19 February 2004


Scooter, eat your heart out.

Let’s talk about the Alex Rodriguez deal. Why not, right? Everyone else is.

Alex Rodriguez is now a Yankee, having been traded by the Rangers, with a huge pile of money, for 2B Alfonso Soriano and a PTBNL. I cannot, for my life, figure out why the Rangers would do this. Alex Rodriguez is the reigning AL MVP, probably the best player in the AL, and possibly the best shortstop in history, and the Rangers couldn’t wait to get rid of the guy? Why?

They have argued that his enormous contract (all together now: $252 million over ten years) was a millstone around the organization’s collective neck, preventing them from acquiring the pitching they needed to compete. This is ridiculous. As Baseball Prospectus pointed out a few days ago, the problem isn’t the $20-25 million they pay A-Rod each year to vie for the MVP award. The problem is the $12 million they pay Chan Ho Park to put up ERAs higher than, well, than almost anybody. The problem is the $3 million they’ll pay Jay Powell each of the next three years. The problem is manifold, and it is not named Alex.

The trouble is that perception often trumps reality. The fact that Alex is paid so much to play for a team that doesn’t win makes him (and agent Scott Boras, who negotiated the deal) out to be the bad guy, when really the guys who gave him the deal, and gave much more detrimental deals to lesser players, are to blame. Tom Hicks can’t, or won’t, fire himself, so he figures that if they can rid themselves of this contract, no matter how good he may be, it’s got to help them create fiscal flexibility in the future.

This year’s basically shot, since there wasn’t a ton of pitching talent available on the free agent market in the first place, and the last of it, Greg Maddux, just signed with the Cubs. I’m not sure who’ll become available at the trading deadline or after the season, but you’d have to think that the Rangers will be sellers rather than buyers in July, given their already terrible pitching and their tough competition in the AL West. So how does this help them?

Supposedly, in the “long run”, it allows them to sign the talent they need to compete, without one player taking up such a significant portion of the payroll. In reality, while they may have overpaid more than a little for A-Rod, having misinterpreted both the projected market and the existing competition for his services, he’s still worth it. Or at least he’s more worth his $25 million/year than Manny Ramirez is worth his $20M. And more than Jeter’s worth his $19M, etc. because there isn’t anybody else as good as A-Rod is.

Of course, the other “real problem” with A-Rod’s contract was that if he were to be signed now, he wouldn’t get anywhere near that kind of money or that length of commitment. Rumors out of ESPN’s Jayson Stark indicate that the Cardinals may be about to sign Albert Pujols to a 7-year, $100M, and that probably sounds about right. Amazingly, the Yankees worked it out so that this is about what they will pay him. Actually it’s more like $90 million over seven years, which seems like a bargain. That’s less than $13M/year, less (on average) than Vlad Guerrero, Jeff Bagwell, Carlos Delgado, Barry Bonds, Shawn Green, Ken Griffey, Randy Johnson, Chipper Jones, Manny Ramirez, Sammy Sosa, Jim Thome, Mike Hampton, Todd Helton, Kevin Brown, Mike Mussina, Jason Giambi, Jeter, Gary Sheffield, and maybe a few other guys, none of whom will do as much to help their teams win games over the next half a decade or so than Rodriguez will. He’ll still be the best player in the AL, but the Yankees have the advantage, if he’s good, of having their competition pay him to beat them. And if he’s bad, they have the advantage of pointing to the Rangers and saying, “Well, at least we’re not paying his whole contract!”

Usually the Yanks are on the other side of the dump, sending aging, overpaid players, with some cash, to other teams to free up space for someone better (and often more expensive.) In this case, the Yankees somehow managed to convince the Rangers not only to give up the best player in the AL to its wealthiest team, but also to help pay his contract, to the tune of about $67,000,000. You could maybe see doing something like that if A-Rod had prematurely aged and started to suck, but he’s still young and awesome, so I just don’t see how it makes any sense at all for the Rangers.

While the Yanks did have to give up a pretty significant and talented player (plus a PTBNL from a list of about five) to get him, what they lost is nowhere near the value of what they gained. Don’t get me wrong: Alfonso Soriano is great, one of the ten or 15 most valuable players in the game right now, but he’s no A-Rod. He’s got power and speed, hits for average and plays a key defensive position, but he’s no A-Rod. His defense is actually better than he gets credit for, and improving, but he’s no A-Rod. Poor strike zone judgment, leading to enormous amounts of strikeouts with few walks mean that, you guessed it: He’s no A-Rod.

In fact, the only real (or apparent) advantages he had over Rodriguez at the time of the deal were that he was cheaper (making $5.4 million this year, with one or two more years of arbitration before hitting the free agent market) and that he was younger, 26 to Rodriguez’s 29. Well, now it turns out that Soriano is actually 28 himself, having lied about his age, but only finally admitting it now. Lee Sinins reported this a few days ago, and says that the Rangers were aware of it during negotiations, which makes the fact that the deal actually happened all the more unfathomable.

Sinins’ stats (Runs Above Average) indicate that Rodriguez is a much better player than Soriano, and he is, but since they don’t play the same positions, it’s a little tough to compare them. Baseball Prospectus has Rodriguez making about 10-15 more runs than Soriano in each of the last two seasons, roughly one win’s worth, over the course of the season. However, since there are fewer shortstops than second basemen who can hit, A-Rod comes out about +80 runs above replacement level for shortstops, whereas Soriano’s only about +55 for 2Bs, a much greater disparity. If Rodriguez moves over to play 3B, then obviously his RAA and RARP numbers would drop a little, since 3B’s can usually hit better than shortstops. Similarly, if Soriano is moved over to SS (where he played throughout his minor league career, and where it makes the most sense for the Rangers to put him) his RAA/RARPs increase, actually making him more of an asset, assuming that he continues to hit as he has the last few seasons.

That’s the thing though: If he’s already 28 years old, it’s likely that he’s already hit a plateau, that he won’t get much better. Of course, you can more than live with .290/.340/.520 from a middle infielder, especially one who steals 30-40 bases with a high success rate. If that was his peak though, if he’s about to start sliding, then you’d be a fool to sign him to an expensive, long-term contract. Or at least you’d be a fool to sign him to the same, expensive, long-term contract you might have signed him to a couple of weeks ago. Soriano will continue to be a pretty darn good player, and will probably be even better if they don’t have him batting leadoff, since we all know that working the pitcher is not where his strengths lie. He just won’t likely be as good as a lot of people expected, and he might even be a lot worse than Lee Sinins expected.

On the other side of the trade, the Yankees got an All-Star, MVP-caliber shortstop, which, as you may have heard, was not something they needed. What they did need was a third baseman, and the current plan is for Rodriguez to shift over to 3B, with Jeter continuing at short. Since Jeter’s the Captain, I guess the prerogative to move is his.

Almost anyone with any sabermetric background, or whose name doesn’t rhyme with “Slim Lickstarver”, will tell you that Jeter is not a good defensive SS. In fact, if Baseball Prospectus’s defensive stats are to be believed, Jeter’s been between 19 and 24 runs worse than a replacement level SS each of the last four years, including –22 in only 119 games this season.

So why keep him there? Why let the lousy defender stay at the tougher position and move the better player to a different, easier position? Rob Neyer has pointed out that A-Rod really isn’t that great with the glove, though he is slightly above average. But his +5 fielding runs coupled with Jeter’s –20 means that the Yankees risk a deficit of about two wins over the course of the year, just due to their defense at shortstop, assuming that Jeter would otherwise be an average fielding third baseman.

Once again, though, we reach an assumption that may not be accurate. The main reason for Jeter’s defensive ineptitude is his lack of range, his inability to reach that ball hit up the middle, bouncing past him into center field. At 3B, you don’t need as much range as you do at SS, since there’s less ground to cover. But if Jeter’s got such lousy range because he has such a slow reaction time, then he might be an even worse defensive 3B than he is a SS. And perhaps having a decent defensive 3B in Alex will help to decrease the range Jeter needs at short, which could allow him to cheat a little toward the bag at second base, making the entire infield defense better. Not good, but better, anyway.

Somebody I read the other day indicated that he thought it fairly likely that Jeter will not spend the whole season at short, that A-Rod will take over there a few months into the season, once it becomes apparent that he’s still terrible there at that they now have a better option, about 40 feet to Jeter’s right. I doubt this.

I think that if Jeter is going to spend any significant time playing third base this season, the Yankees are going to have him getting ready to do so in February and March, not in July. There’s no way that the New York Yankees, the most storied and successful franchise in all of professional sports, in the midst of a pennant race with their hated rivals, the Boston 1918’s, er, RedSox, will take any chances that they don’t have to take. There’s no way they go out on a limb in June or July and put an unknown out there at third base on the off chance that Jeter will suck less at third than he does at short. They’d rather have one guy who’s good and one who’s consistently bad than one who’s good and another who’s erratically, unpredictably bad. Game implications aside: the politics, the hype, the second guessing and back-page, tabloid pressures would be too great to even think about taking such a chance.

There’s too much riding on this season, and it looks much better, if they don’t win in the playoffs, to have Joe Torre quoted as saying something like, “We did what we’ve always done, what we’ve done for years, and they just plain beat us.” Than to have to read him saying, “Well, we tried something different, on a lark. We took a gamble, and it didn’t work.” Such a gamble would probably cost Torre his job, and I just don’t see that happening. Torre didn’t get to be the longest tenured manager in the history of Steinbrenner’s Yankees by taking chances. He got there by going with what he knows, what already works, and if he wants to keep doing so, he won’t let chance come between him and his next contract any more than necessary.

