14 January 2008

Scott Rolen for Troy Glaus: MLB Challenge Trade!

Nothing livens up the Winter Baseball Doldrums like a good, old-fashioned challenge trade.

The St. Louis Cardinals are allegedly about to implement just such a trade with the Blue Jays, swapping disgruntled third-sacker Scott Rolen for his couterpart in Toronto, Troy Glaus, who is reportedly not all that gruntled himself.

Image Courtesy of jsonline.com

Rolen, once the preeminent thirdbaseman in the National League, has not had a full, healthy season since 2003, though he played so well in 142 games in 2004 that he finished 4th in the NL MVP voting. The last three years, however, he's been rather injury prone, playing only 56 games in 2005, 142 in 2006 and 112 last year. He first hurt his left shoulder in 2005 in a collision with Hee-Seop Choi, then of the Dodgers, and has had three surgeries on it since. He did manage to play most of the season in 2006, hitting .296 with 22 homers and making his 5th All-Star team, but he slumped badly in the second half of that year, hitting only .253 with 8 homers after the All-Star break. This year, the bad shoulder robbed him of his power, so that he managed only 8 homers all season, and then did not play after August 28th. He had a third surgery on that shoulder and is expected to be ready for Spring Training, but shoulders are notoriously fickle healers, especially thrice-cut shoulders.

Rolen's apparent lack of communication about his injury with manager Tony LaRussa during the postseason in 2006 turned out to be the start of an ongoing feud between the two, one that never has been settled. Both men feel like they've done everything they should do or had to do, and that the other has acted like a petulant child. But of course childish behavior is part and parcel of the world of professional sports, where everyone is fabulously wealthy and constantly surrounded by people telling them that they can do no wrong, so both are to blame.

Image Courtesy of MLB.com

But LaRussa is the manager who just signed a two-year deal, LaRussa is the manager who brought the Cardinals their first World Series title in a quarter-century, LaRussa is third on the all-time managerial Wins list, and LaRussa is the one that's definitely going to the Hall of Fame someday (unless they find out that his win totals were inflated by something other than bourbon).

So Rolen is the one who had to go.

The trouble with that, however, is that usually nobody wants an oft-injured, 32 year old third baseman who's owed (depending on your source) either $33 or $36 million over the next three years, especially not one who's got a history of feuding with his manager.

Enter the Toronto Blue Jays and their unhappy thirdbaseman. Glaus, however, is not unhappy with his manager, but with the playing surface at Rogers Center (the erstwhile SkyDome). Glaus, too, is coming off a surgery and is expected to be ready for the spring, but in his case, it was his left foot (plantar fascitis) that needed the surgery. His ego, unlike Rolen's, appears to still be intact.

Glaus has had other injury problems as well, including various nagging injuries in 2003 (wrist tendonitis, back spasms, and infected little toe (eewww...)) and a partially torn rotator cuff in his shoulder that wound up costing him about 70 games that year. When off-season rehab didn't fix it, the shoulder needed arthoscopic surgery, and that and other minor injuries (knees, back, hamstrings, etc.) cost him another 100 or so games in 2004 as well. He was pretty healthy the next two years, playing about 150 games in each, but then the heel thing flared up and he missed about 45 games in 2007.

But that's all in the past. Assuming that these players are both reasonably healthy going forward, what can we expect?

I stole this one from another blogger.

Rolen and Glaus, though they play the same position, get their value as players in very different ways. Glaus, for example, does not hit for average, and consistently not. His career batting average is .254, and with the exception of his Y2K season, when he hit .284, he's never been higher than .262 (this year) or lower than .240 (his rookie campaign). He compensates for this with patience and power, averaging 91 walks and 36 homers per 162 games in his career. And though he's shown himself capable of playing shortstop in a pinch, Glaus is generally thought of as a brutal fielder at the Hot Corner, having twice led the major leagues in errors by a thirdbaseman and being last in the AL in Zone Rating each of the last two years.

Rolen, on the other hand, is an excellent fielder, with seven well-deserved Gold Gloves. According to Baseball Prospectus' Fielding Runs Above Average, Rolen has not been worse than +4 FRAA since his first cup of Major League joe in 1996, and since that year has averaged +15 FRAA. Rolen's batting average however has not been as consistent, fluctuating between .235 and .314, though admittedly when healthy he's usually hit .280 or better. Rolen does not walk as much or hit for as much power (averaging "only" 77 walks and 28 homers per 162 games) though he's no slouch in either department. A little more mobile on the basepaths, Rolen hits more doubles than Glaus (averaging 41 per 162 games, compared to just 31 for Glaus). Both men are quite big (6'4" or 6'5", over 240 lbs), bat righty, and at one time stole a few bases but don't any longer.

According to Baseball Prospectus, over the course of his career, Rolen has been roughly twice as good a player as Glaus. He's racked up 83.8 Wins Above Replacement Position (WARP) in 1504 games, which works out to about 9 WARP/162 games. Glaus has only 41.9 WARP in 1244 games, which works out to 5.5 WARP/162. OK, so Glaus is about 60% the player that Rolen is, not half.

Image courtesy of MLBlogs.com

But Glaus is more than a year younger than Rolen, and at least for the last three years, has been slightly more valuable than Rolen, if only because he's played more games. Going forward, I don't see any reason that this should change, as Glaus' foot issues should be alleviated by both the surgery and the scenery, while Rolen's likely to start griping about the ToronTurf the first time a reporter sticks a microphone in his face in April. That will alienate the front office and the manager and the players, not to mention the three or four-dozen fans in Toronto, and Rolen will have worn out his welcome in a third city, not to mention a second country.

The thing (I think) nobody is talking about with this trade is that Rolen specifically did NOT sign a long-term deal with the Phillies back in 2002 because he so disliked the hard turf at Veterans' Stadium. It wasn't the money, as they offered him $140 million over 10 years at the time, and it wasn't the team, which had won 86 games in 2001 and was building toward being a perennial choke-artist contender. It might have been the manager, but then Larry Bowa rubs everybody the wrong way eventually, so he shouldn't have taken that personally. It was the turf, and maybe the obnoxious fans. But is there any good reason to expect that Rolen's knees, now five years older and with about 650 more games under them, will be more fond of the turf in Toronto? I don't think so.

Glaus, too, is heading into a sort of bad suituation for him. Of course, he'll be in the relatively soft NL Central instead of the tough-as-nails AL East, so that should help his batting stats a little, but with defense as bad as his, can it be long before a baseball purist like LaRussa gets a little tired of the errors and mis-plays? Glaus has never played the outfield, and he's sure not going to supplant Albert Pujols at first base. The NL does not offer the DH, so LaRussa may have to bench him or take him out for late-game defense if Glaus doesn't improve, which means more hurt feelings and yet another feud. It's just a matter of time.

Another wild card factor for Glaus is that his name came up in the Mitchell Report as one who received steroid shipments from a lab in Florida in 2003 and 2004, when he was with LAnahfornia. Nobody really knows how those allegations will affect the players, whether they'll be roundly booed in visiting stadiums, or even in their own, and how that might hurt their production. Another issue is that, if players like Glaus were still somehow taking something like HGH or steroids last year or the year before, not just in 2003, would the increased scrutiny of being named in the Mitchell Report force them to stop using, and if so, how would that affect their production?

Fortunately for Glaus and LaRussa, Glaus is only signed for two more seasons, totaling about $24 million, so if they're not happy with him, he's gone after 2009.

So, getting back to my self-imposed question of what we should expect from these two in the future...

*UPDATE*: Donald Evans reports that both the ZIPS and Bill James Projections for 2008 have Glaus playing more, between 20 and 30 games more than Rolen, with a better OPS. Bill James has a marginal difference between them (.851 vs. .842) while ZIPS shows a huge difference (.819 for Glaus and only .728 for Rolen). Baseball Prospectus unfortunately does not have their projections available yet.

I suspect that if both men were totally healthy from here on out, the Jays would probably get more out of Rolen for the next two years than the Cards will get from Glaus, mostly because Rolen's bat, while different, is roughly as valuable as Troy's, if not more so, plus he helps a lot on defense, whereas Glaus kinda sucks. Or blows. Or whatever derogatory word you think best describes a lousy defender.

However, I don't think Rolen's shoulder woes are behind him, and I wonder whether he'll even be able to play the full three years remaining on his contract. If that shoulder gets him shut down, or worse yet, nags him just enough to rob him of his power but not enough to get him out of the lineup, then the Blue Jays are stuck with a singles-hitting thirdbaseman who plays decent defense but costs them $33 or $36 million dollars. Through 2010. When he'll be 35. It's like paying for a superstar but getting Mike Lamb or Sean Burroughs for your investment.

Whatever happens, it sure will be an interesting challenge for both sides.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

04 January 2008

The Battle of Wits has Begun!

Dread Pirate Clemens: Inhale this but do not touch. [hands him a syringe and a vial marked “B-12”]

George Mitchell: I smell nothing.

Dread Pirate Clemens: What you do not smell is called lidocaine and B-12 powder. It is colorless, odorless, dissolves instantly in liquid, and is among the more powerful steroids known to man.

