Saturday, November 29, 2008

Can we forget about the things I said when I was drunk?

Whatever Scott Boras and his client Jason Varitek are drinking, it's gotta be pretty strong, because those guys have been saying some things so silly, irrational, delusional, and probably disrespectful, they might even be drinking absinthe. Here is a Boras sampling, from MLB.com:

Jason Varitek intends on being a full-time player for many years to come. He's in great shape. His defense, his game-calling skills, his leadership skills are extraordinary and at the highest level.

I think that might be Boras-speak for "he is absolutely deplorable offensively, so I'm trying to scrape together redeeming qualities to create an artificial market for him."

There is a list seven miles long including people who deserve to be full-time baseball players before Jason Varitek, and the list includes both Jason Balinski (JB) and Ross Kaplan.

What I find downright insulting to my intelligence is how Boras and Varitek are giving the following argument to why Varitek deserves to play baseball instead of beer league softball: The Red Sox win 60% of games started by Varitek. It was a slow morning, so I decided to test this theory. In 1999, it's true: The Red Sox were 78-53 (.595) in games started by Varitek.

They were 24-4 in Varitek starts when Pedro Martinez started.
They were 15-6 in Varitek starts when Bret Saberhagen started.
They were 39-10 when Varitek caught a CY YOUNG AWARD winner.
They were 39-43 (.476) in Varitek starts when the pitcher was not a Cy Young Award winner.

It's fair to assume that if I crunched the numbers in other years, you'd find similar results. Varitek has caught the following pitchers who have finished in the top 3 in Cy Young voting:
Pedro Martinez, Ramon Martinez, Bret Saberhagen, David Cone, Derek Lowe, Curt Schilling, David Wells, Josh Beckett. Out of those eight, six had achieved those honors on another team. So is this intelligence-insulting statistic a result of those eight elite pitchers...or Varitek?

You know how I feel. I feel like the things Boras is saying are as coherent as Joe Namath on Monday Night Football.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thankful

For a long time, I had seen it coming. Then one day it happened and it sucked as much as I thought it would. That day happened a week ago today and the event was the end of Coco Crisp's career with the Boston Red Sox. It's fair to say that in a process that started on December 31, 2006, Coco Crisp had become my favorite player on the Red Sox. And due to the responsibility I assumed on this blog, it's also fair to say that he became my favorite player on the Red Sox, ever.

From a baseball standpoint, I'll say the following two things: Firstly, Theo Epstein made a serious mistake that was characteristic of the shortsightedness he exhibited after the 2004 World Series victory. When the Red Sox got rid of Crisp's predecessor, they already had this can't miss center field prospect, drafted in June and already rapidly rising through the minor league ranks. So what does he do? Get a stopgap center fielder so that there wasn't a roster move when the minor leaguer was ready for the big time? No. Instead they traded for a Cleveland center fielder who was supposed to fill Johnny Damon's shoes, according to those dumb, stupid Boston fans.

From the day he was signed until December 31, 2006, I was deadset against this move. Not because of Damon--the guy probably didn't even deserve the $30 million the Red Sox were offering. I was mad because a team hellbent on getting younger was taking a roster spot away from this draft pick Ellsbury. Not only that--they EXTENDED Coco's contract!

Fast forward past a life-changing event for me, a finger injury, lots of Damon sound bites, a stolen base, a free taco, and a Scott Boras signing, all the way to last week. After three okay years from Coco, the Red Sox thought it was time to give 46 the full-time job in center field despite some serious questions about whether he will be a formidable major leaguer, nevermind the future Hall of Famer Steve Buckley thinks 46 will be. I discussed the pitch chart before and I don't want to talk about it anymore. But I will argue that the Red Sox took a step backwards in center field a week ago. And I mean it.

From a personal standpoint, this is devastating. Not only because my anti-boy, the first guy to think being a Boras client was a good idea after the A-Rod opt-out debacle, is going to replace my all-time favorite player, but because Coco never got the chance, respect, or recognition he ever deserved. He never escaped the shadow of Johnny Damon, and for that, shame on the entire Boston baseball community.

Shame on the Boston media, who magnified Coco's shortcomings, kept on printing the dribble Damon was popping out of his mouth, and continued to make the comparison even though they were completely different players.

Shame on Steve Silva, the Boston Dirt Dog. His website is the go-to destination for Red Sox fans, including myself, because it is certainly the best of the business. But the anti-Crisp sentiment had a lot to do with his attitude and his propensity to yellow journalism as it pertained to his man-love for Damon and then 46. He got a staff job with Boston.com and referred to 46 as a star but Crisp as a center fielder. His constant Johnny Damon references were unfair at best and sickening at worst. I find him very responsible for skewing the facts beyond recognition.

Shame on the Boston fans, who never got over Damon and who, instead of looking at the center field situation objectively, thought Coco Crisp was 2007-speak for Lee Tinsley and therefore was much worse than the guy before him and much worse than the guy after him. The Coco Crisp era was not a bad era, but his entire career here was marked with negativity because he's not the same guy as the mouthy egomaniac he replaced. He contributed to many wins, and though people might say they won't forget about the ten-pitch at-bat in Game Five, they will.

Because the ten-pitch at-bat didn't have a shaggy beard, didn't write a book in broken English, and didn't get anyone a free taco ($0.79 value at Taco Bell).

While I may have overdone it quite a bit on this blog, I was just making up for the fact that nobody else is nearly as thankful as they should have been. Now he's gone and everyone's saying good riddance. This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for Coco Crisp's contributions over the last three years. Are you?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tree-Huggin Hippie Crap

I believe it was George Steinbrenner who first started thinking about holding his team's players from the next World Baseball Classic. It wouldn't surprise me if I ragged on him for it (anything to rip the Yankees), but now it seems like he might have a point.

Daisuke Matsuzaka announced this week that he would gladly pitch for Japan in the 2009 event if he were asked to. F'ing great. I think we all remember how well a lot of players, especially pitchers whose seasons went from 6-7 months to 7-8 months, performed after playing in the 2006 WBC. Which is to say, terribly. But good. The Red Sox invested $103 million in this guy to pitch well from April through October and I invest my entire summer to watch them play well. But no--Matsuzaka and scores of other players will dishonor these investments by tiring themselves out in a poorly-thought-out, tacky, somewhat-meaningless series where many players are playing unprepared and general quality is low.

I don't blame him too much about his willingness to play for his country, just like A-Rod was so willing to play for his country, which is, of course, the Dominican, no wait, America, no, Dominican, nevermind, America*. But the fact that this tournament is happening in the first place is absurd. These baseball players play 162 times in a season, so it's entirely different from the World Cup or even the Olympics. Second of all, it is not a time-honored tradition like the World Cup or Olympics--it is basically a way to placate politically-correct hippie losers who are mad because "TEH wORLD SERES ISNT RALLY WORLD EBCAUSE IST ONLY AMERCAN TEAMS LOL!!!!!11111111"

Now, Pat and I come from a school where they have recently held a "sit-in" (read "traffic jam in the middle of the main campus walking thoroughfare") because hippies were pissed off about a luau event. Go ahead and read that sentence again, because it still won't make sense. The fact that baseball is pandering to this kind of thinking is predictable but still saddening. In the World Series, there are players potentially coming from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Australia. For better or for worse (a fan of the Nippon Baseball League would probably argue for worse), the best baseball players in the world play in Major League Baseball. So the World Series is a competition between the two best baseball teams comprised of the best players in the world.

So the "Real World Series" is the World Series. There is no need for the World Baseball Classic.

*There is so much more to be said about this, like the fact that I could potentially play for the Italian team in this joke of an event. But it's not even necessary.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Case For Phil Hughes (post Arizona Fall League)

First, congrats to our very own Dan Vassallo, who finished second in the Philly Half Marathon yesterday. I don't know that much about running, but finishing in the Top 10, let alone second, at a major city event seems like a pretty big deal. Atta baby Danno.

It's been quite some time since we talked about Phil Hughes, which is funny, because last year at this time all we did was talk about him, especially in the heat of the Johan Santana negotiations. So I figured we'd check in on him today.

