Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Should the Red Sox really trade Manny Ramirez?


1999 Cle 147 522 131 174 34 44 165 .333 .442 .663 1.105
2000 Cle 118 439 92 154 34 38 122 .351 .457 .697 1.154
2001 Bos 142 529 93 162 33 41 125 .306 .405 .609 1.014
2002 Bos 120 436 84 152 31 33 107 .349 .450 .647 1.097
2003 Bos 154 569 117 185 36 37 104 .325 .427 .587 1.014
2004 Bos 152 568 108 175 44 43 130 .308 .397 .613 1.010
2005 Bos 152 554 112 162 30 45 144 .292 .388 .594 .982
2006 Bos 130 449 79 144 27 35 102 .321 .439 .619 1.058

'nuff said.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

What's the Opposite of Garbage?

Maybe this Keith Law guy is allllright. He's got two good articles back to back in November. The 5 year deal for Juan Pierre might be the worst contract in MLB since Russ Ortiz signed with Arizona. LA fans can only hope that the Dodgers similarly pull the plug on him within the next couple years, so the damage Pierre does to their hopes and dreams may be limited. In a way it might even be a worse move than the one that resulted in this. At least the Diamondbacks needed pitching, that they picked the worst possible option was really just stupidity. The Dodgers signing up Juan Pierre is downright malicious. Not only will he unfairly steal at bats from up and coming young players, he contributes essentially nothing offensively. If he reaches base he's as fun as anyone to watch, but the problem has always been his inability to steal first. I ask again, where will Nomar play next year??? Good for Pierre though, the money couldn't have gone to a harder working guy. As for Gary Matthews, he is still the same player the Braves cut in spring training two years ago, trust me. He just happens to be have just come off a fluke batting average year. Matthews will fit in just fine with the Los Angeles "Outmachine" Angels of Anaheim.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Since Neyer Refuses to Acknowledge my Hate Mail

Note: Sorry if you don't have espn insider, but I'm working under the assumption that anyone reading this has access.

Here's the second to latest nugget from former respectable baseball analyst Rob Neyer. Incredible, he managed to decide that Pujols was a more deserving MVP than Howard. he really must have pulled an all night brain buster to finalize that treatise. I'm pretty sure anyone with an internet connection and 10 free seconds could figure that out. Let's see what's the most dumb MVP style stat I can find...average with risp. pujols: .397, howard: .256. I don't even know what stats if any those voters were looking at, because it just looks like home runs to me. Even if they bothered to glance a few centimeters to the right they would have see Pujols SLG%: .671, Howard .659. The list goes on and on: Pujols played in a very tough hitters park, Howard a home run haven, Pujols plays outstanding 1st base defense, Howard doesn't know what hand to put his glove on. Pujols nearly as many homers as strikeouts, Howard must get a bonus for each strikeout, or else I can't explain how he manages to swing and miss so often. If only Pujols hadn't played hurt for half the year he might have been good enough...

And Now the Coup de Grace for the Week. It's sad personally because back when I was a dumb kid growing up in a Yankee-centric area, there was little choice but to believe that Jeter was an all around godly baseball player incapable of failure in any aspect. Neyer was one of the guys who started to convince me that objective baseball analysis often leads to conclusions that are in startling contrast with accepted baseball views.

Here he is having drank the cool-aid and trying to back Jeter's MVP campaign 2006 (6 more years!!! without a world series that is). He really shoots himself in the foot though, he voids his own argument by bringing up Jeter's OPS rank (15th! the league!). MVP doesn't necessarily mean best hitter (it usually means best hitter on a good team, or sometimes godly pitcher), but if you are 15th in the league in one of the most important hitting stats, you do not deserve the MVP award nomatter what else you do. Sir Neyer, please save the runs created garbage until they start giving out a most valuable 1 or 2 hitter award. And also nice slight of hand, using the adjusted runs created stat that I can't even find on which uses baserunning (ie stolen bases, a really worthy statistic....gag) to judge your "true" runs created value. The basic runs created formulation has Ortiz just a few heads and shoulders higher than Jeter.

