The Top 10 Off-Seasons of 2010

26 12 2010

Posted by BaconSlayer09

In just one week, 2010 will be behind us and 2011 will be well on its way. So to fit this new year’s occasion, we here at Pine Tar and Pocket Protectors will look at the top 10 teams who did well in free-agency and trades in this current 2010-2011 off-season. The teams are ordered based on a scoring system and my opinion. They will both be weighted equally. The system only takes into account the players the team acquired (not who they lost); therefore, it can be slightly skewed. This is why I took the liberty to make my own opinionated rankings to possibly balance any of the flaws from the scoring system out.

Carl Crawford received the biggest contract of 2010.

The scoring system includes four components: WAR added by acquired and re-signed players (based off 2010 stats, does not include options, and weighted 50%), Investment per WAR (based off 2010 stats and 2011 salaries, weighted 30%), Invested dollars per player (total invested money of all contracts divided by number of players added, 10%), and Total dollars invested (10%). Each component will be ranked from 1 to 10, the team with the highest ranking gets 10 points for that category, the lowest ranking gets 1 point. The highest score a team can achieve is 10 points. Now that we have the technicalities out of the way, let’s get to the rankings.

1. Boston Red Sox
WAR Added – 13.4 (1st)
Investment per WAR – $2.24 MM (6th)
Investment per Player – $27.33 MM (10th)
Total Investment – $164 MM (10th)
My Ranking – #1

I don’t think this ranking comes as a surprise to anybody. Boston added two superstars in Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, but they did it at the expense of a $142 MM dollar contract to Crawford over a whopping 7 years and possibly a 7 year extension for Adrian Gonzalez sometime in 2011. Nevertheless, you can’t say that you aren’t impressed by the amount of talent the Red Sox got in the two, as they combined for over 12 WAR last season. The Red Sox also added Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler to strengthen the depth of their bullpen. The only real loss from Boston’s 2010 roster is Adrian Beltre. However, the 7.1 WAR he produced will be easily replaced by whatever Crawford and Gonzalez will provide in 2011.

Greinke gives Milwaukee a true ace.

2. Milwaukee Brewers
WAR Added – 10.4 (5th)
Investment per WAR – $2.06 MM (2nd)
Investment per Player – $8.73 MM (6th)
Total Investment – $34.9 MM (6th)
My Ranking – #2

The Brewers’ biggest weakness in 2010 was their starting pitching. Outside of Yovani Gallardo, no other starting pitcher on their staff produced over 2 wins above replacement. Doug Melvin went out of his way this off-season to repair the broken staff and he has done a phenomenal job thus far. He first acquired Shaun Marcum from the Toronto Blue Jays for hot shot prospect Brett Lawrie. Two weeks later, Zack Greinke joined Marcum, Gallardo, Wolf, and Narveson in one of the best rotations of the National League. Of course, the cost was steep and Milwaukee’s upgraded rotation came at the price of pretty much the entire farm system. Nevertheless, it makes the Brewers serious contenders for at least the next two seasons.

3. Philadelphia Phillies
WAR Added – 7.9 (6th)
Investment per WAR – $1.7 MM (1st)
Investment per Player – $62.75 MM (10th)
Total Investment – $125.5 MM (9th)
My Ranking – #3

The Phillies got some criticism this past season for trading Cliff Lee in order to get Roy Halladay. The harsh words were at their loudest when the Giants knocked off the Phillies in the NLCS. Meanwhile, Cliff Lee was making the Yankees’ hitters look like little leaguers in the ALCS. Two months later, the criticism for Ruben Amaro Jr. on that trade has faded. Why? Because Cliff Lee is in Philadelphia again and nobody really expected it. All off-season, the general public was led to believe that Lee was going to sign with either the Yankees or the Rangers. However, the Phillies popped up at the last second and grabbed Lee, signing him to a 5 year $120 MM deal. The Phillies also re-signed Jose Contreras. Thus far, those have been the only two transactions by Philadelphia. Nevertheless, the signing of Lee gives the Phillies one of the best rotations of all time and makes them serious World Series contenders.

Cliff Lee's return to Philadelphia was one of the most surprising moves of the off-season.