[Dread Pirate Clemens draws two syringes out from his jersey, does something with them while his back is turned, and then puts them both on the table. ]

Dread Pirate Clemens: All right. Where is the lidocaine? The battle of wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both inject, and find out who is right... and who is suspended without pay for 50 games.

George Mitchell: But it's so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of baseball player who would put the lidocaine into his own syringe or his investigator’s? Now, a clever man would put the lidocaine into his own syringe, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the syringe in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the syringe in front of me.

Dread Pirate Clemens: You've made your decision then?

George Mitchell: Not remotely. Because lidocaine comes from BALCO, as everyone knows, and BALCO is entirely staffed with criminals, and criminals are used to having people not trust them, as you are not trusted by me, so I can clearly not choose the syringe in front of you.

Dread Pirate Clemens: Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.

George Mitchell: Wait til I get going! Now, where was I?

Dread Pirate Clemens: BALCO.

George Mitchell: Yes, BALCO. And you must have suspected I would have known the powder's origin, so I can clearly not choose the syringe in front of me.

Dread Pirate Clemens: You're just stalling now.

George Mitchell: You'd like to think that, wouldn't you?! You've beaten every hitter in baseball, which means you're exceptionally strong, so you could've put the lidocaine in your own syringe, trusting on your strength to save you, so I can clearly not choose the syringe in front of you. But, you've also bested my investigators, which means you must have studied, and in studying you must have learned that oil-based steroids last longer in the blood than water-based steroids, and that HGH is undetectable anyway, so you would have put the lidocaine as far from yourself as possible, so I can clearly not choose the syringe in front of me.

Dread Pirate Clemens: You're trying to trick me into giving away something. It won't work.


Dread Pirate Clemens: Then make your choice.

George Mitchell: I will, and I choose - What in the world can that be?

George Mitchell: [George Mitchell gestures up and away from the table. Clemens looks. George Mitchell swaps the syringes]

Dread Pirate Clemens: What? Where? I don't see anything.

George Mitchell: Well, I- I could have sworn I saw something. No matter. First, let's inject each other. Me with my syringe, and you with yours.

Dread Pirate Clemens, George Mitchell: [they inject each other in the butt]

Dread Pirate Clemens: Guessed wrong.

George Mitchell: You only think I guessed wrong! That's what's so funny! I switched syringes when your back was turned! Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never sign an aging veteran coming off a career year, but only slightly less well-known is this: Never go in against a former Senator when your career is on the line! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha...

George Mitchell: [George Mitchell stops suddenly, and falls dead to the right]

Buddercup Selig: And to think, all that time it was your syringe with the lidocaine.

Dread Pirate Clemens: They both had lidocaine. I spent the last ten years taking lidocaine and B-12, and by “lidocaine and B-12”, I mean "HGH and steroids". And I’m retired now, so there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

03 January 2008

Bert "Be in the Hall By Eleven" Blyleven?

I mentioned Bert Blyleven, mostly in passing, in a column I wrote a few days ago. I originally wrote the following almost four years ago, and of course it's still true:

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 he 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 that of 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.

However, it occurs to me now, that this is Blyleven's eleventh year on the Hall of Fame ballot, and wouldn't it be a neat coincidence if Bert "Be Home" Blyleven, could, well, be Hall by Eleventh. OK, so it's not perfect, but it's interesting, right?

So maybe I'll make a little more of a case for him, or at least shoot down some of the faulty logic that's keeping him out of Cooperstown, even though everyone's ballots have actually already been submitted.

Over on ESPN.com, they've been doing a series of debates between their writers about the various candidates. They pick two writers with ostensibly opposed views on a player, have them email each other back and forth arguing their opinions, and if they happen to have some, the reasons for them. Jayson Stark managed to somehow convince Peter Gammons that Tim Raines belongs in the Hall, which is good. However, Larry Stone convinced Phil Rogers to vote for Jim Rice, and Rogers looked like a mental midget in the course of the so-called debate. And in the debate over Goose Gossage, Rogers and Sean McAdam, essentially both agreed. I guess they couldn't find someone on staff who thought that Goose didn't belong in the Hall, so the best they could do was ot bring in Rogers, who was a fairly recent convert to the Gossage Gospel.

But the debate on Blyleven, waged between McAdam and Bob Klapisch, sadly, remained a draw. McAdam's reasons against voting for Blyleven are as follows:

1) Only one 20-win season.
2) Only four mentions in the Cy Young voting in 22 years
3) An unimpressive 287-250 record and .534 winning percentage
4) No ERA titles
5) The strikeouts aren't that impressive
6) "...too many years where Blyleven wasn't even the best pitcher on his own staff."

I would like to take these one at a time, but the first three are so interrelated that I can't.

1) Only one 20-win season

He's right about this, of course, but in the last 20 years or so it has become obvious to anyone with an open mind that win totals for pitchers simply do not have the meaning they once did. A hundred and thirty years ago, when pitchers started almost every game and pitched almost every inning for their teams, it made sense to assign wins and losses to them individually, and those were likely a good measure of their effectiveness. Eventally, though, the schedule got to be longer, and there was more travel, and the quality of the players increased to the point that more pitchers were needed.

With multiple starters, most of whom still pitched every inning of the games they started, Wins and Losses still made sense as a measure of their worth to a team. But over time, more and more pitchers were used. Starters pitched less often and for shorter times, and relievers picked up the slack. Wins and Losses can be assigned to a pitcher who pitches the whole game or to one who pitched only one inning, or gets only one out. A pitcher who tosses 8.2 innings of shutout ball but leaves in a scoreless tie in the 9th, with a batter he walked on first base, can get assigned a "Loss" if the relief pitcher who replaces him allows that runner to score. He did just about everything he could, but his bullpen and his teammates, the hitters, did not do their jobs, so he gets hung with a black mark on his record, and people like Sean McAdam think that makes him a bad pitcher.

McAdam complains, rhetorically,

What? All of a sudden, won-loss record isn't a fair measuring stick for pitchers? If we're not going to take records into account, what's the new standard?

Well, honestly, Sean, it sure isn't "all of a sudden". Where have you been for the last 15 or 20 years? Nobody's saying that we shouldn't take W-L records into account (well, Lee Sinins is, but he's kind of a saber-snob), just that it shouldn't be the only thing or even the first thing we examine.

Sure, Wins and Losses are one measure of a pitcher's quality, but those are so significantly affected by the runs scored by his teammates and the effectiveness of the bullpen that they are probably only the 5th or 6th best measure, at most. Heck, Rick Helling won 20 in 1998 with the Rangers, despite giving up almost 4.5 earned runs per game. A 20-win season isn't all that impressive.

Looked at a different way, Greg Maddux and Nolan Ryan and Pedro Martinez only have two 20-win seasons apiece, one more than Blyleven, but Ryan is already in the Hall, and Pedro and Maddux will certianly join him when their times come. The fact that Dave Sewart and Wilbur Wood and Mel Stottlemyre and Dennis Leonard and Dave McNally and (God help us) Jack Morris all have three or more 20-win seasons does not make them Hall of Famers, just like Blyleven's having only one should not exclude him.

Blyleven only won 20 games one time, but that was mostly because he got lousy run support, even when he played for good teams, which was not often. If you adjust his numbers for average parks and average run support, he comes out with four 20+ Win seasons, and a 325-227 record (thanks, Baseball-reference.com).

2) Only four mentions in the Cy Young voting in 22 years

This is, as I mentioned, directly related to the lack of 20-win seasons. The BBWAA voters who get to vote for the seasonal awards are among the same ones who vote for the Hall of fame, and these people are rarely interested in looking much beyond the W-L records of the pitchers they consider. Bartolo Colon got the AL Cy Young in 2005, despite being a demonstrably inferior pitcher to Johan Santana, because his team scored more runs for him, so he won 21 games instead of Johan's 16. In 1993, Jack McDowell won the award, though Randy Johnson was a slightly better and Kevin Appier was a MUCH better pitcher, because he won 22 games and each of them notched only 18 Wins.

So the fact that Blyleven only got any CYA votes 4 times in 22 seasons has a lot more to do with the fact that his teammates did not score enough runs when he pitched to allow him to rack up 20+ wins, and the fact that the Cy Young Voters don't have the imagination to look beyond the Win totals.

3) An unimpressive 287-250 record and .534 winning percentage

Again, the Wins and Losses are a function, to a large extent, of the run support and bullpen help a pitcher gets. Those 250 losses don't look so great, and the .534 winning percentage is nothing to write home about, but when you consider that the teams for which Blyleven pitched combined for a .499 winning percentage in the games for which he did not get a decision, he suddenly looks a lot better. Again, if you adjust for parks and if you give him even average offensive support for his whole career, suddenly he's at 325-227, and a lock for the first ballot.

4) No ERA titles

Well, no, he never led the league in ERA, which is probably the best measure of a pitcher's effectiveness. However, ERA can be affected by the ballparks in which the pitcher plays, and Blyleven had the misfortune to play for Minnesota, Texas, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland, all places where the ballpark favored hitters, not pitchers, and especially not fly-ball pitchers like Bert. He finished second in ERA to Jim Palmer in 1973, though he actually pitched about 30 more innings than Cakes, and therefore saved more runs. He also finished second to Frank Tanana in 1977.
On the other hand, such immortals as Freddy Garcia, Steve Ontiveros, Allan Anderson and Atlee Hammaker do have at least one ERA title, so that in and of itself probably doesn't mean much.