I'm pretty sure Jeter's steals were largely irrevelant to Yankees' power offense, unless it was Jeter's heads-up baserunning and fist pumps distracting the opposing Royals pitchers into throwing meatballs.
Honestly shouldn't even be worrying about splitting hairs since Jeter had a slugging percentage below .500 and hit 14 homers. Productive hitter, of course, MVP deserving player, no.

And finally the most laughable argument, Jeter's VORP. To make what's going on here even more blatantly obvious, say the Red Sox put David Ortiz at short stop...his VORP would be incredible! Does that make him more of an MVP candidate than when he sits in the dugout, only to emerge to win games with his bat? No, that's not the point of VORP. It's a good stat, but it doesn't work when a team plays a guy so completely substandard at defense at that position which is weak offensively in the rest of the league. Same with Miguel Cabrera playing third, or even worse Chipper Jones at third, or Bret Boone at 2nd back in the day. Those guys are as bad as it gets for their position, they're on the team because they can hit and they play those positions because it's their "natural position" meaning it would screw them or the team up if they were moved, not because they are good defenders and oh just happen to hit the crap out of the ball compared to the rest of the league at that position. Cabrera should be compared to outfielders, same with Chipper. Boone should have been compared to third basemen. And Jeter, I don't, whatever position it is these days where it is acceptable to only hit 14 homers in a murderers row lineup. 2nd base? Maybe the red sox should employ the yankees philosophy. They could just lay Ortiz down at short stop, giving him Jeter's range. He'd make more throwing errors on the balls that hit him and he picked up, but he would provide so much offense from that position that he'd be an mvp caliber player! That's just silly, you're thinking. But how much sillier is it for the Yankees to leave Jeter at shortstop when all they have is a hall of fame shortstop to replace him.

That's not even close to a full description of what went wrong in the AL MVP voting, but the other stuff is a little easier to see so it's kind of boring. If you don't see it, the MVP went to a 1st baseman with the 9th best OPS in the AL, who plays with bats behind one of the most valuable players in baseball, and who also has the best pitcher on the planet on his team to steal votes from him (speaking of which thank god the writers didn't come up with another Bartolo Colon to rob Santana of a trophy. It just goes to show you how good he is for every one of those knuckleheads to give him the 1st place vote.). Ortiz and Hafner were really much more important to their teams than anyone on playoff teams and so I think one of them should have won it. In my opinion David Ortiz was the MVP (to show that's not just Red Sox allegence, in 2005 I thought A-Rod was slightly more deserving), and Hafner gets the award for being the best hitter (his MVP case weakened due to injury).

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Let the Madness Begin

So far we've already seen the Cubs and Red Sox spend $280 million this offseason, and there's no reason to expect that the money won't keep flowing. I can't really criticize the whole sport for spending wildy, since there are a lot worse things to spend the money on than players, if the money's really there to spend.

What I can criticize are the acquisitions of some players that I don't think were the right moves, regardless of price.

The Reds at it again. Not to keep harping on Cincy, but what can I do when they keep giving me all this material? Gonzalez is a one trick pony who is not likely to age well. Why sign him up when you have a young guy in Brandon Phillips who is already a much better hitter and who can definitely play a good enough shortstop? The Mike Stanton move isn't really anything noteworthy, except for the idea of giving him a 2 year contract when he should be settling for spring training invites at this point.

