Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Keepin' It Up

Now I am simply confused...

Listening to Toronto's AM 640 yesterday, the sub for Bill Waters was discussing the Blue Jays and taking calls about the Blue Jays. There seemed to be an ongoing theme that JP Riccardi did not know what he had in terms of arms in the system. This theme was coming as praise for the young arms in the Blue Jays system with the solid job they had done to this point.

The host mentioned that Jays fans had been told that there is not much in the cupboards, that the Jays were going into the season with five starting pitchers and needed health in order to be competitive.

The first issue is that this is simply obvious. Very few teams can afford to dig deep into the minors in order to cover up long term injuries to their starting five. I would say that Baltimore, Boston, and San Francisco are two exceptions to the rule, with others being capable of replacing low-end starters, but having no hope of replacing top end starters.

That aside, I find this report to be conflicting with what another writer stated (one whom I ripped up) that the Jays had raised a white flag on the season prior to Spring Training. That is, the author of the aforementioned article mentioned that the Jays actually had nothing in the cupboards and in order to be competitive, should have spent money and draft picks to add proven starters.

However, quite the opposite has proven to be true-something I asserted. The host of the Bill Waters show on AM 640 should have taken Riccardi's inaction during the off-season as evidence that he had faith in the youth that had been coming through. Riccardi's big off-season splash to his rotation was bringing in Matt Clement and minor signing Bryan Bullington. Clement proved to be as useless as one could be, but Bullington has offered some nice organizational depth, even showing some of the promise that once made him the first overall pick.

To be honest, as someone who was quite familiar with the Jays system, I didn't walk away from this offseason unimpressed. I figured the rotation would be fine and signing free agents would have been useless.

My problem with the discussion on AM 640 is that Riccardi clearly knew what he had. Riccardi showed this by going against the author at Baseball Digest Daily and not wasting money and draft picks. If Riccardi did not know what he had, he would have went the route of Mark Shapiro and signed a David Dellucci type player (to a long term, Major League contract).

With over half the season remaining, the Jays have one of the deepest rotations in baseball. The club can comfortably go to it's 9th or 10th starter, adequately replacing all but Roy Halladay. The big issue for Jays fans shouldn't be that Riccardi "doesn't know what he has", rather, it should be that Riccardi is going to have some difficult decisions to make for 2010.

That is, with Halladay, Dustin McGowan, and Shaun Marcum, more or less a lock to anchor the front three spots of the rotation, they also have to figure out what to do with youngsters David Purcey, Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil, Robert Ray, and Brad Mills, converts Casey Jansen, Jeremy Accardo, and Brian Tallet, prospect Marc Rzepcynski, and 'veterans' Scott Richmond and Bullington. Oh, and Jesse Litsch along with 2009 draftees Chad Jenkins and James Paxton would be fringey September 2010 contributors.

While the names after Marcum will not blow anyones socks off, each one is plenty capable of being a high quality 4th or 5th starting pitcher.

However, if Riccardi does not do anything, one voice in baseball will claim that he has raised the white flag, while the another will assert that going 10 or 11 deep by mid-June shows that Riccardi is clueless as to what he has. I see both as Riccardi not wanting to spend on what he knows he already has. It is Riccardi understanding the market.

Gasp - A Noble Truth

Now I hate to be cynical, but really? This is a story?

I first heard the news that Sammy Sosa had tested positive for taking performance enhancing drugs as I was driving around, taking care of some pre-Korea errands. And I must say, my first reaction was, "this is news?" That is, I was questioning whether or not this was something that had not already been broken.

Alas, the presumed guilt of every player in the Majors.

But wait, that's not the point. The point here is that not every player is presumed guilty of taking steroids during the steroid era (although I certainly would not doubt that a great majority did so), the point is that it has always been obvious that Sammy had been a user throughout his career.

My problem isn't that Sosa's name got leaked, it isn't that some innocent players are presumed guilty, nor is it that a non-story is being covered, it's the fact that there were some, we'll call them noble truths, some no-brainers out there that simply should not surprise anyone.

So I'm sorry Sammy, even without this story, I simply assumed that you had used steroids. It's like assuming that in a few hours it will no longer be dark outside. It's like assuming that Albert Pujols is an outstanding ballplayer. Or like assuming that some baseball writers will use information that legally should not have been leaked and use it as a slight against a player that brought an enormous amount of energy and joy to the ballpark.

It is times like these that I loathe 24 hour media coverage.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

It's Not That I'm Back...

I have, for all intents and purposes, clipped the wings that made this site soar. While things were far from booming for me, I was very pleased with the direction of the site and the increased readership. Four months of school-related busy-ness and it feels like the first time all over again.

Over this time I began to question why I was "blogging" and if there was a point to continue. While I did not come up with an affirmative yes, I furthered my understanding of why I write and to whom I write for.

That is, it is not as if I am writing through the lens of some minority, fact is, like the majority of baseball fans, I fall under the category of WASPy-McWASP; but a Canadian WASP! While I have a relatively open mind when it comes to writing and researching (read, filled with cynicism) there really isn't a whole lot that I can offer to the baseball world that couldn't be found elsewhere.

Alas, a purpose must be found, a purpose must be committed to, and a purpose must be put into action.

Over the coming weeks as I prepare for a major change in my life I intend to develope (/discover) this purpose, stringing it together as a work in progress.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The National League - Without Ration or Reason

Here is my bare bones National League prognostication:

National League
1. Atlanta Braves
2. New York Mets*
3. Florida Marlins
4. Philadelphia Phillies
5. Washington Nationals

1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Chicago Cubs
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
6. Houston Astros

1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Colorado Rockies
3. San Francisco Giants
4. San Diego Padres
5. Arizona Diamondbacks

I'll take time in the next few days to break down the teams and divisions, takes up more time then I thought it would.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Procrastinating Prognostication American League

While a week has passed, I can't honestly say I am in a different frame of mind with my projections then I was a week or two ago. In fact, teams have simply cemented what I already thought of them in most cases, with the exception of the Marlins - whom I still don't trust.

This will be brief, but hopefully it gets the ball rolling on further posts.

American League

1. Toronto Blue Jays - Last year I had the Jays taking second and winning the wild card, this year I have them winning what is easily the toughest division in baseball, and arguably North American sports. The Jays were 5 games below .500 before Cito Gaston arrived and ended the season 6 games above - that's an 11 game turn around in a little over half the season. Projecting a 90 win season out of the Jays is easy, projecting 95 games will rely on a decent amount of luck.

Offensively the Jays are deep, Travis Snider and Adam Lind fill holes that the team had for more then half of last year, Vernon Wells and Scott Rolen need to stay healthy, and Aaron Hill will provide a marked improvement over the Eckstein/McDonald mess that the Jays went with for much of last year. Gaston pushes a more aggressive style at the plate which certainly helped the Jays in the second half of last year.

What the Jays Need? Dustin McGowan and Shaun Marcum aren't coming back, that's the end of that. Why not kick the tires of Pedro Martinez?

2. Boston Red Sox - I simply cannot deny it, the depth of the Sox bullpen and rotation makes them a feirce opponent whom no one would want to face. Offensively the Sox are deep but are aging and have some major holes (see Varitek and Lowrie). The Sox shouldn't expect Pedroia and Youkilis to repeat 2008, but they will be spectacular hitters no matter what.

What is scary about this Sox team is the fact that this could quite possibly be the club's worst team over the next decade.

What the Sox Need?Forget tradition, forget being faithful, Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield should no longer be taking on vital roles within this organization. The Sox have fine replacements for both players and they should be using them.

3. Tampa Bay Rays - On paper this team is as good as any, where they have offensive weaknesses, they have defensive gems. The club has a deep rotation and bullpen with plenty of backups within the system.

