While teams had been making noise about Erik Bedard, the majority of speculation behind a starting pitcher being moved, revolved around Johan Santana. I will say this though, in my opinion if the Orioles were set on moving Bedard, pulling the trigger on this moving rather then waiting on the Twins eventual move of Santana was the right thing to do.

Erik Bedard will turn 29 prior to Opening Day. In 2007, Bedard turned the corner and became one of the American League's elite starting pitchers owning a dominating strikeout rate. During this season, he posted a career best in NRA, of 3.07. His RA for the season was third in all of baseball and first in the American League. He also owned the American Leagues top xFIP at 3.13, 28 points lower then his closest competition. With all of that in mind, there is little reason to think Bedard was going to enter the 2008 season as anything less then a top 3 or 4 pitcher in the American League, among the likes of Santana, Josh Beckett and C.C Sabathia.

However, one could hold concern that entering his age 29 season, Bedard had yet to pitch 200 innings in any one season. Although he has not been sidelined for a long period of time due to a major injury. A major injury to a pitcher is one in which occurs to the throwers arm or shoulder. Bedard did have Tommy John surgery in 2002, forcing him to miss the 2003 season. Outside of that, it appears as though Bedard just has a difficult time staying in games, combined with an overly cautious team philosophy. Neither of which are terrible assets in todays game and in fact, could be classified as a bonus given Bedard's age.

Given that Bedard has been in the majors for such a long time, there isn't much need to get into his old prospect status. That said, it is still interesting to note that entering the 2002 season John Sickels (via Baseball Prospectus.com) rated the then 23 year old as a B prospect after a 2001 season in which Bedard posted an ERA below 2.50 and a K/9 of over 11.50.

Bedard will be exchange for center piece Adam Jones. The 22 year old toolsy outfielder dominated triple A in 2007 after being aggressively moved through the Mariners system. 2007 was Jones' second season in triple A, however he did not disappoint, improving all of his numbers by decent margins, even more so impressive because of his age relative to competition. Something Jones has always had to fight against and something that may stunt his long term growth.

Jones ranked as John Sickels #2 prospect in the Mariners system entering 2006, and #1 entering the 2007 and upcoming seasons. At each stage, Jones rated as a B+ prospect, once being compared to a younger Mike Cameron without the walks but the potential to improve.

Entering the 2007 season, Sickels ranked Jones as his #28 hitting prospect, if you decide to scan the list, it is almost impossible to argue with any of the names listed ahead of him and can hardly be considered a knock. Keep in mind, that the Orioles have a single hitter on this list, a kid who is all of 19 years old and ranks as the #4 Orioles prospect entering 2008. Checking back with 2007's top 50 hitters list, I can't imagine any of them being available for Bedard and a team not regretting it sooner then later.

Baseball Prospectus would have ranked Jones as a 5 star talent entering the 2008 season, just behind Felix Hernandez and ahead of Jeff Clement (who qualifies). However, he unfortunately did not qualify and will have to prove that the Mariners did more harm then good in rushing him through their system. Even with that in mind, Jones has a very good chance to be an excellent outfielder both with his bat and with his glove.

The next player, and the one who in my opinion will end up being the head scratcher 5 years down the road, is Chris Tillman. The 19 year old who has just over a single professional season under his belt is considered to be a plus talent and rated as a 4 star prospect by Baseball Prospectus. Here is their glowing review from the same author,
"The Good: Tillman is a highly projectable power pitcher. He has a loose, long frame and good mechanics, with a fastball that sits at 92-94 mph and touches 96, which should become a more regular occurrence as his body fills out. His overhand curveball is a true plus offering that he breaks hard through the zone. Scouts love his aggressiveness, and team officials praised his ability to survive as a teenager in one of the worst pitching environments around.
The Bad: Tillman simply needs a little polish. While he’s hardly wild, he needs to improve his command and control. Like many young pitchers, his changeup needs some improvement, but he does show some feel for the pitch, and it’s already gotten far better since he was drafted."
Not even a hint of a negative there. I imagine Baltimore would be smart and start him at an age friendly level this season, which would be high A with an obtainable promotion to double A by mid season.

Entering 2007, John Sickels rated Tillman as a B- pitcher with "huge upside...[and in] need [of] time". A more recent review has Tillman jumping up as a B+ pitcher. Keep in mind, that at an older age with a substantially superior statistical track record, Erik Bedard rated as a B prospect.

To be entirely honest, I don't really care for the addition of Sherrill. He is, a reliever who had an excellent season. Although, 2007 was an incredibly lucky season for Sherrill as he posted BABIP and LOB% numbers that are well below league norms, however in limited action as a reliever, that can often occur. His strikeout and walk rates are very impressive and appear to be sustainable given his track record. However, the Orioles are trading their best pitcher, dealt their second best hitter previously and are said to be in the midst of dealing their third best hitter. What need they will have for yet another bullpen arm is beyond me.


To grade out a winner and a loser in this trade, I will go with the Mariners. Bedard could very well be the difference between this team winning the division in 2008 and falling 7 games out, as they did in 2007. The Mariners also need to look to the immediate future as their farm system does not look promising, especially compared to that of the division rival Athletics. However, this is not to suggest that the Orioles lost out altogether. If they can manage to squeak Wladimir Balentien out of the Mariners, instead of Sherrill and another low level prospect, they definitely made out very well for themselves. That would give the team a very young outfield core of high ceiling hitters.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Better Late Then Never - OVER the Radar

www.creedthoughts.gov.www\creedthoughts

I've sort of been out of commission lately, not so much because of anything serious, rather, I've just been lazy. Thanks to whoever checks this regularly and I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoy making these articles.

This weeks Under the Radar is actually not going to be an Over the Radar. The reason being, there really wasn't a signing in the last week that jumped out at me as a great value, a deal that we would look back at in August and wonder how that Front Office managed to lure said player for such a small cost or a player that was in such little demand. This week however, there really wasn't anything that did not receive a great deal of coverage, or really, the organization is going to get what everyone expects out of them-in other words, they are, what we thought they were.


The GM Dayton Moore of the Kansas City Royals signs starting pitcher Brett Tomko for $3M. I'm sorry, what? That right, the deal also included $1.5M in incentives. In other words, Tomko had a terrible 2007 and is poised to enjoy a raise in 2008. I'd like to put this into some sort of real world perspective, but I'm not sure I am capable of such analogy. Maybe after looking deeper I'll find some 'straw into gold' metaphor...

I really do not understand this deal. That is, how can a pitcher like Brett Tomko receive a guaranteed $3M from a pro ball club? In addition to this, why does a team that has a top 3 of Gil Meche, Brian Bannister and Zach Greinke feel the need to bring in a Tomko starter when the organization is already filled with end of the rotation starter? Tomko, as MLB.com reports "will compete for the last two spots with Jorge De La Rosa, Kyle Davies, Hideo Nomo, John Bale, Luke Hochevar, Luke Hudson and Brian Lawrence." Two names on that list will probably jump out to everyone, being Nomo and Lawrence. However, both are Spring Training invites, so there really isn't any harm in having them around.

So why Brett Tomko? Why guarantee this guy $3M? Well, I don't know. The guy is going to be 34 years old a week after Opening Day, so it is not as if he was signed for potential. He is coming off a marginally unlucky season, so possibly Moore figured he would get a greater return towards the mean, although sometimes you have to look at a pitchers numbers and say, he's just that bad!

