An Act of Desperation

26 01 2011

Posted by BaconSlayer09

After watching the Red Sox ink Carl Crawford to a 7 year deal and the division rival Rangers sign Adrian Beltre to a 5 year contract, the Angels front office must have gotten a bit jealous.  While that’s understandable, by no means does it justify the actions that Tony Reagins and company pulled off this past weekend.  In a true move of desperation, the Angels took on the $86 million contract of Vernon Wells, one of the worst contracts in all of baseball, in exchange for Mike Napoli, Juan Rivera, and $5 million.

Vernon Wells bounced back in 2010 with a .362 wOBA. His highest mark since 2006.

It doesn’t matter how you view this trade, the bottom line is that the Angels made an incredibly irresponsible financial move in order to make some noise this off-season and appease the common fan. Nevertheless, the noise from the trade has been all but positive and even the average fan will realize just how horrendous of a trade this is in the very near future.

Vernon Wells is not a bad player. He’s definitely flawed, but he has his strengths. For one, he’s a pretty good hitter. He’s not the hitter he was when he initially signed his current albatross contract back in 2006, but he’s still a solid hitter, especially for a center fielder. The problem is that he’s not really a center fielder anymore. Ultimate Zone Rating points out that Wells has been worth -36 runs in center field during the past three seasons, Defensive Runs Saved has Wells at -28 runs over the past three campaigns, and Tom Tango’s Fan Scouting Reports have Wells at -19 runs over the past two years. In terms of raw numbers and the eye test, Vernon Wells is no longer the legit center fielder he once was in the early 2000s. In fact, he’s probably one of the worst full-time defensive center fielders in baseball. In order for Wells to live up to the rest of his contract, he’d have to produce somewhere around 20 wins above replacement at $4.5 million per win. The only problem is that Wells has only been worth 25.1 WAR in his entire 12 year career. At 32 years old and past his prime, qualitative analysis tells us that Wells isn’t going to live up to the rest of his contract.

We can, however, approximate how much value Wells will most likely produce over the next 4 seasons by using a combination of Bill James, CAIRO, and FanGraphs Fan Projections. According to these three systems, Wells is going to sport a .340 wOBA in 632 PAs for 2011. These would be very good offensive numbers for a center fielder. The only problem is that Peter Bourjos, fielding extraordinaire,  has center field locked up. With Torii Hunter in right and Bourjos in center, the only position for Wells to play is left field. This is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because playing left field requires a lot less range. Wells’ lack of range has been his greatest flaw as a defender in the past three years, where he’s racked up a total of -40 range runs. The move to left field will most likely turn Wells into an average defender. The curse is that he reduces his value by nearly 10 runs due to the positional adjustment. With his .340 wOBA in 632 PAs and league average defense in LF for 148 games, Vernon Wells is projected to produce 2.3 WAR in 2011. If we take this figure as a measurement of his current talent level, we can then regress this number by .5 wins for his first two seasons and .7 wins for his last two. I am doing this because the regression level at age 32 compared to age 34 is not the same (see why here).  To make this more accurate, I will also inflate the value of a win by 6% every season. By doing this, we can see just how much Wells will contribute during the 4 years left on his contract.

  • 2011 (32) – 2.3 WAR ($10.4 million)
  • 2012 (33) – 1.8 WAR ($8.6 million)
  • 2013 (34) – 1.1 WAR ($5.6 million)
  • 2014 (35) – 0.4 WAR ($2.2 million)

This model is not extremely accurate, it’s just a well thought-out guesstimate. But what it tells us is that Wells will be an average player for about two seasons, a very good bench player for one, and then a replacement level player for the last season of his $86 million contract. In the 4 years that Wells might spend in Anaheim, he is projected to produce 5.6 WAR and $27 million in value. That’s $59 million short of what he’s being paid. Even if we pegged Wells as the player he was last season (a 4 WAR player) for the next 4 seasons, he will produce 16 WAR, which comes out to $78 million in value. Still $8 million short of what he’s being paid. So even in an almost perfect scenario where Wells does not regress a single bit during his age 32-35 seasons, he will still be overpaid.

Napoli's shortcomings as a catcher have limited his playing time under Mike Scioscia.

