Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Word About Value - Pt. I

Sentiments do not win games. History does not strikeout batters. A name can't hit a home run. Sure, some of the above can tip the odds in your favor, and in baseball, it's all about the odds. But only numbers, and their associate meanings, can truly provide a forecast into a player's potential in the coming seasons. Every offseason, this fact seems to be lost on General Managers and team owners. Everyone throws sick money at mediocre players. I know it's a crazy market out there, and you have to compete with rich teams, so you have to overpay. But if it's between not having Barry Zito, and paying Barry $18 million a year over seven years, you go with not having Barry. Andruw Jones is another good lesson as well. This year, we're going to look at some free agents and decide how much they're really worth. I'm not going to pick the top agents, but I'll look at some ones that managers might not be able to restrain themselves with. We'll follow this up with some more in a few more days.

1) Mark Teixeira - 1B. Age: 28. 2008 Salary: $12.5 Million.
2008 Stats: 33 HR, 12 RBI, 97 BB, .308 AVG, .410 OBP, .552 SLG.
Let me just start by saying this -- here is one dude you cannot overpay for. He's a switch hitter. He's a solid defender at first. He is a masher. He is, by all accounts, a good guy. He is, for the most part, the model of consistency. If you get Tex on a bad year, he goes .300, 30 HR, 110 RBI. And the dude is about to turn 29. It seems to me like you could lock him up easy for about $15 million, 5-7 years. That would be the low end, but I can see him going for a little more.

2) CC Sabathia - P. Age: 28. 2008 Salary: $11 Million.
2008 Stats: 2.70 ERA, 17-10, 251 K's, 1.11 WHIP, .237 BAA, 253 IP.
Someone is going to get burned on this guy. Sure, Sabathia went nuts this year. You might be curious to know, however, that this is the first sub-3.00 ERA year for CC. By comparison, go-to stunner Jake Peavy, with seven years under his belt (one fewer than CC,) has four sub-3.00 ERA years. Everyone has this perception that CC is horse; however, he has only gone above 200 IP twice; in 2007, he goes 241, and in 2008, 253. And, if history tells us anything, it's that you can't make a pitcher pitch forever without his arm falling off at some point. (A.J. Burnett is also relevant here). CC simply cannot keep up that pace. He is still a good pitcher, but I don't think we're dealing with a Roger Clemens here. Remember, Sabathia relies totally on power, and power pitchers do not age well. Clemens and Randy are exceptions, because they are freaks. I think it would be fair to give the Kid 5 years at $15 million. And I guarantee you he will get more.

3) A.J. Burnett - P. Age: 31. 2008 Salary: $13.2 Million.
2008 Stats: 4.07 ERA, 18-10, 231 K's, 1.34 WHIP, .249 BAA, 221 IP.
I love A.J. Really, I do. But mark my words -- this guy is going to be the bust of the year. And that's saying a lot, looking at the free agents on the market this year. Someone might end up overpaying for Milton Bradley or Rafael Furcal. The Jays paid dearly for Burnett and he burned them bad. Get this: Burnett lands on the Jays roster in 2006, and makes $2.2 Million. He goes 10-8, starting in only 21 games. 3.98 ERA. What does he get in return? Two years, $13.2 million a year. More of the same in 2007 and 2008, but without the injuries in 2008. You think it's a coincidence that A.J. felt fine during his contract year? That's another thing that bugs me about Burnett; dude is always hurting. I used to know how many times he had been on the DL, but I can't keep track anymore. It's easily above 12. While he was in Toronto, there were rumors that he wasn't quite as hurt as he was claiming. As in, the GM publicly said that "he's going to have to pitch through some pain, or realize what the difference is between being hurt and really being hurt." And that's the worst thing people can be saying about you.

As ESPN notes, "The bigger concern with Burnett is what version of Burnett you're actually getting... he performs better when the pressure is off." Couldn't have said it better myself. His stuff is filthy. And if you watch him pitch five innings, you would think he was the second coming of Feller. But then you watch him for the sixth, and you have to rub your eyes to make sure it's the same guy. He always gives in to the big inning, and you never know what inning it's going to be. The result is some year-end numbers that aren't so awesome. He has a lot of arm and shoulder problems, and this is what usually throws him on the DL. So he is really a grab bag of problems. Sign him for $10 million and 3 years, and next time he goes on the DL, bring him off as a closer. PS - he's a power pitcher, and he's already 31. Say it with me...

One more note: It's the offseason, so there isn't a whole lot more to write about. I am working on finishing the transfer of all the material from the old site, dating back to 2004... I'm up to June 2006. So warm your hands over that material. Seriously, the archives are some of the funniest things you will ever read. This will get you started:
Congratulations, Washington - April 13, 2007

If Someone Handed you $15 Million... - May 2, 2008
Labels: Andruw Jones - Various
Labels: Mark Prior - Various
A.J. Burnett Keeps Coming Up... - July 6, 2007

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mets Struggle - Episode II

Much was made of the Met's collapse last year. Much has been made of their collapse this year as well. Why the repeat in coverage? If you're anything like myself, you know that one collapse wasn't enough. In fact, after the Mets destroyed themselves last year, it left me wanting one thing -- more. Much more. There is a certain synergy about back-to-back collapses. They're made that much more powerful when they act in concert. How hilarious is it that, knowing full-well that they pulled off the Ultimate Choke Job in 2007, the Mets are on their way to pulling off a repeat?

For example, playing Bill Buckner at first base in the late innings of, say, Game 6 of a World Series, would probably be asking for trouble. Now the Mets are in a similar situation. Omar -- maybe, heading into the twilight of the season, you could have picked up a pitcher or two, I mean, given your teams' propensity for late-season collapses and all. Instead, Omar went with the, "I think what we have now is good enough to bring us to October." Nice try.

