Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Advantage Bowden?

It's not often that a transaction is made by Jim Bowden, and I think "wow, what a steal!". But that's exactly what I thought earlier this month when I saw he had conned Florida into giving up LHP Scott Olsen and 1b/OFJosh Willingham for 2b Emilio Bonifacio, and minor leaguers 2b Jake Smolinski and RHP P.J. Dean.

Olsen and Willingham aren't perfect, and they both have serious question marks, but for Florida to give them up for this cheap a package is unfathomable to me. Bowden was widely panned for his acquisition of Bonifacio when that was all he received for RHP Jon Rauch from Arizona at the deadline.

Olsen does come with maturity concerns, but it's important to note that he has started at least 30 games in each of his three seasons. While his stuff was slightly down last year, he posted a reasonable line of 8-11, 4.20. He only struck out 113 in 202 innings, but he's a back of the rotation starter at worst in the NL. In this Nationals rotation he's more of an ace though, considering their best pitcher last year was Odalis Perez.

The Nationals say they acquired Willingham to be part of the outfield, and that might give them their most productive lineup if 1b Nick Johnson is healthy. However, Johnson is rarely ever healthy and Willingham provides depth at that position. Willingham won't hit for much of an average, but has good power and will get on base at a decent clip as evidenced by his
.266/.361/.472 career slash stats. One might expect his power to get a little bump going from Pro Player Stadium to his new home in Washington, D.C.

Bonifacio is the "big" piece that the Marlins are receiving in this deal, and quite frankly, no one should be impressed. He's got great speed on the basepaths, and good range in the field but he doesn't have a bat or good hands to go with those tools. Bonifacio's value will be tied for his ability to hit for average as he did not walk much in his first go 'round with the Nationals. I was actually witness to his first two walks as a National, and it took him 10 games and around 40 at-bats to achieve such a feat.

Smolinski was the Nationals 2nd round pick in 2007 and has transitioned from Shortstop to Left Field, before going to 2b in 2008. He has been injury prone as a professional, breaking his foot on a foul ball in his first season and later tearing both his ACL and MCL in a collision, in addition to suffering a broken thumb earlier this year. It's highly possible however that Smolinski ends up giving Florida the biggest return out of the three players they received in this deal. P.J. Dean was also a 7th round pick, and here is what Baseball America had to say about him:

The Nationals' 2007 seventh-round pick from New Caney (Texas) High—Adam Dunn's alma mater—Dean saw both his stuff and results improve in 2008. He went 4-1, 1.57 for short-season Vermont, compiling 34 strikeouts and 16 walks in 46 innings. The 20-year-old Dean, who could add velocity as he builds to his 6-foot-3, 175-pound frame—already sits 91-92 mph, with life, and touches 94. Presently, his hard curveball and changeup both rate as average.

All in all this looks like a huge win for Jim Bowden and the Nationals. By taking on slightly more money they dramatically improve their lineup and pitching staff, and get themselves some much needed depth. This Nationals team isn't moving from the cellar of the NL East soon, but it's encouraging to see them move in the right direction after extending the likes of Ronnie Belliard and Dmitri Young, failing to capitalize on Rauch, and Chad Cordero and then botching the Aaron Crow selection.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A New Bronx Bomber

The New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox consummated a deal last week, in which New York received 1b/OF Nick Swisher and RHP Kanekoa Texeira for Util Wilson Betemit, RHP Jeff Marquez and RHP Jhonny Nunez.

The big name is this deal is quite obviously Nick Swisher, who I happen to like. Some of his stats aren't necessarily pretty, but he's a useful player to have on your team, signed to a decent contract (cheap for the Yankees). He is versatile in the field, able to play either Right or Left Field as well as being a well above average defender at 1b. He can also play Center Field in a pinch, but is stretched there defensively. On offense he will give you a patient approach from both sides of the plate, resulting in a good OBP but a lackluster batting average. He had the worst year of his short career last year with slash stats of .219/.332/.410, but is a career .244/.354/.451 hitter. So he maintained his ability to get on base despite the bad batting average, and if he can rebound into the .240 range, his OBP should be a quality on in the .350 range with some pop. He might not be the ideal 1b for Yankee fans, but his defense there should make up for any offensive shortcomings. Additionally, it would be fair to expect the offensive rebound due to Swisher's unfortunate luck last year. His BABIP (Batting Average on Ball In Play) was a terrifying .251. Swisher's career BABIP was only .293 coming into the 2008 season, so it's likely that there is something in his skill set that exposes him to lower than average BABIP's, yet that's still a 42 point drop in BABIP, and that should mainly be attributed to bad luck as his walk percentage, K percentage, line drive percentage all remained within their normal ranges (his LD% actually increased). It is entirely possible that Swisher is experiencing a sudden and dramatic erosion of his skills, but I find that highly unlikely given that he is going to be entering his age 28 season in 2009. How often does someone entering their prime experience a dramatic loss of skills?

The rest of this trade is not nearly as interesting to me. Betemit has had chances with previous clubs, and while there still seems to be some promise and room for growth, it becomes less likely that he will realize it with every passing year. Marquez has been pretty hyped (shocking for a Yankee prospect, I know) but he lacks an out-pitch and relies mainly on his sinker. It's not impossible for someone with his skill-set to pitch well in the Majors, but he only notched 51 K's in 102.2 innings between the two levels. He just doesn't have much margin for error, and would probably see slightly more success as a reliever. Texeira had a nice year this year going
6-3, 1.33 combined between High-A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham in 2008, with 60 strikeouts and 21 walks allowed in 61 innings overall. He has a great slider which he sets up with a low 90s fastball. Nunez came to the Yankees in a trade for Alberto Gonzalez, and is likely the best prospect in this group. He throws a low to mid 90s fastball (as high as 95), and has shown a plus slider, though it remains inconsistent. He was fantastic after coming over to the Yankees, and has shown more promise as a power reliever than as a starter (as the Nationals used him). He went 2-8, 5.22 as a starter at high Class A Potomac, but as a reliever with Double-A Harrisburg and then Double-A Trenton, he went 1-0, 1.65 in 27 innings, striking out 34, and tallied 116 strikeouts in 108 total innings.

In the end I definitely like the deal for the Yankees. It appears that the only thing of value that they gave up is a Double-A relief prospect, and in return they received a switch-hitting, versatile player who can give them the OBP they will need if they fail to retain Bobby Abreu, plus a relief prospect of their own. Bravo to Brian Cashman on this one.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The A's to Contend for '09?

The Oakland A's traded for LF Matt Holliday on Monday, and by all accounts shocked most people. There were rumors that they were in on the Holliday sweepstakes, but for the most part no one took them seriously, or were just plain confused by them. It just didn't seem Billy Beane-esque to give what the Rockies were asking for, for one year of a decently expensive Holliday.

However, this was actually classic Billy Beane. To get Holliday, all Beane gave up was LHP Greg Smith, RHP Huston Street and OF Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez was considered the prize of the Dan Haren trade that Beane pulled off last year, however LHP Brett Anderson has to be considered the better prospect right now. What makes this classic Billy Beane is that no one was expecting it. The A's were only 6 games off the Angels pace when he decided to sell on the season last year and trade Rich Harden and then later Joe Blanton. Now, after the Angels wrapped up a 100 win season he decides they're in contention? Well why not? The Angels did only outscore their opponents by 68 runs, which is much more indicative of their talent level than their record is. Additionally, if they fail to re-sign 1b Mark Teixeira, they're even more vulnerable.

Another reason this was a great move by Beane is that, somehow, Holliday's stock was a little low. This was because his splits away from Coors aren't exactly pretty, at .280/.348/.455 for his career. But history has shown that once a player leaves Colorado, his numbers outside of Coors will pick up a bit. And considering that Holliday is a talented player and not someone who benefits purely from the thin air in Colorado, I think Beane knew what he was doing when acquiring Holliday.

On Colorado's end, this trade is tough to analyze because rumor has it that they are going to spin at least Street to another team and possibly Gonzalez, but that Smith is staying. In a vaccuum this is a pretty good haul for one year of Holliday, but I can't look at this in a vaccuum. Gonzalez is a great return, I think he'll do well in Colorado. He stroked a ton of doubles in Oakland during his time there this year, and the power alleys in Coors should only help him there. Additionally, he is a massive upgrade in left field over Holliday. However, the two pitchers don't make much sense to me. Colorado wanted pitching that could help out at the Major League level, and that is what they got, but it seems to me that they didn't acquire talent that was suited to their ballpark. Huston Street is not what he was a few years ago, and while he is solid bullpen material, he has lost some zip on his fastball and is more of a flyball pitcher. While this can be effective in Oakland's forgiving ballpark, it could be trouble in Coors. Lastly Greg Smith had a pretty good year for Oakland finishing with a 4.16 ERA, but he's not exactly the type of pitcher who will succeed in Coors as he finished with only 111 strikeouts in 190.1 innings, and more flyballs than groundballs on the year.

Overall, it's too early to judge for Colorado as they might move one or two pieces from this trade, but I think Oakland did well to get Holliday for mostly pieces that weren't going to be part of their future anyway. Plus, they will get 2 draft picks when Holliday leaves for free agency at the end of this year.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Dayton Moore Continues to Underwhelm

When the Kansas City Royals hired Dayton Moore to be their GM of the future and replace Alan Baird I was a big fan. Moore was tutored by former Atlanta Braves GM John Schuerholz, who was the architect of the remarkably successful Braves teams of the 90s and early 2000s. I thought Moore was a new school thinker who knew how to operate on a smaller budget and would get creative with the roster and payroll. Since then he has made some nice acquisitions, but for the most part I have not been impressed.

What I like most about what Moore has done is invest in the draft. This year the Royals topped all other teams in spending on the amateur draft, coming in at $11,148,000. This was the most ever spent on the draft in MLB history. The majority of that $11 million went to Eric Hosmer, the best high school hitter in the draft. With another $1.25 million going to Tim Melville, a high school pitcher who fell to the 4th round due to signability concerns. All this after spending big on Mike Moustakas, their first round pick a year ago. Spending money to sign talent out of the draft is the best thing a rebuilding franchise could do, and I applaud Moore for investing heavily in young talent. However, despite all this spending the Royals farm system remains threadbare and it will take time for these new players to make their impact.