In 2007 Tomko split the season between Los Angeles and San Diego in the National League where he posted an outstanding 6.14 NRA (Normalized Runs Allowed). I say outstanding, as I am puzzled how a pitcher is allowed to throw 130+ innings while piling up a 6.14 NRA, never mind that he was able to sign a $3M contract after the fact. In addition, he did this while pitching in the lesser league in two ballparks that favor pitchers. Without getting into too much detail on either front, the affect each will have on Tomko will presumably be negated by a season with league average luck. So his 6+ NRA is legit-that is, if you did not have faith in his career mark of 4.83.

Let us also remember that he threw 21 games of relief, totaling 29 2/3 innings pitched. During this stint, Tomko provided a little bit of evidence that outside of being a poor starter, he is a terrible reliever. His line as a reliever: 6.06 ERA with a 1.58 WHIP. Yes, the sample size is small as it is based on a single season of statistics, but given Tomko's career ERA of 4.62, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

So again, Why Brett Tomko? Royals Review writes that Tomko "[C]an start or relieve. He can provide veteran presence. He can provide grit." I know, 'grit'. Did we not already establish that talent trumps grit every time?

I imagine the reason Dayton Moore will tell reporters is the old adage that one can never have too much pitching. However, as the Baseball Prospectus team of writers discovered in their 2006 book Baseball Between the Numbers (Steven Goldman, 291)
Pitching is a bit like oil: Nothing happens without it, and you'd like to get as much of it as money will allow, but if you don't buy food you will have a more immediate problem than whether or not your car will run. In strictest mathematical terms, a team can only benefit by adding pitching. But in the adsence of available pitching, making other changes will work just as well
Which is to say that you can't have too much pitching-except when you don't have enough of everything else.
So why Brett Tomko? I really don't know. Give him a minor league contract with a Spring Training invite and have him prove that he is superior to any young are you have in the system. Have him display the ability to be worthy of a roster spot that could otherwise be manned by a farm hand.

My biggest problem with this deal, outside of the fact that it does justify the ARod's of Major League Baseball making a king's ransom, is that the Royals are not going to contend in 2008. Tomko is going to have no place on this roster outside of a few garbage innings, something the $3M guaranteed essentially guarantees him. As I suggested in 2006 with the Indians, give the kids a shot, at least then, the club knows what it has when they are about to contend.

Let's also consider another factor. $3M on Opening Day is $3M. A $3M player is a $3M player. However, save that money, put it in the bank and sit on it. Let's look at this from the mid point of the baseball season. What is $3M owed to a player from the mid way point on equal too? A cumulative contract of $6M. A $6M player is a $6M player. Put this way, if Moore had the choice of Tomko or El Duqe, my money is that he would prefer the later. That said, is Tomko going to be the difference between being in the mix by the mid point in the season and being well out of contention? Presumably he will perform at well under replacement level making this, essentially $3M wasted.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Let's Make it Official

"That ref's a real prick out there. That's right, you heard me, my man! Number four's been throwing elbows, and someone's kid is going to get hurt...Let's make it official then..." Old School (2003)

The Blue Jays and Cardinals agreed on Monday to a trade involving third sackers Troy Glaus and Scott Rolen
. This trade was speculated about over the weekend, but I am uncertain how many people actually thought it would go down. After all, why? Both players involved are beyond their prime. Both come with severe injury risk. Both players are currently overpaid. However, both players were once former All Stars, and maybe each club feels that a change of scenery will help.

In Scott Rolen, the Blue Jays are acquiring an ex-Gold Glover and as mentioned a former All Star. Although, the slip in Rolen's production has been widely publicized, as well as his recent run-ins with ex-manager Tony LaRussa. In the 2006 playoffs, LaRussa blamed Rolen for being sore, as he refused to take time off in September of that season.

However, Rolen will cross the 45th parallel and team up with what Will Carrol calls the Jays medical staff "among the best in the business". Which bodes well, given that Will Carrol suggests "it was Rolen's lack of trust after the initial treatment and surgeries on his shoulder that were the beginning of the end."

Carrol goes into further detail about Rolen's shoulder, suggesting the arthritis,
"is going to come back, but his most recent procedure shouldn't be dissimilar to the last one in terms of results: he'll be okay for a while, but the time will come when the shoulder will start to tighten up. At that point, Rolen's going to have to take a hard look at a needle full of cortisone and the rest of his life after baseball."
At 33 years old Rolen is not getting any younger. He will be under control for the next 3 years at $12M a season. If he performs up to 2006 levels, the Jays made a good swap considering Rolen's defensive play (in 2006, Rolen ranked as the second highest scoring defensive third basemen as per The Hardball Times fielding Win Shares).

Troy Glaus, is a straight up masher, owning a career .246 ISO (Isolated Power). Like Rolen, and as mentioned, Glaus is an ex All Star. He is under contract for the next season with an option, that Glaus will undoubtedly accept, totaling $12M annually.

Will Carrol explains of Glaus' injury history which included his back, shoulder and most recently, feet. However, the back issue should subside with the move away from Rogers Center's field turf, the shoulder issue is a thing of the past and the Cardinals, as Will Carrol discusses, "have good experience with managing plantar fasciitis—they've been able to keep Albert Pujols on the field despite the condition, and Pujols has continued to produce due to some advanced techniques and plain old hard work."

Defensively, there really isn't anything special to say about Glaus. In 2006, Glaus was #12 in the majors in THT's defensive Win Shares (a cumulative statistic) and in 2005 he finished tied for #11, scoring a 3.8 and 4.0 respectively.

What do the experts say? Fangraphs now has the Bill James, CHONE and Marcel's projection systems posted and here is what they say about Rolen and Glaus respectively:

Rolen

Bill James - .282/.367/.475
CHONE - .274/.353/.449
Marcel - .271/.342/.435
Glaus
Bill James - .251/.360/.490
CHONE - .256/.364/.490
Marcel - .257/.356/.479

Keep in mind that each of these projections were created prior to the trade, given that each player changed leagues and parks, these projections could vary. But essentially, the projections are calling for a further drop off for Rolen and for Glaus to hit marginally under his career averages.

What do I think of this trade? Honestly, its all St. Louis in my opinion. Consider the following from Mitchel Lichtman's July 2006 article from The Hardball Times,
"players who switch from the NL to the AL, tend to get worse and players who switch from the AL to the NL tend to get better."
This was concluded based on data of players switching leagues from 2000 to 2006. However, with that gain, the difference between ballparks should close that gap, making any advantages a wash. Keep in mind, that the numbers are limited as there is only one year of statistics for St. Louis.

The biggest factor that I see playing a role in the trade. It is not injuries, it is not a new ball park or league, it is not a change of scenery, rather, it is Troy Glaus getting to hit behind Albert Pujols. While the players Glaus was hitting around in Toronto were not scrubs, they were far from the threat of an Albert Pujols.

Another advantage for the Red Birds is cleaning up the club house. I am by no means advocating that a team should get worse in talent in order to having a better club house. Rather, if a team can remain the course while cleaning up some attitudes, that can be nothing but a help for the team. Also consider that prized prospect Colby Rasmus is not far from the bigs who crushed double A as a 20 year old. The Cards cleared up CF for the kid and it is only a matter of time before he is given the full time job.

Lastly, did JP forget that his manager is John Gibbons. Shea Hillenbrand? Ted Lilly? Do these two names ring a bell? I'm not suggesting that Rolen bound to end up in a confrontation with the Jays skipper, but there isn't any way to rule it out.

Sorry Blue Birds, this trade isn't going to help baseball north.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Under the Radar - The Week That Was

"What are you a wizard? A genius? Why didn't you tell me that before?" Best in Show (2000)

I'm not going to lie. Nothing happened in baseball that I care to report on. Certainly there were Under the Radar signings, but nothing of real substance. Given that I am not a 'wizard' or a 'genius', I have no ability to spin nothing into something.

