Monday, July 28, 2008

Trade Speculator - Tribe Talk

Mark Shapiro churned out another couple of trades over the weekend and maintains his position as one of the most crafty General Managers in baseball. Unfortunately Shapiro does not maintain that confidence for extended periods of time, and consequently, is left letting quality players leave town for a pittance. Without reflecting upon those players and some questionable free agent signings, which subsequently tarnishes the job Shapiro has done in Cleveland, I will look only at what Shapiro does right.

In the first of two trades, Shapiro and the Indians send Cleveland fan favorite, utility man Casey Blake to the Los Angeles Dodgers for minor leaguers Jon Meloan and Carlos Santana. At this point, the Indians season is all but done. Even if the club still has a solid run or two left, Blake wouldn't be the difference between that run and finishing in last place.

Casey Blake, 'the ultimate professional' was never a favorite of mine. He was a valuable player in that he could play multiple positions and was apparently a good clubhouse guy. At 35, and with an expiring contract, this was a move the Indians needed to make. In fact, I had always wondered why the team used him in such a consistent manner, rather then making him a true utility sub.

To date, Blake has had arguably the best statistical season of his career. While the power has fallen in recent years, Blake is posting a career high on base percentage and is sitting just shy of his career high in on base plus slugging.

The big change for Blake has been his ability to hit left handed hitters. The biggest improvement has been seen in his contact rate, although it is uncertain whether that rate is statistically significant enough to sustain is uncertain, the fact remains that the Dodgers acquired a player that will help the club.

To what extent, is unknown. The Dodgers, however, will now have one of the worst defensive infields in the majors, and will be greatly affected by that. This takes the club out of the market for an offensive player and did so at a relatively cheap cost.

The cost, two players the team can afford to be without for the long and short term. The club is set at catcher for the foreseeable future with Russell Martin. The second player, a starter/reliever is more organizational depth then a true asset. Considering the Dodgers rotation and bullpen situation, the player will not be missed.

The first of those players, Carlos Santana, a 22 year old switch hitting catcher, whom the Indians extensively looked at during the CC Sabathia negotiations. Clearly during these negotiations Shapiro liked what Santana brought to the table, and the young hitter has continued to produce increasing his power stats each month while maintaining quality walk and strikeout rates.

An interesting comparison comes to mind with Santana, and that is the player Santana is projected to replace in a little over two years. Victor Martinez posted an OPS of .882 as a 22 year old backstop for Cleveland's high A affiliate in Kinston. Santana's OPS, despite hitting in a somewhat more favorable league and ballpark, is .983.

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus reflects upon the future of Carlos Santana. In May, he stated that despite a weak batting line as a 21 year old in A ball in 2007, scouts came away impressed with Santana's 'raw skills'. According to Goldstein,
"For me, that's an everyday catcher," said the scout. "He's a good hitter from both sides and he's strong--there's some juice in his bat." Defensively, Santana also earns high marks: "The arm is great, and will be even better with some improved mechanics. He's a little raw behind the dish, but he certainly has the athleticism to get better."
Carlos Santana is pretty much on par with a catching prospect the Indians moved last season and is seemingly a fair comparison to make. Maximiliano Ramirez had his first cup of coffee with the Rangers this season and while he didn't take the league by storm, for his first shot of things as a 23 year old, he more then held his own.

The second player the Indians acquired is 23 year old right handed starter, reliever, starter, and now reliever Jonathan Meloan. Word has it, the Indians will use Meloan as a reliever in triple A, a role he has more then excelled in the previous two seasons. Over the previous two seasons, Meloan has put up a rate of 13.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

Goldstein rated Meloan as a 3 star prospect entering this season, and as a 'good' prospect entering last season. Entering this season, Goldstein had the following to say about Meloan,
The Good: Meloan gets outs by using his low-90s sinker early in the count to set up his plus-plus slider, which is a true wipeout offering that he's equally effective throwing for strikes or using as a chase pitch. He also occasionally mixes in a curveball to change hitters' eye level, and he brings a late-inning intensity to every outing.
The Bad: Nothing Meloan does is pretty. He's not athletic, and his mechanics are rough, with a lot of moving parts. His future is in relief only, but his stuff likely falls a bit short of closer-worthy due to his velocity.
Similar praise was given by Goldstein entering the 2007 season,
The Good: Brought back very slowly from elbow soreness in the spring, the power righthander dominated out of the bullpen by striking out 91 and walking just 16 in 52 innings spread across three levels. His two-pitch arsenal consists of 92-94 mph fastball that he can reach back and hit 97 with, and a spike curveball that one scout classifies as "a sinking monster."
The Bad: Meloan's injury history leaves him as a bit of an unproven commodity, as he was pitching two-to-three inning stints on four days' rest during most of the season, so we're unsure as to whether or not he has the ability to maintain his stuff on shorter notice. He was used at a more normal pace in the Arizona Fall League, and still dominated. He struggles with control at times.
Truly, durability is the only real issue with Meloan. It will be interesting to see how quick the Indians are to call him up.

Comparatively, John Sickels of Minor League Ball is slightly more optimistic for Meloan rating the reliever as a B prospect the last two years. In addition to this, Sickels rated Meloan in his top 50 pitching prospects the last two seasons, and as recent as last year tabbed him as the 'top closing prospect' in baseball. I believe the Indians could use a closer soon.

While the Dodgers did not give up much, and should be fine without both players, they also did not receive much in return. It seems, from my perspective, that the Indians received a substantial haul for a player that was blocking the Indians from evaluating what they have. Trading Blake means that Andy Marte, Ryan Garko, Shin-Soo Choo, and Franklin Gutierrez will all receive extended looks, and the Indians can decide the best plan of action for 2009 and beyond.

Thus, I am going to give this trade to Mark Shapiro and the Indians. Although, if the Dodgers flip Andy LaRoche for an upgrade elsewhere, this trade will look a little better for Los Angeles. I wonder if the Dodgers would be content grabbing Jason Bay for LaRoche and Andre Ethier.

In the second trade of Friday, Shapiro added another ex-top prospect pitcher, Anthony Reyes, from the St. Louis Cardinals for minor league reliever Luis Perdomo. It would be interesting to hear how much the arrival of Meloan influenced Shapiro to pay what the Cardinals were asking for Reyes.

This is an outstanding trade by Shapiro. While Perdomo has shown flashes of excellence, starting pitchers are substantially more valuable.

Anthony Reyes was once an outstanding prospect. The last two seasons Reyes was eligible to be rated (2005 and 2006), John Sickels named Reyes as the top prospect in the Cardinals organization, tabbing him as a B+ prospect.

Reyes owns an average strikeout rate and an average walk rate. Although for some reason he has been extremely hittable. PECOTA has always loved Reyes, this season he was projected for 72 strikeouts in 60 innings. But even with that strikeout rate, the projection system called for 1.5+ hits per inning. Quite the quagmire.

According to Fan Graphs PitchFX data Reyes' fastball regressed from 91.4mph to 89.6mph from 2005 to 2007. For a pitcher who throws well over 60% of his pitches as fastballs, sitting in the high 80's is a tough situation. However, this season has seen Reyes' fastball average 92.1mph, albeit in limited major league action.

The cost for Reyes, 24 year old right handed reliever Luis Perdomo. Perdomo absolutely tore the Carolina League apart this season, allowing only 19 hits in 39 innings. In those 39 innings he allowed only 6 runs (4 earned).

While slightly old for his level of competition, there is no denying Perdomo's stuff. The reliever owns a mid 90s fastball and a somewhat deceptive delivery (see video below).

The age issue is not a major one in my opinion. Perdomo was signed as a 19 year old out of the Dominican Republic. The Indians kept him in the Dominican Republic until 2006, despite some relatively impressive numbers for their summer league team (2005 - 3-2 with seven saves and a 3.57 ERA in 23 games; 2004 - Went 4-2 with six saves and a 1.35 ERA in 25 games; and 2003 - Was 1-0 with one save and a 4.35 ERA in 14 games). I can see Perdomo with the Cardinals big league team at some point this season.