I am cautious in not putting the Rays in second and fighting for the wild card considering all that went wrong for this club in 2008, but I simply prefer the Jays and Sox over the course of 162 games. Despite ranking 3rd, I feel Tampa Bay is the best team in baseball and will make it very close, with the potential at winning the division if the Jays and Sox hit some road blocks.

What the Rays Need? Not much really. If anything they need to make some organization decisions like the one they made with Jason Hammel. Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus recently proposed a situation where the Rays move Scott Kazmir to the Indians for Carlos Santana, this is the sort of active move I would expect the Rays to make.

4. New York Yankees - I know, they added a lot, but they also took a lot away. In all, I see what the Yanks did as moving parallel rather then advancing. Long term they are in a better situation, but for today we're looking at an old team where one missing part could end their season.

With the focus shifting towards defensive play the Yanks did well in cutting ties with Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu, but this team is still weak in most areas with the glove.

In addition, their "ace" is somewhat of an enigma. Certainly Charles Carstens' run with Milwaukee makes him appear as a legitimate ace, but consider that was in the National League. Further, while Sabathia has had a nice career, consider the division and opponents he has, for the most part, faced. That is, all but one of the ballparks in the American League Central is pitcher friendly. Not only that, but CC has had the luxury of facing the terrible Royals and prior to 2006, the terrible Tigers on an annual basis. In other words, leaving the Central is only going to hurt the big guy.

What the Yanks Need? Health. If this club is healthy, they can hit with anyone. If they suffer the expected bumps and bruises of a team with an average age well into the 30s, expect another season of disappointment in the Bronx.

5. Baltimore Orioles - The "Next Year's, This Year's" Rays have a team that won't roll over, at least offensively. In terms of pitching, the O's are set up to let their young guns arrive at the show as soon as they are ready - both Matusz and Tillman will make their Major League debuts sooner then later this season.

Despite the right direction, the Orioles are still a few pieces, and a year (atleast) away from being a true competitor. Put this team in the National League, and we've got a different story. In the men's league, the tough division of the men's league, not so much.

What the O's Need? Don't screw this up, things are heading in the right direction and your fanbase is getting excited for the franchise to show up. A hot start will be lucky and treated as a learning experience.


1. Cleveland Indians - Homer alert! Truth be told, I do not like the way the Indians are currently set up. Offensively they are fine, although I feel as though a good lefty could shut them down. Defensively they are adequate, they have their holes, just as they have their strengths. The bullpen has a lot invested in it, both money and youngsters, and should be able to hold its own. Where the Tribe are lost is with their rotation, that is filled with maybe's and if's and nothing certain, not even within the organization.

That said, I am hesitant to place the Indians atop the division, and do so simply because of my personal biases. In addition to that, I simply cannot see another team in this division being worthy of winning, each having their own major flaws.

What the Tribe Need? Every season I preach the same line, "Let the best play". The Indians, more so then any team in the Major Leagues will keep their players down in the lower levels for what must feel like an eternity. At some point, Matt LaPorta is going to be talking with Mat Gamel and asking him what the show feels like, despite the fact that LaPorta is the far more advanced player.

There were very few who figured that LaPorta wouldn't have been the better Opening Day option in left then Ben Francisco, unfortunately those few are making the decisions in Cleveland.

2. Chicago White Sox - I actually really like this team. The rotation goes 5 strong and I am a big fan of the bullpen. Offensively the ChiSox are old, but with enough promising hitters to even out any drop in production. In addition to this, the Sox are the anti-Tribe in that they will promote their prospects even if they aren't ready. Fortunate for them, Gordon Beckham is ready.

What the Sox Need? A drink from the fountain of youth. If Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye, and/or Paul Konerko begin to really show their age, this team is doomed. If that trio can stave off aging for one more year, watch out!

3. Detroit Tigers - Admittedly, the Tigers are alright. Having Cabrera and what he can do with the stick will help even the most hopeless of clubs. The Tigers, are slightly more hopeless, having a nice offensive unit and an improved defensive club.

The issue is with pitching and what to expect from the pitchers. The fact that there are question marks from top to bottom with their arms means the Tigers are rolling the dice that they aren't entering every series expecting an out and out slug fest.

What the Tigers Need? Zumaya to come back healthy and for the rest of the bullpen to simply fall into place. If the Tigers can lean on their bullpen it will take some pressure off of the starters who aren't overly conservative with their pitch counts to begin with.

4. Kansas City Royals - This is built entirely off of promise, and the hope that everything lines up accordingly. Out of spite, I wanted to place the Royals in 5th, as Dayton Moore is showing a total disregard for modern baseball analysis.

That being said, the Royals have a fine pitching staff that will steal a series or two. Their hitters, while inferior to the rest of the division, are good enough to win them the occasional 2-1 game.

What the Royals Need?A new leader who has a single plan, rather then a few plans that are half hearted to begin with. Consistent at bats need to be given to their young emerging stars, and innings need to be ripped from their old, lousy veterans.

5. Minnesota Twins - I don't trust them, I don't love what they have, I just can't see them being a team that can contend in what has become a deep, albeit mediocre division. The thing is, no Mauer is a tough pill to swallow. Add to the fact this club has a young rotation that may need to rely on the bullpen, and it just doesn't seem like a formula for success.

I must admit, this was as much of a coin toss as it is an educated decision. The club still has some nice hitters, and defensively they are fine (without Delmon in the lineup), but this isn't enough to save them from being the bottom feeder of this division. Keep in mind, by "bottom feeder" I am referring to the club being an 80 win team in a division being won by an 88 win team.

What the Twins Need? Some help to their bullpen. As much as I am a homer for Canadian born players, Jesse Crain is not the guy you want handing the ball to Joe Nathan. Pat Neshek was, but he is out for the year. This team would be well served to add an arm or two to the bullpen.


1. L'Anaheim Angels - The other teams in this division simply are not ready to compete at the level of the Angels. While they aren't the team they were in 2008 (which was a very lucky team), they are still the class of a weak division. The Angels don't really have any strengths, but they also lack that glaring weakness.

The addition of Bobby Abreu was an excellent one for a team that lacked on base and power. Abreu isn't going to win another home run derby, but he still has fine power. Missing Lackey and Santana has started the Angels off on the wrong foot, but they should be able to sustain the losses, as long as they don't go too far into May.

I suppose this is as good of a time as any to mention the loss of Nick Adenhart. As someone who lost a friend at an early age to tragic incident, there really isn't anything that can be said that hasn't been said, or that will add some comfort to what happened.

What the Halos Need? To play this game with Adenhart on their minds. It has to be impossible to go about regular business, but that is what the club needs to do. They need to play this year for Adenhart.

2. Seattle Mariners - I know, crazy, right? Well I don't think so. This team shed a lot of bad weight and has fine hitters and quality defenders around the diamond. I can't understand why they didn't swoop in and scoop up Dallas McPherson, however, the M's may have their sights set on the #1 pick in the 2010 draft, maybe hoping that Strasburg is too difficult to sign?

That said, the Mariners are in a division with holes. The Angels aren't really that good, and both the A's and Rangers are without reliable starters. This would be quite the improvement, but there are still a lot of things that I like about this team. Don't forget the duo at the top of the rotation, one that is arguably as good as any in the American League.

What the Mariners Need? Depth/Power. The outfield is defence first. Griffey Jr adds some power and should be an adequate designated hitter, but first base is a black hole, and their left fielder is more of a bench player then a guy who deserves 600+ plate appearances.

3. Oakland Athletics - If this club had even one pitcher that could be relied on, say Joe Blanton, then I might have them atop the division. I like what they have, specifically in the bullpen, and offensively they are solid, but the rotation is a year away.

I'm typically not a "names" guy. I am, however, concerned about what a player has done, and what I believe they are capable of doing. Trevor Cahill, for example, has a fine career ahead of him. But how can a team expect a pitcher that has walked nearly 4 hitters per 9 innings to at the lower levels of the minors to succeed at the big league level?