What’s even worse about this trade is that the Angels gave up a good player to get a mediocre one. For whatever reason, Mike Scioscia dislikes Mike Napoli. On one hand, I understand why. Napoli’s a bad defensive catcher and Scioscia, being a former catcher himself, really wants a guy who can save his pitchers some wild pitches and call a good game. However, when the guy who will replace Napoli is a .195 hitting Jeff Mathis, you have to wonder if Napoli is sleeping with Mike Scioscia’s wife. Napoli has averaged 2.8 WAR over the past three seasons and has shown he can be an adequate defender at first base. Combined projections have Napoli at 2.9 WAR for 2011. The other piece of the deal is Juan Rivera, who had a down year in 2010 in comparison to his solid 2009. Rivera will most likely get decent playing time as a left fielder in Toronto. He’s probably a guy with a 3 WAR ceiling, but will  most likely produce 1 to 1.5 wins based on playing time. So in a sense, the Angels gave up 4 wins of talent in exchange for 2 wins of talent. In the process, they also took on $81 million in salary and only shed $11 million. So they lose about $9 million in the exchange of talent alone for 2011. Then there’s the $70 million gap in salaries. If Wells will only earn $27 million of that $70 million back, that’s a loss of $43 million. Bringing us to a net loss of $52 million for the Angels. Talk about financially irresponsible.

In a period where every team is trying to squeeze the most value out of their dollars, the Angels seem to be doing the exact opposite. Sure, teams like the Red Sox have spent far more this off-season, but at least they’re spending their money in a responsible way by acquiring pieces that will at least yield enough value to match the contract. We’re talking about a $50 million net loss for the Angels right now. That $50 million could have gotten them 4 years of Adam Dunn or Victor Martinez this off-season. Hell, the $81 million investment they made by trading for Wells could have gotten them Adrian Beltre. Instead, they’re stuck with a very average player on the brink of a sharp decline. If the Angels follow up their first losing season since 2003 with another bad season in 2011, heads will turn in management and Tony Reagins might find himself in the job hunting market.

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.

The Winter Meetings. The Recap.

10 12 2010

Posted by Brady

The Winter Meetings are now over. And a grand total of 50 players switched teams and organizations. Not counting the Rule 5 Draft. Let’s recap!

Werth's $126 million deal started the barrage of moves at the winter meetings.

We all know about Jayson Werth’s mega deal. He’ll be getting $126 million over a 7 year span. He’ll be getting the big bucks from the Nationals until he’s 39 years old. It’s hard for me, personally to be upset about this move for either parties. Jayson Werth gets to be a part of a great young core that will consist of Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos, and Jordan Zimmerman. And the Nats get perennial 30 home run power, good defense, and good speed. It’s to big of a contract, but let’s be real. The Nats weren’t going to get anyone close to Werth’s skill, without paying big bucks.

The Red Sox also had a big week. They acquired Adrian Gonzalez, but had to give up top prospect, Casey Kelly to do it. This also involves a shady handshake deal. After Opening Day, Gonzalez will sign an extension. This way the Sox don’t have to pay the luxury tax. They also got Carl Crawford. 7 years, $142 million. This is a much better deal than Werth. Crawford is younger, better, and has been better for longer.

In a surprise move, the Blue Jays sent Shaun Marcum to the Brewers, and got Brett Lawrie. Good for both teams. Toronto needed a middle infielder, and the Brewers needed good pitching.

Seattle fixed their catching problem with Miguel Olivo, who was behind the plate when Greinke had his great 2009 season and when Jimenez had his dominant first half. It makes me wonder what Felix Hernandez will do next season. They also got middle of the road slugger, Jack Cust.

The Red Sox one-upped the Natonals' signing of Werth by signing Crawford to a $142 million deal.

The Padres got Jason Bartlett from the Rays, a long with Casey Kelly and power hitting first base prospect, Anthony Rizzo.

The Pirates continued their love affair with mediocre starting pitching, after signing Scott Olson. They also ended up with Matt Diaz, Kevin Correria, and Cesar Valdez.

The Phillies brought in Dennys Reyes and Brian Bass. Very much a pair of “meh” moves. But they don’t have a big laundry list of things to do this off season.

The Minnesota Twins got a pair of relievers for J.J. Hardy. Brett Jacobson and Jim Hoey. I don’t expect to see either of them in the majors this year.