But when you adjust for ballparks, Blyleven actually did lead his league in Adjusted ERA (ERA+) once, in 1973, when his 158 mark was just slightly better than the 156 that Hall of Famer Jim Palmer put up. He also finished a very close 2nd in ERA+ several times:

#1) Gaylord Perry, 144 (another Hall of Famer)
#2) Blyleven, 142

#1) Frank Tanana 154
#2) Blyleven 151

#1) Dave Stieb 145
#2) Blyleven 144

What we want out of a Hall of Fame player is excellence, and consistent excellence at that. Blyleven may have never led his league in ERA, but he was in the top 10 ten different times. The only players who have done that more are all in the Hall of Fame, or will be when their time comes:

Cy Young (16 times),
Roger Clemens, Walter Johnson, and Warren Spahn (14 each),
Lefty Grove and Tom Seaver (13 each),
Pete Alexander, Christy Mathewson and Gaylord Perry (12 each),
Whitey Ford, Tim Keefe and Greg Maddux (11 each).

When you look at adjusted ERA, it's

Cy Young (17 times),
Old Pete and the Rocket (15 each),
Big Train (14),
Lefty Grove and Tom Terrific (13 each),
Mad Dog, Big Six, Spahn and Kid Nichols, 12 times each

Oh, and Bert Blyleven, 12 times.

Did you get that? The only pitchers in history who have been in the Top Ten in their league in ERA or adjusted ERA+ more often than Bert Blyleven are all obvious, no-brainer Hall of Famers. So no, he does not havre an ERA title to his credit, but a bloop single here or there could have changed that at least three times. The fact remains that he was one of the ten best a dozen times in 22 seasons, and everyone else who meets that criterion is a no-doubt Hall of Famer.

5) The strikeouts aren't that impressive.

Bob Klapisch cites the fact that Blyleven had 3,701 strikeouts in his career, 5th most all-time, and that he struck out more than 18% of the batters he faced. McAdam plays this down, saying that "outs are outs" and "strikeouts are fascist" which of course is true but that doesn't mean they're not useful. The goal of baseball is not to be diplomatic, but to win. The best way a pitcher can help with that goal is to prevent runs, and the best way to prevent runs is to prevent baserunners. The most reliable way to prevent baserunners is to strike them out. If they don't hit the ball in play, then there's no chance that the defense screws up and allows them to remain safe at first, right? And Blyleven, having done that more than all but four pitchers in history, did his own dirty work more than all but four pitchers in history. He deserves extra credit for that.

6) "...too many years where Blyleven wasn't even the best pitcher on his own staff."

Well, this is just preposterous, and fairly easy to refute. I could go through year by year, but that would bore you more than you already have been. Let's do it this way:

During his 22-year MLB career, Bert Blyleven led (or, occasionally, co-led) the teams for which he pitched in...

ERA...13 times
Innings...14 times
Games Started...10 times
Complete Games...12 times
Shutouts...12 times
Strikeouts...13 times

...and just to keep Sean McAdam and the Old School happy, hea also led his team in Wins 9 times

Obviously, lots of these overlap with each other, but combining everything, it looks to me like Blyleven was in fact the best pitcher on his own staff every year from 1971 to 1978, plus 1981, 1984, 1986 and 1989, and maybe the 1979 Pirates as well.

That's at least 12 or 13 years as the ace of his staff, in 22 seasons. How much more do you want? It's also worth noting that Blyleven was traded during the season twice, in 1976 and 1985, and that he better than any pitcher on either team both of those years.


Of course, Sean McAdam does not read my blog. Heck, almost no one does. I do think that during these kinds of arguments, the onus should be on the proponent to say why a player should be in the Hall of fame, rather than on the voter who excludes him to have to justify his lack of a vote. A writer who leaves someone off his ballot can always say, "I just don't think he was good enough, even if he is better than some of the players already in the Hall. They should't be there either." That's my argument with Jim Rice and Dale Murphy, anyway.

But having admitted that Blyleven has some good qualities and citing the reasons that he does not think Blyleven belongs in Cooperstown opens up guys like Sean McAdam to criticism, and I just don't think his arguments hold water.

On a more general note, I think it's odd how players will gain support over time, but they never really loss support once they have it. You hear often how people who once did not vote for Goose or Rice or Blyleven have come over, but you almost never hear of anyone who once did vote for a guy and now does not any longer, at least not for more than one year, if there happen to be two or three big, new names on the ballot. I think this is because the voters are human and therefore not perfect. they're proud and near-sighted and don't want to be bothered with a lot of research.

It's easier (and more easily justifiable, as I mentioned above) to leave someone off the ballot than to put someone on, and they're willing to admit that they had simply not considered someone enough or not realized something about them that makes them turn out to be better than originally thought. But admitting that they had just looked at a player's reputation or career stats and took them at face value, and only later realized that those numbers or that reputation were inflated by this factor or that effect? Well, that's a more bitter pill to swallow, and almost nobody, especially someone who gets paid to pontificate, like a sportwriter, particularly likes the taste of humble pie.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

30 December 2007

Cooperstown Calling? Notes on the Hall of Fame Hopefuls...

We'll find out in a few days how many, if any new players have been elected to the baseball Hall of Fame this year. For the record, I'm guessing that Goose Gossage finally gets in this year, but unfortunately Jim Rice probably will as well. I expect that Mark McGwire will get about 35% of the vote.

I've long been a proponent of Goose getting into Cooperstown, and not just because he was a Yankee. Why isn't Goose Gossage in the Hall of Fame if Rollie Fingers (and now Bruce Sutter) are? Goose had fewer saves than Rollie, but more than Sutter, and a much better W/L record than either of them. He pitched more innings, allowed hits less often than either of them, struck out batters more often, allowed homers less often, and had a slightly lower adjusted ERA than Fingers, though slightly higher than Sutter (relative to the league) for his career. Goose was on nine All-Star teams to Fingers' seven and Sutter's six. Both Goose and Rollie led their league in saves 3 times, while Sutter did it five times. Rollie and Goose also each finished among the top 10 in the MVP voting twice (Fingers won it, with the Cy Young, in 1981). Fingers was among the top ten in Cy Young voting four times to Goose's and Sutter's 5 times, though Sutter won it once. Rollie and Sutter did each win four Rolaids Relief awards to Goose's one, but this is a kind of contrived award anyway, based simply on statistics rather than value, and statistics that can be manipulated, no less. Heck, Dan Quisenberry won 5 of them in 6 years, it doesn't make him a Hall of Famer.

I think that there are probably two main reasons that Goose is not yet in the Hall. Rob Neyer has argued that in the time it took Rollie Fingers to retire and then to be elected to the HoF, the status of the Save, as a statistic, changed. Managers started using pitchers specifically for the purpose of getting saves, and pretty soon, Goose's 310 didn't look so impressive anymore. At this point, he's only 17th on the career Save list, with fewer than Roberto Hernandez, Troy Percival, or Joe Table, and barely more than Jeff Montgomery.

Rollie and Goose were approximately contemporaries, with mostly overlapping careers, though Fingers ('68-'85) started sooner and retired sooner than Gossage ('72-94), but if Goose had retired two years earlier, he would have had a 2.93 ERA instead of 3.01, and the memory of him as one of the premier stoppers would have been fresher in the voters' minds when voting time arrived. Instead, he stayed a little longer than some of the BBWAA might have liked, pitching into his 22nd season, and still effectively I might add, with an ERA below the league average when the strike hit in 1994. I guess these guys want their favorites to ride off into the sunset as soon as their skills begin to diminish a little, that if you can't be The Stopper you should just stop. It's ironic that the same men who don't elect people like Ron Guidry for not pitching long enough also punish people like Gossage and Bert Blyleven for pitching so long.

My feelings on Rice were outlined in a post a few years ago, and have not changed significantly:

#1 - Jim Rice. I understand that he was very good, but being young enough 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.

I would add in Rice's defense that he may be knocked a bit unfairly for all the double plays he grounded into over the course of his career, as it seems that this stat is unfairly influenced by the fact that he played for a lot of teams that had good hitters, which means that thee were a lot of opportunities for him to GIDP, because there was always someon on in front of him. Still, he was slow, which made him both a lousy fielder and a lousy baserunner, in addition to being more prone to GIDP than someone with a modicum of speed.

Rice does not have longevity to cite in his career, so his case for the Hall relies entirely upon the fact that he was "dominant" for a period of time. There's no question that this is true, of course, but he also played half his games in a hitter's haven, and he did the kinds of things that MVP voters otice, like hit homers and drive in runs. What he did not do were things that are almost asimportant but that nobody realized were such a big deal at the time, like take walks and avoid making outs. In fact, in the New Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James argues that Roy White was actually a better player than Rice, when you adjust for the leagues and parks in which they played, and for the was in which they helped their teams win. Roy White, for crying out loud.

Tim Raines is the only player that's new to the Hof Ballot this year who actually deserves enshrinement, or for that matter, who's even close. His case is ot immediately obvious, because he was not a big RBI man, which the MVP and HoF voters tend to like, and didn't hit many homers for a left fielder. Still, though, he was probably the second best leadoff hitter in baseball history, though admittedly a distant second to Rickey Henderson.