4. Detroit Tigers
WAR Added – 11.5 (3rd)
Investment per WAR – $3.33 MM (10th)
Investment per Player – $17.55 MM (7th)
Total Investment – $87.75 MM (7th)
My Ranking – #5

With about $70 million coming off the books this off-season, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski wasted no time in signing two of the bigger free agents on the market in Joaquin Benoit and Victor Martinez. Benoit’s deal came first and if you read some of my other posts, I’m not the biggest fan of it. It totally changed the expectations of other non-closers and screwed up the market. However, Benoit does improve their bullpen and Victor Martinez is somebody who can hit behind Miguel Cabrera and make sure he’s not intentionally walked a billion times in 2011. Besides the two additions, the Tigers also re-signed Jhonny Peralta and Brandon Inge, both at fair market value. The Tigers were a decent team in 2010, the additions of Martinez and Benoit should put them in much greater contention with the Twins and White Sox for the AL Central division title in 2011.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers
WAR Added – 12.2 (2nd)
Investment per WAR – $2.49 MM (8th)
Investment per Player – $7.12 MM (5th)
Total Investment – $56.95 MM (6th)
My Ranking – #7

This might be one of the bigger surprises on the list. Yes, the Dodgers have had a pretty decent off-season and no, they really didn’t add anybody too significant. Juan Uribe was their biggest new addition, but they also added some decent pieces in Matt Guerrier, Jon Garland, and Tony Gwynn Jr. Nevertheless, a good portion of their 12.2 WAR added comes from the re-signed Hiroki Kuroda and Rod Barajas, who combined for 5.5 WAR. The list of players the Dodgers got aren’t all too impressive all by themselves. However, things add up and you somehow end up with a team that acquired 12.2 WAR. Even so, I don’t think these moves put them over the top in the NL West whatsoever.

6. Oakland Athletics
WAR Added – 7.8 (7th)
Investment per WAR – $2.47 MM (7th)
Investment per Player – $3.85 MM (3rd)
Total Investment – $19.25 MM (2nd)
My Ranking – #4

None of the position players Billy Beane acquired this off-season are flashy, but they all have something in common – on base percentage. Beane acquired David DeJesus early in the off-season. He then signed Hideki Matsui to a reasonable one year offer and yanked the underrated Josh Willingham from Washington for two minor leaguers. One of the weaknesses of last year’s A’s team was power and Beane partially addressed the issue by getting Willingham and Matsui. DeJesus brings high OBP and defense, something that the A’s have emphasized for a long time. The A’s also signed two reclamation projects from Texas – Brandon McCarthy and Rich Harden. I think both will compete for the 5th spot in the A’s already stacked rotation. The other teams in the AL West should look for the A’s in 2011, they’re going to be a serious contender for the division.

Dunn brings consistency and left handed power that the White Sox lacked last year.

7. Chicago White Sox
WAR Added – 11 (4th)
Investment per WAR – $2.89 MM (9th)
Investment per Player – $23.25 MM (8th)
Total Investment – $116.25 MM (8th)
My Ranking – #6

The White Sox are going all in for 2011, but it didn’t seem that way when the off-season began. Rumors were flying that the White Sox would head towards the rebuilding route and let the products of their weak farm system ride it out. However, that was not to be, as GM Kenny Williams signed Adam Dunn to a 4 year contract and then re-signed A.J. Pierzynski on the same day. A week later, Williams would welcome back Paul Konerko with a 3 year contract. The South Siders did lose both J.J. Putz and Bobby Jenks in the bullpen, but signed Jesse Crain to fill the void. Overall, the White Sox put themselves in a position to be heavy contenders for the AL Central title. As always, there’s a lot of question marks with the team. Whether those question marks go the way the White Sox’ way will determine Chicago’s fate come October.

8. San Diego Padres
WAR Added – 7.5 (8th)
Investment per WAR – $2.22 MM (4th)
Investment per Player – $3.03 MM (1st)
Total Investment – $24.2 MM (3rd)
My Ranking – #9

I know what you’re thinking, how the hell can a team that loses Adrian Gonzalez have a good off-season? That’s a very good question and I can’t even explain it too well. But the scoring system obviously sees the value in getting the best bang for your buck, which is what the Padres are doing. They used the $5.5 million Gonzalez was going to be paid in 2011 and signed Orlando Hudson to a two year deal. Hudson has shown to be a very solid 3 WAR player when healthy. In addition, they traded for Jason Bartlett, who had a pretty poor season in 2010, but did show his potential in 2009 (even if it was probably a career year). They also signed Aaron Harang to a reasonable deal and I fully expect Petco Park to make Harang’s numbers look good again. The Padres may not have signed or acquired anybody too worthwhile to replace A-Gon, but as I said before, these things add up and you can probably look at the prospects they got in return for Gonzalez as a plus. In the end, the Padres may be one of the top teams in the NL West next season.