The major worry from my perspective is that the Cardinals were willing to let Anthony Reyes go for a relatively modest price. If pitching coach Dave Duncan felt he could turn Reyes around, he wouldn't have allowed this trade to go through. However, there is another scenario. With Reyes about to be out of options, the Cardinals may have felt that moving him today would net more in return then when their back is against the wall.

All that being said, the Indians again take the cake with this trade. The club's triple A rotation in Buffalo is a fairly exciting one, boasting three ex-top prospects Zach Jackson, Bryan Bullington, and now Reyes. Minor League Baseballs best skate punk singer Scott Radinsky has his hands full trying to turn the three pitchers into something decent, or at least fixing their respective confidence levels.

Christina Kahrl at Baseball Prospectus wrote the following to sum up the Indians moves,

The other major upshot of this deal is that it represents Andy Marte's last best chance to have a career as somebody's third baseman, starting now. He'd already drawn 11 of the last 15 starting assignments at the hot corner, so this was already something the Tribe was actively reviewing. Since he's hitting .267/.327/.511 in his July playing time—just under half of his total at-bats for the season, and a reflection on how much time he'd been cooling his heels on the bench on a team replete with hitting problems—it's fair to say that this is not only something that won't make any negative impact on the Tribe's current fortunes, it's almost certain to be an improvement, on this season and into the future.

In summation, these were two very good deals for the Indians. Meloan's more advanced than Perdomo, so in terms of exchanging one future reliever for another, they helped themselves in the near-term while adding a starting pitcher prospect most would take their chances on and a premium catching prospect. Add in the opportunity they're going to get to give to Marte, something that will tell them whether or not they have an answer or need to start looking for one, and it's a great bit of turning the page and adding talent to an organization that's already working on ways to contend next year in the wake of this year's disappointments.

BallHype: hype it up!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Trade Speculator - Yankees & Pirates

According to Baseball Digest Daily, the Yankees have agreed to send Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf, Phil Coke, and George Kontos to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte. It is sounding as if the non-waiver deadline is going to be a busy one. Although many of the big names reported to be on the block have moved, it sounds as if a lot of teams are not done shopping.

Update - Coke and Kontos have been removed from this deal in favor of Jeff Karstens and Dan McCutchen. This hurts the package the Pirates received. Both Coke and Kontos were pitchers worth getting excited about.

The Yankees brought in two pieces that will help them for the 2008 season adding veteran players to replace some of the youth and inexperience the club had. Not knowing where Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui will slot into the Yankees lineup down the stretch, or if they will, the Yankees felt the need to chase after one of the most highly sought after bats.

Xavier Nady has had an outstanding season. Forever being a player of promise, the 29 year old outfielder has put it altogether this season in a statistically legitimate season. Two major things have led to the renaissance season of Nady are his strikeout and line drive rates. Owning the lowest strikeout rate of his career, Nady is making more frequent contact-never a bad thing. In addition to this, Nady has line drive rate go up a second straight season to an outstandingly high 26.5%. Solid contact rate leads to solid contact which invariably helps a hitter reach base safely.

The second player, Damaso Marte, is a veteran left handed pitcher with an affordable contract. Marte was a highly sought after pitcher in recent weeks, the Yankees will presumably use him more as a situational lefty-the only lefty in their bullpen. Marte is a strong arm and should only add to the bullpen.

According to Ken Rosenthal, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman had been talking to Pittsburgh about Marte for a few days prior to the trade. It was only on Friday when Nagy entered the discussions. I wonder what the trade looked like prior to that?

In exchange for Nady and Marte, the Pirates brought in four prospects, only one of whom had any value prior to the start of the season. It does appear as though Neil Huntington has a plan, so it doesn't come as much of a surprise that he chose players that are further along in development over players with slightly higher ceilings.

Beginning with Ross Ohlendorf, the Pirates received a pitcher whom they can immediately use out of the bullpen, if they so choose. Ohlendorf is going to be 26 in a little over a week, and the right handed pitcher needs to find his spot in the majors soon. Armed with a hard fastball that averages 93mph, Ohlendorf compliments this pitch with a slider he isn't afraid to use. His long term projection sees him as a reliever, hopefully that helps him remain healthy.

As a key piece of the trade which sent Randy Johnson to the Diamondbacks, Ohlendorf has regularly shown up on John Sickels prospect rankings, sitting as a C+ prospect. Nothing overly exciting.

Daniel McCutchen is another soon to be 26 year old with limited upside. He is right handed and is capable of eating innings. It sounds as if he too is seen as a long term reliever. Armed with a low 90s fastball, a splitter, and a good curve, his progress through the minor leagues have been impressive due to his pro career beginning 3 years ago.

Another, not overly impressive player, fellow 'soon to be' 26 year old Jeff Karstens. The right hander was given a shot at helping the Yankees rotation last season, and failed in his three starts. The Yankees then used him out of the bullpen where he was equally as bad. 2008 represents the third season in which Karstens has pitched at triple A.

Karstens appeared on Sickels' 2007 Yankees prospect list as a 'just missed'. Not a good sign for an organization that had two C level prospects make the cut. In other words, we're not talking much of anything here.

The final player, and truly the only player the Pirates were truly interested in, Jose Tabata. The 2008 season has been one in which has seen Tabata's stock drop. He was rated by many as a top 50 prospect overall, a rating which was more reflective of his age then performance. I had rated Tabata in my top 10, citing that the Yankees would treat him properly.

While I may have been mistaken in suggesting the Yankees have treated him properly, the organization certainly has not hurt the kid. At age 19 he is more then holding his own in double A. To date, Tabata has shown an excellent approach at the plate, although his power has yet to develop.

John Sickels has rated Tabata as high as an A-, and most recently saw him as a B+ prospect. Much of this is due to Tabata's inability to display power as he moves through the minors. Sickels, however, comments that Tabata has an advanced feel for the strike zone, something that I view as being more important then showing early power-see Brandon Wood.

When comparing Tabata with the Mets young outfield prospect, Sickels suggested that both will be 'stars', although he does not comment on the extent of stardom for each player. One thing that worries Sickels is Tabata's size, which does not help his power projection.

Additionally, there have been recent concerns regarding Tabata's conditioning and makeup. While it wouldn't surprise me if Tabata was intentionally bulking up, the concerns about his makeup raise red flags. Although at 19 years old, I am willing to give him a pass on that.

According to Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus, Tabata's swing-the same one that generated concern regarding power potential-looks even worse this season and is a legitimate cause for concern.

Enough of the negative, Kevin Goldstein had the following to say about Tabata entering this season, while rating him as a 4 star prospect:
The Good: Tabata is a gifted hitter with outstanding bat speed and hand-eye coordination, showing the ability to hit any pitch, anywhere, from both lefties and righties. He’s an average runner and a good right fielder with the arm strength for the position. He plays under control and with a confidence far beyond his years.
In addition to this, it sounds as if Tabata can be a more then adequate right fielder, posing decent speed and a strong arm.

At the beginning of this season, I called for Tabata to be a future Bobby Abreu. I liked the way Tabata could take a walk at such a young age, while keeping his strikeouts down. However, his power looks very limited, and we are presumably looking at a hitter with under 20 home runs and a sub .420 slugging percentage. That said, I think Xavier Nady and Andre Ethier pose as superior comparables.

Had this trade been made in March, April, or even early May, the Pirates would have went down as the undeniable winners. While acquiring Tabata is a very nice piece, and projecting exactly what type of hitter he will become is very difficult at this point, his stock has taken such a hit, that it is interesting to see him as the cornerstone of any trade. An outfield of Tabata and Andrew McCutchen should be nice to build around, however lacking legitimate power.

The three pitchers the Pirates acquired are at a 'take or leave' level. One would almost think that there are equal to better pitchers that pass through waivers, get non-tendered, etc. This trade then, was entirely about Tabata, and making room for the future in Pittsburgh. Hitters such as Steve Pearce (called up) and the aforementioned McCutchen.