The Brewers got Shaun Marcum, as we already covered, and Wil Nieves from the Nationals. Washington is feeling pretty good about their catching duo of Ivan Rodriguez, and Wilson Ramos.

The Dodgers have apparently grown weary of Matt Kemp’s defense in center. They have brought in leather specialist Tony Gwynn Jr. and Trent Oeltjen. They also signed Dioner Navaro to  replace Russell Martin behind the plate.

Remember This SI cover? Looks like Dayton Moore's one and only love is now in his hands.

In a very Dayton Mooreish move, Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francouer are both now members of the Kansas City Royals (both former Braves!). Apparently the Royals have given up on 2011 already in 2010. Either that, or they like doing the Tigers, the Twins and the White Sox favors.

The Houston Astros acquired the the Ryan Rowland-Smith. The Australian native seems to be lacking an identity, and has been bouncing back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen, and this last year, he may have been the worst pitcher in the game. Good luck to Houston and Rowland-Smith.

The Detroit Tigers picked up two pieces. Chris Oxspring from the Padres. Oxspring is a 28 year old reliever who made his debut this year. He’s always been a middle of the road pitcher, but he will strike you out. Then he’ll walk you. They also picked up Omir Santos. Santos is a catcher, who is a lot like most back up catchers. Good glove, bad bat. His bat is so bad, that he might as well be swinging a broomstick.

The Colorado Rockies signed super utility man, Ty Wiggington to a $8 MM contract for 2 years, and a club option for an third year. Wiggington can play every position other than catcher and pitcher. But, he cannot play them well. Good signing for the Rockies, as Wiggington’s bat plays very well as an off the bench utility option.

Cleveland acquired back up catcher and first baseman, Paul Phillips. Phillips has never played in more than 30 games since his career started in 2004.

With Crawford and Gonzalez, the Red Sox have one of the best lineups on paper in all of baseball.

The Chicago Cubs signed first baseman, Carlos Pena. It’s a one year deal, and it’s around $10 million. Pena is seeking to fix his reputation after posting a sub-Mendoza line 2010 season. He also gives the Cubs a monopoly on Carloses. Good luck with that, Cubbies.

The Baltimore Orioles robbed the Minnesota Twins by getting J.J. Hardy for a pair of relievers. They also got power hitting, strike out record setting slugger, Mark Reynolds. Also, Brendan Harris will be wearing orange and black. Maybe Buck Showalter can teach him how to do something.

The Atlanta Braves have a LOOGY in George Sherrill. Sherrill is coming off his worst season in 2010, but should be able to bounce back.

And finally, the D’Backs have a closer in J.J. Putz, a third baseman or first baseman in Melvin Mora, a reliever in Kameron Mickolio and a pitcher in need of a role in David Hernandez.

It was a very, very busy three days in Orlando, and some teams got better (Baltimore, Boston, Washington and Milwaukee) and some teams got worse (Minnesota, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh).

We are still waiting on decisions from Cliff Lee and Carl Pavano, but other than that, most of the drama from the off season is over. Only 72 days until pitchers and catchers report!

Revisiting the Cliff Lee Trade: Part Three

7 12 2010

Posted by Teix4MVP

So as Wilchiro and MagicSox have already told you, Cliff Lee has been traded along for prospects and whatnot, and he has performed well everywhere he went, whether it be in Philly or Seattle, or Cleveland. After the addition of Lee to the Mariners, many picked them to win the AL West. However, when the Mariners were quickly smacked out of contention, they decided to trade their second ace, who they would lose to free agency after the season.

It was hard to see Lee go, but M's fans knew it was all for the good.

At first, it looked like the Yankees were going to get him (I remember refreshing the website MLB Trade Rumors every 10-20 minutes just to see if they’d get a deal done) with a package centered around top 5 prospect, catcher Jesus Montero. The deal looked done; that is, until the Mariners opened up conversations with the Rangers again after they apparently didn’t like the package that also included prospect David Adams and probably Zach McAllister (who was later dealt for Austin Kearns) and liked a package centered around Justin Smoak more, along with guys like Blake Beavan, Matthew Lawson, and of course, the now-infamous Josh Lueke. They made the deal, sending Lee (and an out-for-the-season Mark Lowe) to the Rangers on July 9th, So, I’m going to break down the players as they’ve progressed through this year. Let’s start with the player(s) the Rangers got.