Here are three angles I tried to play off of:

First, the Colorado Rockies and Marcus Giles agreed on a minor league contract. The soon-to-be 30 year old second bagger will come to Spring Training fighting for his major league career. Rookie, Jayson Nix apparently has the inside track at the starting job with Quintanilla and Barmes around, outside from an absolute monster spring, Giles will be looking for a job elsewhere.

Although, I have to admit, lets say Giles plays incredible in Spring Training, avoids being arrested, the idea of playing in Colorado has to have Giles salivating. Consider in 2005, Giles hit .291/.365/.461 in Atlanta. Which is legitimized by Giles' .288 EQA.

What changed in the two season's since then? I had hypothesized that the 2006 move to lead off was negatively affecting his play, however that was squashed upon discovering that he actually 'led off', less frequent then he had in previous years. The big thing, Giles' BABIP dropped from a 2003-05 average of .347, to .306 and .275 the last two seasons. The .306 figure is not terrible, although it can be understood as worse then expected. The .275 mark however, was extremely unlucky. I guarantee that this drop in BABIP has cost Giles upwards of $10M the last two years.

The most disturbing issue with Giles' BABIP is that there is no explanation for it. His line drive, ground ball and fly ball percentages stayed essentially on course with his career averages.

Second, and something I have very little to say about, is the Rangers signing Eddie Guardado to a one year contract of up to $6M. According to the MLB.com article, $2.5M of that money is locked in to the amount of games Guardado finishes. With CJ Wilson entrenched as the Rangers closer for 2008, it will take an injury and an incredible season from Eddie to acheive those bonus'.

Guardado is nothing more then a name at this point in his career. The 37 year old has not had extended success since 2005. Infact, 'Everyday' Eddie has shown an enormous downward trend in his ability to strike batters out, as well as keeping them off the base paths.

Despite this, Guardado is still guaranteed $2M. This just goes to show how long a name can last in baseball. I don't see Guardado being anything more then a 4.50 ERA pitcher and at best, a replacement level mop up man. Not a great way to spend $2M-unless the Rangers intend on making him their pitching coach or something?


Lastly, the Athletics add outfielder Emil Brown. This move seemed to be the precursor to the Atheltics moving Kotsay to the Braves, however it still doesn't make much sense. Where does Brown play?

Here is what Christina Kahrl of Baseball Prospectus had to say about this move:
"Brown's recently turned 33 and is widely considered a defensive liability in even left, so this move isn't exactly redolent of upside potential. Anyone else feel nostalgic? I remember when the A's drafted him back in 1994 (in the sixth round), and also remember regretting the fact that the A's had lost him to the Pirates in the '96 Rule 5 draft after he'd lost most of what seemed like a breakout season in the Cal League to a broken hamate. I can't say I feel any special vibe over this reunion, though; this is sort of the left field equivalent of last year's step down from Frank Thomas to Mike Piazza at DH, with Brown playing Piazza and A's fans left wishing he was as good as his predecessor, Shannon Stewart. Thrown into an outfield corner mix with one position open, Brown will contend with a comebacking Chris Denorfia, recent pickup Ryan Sweeney, and perhaps also Snakes prospect Carlos Gonzalez, if he isn't already slotted for center should the A's actually find a taker for Mark Kotsay. It's possible that Brown might make an adequate platoon partner for either Gonzalez or Sweeney, but that's about the extent of the positive."
Anyway you slice it, the Atheltics really threw away some cash with this signing. Even if Emil Brown plays at a career high level, his inability to play the field limits his value in a trade. It is not as if the A's are one bench player away from being a contender, or Brown will have substantial trade value at the deadline. With that in mind, the Athletics would have been better served signing a Jorge Julio.

There was other news in baseball this week, but given the lack of meaningful moves, everything got full play.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Top Remaining Free Agents

"I hear the jury's still out on science." G.O.B. (Arrested Development, 2005)

Let me prelude this article by stating that the players whom I rank as the top remaining free agents may not be the best players remaining, however, they are players who should come at a relative bargain, are at a shallow position and/or have the ability to produce. I am also going to leave out free agents whom I do not believe will sign before Spring Training (note Spring Training countdown on left sidebar). In addition, I will consider what the cost of obtaining these players will be in terms of draft pick compensation.

Here is MLB.com's poorly updated list of available free agents.

Top Five Remaining Free Agents:

5. Morgan Ensberg (CI) - 32 years old
Ensberg has had a nice career up to this point, displaying strong power numbers when healthy. However, the most impressive asset Ensberg brings to the table is his ability to get on base. Having a career .366 OBP coupled with a less then stellar batting average of balls put in play (BABIP). Because of this, I am confident that the OBP is legitimate and expecting at least .350 is reasonable for Ensberg. Entering the 2007 season, PECOTA anticipated a .375 5 year average for Ensberg's OBP.

In addition to this, PECOTA expected only a marginal slip in Ensberg's isolated power (ISO). ISO is a statistic, that measures a players pure power. The 219 mark that PECOTA projects from the 2007 to 2011 season is 8 points higher then Ensberg's career mark.

It is interesting that Ensberg is still a free agent to this point. Tim Dierkes writes that Ensberg "would probably play for $3MM and jump at a full-time chance." If you are a major league club and are in need of a corner infielder with solid on base and power abilities, I do not see why you would not dish out $3M for his services. Consider that in 2005, Ensberg's last season as a full time player, he posted the third highest win share total among National League third basemen.

There doesn't appear to be any information about an injury to Ensberg, so I have to think that he is either being picky about where to play, or teams think that he is well on his way to a drop off. Although, I have to wonder who the Phillies, Giants or Twins intend to man at the hot corner this season.

4. Jorge Julio (RP) - 29 years old
Keep in mind I do not think of Julio as the best reliever available. However, I do think of him as the easiest to acquire as well as the one that will offer the fewest headaches. Julio has not made much noise over his career about being a closer, the way Dotel has. He has also consistently been able to throw 60+ innings a season and as far as I can see, has never landed on the disabled list.

Julio has posted a career normalized runs allowed (NRA) of 4.59, admittedly a mediocre number. However, Julio has posted some solid seasons, and obviously a few duds. Had he achieved his career average for NRA, he would have ranked between Vizcaino and Villarreal, among relievers with at least 60 innings pitched. To put that into further perspective, the best reliever on the Tigers with at least 50 innings pitched was Todd Jones at 4.26, Fernando Rodney was next at 4.80. Does Dave Dombrowski, feel that confident in his rotation and bats that he feels he can completely ignore the bullpen?

Let us also keep in mind that Julio has a decent resume of being a fireman. Julio has been successful in holding a save situation lead in 137 of 169 (81%) opportunities. Put into perspective, highly sought after reliever Francisco Cordero has a career mark of 83%. This is not to suggest that Julio is nearly as qualified as Cordero, rather, it is suggesting that at a fraction of the cost, Julio could be of great help to a lot of clubs.

3. Dallas McPherson (3B) - 27 years old
Dallas is one of those reclamation projects, he will come at a relatively low cost, however the once A- rated prospect is still young enough to be confident in a return to form. After taking all of the 2007 season off, McPherson will undeniably have a great deal of rust to deal with, but McPherson is only a season removed from hitting 24 home runs in under 100 games played.

McPherson will never fool anybody with an ability to make regular contact. However, with his ability to hammer the ball out of the park and age still on his side, what is stopping a team like the Twins or Giants from giving him a shot? Apparently before the Cantu signing the Marlins were interested in him, but I think with the amount of bodies the fish have, this would be a poor signing for Dallas.

For those worried about McPherson's age, keep in mind two certain American League sluggers that took until their age 27 seasons to break out (here and here).