The Yankees are the winners of this deal. Cashman filled two holes on the roster with cheap and established players. While Tabata should turn into a regular, a quality one at that, he probably isn't a player that the Yankees will look back at and regret not holding onto. Additionally, Nady and Marte are players whom the Yankees will look back on and recognize how much they brought to the club for the stretch run.

This trade, coupled with the Rauch trade a few days earlier, signals the end of the 'sellers' market and transfers the trade deadline to a 'buyers' market. That is, a buyer can now send one prospect of worth and some throw-ins for two cheap and solid players.

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Trade Speculator - Minor Moves

I suppose the title of this entry is not entirely true as both moves involved players who should have a fairly decent impact on their teams. Whether the players are responsible for making or breaking the seasons of their respective clubs is yet to be seen. Rather, the reason this entry is titled 'Minor Moves' is due to the relative obscurity of these trades. How they came about and the surprisingly quick nature of the moves.

The first move I will discuss, is the San Diego Padres trade of Randy Wolf to the Houston Astros for minor league right hander Chad Reineke. The Padres continue to clean house and rid themselves of any player who doesn't have much of a future with the club. Interestingly, the 5th place Astros, who are over 10 games out for the wild card, entered into the 'buyers' market.

Adding Randy Wolf will not hurt the Astros and will certainly lessen the blow of the loss of Roy Oswalt. Does this enter the Astros into the playoff race? Certainly not. But the cost was minimal and provides the Astros with some above average innings. At worst, this stirs the pot in the National League and possibly causes a team to miss the playoffs that should have been in it-think the 2007 Mets. The cost will be slightly under $2M for this rental.

There are two best case scenarios in my opinion. The first, and most likely, the Astros let Wolf walk at the end of the season and receive compensation for him based on the thinking that Wolf will at least be a type B free agent. This can also help build good will with the Houston fan base, as the front office can claim to 'having gone for it' by acquiring Wolf.

The second scenario, although it negates the 'gone for it' claim, places the Astros in a position to be a seller over the next 8 days. Anything can happen between now and July 31st. Another team could discover that they are one pitcher away, or simply want to add depth and offer more then the Astros gave up. There are a lot of teams that could use another starting pitcher, and many of those should not have the goods to go after AJ Burnett or Erik Bedard. Thus, Wolf is the best of the next tier of pitchers that are speculated to be available.

In return for Wolf, the Padres add Chad Reineke, a 26 year old right handed pitcher who hasn't been outstanding during his professional career, however he also hasn't been terrible.

According to Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein, Reineke entered the 2008 season as the Astros 6th best prospect. However, keep in mind that speaks more to the terrible system that the Astros possess then the overall ability of Reineke as Goldstein rates the pitcher as a '2 star' prospect. I will ignore the negative Goldstein writes about, as much of them were referencing Reineke the starter. Goldstein had the following praise to offer about Reineke,
The Good: Reineke has a solid fastball that sits in the low 90s and can touch 93-94 at times. He primarily uses it to set up a plus slider that has nice two-plane break, which Reineke uses as an out pitch. He has a big durable body, and maintains his velocity late into games when he starts. He has a good pickoff move and controls the running game well.
A nice fastball combined with a plus slider is a solid combination for any pitcher. Most starters would benefit from adding another above average pitch, or two. However, at 26, nobody is going to confuse Reineke for his high ceiling as a starter, rather, he projects long term as a reliever. This is presumably the pitcher the Padres feel they are picking up. Moving Reineke to the bullpen full time may add a mile or two to his fastball. Combined with a 'herky jerky' delivery, Reineke might come as quite the bargain for the Padres as a legitimate bullpen option.

At the very least, the Padres can bank the remaining money they would have spent on Wolf and use it this offseason. Possibly, Reineke turns into Chris Young, and benefits from being a fly ball pitcher with plus stuff at PETCO.

Unfortunately I have to name a winner and a loser. For the time being, the Padres are the winners as they cut costs and add some decent potential. If Wolf turns into a type B free agent or is flipped in the next week for a superior prospect then Reineke, the Astros win. I hope I don't show up in google searches under 'Astros win'.

The second transaction, and substantially less confusing, saw the Washington Nationals move closer Jon Rauch to the Arizona Diamondbacks for middle infielder Emilio Bonifacio. Before even looking closer into this deal, I have to grade the Diamondbacks as the obvious winner in this trade, this, despite really liking Bonifacio and really disliking Rauch.

Jon Rauch is an absolute steal of a player to acquire. Owed about $5M over the next 2+ seasons, Rauch's durability and decent to strong numbers over his career is enough to make him an excellent acquisition. It is additionally surprising that a team like the Nationals would feel the cheap Rauch (who is a monster of a man) would be an expendable piece. However, maybe Bowden dislikes O'Dowd and did this trade to drive down the value of Brian Fuentes.

Coming over to the Diamondbacks, Rauch immediately improves the clubs bullpen for the short and long term. He adds a pitcher who can be used in any relief mode and makes a somewhat weak and shallow bullpen into a strong and deep one. Just like that! I can see the Diamondbacks going to a closer by committee, but that does not lessen the value of the trade for the club.

When I first heard that Emilio Bonifacio was the player the Nationals were receiving in return for Rauch, I was startled. I had thought Bonifacio's presence is what made Alberto Callaspo expendable during last year's Hot Stove League. However, it appears as though the Diamondbacks did not see much of a future for Bonifacio within the organization.

The Nationals receive an unpolished 23 year old with blazing speed. However, Bonifacio needs to develop a lot of plate discipline and greatly improve his walk rate before being considered a quality every day major leaguer. At this point, he'd make the perfect compliment for Ronnie Belliard, how are people against cloning with that sort of creation? (note: this creation only applies if it does not own Belliard's tongue)

John Sickels of Minor League Ball ("DOT COM!") rated Bonifacio as a C+ entering this season, although one could argue that this rating is reflective of the depth of the Arizona system. That is, the distance from the top to the bottom is far greater for Arizona, then it is for the Phillies. However, agreeing with this rating, Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus rated Bonifacio as a '2 star' prospect, citing his lack of power and inability to take a walk as the rational. In other words, Bonifacio ranks favorably with Darren Ford-the outfielder the Giants received for Ray Durham.

In all, the Nationals had no real reason to make this trade. Rauch has got to have substantially more value then this given how strong he has been in the closers role this season. He is relatively young, durable, and cheap. It is hard to believe teams were not lining up to acquire him. That is, with the Giants-Brewers trade in mind, a reliever of Rauch's value should net a substantial amount more then Durham. Bowden didn't get more.

Thus, the Diamondbacks are the clear winners of this trade. Outside of Bonifacio turning into a top of the order regular, who more then holds his own in the field, this trade lacks a lot of direction and understanding from my point of view.

BallHype: hype it up!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Adam Miller Watch - An Update

Once Adam Miller's injury had been rediagnosed as a hole in his skin, which could have led to major infection issues, and it was thus surgery was required. This is said to be the same injury that Miller suffered during the Arizona Fall League, however it clearly went in the worst direction possible.

There hasn't been a lot of information released to date on the injury or Miller's recovery from it. But at the point of surgery, Miller was said to be out of pitching related activities for 8 weeks, which we are rapidly approaching.

A week ago, Will Carroll at Baseball Prospectus, briefly mentioned Adam Wainwright's injured pulley tendon. Although this is a slightly different injury, where surgery was not required to reattach the tendon, we can use some of the information regarding Wainwright to let us know what's going on with Miller-which undeniably will go with substantially less fan fare, the result of being an oft-injury minor leaguer, and pitching for the small market, and losing, Indians team.

Understand that Miller will presumably take longer to return from this injury. Not only because he underwent surgery, but also because the Indians are in a position to be extra careful with their prized pitching prospect. Additionally, Wainwright is vital to the Redbirds making noise in down the stretch.