The Texas Rangers received:

Cliff Lee (and cash)

The 32-year-old Cliff Lee didn’t perform as well as expected in Texas. He went 4-6, had a 3.98 ERA, and saw his WHIP jump to 1.058 from .945.  His BB/9 went from .5 to 1.0, and his SO/BB dropped from a godly 14.83 to 8.00. His September was pretty good, as he went 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA, but in August he went 1-4 and had a 6.35 ERA. He was a great clubhouse presence for the upstart Rangers, and he led them straight to the World Series in the Playoffs. He defeated two of the best offenses in baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees, easily, giving up just 2 ERs in 24 innings pitched. He allowed just 14 baserunners (he had just one walk allowed) and he struck out 34 batters. And just like that, Lee and the Rangers had reached the World Series, the first the franchise had reached against the San Francisco Giants. The Rangers looked like the favorites to many, particularly because of their ace, Clifford Phifer Lee, and he was starting Game 1. He was 7-0 in his career during the playoffs, and he looked to improve to 8-0 against the Giants hitters, who didn’t have a 30 HR guy.

Or a 100-RBI guy.

Or even a 90-RBI guy.

They DID end up showing Cliff Lee what it was like to lose, actually handing him 2 losses and a 6.94 ERA. He had an over 10 WHIP, compared to a .375 WHIP against the Yankees and a .688 against the Rays. And just like that, the Rangers had lost their first World Series, and their ace was sent towards his first huge payday and a decision of what team to join next season.

Mark Lowe

This was an interesting addition to the trade. Lowe was out for the season with a back surgery, but managed to make it back at the very end of the regular season, pitching in 3 games but had a 12.00 ERA. In the postseason, he pitched in 2 games, and gave up 5 earned runs. At age 27, he isn’t a prospect player, so he was included in the deal as a probable throw-in, although the Rangers want him. He’s arbitration-eligible, so look for him to  be in the Rangers plans for 2011.

Mark Lowe has a fastball that reaches 100 MPH at times, and he could be an elite pitcher in the Texas bullpen in 2011.

The Rangers’ GM Daniels was widely praised for making this deal, as he greatly improved his team’s chances to make it to the playoffs but also did it without giving up any of his blue chip minors prospects. Lee was the obvious prize of the trade, but look for Lowe next season, as he’s one year removed from 75 appearances and a 3.26 ERA, although that should go up due to the park he’s now pitching in. The Rangers have the financial flexibility to sign the best free agent this year’s class has to offer, although the offer has to stack up against those of the Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, Angels, and Tigers, among others. The Rangers do have an edge in the Lee negotiations, however, as Texas is close to his Arkansas home. Whoever signs Lee will get an immediate impact pitcher.

Let’s move on to the M’s part of the deal, starting with the centerpiece, rookie first baseman…

Justin Smoak

Smoak came up to replace the struggling Chris Davis at first base on April 22. He struggled in his time with the Rangers, having a slashline of .209/.316/.353, which wasn’t much better than Davis’s mark of .192/.279/.292. But this does not take away from Smoak’s potential. Smoak was a top fifteen prospect entering the season, rated by Baseball America and MLB Network. He has a solid glove at 1B as evident by a UZR of 2.2, and has drawn comparisions to stars such as Mark Teixeira and Lance Berkman in the past. This guy looks like the real deal.

Josh Lueke

Lueke shows a ton of potential and this is shown by an impressive year, going 5-2 with a 1.86 ERA in 50 games. He posted alot more K’s then he pitched innings, and he will likely be utilized in the Mariners bullpen entering the 2011 season. When acquired, the Mariners were not aware of previous problems with rape, and that is why they have begun to dangle him on the trade market.

Blake Beavan

Justin Smoak was the centerpiece of the Lee deal. He has drawn comparisions to Teixeira and Berkman.

Blake Beavan is a solid piece. At 6’7″ 250 pounds, Beavan posted great numbers in three levels with Texas and Seattle this year, going 14-8 with a 3.90 ERA in 168.1 IP. It doesn’t seem like he blows anyone away with just 101 K’s on the season, but this shouldn’t be an issue as long as he is getting the outs. Beavan is currently in AAA Tacoma, and could fight for a spot in the rotation out of Spring Training, depending on the health status of recently re-signed lefty Erik Bedard.