9. Atlanta Braves
WAR Added – 5.5 (10th)
Investment per WAR – $2.46 MM (6th)
Investment per Player – $3.43 MM (2nd)
Total Investment – $13.7 MM (1st)
My Ranking – #8

The Braves made just one major off-season move this past year and that was trading for Dan Uggla. Fortunately for Atlanta, that’s a pretty influential piece. How influential? Well, 5.1 of the 5.5 WAR Atlanta added belonged to Uggla. The Braves also got some bullpen help in the form of George Sherrill and Scott Linebrink, both are veterans coming off bad seasons. In Sherrill’s case, he’s actually had recent success and can be an effective LOOGY. Linebrink? Well, let’s just say the trade was a straight up salary dump. After a very impressive campaign in 2010, the Braves didn’t need to do that much work this off-season. They’ve done enough so far by acquiring Uggla and that should go a long ways in their conquest for a playoff spot in 2011.

Werth might have been overpaid, but he brings consistent production to the Nationals.

10. Washington Nationals
WAR Added – 6.8 (9th)
Investment per WAR – $2.2 (3rd)
Investment per Player – $26.68 MM (9th)
Total Investment – $133.4 MM (9th)
My Ranking – #10

The Nationals did manage to add one of the biggest free agents of the off-season in Jayson Werth, but they probably overpaid at 7 years and $126 million. Werth and Ryan Zimmerman make a nice tandem as far as franchise players go, but the Nationals are missing key pieces in numerous other places, like the starting rotation and bullpen. Werth is technically Adam Dunn’s replacement in the lineup. However, can you imagine Dunn, Werth, and Zimmerman in the same lineup? Unfortunately, that was not meant to be. The Nationals also signed Rick Ankiel and are hoping for Chen-Mien Wang to magically heal from his injuries since they signed him to a one year incentive-laden deal. Werth was a nice surprise for Nationals fans, but I doubt they’ll be anything more than a .500 team in 2011 at best, especially in a stacked NL East.

Unfortunately, this is only a list of 10 teams and there are some other teams who did okay for themselves this off-season. The Orioles really upgraded their infield with the acquisitions of Hardy and Reynolds. They would probably be 11th if the list was made of 15 teams. The Rockies were pretty busy, but I’m not really sure their use of money was the best, so they might have made the top 15 list. The Giants could be another possibility, since they did get Huff and Burrell back. There are a handful of different teams you can put on this list and it would look okay.

If you have any suggestions about this list, please post them in the comments. I don’t think this list is the most accurate either, so I’d like some feedback. This scoring system was developed by me in like an hour so it’s not the most accurate. However, I can’t say that I don’t like how the list ended up. There’s a few blemishes here or there, but it looks decent overall.

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The Rivalry: John Lackey and A.J. Burnett

15 10 2010

Posted by cubs223425


Lackey signed a 5 year $82.5 million deal with Boston this past off-season

It’s one of the oldest rivalries in sports–the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. There are many defining aspects of it. The sale of Babe Ruth, the 2004 ALCS, the championship counts, and the well-known disdain for each other are some common examples. But December 16, 2009 is a more subtle date.

On this date, the Red Sox signed former Angels pitcher John Lackey. What does this have to do with the Yankees? Well, one year and four days before that–December 12, 2008–the Yankees had signed former Marlin and Blue Jay A.J. Burnett. What makes them even more similar is the contracts; both were given a total of $82.5 million over five years, despite the fact that both were 31 at the time.

Of course, the pitchers are not exactly the same. A.J. Burnett is more of the prototypical power arm. He sports the higher K/9 rate (8.2 to Lackey’s 7.1), but also the higher BB/9 rate (3.8 to 2.7 for Lackey). But the career ERA and WHIP numbers are rather similar, with Lackey–the more consistent, durable horse–leading the ERA by just 0.10 (3.89 to 3.99) and the WHIP by 0.001 (1.320 to 1.321). So, with such similar circumstances, there are going to be those, such as myself, who will wonder who won this deal. Why? Because it’s Yanks-Sawx, guys, and every facet of this rivalry is examined with extreme detail. We can evaluate the two using four categories: contract breakdown, production before their new deal, production with their new contract, and future expectations.

Contract Breakdown: As we have said, both pitchers sport 5-year, $85 million deals. But there are some differences, Burnett has a contract with a flat, no bonus deal of $16.5 million per season. Lackey, on the other hand, was given both a $3.5 million signing bonus and a first-year salary of $18 million. This allows his other four years to be just $15.25 million annually, meaning his older seasons are less expensive than those of his Yankees counterpart.