But, again, I like this. This is like a movie that you saw a year ago, and it was hilarious, and you really enjoyed it. And then, the movie was re-released a year later, and you had to go see it because you loved it so much the first time. And, watching the movie the second time, you realized that it was even funnier the second time around. Here's the thing -- the Mets aren't out of this thing yet. There is still hope. But if these guys do manage to finagle their way into a playoff spot, you can bet they're going out in three games. It's almost like these guys have somewhere else to be in October. Anyone ever seen the South Park episode where the kids try to sabotage their baseball season so they can go home and watch TV instead?

I have only one question -- who's up for a three-peat?

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Yanks are coming... Maybe...

The following piece is a column from one of our guest writers, Geoff, who runs the Bleeding Pinstripes. Visit his site and give him the TABC bump.

geoff I’ve been promising my boy Reid a piece for a while now on the Yankees’ chances this year, and since I’m waiting for my iPhone to back up anyway, here goes.

First let’s get up to speed on where we are. My thought going into the recent brutal road trip, and even the few series’ before (Boston, Minnesota, Anaheim, Baltimore) was that the Yankees season would take shape by the time they got back.

Not good news.

And last week I was screaming for the Yankees to send Melky down to triple A, as I saw his usefulness solely as an outfielder and a pinch runner; two roles I felt Brett Gardiner was better suited for. And I was railing against starting Richie Sexson against lefties, preferring to see him strictly used as a pinch hitter. So what happens next? Melky gets demoted, Gardiner is recalled, and Sexson is waived.

Worse news.

I know. Sounds a bit off. I’m contradicting myself. But the truth is – what do I know? Nothing. I was the guy screaming for Tony Womack to get more playing time in ’05; that Robinson Cano was a useless rookie. I was the guy saying that Posada was going to fade last year and end up at .270. That David Archuleta was going to get voted off the second week of American Idol because he was such a drippy little wuss. I shouldn’t be right. This can’t be good...

So what are the Yanks’ chances? If you ask me, it always comes down to one key thing. Schedule. It’s huge before the season even starts. Look at the Yankees. Every year they play the Angels ten times. And always predominantly on the road. Like clockwork. It’s a marquee match-up, and the Angels are the one and only team that have had the Yankees’ number. You think MLB is going to pass that up? Since the days of the unbalanced schedule, there is only one team outside of their division that the Yankees have played ten times. Yup. And it happens almost every year. And it’s not just the Yankees. The schedule tells a lot of tales before the first pitch on the first Sunday night. Look at the Mets. Every year they play six brutal games against the Yankees. They lost the NL East to the Phillies on the last day of the season last year. Do you think the Phillies still would have pulled that off if they were forced to play the Yankees six times while the Mets got to kick around Baltimore and whoever else? How about the Blue Jays? They were way better than the Cardinals when the final out was called on the 2006 regular season. Better record, better team, you name it. They just had the misfortune of being fed to the Yankees and Red Sox 38 times. So the Jays don’t even approach the playoffs, and the Cardinals get a shot at upset glory. While we’re at it, the Red Sox might be the best example. Good enough to win two World Championships in four years, good enough to elicit whispers of “dynasty?” around the sports world. Imagine. They’ve only won their own division once in the last thirteen years. And even that was on the strength of exactly one swing game with the mighty Yankees. Point is, the schedule is huge. And it gets more huge as the games get ticked off and teams make moves to shore themselves up for the stretch run as we hit the last weeks of August.

So with that said, the theme for the last twenty-three Yankee games was to simply hang on. This looked to be their most difficult stretch of the season. Three at Boston, three against Minnesota, four against LA, three against Baltimore, four at Texas, three more at LA, and three in Minnesota to close it. Twenty-three brutal games. And as I said, it didn’t exactly go swimmingly. They were 10-7 in the first 17. Then they needed to grasp and clutch for some wins while Boston and Tampa played the Royals and Seattle, over and over. They didn’t. They lost 5 of 6, with the lone win coming in 12 innings. So now they’re a big pile of games behind Boston and a big pile of games behind Tampa.

So what’s next. Tampa is going to lose. Probably a lot. Tampa is not a good road team. They’ve been good lately, but that’s mostly because they’ve played the Royals, the Mariners, and the recently castrated A’s. They did a great job of seizing on a bizarre schedule that featured a lopsided number of early games at home. When they get back East they’re going to lose. They’re going to lose to the Yankees and they’re going to lose to the Red Sox. Especially since they’ve been riddled with injuries that aren’t going to get better. The problem is they’re so far out in front it might not matter. To the Yankees, anyway. I think the Red Sox are going to catch them. The Red Sox aren’t going to lose any ground. They don’t play well on the road either, but they’re a veteran team that has incredible resilience and knows how to win. They’re loaded with tough outs and they’re never out of a ballgame. But they’ve also been bitten by injuries, which is going to keep them from the World Series, but I think they win the East.

So can the Yankees catch the Rays and everyone else in front of them for the Wildcard? They could. But it’s going to be so difficult to make up all that ground. On paper they are more talented than anybody outside of the Red Sox and the Angels. And they, too, are a proud veteran team that always seems to find a gear to get there. I think they need to get Hughes back healthy (I’m not even going to mention Pavano, because that truly would be hilarious), and they need to get Joba back healthy. And if they get the Ferocious Lion, Hideki Matsui, back in any meaningful way, they could make a run. The schedule includes lots of Boston (always difficult but never scary for the Yankees this time of year), and three more against the Angels (0-3). Other than that there are a lot of winnable games against beatable teams.

Bottom line: unlikely. Not impossible, but unlikely.