Matthew Lawson

Lawson was essentially a throw-in piece who likely won’t play a huge part in the Mariners future plans, and will likely be used as trade bait, as he is blocked by stud prospects Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager. He did post decent stats on the year, though, hitting .293/.372/.439 with a solid OPS of .815.

Although it was hard for Mariners fans to see Lee go after such a great offseason followed by a solid 2009, it was evident that a trade was on the way. Jack Zduriencik likely got a maximum return for the lefty, considering the status of his contract and the demands for his salary. This was a trade that worked perfectly for both sides; the Rangers got one of the best pitchers in baseball in Lee who eventually led them in their surge to the World Series, with a fireball arm in Lowe who has a shot as the closer slot if Feliz becomes a starter in 2011. The Mariners got their future 1B in Smoak who fits perfectly with their plans with his left handed bat, solid glove and marginal power, a couple of solid bullpen arms in Lueke and Beavan, and a young 2B in Lawson. This trade was a win-win for both sides.

Edwin Jackson’s Amazing Transformation

3 09 2010

Jackson has transformed from underachieving phenom to possible top tier starter

Posted by BaconSlayer09

On July 31st, Edwin Jackson owned a 5.16 ERA and a 4.27 FIP. Ever since, his ERA is a microscopic 1.47 in 5 starts, where he has gone at least 7 innings in every single start. His 11.05 K/9 and 1.96 BB/9 has resulted in a 2.37 FIP. He has been worth 1.4 WAR in only 5 starts, which is only  .5 wins off from his production in 4 months with the Diamondbacks. This torrid stretch has resulted in his ERA dipping from 5.16 to 4.37 while his season FIP and xFIP are both at 3.86. So is this a fluke and if it isn’t, how did the change come about so quickly? Let’s find out.

First thing’s first, we need to find out if what Edwin Jackson has done in this past month is real or not. The first thing to look at to see if a pitcher is getting lucky or unlucky is BABIP. Jackson’s .316 BABIP is definitely not Trevor Cahill-low and it is on par with his career mark of .310 as well as his .318 mark with the Diamondbacks earlier in the year. His 12.5% line drive rate suggests that this .318 mark is far too high, as his xBABIP is in the neighborhood of .250. So from the looks of this, Jackson has been unlucky, which is sort of hard to believe since his FIP is a whole run higher than his ERA.  And before anybody starts talking about how he’s only faced the Orioles, Tigers, and Indians in his 5 starts, I get it and I’ve taken that into account. Either way, Jackson’s performance thus far has not been a fluke. That much is for sure.

So we now know that Jackson’s 2009 Zack Greinke-like 5 start stretch is nothing like the first 3 months of the season for Brennan Boesch, but why is he so effective now? This is actually very hard to figure out, because getting a new pitching coach and going to another league contains many factors that are immeasurable, in other words, there are lots of intangibles involved. So from an intangibles point of view, the guy who should get a lot of credit has to be Don Cooper. Cooper wanted Edwin Jackson, almost as much as he wanted Matt Thornton back in 2006. Look where Thornton is now. I’ll tell you this: when Don Cooper knows what he’s working with, he’s very good at his job. And it’s not even anything complicated. Cooper usually tells his pitchers to relax, avoid thinking about walks (or the W word), and have good body language on the mound. His reclamation projects, most notably Matt Thornton and Gavin Floyd, were guys with lots of stuff, but little control and mound presence.

With Thornton, Floyd, and Jackson under his belt, Don Cooper is one of the best pitching coaches in baseball

The same can be said about Edwin Jackson, who could very well be his third notable reclamation project. Apparently, Cooper corrected a couple of things with Jackson, who was tipping his pitches. Cooper also told Jackson to stand more upright. This resulted in his push-off leg being more upright during the delivery. All of this, plus other things not mentioned, has resulted in Jackson halving his walk rate from 4.02 to 1.96. His better control has also led to a huge increase in his K rate, going from 6.97 to 11.05.