Where Moore has struggled is at the major league level. One of his first big forays into free agency was to spend $55 million over 5 years on Gil Meche, who did quite well his first season but has predictably regressed some since then. No matter how well Meche did though, it didn't make sense to pay a pitcher $11 million per year when the club wouldn't be contending soon anyway. This overspending on a pitcher is forgiveable as pitching talent is hard to come by, and Meche has been pretty valuable and his contract doesn't look so bad these days, so he could probably be traded without too much of a fuss. Moore then proceeded to sign Jose Guillen last off-season to a stunning 3 year $36 million contract. Guillen was coming off a good year with the Mariners, but it didn't appear that there was anyone offering that much money to him at the time, considering he was a malcontent who had a reputation for blowups. Additionally, he hadn't posted an OPS over 850 since 2003, and while his OPS had been over 800 every year since (excluding an injury marred 2006 in Washington), I can't consider it a good investment to spend $12 million per year on an average outfielder with an attitude on a team that wasn't going anywhere in the next 2 years at the least. I won't even get started on the money or playing time (although that blame should go to the manager) alotted to Ross Gload...

Another area where Moore has not impressed me, and the inspiration for this post is on the trade front. Moore recently co-christened the hot stove league with Florida Marlins GM Larry Beinfest by trading reliever Leo Nunez to the Marlins for first baseman Mike Jacobs. This trade just exacerbates the Royals biggest problem: OBP. They ranked 27th last year, with a team OBP of .320. Jacobs had a good year in the power department, mashing 32 homers and slugging a cool .514. His downfall though,(as if there was only one) is his OBP, where he came in at a sparkling .299. To compound this issue, Jacobs is also a terrible defensive first baseman, one of the worst in the league. And on top of that, the Royals position of strength, is first base/designated hitter with Ryan Shealy still around, Billy Butler still not getting enough ab's, and first baseman Kila Ka'aihue who has nothing left to prove in the minors. Ka'aihue would almost assuredly outperform Jacobs if given the opportunity to do so, but instead the Royals have opted to give up a cheap decent reliever for a below average 28 year old first baseman who will cost them significantly more through the arbitration process. Lastly, Jacobs did hit 32 homers last year, but that was big improvement over his career high of 20, and he can't be expected to duplicate last years "success".

I feel bad for Royals fans, because there was such hope that Moore could right this ship. And while he has gotten Royals upper management to spend money in the free agent market, he is not spending it wisely. He should be looking to make low key moves that will payoff down the line. Signing Guillen for 3 years won't matter because the Royals aren't going to contend in that time period, so it is a waste of money and any production they recieve. Hopefully Moore can correct some of his mistakes, and the draftees should help produce in a couple years, it just remains to be seen whether Moore will be there to see it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Game 5: Part 2

I realize that the World Series has been over for a while now, but life has been quite hectic, so I just wanted to post a little recap of my thoughts. Nothing that will take up too much of your time, and if you read other baseball sites it very well could just be rehashing what others have said.

The obvious thing about this 3.5 inning game was that it was terribly mismanaged by Rays manager Joe Maddon. I had previously complimented Maddon on his ability to learn from his mistakes in the ALCS, but the problem this time was that he made enough mistakes that there wasn't another game to apply everything he learned. As I predicted before the game, David Price did not come in to start as many people had thought, presumably because of the pitcher spot coming up 4th the next inning. Maddon began with Balfour, but then brought in J.P. Howell to face the Phillies lefties. Howell was able to get out of the inning with minimal damage, and everyone and their mother assumed that if someone got on base, then Howell would be done for the evening, especially with Pat Burrell coming up first in the next half inning.

Well everyone and their mother was wrong, because Rocco Baldelli tied the game up, and the Jason Bartlett actually pulled off a basehit, which meant the pitcher's spot coming up with a man on and one out. Now, at this point, I am screaming at the television for Eric Hinske to come up. The man was unwisely left off the postseason roster until Cliff Floyd went down with an injury in the World Series, and then went out and hit a homer in his first at-bat. Or even Willy Aybar, a switch hitter who had a pretty nice series so far. But what does Maddon do? He leaves Howell in to bunt Bartlett over to second, so that there's a man on second with 2 outs. Then when the Rays inevitably failed to convert the runner, he leaves Howell in to face Burrell, who promptly smashed a double that was a few feet from being a home run. THEN he removes Howell.

How this made any sense is completely beyond me. I mean, even if the manager wanted to make all of this happen, doesn't he have a staff around him to tell him "Joe, this is a bad idea." What is the pitching coach doing this whole time? Why does the bench coach have a job if not to prevent things like this? Are the players not thinking about the correct move in this situation? I know it's not always wise to question the manager, but making someone defend their position isn't a bad thing. It generally leads to the correct move being made, or at least a move with thought put into it.

Well we all know what happened after that, with the Phillies taking the lead, and going on to win the whole thing. It was a great performance by a Phillies team that I continually underestimated, although I still think the Rays win 6/10 times in that series.

I would like to note 2 last things- amazingly, the Rays almost bailed Maddon out in the ninth against Brad Lidge. Ben Zobrist of all people, hit a pitch right on the money, but unfortunately right at Jayson Werth. That hit would have easily brought home Fernando Perez. And lastly, Chase Utley just made an incredible play to throw out Jason Bartlett at the plate on Akinori Iwamura's groundball in the top of the 7th. I'm not sure any other second baseman could make that play. There are a few who have the range to get to that ball, but to make the heads up play of faking the throw to first, and then a one hop strike to the catcher...I am in awe. This guy is head and shoulders above any other second baseman in baseball right now in terms of overall package. I think he's the best defender and best hitter of the bunch.

Anyway, congrats to the Phillies on being 2008 World Series champions! And thanks for getting us to what should be an exciting offseason. The hot stove period very well might be my favorite time of year.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

MLB: Where Rain Happens

So we finally get the conclusion of Game 5 of the World Series tonight. The game will begin at 8:37 pm EST, despite strong winds and temperatures below 40 degrees. It's an interesting situation that we begin with because the bottom of the 6th will start with Cole Hamels at the plate. Obviously Phillies manager Charlie Manuel will pinch hit. Grant Balfour is technically still on the mound, so we can expect to see Greg Dobbs or Matt Stairs to lead off for the Phillies. Most people are expecting David Price to be called upon in this situation because he can go for multiple innings, but the pitcher's spot is due up 4th for the Rays the next inning, negating Price's ability to cover multiple innings. A double switch is a possibility, but it's unlikely that Rays manager Joe Maddon would want to replace anyone in the top 5 of his batting order.

If Charlie Manuel does indeed pinch-hit either Greg Dobbs or Matt Stairs, my guess is that Maddon will opt to go with J.P. Howell. Howell is a lefty, who can also go more than one inning, but isn't as devestating as Price is. This way, if the Rays go 1-2-3 in the top half of the 7th, Howell can continue on and pitch the bottom of the 7th. But if the Rays do get a man on, Maddon can pinch hit without using up David Price. If he prefers to use a 1-inning only guy, he still has Trever Miller, who was pretty effective against lefties this year as well. The Phillies had the best bullpen ERA this year in the NL, but I think the Rays have the better bullpen in the playoffs due to their depth. Philadelphia has 3 good-to-great relievers in Madson, Romero, and Lidge with Romero being a LOOGY. Tampa Bay has Bradford to get grounders, Balfour who is effective to both sides, but better against righties, Wheeler, Howell, Miller, and Price. This doesn't include Edwin Jackson, because he has been a starter all year, and he's only pitched once this playoffs...not exactly a weapon. The Phillies do have other capable relievers such as Condrey and Eyre. I forgot to mention Chad Durbin as a good reliever in the Philly 'pen, and he deserves mentioning as he had quite a good year. However, this has been his first really good season, and Charlie Manuel has used him to get just 1 out in 2 of the games in this World Series, which doesn't exactly show a ton of confidence. I have to give the edge to the Rays in this respect because of the depth they have from both sides as well as having both groundball and strikeout specialists.

On the other hand, I must give the edge in this half-game to the Phillies simply because they have 12 outs to the Rays 9. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, and what each manager does as both managers have displayed some pretty poor decision making so far in the series. Hope you get a chance to tune in, as this is a pretty unique situation. I know I'll be watching.

Monday, October 27, 2008

ESPN Titles

There will be no in depth analysis on this topic, but I just have to ask...What is with the titles over at ESPN? Currently on the MLB page, there is "Last-Pitch Effort" and "Phill-ing Good". Could they get any more corny? And it's not just the MLB page, they are constantly updating their main page with puns/plays-on-words. They need to hire someone who can make fitting titles for their articles, not just turning feeling into "Phill-ing". That's something better left for random blogs run by people who have a little too much time on their hands... Oh.

Anyway, come on guys...you can do better.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Manny = A-Rod?

There's a report in the New York Post indicating that the Los Angeles Dodgers are offered Manny Ramirez a 2 year contract worth $60 million. This is extremely interesting, because not only is Manny not worth what Alex Rodriguez is, but because of the effects it may have. Ned Colletti, in his short time has been a fan of overpaying for in exchange for less years on a contract, and that is a notion I actually agree with. If we look at just a few examples, Rafael Furcal received $52 million over 3 years, and Jason Schmidt received $47 million over 3 years. These examples couldn't have turned out more differently for Colletti, and unfortunately for him Andruw Jones is heading for Jason Schmidt territory. But at least they only have him for 1 more year...They're stuck overpaying Juan Pierre for the next 3.

The reason I like this strategy, is that as a big payroll team, the Dodgers have the financial depth to make mistakes like these, and as long as they don't tie up money for years to come, I'm fine with taking gambles with a resource that they have plenty of. I wish more clubs followed the lead of the Boston Red Sox, who make smart investments- especially in the draft, and go after the free agents they want. Sometimes they don't work out, i.e. Julio Lugo. But the advantage of being a big market team is that you can afford to make those mistakes. Lugo and Pierre can occupy bench spots while making $9 million a year, and that's ok because Boston and L.A. have the resources to handle that.

What cannot be allowed to happen is clubs talking themselves into playing a Pierre or a Lugo because of their contract. If they're not the best option, you don't play them. You're not going to get your money's worth either way, so you might as well give your team the best chance to win the games and if that involves paying someone $9 million to be a pinch runner/defensive replacement then so be it.