To say that Phil Hughes had a dissapointing season in 2008 would really be a massive understatement. Ranked by many in 2007 as the Top Prospect in all of baseball (and in everyone's Top 5), and coming off an impressive 2007 debut, Hughes flopped in every sense of the word. From getting shelled to the injuries, it really couldn't have gone a whole lot worse. However, he isn't the first highly touted prospect to experience this type of failure early in his career. Some go on to succeed. Some don't. We really don't know, we'll just have to wait and see.

The good news is that Phil Hughes went to the Arizona Fall League after his rocky season and did exactly what he needed to do: log 30 solid innings. Because of the injuries, Hughes' inning total was way down again. After being way ahead of pace innings wise in 2006, right on track to be a full season guy by 2008, injuries in back to back seasons have really set him back in this department. At this point, no matter what level, getting him through a full season to his target inning total is a big deal. Getting 30 extra innings in Arizona makes this season a little bit less of a loss, as that's 30 innings we hopefully don't have to worry about next year.

It's not as important as the innings, but to boot he did pitch well. In a league of top minor leaguers, he was probably the second most successful pitcher there to the Braves' Tommy Hanson (who appears to be silly, not sure why they'd want to give him up for Peavy, and maybe they don't). 30 IP, 38 K's, 13 BB's, 21 hits, 3.00 ERA, 2 wins, no losses. Of course, for a guy who was supposed to slot into the middle of a Major League rotation for a competitor last spring, you'd hope he could get minor leaguers out. However, you have to stop the bleeding somewhere. It wouldn't be the first time someone got shelled in the majors and then couldn't get minor leaguers out either. That he was impressive down the stretch at AAA and again in the AFL is positive in that at least he hasn't fallen prospect wise. He was also there to work on things (cutter, change, slider) not just throw 4-seamers and curveballs and put up the biggest numbers that he could. This also speaks well of the success he experienced.

Ultimately, you have to make it translate. And that's a wait and see game, which is where the Yankees are at with Hughes. Will he be 2007? 2008? Somewhere in the middle? Somewhere better than 2007? Worse than 2008? It could be any of these. In an ideal world, the Yankees have a successful off-season on the pitching front, and fill out a projected 2009 rotation that does not include Hughes. In my opinion and my opinion only, the best plan for Hughes' development is to anticipate spending the season at AAA, and if he is the best option at the time, get a call up if and when that is necessary (and it seems like it always is with the Yankees rotation). The Yankees undoubtedly rushed this kid. How much of a positive or negative effect this has had on him, I don't know. But the combination of being rushed with the pressure of being the Yankees' first bigtime prospect in a long time appears to have been a lot. Slowing him down in 2009, taking a lot of that pressure off, and letting him take a (hopefully healthy) regular turn in Scranton's rotation is probably what's best for both Phil and the Yankees organization.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

wAKEFILED HAS TWO RETRIE!!!1

Greetings from Philadelphia. I have yet to find any JD Drew Sucks t-shirts, but I have found a shocking piece of evidence that supports the anti-AJ Burnett sentiment that it seems is already resonant on this blog, especially among Red Sox fans.

Burnett's ERA+ is 111 over an injury-prone career. To compare that with something, Tim Wakefield's 2008 ERA+ was 112 over an injury-prone season. As boston.com reported this morning, Burnett's won-loss record before 2008 was three (3) games over .500 and has only eclipsed thirty games once in his entire career.

So we're talking about four years at around $16 million per for a glorified version of 2008 Tim Wakefield, the same guy many Red Sox fans believe should go the same way as Mike Timlin. Wakefield's career ERA+ is a comparable 108, as is Bronson Arroyo's.

Freddy Garcia has also posted a career ERA+ of 111 and, like Burnett, has had an inconsistent and injury-riddled career. A lot of this happened after he signed his last major league contract at age 30 (younger than Burnett), but he had previously put together five 30-start seasons out of his first six. Garcia got THREE years and $29 million. Inflate the dollar numbers a bit and you're still looking at 3 years, $39-42 million for a historically more-reliable pitcher. Burnett's looking for four years and $64 million.

On the other hand, Derek Lowe (despite being 36) has started thirty games in each of his last seven seasons and has posted a career ERA+ of 122. Pat put it best--there's a chance that Lowe might break down, but there is probably a lesser chance Burnett won't break down. For the record, I am very much for the Sox signing Lowe--just not at Barry Zito money.

The Red Sox and Yankees are both skanky girls at the club, evaluating Tucker Max. You just gotta hope your favorite team says no.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Tucker Max of the Free Agent Market

I'm going to assume that 75% of the readers on this blog know who Tucker Max is. If you don't, his Wikipedia page or tuckermax.com should be able to fill you in on what you need to know. But anyway, A.J. Burnett is the Tucker Max of this year's free agent market.

Let's say that Tucker Max is in a bar. It is a pretty good chance that one of the girls in this bar is most likely going to 1) take Tucker home or 2) have Tucker take them home. By all indications, Tucker Max might be an attractive option to women, as he is somewhat good looking and extremely well-spoken. However, it seems like every time Tucker gets absurdly drunk, ends up with a woman, there is some kind of...well, let's say, incident. Most of the time, "hilarity ensues" for Tucker and his loyal tuckermax.com readers. Hilarity does not ensue for the girl.

The thing is, many girls know this. Many girls realize what they're getting into and some even know of the tuckermax.com website or his "I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell," um, memoir. But even so, someone is going to go home with Tucker Max that night.

Same with A.J. Burnett. By April 6, 2009, Burnett will be playing Major League Baseball for somebody. Somebody will be paying him a lot of money despite the fact that he can pretty much guarantee you a trip or two to the DL and/or at least five guaranteed blowout losses every season. The fact that he's going to be 32 and some team will be in this contract until he's at least 36 is also troubling because the guy's arm is going to fall off either at the elbow or the shoulder (he's had problems with both).

It's not like the inconsistency thing is a secret. It's not like being marred with injuries is a secret, although Red Sox advisor/expert number cruncher Bill James for some reason predicts Burnett to pitch 224 innings this year, something he's never done.. Everyone knows it, but you know that some team is going to be lulled by his occasional J.D. Drew-style brilliance. He actually played very well against the Red Sox in two out of his three starts this year and, as you know, Julio Lugo was also a Red Sox killer. Just like girls might be lulled into sleeping with Tucker Max because of his redeeming qualities and the fact that some "Bill James" element of their brain thinks he might someday change.

The fact remains that some team is going to pick up A.J. Burnett just as some girl is going to pick up Tucker Max every time he gets obliterated. And just as you hope your girlfriend has more sense than that if she's in the same bar, you hope your favorite baseball team has more sense than to pick up Burnett.

Seeing that Bill James is high on this guy and John Henry likes this guy a lot, all indications are that How Youz Doin Baseball will have a post up very soon, written by the Yankee fan administrator:

"Red Sox Sign A.J. Burnett. Hilarity Ensues."

Mussina Retires, His Hall Of Fame Chances, And Its Impact On The Yankees

Since we don't break news here at HYD, I'm sure everyone already knows that Mike Mussina is going to retire after 18 outstanding seasons.

There are two ways to get into the Hall of Fame. Be absolutely dominant for a period of time or, if you don't have this dominance, accumulate a big career. As far as the second type of player goes, it's tough to find someone more fitting than the Moose.

Mussina went 270-153, 117 games over .500. Only 20 other pitchers in baseball have finished their careers 100 games over .500 or better, and 16 are in the Hall. The other four - Clemens, Glavine, Maddux, and Pedro - are on their way. Clearly, this is an elite accomplishment. Since his first partial season, he won 10 games or more in all of his final 17 consecutively, an American League record. Only five other pitchers in history, either league, have done this - Cy Young, Warren Spahn, Don Sutton, Steve Carlton, and Greg Maddux. Again, elite company. Only five pitchers have as many wins with a better winning percentage in history - Christy Matthewson, Lefty Grove, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Roger Clemens, and Randy Johnson. Elite once more. He posted an ERA+ north of 120, which is a high mark, 12 times. Pedro Martinez, who you could argue is on another planet from most players in terms of the pitching career he put together, did it only twice more. His 2,813 strikeouts are Top 20 all-time, and he has a career ERA of 3.68. With a lot of great pitchers toeing the rubber during his career, only three won more games. He is a five time All-Star and a seven time Gold Glove winner. It is important to consider that he did all of this 1. in the American League East, the toughest offensive division in baseball and 2. possibly during the near exact years of the steroid era, which helped many of the hitters he faced, and many of the pitchers he competed against. Mike Mussina is a Hall of Famer.