We’re probably looking at the Angels feeding on the hapless National League to give Mike Scoscia his second piece of Orange County hardware. Probably. But probably isn’t definitely. That’s why they play the games, as the old saying goes. What I can say definitely, is that my boys and I will be waving the flag in section 24 at the Stadium until the last pitch is thrown. Right until the end.

And we’ll be rooting like hell for the Yankees to win the World Series.

Thanks to Geoff. Again, visit his blog, the Bleeding Pinstripes.

Rocky Road (Bleeding Pinstripes) - August 12th, 2008

"It's time to put all the women and children to bed"

gary sheffield Some of you may remember an article that appeared in the October 11, 2004 issue of Sports Illustrated. The article was titled, "Swinging Away," and it was an inside look at Gary Sheffield. In the article, Tom Verducci recalls that, in Gary's first season with the Yankees in 2004, he was hitting only .265, with three home runs in 44 games. Gary felt as if the Yankees didn't want him on their team. So he went to Joe Torre's office, and talked it over. When he emerged, he called his uncle, Dwight Gooden, and exclaimed, "They ain't seen me hit yet, but I'm about to get started. It's time to put all the women and children to bed."

This is possibly one of the best quotes that will appear here on TABC. Right up there with, "it makes my head explode," or, "You say 'bullpen by committee' and that sounds like everybody, and it's not everybody," or, "walks just clog the bases for guys that can actually run." However, what really sets this line apart from the others is what happened after. That night, Sheffield smacked four hits and drove in six runs. The following night, he had another three hits. In the rest of the season, he drove in 102 runs in 110 games, and hit 33 home runs.

All this, believe it or not, fits into the current conflagration with Gary Sheffield here in Detroit. Gary Sheffield, I have always said, can hit on command. For the most part, he hits what he wants, when he wants. In Detroit, he has been swinging for the fences, every time up. He's eight homers away from 500, and he desperately wants to get there. He's hitting .220, and he strikes out 25% of the time he steps up to the plate. I was at the game on Monday night, and every time Sheffield stepped up he was booed, tremendously. he was booed when he flied out, when he struck out looking, and hell, he was even booed when he drew a walk. He was then placed on waivers. The next game -- Tuesday -- Sheffield hit two home runs.

I've always wondered why the Tigers signed Sheffield. He's 39 years old. And now it looks as if they won't be able to move him, even on waivers, ($30 million contract?) And is it any wonder? Sheffield went public with comments that he's unhappy with the role he's playing on this team. When he signed in Detroit, he did so with the explicit understanding that he would be doing a lot of DH-ing. He was put in left when the Tigers released Jacque Jones. He couldn't play left, because he couldn't throw the ball. He now complains that he is part of a platoon. As Jim Leyland so eloquently put it, "anybody who has a brain knows that's not a platoon." Unfortunately, this looks really bad for Gary. I can understand where he is coming from -- he wants more playing time, and although he didn't say it, he probably believes he would play better if he was a regular starter. Unfortunately, you can't start a guy everyday who can't field and hits .220.

At some point, Gary is going to have to accept his role as a part time DH. He simply can't produce at the level he used to, because he's gotten old. It can't be easy for a guy who was a star to realize that he is now a low-level support player, but that's what he needs to do. And after that, he should hit his 500th home run, take a bow, and calmly exit the venue.

Swinging Away (Sports Illustrated) - October 11th, 2004
"It makes my head explode" - June 12th, 2007
Kerry Wood and Dusty Baker - May 1st, 2005

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Is Manny apprised of his own situation?

The last few weeks have seen a resurgence of Manny-talk throughout the country. But I have just one question -- in the midst of all of this, has anyone mentioned how awkward it is that Joe Torre is managing Manny Ramirez? In fact, is Manny even aware of it himself? Joe Torre's new star is the man that likely precipitated his demise in New York. This fact appears totally lost on Manny Ramirez.

But this is just where the fun starts. Recall that Manny has, in the past several years, demanded trades from Boston. Remember that, two days after being traded to Los Angeles, the jovial Ramirez explained that, "I like this city, the environment, the energy, the fans. I think that I'll play here for the remainder of my career." But now, Manny want out of Los Angeles.

Apparently, unnamed sources  have indicated that Manny wants to sign next year with the Yankees. Even more interesting, they claim that Manny's chief reason for doing so would be to get back at the Red Sox. This seems like typical Manny bull-headed-ness. "I want out of Boston. I love LA. I want out of LA. I want into New York." I fear that moving to so many new places might really confuse him.

The Yankees have to at least try to sign the guy if he comes their way, right? You'd be stupid not to, right? Personally, I don't think it will even be an issue. From what I gather, there is about a one in a million chance that Manny actually knows what team he is playing for, where he lives, what he's doing, etc. He just goes where they tell him to, but once he gets into the box, he's in his own world. If they throw some money at the guy -- which the Dodgers seem to do with alarming ease -- they can keep him around until he turns 60.

The Greatest Play of All Time - February 28th, 2006
What business does Andruw Jones have on a diamond? - August 4, 2008

Monday, August 4, 2008

Vlad Guerrero has destroyed your fantasy team

If you are like 100% of fantasy owners, you own Vladimir Guerrero. And, unless your league rewards points for mediocre play, Vlad has ruined your chances of winning anything. Vlad is not playing terribly. He is still a decent start. But he's probably not the 2nd or 3rd round pick that you threw down for. For a guy who has a career average of .322, a drop to .282 means mediocre play. His OBP, at .346, is 40 points off his career average. Most discouraging is the .479 SLG%, which is 100 points off his career average.

Quite frankly, he's playing worse than the numbers tell you, because you can never tell when he's going to tee off. He's either going to get 3 walks and 2 singles all week, or he's going to hit 3 home runs and get 2 doubles, while knocking in 9. It's like playing Russian Roulette with your roster.