But why? Why are these rates so much higher? One thing could be his increase his velocity. Jackson threw his fastball at 94 MPH with the Diamondbacks, with a 94.1 career average. In his 5 starts with the Sox, Jackson’s velocity has jumped 1.4 MPH to 95.4, a very big difference for a starter. His velocity for every single pitch in his repertoire have also gone up. His slider is now at 88, 3 MPH faster than it was with the Diamondbacks. His change-up and curveball have also seen 2 MPH increases. All of this is most likely due to Cooper’s mechanics changes because at this time of the year last season, Jackson was falling off a cliff with the Tigers, indicating fatigue.

Gaining velocity would usually indicate a loss of control, but this has not been the case with Jackson. In his 5 starts with the Sox, Jackson has increased his strike% on every single pitch type, most notably his slider, curveball, and change-up. The better velocity and higher strike% has resulted in much higher whiff rates for his slider, change-up, and curveball. Due to these factors, Jackson’s accumulated a 2.4 linear weight pitch value on his fastball and a 6.3 linear weight pitch value on his slider in just 5 starts, both of which are huge improvements over his values with the Diamondbacks (this is a counting stat, so he’s eclipsed his production with the Diamondbacks (21 starts) in just 5 starts with Chicago).

Not flipping Jackson for Adam Dunn might have been the move of the year for Kenny Williams

By now, you probably get it. Edwin Jackson’s production has not been a fluke, Don Cooper is a magician, and it shows in Jackson’s pitch f/x data. But is this sustainable? Will Edwin Jackson be the next Dwight Gooden? The answer is probably no, but I think there is a compromise as to where he will end up in the long term. Jackson’s 58% ground ball rate is most likely unsustainable. His 30% fly ball rate probably isn’t here to stay either. Both of these are dependent on pitch location and velocity, which Jackson has mastered. However, those rates seem far too out of the ordinary to hold up over a large sample size. In addition, his 12.5% line drive rate also doesn’t seem to be sustainable. So in part, Jackson is not this good and I don’t think everybody expects him to be this good. However, I could easily see Jackson being a guy who is capable of putting up a 3.5 ERA with a 3.5 FIP, even in U.S. Cellular Field. He has turned into a ground ball pitcher, which fits the park perfectly. Plus, he misses bats and doesn’t walk people, what’s not to like?

Edwin Jackson might not be the next Zack Greinke, but Don Cooper has turned him from an underachieving phenom to a possible top tier starter. When this trade was initially made, I was mad, mad that the White Sox gave up their best prospect for an underachieving pitcher with maybe a bit of upside, especially since the top prospect, Daniel Hudson, was probably as good as Jackson at the time. But I was wrong, as were many others who scratched their heads at the move. A month later, Kenny Williams is looking like a genius, once again. You really wonder how he pulls this kind of stuff off, even if it cost him $8 million and a pretty good pitching prospect.

Manny’s Impact In Chicago

30 08 2010

Posted by BaconSlayer09

Ramirez is an incredible upgrade over Ozzie Guillen's rotating DH experiment.

There are countless adjectives to describe Manny Ramirez and a lot of them are probably profane. However, no matter how you look at it, two words that would accurately describe Manny is “great hitter”. Ramirez is definitely one of the best hitters of this generation, as shown by his .418 career wOBA and 1.000 OPS. Even in what is considered a down year for him last season, Ramirez posted a .396 wOBA, good for 25.4 batting runs. This season, he has continued to regress, but his .392 wOBA is far from bad. Some may think Ramirez is done and they’re somewhat right. He’s done being the hitter he was 10 years ago, the dominant slugger capable of putting up a .450 wOBA. But right now, he’s still capable of posting a wOBA around .390 and on a White Sox team desperately looking for an energy boost and a middle of the order hitter, he should be a great fit. But just how much will Manny contribute to the struggling team on the South Side?

Well, for starters, Manny is projected to hit with a .405 wOBA for the rest of the season by ZiPS. If we assume that Manny will play 30 of the 32 remaining games the White Sox have and gets around 130 PAs for the rest of the season at the DH position, Ramirez will be worth approximately 0.8 WAR. Getting a whole win share in about a month’s worth of games is definitely a great feat. If a player keeps that up over the entire year, they’re due for a 5 WAR season. So Manny will be valuable, not just to the White Sox, but any team out there.

After last year's claim of Alex Rios and the claim of Manny Ramirez, Kenny Williams should be crowned the king of the waiver wire.