On another note, his decision to retire could actually be the domino that gets this winter rolling. Although I'm sure the Yankees had a feeling he'd retire, I'm also sure they were holding out hope he'd come back. Now that they know for sure he isn't, it gives their off-season direction. Now they know they have to get at least two starters, and depending on the quality of those startes, it might make them bigger players for Teixeira. Had the Moose returned, a rotation of Sabathia, Wang, Moose, Pettitte, and Joba certainly would have been top flight. Even had they missed out on Sabathia, swapping him for someone like Lowe, coupled with Moose returning, would have been passable. Now, if they do miss out on Sabathia, their rotation is not going to reach the levels they had hoped in all liklihood, with a perfect scenario of getting him and Moose returning. So not only does it make them bigger players for Sabathia, but if they don't feel they can prevent enough runs through upgrading the pitching staff, they might feel like they need to score more (which they do anyway). This would probably mean a strong pursuit of Teixeria, if they aren't already planning that. The Moose hanging them up for good certainly impacts this stuff in a pretty substantial way.

No matter what happens, congratulations to Mike Mussina on a truly fantastic career. He was a model of consistency, a class act, an intelligent person in the media and away from the diamond, and a true talent that dedicated himself to and prided himself on performing at a high level once every five days for 18 years. He's a throwback, and we need more guys like Mussina in baseball, on and off the field.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Last Word on the MVP Debate

Each of the top three finalists in the MVP voting had a very strong argument for their case. After reviewing and thinking about all three, here's the conclusion I came up with:

The same as everyone else's: Dustin Pedroia should have been the guy. But here's why all three really had a strong case:

Justin Morneau: First, let me get this out of the way: He did not deserve the 2006 MVP; Jeter did. But that aside, Morneau was a big reason the Twins didn't lay down and die like GM Bill Smith apparently wanted them to do in 2008. Great numbers. But the most intriguing argument is the fact that he and Joe Mauer helped this team with a leadoff hitter who strikes out all the time (something the Red Sox are going to have to get used to) and Boof Bonser in the rotation to the brink of the playoffs. They say Pedroia or Youkilis carried their team. They had Lester, Matsuzaka, and Beckett. The Twins had zero pitchers pitch 200 innings and one starter with an ERA+ over 105. Think about that.

Kevin Youkilis: This is something me and Pat have discussed a lot for the last several months. Youkilis, as Pat says, is the "quintessential #2 hitter." However, with injuries to David Ortiz and Mike Lowell, and later Manny leaving and the inevitable Drew injury, Youkilis rose to the occasion. He totally changed his game. The so-called "Greek God of Walks" realized walking wasn't good enough, so he dropped his plate patience and tried to drive the ball. It was met with great success. He nearly doubled his career high in home runs and was among the league leaders in home runs, RBIs, batting average, slugging percentage, and most every offensive category. But as the boys have said in previous comment sessions, this was a strange year, with a lot of different players ending up on the top of the leaderboards in different categories.

But Pedroia was something different: I was lucky enough to be following baseball in 1999 during Pedro Martinez's glory years, and the dominance I saw there was probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing. He kept it up all season and the 1999 Pedro snub was the Boston equivalent to Jeter getting screwed in 2006. But not very often do you get to see such transcendent certainty that a player is going to come through. Ortiz late in games in 2006 was an example. A-Rod and Teixeira in blowouts is another. But the relevant example was Dustin Pedroia during probably a five-week stretch in 2008. It was unlike any other stretch I have ever seen from an offensive player. Pedroia hit over .400 from June 13 to September 5. For more information regarding this torrid stretch, re-live it in this post. It was Pedro 1999 level dominance, and you didn't get that feeling of "this guy's definitely going to homer/get a double/get a hit" every at-bat with either Morneau or Youkilis, or really anyone for that matter. You did with Pedroia.

A quick addendum regarding the second base argument. It's the dumbest argument I have ever heard. You compare baseball players to other baseball players to find out who the most valuable baseball player is. The position that the MVP plays is totally irrelevant. No extra points for being a second baseman or a catcher: Outperform the rest of the baseball players and you will be the MVP. Dustin Pedroia did that, straight up.

Hot Stove Wednesday

A lot going on in the last few days for the Yankees and Red Sox as the winter gets started. Let's take a look at the two major new developments.

- Coco Crisp traded to the Royals for Ramon Ramirez, who was one of two pitchers the Yankees sent to Colorado for Shawn Chacon in 2005. Lots of good news here for Boston. The Red Sox pick up some much needed late inning bullpen help. As I wrote over the summer, I really like Ramirez, and he is substantially better than both Okajima and Delcarmen. His changeup is plus-plus, and is probably one of the best I saw this past year. Good deception, great fade and late sink. Makes him tough on both righties and lefties, and he probably becomes the Red Sox set-up man instantaneously. The Sox also dump salary and get a player not free agent eligible for another four seasons. The bad news for the Red Sox is that Jacoby Ellsbury is the everyday centerfielder if the season started today. Luckily (or unfortunately for me), it doesn't. I don't know what DV is going to do, but I'm sure he'll write a thesis on 1) the loss of his boy and 2) the fact that his non-boy is going to be the every single day centerfielder.

- The Yankees were reported to have offered Burnett a huge contract. This rumor was debunked, and now it's said they will offer him, just not 5/80. Then last night we get news the Red Sox are now big in on him. Wherever he goes, there will be very little inbetween. His stuff is as good as any in baseball. 97 with movement and a true 12-6 in the low 80s. He could be an ace. He also gets injured all the time, which is a problem. He could either make one of the rotations absolutely studly, or be a total non-factor due to injury. It's an ultimate high risk/high reward. For the Yankees, I'd run like the wind because of the high risk. But if the Red Sox get him, all I'll be worried about is the high reward. Best case scenario, he just signs elsewhere, and isn't a concern.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Voters Out To Lunch

The "sports journalists" who vote for MLB postseason awards do a bad job pretty much every year. But I haven't had a blog every year, so I haven't been able to write about it every year. Now I will.

The Edison Volquez thing is embarrassing. The lack of Doc Halladay votes is embarrassing. The plethora of Fransisco Rodriguez votes, especially in comparison to Mariano Rivera who was by far and away the best reliever in baseball (and much better than K-Rod) is embarrassing. And now we can lump the AL MVP right in there.

As I've stated repeatedly, I like Dustin Pedroia. He's a very good player who had a very good season. But it was just that. Very good. Not outstanding. Not elite. Not most valueable.

If nothing else, this is because he didn't top ONE list in any comprehensive comparitive statistic. These statistics measure different things, so an MVP should probably be showing up on top in at least one of them. Fourth in WARP (wins above replacement player). Fifth in VORP (value above replacement player). Who knows where in OPS+, but with a 122, probably not cracking the Top 10. Derek Jeter has had seven season with a better OPS+. It's not that impressive, even when you position adjust for the fac tthat he's a second baseman. He was probably somewhere around the 5-7 range in terms of offensive production in the American League.

And then you look at the pitchers. You look at the borderline transcendent seasons had by three pitchers in the American League (Lee, Halladay, and Rivera), and you have to wonder exactly what the voters are looking at. These three pitchers were 1-3 in the AL in WARP, and both starters had MUCH higher VORP's. Heck, Pedroia's teammate had the same VORP. No, not that teammate. Jon Lester. He'd be getting votes if we were being fair.

Then you have the other teammate, Kevin Youkilis. This is probably where the voters missed biggest. Shove the position adjustments up your you know what. That there are other good first baseman should not matter. Youkilis was the best player on that team this year, and the second best player one the award. Makes no sense. Kevin Youkilis is a better defender (at two positions), and is a MUCH better hitter. There is no comparison. Absoluteley zero between the two with the bat. "Hey GM, I'll trade you a .312/.390/.569 with 29 homers and 115 RBI for .326/.376/.493 with 17 homers and 83 RBI. Oh, and the former can play 4 positions, played two for me in seamless transition this year. You in?"............"Uhhhh, yes."