The truth is that Vlad is 32, and this decline is to be expected. Vlad isn't going to come back next year and return to his old self, no matter how much they pay him. Of course, I would still rather get a Vladimir Guerrero for my $15 million than an Andruw Jones, or a Barry Zito.

What business does Andruw Jones have on a diamond? - August 4th, 2008

What business does Andruw Jones have on a diamond?

andruw jones Andruw Jones, as you may know, has been struggling as of late. He is not hitting the baseball. Jones finished the 2007 season with the Braves with a shiny .222 average and a glimmering .311 OBP. Not quite what you expect from a guy making $14 million a year. After that disaster of a season, Jones declared himself a free agent. You'd think that the race to sign a guy coming off a season like that wouldn't have many competitors, and you would be right. Unless, of course, your name is Ned Colletti, GM, LA Dodgers. Colletti decided that Andruw Jones was the big bat his team needed. Colletti -- the only GM interested in signing Jones besides Royals GM Dayton Moore -- rewarded Jones handsomely, signing him to a 2-year, $36.2 million deal. Jones received a $12.2 million signing bonus, earns $9 million in 2008, and $15 million in 2009. Usually, when you sign a suspect player, you leave your back door open, your ramp down, and your stairway fully extended. Not Ned! He locked himself in, big time. The Red Sox couldn't move Manny when he was making $17 million a year. Do the Dodgers have any chance of moving a scrub like Jones when he is set to make $15 million next year? No.

Well, Jones didn't disappoint. He is batting .161, with a .260 OBP. He has 2 HR, and has knocked in 13 runs. His SLG% is .241 -- 20 points lower than his OBP. "Well, he must not be starting a lot," you say. Wrong. Jones has racked up 199 at bats, more than half of what would be expected if he was a full time starter. He is on track to knock in 23 runs all season. If we multiply that projection to assume that he makes 550 at bats in the season -- a starter's number -- he would knock in 37 runs. Probably not the big bat Colletti had in mind.

Now, all these numbers are interesting. But here is the real kicker. Jones has played in every single game since July 4th, when he came off the DL. Prior to his injury, he had played in all but one game this season.

Unbelievable. The guy is giving away outs to the opposing team, and you continue to throw him out there every single night. And, Jones doesn't even try to move the ball. Of his 227 plate appearances, 73 have ended in strike outs. Every three times Jones steps to the plate, he strikes out once. By comparison, Adam Dunn -- who had 195 K's in 2004, which at the time was an MLB record* -- does so once in every four plate appearances. Why is the NL West incapable of making smart personnel decisions? What is it about that division that makes them unable to resist signing bad players to monster contracts? Barry Zito, Mike Hampton, Andruw Jones, just off the top of my head.

Statistical proof that Andruw Jones has stopped hitting - June 23rd, 2007
If someone handed you $15 million... - May 2nd, 2008

*Thanks to our anonymous commenter for the correction.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Todd Jones has some advice for you

todd jones As you may be aware, Todd Jones was recently removed from the closer's role with the Tigers and place on the Disabled List. Jones, who managed to blow only 3 saves while earning his 5.05 ERA and 1.51 WHIP, has some advice for those youngsters out there who want to succeed where he failed. "If I could recommend one thing," Jones opined, "it would be: Don't get old."

Thanks, Todd, for the valuable life lesson. Pausing time will usually get you out of those trouble spots. Jones, who was put in the DL with tendonitis of the shoulder variety, is the Tiger's deputy Timekeeper, clocking in at 40 years of age; (Kenny Rogers, at 43, is the real Father Time on this team.) I will be the first to admit to sending text messages to the tune of, "We're up by one and they just brought Jones. Uh oh." Let us critically analyze Jones' season here. His 5.05 ERA is atrocious. But how much damage could he have possibly done to the team if he only blew three saves?

Jones earned 4 wins in addition to his 18 saves; all 4 wins came after Jones preserved a tie game in the top of the 9th inning, and the Tigers took the lead in the bottom. So, in effect, these are super saves. In these appearances, plus his successful saves, Jones allowed only 3 ER in 21 IP. This gives him an ERA of 1.29 -- not bad at all. Then there are the blown saves. In the 2.1 innings he pitched that resulted in blown saves, he allowed 7 ER, for an ERA around 27. What sets the Tigers apart from other teams, however, is that on game day the offense is either hitting on all cylinders or still in bed. Jones has only been given 21 save opportunities two-thirds of the way through the season. Joe Nathan, of the Twins, has saved 30 games in 32 opportunities, despite his team winning only 6 more games. As a result, Jones has found himself pitching in many non-save situations. In the 19 games where Jones did not factor into the decision, he went 17.2 innings and allowed 13 ER. This makes for a 6.62 ERA. Does this prove the idea that closers can't pitch in non-save situations?

  IP App. ER
Wins + Saves 21 22 3
Blown Saves 2.1 3 7
Non-save sit. 17.2 19 13

One five-year old fan, while Jones was signing his baseball, remarked, "Look Mom, heart attack Jones is signing my ball!" Why is Jones one of the most heavily criticized men in Metro Detroit? I believe it is, simply, the result of Jones' tendency to put a lot of men on base, his collection of less-than-stunning stats (that 5.05 ERA,) and the fact that he seems to allow a run half the time he takes the field. Now, in my heart of hearts, I know that Todd Jones is not a good pitcher. I know he lets men on like a desperate lady of the night. But why do the numbers imply that he isn't really that bad?