If I am Brian Sabean, I would give Dallas a two year contract worth $3M plus incentives. A 3rd year option would become automatic if Dallas manages to reach the incentives with an opt out after year one.

2. Jason Jennings (SP) - 29 years old
Jason Jennings isn't going to fool anybody at the plate, he doesn't have the upside or potential to be a teams #1, #2 or #3 starting pitcher. However, if a team has waited until a little over a month before looking to fill a role such as that, they deserve to get what is available.

The hittable Jennings has had to endure a career at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado. For a pitcher who already has a difficult time missing bats, pitching in a park that inflates hit totals more so then any other ballpark has certainly not helped. However, that does not mean that Jennings is suddenly Pedro Martinez, not in the least bit.

But let us look at Jennings healthy, non-Coors Field numbers (keep in mind, these numbers are simply for reference and should be taken as such):
Year - ERA, WHIP, BAA
2006 - 3.97, 1.32, .254
2004 - 4.86, 1.43, .271
2003 - 5.38, 1.79, .318
2002 - 3.35, 1.23, .234

Keep in mind, this method does not take into account luck on either spectrum. However, what it does show is that away from Coors Field, Jennings is about the equivalent of a league average #3 starter. If a team were to take into account regression due to age, wear and tear, etc, achieving his 2004/05 road splits does not seem out of the question. Put a solid defensive unit behind him in a pitching friendly ballpark and a team could expect to have a Gil Meche, Joe Blanton, Boof Bonser type on their hands.

For the cost (monetary and prospect wise), Jennings hits #2 on my chart of top remaining free agents. He will undeniably be a lesser starting pitcher then a Kyle Lohse, but will come at a fraction of the cost. This would be a smart signing for the Astros, White Sox or Braves.

1. Corey Patterson (OF) - 28 years old
Speaking of the Braves, how the Braves have not made a multi-year offer to Patterson is beyond me. The most recent rumor has the 28 year old Patterson re-signing with the Baltimore Orioles, although if Roberts and Bedard leave town, I can't see a reason for doing such unless the price is absolutely perfect.

Conversely, the Braves are in dire need of a CFer. Patterson loves to swing and seems to have a close relationship with missing and fanning opposing catchers. However, it appears as though some of the free swinging tactics of the past have subsided and Patterson has finally matured as a hitter. This is good news for the toolsy outfielder who was once a top rated prospect in the Cubs organization, and in 2001 Baseball Prospectus had the following to say,
"Corey Patterson is still one of the best prospects in the game, but not a lock to win the job in center field this spring. He has the arm and range for the position and will be one of the best in the league when he improves his routes to the ball. In 2000, he started spreading his stance, but not quite to a Von Hayes stretch. The Cubs spent a lot of time working on his bunting for base hits and apparently almost none on his selectivity. He kills off-speed stuff, struggles with heat, and adjusts well within at-bats. Without improvement, he’ll be a mix of Garret Anderson's and Devon White’s better skills. But he’s going to improve."
However, that was back in 2001 and a lot has changed since that time. Baseball Prospectus wrote a lengthy piece on Patterson a day ago suggesting he is more of a 4th outfielder then a starter. I must disagree. After the 2007 season Patterson's OPS+ sat at 83, far from spectacular and even further from where experts expected him to land at this point in his career. However, consider that the lowest and third lowest season OPS+ of Patterson's career occurred at age 20 and 21. Since this time he has posted totals of 78, 114, 95, 54, 94 and 80 for a 6 year average of 86. In 2007 the median CFer had an OPS+ of 88, suggesting that Patterson is only marginally worse then the absolutely average CFer.

While there is speculation that Patterson's agent will require a 3 year $24M contract for 2008-10, I find it difficult to believe at this point, Patterson would not accept a 3 year $15M contract. That total, would be substantially less then what PECOTA projected Patterson to be worth-a value of over $8M a year. The Braves should move quickly on this one locking him up for cheap.

2007 Awards Show - National League

"The decisions we make in Washington have a direct impact on the people in our country, obviously."—New Albany, Ind., Nov. 13, 2007

I was looking at calendars this afternoon and stumbled upon one of 'Bushisms', obviously. Anyways, as promised, here is my 2007 baseball awards. Click here for the AL awards.

When selecting who will win the awards, I take into account several factors. The first, is how a player performs in respect to their position. For the record, I am not going to pick a player who performed at a high level at a brutal position, but wasn't even in the top 5 or 10 in 'win' stats.

The second criteria is 'Win' stats? The Hardball Times owns a stat for this, as does Baseball Prospectus; called Win Shares Above Bench (WSAB) and Value over Replacement Player (VORP) respectively. I will reference these stats in and out of my writings, for the most part, utilizing both.

Next, I will look at exceptional play of a player. A streak, a record, or really something they did on an individual level to lift the team to higher levels. That is not to say a player from a losing team can not win an award, although admittedly, those players are at a slight disadvantage.

Warning: NL East fans, flick your TVs back to ESPN.

MVP - David Wright
There is a definite argument for a handful of other players here, and I actually have changed my mind on this given where I originally stood with my vote for Matt Holliday. However, the numbers don't lie-nor are they artificially inflated by a home ballpark. Before I get into too much detail about David Wright, I just want to remind everyone that he was only in his age 24 season this year. Another scary factor, he is showing steady improvement across the board, oh and he just joined the illustrious 30/30 club.

Now to the statistical David Wright. How about 4th in the National League in Equvialent Average(EQA) at .329. 2nd in VORP at 81.1 and 1st in WSAB at 21. Against his contemporaries, only Chipper Jones could hold a candle to him, and even then, Chipper is tough to find in the WSAB category-attesting to the reason I choose to use multiple statistics when comparing players.

(Runner Up: J. Rollins)

Rookie - Troy Tulowitzki
I am sick of hearing about the kid too, and it wouldn't surprise me if baseball created a "Sophmore of the Year" award just for Tulowitzki. Also, I prefer Hunter Pence, as a player to build around and as a player whom I envision as having a superior major league career. In fact, save an injury to Pence and a late call up to Ryan Braun and none of us would have to deal with hearing "Tulo! Tulo! Tulo!"

However, we are still talking about a kid who put up the 3rd best VORP among National League rookies at 37.8 and the second best WSAB at 12. However, if you are following along with me, you will have noticed that Tulowitzki trails a fellow rookie in both categories. Yes, Ryan Braun. However, I feel that the amount of time that Braun missed was too much to allow him to win the award over a player who went April to October.

Additionally, the fielding. Tulowitzki ranked as the best fielder in all of baseball in terms of The Hardball Times' Fielding Win Shares. Tulowitzki's 10.9 was worth just under a win more then Braun's 1.5. And to be honest, 1.5 is a pathetic total.

(Runner Up: R. Braun)

Manager - Clint Hurdle
Alright, I think I can be honest with the readers now, I really don't follow the National League. I won't claim too. With the Indians and other American League happenings, combined with the little time I spend with other sports, as well as the rest of my life leaves me with little time to look at teams with which I will essentially never see.