Jayson Stark, in his online debate with Peter Gammons ovr at ESPN.com, argued that if you gave Raines creditfor all the time he missed due to collusion and to the players strikes in 1981 and 1994-95, he would have maybe had the 3,000 hits needed to be a shoe-in for Cooperstown, instead of only 2,605, but I'm not so sure. I projected Rock's performances out over the games he would likely have played in those years and I only found about 150 hits total, including about a dozen homers, in addition to 60 steals and 115 runs or so. In other words, not that much.

If you wanted to, you could even give him about 60 hits in 1980, when he only got a cup of coffee with the big league team, who for some reason thought it better to have Raines playing second base in Denver of the PCL, hitting .354 and stealing 77 bases in 108 games, than to have him in the majors, where their own secondbaseman (Rodney Scott) hit .224 with ZERO homers. Even considerng that he might have hit about .280 or .300 in about 200-250 or so at-bats, Raines only picks up another 50-60 hits, leaving him well below the 3,000 mark.

But forget that. We don't need to play Woulda/Coulda/Shoulda with Tim Raines. We can look at what he actually did, objectively, and see that he belongs in Cooperstown. He was among the league leaders in OBP 7 times, and was still putting up those kinds of numbers in limited playing time in his late 30's. He's 46th in career runs scored, and of the 45 players in front of him, 37 are already in the Hall, and Craig Biggio (#13), Rickey Henderson (#1), Barry Bonds (#3) and Rafael Palmiero (#29) either will be or would be if not for the steroid thing. The others are Pete Rose (#6), who's banned for life, and three 19th century players (George van Haltren, Bill Dahlen and Jimmy Ryan) who had long careers at a time when run scoring was cheap.

Jayson Stark points out:

...did you know Tim Raines reached base more times in his career than Tony Gwynn did -- and that they had nearly identical career on-base percentages? And did you know that every eligible player who reached base as many times as Raines did, and had as high an on-base percentage as he had, is in the Hall of Fame?

Well, technically, he's wrong about that. George Van Haltren scored 68 more runs and had the exact same OBP (.385) but is not in the Hall. Jimmy Ryan scored 71 more runs than Raines with an OBP that was only .011 lower, but is not in the Hall either. But that's beside the point, and I've already explained why. It should also be noted that Rusty Staub got on base more times than Tim Raines, and Gary Sheffield has already passed him on that list. Still, though, Jayson's point (I think) is that if Raines had gotten on base by hits more often and walked less often, he'd have ended up with gaudier looking numbers, without necessarily being any more valuable to his team. If Gwynn's in the Hall, then Rock should be, too.

Others previously on the ballot:

This is my opinion on Jack Morris, excerpts from something I wrote a few years ago:

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 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?

Here are my recycled thoughts on Bert Blyleven:

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 that of 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.

I do think that Bert Blyleven may actually get in this time, given the trend that his vote totals were taking prior to last year, when he lost a handful of cvotes thanks to the newly-arrived Gwynn and Cal Ripken. Some sportswriters have been coming over to his side, but he may not get enough back before his 15 years of eligibility are up.

Other new notable names:

Brady Anderson
Momentarily held the title of the only player ever to hit 50 homers in one season and steal 50 bases in another, until that greedy Bonds character came by and stole that record, too. Had a nice six-pack and those Luke Perry-sideburns, but not much to offer besides that.

Rod Beck
Speaking of six-packs...the late Rod Beck was a fun player to watch and emminently quotable (he once defended his lack of a workout regimen by saying that he'd never heard of anyone going on the DL with "pulled fat"). He might get a few more votes that you would expect because of his recent death, but he's got no shot.

Shawon Dunston
Speedy guy with a cannon arm and some pop in his bat, but he usually didn't hit for average and he absolutely never walked.

Chuck Finley was named to 5 All-Star teams but never won more than 18 games in a season, never placed higher than 7th in the AL Cy Young voting (and only got mentioned once) and never won a World Series, having left the Angels just before they won it all in 2002. When the most famous thing you ever did was marry the girl from the Whitesnake video, your resume is pretty thin.

Travis Fryman

Made 5 All-Star teams, and hit .300 or better twice, but only played 13 seasons, never scored 100 runs, and for a guy who played his whoe career in the power-mad 1990's, he never hit 40 doubles or 30 homers, which is a big knock against you when you play a power position like third base. Cool first name, though.

David Justice has a very similar resume to Fryman, ironically, though he had more power. He never did score 100 runs though, and only played 14 years, almost a third of them as a DH.

Chuck Knoblauch
It's hard to remember how good Chuck Knoblauch once was, because all we remember now is that he dropped way off when he went to the Yankees and that his defensive yips made everyone remember, and then forget, Steve Sax.

Robb Nen
I always wanted to spell his name "Rob Nenn". Seems like that woulda made more sense. He made three All-Star temas and finished 4th in the NL Cy Young voting once, but that was about it. 300 Save guy grow on trees these days.

Jose Rijo
Talk about Woulda/Coulda/Shoulda. Rijo had a world of talent, but just couldn't stay healthy. Give him credit for trying to make a comeback at 36, after 5 years away from the majors. But nobody's gonna vote for him. When he was eligible back in 2001, he got one vote. Probably from his mom.

Todd Stottlemyre Mel's son and the first guy I ever heard of who tried to come back form a rotator cuff injury with therapy instead of surgery. Didn't work, but you gotta give him credit for trying. Maybe he should have tried steroids...?

Notable/Controversial holdovers...

Harold Baines is a tough case. Well, I don't think so, but some fans might. The guy basically hung around forever, which gives him moderately impressive counting stats (2866 hits, 1628 RBIs, 3942 times on base, etc.) but his averages are weak. For his career, he hit .289 with a modest .356 OBP and a .465 Slugging percentage that is only decent for a power hitter. He hit .300 or better several times, but didn't walk that much and never hit 30 homers or scored even 90 runs in a season. His knees went bad early and he was basically a full-time DH by age 28, so he had no defensive value for more than half of his career. Sort of the Vinny Testaverde of the baseball world, without the color blindness and all those interceptions.

Andre Dawson was a BBWAA-type player if ever there was one. He hit for average, hit homers, stole bases and drove in runs, so they voted for him, ignoring the fact that he never walked, got caught stealing too often, and his knees prevented him from contributing much on defense. His 286 career Win Shares are fewer than Chili Davis, Dwight Evqns or Will Clark, and are only a handful more than Lou Whitaker or Jack Clark. Dave Parker is even lower, at 276 Win Shares, well below the standard set by contemporary sluggers Reggie Jackson and Mike Schmidt.

Tommy John
Good, but not great for a long time, like Baines. Played for a lot of good teams, which helps his win total just like the reverse hurt the totals of Blyleven. People have said that he should get into the Hall, at least in part, because they named a surgery after him, but in reality, if anything, Dr. Frank Jobe ought to get elected before Tommy John does. Having the surgery with his name on it is legacy enough, in my mind.

Dale Murphy was great for about 6 years, playing every game, averaging .289/.382/.530 with 36 homers, 105 RBIs, 110 Runs, 18 steals and 90 walks from 1982-87. But for the rest of his career he hit just .247/.317/.418 with 15 homers, 45 runs, 53 RBIs, 5 steals and an average of only 101 games played per season. And that was more than 1200 games, compared to the 967 he played during the 82-87 stretch. I just can't see voting for a guy who was great for a third of his career and pretty lousy for two thirds of it.

Mark McGwire has Hall of Fame numbers, but also a huge asterisk next to his accomplishments in the minds of many fans. I think he'll get in eventually, but not this year.

The Rest of the Rest...

Dave Concepcion is probably a little underrated, because so much of his value was wrapped up in defense, but is probably a little overrated for having played on all those great Reds teams in the 1970s, so I guess that evens out.

Don Mattingly
A world of talent, but too many back problems, and gets more credit (and more votes) than he deserves for having played in New York.

Lee Smith held the All-time career Saves record for a little while, but then so did Jeff Reardon, Johnny Murphy and Firpo Marberry. Smith wasn't really the best relief pitcher in baseball, probably ever, but he was one of the first and most successful at the one-inning save, and he pitched forever. None of that makes him a Hall of Famer.

Alan Trammell probably deserves more credit than he's gotten, having been overshadowed by Cal Ripken for most of his career, but that doesn't make him a Hall of Famer, either. A good to very good player for a long time? Sure, but only truly "great" that one year, in 1987. Not enough.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

20 December 2007

The December 20th All-Birthday Team

This is a post I wrote two years ago for this very occassion, fortunately before the All-baseball.com server bit the big one and took several months worth of my (and others') work down to computer Hades with it. I've edited it a bit to update it. Hope you enjoy it...

Baseball-Reference.com is a wonderful website. They've got stats for every major leaguer who's ever played, plus managers, and notable personalities from the Hall of Fame, like Negro Leaguers, Executives and even some umpires. They've got the pages for players, teams, franchises and leagues throughout history, even short-lived entities like the Players' League and the American Association. They've got an Oracle of Baseball, which will give you a Six-Degrees of Kevin Bacon type of connection between any two players in history, say, Kevin Barker and Count Sensenderfer, for example.