With that understood, over the weekend, reports are suggesting that Wainwright is about a week from throwing off of a mound. At which point, Wainwright would be between two and four weeks from returning to the rotation, dependent on how quickly the Cardinals need him in the rotation-although it wouldn't surprise me to see him work out of the bullpen.

Altogether, that is about nine to ten weeks that Wainwright would have been on the shelf. This, with a throwing program that could be relatively vigorous, and began in the middle of July.

All that being understood, I figure to hear that Miller has begun throwing from a short distance at the Indians Spring Training facility (whether it be the new one, or old one I couldn't even guess). At which point, it would probably be another three weeks before Miller was throwing off of a mound, and a total of five weeks before he faces live hitters. At best, Miller could be pitching in a game situation by September 1st.

With how the Indians are playing, it wouldn't surprise me to see them try him in the bullpen once the rosters expand in September. Either that, or for Miller to get a couple of starts, simply to build up his arm for the following season, where he will be expected to contribute to the rotation.

As always, I am looking for information regarding this injury. In a recent Hey Hoynsie at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Paul Hoynes guessed that the next time Indians fans will get to see Miller pitch, will be during the Arizona Instructional League.

BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Trade Speculator - Clubhouse Warriors

The Trade Speculator returns to reflect upon two trades that have occurred since the end of the All Star Break. Both trades were relatively small deals, but both will have a valuable enough impact on their respective teams to make them worth discussing.

On July 17th, the Arizona Diamondbacks reacquired Tony Clark from the San Diego Padres in exchange for minor league league pitcher Evan Sribner.

Paul DePodesta, a special assistant for the Padres, wrote his opinion of the trade, an interesting read. According to this entry, DePodesta states that the Padres have been looking at the young pitcher since early this season. So much goes on in baseball that none of us have any idea about.

In my opinion, the Padres did excellent here. They signed Tony Clark for under a million dollars to start this season. While Clark has not been the most outstanding player this season, he has performed at a level slightly above replacement, which is fine for the cost. However, the Padres knew when they signed Clark that the investment was minimal, with the reward being substantial. Giving such a small contract to a veteran player like Clark, a player who is known around the league for being a good clubhouse guy, someone teams look to during this time of year, the signing was an easy one to make.

That the Padres flipped Clark for a prospect only further elevates the value of this preseason signing.

In return, the Padres received 2007 28th round pick Evan Scribner. Scribner played four years for Central Connecticut State University, mostly as a starter. At CCSU, Scribner had a fairly decent career, albeit against weak competition. During his four years there, Scribner posted the following numbers:

WHIP 1.32
K/9 7
K/BB 3.93
ERA 3.34
BAA 0.261
SLGA 0.353

Not terrible numbers, but it explains why he wasn't selected until the 28th round. As a college senior, he didn't have any negotiating leverage, which also could have caused a slight fall at the draft.

Scribner recently turned 23 years old and has had a fairly successful run through the Padres minor leagues. Reaching high A this season Scribner has had a decent amount of success at every level. Keep in mind, however, that the majority of his opponents have been substantially younger and less experienced. However, keeping his walk rate down while racking up strikeouts is a good sign at any age, at any level.

His college strikeout to walk ratio would put him well above league average in that category among Major League pitchers. It isn't impossible to believe that the rate he has posted to date during his professional career wouldn't maintain, or at least come close to this long term.

The scouting reports on Scribner say the same things, a 90mph fastball which tops out around 92 with gusts of wind. He has a 'slow looping' curve, although this doesn't sound as if it is coming off as a positive. Most importantly, Scribner can hit the strike zone.

This isn't the kind of report that makes a person gush, nor will it ever land Scribner on anyones top prospect lists, but he could develop into an adequate major league reliever. Presumably not one with an overly important job. More information should be released about Scribner this offseason.

Overall, I like what the Padres have done here. The cost was minimal, even though the current reward is minimal. That said, it's not as if the Diamondbacks broke the bank here, so overall there isn't a winner or a loser.

However, the Diamondbacks new first base platoon of Chad Tracy and Clark forces Conor Jackson out of position and limits the possibility of the Diamondbacks making a trade for an impact corner outfield bat. But their clubhouse will be strong and thus improves their chances of winning, right?

On July 20th, the Giants agreed to send Ray Durham to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Darren Ford and Steve Hammond. Similar to the Diamondbacks-Padres trade I just examined, this was a team that is out of it, moving an expiring contract for prospects.

My first reaction to this trade was that this trade will immediately help the Brewers. I then became curious as to what 'type' of free agent Ray Durham will be after this season. Given that the Brew Crew are very unlikely to resign the second basemen, it is of major consideration whether Durham will be rated as a type A or B free agent this offseason.

With the free agent depth at second base for this upcoming season, it appears as if Durham will slot in as a type B free agent. This is definitely part and parcel with what the Brewers gave up as they could conceivably end up as gaining on this trade. For now, I will look at what the Brewers currently received.

Ray Durham adds a veteran switch hitter, who prior to this season, had been a superior hitter against lefties then righties. In other words, the Brewers did nothing to improve their current issues against righties. The Brewers are only on the hook for half of Durham's remaining contract, which will cost them about $1.5M.

With others rumored to be available, it seems more as if the Brewers acted quickly rather then getting the best deal out there.

However, it is not as if the Brewers were selling assets which had much, if any, future within the organization. Considering that the corner outfield spots are manned for years to come with Ryan Braun and Corey Hart, and while the player the Brewers moved projects long term as a center fielder, we aren't talking about a major change to the overall appearance of this club.

That prospect, Darren Ford, a speedy 22 year old outfield prospect who has been in high A this season, a level he spent much of 2007 at. There truly is not enough one can say about the speed Darren Ford displays as he ranked as the #3 base runner in 2006 and in the top 20 for 2007 according to Baseball Prospectus.

Drawing a sufficient amount of walks to be a major league regular-if not at least a strong 4th outfielder-Ford's major weakness is his inability to make contact. One would think as a 22 year old, repeating this level of baseball, that Ford would be making strides, however, that is not the case, and Ford has the highest strikeout rate of his career (11.8%). That he has shown little to no power only adds emphasis to his inability to control the strike zone.

While still young, with Aaron Rowand around until the end of the 2012 season, Ford has ample time to improve at the plate and at least cut down on the strikeouts. Possibly Rowand can teach Ford a thing or two during Spring Training.

Additionally, the Giants received Steve Hammond, a pitcher who took approximately TWO full seasons to conquer double A. I use the word 'conquer' lightly, as Hammond was hardly deserving of a promotion after his 26th birthday this season.

What little information available about Hammond suggests that he won't be anything more then a 5th starter in a rotation, and even expecting that much out of him is a stretch. The numbers don't lie.

John Sickels at Minor League Ball has rated Hammond as a C, C+, and a C prospect over the last three respective seasons. Two of the instances, Sickels mentions Hammond as a victim of organizational depth. In a third, Sickels calls him an 'underrated arm to watch'.

There are also signs which point to Hammond becoming a reliever. In one report, an author cited a K rate which drops as Hammond goes further into a game. In another piece, Hammond is cited as having neither plus stuff, nor control, lacking an out pitch and velocity. At best, we're talking a project for the Giants.

The Giants come out of this trade with two projects and $1.5M in the bank. This also opens up the roster to allow youngsters Emmanuel Burriss and Eugenio Velez some additional playing time-both should be the Opening Day starters for the Giants in 2009 and offer a nice, young middle infield.

I wonder, however, if the Giants could have received slightly more, while eating the entire contract.

Overall, unlike at Brew Crew Ball, I have to suggest that the Brewers took this deal. Durham is a fine veteran to have on the roster and will offer a bat off the bench that can provide a little pop, with a decent amount of walks. The cost, $1.5M and two prospects which wouldn't have much impact on the team anyways.