In any event, as I wrote in my Dundy Awards column,
"However, in 2007, things began to shift. The rebuilding efforts in Arizona and Colorado finally came full circle giving both teams an extremely promising and talented young core. Both the Rockies and Diamondbacks fell in the bottom six in overall team payroll, averaging approximately $500,000 per win - contrast that with division rivals the Dodgers and Giants whom spent approximately $1.3M per win and the Yankees and Red Sox whom spent $2.1 and $1.5M respectively per win.
But that isn't it even half of the reason that the Colorado Rockies are my pick for best team in 2007. Rather, their run to close out the season which included a 6 and 1 record against San Diego (3 and 0 at Petco Park), only 8 loses the entire month, an 18 and 4 record against the division (only 3 games of which were against the lowly Giants) and a 13 and 1 record to push themselves in a single game elimination game with division rival San Diego for the wild card birth. If you missed that, the Rockies had to more or less play perfect baseball for half of a month, adding a loss or two down the stretch would have taken them out of the playoffs and subsequently the world series.
As I mentioned, the Rockies had to play perfect baseball down the stretch to simply have a chance at the playoffs. In the teams wild card playoff game against San Diego, the Rocks were within one strike against one of the most accomplished closers of all time from being eliminated. But as per the Rocks season closing run, they managed to scratch out another win and make the playoffs. Riding high, the Rockies made an incredible run through the NL side of the playoffs winning every game they played. Unfortunately, the run ended swiftly as the Rockies were manhandled by the Red Sox and ousted from their first ever trip to the world series."
Being the manager of a team that does all of that is reason enough to win manager of the year in my books.

(Runner Up: C. Manuel)

Executive - Josh Byrnes
Similar to Mark Shapiro, much of the movement that Byrnes did for the Diamondbacks to compete in 2007 was done well before the 2007. He was also in charge of what was a very fortunate team, one whom Baseball Prospectus states actually deserved only 78 wins.

In any event, whoever Byrnes sold his soul too obviously worked. The extent of Byrnes' 2007 resume includes extending Eric Byrnes, giving a full time job to youngsters Chris Young, Stephen Drew, Justin Upton and Conor Jackson. Despite the struggles of all four of these players at times, Byrnes did not do anything harsh and pull the trigger to bring in veterans with playoff experience.

The biggest acquisitions Byrnes made was in acquiring Randy Johnson and Doug Davis. RJ, while healthy was very effective, while Davis provided what he was brought in to provide, middle of the rotation stability. Similar to the patience Byrnes showed with his young hitters, he did not make a big splash to acquire an aging veteran arm for the stretch. I suppose the best moves Byrnes made, were the moves he didn't make.

(Runner Up: K. Towers)

Cy Young - Brandon Webb
I have already received some heat for this decision, and that is justifiable. Brandon Webb did not lead the NL in any of the triple crown pitching categories, whereas Jake Peavy actually won the NL pitchers triple crown-being only the second pitcher to do so in the National League since 1990.

Statistically, the two were very close. Webb, however was superior to Peavy in the pitching stat that matters the most in my opinion-Exected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP), which as I mentioned in the AL Awards show, is my statistic of choice. Webb posted an NL low 3.35 while Peavy, had nearly as awesome of a season at 3.46.

However, Webb did not beat Peavy in every Sabermetric statistic. In fact, Webb trailed Peavy in both 'Win' stats, scoring a 66.1 to Peavy's 77.0 in VORP and a 17 to Peavy's 18 in WSAB-although this number is slightly misleading in the National League, as it gives credit towards a pitchers hitting. In which case, Webb is worth 2.4 Pitching Wins more then Peavy.

Although, this is where opinion takes over. The Cy Young Award is not, in my opinion, simply given to the pitcher who had the best statistics, rather, it is given to the pitcher who had the best season. Involved in this, is what that pitcher did for his club as well as impressive personal feats. As you know, the Diamondbacks made the playoffs and the Padres were unable to win their wildcard play-in game. Webb and Peavy were both the ace's of their respective rotations, however, Webb's value to his team was substantially more as the the next best pitcher on his team posted 12 fewer pitching win shares, compared to Peavy, whom had Chris Young trailing by only 10. Could you imagine the Diamondbacks with Doug Davis as their ace?

In addition to this, Webb went on a memorably streak after the all star break, posting 3 consecutive shutouts, going 42 innings without allowing a run.

This run also coincided with what is the most important time of year for major leagues. It is the time when they are either proving to be contenders or pretenders. As I suggested for the American League Cy Young award, the post all star statistics are vital for a pitchers case in the Cy Young balloting. Here is what Webb and Peavy did during that time period:
Webb: 2.56 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 7.03 K/9
Peavy: 2.93 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 9.95 K/9

While both pitchers had incredible post all star lines, Webb was admittedly the superior pitcher.

Through considering the numbers and the value to the pitchers respective teams, it is obvious that Webb is the appropriate choice for the NL Cy Young award. Although, I am able to accept a case for Peavy, I just feel as if his season was not as impressive, nor as valuable as Webb's.

(Runner Up: J. Peavy)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Under the Radar - Jorge Cantu

"I can't base my logic on proof." - E. Cartman (South Park, 2006)

The Florida Marlins sign INF Jorge Cantu to a one year deal worth up to $600,000.

This could potentially be one of the most efficient signings of the Hot Stove League, a sign that Larry Beinfest and the Marlins ownership group know how to build and re-build, if only they knew how to sell some tickets or negotiate to build a new ballpark.

In any event, Jorge Cantu is my pick for this weeks Under the Radar. I'm not certain how many people recall, but Cantu hit a monster 2 run home run against Jeff Francis of Canada at the World Baseball Classic. It was one of those rocket shots that looked as if it would never come back down. It was this tournament, that I feel derailed what was looking like an otherwise promising big league career.

As a minor leaguer, Jorge Cantu went from being inconsequential to star prospect. In 2005 John Sickels had this to say about Cantu,
"Cantu improved his hitting in 2003 in Triple-A, then broke through big-time last year. While there are hints in his track record that he could hit (doubles, occasional batting average spikes), his best attribute has always been his age-relative-to-league. Even when he was struggling in Double-A in '01 and '02, he was among the youngest players at that level. Some scouts felt he could develop into a Nomar Garciaparra type, though this was a minority opinion at the time."
At just 25 years old, Cantu is far from over the hill and is definitely worth giving a shot to play the hot corner for a re-building franchise. Not only that, but his glove and fielding versatility should alone make him a nice end of the bench player-at the very least.

In a 2006 article, Sickels compares Cantu and Robinson Cano, concluding,
"I rate them as even in background and intangibles. I give Cano a slight edge in tools. I give Cantu a slight edge in performance to date. I give Cano a slight edge in future projection. Overall it is very close, with Cano probably having a slight edge."
Since this time, Cano has developed beyond projection, whereas Cantu has been plagued by injuries, demoted, traded and released.

In 2006, the year after Cantu's explosion into the big leagues, Cantu fractured his foot, and has yet to regain the power stroke he developed in 2004. I am confident that despite a strong June, that Cantu's foot was bothering him all season. In fact, the home run Cantu hit in April was in the second game of the season. Obviously 2006 was a frustrating season for Cantu filled with injuries and the eventual loss of playing time; he was very motivated at the end of the season and was saying all the right things.

The 2007 off-season saw the Rays bring in Japanese power hitter Akinori Iwamura-you won't believe the power numbers he posted in Japan. Coupled with a poor spring training Cantu began the year in triple A, where he was obviously disgruntled and lacking focus. However, Cantu began showing an improved ability to take a walk, which is something to watch for in 2008.

Cantu, unhappy with his role with the team demanded a trade, and was honored with such to the Reds. In Cincinnati his role did not change, however the change of scenery appeared to do the trick as Cantu saw his slugging percentage jump from .300 to .480 (cumulative organization totals).

Not having any real spot in the lineup for Cantu, the Reds decided the roster spot could be better used and released him. Not wasting any time, the Marlins decided that Cantu was too good not to acquire and signed him to a one year deal.

Entering the 2007 season, Baseball Prospectus projected Cantu to be a 4 win player worth just under $11M a year. The Marlins will pay Cantu about 5% of that for one year of his service.