Now, "what does all of this have to do with Manny Ramirez?" you're asking. Well, $30 million annually is just entirely too much to pay Ramirez. He's not worth it even if he tried the whole season, which he won't going to do anyway. But, this is the kind of move that a large market team can make. Overpay financially...not in years, and it's much easier to swallow when the deal goes bad. As long as you know he's not worth $30 million in terms of production, and are cognizant that you are overpaying from the get-go, I am fine with that. It may seem insane, but it's better than tying up future money in a 41 year old Ramirez who will be even further away from being worth whatever he's going to be paid in 2012. Plus, if the deal goes south, he's only on the books for 2 seasons and the only thing you've lost is money. If your primary goal is winning, you'd much rather lose money than years, because ultimately the lost years will cost you more in the long run. Manny is much more likely to be worth closer to a $30 million hitter the next 2 years than he is a $22-25 million hitter in 4 years.

Paying someone too much is one thing, but I think we can all agree that Manny is going to get paid too much no matter where he goes. If I'm a fan of a team, I'd much rather make a 2 year mistake than a 4 year mistake. Word is that this offer is to appease the fans and say that they made an effort to re-sign Manny when everyone knows Boras wants at least 4 years. That may indeed be the case but while Manny isn't worth $25 million a year, much less $30 million, this is the type of risk that large market teams like L.A. should be taking.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

One More Thought

I'd just like to add one more thought on the ALCS. It's about the MVP award, which was given to Matt Garza. Garza pitched brilliantly over two games, including the clinching Game 7, recording a 1.38 era in 13 innings with 14 strikeouts and 6 walks. There is certainly no issue giving the award to Garza as he won both his starts, and pitched fairly dominantly allowing only 8 hits between them. I would however like to point out the performance of B.J. Upton. Upton hit .321 with 4 home runs in the ALCS to go along with 4 walks, 7 strikeouts and 2 stolen bases. Evan Longoria's stats were comparable, with Longoria also hitting 4 homers, but I just want to point out how good Upton has been this whole postseason. He's hit 7 home runs in the postseason, after hitting only 9 during the regular season. He tried to make up for his power outage during the regular season with more stolen bases, but it was a down year after his phenomenal 2007 campaign. This is the B.J. Upton I was hoping we'd see more of this year, and I must say it's a joy to finally watch him hit the ball with authority. I hope that no matter what happens in the World Series, Upton is able to carry this type of performance over to next season because he's a supremely talented player that everyone should have the pleasure of watching- much like a Grady Sizemore. I'm glad many of the Rays are finally getting exposure on a national stage, because it's great to see them get the recognition they deserve after watching them perform so well in obscurity all year.

Monday, October 20, 2008

ALCS in Review Part 2

In this post I'd like to go into a little bit of detail about Game 7. Specifically the later innings after all the excitement (scoring) was done. I was particularly impressed by Joe Maddon's ability to learn from the gaffes he made in Game 5, and how he applied them in Game 7.

I thought he made a mistake going with Garza in the top of the 8th, having already thrown 100+ pitches, but he was smart enough to pull him after he allowed the first batter to reach base. The first reliever he went to was Dan Wheeler, who we know well from the Game 5 meltdown. I was immediately concerned that he was calling upon Wheeler for 6 outs at this point, much like the debacle from 3 nights before. After Wheeler allowed a base hit and recorded an out, Maddon went to the bullpen for J.P. Howell to face David Ortiz. Bringing in a lefty to face Ortiz was a wise decision as he has struggled against lefties to the tune of a .221/.308/.433 line against them in 2008. Howell did his job and got the second out of the inning via a groundout to second. Next, Maddon brought in mid-season acquisition Chad Bradford to face Kevin Youkilis. Youkilis worked a walk, and Maddon went to his possibly unprecedented 5th pitcher of the inning. This move was a stroke of genious and while he may not have had a ton of options, this was definitely his best one. Maddon brought in David Price, the Rays #1 overall pick of one year ago, to pitch to J.D. Drew, the hero of Game 5. Price started him off with a filthy slider over the outside corner, and didn't appeared to be fazed by the pressure of pitching with a World Series Berth on the line. Price then pumped another slider in for a strike, and all of a sudden he had Drew down in an 0-2 hole. He fired high with a 96 mph fastball, and then missed again evening the count at 2-2. This is when he made a pitch that made me a little weak-kneed (yes, I'm that much of a dork): Price tossed a 97 mph fastball at the knees and just cut the outside edge of the plate. It was a thing of beauty, and Drew didn't have a chance of holding up his swing, though I'm not sure it would have mattered if he did.

As the Rays batted in the bottom of the 8th, the TBS cameras panned over to show a shot of the empty Rays bullpen. Maddon was not warming anyone up despite a righty heavy part of the lineup coming up for the Sox. It was a bold move to leave in a rookie in this type of situation, but David Price was used to facing high pressure situations since he had pitched for Vanderbilt and Team USA. And while those experiences paled in comparison to the one he was in right now, Price was more than up to the challenge. Additionally, people had been talking about Price being this years Joba Chamberlain- and this is exactly how Joe Maddon used him. Except Maddon didn't have a Mariano Rivera in his bullpen, so he let Price take center stage. Price allowed the leadoff man on via the walk, but beared down and recorded the next 3 outs and propelled the Rays into the world series.

The Rays are just a phenomenal story, never having posted even a .500 season before this one, and now appearing in the world series, and much credit should be given to the front office for enduring the losing seasons and making small acquisitions while constantly building for the future. Since the new ownership took over, VP of Operations Andrew Friedman has done a great job making low risk acquisitions with high upside, while using the depth in the minors that they built while finishing under .500 for 10 consecutive seasons. Making trades for Edwin Jackson, Dioner Navarro, Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza, Chad Bradford, Gabe Gross, Dan Wheeler and smart signings such as Carlos Pena, Troy Percival, and Eric Hinske. These are just a few of the pieces that Friedman was able to acquire, mostly without much fanfare, yet all of them played an important part of this 2008 Rays season. I'd also like to point out (and agree with) an article that points out that this Rays team is probably going to be the least talented of the next 5 years. Simply incredible what this team could be in a few years, and on such a low payroll, even with arbitration...

ALCS in Review Part 1

Wow. What a series. We finally receive a compelling playoff series in 2008. It was just full of surprising performances, questionable decision making and just all around fun. Most of the fun didn't start until Tampa Bay took a 3-1 lead in the series, although I think they deserve a lot of credit for bouncing back from a series opening loss at home, to take 3 straight to the defending champions. Let's go straight to game 5 though...

Up 7-0 in the 7th inning, after a sterling performance by Scott Kazmir, Manager Joe Maddon called up Grant Balfour. This was an interesting decision to me, because Balfour had been Maddon's go-to reliever in tight situations throughout the playoffs and now he was using him in a 7-0 game. The other thing about this decision is the number of available arms in the Rays' pen for a situation like this. I mean, why include Edwin Jackson on the LCS roster if not for pitching in a blowout? What purpose is he serving, except for coming in to a 7-0 game? Balfour got a couple outs, but could not close out the inning, and ended up with 2 men on, 1 man in, and David Ortiz at the plate. This is where Maddon makes a second baffling decision by leaving Balfour in to face Ortiz. The Rays' have 3 lefties in their pen, and all of them are quite effective against lefty hitters. He could have gone to J.P. Howell, Trever Miller or much-heralded rookie, David Price. Instead he leaves Balfour in to give up a 3-run homer to Ortiz, and let the Red Sox get a little life. The third questionable move of the inning by Maddon was bringing in Dan Wheeler to attempt to get 7 outs. Wheeler is able to escape the 7th, but immediately walked Jason Bay on 4 pitches to start the 8th. The mistake Maddon made was not using Wheeler in the first place, but leaving him in to face J.D. Drew. With another lefty at the plate, Maddon again refused to go to the bullpen, and it cost him this time as well, with Drew homering to bring the Sox within one. After giving up the game-tying run in the 8th, Maddon FINALLY went to a lefty (Howell) in the 9th with Ortiz batting second. Howell was able to get 2 quick outs, but then goldenboy Evan Longoria made a bad throw on a Youkilis grounder, with Youkilis ending up on second base. This is where Maddon makes his final mistake. He walked Jason Bay to get to J.D. Drew. While this make some superficial sense, if we look a little deeper we see that Drew is 4-7 in his career against Howell, and on top of that Jed Lowrie and Kevin Cash were the 2 hitters behind Drew. If anything, don't you pitch carefully to Bay and Drew, and go after Lowrie/Cash if both Bay and Drew get on? It's easy to second guess in retrospect, but I can't help but think that this collapse could have been somewhat easily avoided.

Part 2 will cover game 7, and how Joe Maddon proved himself (at least in my eyes) to be a good manager by learning some valuable lessons from game 5.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I just wanted to say that I would comment on the respective LCS series after they have reached their completion. I have many comments on both of them, especially the NLCS, but rather than make snap judgments, I'd like to see what happens before commenting on the goings on within each of them.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Dodgers vs. Phillies

While biding my time before heading to Philadelphia to attend Game 1 of the NLCS (the second post-season experience of my life), I came across an interesting article centered on the Diamond Mind simulation. It is an extremely in-depth simulation, and explained quite well in layman's terms in the article, so I won't try to rehash it here. It's a good article and worth the read anyway. What I found interesting about it is that the Dodgers win in 62% of the simulations. After reading Rob Neyer's blog yesterday, I was fairly convinced that the Phillies were indeed the better team in this series. I still feel that the Phillies are the better team in this series, but this is obviously a closer series than the numbers might indicate, and I think that like the simulations suggest the Dodgers will emerge victorious (there is probably some bias there). One of Neyer's points in yesterday's blog was that the Phillies were hotter than the Dodgers, noting their September records were equal, but the Phillies finished better over their last 16 games. While this may be true it is worth noting that the Dodgers' September run differential was +49 compared to the Phillies' +17.

Today Rob is back discussing the Diamond Mind simulation as well as another article, and he comes to the same conclusion I had after reading his post yesterday. While the Phillies may be a better team, it doesn't make them favored to win this series. The matchup has been examined a ton, and while much has been made of the the Dodgers having low-ball pitchers and the Phillies being low-ball hitters, Neyer addresses this:

"the Dodgers are exceptionally skilled at preventing
home runs, giving up only 123 all season, fewest in the majors. And it's across the board. All three of their top starting pitchers gave up only 13 or 14 homers this year."