What the A's Need? You guessed it, pitching. Find some cheap, "reliable" pitching, and this club could make some noise. Stand pat, and I have a feeling they are in for some major trouble.

4. Texas Rangers - The Rangers have a plan, one that seems very positive. Unfortunately the pitching is a year behind. The club has nothing to worry about, however, as the next two or three years should have them standing alone in the division.

Offensively the Rangers are stacked. This lineup is dangerous, one that has me sitting my starting pitchers when they go up against the Rangers in fantasy baseball. Defensively the club is fine, not spectacular, but fine. The pitching, however, is dreadful - for now.

What the Rangers Need? Time. They may be tempted to rush things with Holland and Feliz, and they may be justified in doing so. However, if the club is not going to make a legitimate run at the playoffs, there isn't any need to push up the service clock of those two.

As I did last year, I will be reflecting on these projections at the All Star Break and season's end.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Did You Get the Memo - Wasting a First Round Pick

Well maybe that is a little harsh but the point remains the same, Orlando Hudson is not worth a first round pick. This is the reason Hudson, a highly valuable middle infielder, took until the first week of Spring Training to finally sign a Major League deal.

We have seen over the course of the last year or so that team's are becoming more hesitant to trade expiring contracts of players expected to highly rated by Elias. That is, if the Elias board rates a player as a Type A free agent, and the player is offered and rejects arbitration, the team losing him will receive compensation in the form of a draft pick.

There is a lot that goes into this, but that isn't the point here. What is the point is that the system now appears to be potentially broken, or at least in need of serious restructuring. The reason behind this is that a player such as Hudson should not take this long to sign.

However, when a player like Hudson costs the amount of money he does, as well as a pretty darn good prospect, teams begin to stay away. Not only does a team signing Hudson have to be certain that he is worth the dollar value over an in-house option, but they also have to consider the long term affects of losing a top 60 pick.

It is this prospective value which led the Colorado Rockies to stand pat with Brian Fuentes at last year's trade deadline. A player, whom could have been the difference between the Philadelphia Phillies winning the World Series and not making the playoffs altogether had the Mets pulled the trigger and acquired him.

This inherent value is also causing Major League Baseball to re-evaluate their rules regarding the signing of free agents. That is, under the current rules, free agents are not eligible to be traded prior to June 15th of the year they sign their free agent contract. However, this rule may be changed in order to facilitate a sign-and-trade for Juan Cruz (rumored to be heading to the Minnesota Twins via the Arizona Diamondbacks).

Consider a trade the Twins and Diamondbacks may be able to come to terms on, say Cruz for Anthony Swarzak. Some may argue this is too high of a price, others may argue it is not enough, but consider the alternatives. For the Diamondbacks, it is either Swarzak or nothing; for the Twins, it is either Swarzak or their 23rd overall pick.

However, this is where we currently stand in this market. Teams are beginning to recognize that a free agent is being paid predominantly for what he has done in the past, with only a minor consideration of what he will do in the future. Slowly the long term potential is taking precedence over short term gains. We are in a market where the highly effective Bobby Abreu signed for $5M on a one year deal.

But we are also in a market where full-time designated hitter Raul Ibanez signed for three years at $10M a year-to play in the field nonetheless.

Maybe baseball isn't getting smarter after-all?

Friday, February 20, 2009

New Inadmissable Evidence

The first games of Spring Training are just days away which must excite even the least enthusiastic fan. Here at the Outsiders Look, I am simply beside myself with joy, oh, and the biggest sports trial in recent memory isn't too far off either. Baseball is about to grab center stage and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Via David Pinto's Baseball Musings, an interesting article at CBS Sports which states that much of what seemed to be key evidence against Mr. Bonds has been ruled inadmissible for the upcoming trial.

According to the article,
The decision is a setback for the government in its five-year pursuit of Bonds, who has pleaded not guilty to lying to a grand jury on Dec. 4, 2003, when he denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston said the test results -- urine samples that are positive for steroids -- are inadmissible because prosecutors can't prove conclusively that they belong to Bonds. The judge also barred prosecutors from showing jurors so-called doping calendars that Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, allegedly maintained for the slugger.

The judge said for prosecutors to introduce such evidence, they need direct testimony from Anderson. Illston said Feb. 5 she was leaning toward that ruling.
Not being familiar with the in's and out's of the court system, I decided to contact the author(s) of Sports Law Blog for further information. Once I receive a reply I will be certain to discuss this issue further. However, at this point, it is looking as if Mr. Bonds is going to be set free from these charges. If that is the case, the union's collusion case against MLB will gain that much more steam.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Call

Rare, if ever, will I sign a petition. I always seem to know of a much better way to spend the 30 seconds of my life it would take to put my name on a form.

However this situation is different.

By now everyone has heard that a plane crashed in the east Buffalo suburb of Clarence. The magnitude of this crash was felt immediately as WGR 550 morning radio hosts Howard Simon and Jeremy White reported their respective feelings for the tragedy. It was at this point I took note of just exactly the size of the Buffalo community. You can feel it at Sabres games, even when outnumbered by Leaf fans, Western New Yorkers do not go down without a fight.

As if hearing the cracking voices of Schopp and the Bulldog on my drive home was not enough to remind me how small the Buffalo community is, today I received an email from my college informing me that a Program Counselor had been directly affected from this tragedy. The counselor lost her uncle, who happened to be living in the house that flight 3407 crashed into on Thursday night. Six degrees of separation was just reduced by two-thirds.

So here it is, my official request to sign a 'petition' to get Extreme Home Makeover to assist with the rebuilding of a lost home. While nobody can help restore the life that was lost, we as a community can lend a hand to get two lives back on track.

And where I would typically end with a scene from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, I will instead sign off with Facing and Backing by Hot Water Music:

Instead of resting your legs,
you should be standing up.
Instead of folding your hands,
you should be giving them out.
Instead of turning your back,
you should be showing your face.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Salary Capping

I've never been pro-salary cap. I simply cannot understand the rationale behind enforcing a cap. Yes, the Yankees spend way more money then the lower class citizen's, and yes there is a decent relationship between the playoffs and spending, however it is not a direct relationship.

That is, spending does not invariably get a team into the post-season. It does, ensure the team has a shot at being competitive, but so too does smart management like we have seen in Oakland and Minnesota over the last decade.

Sports fans will point to the other sports leagues as examples of why there should be a salary cap in baseball. As if there isn't competitive imbalance in basketball (Milwaukee anyone?), football (the dynasty-esqe Patriots), or hockey (see Detroit). For the most part, people ignore the fact that the Cincinnati Bengals have been awful for the better part of two decades. That the Los Angeles Kings are not looking to recreate Wayne Gretzky. Or that the Los Angeles Clippers have essentially always been awful.

Let's use a hypothetical cap which Shawn Hoffman of Squawking Baseball suggests in an outstanding article at Baseball Prospectus. Shawn suggests that the cap would sit around $100M and the floor would be over $75M. At a cap of $100M there would only be nine teams that would have to lower their payroll. A floor of $75M would increase the payroll of at least eleven teams. In other words, the rebuilding efforts of the Washington Nationals, Kansas City Royals, etc would be squashed as they would have to dish out money to players without long term value.

Even if those teams could remain on track with their respective building efforts, another issue exists, one which fans ignore, one that is of incredible importance. That is the fact that baseball is simply different then the other sports. In football and basketball there isn't much a team can do with their excess revenue. Sure they can hire better coaches, supply superior medical facilities, but for the most part, teams operate on an even playing field to begin with.

Not so with baseball. In baseball, not every player is involved in the amateur draft. Between professionals from international leagues overseas, or kids from Latin America, the teams with excess cash could simply blow the small market clubs out of the water in those markets.

That is, in basketball a player is drafted, signed, and added to the roster of the pro team. He immediately becomes a contributor, if only marginally. It is very rare for a player to be drafted early and sent to the D-League. For the most part, players are NBA-ready on draft day.