Of course, now they need a secondbaseman, and to answer your question, Mom, no, Miguel Cairo isn’t any good. Not sure exactly what they’re gonna do about that, but I’m pretty sure that Cairo/Almonte/Whomever they have in AAA Columbus is not the answer.


A few plugs:

Al Bethke, over at the Milwaukee Brewers blog, Al's Ramblings, has got a couple of new posts you might like to ckeck out. One of them is an interview with Brewers AAA catcher (and book/blog writer) Chris Coste.

He's also got a roundtable discussion he posted last Wednesday (2/11). Interesting even if you're not a Brew Crew fan.

Christian Ruzich, the Cub Reporter/Transaction Guy, has revamped the All-Baseball.com website, and they've got quite a few different, interesting and excellent writers. Almost anything you could ask for, except me. And you've already got me.

Seth Stohs has a post comparing traditional to Sabermetric baseball stats, which is over at Seth Speaks.

On a more personal note, I have had the good fortune to be added to the list of another baseball website, the brandy-spankin-new BaseballOutsider.com. Four other columnists (maybe more...) and I contribute, as do other bloggers to whom Outsider links. I'm honored to be a part of their effort. Go check them out.

And lastly, but not leastly, I will be adding a few more advertisements for baseball tickets this weekend, when I return home from a business trip and have access to my own computer. If anyone else is interested in advertising on Boy of Summer, please drop me a line.

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16 February 2004

Second Time's the Charm

Sophomoric (adj.): Exhibiting great immaturity and lack of judgment.

Well, pitchers and catchers don't all report for almost another week, but while we're all sitting around waiting for the snow to melt, let's look forward to 2004. What might we expect from this year, and more specifically, what might we expect from the substantial crop of players who will continue into their second year in the majors? Who will crack under the pressure, and who might flourish with another year of seasoning? Who will succumb to the dreaded Sophomore Slump?

I took the data for all of the rookies in 2003 who say significant playing time, everyone with at least 250 plate appearances, about half a season's worth. These guys will no longer qualify as rookies (I think the cutoff is 150 plate appearances) in 2004, and many of them have a starting job with their major league team this coming year. There were 30 players, but I threw out Eric Munson, Rob Calloway, Matt Kata, Jhonny Peralta and Kevin Witt because frankly, I don't think anyone really cares all that much what they'll do in 2004, except maybe their moms. And it made for fewer players for me to examine.

Anyway, here they are, ranked in order of Plate Appearances/Walk, along with some other stats:

1 Overbay, Ari 254 1 0 8.26 .276 .365 .402 .767
2 K. Ginter, Mil 358 1 1 10.68 .257 .352 .427 .779
3 H. Matsui, NYY 623 2 2 10.89 .287 .353 .435 .788
4 Podsednik, Mil 558 43 10 10.96 .314 .379 .443 .822
5 Phillips, NYM 403 0 1 11.33 .298 .373 .442 .815
6 M. Byrd, Phi 495 11 1 12.25 .303 .366 .418 .784
7 Teixeira, Tex 529 1 2 13.02 .259 .331 .480 .811
8 Broussard, Cle 386 5 2 13.06 .249 .312 .443 .755
9 Wigginton, NYM 573 12 2 13.46 .255 .318 .396 .714
10 Cabrera, Fla 314 0 2 13.56 .268 .325 .468 .793
11 T. Hafner, Cle 291 2 1 14.23 .254 .327 .485 .812
12 J. Gerut, Cle 480 4 5 14.71 .279 .336 .494 .830
13 J. Bard, Cle 303 0 2 14.77 .244 .293 .373 .666
14 Everett, Hou 387 8 1 14.82 .256 .320 .380 .700
15 X. Nady, SD 371 6 2 16.46 .267 .321 .391 .712
16 Monroe, Det 425 4 2 16.74 .240 .287 .449 .736
17 M. Olivo, CWS 317 6 4 17.68 .237 .287 .360 .646
18 K. Harvey, KC 485 2 3 17.72 .266 .313 .408 .721
19 C. Crisp, Cle 414 15 9 19.00 .266 .302 .353 .655
20 A. Berroa, KC 567 21 5 20.55 .287 .338 .451 .789
21 R. Johnson, Tor 412 5 3 21.60 .294 .353 .427 .780
22 J. Reyes, NYM 274 13 3 22.08 .307 .334 .434 .769
23 R. Baldelli, TB 637 27 10 22.23 .289 .326 .416 .742
24 B. Hart, StL 296 3 1 25.67 .277 .317 .395 .713
25 Phillips, Cle 370 4 5 27.43 .208 .242 .311 .553

I know it's a long list, but stick with me.

Some of the interesting things to note here:

Young and inexperienced Brandon Phillips, who was slated to be the Indians' starting SS in Spring 2003, spent three and a half months sucking, and lost his job in mid-July. He was replaced by even younger, even less-experienced Jhonny Peralta, who, while better than Phillips, also stank very much bad. Phillips, as I understand it, is the future at SS for the Tribe, so he's listed despite the sub-Neifi .553 OPS.

And speaking of the Indians, did you know that they had no fewer than seven rookies get at least 250 plate appearances last year? Peralta, Phillips, Ben Broussard, Travis Hafner, Josh Bard, Coco Crisp and Jody Gerut, who came out of nowhere to finish third in the Rookie of the Year voting. Also he has a blog. Cool. I wonder if all those at-bats by rookies (not to mention Alex Escobar, Victor Martinez, Angel Santos and Ryan Ludwick) is some kind of record? Amazingly, despite their relative lack of experience, they still finished 25 games ahead of the Tigers in the standings.

I could have chosen any of a number of ways to rank/list these guys, but I chose their walk rates because patience at the plate tends to be a better predictor of future performance than batting average or RBI, and on-base percentages can be artificially bolstered by an uncharacteristically high batting average. I also listed steals and caught stealing to show that some of these guys have skills that don't show through in the percentage numbers.

The highest profile rookie of 2003, Hideki Matsui, was not spectacular, but was one of the most patient of the rookies. Of course, a 27-year old who's been in a semi-major league for several years ought to be more patient than a lot of 22-year olds getting their first bitter taste of Major League Coffee. He didn't hit many homers, but 42 doubles helped him to a decent slugging percentage. At his age, I wouldn't look for him to take any huge strides in 2004, in either direction. He may improve a little, with a year of experience under his belt, but I understand that "Matsui" is a Japanese word for "grounder to second", so don't bet on him returning to the 50-homer seasons he had in Japan.

Jody Gerut actually had the highest OPS of any qualified rookie in 2003, but his walk rate (35 in 480 AB) was distinctly middle-of-the-pack, but his minor-league history shows that he used to be pretty patient. If he can regain some of the walks he used to get in the minors and keep his newly-discovered power (two big ifs), he'll be a pretty decent, non-Coors-inflated, Ellis Burks type of player, without so much batting average. Unfortunately, a torn rotator cuff may keep him either sidelined or inneffective for much of 2004.

Lyle Overbay, part of the trade that sent Richie Sexson to Arizona, will likely be the Brewers' starting first baseman. He's probably nothing spectacular, but he's patient and has a little power. Without Mark Grace there to compete for his job, he should get plenty of at-bats, and a .300/..390/.450 type of season isn't out of the question.

Milwaukee's two rookies, Scott Podsednik and Kieth Ginter, are not as bad as you might think, considering that they play for the Brewers. Podsednik probably should have won the NL RoY honors, hitting .314 and scoring 100 runs for a last-place team. His patience and speed should help him to remain an effective part of the Brewers (ahem) offense, but he's not young (28 on opening day) so don't expect any notable improvement. Look for his batting average to drop back into the ~.280 range, more in line with his minor league stats, and perhaps for him to lose some of those steals.

Ginter's got more power, but less patience, a lot less batting average and no speed at all. Still, a 2B with 15-homer pop is still kind of unusual, and he's not terribly impatient, but again, he'll be 28 in May, and is therefore likely already as good as he'll ever get. Think David Bell with 20 more walks and without the $3 million annual price-tag.

The Mets have three players on this list, Ty Wigginton, Jason Phillips and Jose Reyes. These are very different animals.

Wigginton should be a serviceable major league 3B. Baseball Prospectus projected him to hit .257/.319/.408, which rather nicely reflects the .255/.318/.392 line he did put up, albeit in twice as many at-bats as they expected, since the Mets never picked up a real option at third. He's not great at anything, but has a little patience, a little power, and a little speed, which, if I'm not mistaken, gets you a little over $4 million in annual salary once you hit free agency, right? Wigginton is as good an option as they have, is still cheap, and is young enough (25) to possibly improve in 2004. Don't bet on anything better than .275/.325/.425 though.

Phillips has always shown the ability to hit, with ~.280/.340/.450 kinds of numbers throughout his minor league career. Reportedly he's a decent defensive catcher as well, and his patience and ability to avoid the strikeout should help him to remain a solid (if unspectacular) hitter in 2004. Hopefully splitting time with Mike Piazza at catcher and First Base will help to prolong both of their careers.

Despite not being old enough to have a legal drink in 2003, Reyes hit .307 in almost 300 National League at-bats, having essentially been handed the job as the starting shortstop in July (why not, right?). But he sustained an ankle injury at the end of August that kept him out for the rest of the year. Everyone has raved about this guy's tools, and they're certainly there. He doesn't have much power, but is purportedly an excellent fielder, and has tremendous speed. Experience is helping that speed to translate into better success with stolen bases. (Despite 58 steals at AA and A in 2002, he was successful only about 70% of the time, but succeeded in 83% of his attempts at AAA and the majors in 2003.) Like a lot of 20-year old Dominican shortstops, he could stand to learn a little about plate discipline, but he seems to have all the tools and drive needed to get over that too. Look for him to suffer through a semi-slump in the early part of the season, but to make the necessary adjustments and continue to impress in 2004.