Exhibit B. It's amazing how quickly teams can go from perennial losers to teams who consider themselves one player away from getting back to the world series. If the Tigers are really done after acquiring Sheffield and re-signing Casey, then the odds are squarely stacked against them sniffing the playoffs last year. As I blogged about early last season, the Tigers can attribute their 2006 success to every pitcher coming through and staying healthy, and the health of the middle of their lineup. The chances of Ordonez, Guillen, and Sheffield staying healthy for the majority of next year is 0, so the Tigers have better keep adding bats to that lineup, which along with the starting pitching is likely to regress somewhat. "Basically, the way I look at it, since the All-Star break we were looking for a bat," said manager Jim Leyland. "Since then we added Sean Casey and Gary Sheffield. That's impressive." No doubt Sheffield is a premium bat, but Sean Casey??? There are two things I know for sure about Sean Casey. One, he is one of the nicest guys in sports, and two, he slugged .408 as a Red (in a homer launching ballpark!). Expect a .250/.290/.375 line out of him next year, what he did once moving to Detroit.

Other Moves:

Dodgers sign Nomar for 2 Years: Thumbs Up, but where will he play?

Mets probably will sign Moises Alou: Shrugs shoulders, he probably won't be healthy to play much.

Angels sign Speier to 4 years: Thumbs up, but save some money for the lineup!

Rangers sign Catalanotto again for 3 years: Thumbs up, for the price.

Blue Jays sign Thomas for 2 years: Thumbs down, not what the team needed.

And just as I go to press, more madness comes in off the wire.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Possible Red Sox offseason moves, GO!

What would you guys think of J. D. Drew on the Red Sox? Part of me thinks the intense atmosphere might help him to get motivated (either that or destroy him). He's aloof, but not in a 100% aloof way like Manny, more like in a Nomar way where things affect him. I wouldn't even consider it, aside from the fact that when playing he'd immediately make our lineup top of the notch again and play a superb right field. Seeing him on the Braves, I'm fully convinced he has every one of Beltran's skills and is a better overall player, when he plays.

And what about Matsuzaka? I'm all for adding quality to the rotation but man, is it going to cost us. I'd probably prefer Zito or Schmidt. With Zito, at least we know he hardly ever misses a start.

And finally, thumbs up or thumbs down on Lugo over A-Gone for next year’s shortstop?

Here are the last 3 years of Nixonmania and Drew .

Drew's actually had more ABs, which obviously isn't a perfect measure of health, but it seems like they both miss chunks of time. Drew is two years younger and .145 OPS points better. I don't see any other offensive upgrade option available. He has a bad reputation, but if he plays well when he plays it should be ok. Can the Red Sox afford $15 million a year though? Especially if these absurd reports about the Matsuzaka bidding are true? I guess we're anticipating ditching Manny and Schilling in a year or two.

I love Nixon, but his power dropoff is pretty frightening.

Lugo. If you want to win in the AL, you need offense at every position. Punch it.

I'd take Zito over Matsuzaka any day, you could possibly sign Zito and Schmidt for the amount it'll cost Matsuzaka.

I just assumed Nixon was gone whether we like it or not. It seems like Drew is the only reasonable replacement to play the outfield. I don't know what to think about what we can afford. I wonder why we wouldn't go bid crazy on Zito and Schmidt instead?

I feel like in a few years, we're all going to be looking back on the contracts from this year and last year like we look at the Manny, A-Rod, Jeter, etc. deals now. Aramis Ramirez gets 5 yrs/73M? Damn, son! That said, if we're serious about winning in the AL East, dem's the breaks, I'm afraid.

I would not be unhappy with Drew in right, but sorta nervous about the situation. But I agree, not a lot of better options available unless the sox come up with some off-the-wall trade. I like it especially because most people are saying the next "big bat" is one Carlos Lee, but their 3 year average OPS isn't pretty: Lee .865, Drew .947. Assuming Lee gets something approaching Ramirez money, and we can get Drew for less, I like it even more. They have similar AB/HR rates (18 for Lee, 19 for Drew), but the thing that worries me, as you guys are alluding to, is this: in the last 3 years, Drew has 1264 AB, Lee 1833. So we gotta figure out how to keep him on the damn field. But yeah, I guess I like it.