This is a great point to make, especially coming off the heels of a series in which the Phillies did much of there damage with the long-ball, and consistently won on the strength of one big inning. The Dodgers also made a roster adjustment today; dropping Takashi Saito and adding Hong-Chih Kuo. This will likely improve their chances in the series as Kuo is devestating to lefties, and has the ability to neutralize the Phillies big duo of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. He is a bit of a question mark as he has only thrown once in the last month, but Saito was pretty questionable himself coming off of an injury.

Neyer concludes by saying "The Dodgers are the trendy pick and the Phillies are the better team. But sometimes being better isn't good enough." And I couldn't agree more.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Heat of the Moment

Successive song titles used for my posts? As Gov. Sarah Palin would say "You betcha!". Anyway, I was a bit off on the scores, but correct on the picks as both the Red Sox and Rays pulled out series clinching victories on Sunday. What I want to talk about comes about because of what one Angels player said after the Game 4 loss to the Red Sox. Cue Angels Game 1 and 4 starter John Lackey:

"We lost to a team that's not better than us. We are a better team than they are. The last two days, we shouldn't have given up anything."

I was discussing this quote with a friend of mine today, and he said that it was a classless thing for Lackey to say. I don't necessarily dispute this claim, but what I do think is that it's understandable. This is a fierce competitor who just lost to the Red Sox for the third time in five years, and is predictably a bit bitter. He also wasn't completely off base in his comments. The Angels had a 100-win season under their belt, and while you may say that comes against weaker divisional opponents they had also won 8 of 9 against Boston this season. Judging from a larger sample size, i.e. season series and the season as a whole, can you blame Lackey for thinking his team was better?

He is justifiably upset at getting bounced from the playoffs in the Divisional around once again, however he does need to realize that the Angels didn't play better this series. Additionally they had a mediocre run differential (+68 to Boston's +150) working against them. I don't hold anything against John Lackey for voicing his frustration, in fact, I empathize with him and I like that he feels his team should win whenever it takes the field. The only issue is, in this case he was wrong. The Angels weren't the best team, and they did not match up well with a Boston team that looks primed for another run to the World Series. So while it might not have been respectful or dignified, I don't think it's classless so much as misinformed.

Monday, October 6, 2008

It Ends Tonight

Aside from being a comically bad song by The All American Rejects, the title is my prediction for the ALDS tonight. We have two Game 4's taking place after the Angels staved off elimination, defeating the Red Sox 5-4 in 12 innings last night. Tonight is a rematch of the Game 1 starters for both squads as Jon Lester will face off with John Lackey. There will be more at stake than just which way to spell Jon/John is better, as the Angels are once again on the brink of elimination, playing at hostile Fenway Park. Despite almost throwing a no-hitter earlier this year at Fenway, Lackey traditionally has struggled pitching in Boston to the tune of a 6.34 ERA in 44 career innings. Additionally, Jon Lester has been pitching very well the entire season, and especially of late and obviously has no qualms pitching on the big stage as he closed out Game 4 of last year's World Series.

In the early game we have Andy Sonnanstine facing Gavin Floyd as both teams go with their 4th starters. The White Sox have been extremely good at home this year and I think there's a decent chance for them to push this to a fifth game. However, the Rays defense is fantastic and Sonnanstine does a good job pitching to that strength. I think the Rays play this game with a decent amount of desperation, not wanting to go back home the losers of 2 straight games, and manage to close this one out.

You see...baseball is a game of subtleties, and they can strangle you... Yeah, I am not happy I did that either. It's the end of the day, forgive me. Prediction: 6-2 Red Sox, and 5-3 Rays.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Missed Opportunity

Evan Longoria launched solo home runs on the first two post-season pitches he saw yesterday afternoon, and proceeded to add an rbi single in his third at-bat. One might be asking, what type of missed opportunity is that? The Rays hit the jackpot, didn't they? That they did, and they did a great job of locking up their investment to what is surely going to be a steal of a contract barring injury. Longorio is signed to be with the Rays for 9 seasons (including this one) for a total of around $45 million. If they choose not to exercise his 3 option years, it would be a 6-year pact for a total of $18 million. Having Longoria for a total of $5 million per season is an absolute heist for the Rays and I couldn't give more credit to Andrew Friedman and his staff for having the forsight to lock up such a talented player despite the inherent risk involved.

So, after all that...what is this missed opportunity I allude to? Longoria went 3rd overall in the 2006 draft, behind Luke Hochevar and Greg Reynolds. Neither of these players has been nearly as promising and the top 10 hasn't really panned out as we might have expected. The three best players from that top 10 would have to be Longoria, Tim Lincecum (10th-SF) and Clayton Kershaw (7th-LAD). Brandon Morrow (4th-SEA) was rushed to the big leagues, but still has shown considerable promise, and Andrew Miller (6th-DET) has yet to harness the command and control to make himself a dominant pitcher. I don't completely fault the Royals for taking Hochevar #1 because they were working on a budget, and despite being a Scott Boras client, he was willing to sign for a somewhat reasonable amount ($5.3 million), despite coming off a nasty negotiation with the Dodgers, and pitching in the Independent League with somewhat diminished stuff. I am stunned though that the Rockies didn't take Longoria with the second overall pick. They had just drafted Troy Tulowitzki, also of Long Beach State the previous year, and could have had a dominant hitting and fielding pair on the left side of the infield for the next 6 years if they took Longoria. Instead they opted to continue to try to develop their own pitching by drafting the underachieving Reynolds, who had a low k-rate for someone with his size and stuff. Imagine what the Rockies could be if they were playing with Tulo and Longoria on the left side of the infield.

While the draft is riddled with missed opportunities (look at Ricky Romero going 6th in front of Tulowitzki in 2005) this must be a particularly hard pill to swallow because no one looked at Reynolds as being the better prospect than Longoria, except apparently Colorado. Well...you win some and lose some right? After all, Colorado was able to nab Dexter Fowler in the 14th round in 2004...

Carston Charles Sabathia

What more can be said about the guy? He took the mound for the fourth time in 13 days last night, and to what should be no one's surprise, he struggled. His stuff seemed flat, and he labored through the short time he was on the mound. This was epitomized by his nine pitch struggle to put away opposing pitcher Brett Myers. Sabathia is an ultimate team player, and he showed this by willingly taking the ball every four days, and going the whole nine innings when Ned Yost or Dale Sveum didn't trust the bullpen with multi-run leads.

What this resulted in was 3,816 pitches over the course of the regular season for C.C. Sabathia. While there is often an emphasis on an innings limit for young pitchers, there has been some research done that's indicated that a pitch limit might be more effective. 3,000 pitches is often the threshold for pitchers, and for Sabathia to be at almost 4,000 is certainly worrisome. I came across some research a while back (I can't find it as of yet, but will continue looking) that looked at the pitchers who threw 3,000 in a season and what happened to them the following year. I believe a majority of them went to the disabled list at least once the following season. While I understand why Milwaulkee pitched Sabathia the way they did and while I understand Sabbathia doing what his team asked of him, I am tempted to question why the team would ask that of someone. I know they only retain his rights through the end of this season, and that the post-season is important, but we've reached a time when the players ought not to be abused whether a team controls their rights or not.

I just want to say that I stand in awe of what Sabathia has done in his time as a Brewer. Well frankly after his first 4 starts he's been downright unbelievable. His k/bb ratio is an insane 251/59. That does come with 253 innings pitched, which has got to be worrisome for any time looking to throw $20 million + per season for the next 5-6 years. If I were a team acquiring this incredible pitcher, I would absolutely look to scale back his innings next year, because if history has taught us anything, it's that these elbows and shoulders are fragile, and this kind of workload could mean a nasty injury in the near future, and I'd just hate to see that happened to this type of person and pitcher. He's something special that we should be looking to preserve, not push to his breaking point.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Let's Try This LiveBlogging Thing

Let's get this thing started. I have no idea how to do this, but I'm gonna give it my best shot.

9:33- Tony Gwynn tells us the Dodgers are doing everything right on the basis of the one game they've played so far. That's why he gets paid the big bucks folks.

9:36- Apparently all Lou Piniella wants out of Carlos Zambrano is 7 good innings. Way to shoot for the moon Lou.

9:37- Dick Stockton tell us Lou Piniella says that if the Cubs have to go to their bullpen in the 5th inning, they're going home. The game is being played at Wrigley though, so what exactly does this mean?

9:39- We're given the Cubs defense and Jim Edmonds is highlighted for having a Gold Glove. Why is this relevant? He's like 65 now with no range. If anything he's a defensive liability.

9:41- Big Z looks pretty locked in here in the first inning. He K's Ramirez to retire the side, and looks to be dealing. I think taking pitches is the way to go for the Dodgers here...He's an emotional pitcher and can self-destruct at any time, let's see if they channel my advice.

9:44- I really like the techno-twins Slav and Vieter.

9:46- Bad start for Chad Billingsley and the Dodgers. Soriano singles off a slider that caught too much of the plate, and then Martin loses a fastball in the dirt to advance Soriano to second. Can we agree that almost anyone named Chad would be better as a Chaz? Also, how come no one uses Chet as a nickname anymore?

9:50- For the first, but invariably the last I have correctly called a pitch a strike that the umpire called a ball. TBS' strike-zone thing has backed me up.

9:52- Chet Billingsley has struck 2 people out in the inning so far, but has also thrown 3 pitches in the dirt, keeping Russell Martin on his toes. Interesting inning. At least he's keeping it low for the most part.

9:57- Frank TV is like the Scott Boras of television ads. It's annoying as hell, you wish you never heard or saw it again, but according to the numbers it's wildly successful. Go figure.

9:58- Andre Ethier bangs a single to right field to prove that Zambrano is fallible today. And we learn that James Loney does indeed hit to the whole field. Tony Gwynn tells us that that's a good thing. Good thing he's here.

10:02- Matt Kemp watches strike 3 for the first out in the inning. Runners are still on 1st and 3rd. That's a big out because a double play ends the inning with no damage. See? I could be Tony Gwynn.

10:03- Odd play. Mark DeRosa boots the ball, still goes for the double play and the throw pulls Theriot off the bag. Everyone is safe, and the Dodgers lead 1-0.

10:04- Ok, there's something of a conspiracy. Another hard hit grounder, and this time Derek Lee misplays it and everyone is safe with the bases loaded. These kind of things tend to unravel Big Z, and Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild makes a smart decision to try to calm him down.