The Phillies' Marlon Byrd does a little of everything: a little speed (11 for 12 in steals), a little pop (39 extra base hits), pretty good patience (a walk every twelve plate appearances), batting average and solid defense. Rookies of the Year have been named after doing less than he did in 2003. Nothing's not to like, and as he matures, he should develop some more power. Perhaps a little drop in the batting average, but he should be a solid part of the Phillies' lineup in 2004.

Ben Broussard and Travis Hafner, both 1B/DH types who've proven all they can in the minors, both hit for mediocre averages with some power and not much patience, as you might expect from guys getting their first real shot in the majors. Both should regain some of the patience and batting average they showed in the minors. Hafner's younger and is already better than Broussard, so expect him to make the greater progress.

Speaking of the Indians, Josh Bard and Coco Crisp are the only ones I haven't yet discussed. Bard is probably good enough to keep hanging around the majors for a long time, but he's not anything special as catchers go. No power, decent bat control. Crisp has plenty of speed, but hasn't been successful enough as a base stealer to really help his teams (only successful 69% of the time since he reached the Carolina league at age 21.) He's still only 24, and could learn to be more effective with some patience at the plate and some wisdom on the basepaths, but is not likely to be the second coming of Kenny Lofton in 2004. More like Tom Goodwin or Doug Glanville.

Adam Everett, the one-time shortstop-of-the-future for the RedSox, can't really hit, as you can see. That it's taken him until the age of 26 to nail down a more or less full time job, and that he only managed to hit .256/.320/.380 in said stint, is an indication that you shouldn't expect much. He's got no power, and doesn't really hit for average, but will take an occasional walk, and is supposed to be a slick fielder. Omar Vizquel without the steals?

Xavier Nady should probably have done more than he did in 2003, but missed some time with injuries and platoons. He always hit in the minors and is still only 25, so don't be surprised if he does something like .290/.350/.450 in 2004.

Craig Monroe, second to Dmitri Young on the dismal Tigers' "offense" with 23 homers, would probably be a decent reserve 1B/3B on most teams. On this one, he's the starter, so he gets to rack up a few more counting stats. Probably still decent power numbers in '04, but don't expect him to ever hit much more than .275, and in that lineup, won't get many RBI opportunities or walk enough to score many runs.

Miguel Cabrera made a nice splash as an OF and 3B during the latter part of the season and especially during the playoffs. He hit OK and is versatile and flexible on defense, but at this point, with barely more than 300 major league at-bats to his name, who knows? He didn't display fantastic plate discipline, or great power, or very much average, but to do even what he did, at the tender age of 20, provides a harbinger of perhaps great things. Maybe not the next Albert Pujols, but great things.

Miguel Olivo. See Bard, Josh.

Ken Harvey is not likely to be much more than a part-time player, if he can't prove that his egregious platoon split was a fluke. The trouble with players who show a limitation like that early in their careers is that they usually don't get a chance to prove themselves later. If you do pick him up for your fantasy team, don't start him against righties. Don't worry though, righties only comprise like, 85% of the pitchers in the majors. Wait a minute...worry.

The guys who may really have trouble continuing their success, or staving off an early retirement, are the guys on the bottom of our list, the guys who walked less often than once every 20 plate appearances. Angel Berroa won the AL Rookie of the Year Award, but he never hit much in the minors, and the numbers he did put up last year may have been artificially inflated by Kaufmann Stadium's recently aquired penchant for allowing runs to score. He's still a good defensive SS, by all accounts, which should help him keep his job, but it's highly possible that he'll never hit 17 homers or ~.290 again.

Reed Johnson hit at just about every level in the minors, with pretty good plate discipline, a little pop, and even some speed (42 steals in the Southern League two years ago). His only struggle came at his first taste of AAA, but ever before and since he's been rock-solid. He's a little old, but should be hitting his peak years now, so look for some moderate improvements across the board, maybe even a small power spike. A .300 average and 20 homers is not out of the question, if he can regain the plate discipline he showed at previous levels.

Rocco Baldelli, with more speed, more pop, and frankly, more talent than Johnson, having reached the majors and put up comparable numbers at an age of only 22. Sammy Sosa and Roberto Clemente put up similar numbers early in their careers, but then so did a lot of other guys you've never heard of. He's got the talent to make the necessary adjustments if he wants to, but he should really decide if he's gonna be a threat to swipe bases or not. His rate last year just made the break-even level for actually helping the team, and his minor league rates weren't even that good. Despite the plate discipline problems, he'll likely hit for a pretty decent average, numbers across the board slightly better than they were in 2003. But note that his lack of power, walks and success stealing bases make him overrated.

Bo Hart. See Baldelli, Rocco. Except for what I said about the speed. That and the stuff about improving next year.

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09 February 2004

Shouts and Plugs...

I am typically not that good at giving plugs to other sites. For one thing, I don't have enough time to go out and read all of even the most prominent baseball bloggers, especially the more long-winded ones. But even when they actually ask for a plug via email, I often... um...something, what was I saying?

Anyway, you get the point: Short Attention Span Theatre.

But today is different. No hard-hitting statistical analysis. No witty and entertaining writing. No arguing with Jayson Stark or Peter Gammons. No breaks for the bathroom.

Just commercials. Un-paid commercials. I apologize in advance.

So here goes:

The first shout goes out to Dan McLaughlin, whose Baseball Crank website is pretty darn good in general, even though he hates the Yankees. He's got an ongoing series on Win Shares, specifically regarding the levels that some prominent players have established for themselves over the last few years. He's analyzing each division in baseball individually, most recently the AL East. Go check him out.

Secondly, I've added a permanent link to BaseballOutsider.com, on the left, which may also be reproducing some of my stuff soon, but I guess we'll see. They're brandy-spankin-new, so they could certainly benefit from a few folks going to check them out.

Jay Jaffe maintains the Futility Infielder, and recently did a pretty extensive study of Defense-Independent Pitching Statistics. He does a good job of explainging the concept (Voros McCracken's idea) and then looking at who fared bes and worst in 2003. It's pretty full of spreadsheet data, without a whole lot of discussion, other than the explanations, so if you're not a big numbers geek like me, it might not be your thing. Just to warn you.

If you're an A's fan, and really, if you're not, you should be, there's been some interesting writing around some of the more mainstream baseball websites, who don't need me for publicity, but they're getting it anyway.

Baseball Prospectus' Dayn Perry says (sorry, premium subscribers only) that the Athletics won't be nearly as bad an offensive team as lots of people seem to think in 2004, despite the significant losses of Miggy Tejada and Rammy Hernandez. His points, essentially, are that Out-Makers Terrence Long and Chris Singleton are gone and that Jermaine Dye can't possibly be as horrendous as he was last year. He's probably right, but I'd still be worried, if I were the A's. Mostly because I'd have to get twenty five tax returns done in about a month, but also because of the offense thing.

Rob Neyer says that nobody should get too excited about newly-signed A's 1B Eric Karros' recent platoon splits against lefties, as it may just be an anomaly. I'm having a hard time with this one, since one of the things we do as baseball analysts is examine how players perform in certain situations, and against certain types of competition, so I'm going to look into this more.

I'll write to Rob and let you know what I discover. I may even do a series or column examining the issue of platoon splits. (For those of you who may be new to Boy of Summer, this means that I will most definitely NOT do a column on this issue. Just so you know.)

And last but not finally, John Perricone has got a whole new website design at Only Baseball Matters. Same great writing from the same great Giants fan, only with Space-Age Polymers! I mean colors. Pretty cool.

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03 February 2004

One Drew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Back in 1998, the Yankees took a gamble with their third-round draft pick, scooping up a two-sport, high school standout from Michigan named Drew Henson. Sports Illustrated did an article about Henson in August of that year, perhaps even the cover, if I recall correctly, hyping his talent and potential as only the Carrier of the Curse can. Naturally, today Henson's a failure as a baseball player.

The whole reason the Yankees were able to pick up such an apparently talented player at such a low position in the draft (immortal talents like Andy Van Hekken and Alex Santos were chosen ahead of him) was the question of his signability. Henson is from Michigan, and by the time of the MLB amatuer draft had already committed to play quarterback for the University of Michigan football team after graduation from high school, so nobody else figured they could convince him to give that up and sign with them to play baseball. The Yankees figured that they could afford to take a chance on Henson, given their tradition, and the presence of fellow Michigan alum Derek Jeter and, oh, let's say seventeen million other reasons. (Most draft picks who go #97 overall don't get 6-year guaranteed major league contracts that make them independently wealthy at the age of 18.)

Sports Illustrated's article explained at the time that Henson was not only a two-sport star, but a two-way star within the sport of baseball, serving as both the starting thirdbaseman for his high school team and its star pitcher. The Yankees chose to have him playing 3B full time, and while he did show some promise in his first few seasons, he was never impressive and failed to improve once he was moved up to AAA.

Years                      Avg   G    AB    R    H   2B  HR  RBI  BB   SO   SLG   OBP   OPS

1998-2000 (mostly A & AA) .275 159 600 92 165 34 23 88 54 187 .453 .335 .788
2001-2003 (mostly AAA) .235 342 1257 161 295 77 44 186 82 369 .410 .282 .692

The rates of Henson's "counting stats" (homers, RBI, etc.) stayed about the same, but he lost what little batting average he had, which cost him quite a lot in his on-base and slugging percentages. Clearly, if he's been in the minors for six years and is striking out 170 times and walking only 40 times a season, against the likes of Everett Stull and Mike Buddie, he's not going to be able to handle Jamie Moyer's "same-up" in the majors, not to mention Randy Johnson's slider or Barry Zito's curve.