Kevin Youkilis was a legitimate middle of the order bat this year, right up there with the elite bats in baseball. Dustin Pedroia is a supporting bat. You give one player to the Royals and one to the Giants, both being asked to be "the guy", and Youkilis is the one who can do it. I know this because he was the one who did it for the Red Sox this year, not the AL MVP winner. The same can be said of runner up Justin Morneau, who as I stated over a month ago. Nice to see that wasn't so ridiculous, though I find it somewaht insulting that the voters agreed with me.

I realize there was no clear candidate, and that makes it tough. But Pedroia won big, and that's inexcusable. Especially when you had Lee, Halladay, and Youkilis having not very good, but great seasons. Great seasons win the MVP, not very good ones.

Finally, the voters need to show some consistency. Justin Morneau had an inferior season in 06 to Youkilis this year. Jeter had a superior season in 06 to Pedroia this year. In '06, Moreneau wins. In '08, Pedroia wins. Makes no sense. Further, Robinson Cano had a higher almost everything in '06 than Pedroia had in '08, and he finished 22nd in MVP voting. Granted, there was more talent in the league that year. But not 21 places in voting better. And that's just the Yankees I looked at, didn't even get into other teams. Something is very, very wrong with this.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Detroit: The Guantanamo Bay for Shortstops?

The rumor of Julio Lugo to Detroit is gaining steam, as it was first hinted at in the Globe and now got a little bit of air time on NESN. Now, I am certainly not a fan of Dontrelle Willis, but if you're going to trade a $18 million minor leaguer you're on the hook for until 2010 for a $22 million minor leaguer you're on the hook for until 2010, it's better if a) the minor leaguer you get could potentially help an ailing bullpen, b) the minor leaguer you get is seven years younger, and c) the minor leaguer you get once finished second in Cy Young Award voting. Willis also scores points because he's from Oakland (the origin of the "Ghost Ride the Whip" phenomemon) and because his arrest stems from taking a leak on the side of a bar a week after getting married instead of slamming his wife's head against the hood of his car.

But it makes me laugh that the Detroit Tigers are becoming the Guantanamo Bay for shortstops: All the really bad ones end up there to serve the rest of their time and someone (the Red Sox) are paying a lot of "tax" money to keep them there. I hope Steve Phillips says that the "pop" in Lugo's bat we all heard about in March 2006 is going to make the Tigers the most potent offense in the history of the game. Any wondering why Phillips isn't a GM anymore?

Anyway, I'll wait until they make it official to start gloating about how right I was about Lugo and how much of a preventable mistake it was for Theo Epstein to sign this stiff when a guy like Omar Vizquel was available on a one-year basis. In the meantime, I ask the commenters in the audience to start thinking about their favorite memories of the Julio Lugo era so that when it is officialized, we can have a nice discussion about it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

No Tex. No Problem!

It is not a difficult concept, for many different reasons we've already discussed in the comments sections of previous posts. While acquiring Mark Teixeira might improve the 2009 Boston Red Sox, he is not good for the long-term well being of the team. Here's why:

1. The Red Sox are not ready for Tex. The Red Sox already have a DH (David Ortiz, math major), a first baseman who can move to third base (Kevin Youkilis), and a third baseman who would prevent said first baseman to move to third base (Mike Lowell). The Red Sox, in 2009, are ready for a new catcher. Not a first baseman. The timing is not right.

2. There are significant financial risks involved. A commitment to Mr. Teixeira is a long-term commitment. Seven or eight years, seven or eight years, you sign Mark Teixeira for seven or eight years. Like paying child support, that is not something the Red Sox should be comfortable with paying for a long time. He's a nice baseball player, one of the top-20 in the league. But you give $150 million to a top-five player. Theo Epstein once said himself that the free agent market is extremely inefficient. That is because some buyer is dumb enough to pay Mark Teixeira what he wants. Make sure that's not the Red Sox.

3. Pulling out doesn't work. Several years ago, the Yankees acquired a top-20 first baseman for a lot of money and (more importantly) a lot of years. That guy's name was Jason Giambi. Let's say, to be nice, that the Yankees would have liked to pull out of that contract a lot. Like 2004 and beyond, when he lost all that weight after giving up In-N-Out Burger and started apologizing for, you know, that thing he did. I'm not saying Teixeira is a user, but what if he stops producing or goes Carl Pavano starting in 2011? The Red Sox might want to pull out, but it's not that kind of party. The negative consequences are still there. Because you don't bench people making $20 million a year.

3a. There’s no 100% effective protection except completely abstaining from Tex. The Red Sox thankfully have protection against J.D. Drew, because they can get out of his contract after 2009 if his previously-injured shoulder acts up again. (Hopefully, Tanya Harding’s friend is already on this.) The Red Sox also got partial protection against Schilling because of the incentives in his contract last year. Teixeira—you’re on the hook for that money and those years no matter what.

4. The Red Sox will not be ready for kids. We talked about this a few days ago in the comments section: The organization is pretty high on a young first baseman named Lars Anderson, who finished the 2008 season in Portland. If Teixeira is acquired for the next almost-decade, the Red Sox also forgo the possibility of a kid like Anderson, who can potentially produce big time with a small-time salary, playing first base.

5. If the Red Sox have Tex, they still might not be satisfied. I already covered this in great length in my post "Tex Education," but this billing of Teixeira as an elite player is misleading. A good way to find out what Tex would be like might be if you asked people who have previously had Tex. Rowland’s Office (a Braves blog and a must-see) holds him accountable for being a disappointment. And when Anaheim had Tex, according to our very own Gunn, he seemed like a detached mercenary who was unable to carry the team like Torii Hunter did.

All thinly-veiled innuendo aside, Mark Teixeira is not the best fit for the Red Sox. The price tag involves a lot of money, a lot of years, trading away a guy and not getting nearly equal value in return, and forgoing the production of any prospects at the position. And this is for a good, but not great player. This is my entire Teixeira thesis, and hopefully I’m done talking about it for the rest of the winter.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Yanks Nab Swisher!

In a tremendous move, the Yankees traded minor league RHP Jeff Marquez for 1B/OF Nick Swisher.

Swisher is a perfect fit for the Yankees. He can play first base (opening), center field (somewhat open), and both corner outfield spots (to spell guys, or get another bat in the lineup at first). It is a great example of buying low, as Swisher underperformed in 2008. Much like Cano, his average took the biggest hit. Unlike Cano, because he has tremendous on-base ability and a little more power, the season wasn't as terrible. He still jacked 24 homers and walked 82 freaking times. To that end, he is a much needed patience bat in what has become a swing happy Yankee lineup, something I discussed the other day. Further, he's only going to be 28 in a month, is a switch hitter, and posted and OPS+ of 125 and 127 in 06 and 07(MVP candidate Dustin Pedroia was a 122 this year). He has walked 82, 100, and 97 times in the last 3 years, while hitting 24, 22, and 36 homers.

We don't know the final details of the deal, but right now it's just Jeff Marquez. Marquez is a sinkerballer that as recently as last year was one of the most highly regarded arms in the Yankees' system. Having experienced some injury and ineffectiveness issues, his stock has fallen. He definitely has some upside, but starting pitching is something the Yankees can replenish more quickly than anything else in their system, especially of the right-handed variety.

Likewise, Swisher has a ton of upside. The consistent OBP and power, even in a down year average wise, is very promising for the future. He's also a grinder, something the Yankees desperately need, as discussed by the Gunn in the most recent comments section. He also gives the Yankees flexibility in terms of what they can do the rest of the way this off-season. They can still sign Mark Teixeira or Adam Dunn, but they certainly don't have to. They can move Xavier Nady for a need, but they certainly don't have to. Finally, he is potentially under control for 4 more years at a grand total of $29 million. There are absolutely no negatives to this deal. Tremendous pick-up, exactly the type the Yankees should be looking for. This is why you stockpile minor league pitching.

Blowing Away C.C. and the Marte Deal

DV has another interesting "Teixeira and the Red Sox" piece on the way, and maybe he'll have it done in time to get us through Friday tomorrow. I'll toss two quick topics at you here in one post to get us through what is hopefully a lazy Thursday for all of you (it will be anything but for me with my long memo due and finals officially under a month away).