10:07- Raffy Furcal drops down one of his patented running bunts. Gwynn calls it a "gutsy play" and I'm inclined to agree. Bunting with 2 outs and the bases loaded is a ballsy play, no matter how fast you are.

10:10- Russell Martin hits a bases clearing double, and give the Dodgers a 5 run lead. When Martin is hitting, the Dodgers are a very tough team to beat. Hard not to think that Martin benefited from hitting in front of Manny right there. This is certainly not how anyone thought the first 11 innings of this series would go.

10:12- Ernie Johnson is the focus of some stupid commercial. I only bring this up because I'm happy TBS went out and got him to be the host of the studio show. He really does well on TNT, and I think he's one of the top studio hosts out there. You won't appreciate him til you're stuck with someone bad, trust me.

10:20- Chuck Billingsley strikes out imminent NL ROY winner Geovany Soto with a nasty slider. The Cubs have been biting on that pitch so far this night, and it bodes well that he's saving his curve for another time through the lineup. He should go at least 6 tonight if he keeps this up.

10:24- Zambrano comes back to go 1-2-3. This is big because he's such a volatile pitcher emotionally. While some might say the damage is done, this Cubs lineup can put up runs and this game is by no means over as long as he can keep them in it.

10:30- Chaz shows us his curve to K Fukudome who has just been terrible since May. He's looked fantastic after giving up that single to Soriano. We're told that Zambrano was looked at as much as any other Cubs hitter by the Dodgers pitching staff. He's hit .337 with 4 HR's this year. And he's a switch hitter. Thank you Tom Verducci.

10:33- Billingsley walks Zambrano which causes me to refer to him by last name only. He proceeds to throw the first pitch in the dirt to Soriano, and Martin comes out to calm down Billingsley. Good job by both Martin and Larry Rothschild to calm down their pitchers at the right times.

10:34- Another ball by Billingsley, and Rick Honeycutt decides Martin didn't know what he was talking about and goes out to talk to Chad. The homeplate umpire breaks up the gab session, and we're back to baseball. Soriano pops out, and the pep talk seems to have worked.

10:36- Frank Caliendo looks nothing like Donald Trump.

10:39- Another Frank TV promo. This time he recognizes that there are an obnoxious amount of Frank TV ads, and pokes a little fun at it. This doesn't result in fewer ads or less loathing of Frank. A completely unproductive ad if there ever was one.

10:41- Chet Billingsley comes to bat and he looks like he could borrow some facial hair from Casey Blake. Can't they put their lockers next to each other or something? Someone look into this.

10:42- Billingsley hit a grounder to Aramis Ramirez, and so far the Cubs have errors from their 1st, 2nd and 3rd basemen. This is immediately followed by a single from Furcal, and again even with two outs, these are the type of things that get to Carlos Zambrano. He's at 66 pitches through 3 2/3. This pitch count update is presented by BlackBerry.

10:46- Martin strikes out to end it, but what could have been an easy 4th got extended, and the Cubs are most likely going into their bullpen by the 6th inning for the second straight game. These things matter in 5 game series.

10:47- These Geico Cavemen commercials have really lost some of their edge, but I see nothing wrong with playing some 80's music while 2 dudes wear some sweet leather jackets. Hey, it's not Frank TV, right?

10:51- DLee led off with a single, and Aramis Ramirez immediately hit a tailor-made double play ball, but the ball hit Lee's hand as soon as Dewitt released it, so Ramirez is safe at first. It's been an odd game to say the least.

10:54- This time the double play goes as scheduled with DeRosa hitting into it. Billingsley's been generating ground balls whenever someone has been on base. Good sign for Dodger fans out there.

10:57- The announcers mock Manny's hair and he responds by crushing the ball to dead center. I'm not sure if this was more impressive of the ball he hit off his shoelaces deep into the centerfield stands. It was an inside fastball from Zambrano, and he really just turned on that pitch. It's really incredible what he's done recently. Takashi Saito recently referred to Manny as "a baseball playing festival". What more do you need to know?

11:01- Speaking of Manny, if you haven't read Bill Simmons' article on him that came out today, I recommend you do it now.

11:14- Zambrano nails Casey Blake with a pitch, and I can only assume he's jealous of his beard.

11:17- Zambrano gets the last out of the 6th on a pop up, and I think I'm calling it a night. 6-0 in the 6th, and I've been up since 7 am. All in all I think it was a successful evening for me, despite not lasting the entire game. Sadly I am just not going to be able to stay conscious the entire game. If you bothered to read the last 2 hours of commentary, well- seek help. I'll be back with a post about todays games tomorrows (likely to highlight Longoria and Sabbathia). Thanks for joining me.

One Thought About Last Night

The one thing that struck me as weird about last night's victory for the Dodgers over the Cubs was Joe Torre's use of the bullpen. Or should I say potential use. I understand pulling Lowe after 6 innings, because while he was pitching pretty well, he was by no means dominant, and he was at 94 pitches. Normally I'd throw him out there for the next inning, and if he breezes good, if he struggles pull him- but this move had more to do with game 4 than with how he was doing tonight. Bringing in Cory Wade was a good move, and Wade looked good getting his feet wet with a 2 run cushion.

This was where it got weird for me. The Dodgers have an interesting situation at the back of their bullpen. Takashi Saito, the normal closer is pitching with a torn elbow ligament and hasn't looked the same since returning from the disabled list. Meanwhile, fill-in closer Jonathan Broxton has been pretty dominant over his career, and fared well as a replacement for Saito. Saito is also not available on back-to-back days at this point. So when Broxton came out for the 8th inning with a 4-run lead, I was a little perplexed. I know Torre wouldn't use him for 2 innings in the first game, but why use both Broxton and Saito in the same game? Why show the Cubs both your "shut-down" guys? And why potentially eliminate Saito if he's needed in game 2 with less of a lead? I don't see why Wade couldn't have gone another inning, or someone such as Joe Beimel, or Chan Ho Park couldn't have come on and pitched the 8th to set up Broxton for the 9th. This wasn't even a save situation! It was a 4-run game, and we could see shots of Saito warming up for the 9th inning. There's just absolutely no reason to use your "best" reliever who can't pitch on back-to-back nights to pitch with a 4-run lead. Presumably they already used their second best reliever in Broxton, and exposing your best reliever just doesn't make any sense. Warming him up, I completely understand because he could be needed if another reliever gives up a run or two in the 9th inning, but Torre seemed intent on using him until Russell Martin provided the Dodgers yet another insurance run in the top of the 9th. This brought Greg Maddux out of the bullpen to close game 1 of the series, and despite allowing a hit, he did just that. I personally thank Russell Martin for keeping Saito in the bullpen, and allowing us to watch Maddux pitch in the playoffs, and had been wondering what his role would be this post-season. Overall though, a nice job done by Torre handling the ball game, and it was a good game to watch as well. I look forward to tonight's rematch.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

About That Return

I have been coerced into watching the game elsewhere and being distracted by a lot of people for tonight. I will be liveblogging game 2 starting at 9:30 pm EST on Thursday instead. I swear it will happen people. Have faith.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Unintentional Hiatus Aside...

So, a lot has happened since I've last written anything. The trading deadline, some big waiver deals, late season surges and collapses as well as the end of the season (except for that pesky AL Central). I just wanted to get back into this a little bit and say that I could not be more excited for the post-season, especially since the Dodgers have made it and are looking to win their first postseason series since Vin Scully gave us a call to remember as Kirk Gibson came to bat. And yes, that was just a long way to say "since 1988". I'm planning on jumping back in with something of a live blog/analysis of the Dodgers/Cubs matchup tomorrow night, 6:30 pm EST. I'm not exactly sure how it's going to go, never having done a live blog before, but I figure at the very least it could turn into a cathartic session of me complaining about Joe Torre's in-game management. I figure if it's an utter disaster, I'll just throw out an analysis of the rest of the post season or possibly a recap of the season or interesting things going on around baseball. It's good to be back, and hopefully this "life" thing won't get in my way of blogging again.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It Wasn't New But It Was Still Exciting

No hitters are nothing new, especially in this case. The Boston Red Sox' Jon Lester threw a no-hitter yesterday against the Kansas City Royals. It was a new experience for Lester, but the Red Sox also hold the last no-hitter in the Major Leagues (Clay Buchholz, September 1st, 2007) and Jason Varitek became the first catcher to ever catch four no-hitters. It's a great story for Lester who recovered from non-Hodgkins lymphoma to get back to the Major Leagues last season. Stories like Lester's are inspirational by nature, but that's not what I want to talk about. I was able to watch the last inning of the game, and then caught the highlights on SportsCenter later on. During the highlights SportsCenter gave way to the Red Sox radio announcers Joe Castiglione and Dave O'Brien and, after hearing the call, I got chills. This just made me realize how special a moment like this is, and why I love baseball so much. It's a great story for someone who is by all accounts a great kid, and I'll leave you with some quotes by his coach Terry Francona, fellow cancer survivor/teammate Mike Lowell, and Catcher Jason Varitek.

Francona: "This probably isn't fair to say, but I feel like... my son threw a no-hitter... It's probably selfish on my part to even say something like that. But I think it's obvious how we feel about this kid."

"He's not just a good kid because he threw a no-hitter," Francona said. "He's a good kid because he's a good kid."

Lowell: “I think people will now remember what he did tonight on the mound as something special, instead of he’s a young kid who had cancer...”

Varitek: "You see how he has grown in strength (from his illness), as a human being not just a baseball player. That brings him from a young man to an adult. Things have not been easy for him. Just let him enjoy the moment."

Couldn't agree more with Varitek, and I hope Lester was able to enjoy the moment to it's fullest. I'm just glad I was able to witness such an event.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Something New and Exciting

Just read the first few posts of Paul DePodesta's (former Dodgers GM, and current Padres assistant GM) new blog. This is the first I've seen of an executive, a former GM no less, of a baseball franchise opening up the doors by blogging. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised as DePodesta was part of the "Moneyball" revolution, and is obviously open to new ideas. I think this is a great idea because it not only allows baseball freaks like me to get a little more involved, but is also a great marketing ploy. He will respond to commenters when possible, and this is a yet another forum for Padres management to reach and communicate with their fans which is yet another sign of a well run franchise.