Which is why he'll be working out for potential NFL suitors next week.

One thing that would have been interesting, I think, would have been to see if Henson could have gone back to pitching. Brooks Kieschnick got himself back into the majors solely on his ability to both hit and pitch, though admittedly he's great at neither. I'm sure that Henson has no desire to be a part time, "useful spare part" like Kieschnick, when he could be a star quarterback in the NFL instead. But what if he could go back to pitching and become good, that would make it worthwhile to stay in baseball, no?

It would take some work, which takes time, to see if he's even got the "stuff" anymore. He'd have to prove he can get minor leaguers out, and start from the bottom of the ladder again, working his way back up. I imagine that, ironically, trying to keep Ray Lewis from turning you into a permanent part of somebody's astroturf looks like a pretty attractive option right now.

Good luck to him. Maybe the Yankees can use his $12 million dollars to find a thirdbaseman who doesn't suck.

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28 January 2004

It's Getting Better All The Time

Sorry for the long layoff. I've been waiting for something good about which to write, but it seemed nothing to inspire a whole column had occurred, until I realized that the lack of activity was actually a story in itself: High-profile players haven't been signing contracts because the market's correcting itself, and they haven't realized it yet. And this is a story.

So you get a "notes/week-and-a-half-in-review" column today, with a theme, and hopefully with better prose than Peter Gammons'. Not that that's such a stretch for me.

Roy Halladay Signs 4-Year, $42 million Contract With Jays

Darn, if that JP Ricciardi isn't one heckuva negotiator, eh? (Actually ESPN's initial headline read "$4.2 million" and I thought they'd really pulled a coup, but alas, 'twas naught but a typo.) Still, to sign a recent Cy Young winner, still in his prime (26), to a four-year deal for just over $10 million annually is pretty good by today's standards.

*Roger Clemens, 39 years old when he won the Award in 2001, managed to hornswaggle the Yankees out of an additional $10.1 million for his 2003 contract, even though they were already paying him over $10 mil that year not to pitch, as part of his 2001-02 contract.

*Randy Johnson, also much older than Halladay, and Pedro martinez, have both gotten $13-15 million each of the last several years, winning several CYA's in that span.

*Tom Glavine, Kevin Appier, Chan Ho Park, Darren Dreifort, Mike Hampton, Greg Maddux, Matt Morris, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and John Smoltz are all inferior pitchers to Halladay in one sense or another. Yet in 2003, all made as much or more than the $10.5 million annual average he'll be getting.

For that matter, Kevin Millwood asked for more than $10.5 million in arbitration, after finishing the season with an ERA over 4.00 and a record of 14-12. This leads us into our next topic...

What's Up With 'Service Time'?

Speaking of Kevin Millwood, Take a look at these two pitchers:

2002 27 34 217 186 78 16 65 178 18 8 3.24
2003 28 35 222 210 99 19 68 169 14 12 4.01
Totals 69 439 396 177 35 133 347 32 20 3.63
2004 Salary: $10 million, minimum

2002 25 32 206 198 75 16 53 128 14 11 3.28
2003 26 32 209 196 84 22 62 133 14 12 3.62
Totals 64 415 394 159 38 115 261 28 23 3.45
2004 Salary: $2.95 million, max

"Kevin" of course, is the aforementioned Kevin Millwood, and "Vince" is Millwood's teammate, Vicente Padilla.

What I haven't told you (sneaky, I know) is that 2004 will be Kevin Millwood's eighth year of service time, while Padilla has only been active for five years, so he's not elligible for free-agency yet. And this minor discrepancy in service time is what allows the same team to pay two nearly equivalent players very-not-equivalent sums of money. Therefore, Padilla's salary is in the range of what other 5-year veterans get, instead of what other 14-game winners, or 200-inning, 3.5ish ERA pitchers get, like Millwood.

Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus argues that the arbitration system is generally a good one, but that there must be some understandable exceptions to the rules, most notably Albert "Almost two MVPs" Pujols. He's right, but it's gotta feel a little lousy when you know you can produce like 90% of barry Bonds, or Kevin Millwood, and only make 25-50% of their salary. Of course, I'd like to feel lousy about having to "settle" for $7 million too, but it ain't gonna happen.

Former Florida Marlins Waiting For More Ridiculous Contract Offers

As you must know, Ugueth Urbina and Ivan Rodriguez still have not signed with anyone.

Ugie, apparently, has started to believe his own hype, and the lies spewed by the One-Inning-Closer Machine, and think that he's somehow more valuable than the $3-3.5 million that good-but-unspectacular free agent relief pitchers are getting these days. Jayson Stark reports that Urbina's agent can't even get that much (or that little, as he might tell you), but I suspect that tis is really just a negotiating ploy to get someone to start a conversation with them, so they can end up raising the ante to the level they wanted in the first place. Ugie and his agent are apparently threatening to sit out the year if they don't get the money they think he's worth, trying to somehow buck the general trend of the market correcting itself.

Kinda reminds me of Cleavon Little threatening to blow his own head off in Blazing Saddles. Heck, it worked for him, right?

And speaking (writing) of negotiating in the media, Scott "Super Agent" Boras has managed somehow to complain enough about his client (Pudge) not getting the deal he thought he should (4 years, $40 mil), that he now is negotiating with the Tigers for even more, even though they've already offered him exactly what he requested, which is about two years and $25 million more than anyone else has offered.

I don't know how he does it, but as Rob Neyer says, it's got to be considered genius. Even if you resent him and/or Pudge for it, you've got to give Boras credit. I, for one, hope that the "market correction" wins this battle, and that Pudge will have to acknowlege the changing ecomnomic climate and take what he's offered, which is already more than market value for him. The Tigers, in recognition of their position on the bottom of the barrel, are already giving him more than they should, just to try to lend some credibility to the sinking franchise. Boras and Pudge seem to have mistaken their desparate position for generosity or stupidity, I can't tell which.

So while Lennon & McCartney may not have been completely right about it getting better all the time, it seems at least that this situation is getting better: players are realizing that they're not worth as much as they think, and GMs are realizing that they don't have to overpay for mediocre talent.

Can you imagine what kind of reception Darren Dreifort would be getting if he were looking for a job now, instead of after the 2000 season?

"Sorry, Darren, we've already got an oft-injured, sub LAIM pitcher making $11 million per year. Maybe the Tigers can use you."

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14 January 2004

Payton Through the Nose?

So much for the Jason Kendall trade. Padres GM Kevin Towers must have read my blog yesterday. Well, probably not.

I see now that instead the Padres have signed Jay Payton to patrol centerfield in their new stadium (Petco?!) for the next two years. He's gotten a $5.5 million dollar deal for those two years, which is not bad, but it's not as good as he'd have gotten two or three years ago with the same track record. His bad luck, being born in 1972.

Towers made a big deal about the fact that his offensive numbers in 2003 were not as skewed as some other players' have been by Coors Field. They pointed out that 15 of Payton's 28 homers and 16 of his 32 doubles actually came on the road in '03. What they failed to tell the press conference attendees is that all five of his triples came at Coors, that his batting average and OBP were about 40 points higher at home than on the road, and his slugging average was almost 60 points higher.

In fact, over the last three years...

Avg/600AB 88 174 29 6 22 78 38 78 .290 .339 .468 .807
Non-Coors 72 159 24 3 20 65 34 84 .265 .312 .414 .726
Coors Field 119 192 39 12 26 100 45 56 .357 .411 .616 1.027
?????????? 103 190 42 4 27 104 51 39 .357 .418 .603 1.021

So you can see that there is a significant disparity between his home and road numbers.

His overall numbers are decent, but his road splits, when projected over a full season's at-bats, make him look a lot like Ken Harvey. (Everybody's favorite Internet baseball columnist/Royals fan, Rob Neyer, will tell you that Harvey himself has an abysmal L/R platoon split, but his overall numbers are sub-mediocre. He's ranked #135 in OPS out of 165 MLB players with enough plate appearances in 2003 to qualify for the batting title, not that that will ever be a likely accomplishment by either Harvey or Payton. But now you know ...the rest of the story.)

Interestingly, his (Payton's, not Paul Harvey's) numbers at Coors Field over the last three years, when projected out over a full season's at-bats, resemble one of Nomar Garciaparra's better seasons, 1999. (That's who all those ?????????? belong to, in case you were wondering.) Ironically, at the press conference, Towers indicated that when he saw both Payton and Garciaparra play at Georgia Tech, Payton was the better hitter. We can't really verify this wiothout contacting GA Tech's records department, but at least through some of their minor league careers, Payton was a better hitter, in terms of batting average. But Nomar had better plate discipline and a reasonable knack for preventing the phrase "season-ending [something] injury" from appearing in newspaper columns about himself, while Payton didn't. Nobody's arguing that Payton is still a better hitter than Nomar, but at Coors Field at least, they're pretty even. Unfortunately for the Padres, they play fewer than twenty games at Coors each season. Actually, on second thought, that's probably a good thing for the Padres, as everyone else pretty much hits like Nomar at that altitude as well.

Don't get me wrong here. I'm not saying that this is a bad deal. I was just reading Bill James explanation last night of why evaluation systems like the Linear Weights method, in which everyone's relative value is based on being above or below average, do not work, in his book Win Shares. Value, he appropriately argues, does not lie merely in being above average, but in being above the skill of those who cannot play at this level at all.