The misconception here is that Jones is incapable of saving games. In 22 saves and wins, he gave up earned runs on three occasions, and only allowed only one run in each time. Of the 25 times Jones was handed the ball with Tigers tied or up by three or fewer runs, Jones did his job 22 times. Thats an 88% success rate. In those 25 appearances, he allowed 10 ER, for an ERA of 3.86. Not bad for a 40-year-old who Tiger Fan has essentially run out of town.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Is Rich Harden Pitching in God Mode?

rich hardenFor those of you who haven't been following Rich Harden lately, be prepared to be amazed. Harden, who busted onto the scene with the A's in 2004 -- which was also the last time he started more than 20 games -- has returned, and is pitching in rare form, (which means he is pitching in real major league games, as opposed to those mysterious simulated games.) He spent five weeks on the sidelines this year with a strained right shoulder earlier in the season. Shortly after his return, he was traded to the Cubs. And Harden has managed to remain healthy for a solid three months now, and things seem to be back on track.

Most importantly, Harden is owning the National League. Now, we know that the when a pitcher and batter face each other for the first time, the advantage generally lies with the pitcher. And this is why pitchers, when changing leagues, tend to perform better, (see Bronson Arroyo.) In four starts with the Cubs, Harden's stats are as follows:

SF - 5.1 5 0 3 10
ARI L 7.0 1 1 2 10
FLA - 5.0 2 1 3 10
MIL W 7.0 6 1 0 9
TOTAL 1-1 24.1 14 3 8 39

Those are pretty impressive numbers. Simply put, since joining the National League, Harden has gone off on NL batters. Especially with the 14.43K/9IP. The 1.11 ERA and the 0.91 WHIP? These are God numbers. Overall, Harden's season numbers aren't that far off the mark either. Despite having pitched 61 fewer innings than strikeout leader CC Sabathia, (101 v. 162), Harden has just 26 fewer strikeouts, (131 v. 157). Harden's season ERA is 2.04, and his WHIP is 1.09. And of course, that 11.64K/9IP. (Scott Kazmir is in 2nd place among full time starters, with 9.95K/9IP.) Opponents are batting .196 against him. Let me repeat that -- when you go up against Rich Harden, you are essentially a Mendoza Line Hitter.

Quite frankly, Mr. Harden is spewing fire out of his right arm. And if that shoulder stays intact, the Cubs would do well to sign this man for a very, very long time, (he is only 26). Now that Dusty Baker is out, they can count on actually being able to use the arms that they sign in the future. As far as I am aware, Lou Pinella doesn't have a strange habit of throwing his young pitchers out there for 130 pitches each start until their arm flies towards home plate, (see Kerry Wood; Mark Prior.)

Remember Mark Prior? - April 8th, 2007

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Apparently, Bullpen Help > All Star Catcher

Kyle Farnsworth heads to the Tigers, and the Yankees get Ivan Rodriguez. In my gut, as a Tiger fan, it makes me sad. Pudge and I had some good conversations together. At least, I think we did, because his accent is quite thick. But before we explore today's deal, let's quickly hop into the Bench Coach's Way Back Machine and do a quick recap of Kyle's career.

2003: After Kyle (with the Cubs) hit the Red's Paul Wilson with a pitch, Paul decided that he would march on the 6' 4", 240lb former football player. Wrong move, Paul. Kyle went into preemptive strike mode, charged Wilson, and in the words of announcer Steve Stone, "rackey tacked" him and gave is face the speed-bag treatment. He was suspended for only three games, because MLB didn't want Farnsworth hunting them each down with a mace and smashing their faces in.
2004: Kyle has more fun in Chicago. That is, if your definition of fun is a series of lights-out trips to the mound, with some intermittent aviation-fueled arson mixed in, and some kicking-floor-fan-induced trips to the DL. Oh yeah, and when Kyle didn't hit 100mph on the gun, Cubs Fan booed him. True story.
2005: Kyle is traded to the Tigers, and promptly resumes his role as Fist Fight Upstager. As the Royals and Tigers slugged it out on the field, Kyle comes running -- all the way from the bullpen -- and, after a little baiting by Runelvys Hernandez, lays out Jeremy Affeldt, who is "not a twerp." Hard. Again, the announcers say it best:
Rod Allen: "You knew when Big Boy got there it was gonna get on!"
Watch the video at 2:50, and 4:00 to see the take-down. After this, the Tigers trade Farnsworth to the Braves at the deadline for Roman Colon and Zach Miner. Farnsworth leaves the Braves at the end of the season for the Yankees.

Now, here we are, making another trade for Kyle Farnsworth. Let's look at the motivation here. Know that Pudge is in the final year of a contract. As you may recall, he signed with the Tigers in 2004 after winning the World Series with Florida in 2003. The Tigers were the worst team in the league in 2003, and Pudge started them on their run back, so he's always been a fan favorite here. Whatever way you cut this, Tiger Fan isn't happy. And, remember that Posada is out for the year with the Yankees, so they do need a catcher. 

The likely scenario is that the Tigers knew Pudge wouldn't stay with what they were willing to pay him. Obviously, they want to get something for the guy before he leaves, but even this is questionable. In my opinion, the Tigers are still contending. Does Farnsworth bring more to the team, athletically, than Pudge? It's probably even there. But he definitely doesn't lead the team or the pitching staff in the same way Pudge does. Farnsworth helps in the bullpen, as we will see later. He certainly brings a semi-consistent arm to the table.

What about all the bad will you create with Tiger Fan? 70% of the crowd at night games hadn't been to downtown Detroit before 2006. And for many, Pudge is "their Tiger." Translation? Bandwagon Tiger Fan is pissed. Lifelong Tiger Fan probably knows that it's better than getting nothing, but he is still confused -- why Farnsworth? The Tigers probably could've gotten more with one day left before deadline. Even GM Dave Dombrowski said the Tigers didn't want to trade Pudge. He also had no idea where to slot Farnsworth in the bullpen, leaving that decision up to Leyland. So you traded a great guy who you didn't want to trade for someone you aren't sure what you're going to do with.