ADVANTAGE: John Lackey/Boston

Pre-Contract Performance: This might be the toughest part to call. Before their respective new deals, both pitchers posted identical 3.81 ERAs. Burnett sported a lower 1.28 WHIP, to Lackey’s 1.31, along with an 8.4/9 that trumped the 7.2 of Lackey. Lackey’s strengths came in the terms of durability and free passes. He managed to top Burnett is both BB/9 (2.6 to 3.7), as well as K/BB ratio (2.72 to 2.25). From 1999-2008, Burnett managed to make 211 starts over 215 appearances, totaling 1,376 1/3 innings. Conversely, Lackey had his numbers from 2002-2009 total 233 starts over 234 appearances, with a 1,501 innings. That led to an average of 188 IP for Lackey and 138 IP for Burnett, though that was skewed by the fact that Burnett’s first season spanned only seven outings, while Lackey was given eighteen starts when he started out. Omitting that short 1999, Burnett still falls well short of Lackey’s 188 innings with just 148 of his own. While the ERAs are identical and Burnett managed a slightly lower WHIP, the durability of Lackey resulted in an ERA+ of 116 for the former Angel, while Burnett’s frailty led to a lower 111 ERA+.

ADVANTAGE: John Lackey/Boston


Burnett has underperformed in 2010

Post-Contract Performance: Burnett and Lackey both managed to have below-average 2010s, posting ERA+ numbers of 81 and 99, respectively. Normally, this would make Lackey the clear-cut winner, but Burnett also had 2009 with his new team, where he posted a 114 ERA+. When added in, that gives Burnett a 96 ERA+ over the two seasons. Still, that doesn’t quite reach Lackey. What Burnett did that Lackey has yet to do, is be an integral part of a title run. Burnett’s entire body of work was less than ideal in the 2009 postseason (5 starts, 1-1, 5.27 ERA), he did help shut down the Phillies and Pedro Martinez in Game 2 of the World Series. He allowed just one run over seven innings, striking out nine, which left Mariano Rivera to close out the last two innings of that matchup.  His Game 5 start was considerably worse (2 innings, 6 earned runs), but that was mostly and all-offense night (even then-Phillies ace Cliff Lee allowed 5 earned over four innings). So, while Lackey has the slight regular-season record over him, what Burnett did something much bigger when he helped win that Game 2 start over an all-time great pitcher.

ADVANTAGE: A.J. Burnett/New York

Future Expectations: No one is psychic (sorry, Ms. Cleo), but 2010 can give us a rather useful way to view the future from these aging pitchers, and it’s not all that pretty. Neither pitcher had a strong 2010, but the end of the year performances were very different. Lackey had his best statistical month, posting and ERA of 3.46 and a WHIP of just 1.03. At that point in time, Burnett was imploding. He managed to go from the Yankees #2 to off of the ALDS roster by putting up a horrific 5.60 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. Burnett has since been added to the ALCS roster for New York and slated to start Game 4 against Texas’ Tommy Hunter, but the damage has been done.

ADVANTAGE: John Lackey/Boston

As a whole, John Lackey has clearly shown that he is the better choice. His long-term outlook is better in almost every manner, when compared to A.J. Burnett. His durability, future price, and 2010 results suggest that he is a better investment going forward. Of course, if Burnett can turn his awful regular season into a successful, redemptive postseason and help the Yankees to a repeat, the discussion could be brought back up. For now, though, it seems Boston has made a much better decision with Lackey.





Delgado’s comeback attempt: Finished? I think so.

4 09 2010

Posted by MagicSox

August 7th, 2010.  Nearly four weeks ago, the Red Sox signed Carlos Delgado to a minor league contract.  A team rocked by injuries harder than any in the past decade, our MVP-caliber first baseman was out for the year, and our starter was (and sadly still is) Mike Lowell.  Being an optimistic fan, I looked at the best-case scenario: we have the 30th-ranking home-run hitter of all time (who jacked 30+ for 11 out of 13 seasons between 1996 and 2008),  someone who hasn’t posted an OPS below .700 since 1995, and who hit .298 with 38 longballs in his last full season (2008).  His career WAR also averages out to around 3.0, which definitely helps a club in a playoff race.  I purposely ignored his subpar UZR, but a true offensive threat is needed when you have guys like Bill Hall being relied on for big contributions.

Of course, there were the injury concerns.  He’s 38, which in baseball years is around when you start to become increasingly brittle.  Hell, he only had 94 ABs last year.  It was anyone’s guess as to how he’d hold up in the majors.  But I was greatly looking forward to

Carlos Delgado's comeback attempt to the "Big Show" has not gone as planned for the Red Sox.