Travis Lee, for example, is obviously a below-average offensive first baseman, and plays a sufficiently easy defensive position that he cannot possibly make up for that hitting deficiency with his glove, no matter what Ed Wade or Terry Francona used to tell you. Travis, however, keeps getting jobs in the majors because, as below average as he is, he's still better than all but about twenty or twenty five guys in the world at what he does. The replacement level first baseman is still a notch or two below Lee's paltry contributions, and so he has value to the team. He does not have as much value as, say, Carlos Delgado does to his team, but he has more than say, Travis Nelson would if anyone offered him two million dollars to do the same thing. Not that I wouldn't take the job.

Similarly, Payton's got value because he's better than a replacement level CF, even without the aid of Coors Field, though he's not as good as Kevin Towers and some of San Diego's beat writers might have you believe. But players rarely fall as far as their non-Coors stats would suggest will when leaving Colorado, so Payton will probably end up with something like a .275 average, 35-40 walks and about 18 homers, which is just about what you'd expect from a 32-year old journeyman outfielder making under three million a year.

Looks like the Padres got one right after all.

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13 January 2004

Anything You Kendall, I Kendall Better

And you thought the A-Rod for Nomar trade was dragged out?

The Pirates and Padres have been having these on-again/off-again discussions about Jason Kendall since he was playing Tee-Ball, it seems. At least as far back as mid-summer, before the Brian Giles trade was completed (it was completed, wasn't it?), they were talking about making Jason Kendall a part of that trade. It didn't happen then, but it might now.

The theory goes like this:

Team A has overpaid, injury-prone, possibly underproductive* (*relative to his salary) player under contract for three more years making approximately, All the Money in the World, per season. But Team A wants to slash payroll by, let's say, All the Money in the World, per season. This is necessary because their brand spanking new, state-of-the-art, downtown stadium, Beautiful and Intimate though it is, only has about thirty seven seats in it, including those in which the players themselves must sit while not grounding into double plays, and therefore is not bringing in nearly enough revenue to justify paying All the Money in the World to one guy, even if he does have a knack for bouncing back from injuries that would leave lesser men broadcasting. Or playing first base.

So the logical thing to do is to find another team to take said player off their hands, which is easier said (or blogged) than done. First of all, you hafta find another team dumb brave enough to want to take on three years worth of All the Money in the World. This process can be aided if said team has its own shiny, new, beautifully intimate ballpark being constructed right now, in preparation for 2004. The alleged revenue stream from this new ballpark should help to offset the need for All the Money in the World, so long as it occurred to the architects to put more than thirty seven seats in the place. Let's hope it did.

Secondly, you need to convince said team, brave though they may be, that there's some reason they would want this guy. After all, you're trying to get rid of him, so there's gotta be something good enough about him that Team B would want him even though Team A doesn't. The two typical ways of going about this are

A) Player would be happier in new city and therefore play better.
2) Player is from new city and is therefore a bigger fan drawing card.

And of course, you'll probably have to eat some ridiculous contract that the other team wants to jettison just as badly, if not more.

I don't think that anyone is contending that Jason Kendall will play any better in San Diego than he did in Pittsburgh (though he would apparently like to be reunited with Brian Giles), so that's not it. The main thing is that the Padres do in fact have a new stadium opening this year and they, like everyone else, need someone back there to catch the balls their pitchers throw, at least the few that won't get smacked into left field or some nearby body of water.

The Padres have one of these already, in Ramon Hernandez, for whom they traded fewer than two months ago. Hernandez though, they may realize, is just coming off his age-27 season and easily the best offensive performance of his career, so his value is probably as high as it will ever be, especially since he's under contract for two more years at a reasonable rate. This gives him the value they need to package him in a deal with Jeff Cirillo, who used to not suck, but now he does, and sucky players making $7 million/year and playing a position for which you already have a young, reasonably productive and cheap solution are not, as they say in France, "good P.R." So Cirillo and his sub-Neifi .555 OPS have gotta go.

So the Padres get rid of one of the headaches for which they recently traded (Cirillo) and a decent-but-soon-to-be-overvalued catcher (Hernandez) and they get a somewhat better catcher, who's a little older but WAY overpaid, and hopefully some cash to help make up for that.

But how much better is the team? Sure, they got rid of Cirillo, who, like Greg Vaughn and Dr. Kevorkian, makes everyone around him just a little worse. Sure, they upgraded from Hernandez to Kendall, but what's that really worth?

Player, Team	RC	RC27	outs	WS	EQA	RARP

J. Lopez 107.6 9.11 319 27 .337 64.4
J. Posada 100 7.35 367 23.1 .318 58.4
J. Kendall 99.5 6.46 416 21.6 .286 40.8
I. Rodriguez 85.4 5.93 389 17.7 .293 41.6
M. Lieberthal 83 6.13 366 17.5 .292 39.4
J. Varitek 80.3 6.16 352 17 .293 37.5
A. Pierzynski 78.6 5.96 356 16.3 .285 33.5
R. Hernandez 71.2 5.15 373 13.4 .272 26.8
G. Myers 56.3 6.13 248 11.9 .293 23.8
P. Lo Duca 68.1 4.14 444 10.4 .257 18.1

These are the top ten catchers in MLB, 2003, ranked by offensive Win Shares (the short form).

The numbers also include their Runs Created (RC), Runs Created Per 27 Outs (RC27), Outs made, Win Shares (WS), Baseball Prospectus' EqA and Runs Above Replacement Position (RARP).

A Win Share, as you may recall, is worth roughly one-third of a win, so, for example, Javy Lopez's 27 WS in 2003 are conveniently worth about 9 wins, total. Ten runs in BB Prospectus' calculations are also worth approximately one win. The difference between Kendall and Hernandez is 8.2 Win Shares, fewer than three wins over the course of the season. However, that's not the whole story. Kendall also made almost 45 more outs, which is not insignificant. If you normalize for the same number of plate appearances that Kendall had (661, or 133 more than Ramon) the difference would be only 4.8 Win Shares, about a win and a half. If instead you use RARP, you get an actual difference of 14 runs, approximately a win and a half worth, and a normalized difference of only 7.2 runs, less than one win. So, it's fairly safe to say that with the same playing time, Kendall is worth something like one to two wins more than Hernandez, at these production rates.

However, it must be said that it's not likely that they will see the same playing time, because Kendall's increased number of plate appearances is due partly to his being a pretty decent baserunner for a catcher, not that he steals bases much anymore, but that he's fast enough that it rarely makes much sense to put in a pinch-runner for him late in a game. Hernandez, on the other hand, runs like Wade Boggs towing Cecil Fielder, and has a nasty reverse platoon split (hit .208 vs. lefties, .302 vs. righties in 2003) so he probably gets lifted for pinch runners/hitters all the time.

(Speaking of Wade Boggs, having a home-town boy doesn't really do much to draw fans. Tampa Bay tried this in 1998, and they managed to draw 2,506,293 more fans than they had in 1997, but considering that the team didn't actually play in '97, that's not saying much. They lost almost a million fans in '99, and have continued to watch attendance drop in every year since. It didn't work with Jose Canseco in '99 or Fred McGriff in 2000, or Lou Piniella in 2003, so somehow I don't think that Tino Martinez will help things next year, unless he and the rest of his teammates remember how to hit like Tino did in 1997. And (back to the point...) Kendall won't really help the Padres draw fans unless the team is good. That's the main thing that baseball fans will pay to see. That, and bloopers videos, but since the Tigers have pretty much cornered the market on bloopers, the Padres really hafta put a decent playing team on that shiny new field or nobody's going to give a slice of rat-tart where their catcher grew up, or how beautifully intimate the shiny, new stadium is, after the first year. So there.)

But the point is that Hernandez and Kendall are not so different in terms of production despite their differences in style and playing time, and I think that's clear. I don't see what's really in this for San Diego, other than getting rid of Jeff Cirillo.

Both players will likely suffer something of a drop-off in 2004. Kendall will because he's hitting 30 years old and much of his value is tied up in his .325 batting average, which can fluctuate easily. But he's always had great plate discipline, usually walking as much as or more often than he strikes out, so he shouldn't drop as far as Hernandez might. Even though he's younger, Hernandez's offense is based almost entirely on his decent power (21 homers)and mediocre batting average (.273). With only 33 walks in over 500 plate appearances, and already 27 years old, he's not likely to start taking more pitches at this age, and will be facing almost an entirely new set of pitchers and parks in the NL. He'll probably revert to something like the .250 with 15 homers he usually provides, which is still better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, but won't make the Pittsburgh fans forget What's-His-Name.

Oh, yeah: All the Money In The World.

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12 January 2004

Rocket's Returning

Back in Septober, I suggested that the baseball game to which a friend and I were going on 11 September 2003 might be the last time that a certain pitcher (we’ll call him “Roger Clemens” because he could kick our ass, or just throw a fractured bat at it) was ever going to pitch at home in the regular season. My reasoning was that his next scheduled home start would fall on the second to last day of the season, and that Torre, having wrapped up the AL East title sometime back in July, would likely rest Clemens in preparation for the playoffs. As it turned out, Clemens was availed the opportunity to beat up on the lowly Orioles on September 27th, and did just that, for his 310th career win.

So while I had expected to see an historical game, it was not nearly as historical as I had hoped. There have been only nineteen wins #307 by any major league pitcher in history, and fewer than half of those pitchers are still alive. Only eight of these wins could have been seen by fans who are still alive and able to recount said 307th win in some sort of reasonably lucid manner. So I’m among maybe 100,000 to 150,000 people who attended such a game. So I got dat goin’ for me. Which is nice.

Ah, but the real suckers are all those people who went to the Baltimore game, thinking that they were guaranteed to see the last regular season game of “Roger Clemens” and spent a pile of money on Rocket souvenirs and film and flashbulbs and such. The joke’s on them now, because the Rocket’s not gone at all, he just changed his mind and decided to go to Houston instead. Maybe he figured that a half decent year (( wins) bumps him up into a solid 12th on the all time list, just behind Phil Niekro and his hero (Roger’s not Phil’s), Nolan Ryan. And of course, he only needs 38 strikeouts to surpass Steve Carlton for second place on the all-time list right behind Nolan Ryan, who, as you will recall, is not Phil Niekro’s hero.