Roster Shifts: You've got Zumaya in the 8th, and Rodney in the 9th. You've also got Seay hiding out there with his 2.73 ERA, (surprise!) And, you have to find a place for Lopez and his sub-3.00 ERA. Where does Farnsworth fit in? Hopefully this will allow Leyland to STOP USING DOLSI AND FOSSUM, PLEASE. So, this gives the Tigers an outstanding bullpen in a league that is, quite frankly, starved for decent bullpen pitching. It almost makes you wonder, with three sub-3.00 ERA guys in Lopez, Zumaya, and Seay, plus Rodney, why do we even need Farnsworth? At least if Rodney doesn't prove to be consistent as a closer -- and I bet he will be -- Leyland can brush off Dusty Baker's bullpen by committee mode, and someone will do the job. If not, go into bullpen by situation mode. If you're confused about the difference, just ask Dusty. Really, ask him, because it's hilarious.

As for the infield, I don't think this makes much of an impact, other than forcing the .200 hitting Inge to play every... single... day. And Dombrowski has confirmed that Inge will now be the every day catcher. The Tigers certainly take a huge hit here.

So, is it worth losing Pudge for Farnsworth? Pudge was a fan favorite, handled the pitchers well, hit at .300, is still a great defensive catcher, and was apparently a positive force on the team overall. By getting Farnsworth, we get a guy who comes in with the 4th highest ERA in the pen and no given purpose. We have to watch Inge strike out with his big pool stick swings every day. The Yankees certainly came out ahead on this one, as they went from backup catcher to prime catcher. As for the pitching, you can leave that alone -- Brian Cashman can't handle a bullpen and nothing I say here will change that. From the Tiger's perspective, I have to give this trade a questionable ranking.

Kyle Farnsworth tackles Jeremy Affeldt - July 17, 2005
Kerry Wood and Dusty Baker - May 1, 2005

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Does Florida know that the Marlins are 26-19?

You would like to believe that, in a state with a notoriously poor reputation for the aptitude of their professional baseball teams, the emergence of not one, but two quality teams would catch the state up in a baseball furor. Bandwagon-ers and fair-weather fans, (is there such a thing in that sunny state?) would swarm the stadiums to experience the forgotten pleasure of a winning team in their very own backyard. Sadly, that is not the case. Now, granted, not all the news out of Florida has been good. But the dual accomplishments of the Marlins and the Devil Rays deserve some attention from someone, right?

webblosesJudging by the attendance at what promised to be quite an exciting  game, with world-burner Brandon Webb going for his 10th straight win, Florida doesn't agree. At right, you see a go-ahead home run heading into the seats, launched by Cody Ross, he of a strange grimace and a .184 batting average. There are precisely six people in this frame. One is Diamondbacks left fielder Eric Byrnes. Two of them are very, very lonely, (and probably unconscious, given the demographic,) fans sitting contently (dangerously?) still as the ball soars towards them. The other three are overly enthusiastic sprinters determined on beating the rest of the stadium to Ross' 30th home run ball. Not exactly the excitement that the NL East leading team had probably hoped to generate. Indeed, the game's total attendance was an astounding 11,227 persons. All this for a matchup that featured two of the better hitting teams in the league, as well as one of the premier pitchers of our time. In terms of revenue, this is disastrous for the owners. But you can't help but envy those true fans that get to truly enjoy the game in peace, right?

I know Dolphin Stadium isn't the ideal venue to watch a baseball game. I know it was a school night. To be fair, lets consider an interleague matchup on a Saturday afternoon. That should garner some attention, right? Does 16,214 work for you? Now, the Marlins sold out opening day, as nearly every baseball team in the country manages to do. I will give them that. Come day two, against the same New York Metropolitans team, they managed to pack the house with 15,117 loyal fans. Florida Marlins tickets appear to be an inelastic good, with demand staying steady regardless of record or excitement.

The Rays are not doing much better. Strangely, MLB experimented with sending the Rays to Disney's Wide World of Sports in the hopes of... popularizing the team. From April 22-24, the Rays faced off against the Toronto Blue Jays in the Magic Kingdom. Perhaps confused by the change of venue, perhaps annoyed by the blatant commercialism being shoved down their throats, attendance was in the 8,000's.

In 2005, Kevin and I frequented Comerica Park throughout the season. At this point, as many may recall, the Tigers were not known to be a good team. They were only secretly good. We knew the ushers, because it isn't too hard to spot a regular in a crowd of 5,000. This was fun stuff. Most of the other fans were just like us -- skipping work, or judiciously using their vacation days, to watch a bad team play ball because they liked the sport. And then, when the Tigers 'got good' the following year, it was as we feared -- the park was swamped with people who had no idea what they were watching. The signs were familiar. Cheers erupted at inappropriate times, for two reasons. Firstly -- and this happens in any city where people are new to the game -- every ball that left the infield was a home run that just died out before it got to the wall, and the crowd responded as such. As a former outfielder myself, I am always fascinated by the lay-person's inability to judge a fly ball. Secondly -- and I suspect this to be unique to Detroit -- people were actually watching the Pistons game on the TVs hanging from the upper deck. The bandwagoners had come to a Tiger's game, because that's what everyone was doing. And when they got there, they had to watch the Pistons game, because that's what everyone else was doing. It was a creepy orgy of conformity. For Kevin and myself, the value of the experience had certainly declined.