Matsuzaka - yeah, freaking expensive, but we know where Zito & Schmidt's numbers are gonna go after the next year or two (particularly Schmidt, moving from the NL to AL, and from Pac-Bell to Fenway). I guess Matsuzaka is more of an unknown, but I don't think his numbers will drop off like those other guys, so he could be a better long-term investment (particularly if you just consider his CONTRACT money, which would probably actually be less than Zito money - I forget where I read that, but at least one "expert" (...) was saying that...). I think the interesting thing with him is that the posting fee wouldn't count against the salary cap, so it's pretty much just a one-time investment, and it doesn't mess up our ability to spend money on other players, other than the fact that John Henry has to shell out more dough (it doesn't affect our long-term plans regarding the cap). I just have no idea what to make of the scouting on him - he works up in the strike zone so much and looks like he hangs a lot of breaking stuff. If people who know more than me think he'll be good, then I guess I like it, but...

Lugo... meh. Personally I'd love to bring A-Gon back for another year or two (but I guess he won't do a 1 year deal, so that's out anyway), because I'll take .250 out of the 9 hitter. And honestly, Lugo probably would be a bottom of the order guy anyway (OBP .348, OPS .753 over last 3 years). But this is just me being selfish because I love watching the guy play. If we've got the dough, let's tie it on.

Having Wily Mo as a backup RF makes Drew's penchant for not playing more palatable for me. Also this year MLB is awash in cash, so it's basically impossible to figure out what a reasonable contract is these days. If A-Rod was a FA now instead of a few years ago I wouldn't have been surprised to see him get $30 million per.

Sox as Evil Empire

Blah blah blah, if the Red Sox were in a different division, they wouldn't have nearly the same payroll. It's like if one country nuked another and the first one nuked back, would everyone blame the second country for not being restrained??

Maybe he should write about Toronto spending too much money as well. Clearly the blue jays should wait until they have 10 top prospects all mature at the same time, then will they deserve to be contenders?

That writer is generally incompetent I've found. He just pops up all the time in my fantasy sports main page.

But, while the Red Sox would probably spend less if they were in another division, they'd still have the wherewithal to bully many of the other teams if it came to a bidding war.

I think the bigger issue is that there are now quite a few "$100 mill" franchises, Texas, Anaheim, Chicago (2), NY (2), Seattle, Boston, Philly, Dodgers, etc. But after that there is a huge dropoff in what other teams can spend. I think the talk about MLB parity is a partly illusory, but I don't think I'll be able to write an article on that until Thanksgiving or winter break.

I disagree. The Red Sox never bullied a team before the Yankees became an empire. Manny was pretty much the first big FA signing in Boston. It was mostly because no one wanted to come play in Boston, but it still led to them not being able to sign anyone. And then Manny was only signed in retaliation for Mussina. They bullied for Foulke because they needed someone like Rivera to beat the Yankees and I doubt they would make a move like that again in the near future. I just don't see why they would keep profits to a minimum if they didn't have to have a high payroll to be competitive. They already have the fan base, wouldn't it make sense to keep the payroll down? The Yankees are way below their revenue, but they're forcing other teams to use every penny to keep up.

I'd like to see that article about how parity is an illusion.

Well, it's all relative. Team payrolls didn't spiral out of control (and the subsequent large gap in the rich and poor) until relatively recently, as the free agency system matured and MLB began taking in drastically more revenue. I agree with you that payrolls wouldn't be as high if the Yankees weren't constantly cracking a whip over the AL. But even if the Yankees weren't making a mockery of the MLB's salary structure, I'm pretty sure the Red Sox would still be right at the crest of the luxury tax threshold, even if that threshold was lower. And considering 2/3 of the teams in the league can't come _close_ to that level of salary, they're bullying powers surpass all but probably the NY squads. The Red Sox like to cry pauper, but they're one of the biggest power players in the league.