But one of the coolest things they have is the Birthday Page, wherein you can find every major league player in history who shares your birthday. This being my birthday, I thought I would share with you my All-Birthday Team. These are (in my estimation) the best seasons from players born on my birthday, December 20th, compiled into a team, so that I have sufficient innings and plate appearances to play a 162-game schedule.

Note: OPS+ and ERA+ are the league and park adjusted OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging) and ERA for that season, so you have an idea of what the numbers really mean in context. The .349 batting average Spud Davis put up in 1933, during the offense-crazed Depression Years, does not mean nearly as much as the .352 Cecil Cooper hit in 1980, a relatively down offensive time. Their adjusted OPS numbers (55% better than average compared to "only" 34% better) help to compensate for that. Anywho, this is what I came up with:

Starting Lineup PA Avg OBP SLG R HR RBI SB OPS+
C G. Hartnett (1930) 578 .339 .404 .630 84 37 122 0 144
1B C. Cooper (1980) 678 .352 .387 .539 96 25 122 17 155
2B J. Williams (1899) 689 .355 .417 .532 126 9 116 26 159
3B D. Wright (2007*) 711 .325 .416 .546 113 30 107 34 150
OF O. Gamble (1977) 470 .297 .386 .588 75 31 83 1 162
OF H. Stovey (1889) 634 .308 .393 .525 152 19 119 63 161
OF D. DeJesus (2007) 703 .260 .351 .372 101 7 58 10 89
DH A. Huff (2003) 706 .311 .367 .555 91 34 107 2 139

This is a pretty darn good team. Or at least a starting lineup.

*David Wright had an MVP-caliber season in 2007, so we've replaced his 2005 NL Rookie of the Year campaign with his most recent one. Sadly, David DeJesus has actually regressed a bit since 2005, but at least he played a full season, so we don't have to rely as much on our rather weak bench.

I'll probably hit 2B Jimmy Williams, not to be confused with Jimy (one-M) Williams, erstwhile manager of the Red Sox and Astros, as he has the highest OBP. Though it may seem like he didn't hit for power, those nine homers tied him for 3rd in the NL in 1899, Williams' rookie season. Harry Stovey will hit in the #2 spot, as he gets on base and has plenty of speed, with 63 steals, which were good for 10th in the American Association in 1889, tied with Hall of Famer Bid McPhee and Tommy "Foghorn" Tucker, but well behind league leader "Sliding" Billy Hamilton's 111 base swipes. Unfortunately Hamilton was born in February, so he can't help us. (Stovey also led the 1889 AA in Slugging %, Homers, Total Bases, Extra Base Hits, Runs, RBI and was among the league leaders in several other categories that year, one of the last for the American Association, which folded after 1891.

Cecil Cooper will bat third, keeping the precious little speed we've got together. Hall of Fame catcher Gabby Hartnett bats cleanup. No argument there, I trust. DH Aubrey Huff and 3B David Wright bat 5th and 6th, respectively, giving us a right-left-right stagger in the heart of the lineup. (This way the June 26th team can't bring in Mike Myers to shut us down in a big inning.)

Oscar Gamble and his Afro hit #7, even though he actually has the highest adjusted OPS on the team. Unfortunately he only got 470 plate appearances, and I don't want to have Jim Norris or Jack Manning batting cleanup 200 times, you know? David DeJesus hits 8th and whomever we get to play short will bat last. Alternatively, if we end up in the NL, Huff plays the outfield in place of DeJesus, who goes back to the bench. Speaking of which...

    Bench                PA   Avg   OBP   SLG    R   HR  RBI   SB  OPS+         
C B. Rickey (1906) 226 .284 .345 .393 22 3 24 4 135
IF P. Baumann (1915) 260 .292 .380 .388 30 2 28 9 130
IF A. Ojeda (2007*) 132 .274 .354 .354 16 1 12 1 80
OF J. Norris (1977) 517 .270 .360 .364 59 2 37 26 101
OF J. Manning (1876) 295 .264 .281 .330 52 2 25 0 101
Team Total 6395 .309 .376 .499 971 201 953 171 137

*Augie Ojeda had a "less worse" year in 2007 than he did in 2001, so we've updated his stat line. It's still pretty lousy, but not as lousy as before.

This isn't a terrible bench, as Manning and Norris both had reasonably productive seasons as outfielders, with Norris likely serving as a pinch runner for Hartnett or Huff if we need to eek out a late run. Paddy Baumann played a lot of 2b and 3B in his career as a backup, and hit pretty well in 1915, if not the rest of his life. Augie Ojeda, the only below-average hitter on the team, only makes it because he has exactly the same birthday as me. Branch Rickey will become the first Player/Manager/General Manager in history, making trades from the bench. And speaking of trades...

    Trade bait         PA    Avg   OBP   SLG   R  HR  RBI  SB  OPS+
C B. Henline (1922) 481 .316 .380 .479 57 14 64 2 112
C S. Davis (1933) 540 .349 .395 .473 51 9 65 2 134
IF F. Merkle (1911) 604 .283 .342 .431 80 12 84 49 113

December 20th is blessed with an abundance of catching talent, but no shortstops worth their weight in lead. Not only do we have Hartnett and Rickey, but Butch Henline and Spud Davis were both good or very good at some point in their careers, and there's always a team that needs catching. Maybe I can get the July 23rd Team to trade me Pee Wee Reese or Nomar Garciaparra for Spud Davis. Heck, they could have Henline straight-up for a 1924 vintage Hod Ford. At least I'd have something worth running out there every day. Somebody has to bat 9th, right?

The pitching was not quite as easy to fill out, and whomever we don't trade for shortstop help is going to have to net us a solid reliever or two.

       Rotation            W   L  Sv  ERA     IP     BB   SO  ERA+ 
SP G. Pipgras (1928) 24 13 3 3.38 300.7 103 139 111
SP J. DeLeon (1989) 16 12 0 3.05 244.7 80 201 119
SP J. Shields (2007*) 12 8 0 3.85 215.0 36 184 117
SP B. Laskey (1982) 13 12 0 3.14 189.3 43 88 115
SP J. Manning (1876) 18 5 5 2.14 197.3 32 24 105

*James Shields was, in 2007, not only the best pitcher on the Devil Rays (like being the tallest guy at a Midget Convention) but also one of the 15 or so best pitchers in the American League. Suddenly he's the #2 starter on this team, and things are looking up for the 12/20 squad.

Yes, that's the same Jack Manning who's also a backup outfielder, and I made a point to pick a season in which he was worthwhile as both a hitter and a pitcher.

       Bullpen             W   L  Sv  ERA     IP     BB   SO  ERA+
SP P. Moskau (1980) 9 7 2 4.01 152.7 41 94 89
RP M. Valdes (1997) 4 4 2 3.13 95.0 39 54 135
RP V. Colbert (1971) 7 6 2 3.97 142.7 71 74 97
SP/RP D. Pfister (1962) 4 14 1 4.54 196.3 106 123 92
Team Total 95 73 15 3.39 1518.7 515 797 108

In truth, most of these guys are swing men or long relievers. There isn't a single guy born on December 20th who's got more than a handful of saves in any season of his career. Maybe I can get the November 28th team to part with Dave Righetti, since they have Robb Nen, after all. With Wes Westrum and Heinie Peitz (poor kid...) on the team, they don't really need catching, but Fred Merkle could do a nice job at first base for them.

Well, enough with this exercise in silliness, but if you've got a birthday team that
can beat mine, or better yet, if you have a shortstop or a closer to offer, let me know.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

19 December 2007

Wild, Irresponsible Speculations on the Mitchell Report

Former Senator George Mitchell released his long-awaited report on the use of performance enhancing drugs in major league baseball a week ago, and it's been met by an odd combination of outrage, righteous indignation, and yawns.

On the one hand, Senator Mitchell's assignment was colossal, to sum up the problem of PEDs in MLB and recommend a course of action. On the other hand, he was given almost no power at all with which to accomplish this assignment, whech means that the only cooperation he got was from people who had nothing to lose: Ex-major leaguers, ex-minor leaguers, long-banished clubhouse attendants and trainers, who had been labeled pariahs in MLB anyway, and of course, people from the Commissioner's office. Which assigned this task, as you'll recall.

Not surprisingly, then, there were, well, not many surprises in the report. Sure, Andy Pettitte's name was a bit of a shock, but only the most naieve among us would have assumed that it was just the difference in his workout after Clemens joined the Yankees in 1999 that got him back on track. Slap hitters like Fernando Vina and Nook Logan seem like a bit of a surprise because they don't "fit the profile" of a steroid user, but then we learned from the Jason Grimsley situation that you don't have to actually be any good to be using.

Much of the report consists of re-hashing and detailing events about which we already know: The BALCO scandal, the US government hearings in 2005, drugs being found that seemingly belonged to Manny Alexander, Juan Gonzalez, Ricky Bones, Alex Cabrera, and others. These incidents were uses as springboards to try to conduct other interviews, though the people who would make the biggest splash, i.e. the star players themselves, made little or no effort to cooperate with Mitchell in his investigation. So they didn't. In fact, the players were practically advised by their Union NOT to talk to Mitchell or his associates. In addition, because the Players' Union has beaten the Commissioner's office into submission, even some of the names that Mitchell and company were given during the investigation could not be provided in this report.