In baseball this could not be further from the case. Even players with three or four years of college experience under their belts will need a year or two (at least) of minor league seasoning before they are ready to be called up. Due to this, a player's salary could not be justifiably added to the Major League payroll.

Adding more confusion to this is in regards to how a player is acquired. Taking a look at the draft we see 'over slot' bonuses handed out all the time. Imagine if the Yankees were spending $100M less on their big league roster? You better believe that they are going to spend it somewhere, the first place being the draft.

Now imagine the Yankees setting aside an extra $40-60M for the first year player draft. Imagine a top-10 player sitting there with Scott Boras as his agent, knowing full well that the Yankees are going to pay whatever the player asks. The $6M+ that Pedro Alvarez received would be half of what the Yankees would have available for the drafts top prospect. Where are the Pirates going to get $10M to sign this kid?

But let's take this a step further. Now we're looking at the top 10 prospects in the first year player draft, each knowing the Yankees have a boat load of cash to spend on draft day. Do you think the teams with lesser financial luxuries will have a leg to negotiate with? No way!

So one will say, 'easy solution, we cap the draft spending'. Well, MLB has tried that, so has the NFL. It simply does not work.

However, let's pretend that this does hypothetically occur. The Yankees still have that additional $100M that they aren't allowed to spend on their big league roster or on the amateur draft. Where does that money go?

How about to the international market, a market which is impossible to cap because of how large of a market we are talking about. Also, what would be capped? Would teams be limited at how many academies they open? Certainly no one is going to argue that the Yankees offer less opportunity (albeit, while being Un-American) to the have-nots of the world.

So now we have the Yankees blowing the lid off the international market. Michel Inoa, here are your pinstripes. Felix Hernandez, welcome to the Bronx. Juan Duran, you never knew the Reds.

The simple fact remains that there are teams that simply have more money then those they are competing against. Is it absolutely fair? I suppose it isn't. But baseball cannot be fair without devastating the sport and it's current player development.

Let's stop this call for a salary cap. Let's remember that the money the Yankees bring in isn't going to stop them from spending, rather, it will cause them to spend money elsewhere. For now, as a fan of a small market club, I don't mind the current financial environment. I don't mind that the Yankees are in a market and a financial position where winning today is everything. That mentality forces the club to spend great sums of cash in order to build the best team possible.

However, that is for today. That is the Yankees building a team of players based on what they have done in the past. Who thinks the CC Sabathia or AJ Burnett deals won't look like atrocities toward the end of their respective contracts?

So I suppose it is unfair that the Indians didn't have a chance to resign Sabathia long term, but in 2013, I'm sure Indians fans coast to coast will be smiling that Sabathia is not 'anchoring' (literally and figuratively) the Tribe's rotation.

Time to re-build.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hey, I Remember You

That's right, today is one of the most important days on the calendar-pitchers and catchers officially begin to gather for Spring Training. What better way to start your day then to know spring is right around the corner. Who cares what the groundhog said, baseball season marks the end of a cold winter and with pitchers and catchers reporting, we are merely weeks away from the start of the marathon we know as Major League Baseball.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I Think I Finally Understand...

So I think I finally get it now. I get, as the video clip says, that "I'll never understand" the steroid issue. Where I associate doing steroids to speeding for a job interview, others see it as stealing answers to a placement exam. I see taking steroids as someone cheating off of your paper, popular perception likens it to bringing in crib notes.

But I get it now. I just don't get it.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Mr. Joe Baseball-Fan

As you all know, Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids back in 2003 when he and the rest of Major League ballplayers agreed to steroid testing under the condition that the results remain private. Of course, to ensure that the "big boss-man fat cat...[can] escape by helicopter" there has to be some promises broken, some goats to be scaped.

In other words Mr. Joe Baseball-Fan, the person (or persons) who have slighted you are not the individuals who have tested positive for a substance that was not banned. Rather, it is the individual(s) who have decided to not step forward for the problem they built.

Via John Brattain's Ground Rule Trouble,
I tend to be more surprised when somebody is completely above reproach or suspicion rather than otherwise--the culture of getting any kind of edge in the sport is as old as the game itself and it’s largely a myth that MLB reflects the best in America; to the contrary, it reflects America as it truly is: winning isn’t everything it’s the only thing, nobody remembers who finished second, if you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin’...
And like usual, I couldn't have said it better.

A Week Today

A week today marks the official start to the baseball marathon. On this date pitchers and catchers begin reporting to the Spring Training facilities of their respective Major League clubs and all that has been put on paper over the previous four and a half months begins to take shape.

This date will also mark the end of my neglect from writing. My schedule has been jam-packed and as my as I enjoy writing, I simply haven't had the motivation to do so.

That said, I have kept up with the on-goings of baseball as I typically do as well as coming up with some great topics to write about.

What can be expected in the coming week:
  • Trade Reflections - A few trades have gone down that I haven't written about. Specifically a swap between the Indians and Cubs, not to mention a swap between the Cubs and Mariners;
  • Award Reflections - I never got around to finishing this up. I plan to take care of the MVP Awards as well as giving out the OLIBy's;
  • Under the Radars - There have been plenty of lesser reported moves, a handful of which deserve mention;
  • Random Articles - These include articles about Salary Arbitration, Salary Caps, wOBA, The Battle Between Boston and New York, Rule V Draft Recap, More on Bonds and Steroids, Analyzing General Managers, among others; and
  • Team by Team Reflections - This year these will be slightly more detailed. In addition to my personal reflection of the team's offseason and what to expect for the 2009 season, the reflections will involve a top 5 prospect list as well as word from a fan of the team.
Articles should begin rolling out with more frequency in the next day or two as I try to get back on track.

Thanks for sticking around.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Wait a Second!

Didn't we already acknowledge that the Yankees are 'Un-American'? Who does this 'Peter Gammons' guy think he is?

Well Gammons is right, the Yankees are not 'Un-American', spending, and bullying the competition is, for all intents and purposes, the American way.

Gammons is reflecting on the crying out for a salary cap (something I will touch on later this week) after the Yankees went 'America' all over baseball. But what is more American then buying up the best available assets? What is more American then trying to win at all costs?

Gammons writes,
Feel sorry for the Brewers and the Blue Jays and the Rangers? Yes, because for all the Yankees may pay in luxury tax and revenue-sharing money, for all the fannies they put in opposing teams' seats, for all Bud Selig does to try to level the playing field, the Yankees are back to being a smartly run business. And their business is to turn as much of the baseball business as possible into a game of fattening frogs for snakes, as Sonny Boy Williamson once put it.
But do we really need to feel bad for the Brewers, Jays, and Rangers? While the Yankees have the largest market, they have also done well to ensure their subsequent market stays strong. The same cannot be said for smaller market teams which rely on Major League Baseball to market their sport.

In conclusion, Gammons writes,
Didn't Hal Steinbrenner invest $423.5 million to buy back the we're-the-Yankees-and-you're-not swagger? Look at it this way: The Yankees will still be helping some small-market owners pay down their interest.

For now, it's the American way. Wal-Mart eats up small-family businesses. The Yankees eat up the Brewers and the Indians, and there may not be an owner in any sport who, given the opportunity afforded to Hal Steinbrenner, wouldn't have done the same thing.
So no, baseball does not need a salary cap, and no, people should not feel sorry for the small market teams. If an individual feels opposed to this, I sure hope they do not spend at the big box stores. I hope these individuals do not live a penny beyond what they need.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Baltimore + Pie = An Uncreative Title for an Analysis of a Trade

How many authors are going to drop some lame Baltimore desiring a piece of Pie joke on this one?

On January 18th, 2009, the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago Cubs came to an agreement on a trade that would send outfielder Felix Pie to Chicago in exchange for left handed starting pitcher Garrett Olson and righty Henry Williamson. Pie had been highly coveted by the Orioles last off season, however I am uncertain why the Orioles felt the need to add him now.