The trade market is wide open. There are a lot of buyers and teams still deciding whether they are buyers or sellers. This ought to be one of the more interesting deadline days in recent memory.

BallHype: hype it up!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Trade Speculator - Did Anyone See That Coming?

At least at this point?

Baseball Digest Daily is reporting that the Oakland Athletics have traded Joe Blanton to the Philadelphia Phillies for minor leaguers Adrian Cardenas, Matt Spencer, and Josh Outman. This is a trade that I truly cannot understand from the Oakland Athletics perspective. Not because of the haul they received, but rather, because of the value of Blanton. That is, Blanton is clearly having the worst season of his Major League career, which one would think would limit his current value.

All that being said, let's look at this deal more closely to discover what both teams were acquiring and giving up.

Obviously, Joe Blanton is the most valuable current piece of this trade. The 27 year old innings eater has an affordable contract, and has been a fairly solid pitcher throughout his major league career. In fact, even during this season, which has seen his strikeout rate be the lowest of his career. However, despite a high walk rate then 2007, Blanton still posts one of the best base on balls per nine innings in the league, and is well above league average.

Blanton also brings to the table durability. Having pitched in 32 or more games in each of his three MLB seasons, and well on his way to a forth straight-in today's game, that is a dying breed. Even Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus rated Blanton as a 'green' entering this season, all but assuring readers that Blanton would not miss a start in 2008.

The shift to the National League should not really help Blanton, as he moves to a team with a far inferior defense, in a far less favorable park. That is not to say we should expect a Barry Zito-like collapse, but I don't anticipate Blanton making a whole lot of noise in the National League.

Blanton will slide into the Phillies rotation as the #2 starter but will perform more like a #3 or #4. Phillies fans have to hope that the front office does not get some strange idea that this trade allows them to move Brett Myers to the bullpen, unless he struggles again.

The most intriguing player the Athletics received is second basemen, Adrian Cardenas. According to the Athletics press release, Cardenas was "named the Phillies' number two prospect by Baseball America prior to the 2008 season." Not yet 21 years old, Cardenas has put together a quality Minor League career in rising to #2 in a fairly weak Phillies prospect pool.

Entering the 2007 season, John Sickels rated Cardenas as a B- prospect, claiming that his 'quick bat' could result in a quick climb through the minors. Apparently the quick bat impressed Sickels some more, as Cardenas jumped up to a B level prospect entering the 2008 season and, like Baseball America's rating, sat as the #2 prospect in the Phillies organization-and only one of four to be rated higher then a C+.

Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein was slightly less optimistic, rating Cardenas as a 3 star prospect, the third best in the Phillies organization. Here is what Goldstein has to say about Cardenas,
The Good: Cardenas has good bat speed and outstanding hand-eye coordination, using his strong wrists to whip the bat through the hitting zone, leading to consistent hard contact with gap power to all fields. He has a good approach and solid pitch recognition, and gets high grades for his makeup. He shows decent speed once he gets underway.
The Bad: Drafted as a shortstop with the knowledge that he'd have to move, Cardenas continued to struggle with the glove on the right side of the infield in 2007, and need to improve his reads off the bat and his work around the bag. He's a little on the smallish side, and doesn't project for more than average power.
If someone gave this same description to me 7 or 8 years ago, I would have guessed they were talking about Marcus Giles. Two names appearing on Cardenas similarity score, who remind me of Marcus Giles, Frank Catalanotto and Jose Vidro. I'd say if the A's get the prime years of any one of those three players, they will be pleasantly surprised with this piece of the acquisition.

The second piece the Athletics acquired is 23 year old lefty Josh Outman. Having been sent back to double A this season, Outman needs to refine his control while further working on missing bats. Both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus rated Outman as the Phillies forth best prospect entering the 2008 season.

Kevin Goldstein had the following to say about Outman,
The Good: Outman has excellent velocity for a southpaw, sitting at 91-93 mph with his fastball, and touching 95. His secondary stuff is solid, as he gets decent two-plane break on his slurvy breaking ball and has a deceptive changeup. His unique delivery makes his pitches difficult to pick up out of his hand, and scouts like his competitive fire.
The Bad: Outman's mechanics come with good and bad. While the combination of his arm angle and release point make it difficult to throw anything straight, he also has problems throwing strikes with any consistency. He tends to work high in the strike zone, and Double-A hitters made him pay the price.
Like all Phillies prospects, there isn't a whole lot to love right now. With Outman's future likely as a reliever, working high in the strike zone is not something that will result in a lasting career. At least not in high pressure situations.

Being slightly more optimistic, John Sickels rates Outman as the Phillies third best prospect for the 2008 season. In doing so, raising Outman's rating from a B- in 2007 to a B in 2008, the same level as highly touted prospect, and fellow Reading teammate, Carlos Carrasco.

All that being said, there isn't a whole lot to currently get excited about with Outman. He's young, he's a lefty, and can throw relatively hard. So maybe Will Ohman?

Lastly, left handed hitting outfielder Matt Spencer (no relation to Kevin Spencer-image below). The 22 year old has been aggressively moved through the Phillies organization despite not having the statistics to truly back it up.

John Sickels rated Spencer as a C+ prospect entering this season, which is difficult to grasp what kind of value it holds. That is, the Phillies system is so weak, could some of the grades be overly generous in a they couldn't possibly be that bad sort of way?

Well, they are.

I managed to dig up Baseball America's rating for Spencer, he is sitting nicely at #28. As the 113th pick of the draft, it is somewhat telling of the Phillies current scouting department that Spencer could only climb top #28 on this list. Even though, according to Baseball Prospectus, Spencer was one of the eleven best value picks in the 2007 draft.

This trade all but closes the book on Billy Beane's infamous 2002 Moneyball draft. The Phillies did well in not giving away any assets that have any immediate potential within the organization. However when a team does such, they also traditionally do not acquire a true game changing talent in return.

My initial reaction is to state that the Phils won this deal in a landslide. Even upon further inspection, its tough to see what the A's are doing. Combine this with the Rich Harden deal of two weeks ago, and it appears Billy Beane and the Athletics are more concerned with quantity then quality.

Of course, we have all learned to never close the book on a Billy Beane move. No one can be certain what else is in the works, or what lies ahead for the players Beane has moved.

Sometime, however, Billy's 'stuff' (edited) just doesn't stick.

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Three Days Without Baseball

Wow! So what is a person supposed to do with oneself?

They can reflect on complaints that I simply do not understand in regards to the All Star Game and it's current 'This time it's for real' format. Now this is the second (maybe third) time I am going to sound like a Bud Selig apologist. And I understand that most think baseball would be better off without Selig, but this is simply something I can not comprehend.

As we all know, Major League Baseball's All Star Game determines which league will have home field advantage for the World Series. In doing so, Selig, and Major League Baseball anticipate a more competitive game and less of an exhibition. To be honest, what can possibly be wrong about that, seeing players give it their all for the ever important home field advantage.

Interestingly, a more competitive game has occurred, since the 7-7 debacle in 2002. That is, in the 6 All Star Games since the inception of this rule, 4 have been decided by one run, and a 5th by only two. Prior to the rule, we have to go all the way back to 1986 to find the 4th game which was decided by a single run. While the sample size is undeniably small, it is difficult to argue with the current results-a more tightly contested match. Similarly, it is difficult to conclude that the new rule is the lone factor for an increase in competitiveness, but it is also tough to argue against such.

Jon Heyman at discusses how close the game was to again becoming controversial. The argument Heyman presents discusses how both JD Drew and David Wright were warming up in their respective bullpens due to both sides being out of pitchers. I find that this argument has a few flaws, and intend to touch on them in this post.

First, what is the problem with a position player getting into a game? It isn't as if this never occurs. In fact, according to Recondite Baseball, 6 position players got into a game during the 2007 to pitch. Surprisingly, the majority of every MLB team has endured this 'controversial' issue in the new millennium. In most cases, the game was a blowout, and from my memory, most seemed to do alright on the bump.