The really interesting thing about the reports is not the names in it (there are 86 players named in it, despite their general lack of cooperation) but the names that are not. Jose Canseco said he was suprised to hear that Alex Rodriguez was not named, an accusation which A-Rod vehemently denied. Almost everybody was surprised to see that Sammy Sosa was not implicated. But there are other names, hidden names, if you will, that nobody had really discussed yet:

For example, on page 99 of the report, the arrest of Luis Perez, a former bullpen catcher for the Florida Marlins and Montreal Expos is detailed, including how he turned stool pidgeon on a number of his former customers. In his deposition,

According to [MLB security chief Kevin] Hallinan’s memo, Perez told baseball officials “...that virtually every player on the Marlins was ‘doing something’ ranging from steroids and greenies, to marijuana, etc. He also claimed that every pitcher in Montreal’s bullpen was on some form of steroid.”

This was in September of 2002. It doesn't take a genious to go to baseball-reference.com and figure out who these people were.

Here is the 2002 Marlins' roster, along with a few comments.

2002 Marlins

Vladimir Nunez
Vic Darensbourg
Toby Borland
Tim Raines
Ryan Dempster
Ramon Castro
Preston Wilson
Pablo Ozuna
Ozwaldo Mairena
Nate Teut
Nate Robertson
Mike Redmond
Mike Mordecai
Mike Lowell
Michael Tejera
Marty Malloy
Luis Castillo
Kevin Olsen
Kevin Millar
Justin Wayne
Julian Tavarez
Juan Encarnacion
Josh Beckett
Homer Bush
Hansel Izquierdo
Graeme Lloyd
Gary Knotts
Eric Owens
Derrek Lee
Cliff Floyd
Charles Johnson
Carl Pavano
Brian Banks
Braden Looper
Brad Penny
Blaine Neal
Armando Almanza
Andy Fox
Alex Gonzalez
Abraham Nunez
A.J. Burnett

Very few of these guys had some kind of significant spike in their production at an odd time in their careers, like Sosa did in 1998 or Bonds in 2000. But there are some potential connections here:

Tim Raines was diagnosed with Lupus in July 1999, a disease that is sometimes treated with steroids. Could he have been a link in the chain? it would not have been the firt time he was linked to drugs.

Mike Redmond is an interesting case. He joined the Marlins in 1998, as a 27-year old catcher, about the time that he should have been reaching his peak as a hitter. Despite a career minor league line of .260/.319/.332 and a reputation as a catch-and-throw guy, he hit well over .300 in limited playing time in 1998...and then did that five more times in the next eight seasons, plus a .294 mark last season with the Twins. He's 37 now and has continued to hit (most of the time). Not that a career slugging average of .368 is anything to write home about, but this comes from a guy who never hit better than .287 in a minor league season. Most guys don't get better when they face tougher competition, you know? I'm not saying he was/is using, just that it's worth thinking about.

A lot of these guys had sufferred or were suffering from injuries at that time. Cliff Floyd, Charles Johnson, Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, Brad Penny, Carl Pavano, Alex Gonzalez and others either missed time due to injuries in 2002 or very recently before that season. It's certainly possible that one or mor eo fthem, in order to combat their penchant for getting hurt, might have tried HGH or some steroid. But, you know, like Pettitte and Vina, they probably only did it once or twice. Right.

Remember "Roid Rage"? Well, how about this:

In 2006, 2002 Marlins' pitcher Julian Tavarez was suspended for 10 days for punching Tampa Bay's Joey Gathright during an on-field brawl. During Spring Training. That was the 5th of Tavarez' tumultuous career, most of which were for brawling or throwing at players.

The other groub that Perez ratted out was the Montreal Expos' bullpen:

2002 Expos Pitchers
Javier Vazquez
Tomokazu Ohka
Tony Armas
Masato Yoshii
Bartolo Colon
Scott Stewart
Matt Herges
Joey Eischen
T.J. Tucker
Britt Reames
Graeme Lloyd
Dan Smith
Jim Brower
Zach Day
Carl Pavano
Bruce Chen
Tim Drew
Sun-Woo Kim
Ed Vosberg
Scott Strickland

Note that both Graeme Lloyd and Carl Pavano appear on both lists, due to a mid-season trade (including Cliff Floyd and Wilton Guererro, who had previously been suspended for a different kind of cheating), for whatever that's worth.

Matt Herges is mentioned elsewhere in the report as having bought HGH from Kirk Radomski in 2005, but he was 32 years old in 2002 and was struggling a little after a very good 2001 season with the Dodgers.

There are some injury-prone guys here, too, but there are also a few who look like good suspects for PEDs, based on sudden changes in their performance levels.

Dan Smith was 25 at the time, but had been a pro since he was 17, had an unremarkable minor league career and had flopped in two attempts at the majors. But in 2002, he "got it together" and pitched well in AAA, getting called up to the majors, where he continued to pitch well. In 2003 he was awful again, and by 2005 he was out of baseball.

Joey Eischen was a journeyman LOOGY, the very picture of mediocrity, in 2002, with a 4.37 career ERA in the majors. In 2002, however, he went 6-1 with a 1.34 ERA at age 32, and managed to sustain his success for at least a few years, though he fell apart in 2006 and did not play last year.

Other non-pitchers on that team definitely fit the "body type" you'd think of with respect to steroids and/or HGH: Vladimir Guererro and Andres Galaragga at the very least, though there may be others. Just becaus ePerez didn't specifically mention people who weren't pitchers doesn't mean that we should be foolish and think that all the hitters must have been clean.

On a more general note, look at the numbers: The 2002 Ezpos finished the season 83-79, in 2nd place, but 19 games behind the Atlanta Braves. the Marlins were worse, winning only 79 games and finishing 4th, thanks to the hapless Mets. So if the members of two teams as blatantly mediocre as the 2002 Marlins and Expos were rife with PED users, why should we believe that the players on the good teams were innocent? How can we believe that?

We can't, of course. The 102-win Braves had Gary Sheffield, Matt Franco, Kevin Millwood, and Darren Holmes, all of whom get some blame in the Mitchell Report, not to mention likely candidates who have not yet been outed like Javy Lopez, Vinny Castilla, and Julio Franco.

No one is safe. No one is above suspicion.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

12 December 2007

Diminishing Returns: Miguel Tejada Traded to Astros for a Whole Lotta Nothin'

I guess a former MVP and four-time All-Star doesn't buy what it used to. Must be that Fed Rate Cut.

The Baltimore orioles have reportedly traded shortstop Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros for five players, all of whom will be named later. By me. In this article.

I'd do it now, but unless you're an Astros' fan and/or one of their relatives, you've probably never heard of most of them.

Tejada was signed by Baltimore after his age 27 season, i.e. still in his prime, to a 6-year, $72 million contract. He is owed 413 million eac of the next two seasons, plus $2 million each in 2010 and 2011, part of his signing bonus, which will likely be paid by Baltimore. (Thanks, Cot.) In his first season, 2004, he set a Baltimore Orioles record with 150 RBI (the franchise record is 155, held by Ken Williams of the St. Louis Browns, since 1922). He finished 5th in the AL MVP Voting that season, well behind Vlad Guererro of the LAnahfornia Angels, mostly because the Orioles finished 3rd in the AL East, 78-84.

Miggy finished 15th and 20th in the MVP voting the next two years, and dropped off entirely in 2007, mostly because he missed a month with a broken wrist. That ended the 5th longest consecutive games played streak in MLB history, 1152 of them. No active player has as many as 700 consecutive games. Tejada's offensive production has dropped a bit, with an adjusted OPS of 131 in 2004, then 128, then 126, and only 109 in 2007.

He's still a productive hitter, and could likely hit .285 with 25 homers aand a .360 OBP if he got to play all year. Any drop off he'd experience from leaving Camden yards would likely be mitigated by the fact that the NL isn't quite as good as the AL these days, so his numbers won't likely suffer much. Assuming no long-term detrimental effects from the wrist injury, he should bounce back and put up two more solid seasons with the bat, albeit with some normal age-related decline.

But Tejada was atrocious with the glove this year, 15 fielding runs below average according to Baseball Prospectus, 13th in the 14-team AL in Fielding Win Shares among shortstops, according to the Hardball Times. Maybe some of that was the wrist, and he wasn't running as hard or diving as much for fear of re-injuring it, but in any case, it wasn't good.

The Orioles were thinking about moving Tejada to third base before he got hurt, and it's likely that Houston plans to do the same, despite Miggy's wish to stay at short. The Astros have Adam Everett, who can't hit worth a damn, but is the best defensive shorstop in the major leagues. Plus, the Astros don't have a thirdbaseman, unless you count Ty Wigginton, who would best be used as a DH. On a AAA team.

As for the swag from the trade: the Orioles get OF Luke Scott, RHPs Matt Albers and Dennis Sarfate, LHP Troy Patton, and minor league 3B Michael Costanzo.