From the Cubs perspective this doesn't make a lot of sense although it fits well with their previous deals (which have been about dealing hitting surplus for arms). While this is not a terrible idea, it will not prove beneficial if the Cubs treat the arms they are acquiring the way they treated Donald Veal. With the rotation currently looking seven or eight arms deep the addition of Olson certainly signals the start of something much larger-something I will touch on at the end of this article.

I will begin with breaking down what the Cubs received.

First, the 23 year old right handed reliever, Henry Williamson. Selected out of the 14th round of the 2007 first year player draft, Williamson has not been around long enough nor was he a high enough rated prospect entering the draft for information to be readily available.

Despite the lack of written reports, the numbers (a 10.93k/9 and a 2.25bb/9) show a guy with a fairly sound arm. Given he hasn't really put a dent into the minor leagues Williamson is very far away at this point, he's not a bad guy to have in the system, but not a guy that anyone should expect to make the Majors prior to September of 2010.

Garrett Olson is the real 'prize' of this deal, in that he is still young enough and lacking the big league experience to know exactly what type of pitcher he will become. That said, Olson's once "middle of the rotation" starter status has certainly diminished to the point where he's probably a long shot to be a quality end of the rotation guy.

Olson's stuff isn't phenomenal, owning three nice pitches, but no true out pitch. With that in mind, there is a possibility that being a left-handed pitcher has carried Olson to this point in his career and inflated his minor league numbers. Kevin Goldstein mentioned that during Olson's debut season (2007) he got too "cute...trying to paint corners and fool hitters by changing speeds".

While Olson has been hit fairly hard during his brief Major League tenure. He hasn't benefited from any luck however, which is due to the fact that he has pitched in front of a fairly mediocre defensive team. Add in the fact that he would be the worst rated pitcher in terms of getting hitters to swing at pitches outside of the strike zone.

The move to the National League cannot hurt Olson, I imagine he will be hard pressed to make the starting rotation out of camp. With Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly, and Rich Harden manning the front four spots in the rotation, Olson will have to be absolutely dominate to beat out Chad Gaudin, Rich Hill (remember him?), Sean Marshall, and long shots Angel Guzman and Jeff Samardzija for the final spot in the rotation.

All in all, we're probably talking about an arm that starts the year in Iowa and makes very little impact for the Cubs in 2009.

In exchange for the equivalent of "future considerations", the Cubs moved "the future in center field", Felix Pie. This is, however a defensible move for the Cubs who are out to win and not really in the position to go through the aches and pains of running out the equivalent of a second year player.

Pie has had a phenomenal Minor League career, something that is even more impressive when one considers he has consistently been one of the youngest players at each level he has played. The young outfielder has only recently begun to utilize his legs, adding to the high power potential that he displayed with his always quick wrists.

For the Orioles Pie is in the perfect spot to come aboard and get a fair amount of playing time. Pie has always rated as having an extremely high ceiling, his tools even being compared to that of Carlos Beltran's and at just 23 years old (24 for Opening Day), Pie could still develop into an excellent hitter.

Being left handed the Orioles will give him the better half of a platoon with Ryan Freel. This will allow Pie to slowly adjust to Major League pitching and help him get comfortable with his new position in the outfield.

If Pie can at least put some of his tools together and become an everyday player, the Orioles are set for years to come-not to mention the fact that the trio of Pie, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis will be an outfield that hitters do not want to hit into.

The Cubs certainly gave up the best player in this deal, and the return wasn't really franchise altering in terms of value. However, Pie was going to be hard pressed to make the club out of Spring Training which would have put the Cubs front office with their backs up against the wall as Pie is out of options. With better in-house options, the Cubs were better making a move sooner, rather then Shapiro (read, later).

For the Orioles, if they can be as patient with Pie as they were with Jones, this has a lot of long term potential. Understanding that the club is extraordinarily deep with pitching prospects and that Olson's long term value with the club was minimal at best, this was a no-brainer.

With those individual scenario's in mind, I am going to give this to the Orioles. The risk (an end of the rotation starter and a questionable reliever) is far less then the reward (a solid all around outfielder). If this doesn't work out for the Orioles, they can patch the Olson hole with any number of in-house or free agent options.

Conversely, the Cubs, while sticking to a plan of acquiring a boat load of pitching, may end up on top here if this allows them to acquire Jake Peavy. Keep in mind that Olson was said to be an arm the San Diego Padres were interested in. The worst case scenario for the Cubs is better today then it was yesterday.

Barry Bonds Didn't Sin Afterall

Jonathan Littman at Yahoo! Sports writes the first part of a series which will dive into the 30,000 pages of testimony from the BALCO case. The conclusion of this first article in this series, apparently the perjury case against Barry Bonds does not hold as much water as we have been led to believe.

I am not incredibly knowledgeable in regards to the justice system and perjury charges; however I have found it interesting that congress found 19 cases in which Bonds lied however are only charging him with 4 acts of perjury. While Bonds simply needs to be found guilty of one of these charges, I would think that the more charges against an individual the greater chance of one sticking.

The problem, which Littman discusses, is that it is looking more and more likely that Bond did not knowingly lie to congress. At the time, the Clear, the substance Bonds did not deny taking, was not classified as an illegal steroid. This, according to Littman, could be enough for Bonds’ lawyers to have his charges dropped due to the assumption that an individual may refer to steroids as an illegal substance.

From the Littman article,
Bonds’ attorneys could argue that even if he took the Clear, he wasn’t lying when he responded by saying "Not that I know of."

"It’s reasonable to think that the person answering a question about steroids would think they were asking about an illegal steroid," said Charles La Bella, a former U. S. attorney and chief of the criminal division for the Southern District of California who now practices criminal defense in San Diego.

"[A jury] wants unambiguous terms."

More than two months after Bonds testified, the government dropped clues that it was aware that the Clear was legal – and not a steroid.
While this is not evidence to the Bonds apologists that Bonds did not take steroids, this can be place in the "Bonds did nothing wrong" file.

Furthermore, Littman asserts,
The government believes it has tripped Bonds, but whether he falls will be determined in court. The fact that the key drug he is accused of taking was legal and not recognized as a steroid under federal law could complicate the case, experts say.

"I don’t understand why the government would seek an indictment after obtaining Catlin’s expert testimony that the Clear was not a steroid," Cannon said. "Why come up with an indictment based on an ambiguous definition?"
One needs to keep in mind that no matter the outcome of this trial, Bonds is not being tried based on whether he has or has not taken steroids. Rather, Bonds is being investigated in his part with the BALCO investigation.

According to Littman,
Neither Conte nor Anderson was charged with distributing THG. In fact, nobody in the seven-year BALCO investigation has been charged with possession or trafficking of the drug. Less than $2,000 of drugs was found in the highly publicized raid of the Burlingame, Calif., laboratory in 2003.
With this in mind, I find it interesting that congress is spending as much time and money on such a minor issue. This will certainly go down as an embarrassment to congress if (and when) the charges are subsequently dropped. That the media has fed into this being a larger case then it actually is seems to be more associated with Bonds and pinning him as the bad guy then it does with solving the steroid issue.

Friday, January 16, 2009

An Open Letter

I am in the midst of working out my team by team preview for the 2009 season, something that will be much further in depth then what I did last year.

With that, I hope to do a '5 Questions' type thing with fan-bloggers to add to each of my team previews, getting an 'Armchair Experts' opinion on what is going on and what can be expected with each individual club.

Currently I am working on solidifying my questions as well as coming up with a wishlist of contributors. However, I understand that people will be busy with their own season previews and may not get a chance to help out with this.

That said, anyone who reads this and hosts a team-specific site and would like to be apart of this, please send me an email and let me know of your interest. Further, for anyone reading this, if you have a suggestion of an 'expert' you would like to hear from, let me know, and I will do my part in getting that author aboard with this.