However, since MLB is implementing instant replay on boundary calls which affect the results of maybe 2 in over 2500 games, should it not be 'controversial' every time a team has to put a position player on the mound? Heyman writes, "But they are not pitchers. And if pitcher Drew and/or pitcher Wright determined home field in the World Series, well, that would have been just plain silly." But it wouldn't be silly for a team to not make the playoffs due to a position player taking the bump during a regular season game? Should this not be chalked up to mis-management?

That is, picture game 7 of the World Series, in the 18th inning. An epic Sunday night battle. But because of how close the game has been, the managers have been moving pitchers in and out of the lineup to take advantage of match ups. Picture David Ortiz taking the bump...I'm certain fans and sportswriters alike aren't going to want to see the World Series Champion crowned in that scenario.

Or how about this, the Padres have been involved in this season's two longest ballgames. A 22 inning marathon against the Colorado Rockies, and an 18 inning affair against the Cincinnati Reds. Not surprisingly, the Padres are in last place in all of baseball. More devastating then that, both starting pitchers who entered the game for the Reds, Harang and Volquez, have seen their seasons fade significantly.

While Harang pitched brilliantly during that relief outing, he has since been placed on the Disabled List and seen his ERA rise nearly a run, while getting bombed in 5 of his 8 starts since. Similarly, Volquez has seen his impossibly low ERA rise just under a run, posting the worst month of his season. While it is certainly an inconclusive leap, I wouldn't be surprised if the relief outing for those pitchers has had a lasting effect.

Let's get back to the 'mis-management' by both the American and National League. Respectively, Francona used 12 pitchers, while the Hurdle allowed 11 of his pitchers to go out there (Tim Lincecum was the 12th for the National League and went to the hospital prior to the game). But 11 or 12 pitchers for 15 innings? If that doesn't scream, 'overly competitive', I don't know what does.

I do understand the responsibility of the managers, abiding by a gentleman's code to not overwork any one pitcher. That is, to not overwork any one pitcher, and to avoid using a pitcher who had extensive work on Saturday or Sunday. But of the 23 pitchers who entered the game, only 8 went above 20 pitches.

Let's also keep in mind that 13 of these 23 pitchers were of the starting variety, reaching to 20, 25, even 30 pitches should not have been out of the realm of possibility. Especially with essentially every team off until Friday evening.

All that being said, why blame Selig for this 'issue', why not ask the managers why they were switching pitchers so frequently? Are we really to believe that Roy Halladay was on a 9 pitch limit? Or fellow single digit tossers, Billy Wagner, Joe Nathan, and Francisco Rodriguez. It is interesting to note that these 3 pitchers have combined for 13 single digit outings thus far this season. To say that they were 'babied' at the All Star Game is a leap, and then some! (As a side, it is equally interesting to see that the most used pitcher-innings and pitches-was Colorado's only legitimate starting pitcher, Aaron Cook, whom Hurdle manages).

So what was the problem? Why was it that the pitchers were being babied to such a degree? Certainly the pitchers do work on the side in between starts.

Ken Rosenthal, of FOX Sports, writes,
Which is why alternate pitchers should be the next step. We're not talking about expanding the roster from 32 players. We're just talking about common sense. If it isn't in the best interests of a Kazmir or Webb to pitch in the All-Star Game, then they shouldn't pitch. Yes, clubs might need to pay one or two more All-Star bonuses to the alternates, but that would be a small sacrifice for preserving their top pitchers' arms.
That is a fine argument. However, recall the Padres-Reds marathon mentioned earlier. The marathon may have been the culprit to ruining Aaron Harang's season. So should extra inning games be eliminated altogether?

That is, would adding 2, or 3, or 4, or 12 pitchers make the likelihood of running out of pitchers any less? Maybe it would add an inning or two of security, but maybe it would cause a more 'match-up' oriented approach from the manager.

Thus, my suggestion would be to force managers to send out the pitchers for at least 2 innings, with the 9th inning being an exception. Additionally, pitchers would be on strict pitch counts, say 15 or 20 for relievers (which would get all through more then 1 inning) and 30 to 45 for starters. These pitch counts would vary dependent on when the last outing was by said pitcher.

I will have to admit, however, that if the ballgame makes it to 20 innings, there may be a problem. Mostly, in that I would worry what MLB and FOX would do for commercial breaks?

There is an argument which suggests that the game might as well be ended in a tie. People assert that Selig's new rule-despite the aforementioned, increased competitiveness-should be trashed and the old system of rotating World Series host cities return. While ratings would presumably be on par with Spring Training baseball, there is a further argument for the new rule.

Home field advantage. It is important. While not outstandingly significant, 8 of 13 World Series' have been won by the team with home field advantage. However, what is significant is that home teams have a cumulative 57% winning percentage at home. Specifically, the American League (which has only 2 teams below .500 at home) has a 59% winning percentage at home, while the National League (with 3 teams below .500) sits at 55%. In other words, a substantial deviation from home and road performances-something that Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus further details.

MLB commissioner Bud Selig had the following to say after the game,
"Everybody understood the ground rules," Selig said. "There was no misunderstanding. There was no contingency. We were going to play the game to the end. That was the contingency. What happened in Milwaukee will not happen again. I really believe that the things that we implemented worked. If we hadn't done them back then there's no question we would've had a problem tonight. But it worked out. In the end it didn't matter."
Which is an excellent point, everybody did understand the ground rules. Both Francona and Hurdle understood that they had x amount of pitchers to get through the game, no matter how long the game went for. Mis-managing their respective clubs should not come back on Bud Selig, but on the managers of the ballgames.

I will concede one aspect of a flaw in MLB's All Star game. Eric Seidman at FanGraphs wraps it up by stating,
Overall, IF the game supposedly counts:

a) No more fan voting
b) No more requirements about representatives from each team
c) Pitchers who can actually pitch are selected
d) More starters than closers
e) Pitchers have to go at least one full inning

If it doesn’t count, do whatever you want. It’s a fun game, there should be no real rules other than to have fun...
And who could argue with that?

BallHype: hype it up!

Trade Speculator - ESPN Roundtable

Interesting stuff below...

Let's see how these trade match up...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Outsiders' National League All Stars

Yesterday I posted who I think should have represented the American League in tonight's All Star Game. I know you have been desperately waiting to see who I pick for the National League. From yesterday's post,
I will select 25 players and do my best to select a member from each ballcub-although I am not going to leave out a deserving candidate to fulfill this requirement. I will ensure that not only are specific position requirements met, but also that the most viable lineup is put together. Over at Baseball Musings, David Pinto has a formula which does much of the work, so I will have to give him credit, where credit is due.
So here they are...

National League Starting Lineup

SS - Jose Reyes
CF - Nate McLouth
1B - Lance Berkman
3B - Chipper Jones
DH - Albert Pujols
LF - Pat Burrell
2B - Dan Uggla
C - Ryan Doumit
RF - Ryan Ludwick

In similar fashion to the American League, David Pinto suggests a vastly different lineup to maximize production. According to the analysis, this group of National League players (in a substantially different arrangement), would produce over 7.5 runs per game. However, the analysis does not take into account speed, nor steals. That is, the lineup analysis would be content with a team full of base clogging power hitters. While speed does not have a major impact on the hitter below, it does have enough for me to warrant placing above average hitters in Reyes and McLouth at the top of the lineup, utilizing their speed.

With four switch hitters in the lineup, this lineup could be a nightmare for a left handed starter, while still being effective against righties.

National League Bench

Brian McCann
Chase Utley
Hanley Ramirez
David Wright
Matt Holliday
Jason Bay
Carlos Beltran

Picking this bench was not as difficult as picking the American League bench. The reason being, some of the players that were picked for the starting lineup were picked based on a specific skill set. That is, I feel Reyes is a more worthy top of the order bat then Ramirez is. Dan Uggla brings a lot of strikeouts, but also an incredible power stroke. In all, I don't feel anyone was truly left off this list that was deserving this season.