But how valuable will Manny be to the White Sox, given their current situation? One of the reasons that Kenny Williams (now deemed the King of Waivers) went out of his way to get Ramirez is the DH platoon disaster. Ozzie Guillen’s “genius” idea to put bad hitters in a DH platoon has destroyed the middle of the order. Mark Kotsay, while no longer getting as much playing time as of late, has been a black hole with his .300 wOBA. Andruw Jones has been a decent hitter, as shown by his .352 wOBA. But one look at his batting average and on base percentage should tell you how inconsistent he’s been. Andruw is the perfect example of a blind man running into the occasional home run. White Sox DHs have combined for a .319 wOBA. Stretch that out over the same playing time that Manny is going to get and it will result in -.1 WAR. So Manny is a 1 WAR upgrade over the White Sox’ rotating DH circus. On top of that, Manny will probably never touch the outfield grass. DHing should keep him fresh, while increasing his value due to his horrendous outfield defense. With Manny receiving around $4 million for the rest of the year and his possible 1 WAR contribution to the White Sox, he is worth the money (1 WAR is worth around $3.5 million).

The White Sox currently sit 4.5 games behind the Twins. They have three more head to head games left with Minnesota in Chicago, as well as 16 home games, where the tickets will definitely sell with Manny in the lineup. While this move could be too little too late, it is definitely a mental boost and a valuable addition for a very tired and depleted White Sox team. This move, along with rosters expanding in September could very well jump-start this White Sox team in the final month – usually the month of doom for the South Siders.

Pedro Feliz Is Not The Answer

19 08 2010

Posted by New Law Era

You don’t need advanced metrics to see that Pedro Feliz has been awful in 2010.  In 304 plate appearances this season, the 35 year old third baseman  is sporting a stat line of .221/.243/.311.  Yes, you have read that correctly – a .243 on-base percentage and a .311 slugging percentage.  The skinny nerdy kid that picks his nose and doesn’t shower probably has a higher on-base percentage than Feliz.  The skinny nerdy kid probably hits for more power as well.

Feliz has been one of the least valuable players in all of baseball this season.

Crude, non-family friendly jokes aside, the point is that Feliz has been bad.  According to the stat Wins Above Replacement, Feliz is a -1.5 WAR player.  In layman’s terms, Feliz is costing his team wins.

The St. Louis Cardinals front office, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to acquire Feliz from the Astros for minor league pitcher David Carpenter.  Due to regular third baseman David Freese being out for the season with injury and current third baseman Felipe Lopez having issues both offensively and defensively, the Cardinals seem to believe that Feliz is the solution to this problem.

With the way Feliz’ season has been going so far, I believe the Cardinals have made a bad move.  Feliz is both an offensive and defensive downgrade from Lopez.

His batting line is more than enough evidence of that he has been worse than Lopez this season.  (Lopez has a slash line of .246/.322/.360).  If you want further proof,  take a look at Feliz “stellar” weighted on-base average of .241 (Lopez, meanwhile sports a wOBA of .308).  Now, I’m not saying that Lopez has been good offensively, but he is most certainly a better offensive option.

Well what about defense?  Feliz fails there as well.  While Feliz has been a great defensive third baseman throughout his career (UZR/150 of 15.6), he has been really bad this year (-7.9).  Since we are only concerned about this year and not his career, this move makes no sense from the defensive side either.  Regardless of why we are seeing a drastic regression at 3B defensively this season, the fact of the matter is that his defense will cost the Cardinals runs.  Felipe Lopez once again has Feliz beat on defense as Lopez sports a UZR/150 of -0.7.  Obviously Lopez is bad on defense as well, but he isn’t as bad as Feliz.  I should, however, mention that Lopez’ hasn’t played as many innings of third base as Feliz has and that his sample size is rather small.  Regardless, the move doesn’t seem to make sense.

Of course, there is that crazy chance that Feliz defies everything I have just described and Feliz could end up being the spark the Cardinals need to turn their recent slump around.  I would be quite happy if Feliz proves me wrong.  However, I don’t think it’s going to happen.  Therefore, I believe the move to acquire Pedro Feliz made no sense at all.