NOMAAS pretty much summed up my feelings on the Marte deal. There were three primary options the Yankees were presented with. 1) Pick up the option. 2) Decline the option, get two First Round draft picks. 3) Decline the option, extend him for more years. They chose the worst one. If you pick up the option, you have a player that is almost definitely going to help you next year, AND you can get the same amount of draft picks next year when he becomes a free agent (which is what both NOMAAS and I advocated). If you decline the option and let him go, even though you don't get solid lefty production out of the pen this year, you are guaranteed the draft picks. If you extend him, you are going to be paying a lefty reliever until he is 36, running the risk that at some point during that contract he may become ineffective. Even more importantly, you run the risk of losing draft picks if he is no longer a Type A or if he just doesn't sign another contract. Really terrible job here. I really, really like Damaso Marte. He's lefty and he still has filthy stuff. I hope he performs well for all three years, and he may very well do so. I just don't understand the reasoning for taking on all this risk for something (bullpen arms) that are often tough to predict.

Moving over to something I agree with, Joel Sherman of The Post reported this morninig that the Yankees may very well intend to end the bidding on C.C. Sabathia with their initial offer, posssibly as soon as tomorrow. I'm not usually one for "anonymous sources", "friends of the player", and "an AL/NL executive that will not be named", but as I've said repeatedly, Sherman is usually right on the money. He is probably the best journalist in the buisness when it comes to contacts and sources, very connected dude. And his sources are saying the Yankees intend to send a message to everyone else it isn't even worth it, and confirm for C.C. what everyone has been saying, that he really will have to choose between whatever else he'd like to see in a team (location, NL, etc.) and money, because they'll blow everyone else away if necessary. Sherman speculates that their INITIAL offer might be 6/150, which is well above the Santana deal, just to send these messages, and that they might still be willing to go higher if necessary. I also think this sends a good message to other potential free agents, particularly Mike Mussina and Derek Lowe, and perhaps even Mark Teixeira. It's almost like, "Fellas, we have $88 million off the books, we want to win, and we already have a Top 5 pitcher in baseball signed. You want in?". Point being, if you sign Sabathia, the Yankees chances of winning increase. I would think this could definitely be important to Mussina, probably is important to Teixeira, and could be the difference in Lowe's at least interest in The Bronx. I hope this happens, and I hope this happens fast. C.C. will be at least a double (with home run potential), and doubles are what you need in the roatation.

With free agency starting at midnight tonight, what are your predictions on where people will end up?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Case For Robinson Cano

Let's start with 2008. Reports of Cano's demise are grossly exaggerated. True, compared to Cano's first three years, it wasn't very good. But he hit .271 with 52 XBH at second base. In a really down year for him, it wasn't such a down year at his position, as only eight other second baseman hit those marks. Further, Cano's down year really came down to one terrible month: April. He was .151/.211/.236 for the month, which is almost impossible to recover from. For the remainder of the season he never hit below .287 in any given month, and hit over .300 across the final 5 months of 2008. Finally, Cano's line drive percentage was up over 2% from 2007. Line drive percentage is one of the primary indicators of offensive success. Obviously. The more often you hit the ball hard, the more often you get hits. So it would make sense Cano would have actually been better in '08 than '07. However, his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) took a whopping .50 point hit from last year to this. This has little to do with anything but luck, and as line drive percentage tells us, Cano had a far more unlucky season than he did a bad one.

None of this makes his actual season production any better. It just goes to show Cano is probably a lot better than what he showed this year.

The problem with Cano is that he doesn't walk. Because of this, he is more succeptible to having an unlucky season turn into a bad one, like this year. Guys who walk can overcome unluckiness on the scale Cano experienced this year (which can happen to anyone), because they still get on base. The average may take a big hit, but not as much on the OBP. For Cano, the average and OBP go far more hand in hand. That plays a big part in allowing seasons like this to occur. However, I do not think Cano should start trying to be something he isn't. It looked like he was trying to be more selective at the beginning of this season, and I think that is what got him mixed up. He didn't walk from '05-'07, and was more than fine. In fact he was elite. He has incredible tools with the bat in his hands: outstanding plate coverage, quick hips, strong wrists, a level swing, and an uncanny ability to get the good part of the bat on the ball no matter where the pitch. He should just let these things take over and not worry about walking.

As I mentioned in a recent comments section, this bad season has caused a lot of Yankees fans to say they are tired of Cano's laid back attitude, that he doesn't play hard enough, and that they think we should trade him. Problem here is that Cano played the exact same way in 2006 when he batted .342, and at that times fans were talking about how much energy and youth he brought to the team. Interesting. And I guess typical.

Obviously, I disagree with the general sentiment above, that we should trade Cano simply because of one bad season. However, what this season has shown me is that he probably should not be untouchable, which is something I would have said prior to this year. That said, I'm not including him in any trade where he is valued based on what he did in 2008, which would be selling low. If he's valued at his career averages or better, and it's a move that could help the team in an area of need, it's definitely worth listening to. He could be a significant piece in a serious deal. But if he's valued at anything less than that, the Yankees should keep him. BECAUSE GUESS WHAT. In 2006 and 2007 Cano OPS+ed 126 and 120 at SECOND BASE. This year Pedroia OPS+ed 122, and everyone is talking about him as the MVP and being in another league than Cano. Please, Cano had seasons just as good as this one twice already (and that's not a knock on Pedroia, but rather a compliment of Cano's ability). Before this year, Pedroia couldn't have cleaned Cano's shoes, and now it's the other way around. Give it a chance to go back the other way. One year does not a career make. He's 26 years old and he had a bad season. It happens. If you don't sell low, not only will you get more production, but you will get a substantially increased trade value. That doesn't mean don't listen now. It just means don't absolutely trade him now because he had one bad season after three that were between good and outstanding. That's not good sample size analysis.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Quick Math Lesson for David Ortiz

Papi Says (source: Boston.com Extra Bases):

I think we need a few guys in the bullpen and a 30-home run guy and we'll be all set.

We got Mikey [Lowell] and Youk [Kevin Youkilis]. Mikey has had surgery so you don't know what's gonna happen, hopefully he'll go back out there healthy. You definitely need to find another guy who can produce here.

Papi Forgot (source: Baseball-Reference.com):

2008 PIT 22 HR
2008 BOS 9 HR

22+9=31. 31>30. Jason Bay is the 30-HR hitter you’re looking for.

Jason Bay had 31 home runs in 2008. Bay, by the way, will make $7.5 million in 2009, had previously said he’d take a hometown discount for the Pirates, and now wants to stay in Boston. Mark Teixeira once turned down 8 years/$144 million to stay in Texas, a team he claimed he loved to play for.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Lowell Market (Part 3)

November 20, 2007, “The Lowell Market (I Told You So Edition):” 

Mike Lowell re-signed with Boston yesterday for 3 years/$37.5 million. Which is perfect. As they said way back in August maybe, Mr. Reliable remained Mr. Affordable. And here's why: There was no market for his services. People most likely pointed at exactly what I pointed at last week: Nobody wanted to gamble on a 37-year-old third baseman whose numbers would be severely deflated anywhere except for Philadelphia and Boston and whose woeful 2005 numbers raise a pretty big red flag.

For Philadelphia and Boston, specifically and exclusively, Mike Lowell has a reasonably high (like 3/$37.5) value. For everyone else in baseball, his value was more like 2/$20. So teams like the Yankees, reportedly offering 4/$60? As stupid as Bronxman thinks Brian Cashman and friends are, they're not that stupid, and neither is anyone else in baseball. Those offers reported by Boston TV stations were nothing but smoke and mirrors.

Things sure have changed in Boston in the last year.  Apparently a lot of Red Sox fans think Mike Lowell is absolutely cooked.  He is still a mere 13 months removed from his .324/21/120 season, where he finished fifth in MVP voting.  He spent the majority of the season hurt, yet still hit seventeen home runs and twenty-seven doubles.  His best season on the Red Sox.  Nope.  A huge difference-maker?  Nope.  But he was not a liability.  And he wasn’t $25 million a year worse than the other option (I calculate that to trade him, they’d have to eat $4 million a year plus pay the new player $21 million a year). 