Furthermore, let it be known that there are not going to be many defensive substitutions, unlike the American League which is deep in quality defenders. Additionally, this bench features only one left handed bat.

National League Pitching Staff

Starting Pitcher - Tim Lincecum
Imagine the type of season Lincecum would be having if the Giants were a better team? Little Tim leads the National League in both Win Probability Added (WPA) and Value Over Replacement Player (VORP). Two very strong indicators of the value he has had to the Giants this season. If I'm the manager of the National League club, I'm telling Lincecum to toe the rubber like a reliever, 'Get me 6-9 outs kid'.

P - Ben Sheets
P - Edinson Volquez
P - Cole Hamels
P - Carlos Zambrano

The list of deserving starting pitchers for the National League is long, too long. Dan Haren, Aaron Cook, Johan Santana, Brandon Webb, Ryan Dempster, Chad Billingsley, and rookie Jair Jurrjens all have had legitimate All Star type seasons.

RP - Hong Chih Kuo
RP - Takashi Saito
RP - Brian Wilson
RP - Kerry Wood
CL - Brad Lidge

In retrospect, eliminating two relievers (Wilson and Wood) and adding two starters may have been preferable to the direction I choose. However, with the aforementioned list of starters, it would have been equally as difficult to pick only two deserving starters.

National League Legitimate Snubs

The aforementioned starters - Each one proposes a legitimate case to making the All Star team. If I were to pick two, they would have been Aaron Cook and Chad Billingsley.

For Cook, he is a workhorse who goes unnoticed because half of his starts are at Coors Field-although there is an argument to be made that Coors Field actually helps Cook.

Had Billingsley not started the season by getting thumped in 3 of his first 4 starts, we are talking about a legitimate Cy Young candidate. Additionally, despite having a rather high walk rate, Billingsley throws a fair amount of strikes, I haven't checked out his Pitch F/X data to see what kind of swing and miss statistics he has, but clearly he is doing something right.

Taylor Buchholz - Similar to JP Howell for the American League, Buchholz has been extremely impressive. The ex-starter seems to have found a place in the bullpen and in Colorado.

Carlos Lee - Simply put, Lee is one of many great left fielders in the National League. Unfortunately there are too many who are having a better season then Lee.

Derek Lee - Surprisingly, National League first basemen are having fairly disappointing showings to this point. Lee isn't doing anything spectacular, and because of that, is on the outside looking in.

Geovanny Soto - Considering the outstanding statistical season Soto is having, he is doing very little for the Cubs to help them win. His WPA sits at .35 and sits 7th in the National League among catchers. Russell Martin, on the other hand, has a very legitimate beef as he is blowing away the competition in terms of WPA.

Utilizing David Pinto's Lineup Analysis tool, the ideal lineup for National League hitters would have, as mentioned, provided over 7.5 runs. The American League would have put up slightly under 7 runs. While the forecaster does not take into account pitching, park factors, speed, etc, I feel as though the National League has a superior squad.

Which leads to the debate, should the All Star Game count?

BallHype: hype it up!

Hit 'em to Hamilton

Apparently Josh Hamilton can hit the ball far.

That's fairly entertaining. For every home run, head over to

I feel pretty sorry for the Ranger batting practice pitcher. Between Hamilton, Milton Bradley, and Ian Kinsler.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Outsiders' American League All Stars

Since everyone else is doing it, I'm going to chime in with my personal All Stars. I will select 25 players and do my best to select a member from each ballcub-although I am not going to leave out a deserving candidate to fulfill this requirement. I will ensure that not only are specific position requirements met, but also that the most viable lineup is put together. Over at Baseball Musings, David Pinto has a formula which does much of the work, so I will have to give him credit, where credit is due.

American League Starting Lineup

CF - Grady Sizemore
2B - Ian Kinsler
3B - Alex Rodriguez
DH - Milton Bradley
RF - JD Drew
LF - Carlos Quentin
1B - Justin Morneau
C - Dioner Navarro
SS - Michael Young

Although this isn't the lineup that David Pinto's lineup forecaster suggests to utilize, I feel this lineup would really give an opposing pitcher troubles, regardless of throwing arm. Of course, almost any All Star lineup without Jason Varitek would do so. The only major change I could see, would be to swap Bradley and Rodriguez in the batting order.

American League Bench

Joe Mauer
Kevin Youkilis
Brain Roberts
Carlos Guillen
Josh Hamilton
Nick Markakis
Ichiro Suzuki

This was a tough list to compile. A lot of deserving players missed the cut, such as Evan Longoria and Jason Giambi. However, the ability to play multiple positions played nearly as big of a role as did raw statistics. That is, Guillen received an extra vote of confidence in his ability to play both corner infield positions, as well as short stop.

American League Pitching Staff

Starting Pitcher - Roy Halladay
Doc get the nod for me because he has to regularly face near all star lineups against the Red Sox and Yankees. His presence also allows for one fewer reliever to be carried and an additional starter.

P - Justin Duchscherer
P - Scott Kazmir
P - Cliff Lee
P - Felix Hernandez
P - John Lackey

Picking the pitchers was probably more difficult then picking the hitters. Among starters, there were a lot of worthy candidates who had to be left off simply due to numbers. John Danks, Ervin Santana, and Zach Greinke specifically stand out, as pitchers who would have made the cut in almost any year. Each are plenty deserving of a spot on this years All Star team. Additionally, had Shaun Marcum not went down with an injury, he would have made the rotation.

RP - Scott Downs
RP - Joakim Soria
RP - Francisco Rodriguez
CL - Mariano Rivera

Choosing relievers is somewhat subjective. While I wanted to ensure the pitchers had been valuable to their respective clubs, I also wanted to ensure that the pitchers were having a dominant season and would be having similar successes on any other Major League team. Specifically, Scott Shields, Joba Chamberlain, Scott Linebrink, and Jim Johnson are set up men who are going unnoticed simply because they are not in a flashy role. Similarly, people forget how incredible of a job Joe Nathan does because he pitches for Minnesota.

American League Legitimate Snubs

Manny Ramirez - Manny has the highest WPA in the entire American League, so why leave him out? Why not sit and enjoy 3 days of Manny being Manny in New York City? Well, I feel that other players have done more for their specific teams. While Manny has been outstanding, specifically in the abscence of David Ortiz, he has had a spectacular supporting cast. Unlike Quentin who had to carry the Sox on his own through much of May.

Dustin Pedroia - Same situation here. This is not to take anything away from the season that Pedroia has had, but hitting in this lineup makes anyone look good. Remember when Rich Aurilla was raking with the Giants?

David DeJesus - Despite missing some time due to an injury, DeJesus is having a remarkable, yet unnoticed season. I guess I joined the snub party.

JP Howell - Who? Howell has been rocksteady in the Rays vastly improved bullpen. There is a legitimate argument that this pick shows that I know nothing about baseball.

I already named the starters who it was hard to leave off of the list. I took a close look at both Joe Saunders and Daisuke Matsuzaka as two pitchers to include in my snubs list. I'm simply not sure either one of them are putting up sustainable enough numbers to legitimize their selection on this list.

Next up, my National League All Stars....

BallHype: hype it up!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

OWNED! Reflections of Pre-All Star Break Season

I get owned on what appears to be an INXS message board. I'm not sure if this exactly hurts, I mean these are INXS fans, right? In reflection of a post I created during the middle of March, I proclaimed to 'Better Than Oasis', heckling pop group INXS for making a song which sounded as if they wanted to say it, but couldn't man up.

Needless to say, I don't think INXS fans will be writing my name in for any blogger of the year awards. On the bright side, I'm now referred to as a 'Sports Writer'. Oh, and I also learned what happens when you google your own name...a couple times...a day.

That aside, I know everyone has been asking themselves, what does Brandon think about the pre All Star Break season? So here I will reflect on my pre-season player predictions and what I anticipate to come.

Pre-Season Player Predictions

Over at The Fantasy Baseball Generals we were asked to give some award predictions. You can check mine out here.