Apparently Clemens was talked into un-retiring by his good friend and fellow defector, Andy Pettitte. Both of them live near Houston and can therefore stay at home whenever the team is at home, and thereby spend more time with their kids and wives, which, on a scal of one-to-ten, is an honorable desire. Let's just see how well he likes giving up fly balls that Bernie used to catch and watching them clear the wall at the JuiceBox, and having to stand in and hit against a teammate of a guy he just plunked.

For his part, Yankees GM Brian Cashman isn't apparently taking the news too hard, and has not bashed Clemens for changing his mind, at least not publicly. On the other hand, have you ever seen Brian Cashman? Clemens picks stuff bigger than Cashman outof his spikes between pitches, so I guess I wouldn't be badmouthing him either, if I were that puny.

The problem is that Clemens was supposed to retire. Give up. Walk away and not look back, you know? Because of this, the Yankees did not bother to offer him salary arbitration, preferring instead to just let him go and not take the chance that he would change his mind, accepting arbitration. Had he done so, the Yankees would have been prevented from cutting his salary more than 15% (I think) from what he made in 2003, which was technically only a little over $7 mil, but actually closer to $10 mil, with all the deferred money. They might have been on the hook for something like $9 million to pay for a 41-year old LAIM pitcher who won’t likely contribute 200 innings in 2004. But if they’d known that he would be willing to come back at all, don’t you think they would have offered him a contract before the deadline, for something like the relatively paltry $5 million the Astros gave him? Of course they would! Five million bucks for something like 180 innings of slightly above average pitching is (sadly) a bargain these days.

And even if they chose not to resign him, the Yankees could have at least gotten a draft pick out of the deal. With their success, it’s not often that they get a very high draft pick, and with all the free agents they tend to sign, it’s sometimes the third or fourth round before they get any at all. Pettitte and Clemens would likely have given them Houston’s top two picks in the 2004 draft, and the Yanks, unlike the Giants, actually like bringing additional, young talent into the organization.

But in the end, as I mentioned, the real joke is on us, the fans. For we all wasted a lot of film trying to take that last picture of that last pitch of that last out of that last inning of that last game at [City and Park names] during [day/night] on a [Sunday/Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday/Friday/Saturday] for the distinguished career of “Roger Clemens.”

I hope all the memorabilia dealers managed to sell those pictures already, because they just became pretty worthless.


Incidentally, Dan McLaughlin, the Baseball Crank, has got a post discussing the established Win Shares levels of the best 25 players in baseball. Way to break it down, Dan.

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08 January 2004

Hall of Confusion


A very good column on your HoF ballot. You did a good job of presenting your arguments, though, as you might have guessed, I have a couple of bones to pick with your choices. I will try to be respectful as I point out what I believe are some of the holes in your arguments, and stick to what the numbers tell me.

#1 - Jim Rice. I understand that he was very good, but being young enough (29) not to have my opinion tainted by seeing him play, I can go to Baseball-Reference.com, look objectively at his numbers and admit that they are very good, but only borderline for a Hall of Famer. But then I can also visit Retrosheet and see his home/road splits and realize that he was helped a LOT by Fenway Park throughout his career. He hit .320/.374/.546 at home but only .277/.330/.459 on the road. I think you can’t vote for him for the same reason you likely won’t vote for Andres Galarraga (a better fielder with similar career numbers) or Larry Walker (a better fielder with better numbers). Their parks helped them too much.

#2 – Jack Morris. Sure he won more games than anyone else in the ‘80s, but that’s a confluence of circumstances more than anything, since he happened to come into his own just as the ‘70s were ending. Seaver, Palmer, Carlton, Sutton, Ryan, Niekro, Fernando, Guidry, Dave Stieb, and a bunch of other pitchers were as good as or better than Morris for most of the first half of his career and Clemens, Hersheiser, Cone, Gooden, Viola, Saberhagen, Dave Stewart, Mike Scott and others were comparable or better than Morris for most of the latter half of his career. No other pitchers of his quality or better happened to come up around the same time and last as long, but being the best of a weak era doesn’t make him one of the best of all time.

Morris really wasn’t the “ace” of any of the World Series teams for which he pitched. He led the ’84 Tigers, ’91 Twins and ’92 Blue Jays in innings, and led those Tigers and Jays in wins, but his ERA was over 4.00 in ’92, and there were two other pitchers on the Tigers with nearly as many wins as his 19. Tapani and Erickson both pitched better than Morris in 1991, Dan Petry was slightly better in ’84 and Jimmy Key and Juan Guzman were both better in 1992, though in fewer innings and with less run-support. It doesn’t necessarily mean he wasn’t the ace, but you really can’t just throw “clear #1 starter” out there uncontested, at least not in terms of performance.

His set of “peak seasons” is not really the 14 years you present. Though he won 41 more games than anyone else during said span, he had seasons in which he went 16-15, 17-16, 15-13, 15-18, and 6-14! That’s five seasons (out of 14) you could hardly call dominant. In six of those 14 seasons, his ERA was between 2% better and 22% worse than the park-adjusted league average, and another season (when he was the supposed “ace” of the World Series-winning ’84 Tigers, it was only 9% better. Those are seven hardly "peak" seasons.

Morris was helped by his teams’ success tremendously. From 1979-1990, when he was the preeminent starter for the Tigers, the only team that won more games in those 12 seasons was the Yankees. And he followed that up by pitching his swan song years for three World Series winners and a would-be Wild Card team, the 1994 Indians. Put him on the Cubs for most of that career and you can summarize his candidacy for Cooperstown in two words: What candidacy?

Sure, he pitched a 10-inning shutout in the 1991 Series, but his career postseason record was only 7-4 with a 3.80 ERA overall, including an 0-3 with a 7.43 ERA in the 1992 postseason. If you give him credit for coming through in the clutch, you’ve got to give him demerits for blowing it at other times. You can’t have it both ways.

#3 – Bert “Be Home” Blyleven. Besides having one of the best Bermanisms ever, this guy was a heck of a good pitcher. Blyleven’s ERA was better than the league and park-adjusted average in 16 of the 18 seasons in which h pitched enough to qualify for the ERA title. The man started pitching in the majors at 19, and was 37 years old before his adjusted ERA for a full season dropped more than 5% below the league average, and it had done that only once before. His adjusted career ERA (118) is better than Hall of Famers Robin Roberts, Gaylord Perry, Fergie Jenkins, Steve Carlton, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro, Early Wynn, and others, I’m sure.

Only twelve guys faced more batters in their careers, and they’re all in the Hall. Only four have ever struck out more of them, and they will all be in the Hall. In the 20th century, only Tommy John, who had the benefit of good teams and pitchers’ parks, has more wins and is not or will not likely be in the Hall, and he’s only got one more.

I just don’t see, based on what they did, not what their teams did around them, how Morris gets in while Blyleven doesn’t.

But that’s my opinion. If you haven’t already hit “Delete” thanks for reading.



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06 January 2004

It’s the End of the World, As We Know It

REM was right.

This weekend’s biggest story in sports wasn’t the College Football (Half-) Championship Game, it wasn’t the Colts bucking the Broncos in one of their worst playoff losses ever, it wasn’t Brett Favre and the Packers continuing to beat their opponents with adrenaline gleaned from the sudden loss of Favre’s father two weeks ago.

It was Pete Rose.

Pete Rose hasn’t played in the majors in almost twenty years, hasn’t managed a major league team in almost 15 years, and yet once again he has succeeded in making himself the center of attention when there are much more deserving stories out there.

In a story roughly as shocking as the revelation that all of those Christmas gifts children around the world recently received were not delivered by a fat, old man who can stop time and drives a sled pulled by flying reindeer, Pete Rose admitted in a recent interview with ABC and a soon-to-be-released book (what a coincidence!) that he actually did bet on baseball, including betting on the Reds while he was Cincinnati’s manager.

There is, of course, a myriad of jokes to be made in light of this admission. I sent an email to the Tony Kornheiser show with a few of my own, but since they probably won’t read it on the air, I’ll show you here:


I heard about Pete Rose. ABC broke the amazing story that Pete Rose actually did bet on baseball, but that's not the end of it. In an effort to compete with ABC, some of the other networks will have similarly revealing stories coming out later this week:

CBS will break the story that OJ Simpson in fact is admitting being guilty of murder, but only of one of them, because he "just couldn't help himself" and that he would like to be forgiven. And please buy his new book.

FOX will break the story that Rush Limbaugh is, is fact, a big, fat, idiot, but that he's losing weight to try to dispel that notion. And also, please buy his book.

UPN will break the story that Britney Spears actually has had breast implants, but only in one of them, and that she would like to be forgiven. And please buy her new CD, as she doesn't write books.

NBC will break the story that Michael Jackson actually has admitted to having had plastic surgery, but only once, for medical reasons, and that he would like to be forgiven. And please buy his/her new book.

HBO will break the story that Michael Corleone was, in fact, involved in running the Corleone crime family, but that he was "just a lackey", and that he only did it because he needed the money. No word on who's going to break the story to HBO that Michael Corleone doesn't really exist. But please buy his book anyway.


Besides the jokes, though, there is some significance to this story. Reportedly, Rose’s admission of guilt in these matters is a steppingstone to his reinstatement into the Game we all know and love. Astonishingly, though, his admission is not only that he bet on baseball, as he has persistently (if not believably) denied for the last 15 years, but also that he actually did bet on the Cincinnati Reds while he managed them.