This leads me to wonder if DePodesta will get another GM opportunity in the future as his biggest failure in Los Angeles was his lack of communication with the media, fans and members of the front office. If he is able to successfully communicate with the fans in a forum like this, perhaps it will be a first step towards him becoming a GM once again. As a Dodgers fan I routinely harangued DePodesta for some of the moves he made, and looking back I feel foolish for being so quick to judge. Many of his moves are part of what has made this current Dodgers team so potent, and I sincerely hope he gets the opportunity to become a GM again, if he so chooses. He is obviously an innovative mind and it could be very exciting to see what he could do given more than 2 years on the job. Here's to creativity in baseball...not something we see every day.

You can find it here: http://itmightbedangerous.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Irony of Ironies

This whole debate between the Mainstream Media (MSM) and the series of tubes that is the world wide interweb and blogging is raging these days. Highlighted by last night's Costas Now, which had Deadspin's Will Leitch, Pulitzer Prize winning Buzz Bissinger, and of course- Cleveland Browns WR Braylon Edwards. What I mean about "this whole debate" is the ongoing war on bloggers in general by an aging generation of journalists. The journalists contend that blogs are poorly researched, poorly written and well...just plain poor in general. Bloggers have, for the most part, been defending their medium and as we saw in the "discussion" on Costas Now, both parties played these very roles.

I haven't been able to watch the whole program, but have seen bits and pieces, and frankly, I'm left wondering what Buzz Bissinger is so angry about. Anyway, I think both sides have decent points, but inevitably I am inclined to agreed with the bloggers (surprise!). Again, it's not the the MSMers don't have their points, but it just seemed ironic to me that throughout the show Buzz Bissinger berated ALL bloggers by reading ONE line from ONE blog. And not only that, he cursed blogs out for being ill-researched, all opinion, and are poorly written. Now I know you're wondering, where is the irony in that? A lot of blogs suck for exactly those reasons. And right you are (both you and Buzz)! But the irony is that his point of view on blogs is ill-reasearched, all opinion, and in this case profanity laced (some may call that poorly spoken, however it's fine by me). It just amazes me how people in the MSM can unilaterally decree that blogs are bad for this reason or that, without doing their proper research. Apparently, some can't even tell the difference between commenters and the bloggers themselves. They don't take the time to realize that there are bloggers who are journalistic, and bloggers who write extremely well. Joe Posnanski- who writes for the KC Star- writes an incredibly smart and eloquent blog, and he is both journalistic and well written. But I suppose it's easier to paint with a broad stroke than a fine one, and this is just another example of that. I don't have an overarching point to all of this, mainly because I have neither the capacity nor the eloquence to do a point like that justice. However, I do plead that anyone who takes the time to read my sorry excuse for a blog takes the time to watch the Costas Now segment and develop their own educated opinion. The show is available, in pieces at a favorite blog of mine (www.awfulannouncing.com), and I encourage you as much as I can to view it; if possible.

I guess my problem with the whole discrepancy is that blogging is a still a new medium. Yes it has been around for years, but it's still on the new side, and like almost everything with the internet there is both good and bad that come with it. But to compare any random blog (like mine) to something like Deadspin or AwfulAnnouncing or MLBTradeRumors is like comparing tabloids to the NY Times. There will always be both good and bad in any medium, and to stereotype the way Bissinger did, and many other have (including people I admire such as Michael Wilbon) is just asinine. I understand that MSMers feel that credibility is lost with anyone being able to write a blog, but they have to understand that this is the future, and they should embrace it as so many of their brethren have (Peter Gammons, Buster Olney...). That's not to say that print media will die out and this is the future of journalism, but it's a bit like cable was/is to network programming...It's just more choice. And I don't think anyone is debating that the networks are doing just fine with all the choice available on cable television. Sure, the numbers have changed, what a great rating is now would have been crap in the 60's, but it's an evolving world that we live in, and this is just another evolution of the journalistic medium.

For specific footage of the Costas Now segments please go here: http://awfulannouncing.blogspot.com/2008/04/costas-intro-on-internet-media-segment.html

and find the "discussion" here:

One more thing- This is an example of writing by, as Buzz calls him "Big Daddy Balls": http://deadspin.com/372890/bob-mould-bagels-hot-sex-western-kentucky-and-other-passionate-pinnacles-of-the-human-experience

UPDATE: this is a link with the whole Costas Now piece from deadspin: http://deadspin.com/385770/bissinger-vs-leitch?autoplay=true

Monday, April 21, 2008

Who Needs Arbitration Years?

I have noticed a trend occurring in our fair sport recently. More and more, teams are signing players with under 3 years of service time to long term contracts that buy out their arbitration years, and often have options that cover at least the first year of free agency. I am going to do a bit of explaining, so if you understand the basics of a major league contract, feel free to skip to the next paragraph. The way it works in the major leagues is when you are a minor leaguer, the team owns the rights to you. When you are called up to the major leagues, and are on the 25-man roster, you earn a higher salary than that in the minors, but it is still the major league minimum. The team that you play for is able to unilaterally decide your salary for the first 3 years (2 in some circumstances) that you accrue service time. After those 3 years, you are eligible for arbitration, where you make a case for a certain salary, and the team makes a case for a certain salary to a board of arbitrators, and you get compared to people who have performed similarly and see what their salaries are. The arbitrators then decide who is more correct and award your salary based on the information presented. This happens for 3 more years until you are eligible for free agency. Ok...back to the original story.

The most recent example of this is Tampa Bay and Evan Longoria reaching a 6-year deal with 3 option years, for a guaranteed $17.5 million. This is also the most extreme deal as Longoria had logged all of 20 at bats over a 6 game period. If the option years are picked up, the deal could reach a total of $44 million over 9 years. The importance of this is that they are avoiding the sometimes bitter arbitration process and even more importantly- eliminating any need to send Longoria back to the minors so he wouldn't gain super-two eligibility. Additionally, if all the options are picked up they are buying out Longoria's first 3 free agency years for $26.5 million. This is a bargain in todays terms, and considering how salaries are likely to keep increasing...the Rays could end up with another Carl Crawford type situation on their hands.

Another example of this is the Colorado Rockies locking up stud shortstop Troy Tulowitzki after only 1 season in the majors. This offseason they signed him to a 6-year contract for $31 million, with a club option for $15 million. This contract buys out his first year of free agency, with the option for the second year. This is the largest contract ever for a player with under 2 years of service time, even in regards to the Longoria contract as there is more guaranteed money. Odds are that Tulowitzki gets a better deal because he's played more games which gives him more leverage. Additionally he plays a gold glove shortstop, and hits quite well, which gives him more value than the third baseman Longoria.

Moving on to yet another example, we have Arizona Diamondbacks centerfielder Chris Young. Young signed a 5-year, $28 million extension, which means that he'll keep his base salary for this year and start earning the big money next year. This deal buys out his first 2 years of free agency, with a club option for 2014 at $11 million.

This has even been done for pitchers as the Cleveland Indians and Fausto Carmona reached a 4-year agreement, for $15 million dollars guaranteed with club options for 2012-2014. Carmona had 2 years of service time in, but one of them was as a reliever, and he only had 1 good (great, really) year as a starter, so he receives considerably less guaranteed money than the other players we've been talking about. Speaking of Cleveland, they gave Grady Sizemore a 6-year contract worth $23.45 million, which was at that point the largest deal ever for a player with less than 2 years of service time. It's amazing to me that this contract is now outdated, and has been replaced by the Tulowitzki contract...

Now we finally come to my point, or rather my thoughts on the subject. I think we will see more and more clubs locking up their players with less and less service time. I don't think we'll see a Tampa Bay/Longoria type deal very much, but the sentiment is the same. While teams or players may give or get a little here and there with deals like this, what it does is give both parties cost certainty, which has a value in and of itself. I often think that the teams get the edge in deals like these, especially the contracts with club options through free agency years. If you're a stud player, you can make serious money in arbitration, and set a huge standard for your first free agency contract. This is evident in cases like Miguel Cabrera, who had he reached free agency, likely would have been MLB's next $200 dollar man. He's now passed that crown on to former teammate Hanley Ramirez. The reason I think we will continue to see this type of contract is because while the team may benefit from getting the free agency years at a discounted price, they avoid arbitration which can occasionally get ugly, AND the players are earning so much money through these contracts that they may be willing to give up a few million dollars here or there for a little certainty both in terms of getting paid, and living in a certain place. I think it's nice when players consider their happiness over making a few extra (million) bucks, and I'm hoping that's part of the case with some of these contracts, at least from the players ends.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Torre's Dilemma?

In my last post I congratulated Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre on starting the season off right. What I meant by this was starting Andre Ethier over Juan Pierre in left field for opening day. Unfortunately, since then Torre managed to start Pierre in the second game of the season, resulting in an 0-2 night. There has been much discussion on this topic as Pierre was signed to an incredible 5-year $44 million dollar contract last winter with the intention of him being the Dodgers' centerfielder. This off-season, seeking to add more pop to a power hungry lineup, General Manager Ned Colletti signed Andruw Jones to a 2-year $36.2 million contract, dislodging Pierre from center, and creating a logjam in the outfield. This was a sound move by Colletti, as even in Jones' worst full season he would have led the Dodgers in home runs and RBI.

During the off-season, there was a clamoring from the general public to have an outfield of Jones in center, Ethier in left, and Matt Kemp in right field, leaving Juan Pierre to sit on the bench and collect his paycheck. The worry was that new manager Torre and his staff would favor the veterans as was his perceived style in New York. This worry proved to be worthwhile as Torre took a liking to Pierre's work ethic and "old school" game. However, Pierre managed to further muddy the issue by hitting under the Mendoza line during spring training, while Ethier hit lights out. All of this led to Ethier starting opening day, and Pierre losing his consecutive game streak.

The real issue in all of this is not who has the bigger contract, or who had the best spring training, but rather who is the better player, and more specifically, who is the better player for this Dodgers team. This is a team that prides itself on pitching, boasting a strong rotation and great back end to their bullpen. Last season the Dodgers were subpar defensively, due in large part to an outfield comprised of Pierre and Luis Gonzalez. When Bengie "Wheels" Molina can score on a single to center from second base, that's when you have to worry. By playing an outfield of Jones, Ethier and Kemp, the Dodgers would greatly improve their outfield defense, and likely save themselves some runs in the process. Ethier does not have Pierre's speed, and therefore range in left field, but he does run better routes, and have a stronger arm. The consensus, and I would agree, is that Ethier is the better defender of the two in left field.