Buffalo Bisons New Uni's Unveiled

This afternoon, at the Bisons annual Hot Stove luncheon, the New York Mets triple A affiliate unveiled their new uniforms. While I am as opposed to change as the next person, I'm not terribly disappointed with the direction of these sweaters. Truth be told, I sort of expected the Bisons to turn into the Baby-Mets.

Looking at the image above, from left to right. I like the addition of the 'NY' under 'Buffalo' on the away jersey. I'm not overly thrilled with the font, but it is acceptable. The home jersey is nothing special, I've never been a fan of numbers on the front of jerseys, but it is beginning to grow on me (thanks Sabres). Lastly, the Thursday/Sunday, 'Alternate' jersey doesn't do much for me. Mostly because it takes away what was previously my favorite logo in all of sports and 'modernizes' it.

In terms of the caps, they could be worse. From left to right we have the away cap which seems to mimic the font seen in the Buffalo Braves logo. The home cap has the new logo, while growing on me, still represents the beginning of the end of the incredible and historic buffalo in a baseball logo. Lastly, the alternate cap I am fairly unimpressed with. The NY seems to look more New York Giants then New York Mets. Maybe adding some black or orange trim somewhere in the hat would help but until I see this cap up close (and subsequently purchase), I will remain impartial.

Overall, things could have been substantially worse. I walk away not hating what the Mets have done, but at the same time, I'm not overly impressed. Maybe it is because there are so many changes going on in such a short period of time, maybe it's because I don't want the 'Labatt Blue Zone' to be renamed the 'Coca-Cola Family Area'. Whatever the reason, I'm sure these new threads will grow on me, and before long I will forget the green and orange doned by Ryan Garko and Jason Davis.

Buffalo Bisons New Uni's

In a few short minutes the Buffalo Bisons will unveil their four new uniforms. The new primary logo and basic color scheme had been unveiled a month ago, and at first did not sit very well with me. A month later and the logo is starting to finally beginning to grow on me.

It will be interesting to see what the Bisons do with their caps. They have experimented with non-traditional, cartoon-y logos in the past, but have eventually come back to a simple "B" or otherwise.

While I'm not a big fan of the Met-based color scheme, I can easily accept it.

Once the new Uniform's are unveiled, I'll be certain to post them...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

ADHD and Baseball

I’m not entirely sure why or how this made headlines, but Major League Baseball is just like the rest of America. That’s correct; according to baseball’s recent ‘Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs)’ eight percent of baseball players have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This is on par with the national rate of ADHD; in fact, this is actually lower than the estimated twelve percent among males nationwide.

What caught my attention is that players are being given exemptions to take medication for this disorder, medications that otherwise would have shown up on baseball’s banned substance list. Let’s keep in mind, that baseball upholds a much higher ethical standard then the rest of professional sports and under no circumstance would encourage members of their organization to ‘pretend’ to have ADHD.

Or would they?

It is said that with proper treatment, an individual with ADHD could cut down their need for medication by up to 66%. Treatment, which ranges from simply being more active to coping mechanisms, coupled with a decreased amount of medication, is the best way to fight ADHD. However, do we really think that a Major League Baseball team would lower the prescription dosage for a player if it helped the player on the field?

We aren’t talking a cough syrup which may contain chemicals that raise red flags to the International Olympic Committee. We are talking about players being allowed to take amphetamines and other stimulants that are often provided to those suffering from ADHD.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), medications that treat ADHD increase the level of dopamine in an individual. An increased dopamine level will lead to an increase in libido. An increased libido means the body has more energy.

This sounds an awful lot like a performance enhancer, does it not? While these drugs are prescribed, it isn’t as if the testing for ADHD is necessarily vigorous. In most cases, ADHD will be diagnosed through the observation of patterns and based on a checklist. Search for “ADHD Checklist” and you will get a feel for how vague this checklist is.

While I am not going to immediately suggest that those doing these checklists do not know what they are talking about, I simply would urge baseball to enforce mandatory MRI’s on the players said to have ADHD. It has been found that an individual with ADHD has thinner brain tissue, and a small brain, between three and four percent. While inconsequential, this is a simple way to diagnose the disorder.

With all of this in mind, what is to stop a Major League organization from ‘mis’-diagnosing an extra player or two on their 40-man roster? With national ADHD rates for males around twelve percent, each Major League team could conceivably have up to five players on its 40-man roster with ADHD; five players whom would be eligible to test positive for amphetamines under baseball’s TUE.

ADHD is a relatively new disorder, having only been recognized by the American Psychological Association since 1980. Some believe that ADHD is simply cultural; however there is evidence against this. The research I have studied does assert that the gender deviations with ADHD exist predominantly due to the current structure of education in the west. This is not to say that ADHD is being overdiagnosed; instead, I would argue that if every child were to take an MRI, we would see that far more then eight percent of children would have ADHD.

That aside, we are still talking about a potentially major loophole in baseball’s drug testing policy. One that, despite how “moral” or “ethical” the league claims to be, will be open to abuse until it is closed. As it stands, the league is essentially allowing five players per team to take amphetamines.

Of course, this is only an issue if the ballplayer invariably becomes a star and breaks records.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Mis-Article of the Week - Misremembering Facts

When did it become okay for writers to improperly analyze facts?

I know everyone wants to be a sports writer, but simply because you have fingers and a keyboard does not give an individual the right to incorrectly report the on goings of the game. If you aren't going to offer anything of worth to the conversation, my advice, don't offer anything at all.

On Wednesday, a writer from Baseball Digest Daily decided he would pen one of the least educated pieces baseball will see this year. The writer proclaimed that the Toronto Blue Jays have called it quits on the 2009 season simply because they are not being overly active in free agency. The author's central thesis, 'The Jays spent x in 2008 and are on pace to spend x-1 in 2009, they certainly don't care about winning'.

Now the jump to conclusions mat is often a comfortable place to land for authors, and I suppose it is irresponsible for me to assert the author understands the current economic realities in North America, but really? Come on Mr. Hamrahi, if you are going to drop me as a writer, at least bring in someone who is going to report some of the facts, not merely typing aimlessly to reach a weekly quota.

Let's attack what is incorrect about the authors article.

First, if the Jays are in fact spending less money this year, it is completely rationale. Recall, in early December that the Blue Jays were said to be laying off many of it's employees, predominantly from the sales staff. The layoffs were said to be 'in the 30s'.

While I can't confirm how significant 30 layoffs are, I am willing to speculate the Jays are cutting over a million dollars. So that the Jays may be spending less money on the on-the-field product, this is a top to bottom decision, presumably tied to the passing of Ted Rogers.

Second, are the Jays spending less money? The author states that the Jays are scheduled to fall $15M under 2008's $100M team payroll. For arguments sake, I will assume the author does not know that different nations use different currencies and that different currencies have different respective values.

According to the Bank of Canada, the exchange rate on the day the article was penned (January 7th, 2009) sat at 18.5%. This means that in order to purchase one American dollar, it would cost $1.18 Canadian. Keep in mind, this is the Bank of Canada's rate, which is not the rate an individual would be able to buy the currency, but for simplicity sake, we'll say it is.

A year ago to that very day, the exchange rate was essentially par (0.5%), in fact, the following day the exchange rate actually favored the loonie.

So let's break this down. On January 7th, 2008, the Jays $100M payroll cost them $100M. Simple.

Exactly one year from that day, eighty five million loonies would have cost a little over one hundred and one million Susan B. Anthony's.

In other words, that Jays have actually increased their payroll and are subsequently not "quit[ting] on a season".

With the loonie sitting relatively idle, it is not unreasonable for the Jays organization to believe that the eighty five million United States dollars they are investing has the same value as the one hundred million they spent last year.

Assuming the author does not know anything about the current state of the economy, nor the differences between currencies, one would expect a writer for a baseball website to provide accurate and insightful information regarding baseball specific facts. Not so.