The first injury was a wrist/trauma injury, and the second injury was a hip injury that they say he will fully recover from.  It is not really logical for all of these Red Sox fans to so drastically drop their expectations in just one year.  A year ago was “Keep Lowell, he’d be better than this team than A-Rod because A-Rod’s not reliable in the clutch!”  And this year is, “Trade Lowell so they can acquire an overpaid corner infielder who, like A-Rod, pads his stats and isn’t reliable in the clutch!”  Good thinking.

There are currently two assumptions being made by Boston fans that are totally inaccurate:

  • There are any potential takers for Mike Lowell.  As we said, his statistics and production are both highly amplified by the fact that he’s playing at Fenway Park 81 times a year.
  • Lowell’s decline (if there is one) being somewhat-hidden by—you guessed it—the fact that he’s playing at Fenway Park 81 times a year.

As we addressed last November, Mike Lowell is a dead pull hitter who would hit a lot of lazy fly balls to left field in any other park in baseball except for Boston (and maybe Philadelphia, where Coco Crisp jacked two in one series), but instead whacks the wall and gets doubles.  Honestly, this has not changed a bit in the last year and I can’t believe we have to talk about it again.

The Red Sox would not get much in return for Lowell because he would most likely struggle offensively (relatively speaking) in other ballparks.  Therefore, he is not worth trading, as his skills are the most effectively allocated—both for the player and for the team—in Boston.  His numbers were limited last year because of two injuries, which certainly will happen to aging players.  But he’s a rare case where he’d be a ripoff for 29 teams in the major leagues but would still be a bargain for one.  The Red Sox.

Sox aren’t going to trade Mike Lowell.  There’s still not much of a market for him.

The Case For Damaso Marte

I plan on trying to take a look at most of the individual players who will be involved in the Yankees' offseason, be it coming or going, in the coming weeks. This one is unique in that the player's option has already been declined, but there is still a chance he returns on a different deal.

There is no part of declining his option that I understand. Damaso Marte is a rarity in baseball: a consistent non-closing relief pitcher. He also happens to be left-handed, with lefties batting .200 and slugging .287 (not a misprint) off him for his career. And he doesn't give up too much more against righties. In his last 7 seasons he's had an ERA+ over 105, with 6 of them being over 119. With all the variations you usually get from non-closing relievers, this really is exceptional consistency. He's probably the most consistent left-handed set-up man over that time, and he might be the most consistent set-up man period during that time. Oh yeah, and he can be had for 1 year and $6 million.

I do understand that, because he's a Type A free agent, he nets the Yankees two first round draft picks if he signs elsewhere. But two things. 1) The Yankees need to be selective where they look to get draft picks, but not go over the top. When I guy can help the team in a big way, letting him go to get draft picks is gong over the top. 2) Since Elias bases their free agent classifications on every player's last three years, even if Marte totally flopped this year (unlikely) his 2007 and 2008 would probably carry him to Type A status again. So if after this year, the Yankees decided they no longer wanted him (which at this point they have little to no reason to decide this, in my opinion) they can still get the two first rounders. Everybody wins.

Finally, you have to consider the low cost here. With the demand for strong relievers, especially those that are left-handed, you could easily see the market for Marte being in the 3/$15 million range. So the Yankees would be overpaying by about $1 million this year. Considering what they are overpaying elsewhere, this is literally nothing for a guy that could be so valueable.

I would assume that the Yankees are trying to work out a longer-term deal where they pay less anually. While I would agree with their assessment that he should be back, I don't understand the desire to extend him. As stated above, you aren't going to save that much money. Further, as Marte will be 34 at the start of next season, if you were to give him 3 years, there is a chance he would 1) not be as effective at the end of that contract and 2) as such, no longer be a Type A, and not net the first rounders. Again, I wouldn't have this be the only reason to not sign him for a longer term deal, especially if it's two years, because I think he can help the Yankees win over that time period. But it just seemed like, at the time of the trade as well as now, that option at 1 year and $6 million seemed like such a bonus for a player of his caliber. And now it is gone. I hope Cashman and company know what they are doing here.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Salty Trade and a Blog Idea

After our discussion today, I did quite a bit of research on the Salty trade. Regarding the players we discussed, I'd like to offer some final thoughts. I hold that Masterson would be most coveted by the Rangers, and that he would get it done 1 for 1. I'm backing off Buchholz. I think a package built around him gets it done. Maybe not 1 for 1, but close. I hold that a package built around Ellsbury doesn't get it done, but I'm backing off a Buchholz/Ellsbury, I think that's too much. And definitely hold Bowden doesn't get it done. If I'm Texas, I'm pushing to get Bowden involved with Buchholz or Ellsbury. If I'm the Sox, I probably pull the trigger there. The Sox will probably draft/sign 1-2 arms like Buchholz/Bowden a year, minimum. They can afford give this up, even thought it would sting (trades always have to sting to make them work), to get back a high end catcher, which are so difficult to find. Even if he does have question marks. It's easier to look past question marks for a catcher that can hit than perhaps any other type of player at any other position. And remember, people in Boston are advocating a deal for Salty. It isn't like the Rangers are saying "what can we do to get Jacoby Ellsbury". That's telling here. We'll see what happens.

On that note, I have to say that the back and forth today with Mr. H, Craig, The GM, etc. was perhaps my most enjoyable day on this blog. Great discussion, even though we had some disagreement. It definitely opened my eyes to some things I hadn't thought of, and I always enjoy that. At the end of the day, none of us know what will actually happen. We are talking about human beings who could do something none of us have thought about. Maybe a Texas likes a guy we aren't even discussing. Maybe Theo is in love with Salty. That wouldn't necessary make the deal good/bad for us, because we have our own views on what makes a good/bad trade, and that's what we were discussing today. Not what will actually happen, but what we think. And that's awesome. And fun.

With that said, I'd like to see more of that on this blog. I talked to DV tonight, and he would too. We are fortunate to have a small, loyal, and intelligent readership on this blog. DV and I are certainly not authorities on anything we discuss in any way. So from now on, I'd like to hear what you guys want to talk about. Gunn has been doing this a lot lately, bringing up new topics in the comments section. If you guys have an idea, let us know, and we'll do our best to get a post up about it and a more formal discussion going. Especially topics that haven't been exhausted in the media yet, like the Salty deal. I can't say enough how much I enjoyed that back and forth. Mr. H and Craig didn't completely change my mind, but they made well thought out arguments that caused me to go back and look at the situation again, which caused me to gain a new perspective as stated above. And like I said, that's awesome. The thing I like most about this blog is that I constantly get to hear new ideas that I might not have considered otherwise, and it often gives me a new perspective. Keep it coming, thanks as always for continuing to read and comment.

46, Buchholz, Salty, and WHS Track

From the Oversized Comments Department, this is a special dedication to WHS Track alumni John, Matt, and Mr. H. However, it is a useful metaphor for the entire argument about a potential trade between the Red Sox and the Rangers.

Right here we're talking about three guys who are more or less damaged goods. Saltalamacchia is a guy, a year ago one of the best prospects in baseball, who had a really bad season that exposed some deficiencies on both sides of the ball. Buchholz is a guy, a year ago one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, who had probably the worst possible season not involving TJ surgery or a rotator cuff tear. And finally, 46 is a guy, a year ago toted as probably the best player in Major League Baseball based on his long, illustrious 33-game MLB career in which he hit .353. His season was probably the best of the three, but his performance raised questions regarding his judgment of the strike zone and holes in his swing. At least three teams (TB, NYY, LAA) in the AL know exactly where to pitch the guy. Every single time.

A year ago, these guys were all as exciting as the perennial slogan of the Wilmington High School girls' track team: They were young and had a lot of potential. Now, they're like sophomores on the WHS girls' track team: Still young, still have a lot of potential, but you don't really know if they'll actually reach that potential by the time they're seniors and can give the team the maximum amount of contributions.

Maybe the only reason they did track in the first place as a freshman was because they were chasing some senior guy who had since graduated and therefore there's no more motivation. Maybe they've made out with a couple of guys on the football team. Maybe they've missed practice with some mystery illness that really meant they're visiting some dude from Wakefield or Stoneham...or they're chilling out with their girls who have already quit track.