Hitting wise Ethier outclasses Pierre in every area, save (again) for speed. Ethier has a career .353 OBP to Pierre's .348. This doesn't seem so significant, but in Pierre's last 3 years he has posted OBP's of .324, .330, and .331, so at this stage in their careers, Ethier has been much better at getting on base. Additionally, Pierre has the power of a fruit fly, so when looking at their respective OPS +'s (OPS modified to take park effects, and league into consideration), Pierre stands at 84 (100 is league average), and Ethier is at 108. True, 108 is nothing to go crazy about it is a huge improvement over the 84 that Pierre brings to the table. While Pierre does possess game changing speed, he doesn't get on base enough to make it a useful attribute, and skill-wise, he is just not an every-day player anymore. My favorite take on this comes from ESPN's Rob Neyer, and that is: the upgrade to Ethier might not do anything but win the Dodgers a few games over the course of a season, but in the NL West a few wins is significant. And if there is one move that can win you 2-3 games over the course of a season, shouldn't you make that move?

The reason for my question mark in the title is because to me, almost every sign points to Ethier being better than Pierre, so it isn't really a question. But then again, Joe Torre doesn't seem to be one to look at a sign, much less ask for directions.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

It's Been Way Too Long In So Many Ways

For the second time in the short short history of this blog I have to apologize for the lack of updates. It doesn't say much about me that I must do this after I rededicated myself does it? I don't suppose it makes it better that I have not followed baseball any less? No? I thought not. Ah well. I swear I'll post more now that the season has started and I can make my comments. Preview for tomorrow: Congrats to Joe Torre for starting the season off right.

My main reason for updating today though is, of course, Opening Day for 14 teams (really 12 because the Nats and Braves opened yesterday). There's a saying "you don't know what you have til it's gone", but every year I find that I don't realize how much I miss baseball until Opening Day. By the end of this game I will have spent a mostly uninterrupted 12 hours watching baseball today, and it just hits me every year that I live for this game. I can't get enough, and I'm happy the other half of the league is opening tomorrow so I can do it all over again. So many people have catalogued what makes Opening Day special, and I certainly don't have the literary prowess or grasp on the language to do it any justice, but all I can say is that the feeling that I get when baseball is back in my life is unlike any other. I look forward to an exciting season and I have my thoughts and intuitions* on who will do what, but who needs to hear those? Let's just watch what happens and enjoy the ride, it's going to be a hell of a season.

Good luck to every team out there. Except the Giants.

I am going to steal a line from the end of Rob Neyer's 12 hour chat and leave you with these opening day words from Ring Lardner: "The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong -- but that's the way to bet."

*My predictions are as follows
NL: East-Mets, Central-Brewers, West-Dodgers, WC-D'Backs
AL: East- Yankees, Central-Tigers, West-Angels, WC- Indians
WS: Indians over Mets in 6

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Dodger Blues

Last week the Los Angeles Dodgers' highly touted prospect Andy Laroche injured his thumb in a freak play at 3rd base. At the time Laroche was contesting Nomar Garciaparra for the starting 3rd base position, and having his best Spring Training to date. The last two years Laroche never impressed in Spring Training, seeming too relaxed and not making himself a favorite among the Dodgers coaching staff and management. This year, with a new coach, he got off to a good start showing power and a good eye, but it was cut short by a ball glancing off the side of a baserunner and tearing his Ulnar Collateral Ligament. The recovery process takes 8-10 weeks, and I'd expect him to not get called up til well after that. It is a tough blow for the Dodgers and their fans as Laroche provides much more upside than the power challenged Garciaparra. I think the real shame here is that Laroche could lose a bit of his power stroke, as hand injuries tend to have an effect on power hitting. My other concern is that Laroche was already starting to get labeled as an injury prone player having a recurring back injury, and a hurt shoulder already. While this has been described as a freak play on all accounts, it's yet another injury on his resume. For now, Dodger fans must hope that Garciaparra can stay healthy- at least until Laroche makes a full recovery, and that Laroche can make a mid season return to bolster what should be an improved Dodger lineup.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Mistake, Trend, Habit

There's an old saying: Once is a mistake, twice is a trend, thrice is a habit. Well, we're in the midst of a trend ladies and gentleman. Last year Ryan Howard, the reigning MVP was renewed (unilateral decision about salary made by the team) by the Philadelphia Phillies, at $900,000, around double what they are required to pay him. This is was most likely not the first time this has happened, but he is certainly the highest profile player to do so. Many players have looked at the Phillies willingness to pay Howard $900k as a precedent for their own cases. This year, three notable young players have expressed displeasure with their contracts being renewed for significantly less than they think they deserve. The big three? Prince Fielder, Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon. Fielder was renewed at $670k, roughly 50% more than the Brewers are required to pay, and he was extremely vocal in his unhappiness. Hamels received $500k from the Phillies and deemed it a "low-blow". Papelbon is using Howard's $900k as a benchmark and saying if he doesn't get something close to that, he'd rather make a statement and be renewed for the minimum.

This type of behavior is worrisome to me. As players with less than 2 full years of service time, they have no leverage aside from pouting, which apparently they are going to employ in full force. This is how baseball works though, you are underpaid your first 3 years, then comes arbitration, and generally, a raise in pay where you are paid amongst your peers, followed by free agency, where there is a tendency to be paid above your worth. Above all of that though, is that they are being paid in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to play a sport and a game, and they bitching and moaning about this. This type of behavior isn't going to endear them to their fans who earn considerably less (on the whole), and spend part of that money just to watch them do their job, which is to play a game. The only rationale for teams be giving players with such little service time so much money is that they hope the player will return the favor when negotiating a longer term deal for free agency years. While I can see reasoning in this line of thinking, I can see very little. Todays player looks out for himself before anyone else, it's rare to see the kind of loyalty that we expect of our young players. When free agency arrives for a player they will allow the original team to remain competitive with all other offers, but the concept of the hometown discount is overblown. I find it hard to believe that if the original team were to make a competitive offer in free agency or right before, the prospective free agent would refuse to deal with them because of a mere $400k earlier in their career.

Before I conclude, I'd like to commend players like John Maine, Hanley Ramirez, and B.J. Upton who have been gracious about their contract renewals. Upton even received $10k less than he did last year after hitting .300-24-82 with 22 steals. He also indicated that it would not impact any future negotiations. This type of attitude is refreshing to me, as this has become an increasingly a me-first industry.

I know that players have a right to ask for more money in case their bodies break down, but that's just more assumed risk for the team. The salaries they receive are more than many families make on two incomes, so it should be enough for them at this early point in their careers. There is a case to be made for either side of the argument, but I would have to come down on management's side on this one. Let's just hope this trend doesn't turn into a full-fledged habit next year.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Ray of Doubt

Scott Kazmir left the intrasquad game he was scheduled to pitch in without throwing a pitch on Tuesday. He has been diagnosed with a strained left elbow, and will rest for two weeks before resuming his program. He thinks he will be ready for Opening Day but has made no promises. Tampa Bay will not rush him back, and they have little reason to do so as he will be 24 this season while entering his fourth full season with the Rays. This is an unfortunate turn for Kazmir as he really turned into an elite starting pitcher after the break last season turning in an 8-3 record with 124 strikeouts with only 31 walks in 94.1 innings. The truly impressive mark there is his K/BB ratio, which was significantly worse in the first half. It it's hard to be sure which is the real Scott Kazmir as he has never demonstrated the ability to avoid walking batters before the latter half of last year, but it certainly is unfortunate that he has this incident after turning in such a great second half. His great command resulted in a 2.39 ERA, and a 1.14 WHIP (Walks+Hits/Innings Pitched) in the second half. This is opposed to a 4.41 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP in the first half. There are so many statistics that demonstrate his improvement over the year, so I'll stop throwing them out there, but I just think it is a shame that this had to happen to start the year. If Kazmir can be healthy for the rest of the season I think the Rays had a decent shot at .500, which would be the first time in their franchise history for them to accomplish that, and they could conceivably win more. What this does is allow Edwin Jackson, J.P. Howell, Andy Sonnanstine and Jason Hammel a little breathing room in the competition for the back end spots in the rotation. Here's to hoping Kazmir is back by Opening Day.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Demotion looming for The Boss?

For those of you that don't know, The Boss is Jay Bruce the top prospect in the Cincinnati Reds farm system, and likely, all of baseball. Word today is that when Reds Manager Dusty Baker was asked who would lead off when Ryan Freel or Norris Hopper aren't in the lineup, he responded that he "[hoped] one or the other was in the game". This doesn't bode well for Bruce's chances of making the big club directly out of Spring Training, as I had been hoping he would. Bruce is a truly great prospect who would likely be stretched a bit in center field, but has the ability to play it at this stage in his career. He will likely fill out a bit and slot into right field when Ken Griffey Jr.'s contract runs out this year, or in '09 if the Reds pick up his option.

Every one of Bruce's skills rate as above average on the 20-80 scouting scale with his best being his power as a 65-70. He has the ability to hit for average and power because of his tremendous bat speed. He also has a fantastic work ethic resulting in him often being the first to arrive and the last to leave the ballpark, as well as displaying exceptional instinct and leadership qualities. He does strike out a lot, but it hasn't affected his ability to hit for average and is an acceptable tradeoff considering his power production. Last year in the Minors he started at Hi A and progressed all the way to Triple-A. His call up to Triple-A was only supposed to be as an injury fill in, but he impressed enough to stay there the rest of the year. He ended up hitting a combined .319/.375/.587, with 26 homers between the three levels.

I am extremely excited to see Bruce in the majors, and hope it happens as soon as possible because Ryan Freel is much better suited to be a utility man and Norris Hopper is a 4th/5th outfielder who got extremely lucky late last year. This would be the best thing for the Reds to do if they are to overcome the odds, the Cubs and the Brewers to reach the playoffs this year, although I would understand if they sent him back to Triple-A for a couple weeks to delay his free agency clock for another year, but that would still result in him likely becoming a Super-Two player. Still, at this point in the Major Leagues, the more cost control, the better.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

That's Erik with a "K"

Here is my belated analysis of the long, drawn out trade that sent Erik Bedard to Seattle in exchange for a slew of prospects and a middle reliever. I spoke earlier how I thought this deal, in conjunction with a Brian Roberts trade was necessary for the Orioles to begin their rebuilding process in earnest. The O's did not get the deal that was being discussed at the time, but it was a great deal for them nonetheless. The Mariners received possibly the most dominant pitcher of 2007, until his oblique strain took him out for the rest of the year. Bedard was well on his way to winning the strikeout title last year, until he hit the DL and was surpassed by Scott Kazmir and Johan Santana.