Specific examples that I'd argue is evidence of them able to make deals simply because the other team can't keep up on the same financial level, not just due to the Yankees:
Matzuaska - They obliterated all the other bids, which suggests to me the Sox have a lot more money to play with than they let on.
Foulke (you mentioned that one already)
A-Rod (not so much due to Texas, but the way the Sox tried to buy off the player's union)

I actually wouldn't use the Manny deal as an example because the Indians also offered him a ton of cash. My memory's not as a good as yours, so there might be other examples. I think that's enough to show that a case at least can be made, even if it isn't 100% persuasive.

Agreed. I need an editor to put this email chain in blog form.

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The Real Reliever Bias

Just as I was thinking about commenting on how Trevor Hoffman got way too many Cy Young points (77 to Webb’s 103), I read this little number saying how egregious it is he didn’t just win the damn thing:

That’s an article which shows no knowledge of the relative value of relievers and is based on an idea that’s been dead for years (that relievers are unfairly punished in the awards department). The NL Cy Young race was wide open this year (I could strong cases for Zambrano, Webb, or Carpenter) but Hoffman did little separate himself even from his fellow relievers, much less the best starters in the NL. And for the record, this day in age it justifiably takes an unbelievable season from a reliever to make himself more valuable than the best starters in his league (see Greg Gagne, 2003).

I could do some serious statistical analysis here, or wait for baseball prospectus to do it for me, but I’ll do neither. Sure I don’t have the time, but it should still be an open and shut case even with some simple arguments. The case for Hoffman is that on the surface he had a damn good year: 65 games, 46 saves, 2.14 era. Perhaps years ago when relievers were going 3 innings a night and earning 0 respect despite pitching as many innings as starters, there was a starter bias, but it seems like more and more lately there is a developing closer (read: number of saves compiled) bias. Guys like Hoffman (the +35 year old version), Todd Jones, et. al racked up saves like grizzled veterans in 2006. And by “like grizzled veterans” I am alluding of course to the fact that they never pitch more than an inning at a time. Pitching one inning a few nights a week where there are no baserunners not your own is not very hard compared to what is asked from starters and a lot of middle relievers.

What is happening in baseball is smarter use of bullpen pitchers with more marginal stuff. Increasingly the real valuable work horses are hidden away as setup guys (either because of managerial wisdom or because of dumb luck by an organization in love with their lesser closer). A one inning bullpen pitcher of any worth won’t have an era north of 3.5 very often, requiring that one look beyond, way beyond, era when considering a reliever’s worth. You want guys with lower era’s than Hoffman, how about Saito (1 Cy Young point) or his teammate Cla Meredith. As for games pitched, 41 guys in the NL were in more than him, despite the low maintenance quality of his appearances. In fact Hoffman didn’t pitch longer than an inning in a single game this year or inherit a single baserunner from the pitcher before him. Bruce Bochy has finally achieved the optimal season for padding a reliever’s stats. And no fault to him, a guy with 4 reliable bullpen arms to work with should be able to assign each an inning. Hoffman is nothing if not one of the most consistent relievers baseball has ever seen, but that doesn’t really put him very high up on the Cy Young totem pole. Two guys, Billy Wagner (6 less saves, 10 more innings, nearly identical era, double the strikeouts) and Takashi Saito (every stat better except saves) received a total of 1 Cy Young point, despite being at least as deserving as Hoffman. Plenty of guys nearly as valuable received 0 votes among them.

Hoffman getting 77 votes for Cy Young this year is a reflection on the number of close games the Padres played, the very appropriate bullpen management employed by Bruce Bochy, the fact that Hoffman is well-known and set the save record this year, the lack of fellow NL relievers with impressive years this year, and especially because of the lack of NL starters with superb years in 2006. It is not a reflection of him having an especially valuable year as closer. Webb would be my choice as winner as well, but in lieu of the great talent exodus from the NL can’t we just start awarding 2 Cy Youngs to the AL instead of voting for a guy with 16 wins?

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