So in a way, Florida's true baseball fans are the lucky ones. Not only do they get to enjoy the thrill of a good team in their midst, but they get to do so without the underwhelming crowds that usually accompany such success. Unfortunately, economics doesn't reward such consumerism. The real fans don't pay any more to enjoy the game than anyone else. In fact, I would posit that they pay less, because they don't get sucked into the costly parking traps or the $28 pizzas. (In Detroit, this is vertical integration at its finest. The owner of the Tigers also owns Little Caesar's, which supplies the only filling food in the stadium. The Ilitchs' also own the Red Wings and are, thusly, a very wealthy couple). 

Does the value of the ballpark experience decrease when a team begins to improve? Would you rather experience a game with a few like-minded fellows, or be surrounded by people that are surprisingly unaware of what's happening in front of them?

Friday, May 2, 2008

If someone handed you $15 Million...

Say you are the GM of an organization that, while part of a rather large market, is struggling with defining your identity. Your roster is one of, if not the, oldest in the game. Your team hasn't performed well in awhile, and you need to make some changes. You've recently freed up a bunch of cash -- say, $18 million a year -- and now you have to decide how to spend it. You obviously have a few options. Many of the more attractive options consist of investing this money in a variety of young players, acquired through trades. You could accomplish this by taking on the contracts of some has-beens. You could also sign a number of decent free agents who could improve the ballclub. Either way, this chunk of money is so large that you can easily snatch up three All-Stars. What would you do?

Well, whatever choice you made, real-life GM Brian Sabean had a better idea. Rather than take the time to do some scouting and efficiently divvy up about $15 million a year, Sabean -- the Giants' GM -- decided to blow it all on one star pitcher. The problem was, the pitcher wasn't much of a star. By now, you know where we're going. Before the 2007 season, Barry Zito was signed to a 7-year, $18 million-a-year contract.

Barry Zito is not the best pitcher in the league. In 2002, he received the AL Cy Young Award. He has not had an ERA under 3.30 -- which he had in 2003 -- since then. In fact, in the three years prior to signing the largest pitching contract in history, Barry Zito had an ERA slightly north of 4.00. We know that ERA's do not solely define a pitcher. Zito has always had control problems. But, like many power pitchers, he has a decent enough strikeout rate to make up for it. However, Zito's stats are, in no way, misleading. He was once a good pitcher. He is not, however, getting better. He is getting worse. Observe.
The following chart was created by taking Barry's stats and dividing them by IP. In the green, you see Strikeouts -- a stat you want to increase. In the yellow are Walks -- something you want to decrease. That scary red line are Earned Runs -- something you really do not want to increase. Unfortunately, prior to his signing with the Giant's, all of Zito's stats were heading in the wrong direction. The straight lines are trend lines of linear regressions. This graph took me 20 minutes to create. Had the Giant's management taken 20 minutes out of their busy days to do the same, they may have saved themselves $18 million for the next seven years.

The trends on the graph are in no way misleading. Zito had an another bad year in 2007, and the numbers fit right in with the trend line. And that brings us to 2008. After starting off the season 0-6 with an ERA of 7.54, Zito was yanked from the rotation and assigned to the bullpen. When the Giant's signed Zito, I knew it was a bad deal. But I didn't expect it to turn this sour.

Zito is not this bad. So what is the problem? The newest news is that he is seeing a sports psychologist and believes his problem is mental. He may be right. But, there is no way he is worth $18 million a year. Not back in 2001, and not now. $10 million should have locked him up. But, at the same time, Barry is a workhorse. 2007 (196.2 IP) was the first year that he pitched under 200 innings, and you could even chalk that up to the NL switch. In that sense, Barry is worth more than your typical 4.00 ERA pitcher. But, still -- he is a 4.00-3.80 ERA guy at best. In 2006, Zito was one of 17 pitchers to pitch over 200 innings and run an ERA under 4.00. However, there were 14 guys ahead of him. Which leads us to our next target -- Jason Schmidt.

Jason is in exactly the same boat. However, Jason is older than Barry, (35 to Barry's 29), and better for less time. Now, here is where you are going to want to listen closely. Jason Schmidt was never a great pitcher until he came to San Francisco. He came to the Giant's from the Pirates, who gave him up for Ryan Vogelsong, a career 5.86 ERA reliever. Schmidt arrived in mid 2001 and immediately started getting better. In 14 games with the Pirates, he had an ERA of 4.61, consistent with the past 5 years. In 11 games with the Giants, he had an ERA of 3.39. I will let you look at the numbers. The data isn't compelling, but it is interesting that upon moving to San Francisco with Mr. Bonds, Schmidt's numbers immediately went up. In 2005, when baseball began steroid testing, Schmidt's numbers began to fall back to Earth. You have to wonder if Schmidt wasn't using some variation of the Bonds Cocktail. I usually wouldn't bring this up, but it is one thing that could explain an otherwise confusing data set. Other things could be the team atmosphere, age, maturity, pitching coach, etc. It's only a trend, and I'm not going to indict the guy based on some funny looking numbers. I'm merely pointing out something that might explain Schmidt's surprising rise and fall. His K/IP, BB/IP, and ER/IP were much higher and lower, respectively, from the time he arrived in San Francisco through 2004, the last year steroids were not tested for in baseball.

In any case, the Giant's passed off Schmidt to the Dodgers who, surprise, signed him for $43 million, 3 year deal. This mistake isn't as egregious as the Zito one. A shorter contract and a player with obvious flaws, but an apparently good pitcher. But, again, Schmidt had essentially three good years and was much older, being 33 at the time of his signing. He has performed miserably in Los Angeles, pitching only 25 innings in the one-plus season he has been around. As a pitcher that relies on power, it would be expected that he would deteriorate in his late 30's. That's why he only got three years. But Jason probably could have gotten this deal from another club; I can't imagine another team that would give Zito his current contract.