However, that was after only one down-year for Cantu, Bill James projected Cantu's season with the Reds. The projection is favorable though at .272/.328/.456 in only 180 at bats. That projection also assumed half of his at bats would be at Great American Launching Pad, whereas Dolphin Stadium in Miami suppresses home runs to a great deal. That is, Great American Ballpark increases home runs by nearly 30 percent (3 year average calculated from ESPN.com) and Dolphin Stadium decreases home runs by 11 percent. However, that could be made up by the great deviation in doubles and triples that are favored by cavernous Dolphin Stadium.

I anticipate that Cantu will win the starting third base job in Florida, although he has some big shoes to fill, however with his strong arm, there is reason to believe Florida's infield defense will improve. In a perfect world, Cantu is the Marlins #5 hitter who provides league average numbers from the hot corner. His versatility and contract should make him a valuable asset come the trade deadline. This season will go a long way to rebuilding Cantu's value as a player and considering the amount of teams who could use an upgrade at second base he should be one of the hottest available players in the 2008/09 Hot Stove League.

Nice deal Beinfest.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Another Post - Don't Get Used to It

Just when I thought you couldn't get any dumber, you go and do something like this...and totally redeem yourself!" - Harry Dunne, Dumb and Dumber, 1994


The New York Mets reacquired Angel Pagan from the Chicago Cubs for Corey Coles and Ryan Meyers.

Mets fans were beginning to turn (here too!) on Omar Minaya, and who could blame them?

Mets fans have had to deal with the Scott Kazmir trade debacle—and despite my attempts to justify the trade, it was clearly a terrible move.

The Lastings Milledge trade also had people scratching their heads—could he have been that much of a disturbance?

According to Paul DePodesta, as questioned by Beyond the Boxscore, "makeup is critical. This game is a grind, and consequently it takes tremendous mental toughness to succeed...The chemistry element, which I think you're hinting at, is much trickier...I don't think many people would doubt its importance..." (source)

However important makeup is, though, there's no denying that talent wins ballgames. That said, if Mets fans were angry with Minaya for the Milledge trade, acquiring Pagan for two prospects that are far from having any major league value would seem to go a long way in redeeming the GM.

Pagan has definitely lost much of his luster after two fairly poor stints with the Cubs. He's not going to fool anybody into forgetting the loss of Milledge, but the move will help to bolster the New York bench by adding a young bat, glove, and legs.

With Shawn Green and Moises Alou already on the roster, the addition of Pagan allows the Mets to keep their No. 1 and No. 3 prospects from being rushed into the pressure cooker.

Another thing to consider: The Mets will be paying Pagan under $500K in what is presumably a bench role. For a similar player, the Dodgers are paying 16 times that amount.

And all it cost the Mets was a spot on the 40-man roster and two prospects.

Corey Coles is a lefty-hitting outfielder with decent on-base ability and a susceptibility to injury. Being 26 on Opening Day and having under 40 plate appearances at Triple-A doesn't bode well for his career.

Entering the 2007 season, John Sickels rated Coles as a "notable" prospect in the Mets organization—meaning he was at best a C-grade prospect.

The Cubs also landed 21-year-old Ryan Meyers, a left-handed reliever who has struggled during his minor league career.

For his age and level of competition, Meyers has been relatively wild. I imagine the Cubs are hoping he can work through those struggles and be an effective LOOGY.

The most important part of the deal for the Cubs, though, was freeing up a spot on the 40-man roster. On a club with a relatively full OF (Soriano-Pie-Fukudome, with Murton on the bench), Pagan was definitely expendable—and his roster spot is better filled by a player who's capable of producing for the club.

Overall, this trade was a marginal one. The Mets filled a need and the Cubs opened up a roster spot while adding two players with relatively low ceilings.

I'd give the narrow edge to the Mets, as they acquired a player who'll at least provide some statistics in the near future. I also like that they're going to give Gomez and Martinez some more time to season in the minors

2007 Awards Show - American League

Despite TV writers being on strike, I imagine I can muster up some creativity and as promised, supply my 2007 baseball awards. Click here for the NL awards.

When selecting who will win the awards, I take into account several factors. The first, is how a player performs in respect to their position. For the record, I am not going to pick a player who performed at a high level at a brutal position, but wasn't even in the top 5 or 10 in 'win' stats.

The second criteria is 'Win' stats? The Hardball Times owns a stat for this, as does Baseball Prospectus; called Win Shares Above Bench (WSAB) and Value over Replacement Player (VORP) respectively. I will reference these stats in and out of my writings, for the most part, utilizing both.

Next, I will look at exceptional play of a player. A streak, a record, or really something they did on an individual level to lift the team to higher levels. That is not to say a player from a losing team can not win an award, although admittedly, those players are at a slight disadvantage.

Lastly, I do take into account salary and the players surrounding-something you will notice with my AL Cy Young award.

MVP - Alex Rodriguez
It's not difficult to win the MVP on my ballot. I will simply pick the best player in baseball. Certainly I could pick through the numbers and tell you things that you already know, such as the fact that ARod hit for a slugging percentage 18 points higher then the next player in the American League, but what you may not know is that Rodriguez's slugging percentage was nearly 150 points higher then the closest AL third baseman.

Also in Rodriguez's favor, was a stat I like, called Equvialent Average(EQA). EQA takes into account all facets of hitting, including park factors and running. Obviously Rodriguez was the leader in EQA as he was in so many categories this season, but what really sticks out, is the margin to which he demolished his competition here. ARod put up a .340 EQA, and while Ortiz was only 2 points behind him, the closest AL third basemen was Chone Figgins at .289. (Runner Up: M. Ordonez)

WSAB - 26 (1st in the AL)
VORP - 96.6 (1st in the AL)

Rookie - Jeremy Guthrie
There is debate as to whether or not Guthrie was a rookie this year. Baseball Prospectus has him listed among their "VORP for Rookie Pitchers" and who am I to argue? The service time and innings pitched looks very close, although I am uncertain how much September playing time takes this into account-if anyone does know, feel free to correct me.

Guthrie, somehow, did not receive a single vote in the ALs Rookie of the Year voting. Possibly the BBWA were confused as to his eligibility, possibly it was yet another instance where the BBWA failed to recognize true value. In terms of WSAB, Guthrie ranked higher then all of those who received votes, logging 9 and being tied for 17th among pitchers. Not only this, but Guthrie also ranked higher in BPs VORP, netting 38.2, the highest total of any rookie in either league.

My stat of choice for pitchers is The Hardball Times' Exected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP). Essentially, this statistic takes into account the numbers that a pitcher is directly responsible for, looking at variables such as fielding and ball park. In any event, Guthrie had a relatively mediocre xFIP, however, so too did his fellow rookie pitchers. (Runner Up: H. Okajima)

Manager - Joe Torre
This does seem unfair, how a manager with the highest paid talent can be graded on the job he does versus two teams who faired better in the standings, yet had lesser payrolls-and in one instance, a fraction of a payroll. High paid talent also brings experience. Experience, often times, brings leadership. So why Joe Torre?

To start, Torre manages in the leagues biggest market for the leagues most successful all-time franchise. These two factors have led the fans to feel as though it is their right to be winners. However, when there is heat for the manager to be fired in the middle of May, yet he leads his team to the playoffs, thats a pretty good job in my opinion.

In addition to this, the Yankees were one of the best teams in the American League from May 1st on. They were, the best team in the Al East from May 1st on, despite being the worst team prior to this point (in terms of wins and winning percentage). Obviously Torre had an easier road to go down then Sam Perlozzo, but he still managed to right the ship. (Runner up: E. Wedge)

Executive - Mark Shapiro
I won't go at length here as I am not entirely thrilled with the job Shapiro did for the 2007 season. That is, given the award is for the 2007 season, the moves the managers makes that have direct impact on the 2007 season should be the ones that are directly inspected. However, he was, in my opinion, the best of a bad bunch in 2007.