American League MVP to date:
Milton Bradley - I am sticking with the player I picked nearly two weeks ago for the blogger's poll. Bradley has been incredible and goes into the All Star Break having hit home runs in back-to-back games. As I mentioned, I feel Bradley's presence has had a lot to do with Josh Hamilton's impressive season.

I have a tough time believing Bradley can maintain the season he is having. While his batted ball data is not entirely out of line with his career rates, staying healthy will be Bradley's biggest obstacle. Combine that with the Rangers current place in the standings makes it tough to believe he will come out on top.

Currently, I have Alex Rodriguez as my second most valuable player, but like Bradley, the Yankees position in the standings combined with Rodriguez's injury may limit the likelihood of that. In third, my preseason pick of Grady Sizemore does not look terrible, until one is reminded how awful the Indians have played to date. The current American Leader in home runs and not far from the 40 home run pace I predicted in March.

MVP by seasons end:
All in all, this award is going to come down to the best player on whichever team wins the American League Central. Right now, Carlos Quentin would be the front runner, but he will have to avoid any second half slumping. Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton will both challenge, especially if the Ranger make a legitimate run. Prediction: Justin Morneau.

Cy Young to date:
Roy Halladay - Doc is having arguably the best season of his career. Unfortunately the Jays hitting has stunk otherwise my Jays for the wild card pick wouldn't look so bad. Halladay's ability to give the Jays bullpen a night off on 7 of his 19 starts has been phenomenal and justifies my pick here.

Halladay is also a good enough pitcher to continue the success he is having. Unfortunately, the Baseball Writers of America (BBWA) do not care how good a player performed, they care about how a player performs, they care about how a player performs relative to his team. Currently Doc has 11 wins, but I have a tough time seeing him surpass 16 win unless the Jays really turn things around. That will be what holds him back.

John Lackey and Cliff Lee have both been otherworldly. Lee has the least likely chance of winning the award simply because the Indians have stunk. Although, when Martinez and Hafner return, the Indians could hurt a lot of teams playoff dreams. On the other hand, Lackey is the typical BBWA Cy Young pitcher-posting solid numbers and performing on a playoff caliber team.

Similar to the situation my preseason MVP, Grady Sizemore, finds himself in, my preason Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez is playing phenomenal baseball for a terribly team. In March I predicted the Mariners to win 'a lot of games' and for the Mariners to subsequently win the division. I also envisions Hernandez being the centerpiece of this success en route to far and away leading the league in wins, while taking the next step in his development as a pitcher. Hernandez is having an outstanding season and is holding up his end of my prediction, sitting with the 6th best Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) in the American League. Unfortunately the Mariners suck.

Cy Young by seasons end:
If the Mariners didn't suck, I would stick with Hernandez. I probably would have done the same thing with Sizemore for MVP. But I know how the BBWA vote and what they like to see. I can see the voters giving some love to Halladay (especially if he keeps firing complete games), but in the end, I see the award going to John Lackey or super-surprise John Danks. Predictions: John Lackey.

Rookie of the Year to date:
Evan Longoria - Fewer then 4 weeks ago, by my own admission, Jacoby Ellsbury, had made too wide of a gap with his outstanding play in April, for Longoria to make up the difference. Well, Longoria officially put his name on the map with a fantastic series against the Red Sox to further cement his position as the best first year player.

My preseason pick has officially fallen off the face of the earth. Philip Humber has essentially lost all of the value that he entered this season with and is unlikely to get called up this season, let alone perform at a high enough level to overtake Longoria. My bad.
Rookie of the Year by seasons end:
Longoria started running away with the award and has become a major factor for the Rays this season. His defensive play has been a god-send for one of the majors best defensive teams. Ellsbury appears to be turning things around, but the Red Sox will begin to minimize his work again once David Ortiz returns in a couple of weeks. The BBWA have fallen in love with Longoria, thus Prediction: Evan Longoria.

National League MVP to date:
Lance Berkman - Aside from the steals, Berkman isn't doing a whole lot that he hasn't done previously in his career. If one forgets last seasons ice cold start, Berkman's current season looks a lot like last years second half. The big surprise, however, comes with the fact that Berkman is 32 years old, he isn't supposed to age like this.

Behind Berkman is Albert Pujols, and super surprise Edinson Volquez. Unfortunately Pujols missed some time this year, which will hurt him when the BBWA are handing out the award. However, the Cards stayed hot and Pujols won't have to worry about not winning the award due to being on a losing team. Volquez on the other hand, does have that to deal with.

Prior to the start of the season, I predicted that Pujols would run away with the award. I claimed that the elbow injuries were more a concern of the media then they would be of Pujols. Low and behold, Pujols hasn't had any elbow issues to deal with, and his power is only marginally worse then it had been in years past. However, for a player of Pujols' age, that isn't really a good thing.

MVP by seasons end:
This is a tough one to call. Currently none of the top performers (aside from Pujols) are on teams that are performing at a high enough level for a typical winner by BBWA standards. Keep an eye on the Mets-Phillies race in the National League East. Either David Wright or Chase Utley should walk away with the award for whichever team wins the division. Prediction: David Wright.

Cy Young to date:
Tim Lincecum - It is simple, Lincecum has dominated. Despite the vote that I sent in for Volquez earlier in the week, Lincecum has simply taken over as the National Leagues best pitcher, and has arguably been the best pitcher in all of baseball. Leading the league in FIP, Lincecum is actually managing to get better as the season goes along. Simply put, I cannot gush over Lincecum enough.

Volquez and Ben Sheets would still round out my top three. Volquez appears to be fading, although he will still merit an understandable amount of votes for Cy Young, simply because of how big of a surprise he has been. Being on a losing team also will not help his cause. On the other hand, Ben Sheets is on a team that is looking to make a significant run to the playoffs.

Cy Young by seasons end:
I am curious what the BBWA will do with CC Sabathia. Are his numbers as an Indian not transferrable to winning the NL Cy Young? If they are, Sabathia will make a legitimate argument to win the award. However, either he or Sheets will make a quality candidate for the Brewers.

The being said, with how the Mets have played as of late, my preseason pick of Johan Santana may come to fruition if the Mets can pull out the division. I also anticipate this selection being the BBWA trying to say, 'see, we were right'. Prediction: Johan Santana.

Rookie of the Year to date:
Geovanny Soto - Apparently the steps Soto took last year were legitimate. Soto has been one of, if not the best offensive catcher this season. Receiving pitches from an outstanding rotation on a winning ballclub make his contributions that much more noticeable.

However, Jair Jurrjens, the pitcher the Braves received for Edgar Renteria, has potentially been more valuable to the Braves to this point in the season. As is, Soto has had better overall numbers, but Jurrjens has been more consistent. It will be interesting to see how both wear as the season progresses. I am also not willing to count out Kosuke Fukudome, although I would debate that his rookie season is somewhat a fraud.

My preseason pick of Jay Bruce has not worked out. Despite raking in the minors, the Reds kept Bruce down as to control his arbitration. After a fast start, it appeared the Reds made the wrong decision, and my personal question of whether or not the Reds had used up all of Bruce's stats in the minors, was answered. A lot has changed, and the worries about how Bruce will hold up against Major League pitching have come to fruition, as Bruce has look absolutely terrible, striking out at a ridiculous rate.

Keep in mind Bruce is only 21 years old, so despite his struggles (specifically against lefties), he is still having an outstanding season.

Rookie of the Year by seasons end:
I am going to give this award to Jair Jurrjens. I feel as though the season he is having is more sustainable. Soto is having to log a lot of time behind the plate, and despite being given a considerable break DHing during inter league play, the summer isn't even halfway through yet. The Cubs would be wise to ensure he is getting at least 2 days off a week. Prediction: Jair Jurrjens.

I will reflect on surprise seasons and my highlights of the first half in the coming days. I also intend to supply my All Star teams, and maybe an All Disappointment Team.

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