Some will argue that the fact that he didn’t bet against the Reds is a reason to consider forgiving him. They’d argue that, of course, he was trying to win anyway, as their manager, and so it’s really no different, right?


The clause in the official baseball rules is very clear, and they make no distinction between betting for or against your team. The only distinction lies between betting on baseball in general and betting on games in which you have some direct responsibility.

Rule 21(d):

Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform, shall be declared ineligible for one year.

Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible.

So Rose is now admitting that he actually did the latter, the one action that a sign in every clubhouse in the majors and minors warns you will get you banned from the game for life, and somehow this admission of guilt is going to help get him reinstated? I don’t understand this at all. It’s like telling accused murderers that if they’ll just admit that they killed the guy, they can go free.

Since when is this a wise or effective policy? Do you think that if Senator Kennedy finally admitted that he was something more than an innocent bystander in the incident at Chappaquidick, the public would all just forgive him? Do you think that if former President Reagan, in an Alzheimer’s-induced stupor, admitted on record that he knew about the Iran-Contra affair all along, people would just let it slide? Don’t bet on it.

It’s like the movie Quiz Show, in which Ralph Fiennes’ character owns up to the gameshow-fixing scandal in a Congressional inquiry, and everyone wants to forgive him, because he seems like such a nice guy. Congressman after Congressman chimes in to offer their opinion of what a sincere, heartfelt apology and admission he’s given, as though it somehow wasn’t his fault and they should just let him walk. It seems like maybe Pete Rose just watched the movie, got to this part, and suddenly realized that he could admit his wrongs and the public would receive him with open arms, and instantly ran off to start writing his book. The trouble is that Rose must have turned off the movie before one congressman finally gets up and says:

I'm happy that you've made the statement. But I cannot agree with most of my colleagues. See, I don't think an adult of your intelligence should be commended for simply, at long last, telling the truth.

And there are plenty of people who feel like this about Pete, but Rose isn’t even as contrite as Charles Van Doren was, as evidenced by his own book excerpt:

"I'm sure that I'm supposed to act all sorry or sad or guilty now that I've accepted that I've done something wrong. But you see, I'm just not built that way. […] So let's leave it like this: I'm sorry it happened, and I'm sorry for all the people, fans and family that it hurt. Let's move on."

Let’s move on? You’re not sorry for what you’ve done, only that you got caught, and that it screwed things up for you, but let’s move on? You don’t admit to actually making the choices that have placed you in this position, preferring instead to present the situation as an “it” that just somehow “happened” to you, but let’s move on? I don’t think so.

There are a few reasons why it is important not to allow the rules to bend for anyone, even an icon like Pete Rose. First of all, the whole reason that the gambling clause exists in the playing rules is that a gambler whose debt to a bookie has gotten out of hand has a rather easy means of making up some of that debt: If he’s a manager, he can do something to fix a game, or he can provide inside information to his bookie, which helps the bookie to fix the odds in his favor. Perhaps even more importantly, he can do things that increase the physical risks to his players, and to the welfare of the organization, in an effort to win a game (and the money consummate with his bet on that game) he wouldn’t normally need to win, like leaving in a young, fragile-armed starter for too many pitches, or sending a runner barrel-assing into the catcher on the off-chance that he could score the winning run, but perhaps injuring one or the other of those players for life.

It can be argued that in today’s game of multimillionaires, no one would ever have the need to do this, as they should always have plenty of money to pay off bookies, if they become indebted. But gambling, as I understand it, is an addiction that feeds on itself, in which the piling up of losses only serves to whet the gambler’s appetite for more, until he’s beyond the scope of what he can handle on his own salary. If Pete Rose was making $500K to $1 million in salary and was placing hundreds of bets for thousands of dollars each, there’s no reason why a similar figure making ten or twenty million dollars in today’s game couldn’t get in similar trouble making bets for tens of thousands of dollars at a similar pace. So it's still a relevant issue, and until greed and selfishness are things of the past, it always will be.

This is not the first time I’ve written on this subject, and you can see from my columns from last year that my opinion on Rose hasn’t changed since last summer/fall. Lots of others have written about it as well:

Jayson Stark doesn't seem to think he's done enough to get back into baseball. For once, I agree with Stark's analysis.

David Pinto appropriately says that baesball Prospectus is not owed an apology for the denials of the story they ran last summer.

John Perricone, amazingly, still finds a way to blame Fay Vincent and John Dowd.

Mike Carminati finds the news earth-shattering, but figures that it's only a matter of time before baseball forgives and forgets.

Elephants in Oakland, who is finally back to writing consistently, think that Pete Rose vs. MLB seems to them rather like a Monty Python sketch.

And of course there's no shortage of other opinions out there. But now you know mine.

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01 January 2004

Book Review: The Catcher Was a Spy

The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg
By Nicholas Dawidoff

Nicholas Dawidoff might better have entitled this book “The Sad Life and Death of Moe Berg.” For a man so known and so beloved in the public eye, a man with such talent and potential inside him, a man like Moe Berg, to have met his pathetic and prolonged demise in such manner does not seem appropriate. And yet, whether we like them or not, these are the facts. At least in so much as Dawidoff was able to discover them.

Dawidoff must have taken years to compile all of the information necessary to write this book. Given the seemingly pedantic nature of some of the minutiae he includes in the text, the reader must wonder at some point whether or not Dawidoff omitted anything he discovered in his interviews and research. The book’s epilogue is comprised of a list of everyone he interviewed or relied upon for information for the book, and a list of notes on his sources of quotations, which takes up over about 80 pages! At least nobody can accuse him of not being thorough.

The chosen subject, Morris Berg, would seem at first glance to be an exceedingly interesting catcher. His 15-year career as a major league catcher places him among the elite in almost any conversation, despite that he only managed to hit .243 in said career, but that’s just the beginning. Moe was Ivy League educated, graduating magna cum laude BA in modern languages from Princeton, where he was a star (not a third-string) shortstop. He also graduated from Columbia Law School and passed the bar exam, making him perhaps the first player who was truly qualified to represent himself in free agency, if such a thing had existed at the time.

As if this were not enough, Moe Berg retired from an exclusive and exciting existence as a professional athlete to embark upon perhaps an even more elite and exciting career: He became a spy for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, precursor to the CIA) during the Second World War, and traversed Europe in search of secrets regarding the German Atomic Bomb Program.

And sprinkled throughout this interesting juxtaposition of occupations, Berg somehow found the time to learn to speak or write (by varying accounts) Latin, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, Russian, Sanskrit and/or Swahili. Hence the old joke that, “Moe Berg could speak a dozen languages but he couldn’t hit in any of them.”

Indeed, Berg could not hit, or perhaps would not hit much in the majors. He was not a bad player, but he was fortunate to have laid claim to his position in a time when good-hitting catchers were the exception and not the rule, as today. Interestingly, the author reports that Berg’s status as a third-string catcher was by his own design, that Berg sought the freedom and privileges of life afforded to ballplayers, but did not desire to make himself a standout amongst them, at least not for his play. Berg seemed to prefer sitting in the bullpen, chatting up the pitchers and other players, impressing them with his knowledge of law, history, art, language or other trivia, rather than actually playing consistently. Dawidoff posits the theory that Berg chose to play only when he felt spry, in an effort not to shame himself between the white lines. Ironically, it could be argued that a man of such obvious talent in college might have been a better player overall if ha had allowed himself a bit more practice. Or, as Berg feared, he might well have been washed-up before he was ready to leave, and forced to do something rash, like work for a living.

Berg’s career as a spy is able to be presented in detail by Dawidoff for two reasons: First of all, it turns out that the Germans had no more progress on the Atomic Bomb Project during WWII than they did on their Time Machine Project or on their Perpetual Motion Machine Project. If any project existed at all, it was at worst a ruse, a failed scheme-turned-distraction-to-the-Allies at best. Secondly, Berg was not a very good spy. Virtually everyone who knew him, even in his own times, knew he was a spy, and he was always doing silly things like hushing people for mentioning certain issues or hiding behind beech saplings with no leaves when someone he didn’t want to see walked by. This is not a good spy. If either of these things had not been true (i.e. if Berg had been a good spy or if the Nazis really had developed an A-Bomb) we would not be allowed to know what berg did during the war. That we can know these things is simultaneously enlightening and distressing.

But the greatest distress to be derived from these pages lies in the story of Bergs pitiful life after the War. This man of such varied talents and skills, with such a background as his, could have chosen virtually any occupation he wanted after returning from the war. Let’s face it: There aren’t many people out there who could list two Ivy League degrees, a barrister’s license, a Medal of Freedom and a baseball career spanning almost two decades, on their resumes. But Berg would have none of it. Instead he squandered his waning years, traveling constantly, dropping in on old friends unannounced, staying until he had worn out his welcome (sometimes longer), and moving on. Always moving on. He never found an occupation that suited him as well as either baseball or espionage had, and so he apparently gave up trying, and live out what would be his remaining 25 years or so in a vagabond's life, charming hospitality out of anyone he could.

The book is a comprehensive, well-written piece, but even the greatest of writers could not have made this a thoroughly interesting book without embellishing the facts a little. To Dawidoff’s credit, he provides only the facts, and does little to suppose that he knows what any of the characters was thinking at a given moment in Berg’s history. But this lack of interpretation leaves something of a void for the reader. Where you had hoped to find answers, it turns out that there may only be more, unanswerable, questions.

And even if you have the penchant for minute details that I do (to an irritating degree sometimes, my wife will tell you) this book was hard to get through at times. It took me nearly a year to finish it, and even though it was a year busy with other responsibilities, any avid reader will tell you that they’ll make the time to finish a great book. This one was merely good.