Derrek Lee’s Impact

19 08 2010

Posted by BaconSlayer09

This afternoon, the Chicago Cubs traded first baseman Derrek Lee to the Atlanta Braves for minor league pitchers Robinson Lopez, Tyrelle Harris, and Jeff Lorick. This post will not detail the prospects that the Cubs got in return. Instead, I will try to gauge just how valuable Derrek Lee might be for the Atlanta Braves.

Lee is in the midst of a terrible season, but his career numbers say he can rebound.

Lee is in the midst of a very bad season. He is currently sporting a triple slash of .251/.335/.416 for an OPS of .751. This results in a wOBA (weighted On Base Average) of exactly .330. For a first baseman, being average offensively just doesn’t cut it. Lee is a good defender and always has been. However, even his above average UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) can’t save his mediocre effort thus far with the bat, as he has been worth 1.1 wins above replacement  for the Cubs this season. If Lee finishes his season as is, it will be his worst full-season since 1998.

Since Lee has had a very good track record and is still not that old at 34, he still has a good chance of rebounding for the Braves. A good example of a first baseman having a great year at age 34 is Paul Konerko. Konerko is currently having the best offensive season of his career and if he keeps going at this rate, he is set to finish with a wOBA above .400. So a bounce-back by Lee is definitely possible. But to what degree will he rebound?

This is when projection systems such as ZiPS come into play. Projection systems take a look at a player’s past performance, his age, his current season performance, and numerous other variables to come up with a projected line for the rest of the year. ZiPS Rest of Season thinks Lee still has a lot left in him. They project a line of .280/.360/.477 from D-Lee, resulting in a .365 wOBA.  Lee’s hitting line in August shows that this estimate is definitely possible, as he is mashing with a .446 wOBA in the month of ‘dog days’. If Lee posts a .365 wOBA and a 1.3 UZR for the rest of the year like he is projected to, he will contribute 1 WAR for the Braves. 1 WAR in about 40 games is definitely a noteworthy contribution. But this means nothing if we don’t know what the Braves already had at first base.

Glaus has been in a huge slump since July.

Before this trade, the Braves were using Troy Glaus at 1B. Glaus was having an acceptable season before July. However, he’s hit .182 and .208 in July and August. Those putrid numbers have resulted in a cumulative OPS of .749. More or less, Lee and Glaus have been equally mediocre to this point in the season. But, since Glaus has been slumping, ZiPS projects Glaus for a .342 wOBA. On top of that, Glaus is a horrible defender at 1B. He’s been worth -8.1 runs so far while Lee has been a +2.6. The difference between the two’s defense is a whole win. Due to this, Glaus’ projected WAR for the rest of the season is a measly -0.2.

So while Lee may be a valuable player for the rest of the season, Glaus will most likely be a replacement level player, if not worse. The difference between the two is about 1.2 wins. Those 1.2 wins may be a huge difference since the Braves are in a tight division race with the Phillies. As we have seen with the AL Central in the past two seasons, one game can decide everything. Without looking at what the Braves gave in return for Lee, the deal definitely looks like a win for Atlanta.

Revisiting the Curtis Granderson for Austin Jackson Trade

17 08 2010

Let’s take a look at one of the components of a major blockbuster trade that happened last offseason: Curtis Granderson for Austin Jackson and Phil Coke. They also gave Ian Kennedy to the D-Backs. Anyway, Curtis has played at a level that was less than the one the Yankees thought he’d play at when he first acquired him. He is batting .247 with 11 homers on the season. His strikeout to walk ratio is 76:34. He has been a little unlucky with a BABIP of .289. A normal BABIP is .300. According to UZR/150, he’s played above average defense, with a UZR/150 of 5.3

Jackson, meanwhile, batting leadoff for the Detroit Tigers is batting .302 with 65 run scored and 1 homer on the year.  His SO to BB ratio is 124:34, the K’s being pretty high for a leadoff man. His BABIP is a monstrous .419, which means he has been really lucky. If his BABIP was near the league norm, he’d be batting closer to .250 than .300. His UZR/150 is 3.4, meaning he’s played somewhat above average defense also.

~Conclusion: This was a pretty even trade at the time, and it looks to stay that way. Although Yankees fans complain about trading a top prospect for Granderson, Austin really isn’t playing at a higher level than Granderson: In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that Jackson has a .419 BABIP, Granderson would be the better player, and the Yankees would be winning this one.~

This was written by Teix4MVP