The Sox signed him on a minor league deal, where he’d report to AAA Pawtucket.  Local attendance was boosted tremendously: former all-star, coming to McCoy Stadium and hitting cleanup for the PawSox.  Count myself as one of the people who punched a ticket to see him.  Turns out, it was a waste of money.  I didn’t see any bombs, or timely hits, or even any hits for that matter.  A couple of strikeouts and a couple of groundouts are not what I expect from a two-time all-star.  However, the biggest waste of money was the cash that the Red Sox set aside for his contract. In only five games for Pawtucket, he went 3-13 while going down on strikes a whopping 46.2% of the time, not to mention a dismal .231 slugging percentage.

Instead of looking like a seasoned big-league veteran, he looked like a recent call-up from AA still wet behind the ears.  What pisses me off is that the Red Sox apparently didn’t see anything wrong in his workout.  If he was this rusty, why was he even signed?  If anything, he took valuable field experience from a prospect (Lars Anderson) who could realistically see some big league time in 2011.

Delgado was placed on the disabled list on August 21st, just two weeks after joining the team, due to hip soreness.  He hasn’t played since, and with the minor league season nearly over, I think that the Red Sox have seen enough of him.  While a good idea in principle, Delgado’s body cannot withstand playing everyday in the majors again without injury, and his skill seems to have eroded.  With that said, hopefully we can have Youkilis back at first by opening day and forget about Delgado.





2011 Boston Red Sox Outfield

23 08 2010

Posted by MagicSox

April 4th, 2010.

Jacoby Ellsbury in left field, Mike Cameron in center field, J.D. Drew in right.

August 19th, 2010.

Daniel Nava in left field, Ryan Kalish in center field, J.D. Drew in right.

What the hell happened?

Nava and Kalish have been a big part of Boston's outfield this year

First, you have to realize that the 2010 Red Sox have had absolutely the worst luck regarding injuries this year.  Both of our catchers, MVP-candidate 1st and 2nd basemen, star young left fielder and veteran center fielder.  For any other team that had a shot at the playoffs, all of their hopes would be decimated by now, especially in baseball’s toughest division.  The Sox are still dangling in there, only 5 and a half games out of the wild card race.  It looks like this “second-string” lineup can at least get us through the season.

The question is next year: in their cameos, Kalish and Nava have done adequately for untested rookies, especially Kalish, who started the season with AA Portland.  Kalish is hitting .250 with an OPS 0f .654, so he isn’t cutting it at the plate, and there’s not enough data to collect WAR or UZR from him.  Although he’s had a couple of big home runs and come up admirably in the clutch, he’s frankly not ready for a full season in the big leagues.  He did a fine job as an injury replacement, but most of his 2011 season will be spent at AAA Pawtucket.

Daniel Nava is the more well-known of the two, mainly due to his improbable story and big first at-bat.  After cooling off, he’s managing a .273 average, with a much more acceptable .793 OPS, and 17 RBIs in 99 at bats.  He’s been a 0.4 win player, comparable to Rajai Davis, Troy Glaus, and Howie Kendrick.  His UZR is a not-great -0.5. Since his contact hitter profile (1 home run) doesn’t match his position (LF), he’ll have to improve his defense a bit if he wants to be considered for a starting spot.

Comparing his UZR to the original starting outfield, we have:

Jacoby Ellsbury at 0.7

Mike Cameron at a subpar measure of -8.7

J.D. Drew at 6.5

Drew is one of the most underrated defensive right fielders in the game.

As you can see, Nava’s -0.5 is definitely better than Cameron’s poor rating of -8.7.  This makes Cameron a definite trade target, since someone who can hit .259 and slug around .400 (not to mention 3 Gold Gloves) has some value to hitting-starved teams in the AL, or as a bench bat and veteran influence for an NL team.  Assuming the Red Sox can find a taker (which I’d like them to do very much), Nava would start in left, and Ellsbury would switch to center.  Ellsbury’s career UZR/150 in left (23.7) is a lot better than his in center (-0.6), his play in center will be an improvement than Cameron’s.  I’m also sure that they would have no problem bringing back Darnell McDonald as the fourth outfielder.

Basically, the team can improve in offense and defense if they replace Cameron with Nava.  Also, as a young player, Nava offers more upside, opposed to a crusty, past-his-prime veteran in Cameron.  After a year with a very cloudy outfield picture (Ellsbury, Cameron, Drew, Hall, Patterson, Nava, Kalish, Reddick), hopefully the Red Sox can bring in some stability.