So where does this leave us? Sometimes, I am amazed at the contracts that some clubs sign. I can't imagine how anyone can figure that these deals are good deals to make. But the Barry Zito deal was, literally, the most expensive mistake ever. Of course, he still has six long years left on that contract to pull it together. This, in turn, leaves me with one question for Mr. Brian Sabean.

Were you high?

Monday, April 28, 2008

The San Diego Experiment

Avid readers will know that the San Diego Padres are no stranger to my wrath. Now, a few years have passed since I advocated the dissolution of the NL West, (I would link to that post, but I can't dig through my old site on MLBlogs, it's all just too discombobulated now.) In any case, I was watching Brandon Webb attempt pickoff after pickoff after pickoff on one Kevin Kouzmanoff -- a man who has stolen only one base in the last three years -- and, knowing that the Padres lineup would be equally illogical, took a look. I did this while Webb, still believing Kevin was going to swipe 2nd base, attempted a pitchout. Seriously, I have never seen a guy so distracted by a complete non-threat. In any case, one look explained to me why I felt that my fantasy star, World Beater Jake Peavy, has been getting less than stellar run support of late. You see, while the rest of the league plays baseball, the Padres are playing a new game. It's called, "let's see how many games we can win without any hitters hitting over .280." And they are dominating.

I know this sounds unbelievable, but it's true. Looking over that lineup, the only position player on the bench or in the field batting over .280 was Adrian Gonzalez, .280. Kouzmanoff, .257. Brian Giles, .255. Then you throw in a few, (literally, three) guys around .230, and the rest are below .200. As I have said before, I know we are past using the batting average as a judge of skill. But there's a reason it's still used to some degree -- if you can't hit, you can't win.

And normally this wouldn't bother me. I could care less about any team in the NL West. Except that, unable to attend my league's draft, I had three Padres forced on me. Worst luck. Ever. Peavy, Adrian Gonzalez, and Hoffman. I might catch some flak for this, but Trevor Hoffman is no longer a very good closer. Certainly over paid for him. Peavy is the best pitcher in the league, hands down. But, he is on the Padres, which means you have to put up with days like today -- when he goes seven strong, allows two runs, four hits, three walks, nine K's, and takes the loss.

I guess I just can't stand this idea in the NL West that hitting is not a priority. Pitching, as we will probably see in a future post, if I ever get to it, is not either. So this leaves us back to where we started in 2005. What's the point, NL West?

Monday, March 31, 2008

And we're back...

Well, we sure faded near the end of last season, but that isn't particularly unusual here. Now we are back for the 4th season of BHGM - or The Ballhouse. Not sure what I'm going to do about the name... anyway. Here is how this season is going to play out:

Now - May 23rd: Posting will be very irregular, due to a specific test I am taking on the 23rd, has to do with Medical School. I won't go into specifics, because I don't want to think about it much either.
May 23rd - May 30th: Will not be conscious posting.
May 31st- Rest of the Season: We'll be seeing some of the better posts again. Stuff like what was going up in 2005.

Until June, we're going to have to put up with shoddy formatting, poorly researched opinions, and short posts. Oh well. Lets get started!

Those of you readers with a halfway decent memory, (or those of you handy with Google,) will know that I was not very happy with Bobby Cox's handling of Tim Hudson last year. Namely, the fact the Huddy would get pulled in the 7th inning, having pitched only 78 pitches, with the score 1-1. I believe we kept a counter going; we hit something like five in a row before I stopped keeping track. Well, Bobby Cox is out as manager, but the pulling is still going in. After retiring 19 straight batters and throwing only 78 pitches, Huddy was pulled. Now, I know it's early in the season, but you can't help but question this, as well as about 116 other things that happened tonight.

1) The Nationals opened up their new park, called "Nationals Park." Did you know? I, for one, did not. Now that I do know, I do not care. With this new park, and this being the first game played there, (and, technically speaking, 'Opening Night',) you would expect a pretty packed crowd. Sadly, that was not the case. I do not think the game was a sellout, as people were able to purchase tickets at the door. Furthermore, the Nationals did not match their season ticket purchases from 2005. That does not bode well. Apparently, the magic of seeing a terrible team lose games in your city is beginning to wear off. Maybe this is because...

2) The Nationals starter, for their first game of the season, was one Odalis Perez. You may remember him from such things as, "I struck out 128 in 2004 (ERA 3.26), but haven't kept an ERA under 4.50 since then." In fact, the details are even scarier. 2005 - 108IP - 4.56ERA; 2006 - 126 - 6.20; 2007 - 137 - 5.57. This isn't the guy I want starting opening day. In fact, this isn't the guy I want starting my pickup games. This promises to be an interesting war for the Nationals.

3) I have to go back to Hudson getting pulled. He had retired 19 straight batters. Had not allowed a man on base since the first inning. No walks. Three hits. And they pulled him. And, in typical Braves fashion, the sticks tied it, only for the 'pen to blow it. Heartbreaking.

4) What was MLB thinking? "Braves v. Nationals. That is a game people will want to watch." If someone can explain this reasoning, please let me know.

5) How about this gem from Nationals manager Manny Acta? "[The new park] is top-of-the-line. It's exciting to come to work every day here." Sure, Manny. I guess if managing a Major League baseball team doesn't do it for you, a new ballpark will.

Thanks for sticking around guys. Leave some comments if you are still reading. To those of you still reading on BHGM, I'll direct you, once again, to Because I'm not sure how much longer I am going to keep BHGM. Although if MLBlogs wants to offer me a lifetime free subscription, I will certainly listen. And I won't tell anybody. If you need some convincing about the economic viability of such a deal, just Google "Greatest Play of All Time."