On the one hand, they may pan out and bring the state championship back to the WMT.

But on the other hand, next thing you know, they may hate competing, give a JD Drew-level effort during every practice and race, and the team continues to struggle but all over again. However, they have a whole new group of freshmen that is...of course...young and with a lot of potential. As my boy once said about a former "young, lot of potential" athlete on that team, "she totally turned into a girl." Tragic.

All three of these guys run that risk. By trading 46 or Buchholz, you are forgoing the potential they still possess, but also forego the risk associated with keeping them as they "totally turn into girls." But you get an equally-risky prospect in return. The Sox are (somewhat) deep in the starting pitching and outfield categories, whereas the Rangers aren't.

But Boston seriously, seriously needs to address the catcher position, because the other option literally does hit like a girl. That's why the risk is a necessary one.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

When It Comes To Pitching, Hit Doubles

First, let me just say that I love all the chatter going on here lately about potential off-season moves. I really love this stuff. Let me also say that I think the Sox and Rangers will make a trade for a catcher. And let me finally say that you guys need to up the ante in the comments sections. So far I've heard a package built around Jacoby Ellsbury and a package built around Michael Bowden. Whoa. We are talking about a position that is thinner than any other in baseball. We are also talking about a catcher in Salty who is 23 years old, is one of the most highly regarded in baseball, and has flashed plus power from the catcher position with 14 homers in his first 500 ML ABs. The only guy the Sox might realistically give up that would get it done on his own is Justin Masterson. Otherwise you have to start with two of Ellsbury/Buchholz/Bowden and go from there, probably throwing something else in. The Rangers are going to want a hall for this guy, and rightfully so, the Sox won't be the only team interested.

Second, Yankees' off-season philosophy, pitching edition. Really simply. Just look at the Boston Red Sox. What have they done? They hit doubles in free agency and through trades, and then wait for the home-run to come through their player development system.

Just look at their past 2-3 off-seasons. Are Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka two of the top 15 pitchers in the game? Are they aces? Are they guys you can count on for top flight production year to year? No, no, and no. Matsuzaka made 29 starts this year, 40% of which were quality starts. Quality, but no quantity, which you have to have to be a front line starter. Beckett has been in the big leagues for 7 seasons, and has had exactly one where he pitched 180 or more innings and had an ERA under 4. 41 players in the Major Leagues did that this year alone. Not exactly setting the bar high in terms or production. Clearly, neither of these players are home runs.

However, at the same time, they aren't strikeouts. They are guys with good stuff and a competitive makeup that are going to give you a good chance to win most times they take the hill. They are doubles, and doubles win.

And while those doubles are winning, it allows management, the team, and the fans to have patience. And this allows the home grown home run, the only way you can acquire a home run these days, to come into his own. Now the Red Sox have home run Jon Lester, who is one of the top 15 pitchers in baseball, fronting the rotation, with two solid doubles behind him, rounding out a very solid rotation.

This is what the Yankees should be doing through free agency and the trade market as well. CC Sabathia may very well be a home run, and would help the Yankees in a big way. But the Yankees donn't need home runs. Derek Lowe, Ryan Dempster, Jake Peavy, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, these guys are doubles. Pair three of them with double Chien-Ming Wang and potential home run Joba Chamberlain, and that's a top flight rotation. If Joba doesn't end up being a home run, maybe Dellin Betances, Zach McCallister, Andrew Brackman, or Jairo Heredia will be. And these doubles, guys who provide consistency and stability to the rotation, will allow the patience and time for this to happen. Just look at Boston.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

If I go absolutely bats*** f***ing berserk...

...then will you still call me Superman?

Just to think about how crazy Jason Varitek is by thinking he can get a comparable deal to Jorge Posada, let's transpose it with a lot of other crazy and desperate people and actions. This is a scale of 1-10:

1: Britney Spears circa 1997
2. J.D. Drew opting out of a gift $11 million contract after a lackluster 2006 season...and entire career.
3. Homer Simpson after eating the Guatemalan Insanity Peppers
4. DV the day Anibal Sanchez pitched a no-hitter the same season Josh Beckett surrendered 26 home runs and walked nine Yankees in one game, Mike Lowell went 29 games without a double, and Hanley Ramirez won Rookie of the Year.
5. Gary Busey in the movie "Rookie of the Year."
6. The Red Sox signing J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo for a combined $106 million on the same day, December 6, 2006.
7. Howard Dean's "take back the White House" speech.
8. Britney Spears circa late 2007/early 2008.
9. Jason Varitek thinking he deserves $13.1 million a year after three years of possibly being the worst regular in the major leagues.
10. Gary Busey in the show "I'm With Busey."

As you can see, this move is pretty high up on the insanity scale. The similarities between Posada in his contract year and Varitek in his contract year are just about as much as the similarities between Ray and Annie Kinsella ("She was from Iowa, I had once heard of Iowa"). Here are some similarities between these two baseball players:

1. Both Jorge Posada (.338) and Jason Varitek (.220) hit above .200 in their contract years.
2. Both Posada (the point to the head) and Varitek (punching A-Rod with his mask on) are crummy fighters.
3. Both Posada and Varitek have had winning records behind the plate (something actually cited by Boras). It may have had something to do with the pitchers.
4. Both Posada (H, 2B, BA, OBP, SLG, OPS) and Varitek (K/AB) had career highs in their contract years.
5. Both of their names start with J.
6. Both players carry dead weight to the plate: Posada's nose, Varitek's "C" on his uniform, and Varitek's bat, because he certainly doesn't use it too often.

Before you even start, don't give me the "This is Boras's fault" nonsense. The player pays the agent to negotiate. Jason Varitek approved this message and is really disrespecting the intellect of the Red Sox' front office--or really any front office, as nobody is going to give either four years or $13 million/year for a player who had as many total bases as David Wright in 2008...in his last TWO seasons.

As I wrote in my last post, signing Varitek period would be employing Kevin Cash/David Ross numbers for the next year/two years/three years/four years, and Varitek apologists use the argument of "would you rather have Kevin Cash?" I probably wouldn't give Varitek a one-year, $3.5 million contract--that's how bad this guy has been and how bad he could potentially be next year. In four years, he could potentially be worse than David Ross, Rick Ross or even Ross Kaplan.

I would give him a minor league contract and an invitation to spring training. Nothing more. Perhaps Varitek wants a "thank-you" contract, as that's what Posada got last year in his controversial contract? Fine. He got one in 2005.

I'm not talking about this anymore. I already did in friggin February. What a joke.

Make Like Moses

Note: This post was written earlier Tuesday afternoon before the news that Jason Varitek was looking for Jorge Posada money. Stay tuned for a no-holds-barred post.

It is time for the Red Sox to make like Moses and part (with) the red C.

It is no secret that I am no Jason Varitek fan, as he has many marks against him in my book (see the Varitek Disclaimer). But even for the biggest apologist for Captain K has to admit that keeping the guy around for another year, especially considering how much money he’s likely looking for, is risky at best and irrational at worst. Right now, the general consensus is that most fans would be okay with keeping Varitek—just at a very low-money deal.

People are missing the point. Even at a low-money deal, Varitek will be looking for consistent playing time, and having that guy at the plate four times a game is a liability. At this point, it is also possible that Varitek is a liability defensively. The Red Sox might as well be playing by National League rules because this guy hits as well as an NL pitcher.

Somebody said on a Boston.com messageboard somewhere that Varitek must be God if he is contributing as much to the team as people give him credit for. This is hard to believe, and it is equally hard to believe that every other catcher in major league baseball is so far inferior to Varitek in the category of “play-calling.” This, of course, is something I often have questioned, especially in the last two years of the playoffs.

“WHAT WOULD U RATHER HAVE KEVNI CASH” is a common rebuttal to any argument about Varitek not coming back. A fair point, and as bad as Kevin Cash has been, his offensive production is similar to Varitek’s. People arguing for Varitek to play every day in 2009 and 2010 basically are asking for someone with Kevin Cash potential to play every day in those years. They are quick to say they are not looking for Kevin Cash, but they are indeed looking for Kevin Cash numbers.