What moves did he make? Shapiro's major league signings included Nixon, Dellucci, Foulke, Borowski and Hernandez. To be fair, each one of them was a failure in terms of cost and what they brought to the team. Shapiro also made a trade for Josh Barfield, which, as per the free agent signings, turned out to be a waste.

However, despite all of this, the Indians managed to win the Central and tie for the best record in the AL. The move Shapiro made for Kenny Lofton also proved to be a nice spark plug and veteran leadership down the stretch. Although, I must admit I am on the fence in terms of not making other moves. That is, it was both a good and a bad thing that he did not make a big splash in the trade market.

Cy Young - Fausto Carmona
I had made the decision to pick Fausto prior to the gem he threw that I attended in Cleveland (watch the video!). Was Carmona the best pitcher overall in the American League? I can admit he was not such. However, in my opinion, the Cy Young award is not simply awarded to the pitcher who had the best statistics, rather, it is awarded to the pitcher who was not only most valuable to his team, but would have been to any other team. With that in mind, where would the Cleveland Indians been without Carmona and his incredible season? My guess, is they would have been a handful of game behind the Detroit Tigers. But I will take this a step further, was there a better #2 pitcher in the American League this season? The Indians got what they expected out of Sabathia, likewise the Tigers with Verlander, the Red Sox with Beckett, the Twins with Santana, etc.

How about the numbers? Carmona finished the season with an xFIP of 3.99, good for 11th(t) in the American League. However, only three pitchers finished ahead of him in both xFIP and Innings Pitched, two of whom did not make the playoffs and all of whom would be considered the ace of their respective staffs.

How about the 'Win' stats? Carmona finished second in both WSAB and VORP, finishing behind teammate and staff ace CC Sabathia in both categories. Although one could argue, that had Carmona started the season in the rotation, having equal amount of starts as Sabathia, he would have surpassed him in both of those categories-keep in mind, Carmona's first start was 3 days after Sabathia's second. In fact, according to The Hardball Times' WSP, which is a rate version of WSAB, Carmona led Sabathia.

Another factor I take into consideration, although admittedly skewed by luck, is how a player performs down the stretch. That is, their post all star numbers:
Carmona: 2.26 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 6.4 K/9
Sabathia: 2.76 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 7.6 K/9
Beckett: 3.10 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 9.4 K/9
Lackey: 3.14 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 7.1 K/9
Santana: 4.04 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 10.1 K/9
Haren: 4.15 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 8.8 K/9

As I stated, this is not the most accurate way of grading a pitchers performance. However, what this does show is that among the aces of the American League, Carmona best served his club when it mattered the most.

There are reasonable arguments for any of the 5 aces I mentioned, I have no issue with the BBWA giving the award to Sabathia, he was a horse and the Indians needed him. However, I think more then any of these other pitchers, Carmona's season was a major factor in leading his team to the playoffs. His gutty performance against the Yankees also did not hurt.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Two Moves for Thursday January 3rd, 2007

Has anyone ever played Kan Jam? I had the experience of playing this game once, and, well lets just say I didn't come away impressed. I had a difficult time understanding why anyone would purchase this game. So now, I am going to make this my official stand against Kan Jam. I do not care how much fun you think you had playing this game with your bros, it stinks!

I'm in the process of writing my piece on MLB 2007 awards, but when news came about of a pretty big trade in the majors, I just had to put it out there.


The Oakland A's trade Nick Swisher to the Chicago White Sox for Gio Gonzalez, Fuatino De Los Santos and Ryan Sweeney.

Wow! The A's have officially cleaned house with this one. I can't see the A's not trading Blanton, Street, Chavez, etc at this point. Although, let it be known that the haul they received for Swisher is quite solid, if not spectacular. According to John Sickels, the A's grabbed the top two prospects in the White Sox organization (I ranked Gonzalez as the #1 Pale Hose when I made my list a week ago-to be released when pitchers and catchers meet). As an aside, this is the type of trade I make when I start a franchise on a video console.

But lets get to the players. I'll start with what the White Sox are getting, as this is the player to provide the quickest impact. In 2004, I tried to ruin Nick Swisher's career by welcoming him to Toronto and the majors with my lungs, apparently I failed and he is on his way to being a solid major leaguer. Swisher is a power hitting lefty, with an excellent ability to take a walk. Although, he may be better known for his role in Michael Lewis' Moneyball,
"If Billy had the first pick in the entire draft he'd take Swisher with it. He appreciates Swisher more than any man on the planet..." (106).
What to expect from Swisher? Well, he moves from a lineup with essentially nobody around him as protection to a lineup where he could bat as low as 6th with some pretty solid hitters ahead of him-and presumably behind him. There is also the factor of hitting in one of the leagues top HR ballparks. ESPN.com's ballpark factors has ranked US Cellular as the #4, #2 and #1 home run boosting ballpark in the majors over the last three seasons.

Prior to the trade Bill James had projected Swisher to post essentially the same line as in 2007 at .262/.380/.480. After the 2006 season, Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projection system projected a .256/.363/.489 line. I imagine both will increase their totals, and for fantasy leaguers, if Swisher wasn't already in the upper teir of 1B, he now is.

As an Indians fan, I must step up and say that I am officially worried about the clubs chances in 2008. Pitchers and catchers are to meet in a few weeks and Mark Shapiro has yet to do a thing of substance. The 2007 version of the Indians was extremely fortunate with their health and watching the Tigers and White Sox make these moves is worrisome. I do have some solace that both teams essentially sold the farms stating that they were in it to win now, but the heart of the White Sox order, is going to be absolutely deadly.

I do, however, need to commend Billy Beane, for not only moving a player he had fallen in love with, but also by nabbing some excellent high ceiling prospects. As I mentioned, John Sickels had Gonzalez and De Los Santos as the top two prospects in the White Sox organization, with Sweeney not too far behind at #5; albeit, a weak #5.

In Gonzalez the Athletics grabbed a pitcher with a top of the rotation ceiling. The kid was named as the White Sox #4 prospect in January of 2007 by Baseball Prospectus and the #2 prospect in November of the same year. Heres the scouting report from that same article,
"Gonzalez has average velocity (89-91 mph) on his fastball, but he can reach back and touch 93 at times, and it features natural lefty movement, almost looking more like a cutter on occasion. He uses it effectively to get ahead in the count and set up his curveball, which is among the best in the minors. It’s a hard-breaking power pitch that comes in fast, then falls off the table. His changeup is improving, and his control made significant strides from the previous season."
We are talking some nice, but not spectacular praise here. However, teams need #3 starters, and with a little more development, Gonzalez might be able to crack the top of a teams rotation.

Next up, Faustino De Los Santos, whom I spotted and named as one of my 10 prospects to watch for in 2009-he stuck out like a sore thumb in a terrible ChiSox system. While ranking De Los Santos the #1 prospect in the White Sox organization Baseball Prospectus had the following to say about him this November,
"Built like a tree trunk, de los Santos gets tremendous drive. His fastball sits at 91-95 mph, touching 98 at times; it also has late movement, and he commands it very well. His breaking pitch is a power curve with hard late bite, and it's a true out pitch when he’s on. He understands the importance of developing an offspeed pitch, and he improved his changeup over the course of the year."
There is one thing I want to key in on here. "[T]ouching 98 at times; it also has late movement, and he commands it very well." Turning all of 22 years old this coming February, De Los Santos is slightly behind where he should be in terms of level of competition, but with stuff as nasty as his sounds, it wouldn't surprise me to see him start the year in high A ball and make his way to Sacramento (the A's triple A affiliate), having a solid chance at making the rotation for 2009.