Luke Scott: Scott hit .286/.363/.603 with 31 homers in a full season at AAA in 2005, then parlayed a .299/.400/.541 in 2006 into a promotion to the big leagues, where he was even better, hitting .336 with 10 homers in 65 games. He started out a little pull-happy in 2007 and his batting average suffered, but finished strong, hitting .296 after the All-Star Break after hitting just .226 in the first half. He won't be 30 until the end of June, and is only in his 3rd major league season, so he should be a solid and affordable outfielder for a few years, hitting .270ish with power and patience through his arbitration years. Not a superstar, by any means, but then Tejada's not going to be either.

Matt Albers: Albers has only brief stints in the majors, but at age 24, has been in the minor leagues for six years. His experience in AAA th elast two years is also brief, as he's been in the major league bullpen much of that time, but when he did pitch, in 13 starts he had a 3.81 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 78 innings, but also 32 walks. Before that, he dominated AA as a 23-year old in 2006, with a 2.17 ERA in 19 starts (116 innings), including 95 strikeouts and 47 walks. He was more dominant at the lower levels, but no longer strikes out a batter or more per inning, which means he can't allow all those walks without eventually paying for them. He also found it much harder to prevent homers in the majors, allowing 18 of them in 2007 in only 110 innings of work.

He's young still, but he's going to a hitter-friendly park in a better league, and he's probably going to have to do two of the following three things to have any success: cut the homer rate in half, cut the walks per game in half, or start striking out a batter per inning again. Even if he manages one of those, it would only get his ERA down to something like 4.75 or so.

Troy Patton: Patton has the most upside among the players acquired in the trade, if only because he's young and left-handed. He was listed as the Astros' 3rd best prospect by BAseball America last spring, but that was before his so-so 2007 campaign.

He thorws in the mid-90's (or at least he did when he was drafted) with good control (the best in the Astros' minor league organization, according to Baseball America), and is very young, having just turned 22 in September. He's only got two starts in the majors, and for that matter, only eight starts in AAA, so the Orioles will likely give him a chance to win a major league job this spring, but if not, there's no rush. It's not like he's the difference between them finishing 4th or beating out the Yanks and Sox for the AL East crown.

Patton's strikeout rate has been steadily decreasing since he's been a pro, from almost 11 per nine Innings Pitched in the Sally League in 2005, down to 9/9IP in High A in 2006, then a little over 7/9IP in AA, then down to just under 6/9IP in AA this year, and finally about 4.6/9IP in AAA before his major league call-up. So his star has dimmed a bit, and if he loses any more of that, he'll flop in the majors. You just can't come into the majors as a youngster with an average stirkeout rate and expect to succeed, not unless everything else goes perfectly, and it almost never does. He could still have a career, hopefullt as something more than a LOOGy, but I'd be concerned about an injury at this point, if I were the Astros' GM.

Dennis Safarte: A big righty (6'4", 210 lbs), Safarte was doing OK as a starter in the Brewers' system, with high walk rates, but also high strikeout rates and low hit-rates to counter them. The Brewers convverted him to relief last year, and then sold him to Houston, who used him in relief in seven games, wherein he basically blew everyone away, allowing only one run in 8.1 total innings, whiffing 14 and walking only (get this...) one. The Orioles apparently convinced themselves that Safarte had "turned a corner", or something like that, preferring to look at these two weeks of near perfect work and ignore the seven years worth of evidence suggesting that he's probably going to walk about two batters per inning in the majors, if they give him enough chances. He'll be 27 in April, and he's cheap, and the Orioles aren't going anywhere anytime soon, so he's worth a look, but don't expect the second coming of Tippy Martinez, much less Gregg Olson.

Michael Costanzo: Not to be confused with George from Seinfeld, Constanzo is a big boy (6'3", 215) with a big arm and a big swing. He had been part of the Brad Lidge trade and played for Philadelphia's AA team in Reading this year. A pitcher in college, he has the best-rated arm in the Astros farm system, but despite that, Costanzo is not thought to be a gread defensive player, having made 34 errors this year in 137 games at the Hot Corner. His 27 homers led Reading and were second best in the Eastern League, though his 157 whiffs led the league. He's got some patience, with 75 walks, but with such a penchant for striking out, it's unlikely he'll be able to hit much over .240 in the big leagues.

Lots of power, some patience, strong arm, lots of strikeouts...sound familiar?

Costanzo reminds me of Russell Branyan, except that when he was in AA, back in 1998, Branyan was even more patient, even more powerful AND a year younger. Branyan has bounced around to eight different major league teams, and hasn't even gotten 400 plate appearances in a season with one of them. Costanzo is likely going to be moved to the outfield (if he can demonstrate that he's got the range for it) or to first base or DH, assuming he ever gets to the majors. He's got a little time, but will be 24 next year, and if he doesn't cut down on the errors, the strikeouts or both, without losing the homers, he'll never make it. Also, he can't hit left-handed pitching at all.

In total, the Houston Astros got themselves an expensive, but productive, aging star, and they gave up five players of marginal quality. Scott should be a "useful regular" for a few years, and he looks like he might be the best of the bunch. Patton was once a top prospect, but the more he pitches, the less he looks like one. Albers is seeing his top prospect sheen come off a little too, after pitching badly as a starter in the majors and then even worse as a reliever. He's got a lot of work to do just to reach mediocrity. Sarfate is as likely to bean the mascot as he is to pitch 50 solid innings out of a major league bullpen next year. Costanzo looks like Russ Branyan-lite. Looks to me like the Orioles didn't get much for their marquee player.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

06 December 2007

Look Out for Those Tigers...

I think I can confidently speak for the rest of the American league when I say:


Did the Detroit Tigers really just pull that off? Did they really just trade for one of the best hitters in the major leagues, improving what was already one of the best offensive teams in the majors? Did they actually manage to get a 25-year old, potential star pitcher as a throw-in? Do they actually have two (TWO!) All-Star shortstops?

Well, technically one of those, Carlos Guillen, will be a firstbaseman next year, which is OK, because his 859 OPS in 2007 would have been second only to Carlos Pena in the American League, if he'd been a firstbaseman last year. He wasn't. he was an All-Star shortstop, but he'll fit in just fine. That, however, wasn't good enough, so back in October, Tigers' GM Dave Dombrowski traded for the Atlanta Braves' shortstop, Edgar Renteria, a 5-time All-Star himself (though not in 2007, despite hitting .332) to shore up the infield. Can't blame him for not wanting to put the likes of Sean Casey out there next year.

But Dombrowski wasn't satisfied to stand pat with that improvement, which was probably worth two or three wins alone.

In November, he traded a back-up infielder who can't hit his way out of a paper bag, Omar Infante, to the Cubs for Jacque Jones, who had an off year, but is likely to hit .275 with 20+ homers next year if he's healthy.

And then, this week, while everyone else was fretting about where Johan Santana would end up, and whether the Yankees or Red Sox would get him, how much they'd have to give up for him, how much money he would want, and whether or not he would veto the trade...the Detroit Tigers used the diversion to quietly work out one of the biggest off-season trades in history, getting Miguel Cabrera AND Dontrelle Willis for six prospects.

Granted, they gave up a lot, but they could afford to give up a lot. They took on a lot of salary with Jones and Renteria (and will pay out even more when Willis and Cabrera either come up for arbitration or get signed to long-term contracts), but again, they can afford it. In case you couldn't tell by the insane salaries being handed out to pedestrian players (and the ludicrous one going to good players) Major League Baseball is virtually swimming in money these days, and unlike some other teams (the Yankees shall remain nameless), the Tigers aren't crying poor.

There are rumors that they'll flip Willis to the Mets or somewhere else, but if it were me, I would hold onto him for the year. They only got him in this trade because he had an off year and his trade value was low, and they won't get as much as they should for him if they trade him away again. His 5.17 ERA last year was largely due to the bad luck he had in Florida, an unusually high .329 opponent batting average on balls-in-play in 2007 (8th highest in MLB among qualified pitchers, where the league average is about .290 or .300). If he reverts to the norm in 2008, he'll give them 35 starts and 220 or so innings with an ERA about 10% better than average, and will be a veritable bargain at the $9 million or so he'll get in arbitration. They'll get a lot more for him if they wait to trade him until next winter, when he's a 15-game winner, than if they trade him again now, as a 15-game loser.

In any case, the Tigers' farm system is all but bereft of any real talent now that they've given up all of these players to prime the pump for 2008. Briefly, the players they gave up were:

For Renteria: Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez

RHP Jair Jurrjens went 7-5 with a 3.20 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 112 innings in AAA this year, then went 3-1 with a 4.70 ERA with Detroit last year. He's 6'1" and 160 lbs right now, so he needs to fill out a little, but he'll only be 22 in January, so there's time for that, and it may help him weather the strain of pitching and stay a little healthier, something that's been a problem for him. His strikeout rate in the minors was decent, his walk rate good and his homer rate excellent, so he could be a nice 3rd or 4th starter.

OF Gorkys Hernandez just turned 20 in September, and hit .293/.344/.391 in the Class A Midwest League this year. That's nothing special in and of itself, but the .293 average was 6th in the Midwest League, and he also stole a league-leading 54 bases (getting caught only 11 times). He's still young enough that he could develop more patience (only 36 walks in 481 at-bats) and as his frame fills out, he should gain some more power.