The Deal:

Mariners Get: Erik Bedard

Orioles Get: Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Tony Butler (Hi A), Chris Tillman (Hi A), and Kam Mickolio (AAA)

Seattle: The Mariners desperately needed to upgrade their starting pitching after using the likes of Horacio Ramirez and Ryan Feierabend in the rotation last year. After rushing first round pick Brandon Morrow to the big leagues, he has not developed anything past his fastball, so he will likely move back to the bullpen after the acquisition of Bedard. What Bedard gives the Mariners is one of, if not the top 1-2 punches in the Major Leagues. Combining Bedard with Felix Hernandez gives the Mariners a potentially dominant lefty/righty combination that could do real damage in a short playoff series. There is a downside to Bedard though as he has never pitched 200 innings in his career and did have Tommy John surgery several years ago. Additionally, Bedard is tough on both lefties and righties using a power arsenal of a low 90s fastball and a plus-plus curve that is the definition of an out pitch. He used his repertoire to amass 221 strikeouts in a mere 186 innings, and he lowered his walk rate to 2.8 per nine innings. He also led the AL in strikeouts per nine innings with 10.9.

Baltimore: To get everything described above, Seattle had to give up quite a lot. They gave up a total of five players, only one of which has played in the Major Leagues extensively. That means the Orioles received 4 players who have less than one year of service time, which gives them a lot of cost control over the coming years and that's exactly what they need in this stage of rebuilding.

The best player Baltimore received is Adam Jones. He is a 22 year old centerfielder who packs some punch in his swing. He is fantastic defensively, and between Jones and Nick Markakis, the Orioles should have a good outfield defense for years to come. Jones should hit for power immediately in the majors, and while he might not hit for average right away that should come in time as he's demonstrated the ability to do it in the minors. He seemed to have a better grasp of the strike zone and showed good plate discipline in Triple-A this year, and there's no reason to think that won't translate to the Majors eventually.

The other Major Leaguer involved in the deal is George Sherrill, a lefty reliever who came undrafted out of college. He could easily be more than the LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY) that Seattle used him as. He should be the favorite for the closer spot in Baltimore, as he is the one with the most recent success although he will face competition from fellow lefty specialist Jamie Walker among others. There is also the possibility that the Orioles will spin Sherrill to another team in search of a reliever at the deadline for prospects.*

Tony Butler is a 20 year old lefthander who spent the year at Low A for Seattle. He throws a high 80s/low 90s four seam fastball that shows late life, in addition to a promising curveball. He also features a change-up with good fade and deception. There is cause for worry though, as he spent time on the disabled list twice with a dead arm. However, Butler is 6-7 and at only 2o he has room to fill out his frame, and add velocity as well as consistency.

Chris Tillman is probably the second most valuable player received in this deal, or at least has the potential to be. He was pushed to Hi A as a 19 year old, and while he struggled initially, he eventually adapted to the better competition and unfriendly ballpark. He managed to maintain his strikeout rate despite the bump up, and that is certainly an encouraging sign. At 6-5, Tillman still has room to fill out, and add velocity to his solid low 90s fastball. His curve has 11-5 tilt, and he controls it with an advanced feel. His change up is easily his third offering, but it has the opportunity to be more than just a show-me pitch.

Kam Mickolio was an 18th round selection, and moved from college to Triple-A in less than a year. He features a dominating power sinker that runs between 92-97 mph. Mickolio is 6-9 and pitches from a low three quarters arm slot with some cross body deception, so the sinker bores in on right handed hitters and really gives them fits. Even though his best pitch is his sinker, he still had a 9.2 k/9 between Double and Triple-A last year. His slider is merely average, but he doesn't need it to be much more than that if he is going to remain a reliever, although he does not to improve his consistency. He also must develop a change up if he is going to be able to face lefties in the Majors.

In the end, I think the Orioles did well to get all these prospects, and while the Mariners bolster their rotation with an elite pitcher they were not as good as they appeared to be last year, and I'm not sure this is enough to move them past the Angels into the post-season. Obviously much of the season is determined by injuries and luck, but if we are to speculate on who would win the AL West now, I think that the Angels must still be the favorites.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

File This Under "It's About Time..."

Johan Santana was FINALLY traded from the Minnesota Twins to the New York Mets. In return for Santana, and the 72 hour negotiating window, Minnesota received 4 prospects from the Mets depleted farm system. The Twins received perceived centerpiece Carlos Gomez, Phillip Humber, Deolis Guerra, and Kevin Mulvey. I particularly like this deal from the Mets perspective as they get the best pitcher on the planet for 4 of their top prospects, but keep in mind that being a top prospect for the Mets is kind of like being the youngest person at a retirement home (excepting all individuals named Fernando Martinez). Maybe you're the best around, but it doesn't mean you're anything special.

The Deal:

Mets Get: Johan Santana

Twins Get: Carlos Gomez, Phillip Humber (AAA), Deolis Guerra(Hi A) and Kevin Mulvey (AAA)

New York: In Johan Santana the Mets receive the best pitcher in baseball over the last several years. He was not his usual dominant self in 2007, he was still one of the 5 best pitchers in the American League in my opinion (along with C.C. Sabathia, Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Fausto Carmona). He gave up a career high 33 home runs, while compiling 219 innings pitched, his lowest since 2003. He especially tired at the end of the season, posting a 4.94 era in the month of September. This has some people thinking that he was injured at the end of the season, but I believe that he had a consistently large workload that caused him to tire out at the end of this season. If he conditions himself properly, and throws fewer high pressure innings he will more than likely be fine this season. It is a bit of an oxymoron that we have in baseball right now in that the ability to throw many innings is highly valued, but too much mileage on a pitchers arm causes teams to be weary, however I think that while Santana is not immune to such things as wear and tear, he does condition himself appropriately, and takes good care of his body. Additionally, Santana should feast on the bottom of National League lineups, and this should save some wear and tear on his arm as it should be significantly easier to go through the less talented, less imposing NL East lineups, compared to those of the AL Central. Furthermore, I expect him to increase his already gaudy strikeout numbers, as he moves to an easier league, division and is still on the good side of 30. But enough about Santana, we've heard about him ad nauseum the last few years. Let's move on to the unknowns.

Minnesota: Carlos Gomez appears to be the headliner in this deal, although I have an inkling that he won't be the most valuable property when it's all said and done. Gomez is a potential five-tool player, but he is quite raw at the moment. He does possess plus-plus speed, and an above average arm. His bat speed is excellent which helps his power to project to be average at least. It is not all roses for Gomez though, as his hitting tool will likely be the last to develop, and his plate discipline leaves much to be desired. As much as I like toolsy prospects, I do not see Gomez reaching his ceiling because he has not refined his approach at the plate, and while he improved last year, it came at the expense of his power. Additionally, he has never hit above .281 at any stop in the minors, and while his OBP rose to .355 in limited time in the minors last year, his SLG dipped under .400. Overall in the minors he has never had an OPS of over .800, which doesn't bode well for his future. I understand he is not destined to become a power hitter, but unless he can raise his OBP, I don't think he will be the type of hitter everyone is projecting him to be. And while he has played in the majors, he is still quite quite raw, and I think it would serve him well to play another half season at least in Triple-A.

Phillip Humber comes to the Twins with a bit of the luster off of his star. He signed with the Mets as a first round pick out of Rice, but quickly hit the operating room, needing Tommy John surgery after only 15 professional starts. While he has rebounded some from TJ, like most pitchers he has regained his velocity, but still lacks the control he once displayed. While he has regained much of his velocity, he cannot reach the 94-95 mph he pitched at when at Rice, and generally settles in the high 80's and low 90's. He has refined his curveball, and is now able to throw it for quality strikes when he needs to. He no longer projects to be at the front end of the rotation, but could still be a serviceable back end starter in the Major Leagues. He is likely ready to pitch now, but the Twins have a plethora of young arms to sort out at the back of their rotation.

Deolis Guerra is the furthest away from the Major Leagues, and is the youngest and most raw player of the bunch. However, I believe he will be the best player when it's all said and done. This is a risky prediction to make, however, by the time we determine if I am right or wrong, it's likely that no one will recall I made it. Guerra will be 19 years old in mid-April, and he has only thrown 179 professional innings at this point in his career, which makes him is essentially pure projection at this point, but at 6-5, 200 lbs, he provides plenty of it. He already commands to above average pitches in his fastball, which had a spike in velocity (touching 96) late in the season. His best pitch is a change up that has the chance to become an out pitch at the major league level, due to his fantastic arm speed. I think he is the key to this deal, and considering the Twins ability to scout other organizations for talent (Liriano, Bonser, Nathan, Santana, and even going back to Appier) I trust their judgement.

Mulvey is the last player in this deal, and his ceiling is akin to that of Humber's although he goes about it in a completely different manner. Mulvey's value comes from his ability to keep the ball down in the zone, while controlling four different pitches. He was a second round draft pick in 2006(the highest the Mets had that year) out of Villanova. His top pitch is currently a fastball with lots of sink and run, and his slider has the potential to be an out pitch. He also features a change-up, and an 11-5 curveball. He is extremely hard on righties limiting them to a .224 batting average, but has struggled against lefties because of his inability to pitch inside to them. Like Humber, Mulvey projects as a middle to back end of the rotation starter. He could potentially break camp with the Twins, but again, they have a stable of young starters with limited ceilings, so while he will be in that mix, there's no guarantee he won't start in the minors.

Again, overall I think this was a win for the Mets despite the record contract they signed Santana to. While that contract is a lot to pay for a pitcher, and pitchers are always loaded with risk, the Mets desperately needed a front of the rotation starter to slide everyone back a slot in their rotation, and they acquired the best pitch around for far less than he was thought to go for. While I don't blame the Twins for waiting out for the best deal, they did end up overplaying their hand and settling for less than they could have received. I think the Mets easily got the better of the deal in the short term, but it will take years until the Twins see if their investments pan out or not.