The last piece of the trade, and presumably a player Beane is hoping to use as a bench player in the future, soon to be 23 year old Ryan Sweeney. After Sweeney's age 21 season, Baseball Prospectus had the following to say about him,
"Scouts love the size, the picture-perfect swing, the power potential and the plus outfield arm. Has yet to have a breakout campaign but has held is own despite consistently being a year ahead of most high school picks from his class. Just enough range, thanks to good instincts, to play all three outfield positions."
Not spectacular praise, however noteworthy enough to give hope that he is just going to be a late bloomer.

I have to grade this as a win for Billy Beane and the Athletics. Not only do I feel that Gonzalez and De Los Santos are going to be solid major leaguers and do for the A's what Haren/Blanton/Harden and Zito/Hudson/Mulder did during their tenures. I also take marks away from the White Sox for acquiring a player (who is essentially under contract for 5 years at $7M a year) they could have acquired for a second round draft choice in Jose Guillen. Statistically there would have been a marginal downgrade, but not enough to justify trading away a teams top two prospects.


In other Major League news, the St. Louis Cardinals have signed oft-injured pitcher Matt Clement to a one year deal, plus an option. Depending on the value of this contract, I would say the Cardinals made an excellent signing here. Matt Clement has been a middle of the rotation type starter throughout his career, having posted a career NRA of 4.69. While that number in and of itself does not sit as a fantasy owners dream season, understand that Clements career has been a tale of two halves. The first half where the lowest he could manage to get his NRA was 5.12, whereas the second half the highest Clement's NRA would get is 4.48.

With that being said, I would expect Clement to be about a 4.30-4.45 NRA type guy and probably in the #3 or #4 starter mold. Given the Cardinals current rotation headed by Chris Carpenter and Adam Wrainwright, Clement and recently re-signed Joel Pineiro should provide solid middle of the rotation numbers.

Update 01/04/08 - 1:05am
Baseball Musings.com has sourced the value of the contract-which I will officially state is DIRT CHEAP at $6.5M if Clement pitches 200 or more innings. The option varies based on achievement levels Clement hits, however if he hits any one of them, starting at 160 innings, renewing is a no-brainer as the most the option can reach is $11M, and that is only if Clement is in the top 5 of Cy Young voting during the 2008 season. One can imagine the likelihood of that occurring.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Under the Radar - Chin-Hui Tsao

One of my favorite happenings of baseball during the Hot Stove league are under the radar moves. Oftentimes I will hear of a move and think, "Now there was a steal" or something to that extent. Having this blog, I will be able to document moments when such instances occur and reflect on them after all is said and done - which may prove to be more painful then enjoyable and limit my credibility. To avoid some of this pain, check out an interesting show with Michael Cera.

My first entry of 2008 will also be my first entry in what I hope is an interesting series. One that I can one day add to my resume in addition to the long list of successful video game franchises, fantasy leagues, etc in an attempt at capturing a job in an MLB front office.

This is also my second entry that will involve a one Dayton Moore, whom I am going out on record and officially naming the 'Most Underrated GM in Baseball'. I am by no means a Kansas City Royals fan, I just have to say that the guy has made some very strong trades recently.

The Kansas City Royals sign Chin-Hui Tsao to a minor league deal.
Admittedly, on the surface this acquisition is quite marginal. Tsao is not going to be a player that make or breaks a teams season, however, we are talking about a pitcher whom dominated in the minor leagues (2.75era, 10.53k/9 in 67 starts). However, there has been one problem with the pitcher throughout his career, a problem that would make Mark Prior look like Cal Ripken Jr.

Let me give a little background information on Tsao. As recent as 2004, BaseballProspectus.com ranked Tsao as the 38th ranked prospect in baseball (subscription required), in fact, during a round table discussion, the writers for Baseball Prospectus seemed unanimous that despite the ballpark and some injuries, Tsao was undoubtedly a top 20 prospect. In 2001, John Sickels ranked Tsao as the 16th best prospect in baseball. This A- grade is an enormous compliment, considering that some of his contemporaries at the time were Albert Pujols, Roy Oswalt, CC Sabathia and Vernon Wells to name a few.

Tsao also ranked as the Rockies top prospect in 2001, 2002 and 2004.

This is what BaseballAmerica.com wrote about Tsao in December of 2003,
"Tsao has a devastating slider, though he has been limited in how he can use it since his elbow surgery. The Rockies don’t want him to overextend himself with the slider, which has given him more opportunity to refine his changeup. He has an exploding fastball that can run up to 96 mph and usually sits in the low 90s. He can add and subtract from his heater, depending on what the situation calls for. Just as important as his stuff, Tsao has command of the strike zone."
To me, this is as good of a scouting report as one can get. Baseball America does point out some flaws, but nothing seemed to point to what would happen to the kid after this point. Tsao went on to pitch in only 88 1/3 innings after this point with a various array of injuries, most of which dealt with his shoulder. Interestingly, Baseball America did pick up on this when commenting on his slider, however, they felt only that a lack of stamina and dedication would keep him from being the ace of the Rockies staff.

In the same year, John Sickels wrote the following for ESPN.com,
"If you programmed a sentient supercomputer (such as Skynet, Colossus, or Landru) to design a pitching prospect, Tsao would be one possible output. Although he pitches comfortably at 90 mph, Tsao can bring it up to 95-97 mph when needed. His fastball isn't straight; it has "hop" to it, yet he is also able to paint corners. Such a combination of movement and precision can be devastating. Tsao also has an above-average slider. His third pitch, a changeup, is a capable major league offering as well. Tsao has solid command, and is mature for his age. His pitching instincts are strong, and with plenty of experience against good international competition, he doesn't rattle easily. Physically and mentally, he has what it takes to develop into an excellent pitcher."
Talk about ringing up the gold stars!!! I can't imagine that if Tsao was a stock, that people wouldn't have bid through the roof on him - which leads me to thinking, I wonder if Protrade is going to keep a historical record of that kind of stuff.

In January of 2007 the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Tsao and as a reliever began the season with a bang, allowing 1 hit in his first 10 2/3 inning pitched. Then, as the story has so often gone, his shoulder flared up once again, placing him on the disabled list for the second time in the season. However, keep in mind that this was the first time Tsao had pitched since 2005 and that he was coming off of his second major shoulder surgery. The article mentions that the Dodgers staff was confident they had found the problem early this time, giving me reason to believe that Tsao, as a minor league invite, should provide some strength to the Royals bullpen. Unfortunately it appears as thought Tsao's career as a big league starter has come to an end, this once, top 10 prospect (BaseballProspectus.com July 2003 - by the way, get a subscription to this) appears to be not much more then a reliever.

However, lets think about that for a moment. Relief pitching is indeed integral to a major league teams success. Many relievers have incredible stuff, but not the stamina, durability, nor the arsenal to be starters. Tsao presumably can still throw (6k, 1h in 8ip April 07), and if the 2007 season was any indication of what he has left, outside of two performances (May 6 @ Atl and July 14 @ SF) where he allowed 75% of his runs, 28% of his hits and 38% of his walks in a measly 6% of his innings pitched, Dayton Moore, in my opinion, made an excellent 'Under the Radar' move.

I anticipate Tsao to slot in as the Royals 3rd or 4th bullpen arm, grabbing a couple of saves and holds but being limited due to his inability to pitch for long periods of time, as well as on back to back days. He will undoubtedly perform above league average providing the Royals with 3 or 4 WSAB, meaning he will be the 2007 equivalent of a Justin Speier. Considering Moore only had to lock Tsao up for a single season and at around $250k, compared to Speier at 4 years and $18M during last years off season, I can't see any reason not to like this deal.
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