The third piece of misinformation, the author discusses the Jays failure to sign Jason Giambi. While Giambi would certainly be an offensive upgrade over Adam Lind, Lyle Overbay, and/or Travis Snider there are more negatives to this signing then the offensive upgrades. That is, Giambi would mean that Lind, Snider, or Overbay would be pushed out of the starting lineup. One can make an argument for Overbay (although the Blue Jays high valuation of team defensive play would arguable eliminate Giambi from playing in the field), but Lind and Snider are two young, high upside players. Both are essential locks to be healthy all season, and given their youth, could potentially outperform the aging Giambi.

Not only that, one has to assume that Giambi would play in Toronto instead of signing for a home-state discount in Oakland. In other words, signing Giambi may marginally benefit the Jays, but it would almost be like the Yankees bringing in Francisco Rodriguez at a closer's salary to close the games Mariano Rivera can't. We're bordering on useless and stupid.

The author then attacks JP Ricciardi's decision to bring in David Eckstein. I suppose the new standard at BDD is accurately reporting one fact-a year late. Eckstein has since left town (in exchange for a nice, albeit relatively unimportant prospect, Chad Beck) and the Jays are, according to the author, need to find a replacement.

Because Eckstein was such a vital part of the Blue Jays success in 2008, the author states, "so couldn’t the Blue Jays use a veteran like Orlando Cabrera with his .281 BA, 8 HR’s, 57 RBI’s and 19 SB’s?"

The easy answer, 'Sure', any team could use any above replacement level player. You know, I could 'use' a new car. I could 'use' a new watch. When you ask a stupid question, there are only stupid, pointless answers.

That said, the question the author should have asked is, 'so don't the Blue Jays need a veteran like Cabrera and his pointless counting stats?'

At which point, a person with even a marginal ability to analyze baseball would say, 'No! They certainly do not!'

Really? Why not? I mean Cabrera's contract would not only get the Jays well over what they spent in 2008, but it would also cost the club a draft pick.

That's not all! For signing Cabrera the Blue Jays would also have the honor of placing Cabrera in a position that is currently manned by the superior, Marco Scutaro. Scuatro, if you recall, was the 'Shoulda' runner-up for the short stop gold glove award in the American League. While his hitting leaves much to be desired, so too does Cabrera's at this point in his career. In other words, the Jays have a similar hitting short stop who also happens to have an incredible mit.

By deciding not to throw his money away, by choosing not to exceed last years payroll, JP Riccardi is, I quote, "a slap in the face of Blue Jay fans". In other words, according to this incredible analysis, JP Riccardi's decision to ensure his team does not get worse, is the same as slapping each and every Jays fan in the face-specifically those Drunk Jays Fans.

How does this pile of garbage get published?

Prior to being 'released' from BDD, I had been considering leaving the site due to a lack of quality analysis involved. The site appeared more for the casual fan of the game then for someone who is looking to be challenged, someone who wants to dive deep into the game of baseball. BDD, for all intents and purposes, had become more of a secondary place for baseball news. If it is a weekend at, then BDD is the place to go.

Not only does the author of this piece think that the only way to win is by spending money, but he feels that teams should ignore their current assets and load up on free agents. This author is essentially useless to the baseball community with articles of this ilk.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Questionable Assumption - Would Barry Have Been a Good Hitter in 2008?

As promised, yet another follow up to the Barry Bonds saga.

Jack Marshall writes,
...[S]igning Bonds in order to make the playoffs would have been a dubious and foolish deal for any team, even if one buys the questionable assumption that he would have played well enough to hold up his end of it.
Questionable assumption? I'm sorry, but did I miss something?

While Marshall is accurate in asserting that Bonds would have been an injury risk had a team signed him for the 2008 season (or even for half of the 2008 season), sometimes the risk outweighs the reward. The risk involved in this scenario would be signing Barry to the league minimum and getting zero at bats out of him.

The reward? Signing Barry to the league minimum and getting close to the season Barry put up in 2007.

On the surface, to someone who is simply a fan of the game, that might not mean much. I mean, 28 home runs and 75 runs batted in is not going to win an MVP award in this day and age-unless of course you are a scrappy underdog. But further analysis gives us a different story.

Let's first look at some of the numbers Barry put up in 2007 as a 42 year old.

Barry posted the 6th highest wOBA in all of Major League Baseball during the 2007 season. This is not a park adjusted figure, but alone, that speaks highly of Mr Bonds. Keep in mind Bonds' .429 mark that season would have rated 4th in the league in 2008. That .429 figure would have been tops among American League DH's , and 80 points higher then the league average DH with 300 or more plate appearances, a number that is higher then it should be due to some non-DH qualified hitters making the list (Guerrero and Guillen).

Thus, in the best possible scenario, Bonds is the #1 rated DH in the American League ahead of Milton Bradley.

However, despite wOBA being 'league adjusted', I don't feel comfortable simply sliding Bonds' numbers over to the American League and saying, 'viola'. What I want to prove is that Bonds would have been a highly efficient hitter had he moved to the American League and DHed. This is giving the author that Bonds absolutely could not play in the outfield-which is a 'questionable assumption' given some of the iron glovers that patrol left field, but something I will still accept for arguments sake.

Let us, however, look at one more statistic before diving into the knitty-gritty.

Equivalent Average (EQA), Baseball Prospectus' league, park, and pitching adjusted statistic which takes into account baserunning-something I will readily accept Bonds can rate low at. Still, from 2005 to 2007, Bonds posted an EQA of .330, .334, and .353. Even if we take Bonds' half season, injury wrecked 2005, he still would have rated as the 5th best hitter in all of baseball in 2008. His .353 mark in 2007 would have rated him as the top DH, ahead of Bradley by 12 points.

In other words, based entirely on what Bonds had done recently, there was little reason to believe he couldn't have been a useful designated hitter in 2008, even for 50 games.

But how useful?

As I dove into when analyzing the JJ Putz to the Mets deal, the provided statistics of O and Z-Swing Percentage and O and Z-Contact Percentages. Briefly summarizing this, via
  • O-Swing%: The percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone.
  • Z-Swing%: The percentage of pitches a batter swings at inside the strike zone.
  • Swing%: The overall percentage of pitches a batter swings at.
  • O-Contact%: The percentage of pitches a batter makes contact with outside the strike zone when swinging the bat.
  • Z-Contact%: The percentage of pitches a batter makes contact with inside the strike zone when swinging the bat.
  • Contact%: The overall percentage of a batter makes contact with when swinging the bat.
  • Zone%: The overall percentage of pitches a batter sees inside the strike zone.
Utilizing this data, and understanding that this data translate extremely well from season to season for individual players, we can begin to see what we could have expected from Barry in 2008, based purely on his approach at the plate.

As one might expect, the fewer times a hitter swings at pitches outside of the strike zone (ie. having a low O-Swing Percentage-OS%), the higher the hitters walk rate. Interestingly, this does not correlate to a hitters strikeout rate.

In 2006 and 2007, Bonds displayed his usual excellent eye at the plate, rating in the top five among most patient hitters in the league. Keep in mind, Barry had essentially nothing around him during these two seasons, en route to receiving the most intentional base on balls both years.

Of course that would go on to skew Barry's numbers, as he obviously is not going to swing at a pitch when the catcher is not in his crouch and is a few steps from the plate. Nevertheless, Barry did not receive those type of walks through having Wily Mo Pena-type discipline.

Thus, Barry's ability to lay off outside pitches means he was likely to sustain a high walk rate in 2008. Further, Barry has consistently been among the league leaders in seeing pitches outside of the strikezone, as well as having a very low (which is good) first pitch, strike rate. Again, there is definitely a connection between having no one around Barry, and being a league leader in this area, but clearly Bonds' ability and reputation is enough for pitchers to keep staying away from him.