Right now, the Texas Rangers have a Jacoby Ellsbury-style situation at the catcher position. Gerald Laird is playing the role of Coco Crisp—a veteran at the peak of his career, but that peak just not really being that good. Jarrod Saltalamacchia plays the role of 46, a prospect once with a lot of promise, but also many holes, diminishing his prospect value. Texas’s situation is a little more curious, as there is another high-level catching prospect in Taylor Teagarden.

At the right price, the Red Sox could acquire any of the three. While Laird may not be a long-term solution, he would be able to put up far superior numbers to what we can expect out of Captain K for the next two years. They would have to relinquish someone like Crisp, or maybe Crisp plus a prospect. That is a deal I am willing to take.

I am also willing to deal 46 and a lower level prospect for Saltalamacchia. This would be more of a long-term solution, although Saltalamacchia is bad at best behind the plate and may soon have to move to first base. However, Varitek is just as bad at the plate, but nobody wants to admit it.
Either way, both options are better than having Jason Varitek behind the plate at any price. A team cannot be expected to contend in the American League if they basically have a National League lineup with eight guys in it.

Varitek’s era here was a good one, but once again, it’s time to part with the red C.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Offseason Philosophy (Yankees)

With the GM Meetings set to start tonight, it feels like the 2009 offseason is really underway. So with that, I'd like to share what I think this winter should be all about for the Yankees. I'm not going to try to predict what I think they will do. I'm just going to offer what I'd like to see them do.

This is a big offseason for the Yankees. Probably the biggest since Brian Cashman has been the General Manager. After years of inefficient operation and mindless spending, Cashman has finally achieved a level of balance within the organization. They have $84 million coming off the books, which allows FA signings to be a give and take, not just an add add add add add situation. They also have a strong farm system, which alleviates the need to hold onto what few prospects they may have AND sign sign sign sign sign. They have the option to make trades without rendering their prospect stable barron. Financial/roster flexibility and minor league depth/quality are two big things. Two things the Yankees have not had for some time. Add the fact that they finally have them to their first playoff miss since 1993, and this winter becomes a big one.

With that I will say that it is time for Brian Cashman to show what kind of GM he really is. The necessary rebuilding is done, and the structure for it to continue is in place. He has money to spend and prospects to trade, both without crushing the organization. So now it's time to put a winner on the field. By "winner" I mean one not just that makes the playoffs, but one that everyone can see winning it all. There is a difference. As we saw again this year, and as Derek Jeter says, "The best teams make the playoffs, and the hottest team wins." There is no way to guarantee a World Series. That's not what I'm asking for. I think there is a difference between a good regular season team that CAN win it all, and a good regular season team that CAN'T. The 2006-2008 Yankees have probably been the ladder, and I'm looking for that to change. That's what I'm asking for.

Also, remember something I've repeated constantly. The Yankees probably aren't too far away from losing their 2-3 biggest competitive advantages, when you consider position, in Mariano, Jeter, and Posada. The time to win with them producing at high levels at positions that are difficult to replace is now. If you don't, then you need a new closer, a new shortstop, and a new catcher. Oh yea, and they have to give you between Hall of Fame and borderline Hall of Fame production. Good luck.

So who do I want? The names are not important to me. Of course I have guys in mind, but it's more the mold I'm concerned with. The mold is a track record of a certain kind of consistent and proven success. For starting pitchers, of which I think the Yankees need at least one, it's somebody who averages 180+ innings, an ERA under 4, and an ERA+ north of 100 (preferably 105-110+). For IMPACT bats, of which I think the Yankees need one, it's somebody who averages 500+ ABs, .280+/.380+/.500+, an OPS+ north of 110 (preferably 115-120), and 30/100 HR/RBI, or somewhere close to these things. It's that simple.

So for me, if the Yankees signed CC and Manny, would I be able to call it a day? Of course, who wouldn't. But the point is, any combination of Lowe, Oswalt, Cain, Teixeira, Berkman, Holliday, Fielder, etc. will also do. I have no idea if some of those players are even going to be available (it seems like most are going to be), and of course there are more, and of course there are some I like better than others. But the general point is, I want a proven track record of consistent success in two key areas the Yankees need to upgrade. And I don't want any more overly conservative tactics. The time for that was the last three years, and it was successful. Now it's time to put a team on the field that could reasonably win a World Championship. Two players from the molds I'm talking about will be a big step in that direction.

I'll talk more specifically about what I want the Yankees to do in the coming days and weeks. First, I wanted to establish this general philosophy that I think they should emply. Don't obsess over names and what is flashy. Obsess over molds and track records of success.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Welcome to the American League East

As we get ready for what promises to be a very exciting off-season, I wanted to write a disclaimer of sorts. A disclaimer that provides a background for the way I'm thinking, the way I hope the Yankees are thinking, and the way the Red Sox should be thinking too.

We probably would have said this before the 2008 season, and we will definitely be saying it before 2009. I don't even need to know what teams make what moves where. This is already a certainty. The American League East is the best division in baseball, and nobody else is even close. Obviously, this isn't simply because of the Yankees and Red Sox anymore. The Rays, Red Sox, Yankees, and Blue Jays are all baseball teams that will be good enough to make the playoffs in 2009. I know this because they were all good enough to make the playoffs in 2008. And don't totally sleep on the Orioles (more on that in a second). Let's take a quick look, team by team.

Tampa Bay Rays. Won the division, won the pennant, and went to the World Series. Best young pitching in baseball, haven't even shown everything they have. Core lineup not going anywhere, with Upton and Longoria probably becoming somewhere between 1B and elite bats in '09. They are going to be good.

Boston Red Sox. Despite a plethora of injuries and off-field issues, won 95 games and the Wild Card. One of the best young pitchers in the game in Jon Lester, with a solid returning rotation to follow. Have a core that wants to win. They are going to be good.

New York Yankees. Despite even more substantial injuries than the above, won 89 games. Although that was not good enough for the playoffs, only three teams in the American League, and six teams in baseball won more. If they were that much in the mix this year, it is going to be difficult for them to be less in the mix at any time soon. They are going to be good.

Toronto Blue Jays. If they hadn't lost McGowan, they would have been right there in 2008. As it is, they won 86 games, 11th most in baseball. Even if they lose Burnett, they'll pitch again next year. With a lot of the type of bats they could use on the market (Giambi, Burrell), and some money to spend, there offensive will likely be improved, meaning they will be improved. They are going to be good.

Baltimore Orioles. Crtainly the one team that's not a serious contender, making the division weaker. But do me two favors. First, go look at what Roberts, MelMora, Markakis, and Huff did with the stick this year. Then, go find me another last place team in another division that has four bats like that. Can't do it? Me neither (And don't you tell me the Tigers, don't you do it. I will throw it right back at you, I got the Orioles). If this team can find any semblance of a pitching staff, they could be a pretty decent club in most divisions. So while they may make this division weaker, that is purely a product of the division that they are in. As far as probable last place teams go, they are going to be good.

What does all of this mean? 2008 has raised the bar higher than it has probably ever been raised. Every other team in every other division can shoot for 95 wins and know are probably winning their division. In the East that might not net you the Wild Card next year. If you want to make the playoffs in 2009, you better get better. Rays included. There is not one team that can sit on their current roster and think they are making the playoffs, because every other team is going to get better. I'd say it's a near certainty that the East will have 4 of the best 10 teams in baseball in 2009, meaning they will just beat each other up more than they did this year.

To a certain extent, does this really stink? Yes. The Yankees and Blue Jays would have made the playoffs 10 times over in most, if not every, other division this year. Next year, at least two good teams in the East are going to sit at home in October again. But at the same time, isn't it awesome? I mean, I would much rather watch 54 exciting games (1/3 of the season) every year played at playoff intensity between the Yankees and Rays/Sox/Jays, and sometimes miss the playoffs, than play the Rangers, A's, and Mariners 54 times and never miss the playoffs. It's more rewarding on a day to day basis.

But that doesn't change how tough it is going to be to experience the success of reaching October in 2009. This division is going to be out of control. These teams better get ready, and that starts with their respective front offices right now, and what they do for the next 4 months. That will go a long way to dicate who sits home in October 2009.