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29 December 2003

Not Standing on Harden Ground

Your hero and mine, Rob Neyer, makes some interesting points with regards to the relative qualities of two candidates vying for the title of “Best Fifth Starter in the Majors.” However, like most of us, Neyer appears be guilty of seeing what he wants to see in the numbers and ignoring what doesn’t agree with the argument he’s trying to construct. Maybe he's been spending too much time hanging out with Jayson Stark.

In an article he wrote last week, he indicated that with the addition of Mark Redman to their staff, the Oakland A’s probably have the best starting five in the majors, and Neyer’s probably right about that. He also indicated that Rich Harden is therefore the Best Fifth Starter in the Majors, which seems to be a more debatable issue. In particular, a few of Neyer’s readers posited Brett Myers as a better option for said title.

Rob’s response:

His (Harden’s) ERA in the majors last season was essentially the same as Myers' and his peripheral numbers are better. Looking at all of Harden's professional innings in 2003 – roughly half of them in Triple-A -- he struck out nine hitters per nine innings, and his control was decent. Myers, meanwhile, struck out seven batters per nine innings. Granted, Myers spent all season in the majors (Harden didn't), but Myers, a National Leaguer, also faced a lot of pitchers (Harden didn't). [italics added]

Let’s look at the pieces of the argument one-at-a-time, shall we, just like the great philosopher, Nuke Laloosh, tells us we should.

1) Similar ERA with better peripherals = better pitcher? Generally this is true, but the quality of the hitters they faced can influence those peripherals significantly. At the major league level, Harden and Myers faces roughly the same quality of batters overall (.744 OPS vs. .735, respectively), but they didn’t only face major leaguers. But I’ll get back to that… Rob's statement also begs the question of which peripherals, exactly, were better? Look at them (Harden's numbers were projected over the same number of at-bats):

          AB    R   H   2B  RBI  BB  SO   SB  CS   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS

Myers 754 99 205 43 88 76 143 16 5 .272 .342 .424 .766
Harden 731 100 189 32 87 105 176 24 5 .259 .349 .363 .712

Was Harden better? Sure, but marginally.

That ~50-point difference is nothing at which to sneeze, but most of the disparity rests in the difference in their hits allowed, which is hard to predict from year to year, and a few more extra-bases given up by Myers. Those numbers could easily flip-flop next year, especially since both pitchers' home ballparks behaved out-of-character last season. (Veterans Stadium, usually a pretty neutral park, was a better pitcher's park than Dodger Stadium in 2003, and Oakland/Network Associates/Grace L. Ferguson Airline & Stormdoor Co. Coliseum, usually a pretty good pitcher's park, was a slight hitters' park in 2003. Nobody knows what the Phillies' new Stadium will do to offense in 2004, and, similarly, no one knows what the Athletics' stadium will be named next year.)

2) Harden had decent control. I’m not sure what Rob uses as the benchmark for “decent” control, but according to my (admittedly limited) analysis, Harden walked 40 batters in less than 75 innings at the major league level in 2003. That walk rate (4.82 per 9 IP) would rank him in the worst ten in the majors if he had pitched enough to qualify for the ERA title. Of course, you can still succeed as a pitcher walking a batter every other inning if you get enough strikeouts (just ask Kerry Wood) or if your teammates score six and a half runs every time you go out there to pitch (just ask Russ Ortiz). But neither of those means you qualify for “decent” control. And of course, Myers’ control was much better (about 3.5 walks per nine innings.)
3) Harden spent about half of his season in AAA, but Myers spent the whole season in the NL, where you have to face pitchers, so it evens out? Rob may not have said this explicitly, but he does seem to imply that we can somehow just glaze over those differences as we analyze them. Personally, I don’t see how you can equate facing roughly 75 pitchers a season (out of almost 850 batters faced) with facing 400 hitters who aren’t even good enough to make it to the majors (out of about 700 to 750 batters). I’m not totally sure how to compensate for this difference, but I’m pretty sure we shouldn’t just call it a wash.

And besides, if you’re looking for the Best #5 Starter in the Majors, he’s probably in the Yankees’ rotation anyway. The Yanks’ 1-3 starters are Kevin Brown, Mike Mussina and Javier Vasquez, with their #4 and #5 slots taken by some combination of …

…David Wells - owner of 200 career wins, career *ERA+ of 110 (i.e. 10% better than average)

…Jon Lieber (LAIM, perhaps, but still capable of posting 200 innings of 10% better than average work when healthy)

…Jose Contreras (purportedly one of the best Cuban pitchers ever, even though he’s probably 32 going on 40)

Seems to me that not only was Rob making a shaky argument, he was making the wrong shaky argument.

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17 December 2003

No Longer the Zer0rioles?

When I was in college, not so long ago, the Orioles didn’t suck.

At least not all the time. I was at Lehigh University from the autumn of 1993 to spring of 1997, and as you probably know if you’re a sufficiently intense baseball fan to be reading this website, the O’s made the playoffs a few times in that span. They were decent overall, finishing 2nd or 3rd every year from 1992 to 1996. They won a Wild Card in 1996, losing to the Yankees (and Jeffrey Maier) in the ALCS, and then they became one of the very few teams ever to lead its division wire-to-wire in 1997, though they lost the ALCS then as well, to the Indians this time.

And they haven’t had a winning season since. That 1997 season preceded an immediate and precipitous drop-off, due largely to the fact that so many of the regulars on that team were on the wrong side of 30 (Jimmy Key, Randy Myers, Scott Kameneicki, Cal Ripken, Harold Baines, Chris Hoiles, B.J. Surhoff, Eric Davis, etc.)

I recall, in the seasons and off-seasons prior to the O’s successful years, arguing about the relative merits of those Orioles and my Yankees with fans of the O’s on Lehigh’s Internet discussion boards, which was fun. For a certain fan, (we’ll call him “Mark Passwaters”) it seemed that no matter what the Orioles did in the off-season, they were going to win, and no matter what the Yankees did, they were going to lose, at least to the Orioles.

I recall one time in particular, in which Mark pointed out that Arthur Rhodes was AL Pitcher of the Month for August, 1994, as an indication that Rhodes was really going to make something of himself (as a starter, at the time). Indeed, Rhodes was undefeated in August that year, pitching two shutouts…in only two games, since the season ended on August 12th that year. This analysis, though accurate, ignored the fact that Rhodes had an ERA of 7.17 in his first eight games pitched that season.

I suppose I was guilty of the same thing though, as I recall being pretty excited about getting Jack “The Finger” McDowell in a trade just before my birthday in 1994. I used the fact that he had gone 2-7 in the first two months of the season with Chicago and 8-2 in the next two and a half months to explain why he would be great for the Yanks. (Alas, he was only good in 1995, but he was the best we had until David Cone came along in a late-season trade.

Anyway, the point of this tiresome, rambling introduction, is that Mark Passwaters (and other semi-delusional Orioles fans) have something about which they can be excited again. The Orioles are picking up big-name free agents like they’re barrels of hard pretzels and boxes of Fun-Dip at BJ’s Wholesale Club. Inappropriately-Voted 2002 AL MVP Miguel Tejada has signed with Baltimore for six years and $72 million, which is a lot of money, but a lot less than the $189 mil for ten years that Derek Jeter’s getting for comparable (if not lesser) performance.

Rumors Sunday and Monday had the Orioles signing Vladimir Guerrero and either Ivan Rodriguez or Javy Lopez to catch (and presumably hit a little). I looked at the BP Prospectus' offensive WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player) numbers for these three players and those they'd replace. I-Rod, who seems a much more probable signee than Javy at this point, would most likely replace most of Brooks Fordyce and Geronimo Gil's at-bats, though I suppose Gil would still be the back-up back-stop. Tejada replaces the dreadful Deivi Cruz. Guerrero does NOT replace Jay Gibbons, his 23 homers and 100 RBI, as ESPN has said. Rather he replaces either Jeff Conine or David Segui and BJ Surhoff. Gibbons is young, cheap, and still a good hitter, so they'll place him at first base or DH, keeping that bat in the lineup, and so Vlad effectively supplants some combination of the other three aging monsters.

Anyway, here's how those WARP numbers shake out. I took the averages of the players for 2001-2003 seasons, combining some where a platoon existed for whatever reason. Here's what I got:

Vlad 7.8 7.8
Rodriguez 7 Miggy 6.7 Conine 4.1
Brooks/Gil 2 Cruz 1.5 Segui/BJ 2.9
difference +5 diff +5 diff +3.7 +4.9

Holy cow.

This makes it look like the Orioles just bought themselves fifteen additional wins (about five more at each position). That's HUGE. Fifteen more wins still only gives them 86, a tie for third in last year's AL East, but that's an enormous improvement in one year.

Of course, they've still got to have somebody pitch those games, and having traded their best pitcher (albeit a LAIM one) in mid-season last year, there's not much of anybody to pick up the slack. Jason Johnson? Another LAIM guy. Rodrigo Lopez? Nah. Eric Dubose? I don't think so. They're gonna hafta go out and spend some more on the free agent market, and there just isn't enough pitching talent out there to buy to get them ten more wins (than the assumed 85 mentioned above), which is what it will take to even be a contender in the AL East in 2004. They'd probably have to sign both Greg Maddux and Kevin Millwood, plus another LAIM with some upside just to have any kind of shot at 2004. I just don't see it.

But hey, Rome wasn't built in a day, and I'm sure they suffered through some 84-78 disappointing seasons before they built up that big empire.

**By the way, Mark Passwaters, if you should happen across this page, drop me a line. If you're nice to me, I may even give you Dave's email address so you can tell him what an idiot he is.

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