One area where Bonds is simply 'average' (by Barry's standards) is in regards to making contact outside of the strike zone (OC%). This is not necessarily a negative, but does go to show that the odd occassion where Barry swings at a pitch outside of the strike zone, it's most likely not his pitch. That being said, Bonds still rates well above average in making contact during these occassions, so the change in leagues shouldn't account for much of a deviation aside from a short adjustment period.

Given, as mentioned, these statistics are fairly constant from season to season, it is safe to assume that Bonds would have been an equally as valuable asset getting on base as he had been the previous years with the Giants. While an adjustment period would have ensued, it is unlikely that he moved to a worse hitters park in the American League, and thus, would have been an equally proficient hitter.

Worst case scenario, however, is that Barry is platooning at designated hitter. Having additional time off, as well as not being required to stand, jog, and run for up to two hours a night would certainly keep Barry fresh.


I told you not to get involed with that...

Why is an ethicist, a 'fan', analyzing baseball? That would be like me calling Rachel Ray and telling her how to prepare for a formal function. Sure, I like food, but that doesn't mean I know how prepare a high quality meal. I mean, you could get a good look at a cow by putting your head...Wait, the butcher?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Just Let it Go...

Not just yet. I'm going to take a look at three of the main aspects regarding the Barry Bonds issue as pertaining to the article written by Jack Marshall over at the Hardball Times. I know, I have went over this article twice already, but I feel as though there are a couple more issues which need to be addressed.

This article will address Marshall's flawed argument regarding 'Baseball uphold[ing] the American ethical standards more so then any other professional league in America'. With this argument, Marshall asserted that baseball would never put up with a Pacman Jones. In fact, as I mentioned, the argument regarding Clay Buchholz holds little water.

The next article will address Marshall's assertion that Bonds would not be of a help to a Major League roster. While Marshall can always fall back on the fact that Bonds is 'old' and invariably vulnerable to injury, I will provide evidence that even if Bonds does succumb to injury, he was likely to be more valuable in 2008 then a great deal of players.

The final (hopefully) article will return to the question regarding baseball's place in upholding America's ethical standards. That article will touch on ideas offered by John Brattain as well as those found throughout other portals of the web.

Once this is all taken care of, I will return to my regular articles, Under the Radar, Trade Reflections, as well as getting back to work on my prospect lists.

Back at the topic at hand, a response to Marshall's article at Ball Hype brought up an excellent point, one that Marshall unethically ignored. That is, baseball is different then the other major sports leagues in North America, this, from a socio-economic perspective.

The commenter wrote,
Furthermore, I disagree that baseball has less crime than football or basketball, at least relatively speaking. If you compare the crime rates of baseball players against their socio-economic peers prior to becoming professional baseball players, you will see the same thing that you see in football and basketball: the crime rate is slightly lower...It just so happens that football and basketball (particularly basketball) draw from a socio-economic group that has a higher crime rate than baseball. That has more to do with the fans of the sport - it's not something that baseball itself cultivates. My point is your belief that baseball somehow upholds a higher ethical standard is pure fantasy.
Now this is based on relatively vague evidence, and something that could certainly be further investigated, but stay with me.

In America, African Americans are substantially more likely to be imprisoned then any other race. While there are many reasons that lead to this result, of which I will not spend the time going over, the fact remains that an African American male is six times more likely to be imprisoned then a Caucasian male. While this does not equate to criminal activities as a whole, the trend is large enough not to ignore.

If we take this generality and look at it from the perspective of sports, it would appear obvious that baseball (and it's fewer then ten percent population of African Americans) would follow only hockey in terms of imprisonment league-wide.

This seems to hold true as it is rare to hear about any ballplayer going to jail or being charged criminally. It is even more rare to find this within hockey, that is even more dominated by Caucasians.

Marshall cited the Cincinnati Bengals and their players continual involvement with criminal activity. He brought up Pacman Jones who is the exception for football players, not the rule. But even still, the NFL has nearly seven times the amount of African American's that baseball has, would it not be obvious that football then would have around seven times as much criminal activity?

The same can be said within basketball, which has nearly ten times the amount of African Americans.

None of this is to say that African Americans are invariably, not in the least bit. Rather, statistically, there is a greater chance for an individual of color to end up imprisoned then a non-Hispanic, white.

The next thing to look at is in regards to culture. The culture in these sports is vastly different. In hockey and baseball, even the most prolific prospects are stuck riding in buses, making little to no money (relatively speaking) until around their 25th birthday.

Conversely, the amateur stars in both football and basketball are praised prior to becoming professionals. We hear about the party life that is so closely tied with football. Basketball has an annual All-Star binge that is highly publicized. And to the fact that a great deal of players in both sports are multi-millionaires prior to their 25th birthday, and there is a perfect storm for irresponsibility.

Stan McNeil of the Sporting News wrote an interesting piece of the lack of African American's in baseball, part of his conclusion read,
Youth baseball has become so organized (translation: expensive) that kids from poor families have little chance of keeping up with players on traveling teams that participate in 80 games a summer across various states.

Baseball competes with football and basketball, games which appear to provide a quicker path to fame and fortune.

"It's simple, really," the Blue Jays' Wells says. "The length of time it takes to get to the big leagues is a turnoff, and having to go to (minor league) cities that most people have never heard of is a turnoff. The NFL and NBA make for a quicker way to be famous."

We also have another factor at play, a factor that is outside of race and ethnicity-press and media.

Think back to the final weeks of this season on SportsCenter or otherwise. This should be a time when baseball is at the forefront of American sports media, but this isn't the case. While baseball logs a substantial amount of time at this point of the year, it is still battling football (both college and professional), basketball, and to a lesser extent, hockey, and soccer.

Baseball is clearly not as popular as basketball, and especially football. Thus, even if the criminal activities were the same in baseball, we wouldn't hear about them as frequently as we do the criminal activities of basketball and football based solely on the amount of media coverage.

Consider the amount of criminal activities we hear about in MLS? Because we rarely, if ever, hear of anything of this sort, does that mean there are not any wrongs being committed by the players in this sport?

So perception is the catalyst of criminal activity in professional sports, if we hear about it more, it must be happening more frequently. Interestingly, baseball plays the most games and for the longest periods of time, yet we hear about it less then we do football.

Perception can also be seen from another angle.

In each of the other professional sports there are legitimate 'faces' of the league. Basketball has LeBron Jame, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, etc. Hockey has Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, etc. Football has its Eli and Payton Manning, Tom Brady, Reggie Bush, etc. But who does baseball have?

Yes, Albert Pujols is a household name, but I would wager that there are even a casual baseball fans who couldn't pick him out in a lineup. I wouldn't be surprised if the only time a non-baseball fan saw Alex Rodriguez's face was when it was linked with Madonna.

In baseball, unlike the other professional sports in North America, it appears as though the heroes and legends are built locally. Each team has a face, but there are few players who would be recognized outside of the context of baseball.

As we can see, there is a lot more to the story then what Marshall decided to report on. Marshall decides that 'counting stats' are the way to go in this discussion when there are clearly more logical ways to analyze it. True, this is a minor part of Marshall's argument, but by dissecting his article and pointing out the major flaws, much of his explanation begins to unravel.

That is, the evidence behind baseball holding up America's ethical standards is weak at best (and lessens when looked at from yet another angle). So what is Mr. Marshall trying to say?

Well, he has somewhat changed his tune to suggesting that he 'told you so'. I'm not sure if it surprises many people that Bonds was not signed, rather, I think there is enough of the population that simply do not agree that Bonds shouldn't have been singed.

"Personally, I (Jack Marshall) DO feel the same about Brendan Donnelly, Giambi, et al"

That's false, he does not.

In his article he wrote that he would stop supporting the Boston Red Sox as long as the regime that employed Bonds was still intact. Yet comically he does not have the same angst toward the Red Sox for buying Paul Byrd? In other words, he does not feel the same about Donnelly, Giambi, et al. that he does about Bonds.

Which helps confirm the fact that Marshall is more a Bonds hater, then anything else.
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