For Willis and Cabrera: Andrew Miller, Cameron Maybin, Burke Badenhop, Eulogio De La Cruz, Mike Rabelo, and Dallas Trahern.

OF Cameron Maybin was the youngest player in the American league this year, at just 20 years old, and got his first major league hit, and his first major league home run, off Roger Clemens in his second game. Unfortunately, he never got another homer, and indeed, only one more RBI, in the other 22 games he played, hitting a weak .143 overall. The Fish will likely play him in the majors next year anyway, as his .309/.396/.488 averages over 700 or so minor league at-bats suggest that he's close enough to being ready for the Show. Word of warning: he also struck out 206 times in 191 games in the minors, so there will be some growing pains on his way to becoming an All-Star, which probably won't be for three or four years at the earliest, if it ever happens at all. Regardless, he and Miller are the obvious jewels in this trade for Florida.

LHP Andrew Miller looks like he's going to be an awesome pitcher. But looks aren't everything. He's a 6'6" lefty who throws in the mid-90's, and he's only 22. He struck out 117 batters in 142 innings at four levels (High-A through the majors) this year, but he also walked 64 batters and gave up a homer every 8 innings at the major league level. Like Randy Johnson, he may take some time to harness his stuff and develop better control. Hopefully it won't take him until he's 26 to have a decent season, as Johnson did.

Mike Rabelo caught about 50 games in the majors this year, hitting a weak .256/.300/.357, which wasn't much different from the .263/.332/.346 he hit in his 6-year minor league career, spanning over 500 games. He'll be 28 in a month, and is probably as good as he'll ever get, which is to say, as good as a few dozen guys you can normally get off the waiver wire.

Eulogio De la Cruz will be 24 when the 2008 season starts, and he did well enough at two levels (AA and AAA) in 2007 to merit a long look in spring training next year, maybe even a bullpen job. He throws hard despite his size (5'11", 160 lbs), but doesn't have a lot of control or movement, and so he walks too many batters to make it as a starter in the majors (about 4/9 innings in the minors). He could be a short relief guy, but his manager will have to keep him on a short leash, given his control issues.

Burke Badenhop is a big righty (6'5", 220), a polished, college-experienced pitcher with good control (about 2 walks/9 innings in 67 minor league starts) and reportedly an excellent sinker. He'll be 25 when next season begins, but has pitched only 19 innings above Class-A ball at this point, so he'll likely have to prove himself in AA and AAA before being brought up to the majors. On the other hand, he is in the Florida system now, where they have tended to skip AAA entirely if the major league club had a hole to fill, so we could see him in the majors sooner rather than later. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus thinks he could be a solid #4 or #5 starter in the majors very soon.

Dallas Trahern is a lanky righty (6'1", 190) who just turned 22 a few weeks ago. He has survived on finesse, producing a lot of ground balls with his sinker but not striking out many, even in the low minors. His career minor league strikeout rate is only 4.78/9IP, and his walk rate (2.74) is good, but not excellent. His 3.38 ERA in the minors is largely due to the fact that he's reluctant to give up homers (only 31 in 500 minor league innings) and he's pitched in places that tend to favor pitchers. He's young still, but not many guys learn to throw with another 5 mph in their 20's, so I doubt he'll ever make much of a dent in the majors. Too bad, too. He's got a great baseball name.

So anyway, there you have them, the eight players the Tigers have surrendered in order that they might achieve victory in 2008. It's likely that Magglio Ordonez and Placido Polanco will come back to earth next year, but it's also likely that Jacque Jones will bounce back, and that Curtis Granderson and even Miguel Cabrera should at least stay the same, if not improve next year, and the OF/1B/DH spots have plenty of depth, with Jones, Granderson, Guillen, Magglio, Gary Sheffield, Marcus Thames, and young Ryan Rayburn to rotate through five spots in the batting order.

The starting rotation, RHP Justin Verlander, RHP Jeremy Bonderman, LHP Dontrelle Willis, LHP Kenny Rogers and LHP Nate Robertson could be great, with star potential in three of them (Verlander, Bonderman and Willis) a solid innings-eater in Robertson, and a crafty old lefty in the Gambler.

The bullpen was not great last year overall, but it has a lot of young arms in it, which should only help them next year as they mature.

Even though the Tigers faltered late in the year and finished a seemingly-distant 8 games behind Cleveland in the AL Central, the real difference between the teams (by Baseball prospectus' Third-Order Wins) was virtually nil, and Detroit just added two great hitters and a potentially great pitcher, so the Tribe had better watch out. Not to mention the rest of the Junior Circuit.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

03 December 2007

Pettitte Returns to Yankees in 2008...but What About the Rest of the Rotation?

Andy Pettitte's agent, Randy Kendricks, has announced that Pettitte will pitch for the Yankees in 2008, rather than retiring. Yankees' GM Brian Cashman had previously said, when Pettitte declined his $16 million option for next year, that Andy had a standing offer for that amount, whenever he wanted to pick it up. pettitte had said that he would either pitch for the Yankees or retire, but had offerred few hints as to which direction he was leaning, if any.

Kendrick's announcement comes on the first day of the MLB Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee, and as such, is probably no accident. Cashman and the Steinbrothers are trying to acquire themselves a bonafide ace in Johan Santana, the first they will have had since Roger Clemens won the Cy Young Award in 2001. (Pettitte himself won 21 in Pinstripes in 2004, but finished a distant 6th in the CYA voting, and had an ERA over 4.00 for the year.)

But the Yankees have said that they want the bidding to end, and with Pettitte on board, feel confident enough to draw a line in the sand, setting a deadline of today for any deal. They could still go after Oakland's Dan Haren if no deal for Santana is reached. they'd have to give up a similar package of prospects, but would not have to shell out a $150 million contract for him, and would not have to worry about him vetoing a trade. Santana, for his part, has said that he would veto any trade that happens during the 2008 season, which further increases the pressure on Minnesota to act now.

It's possible that the Yankees increased their offer to Pettitte in an effort to get him to commit, though Pettitte, a family man and attested devout Christian, wouldn't likely respond to such blatantly mercenary tactics. Well, maybe for an extra three million.

Pettitte, a slightly better than LAIM pitcher, is there to shore up the rotation, but is decidedly not an "ace". The rest of the rotation consists of Mike Mussina, a once great pitcher who's going to be 39 years old before the week is out and who likely doesn't have much left in the tank, Chien-Ming Wang, whose inability to strike anyone out makes him a risk to implode at any minute, and some combination of youngsters like Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy and/or Kei Igawa.

In some ways, this could actually help the negotiations with the Twins over Santana, as it takes a little of the pressure off New York to acquire the ace that everyone thinks they need so badly. Even without the trade, they've got Pettitte and Wang both slated to log 200+ innings (we hope) of average to above-average work in 2008, plus some combination of Hughes, Kennedy, Igawa, Moose, and Joba to fill in the other three slots. That's about 700 innings they need to get out of six pitchers, some of whom might be pretty good.

They could (and I think should, though almost certainly won't) turn Mike Mussina into a "Sunday Starter" like the White Sox did with Ted Lyons back in the 1930's. Mussina did much better late in the 2007 season with longer rest, and having an extra couple of days off in between starts might do him some good going forward, making him more effective when he does pitch and extending his career by a year or two. The extra rest might help him go seven innings or more when he does pitch, and most of the young guys in the rotation should be flexible enough to work around him. This of course, will never happen, for two main reasons:

1) It's different. Baseball people detest "different".
B) The Yankee Public would never swallow it. "Dat S.O.B. makes eleven million dollahs and he only pitches once a week!? #&%$@* BUM!!"

In any case, Pettitte's assured presence on the team next year means that Cashman and Co. don't have to sell the farm to buy one workhorse, even if he is the best bred horse this side of Sandy Koufax. I still think that they should give up Austin "Action" Jackson, Melky Cabrera and either Hughes or Kennedy to get him, but if not, they can certainly survive next year without him. It should be noted, though, that the yankees have supposedly told Minnesota that Jackson is off-limits as the third player in the deal, which means that the Twins will have to pick someone like Jeff Marquez, Kevin Wheelan, or Tyler Clippard. Maybe, since the Twins value speed so much and don't seem terribly interested in power, the Yankees can convince them that Brett Gardner would make a good third piece of the puzzle? Probably not.

The real problem is that the likely alternative would be for Boston to get him, in which case the Yankees are in trouble. Boston added their prized CF prospect Jacoby Ellsbury to the trade mix, but then took Jon Lester off the trading block, so things are still at a stalemate. Ellsbury made a splash by hitting .353 in his major league debut, impressive even if it was only 33 games. But Ellsbury's a year older than Melky Cabrera, and has even less power. Their minor league composites are pretty similar.

           AVG   OBP   SLG
Melky .294 .344 .422
Ellsbury .314 .390 .426

Melky started younger, and has a little (very little) more power. He homered once every 53 at-bats in the minors, compared to Ellsbury, who went yard about once every 102 at-bats. But Ellsbury walks more and has a lot more speed, which makes him the better prospect, despite his age and relative lack of experience. If Boston puts Lester back on the table, I doubt the Yankees will have a chance.

In any case, it will be nice to have Pettitte back. I've always liked him, and it would be a shame to see him go.

Stumble Upon Toolbar