Donkey Kong on the South Side

9 12 2010

Konerko's monster 2010 season made him one of the most coveted free agents this winter.

Posted by BaconSlayer09

No, I’m not talking about Donkey Kong video games. For those who don’t know, Adam Dunn’s nickname is the Big Donkey and Paul Konerko’s much unknown nickname is Kong (I don’t know why either). Add one plus the other with some minor subtractions and you have yourself a nice new nickname – Donkey Kong. Now we have that out of the way, it’s time to get down to business.

In the past two weeks, White Sox general manager Kenny Williams has been a busy and free-spending man. After locking-up Adam Dunn for 4 years and $56 million and retaining A.J. Pierzynski for 2 years and $8 million last week, Williams brought back one of the most influential White Sox of all time – captain Paul Konerko. Konerko will continue to make the $12 million he has been making  for the past 5 seasons for 2011 and 2012. He will make $13.5 million in 2013, but $7 million of that is deferred and to be paid from 2014-2020.

The White Sox are committing 3 years and $30.5 million to Konerko over the next three years up front. That kind of contract expects Konerko to be at least a 2.5 win player every year for the next three years, with a total of 6-7 wins over the entirety of the contract. Even though Konerko is already 35 and the White Sox are paying him through age 38, this deal is fair and plausible. Konerko racked up 4.2 WAR last season in a career year offensively. Had his defense been better, he could have easily been a 5 WAR player. Personally, I don’t see Konerko as a -10 to -15 fielder like some of the advanced metrics do. He doesn’t have a lot of range, but he’s fairly reliable and is pretty good at scooping low throws at first base. I’d expect Konerko’s defensive numbers to increase over the course of the contract, as last year’s defensive numbers were probably more of an anamoly than anything else. Konerko’s never been worse than a -6.5 at 1B in his career and first base defense usually doesn’t deteriorate as much with age.

Adam Dunn will take his home run hitting skills to the South Side.

Offensively, I don’t expect Konerko to repeat 2010 and I don’t think anybody else does either. Konerko had one of the better offensive seasons in White Sox history with a wOBA of .415 last season. However, his career wOBA is .366 and his highest wOBA prior to 2010 was .395 in 2006, when he was still in his prime. Konerko’s career year at age 34 is very hard to explain. Health is one thing to look into, as Konerko has been bothered by a chronic thumb injury since 2007 and last year was the first time where that injury wasn’t a big problem.

Another explanation is just straight up luck. Konerko did post the highest BABIP of his career at .326 (he also posted this in 2006). Konerko’s batted ball rates were extremely similar to those of 2009, where he had only a .282 BABIP. That could explain the rise in average, but it definitely doesn’t explain the rise in home runs and the 60 point increase in ISO (Isolated power). Maybe it’s a little bit of both. Perhaps, we won’t see Konerko hit over .300 again, but we might still see 30-35 home runs from him over the next two seasons with a slugging percentage over .500. The Bill James Handbook (usually pretty optimistic) pegs Konerko for a slash line of .273/.361/.496 and 32 home runs in 2011. I think those projections sound pretty accurate and if Konerko were to return to his career norms on defense, he will definitely be a 3 win player in 2011.

Speaking of projections, here are the projected wOBA of the projected 2011 White Sox starting lineup (taken from the Bill James Handbook).

  1. LF. Juan Pierre – .304
  2. 2B. Gordon Beckham – .338
  3. CF. Alex Rios – .343
  4. DH. Adam Dunn – .383
  5. 1B. Paul Konerko – .372
  6. RF. Carlos Quentin – .362
  7. C. A.J. Pierzynski – .312
  8. SS. Alexei Ramirez – .327
  9. 3B. Brent Morel – .339

Besides Brent Morel’s overly optimistic projection, everything looks within the realm of possibility. When analyzed, this lineup projects to score 5.15 runs per game, that’s 835 runs over the course of 162 games. Last year, the White Sox scored 752. The addition of Adam Dunn (replacing Kotsay and rotating DH friends) and Morel (replacing Teahen and señor citizen Vizquel) adds about 80 more runs of output to the White Sox lineup. The 835 run mark would have been the second most amount of runs scored in all of baseball last season.

Edwin Jackson's strong showing in two months with Chicago might be a preview of things to come in 2011.

Defensively, nothing really changes. If Quentin can heal from his foot injuries, he might not be a horrible outfielder. Plus, Morel has been touted as a good defender in the minors, so he replaces the 3B revolving door of Teahen and Vizquel. Overall, this is a mediocre defense. Rios, Pierre, and Ramirez are highlights, but everybody else is either mediocre or flat out bad.

What does this all mean? Well, in what’s now a pitching dominated league, the White Sox are projected to have one of the most potent lineups in all of baseball. Whether these projections are right or wrong is a debate for later. But on paper, things sure look good if the White Sox can pitch like they did in 2010 (702 runs allowed). It’s still very early in the off-season and the Sox still need to fill a couple of holes in the bullpen. However, as of right now, the Sox are looking at a 5-6 win improvement from 2010, making them a prime candidate to win around 93-94 games (88 + 6 = 94) in 2011. With a payroll nearing $120 million, the White Sox should be expected to win in 2011. It looks like Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams are going all in this year.

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The Cardinals Hot Stove: Part 1, Middle Infield

20 11 2010
Posted by D-Dizzle

Ryan was great with the glove in 2010 with an 11.5 UZR, but not quite as sharp with the bat.

All the hot stove season has finally started. Now is the season for the couch chair GM’s to make their proposals and start trying to piece together who they think will be the best possible team for the 2011 season. This will be my first installment of how I feel the St. Louis Cardinals should attack the offseason. Part 1, Middle Infield.

In House General Manager John Mozeliak has said that he is more inclined to get an upgrade at shortstop than second base. Quite frankly, this is baffling. Skip Schumaker’s best attribute is his gritty play. Unfortunately, their is no stat that measure’s a players grit. I disagree with with wanting to move Brendan Ryan, one season removed from posting a 2.7 WAR from FanGraphs or 3.4 WAR if you are a baseball-reference guy. He did this in 129 games. If you were to extrapolate this over a 155 games (about what a fulltime player would go through), that is 3.3 WAR (FanGraphs) and 4.1 WAR (B-R). However, poor Brendan Ryan had a dismal season with the bat in 2010. Conversely, he was the best defensive shortstop in 2010 (11.5 UZR!!). It should be mentioned that Ryan had offseason wrist surgery right around the beginning of spring training. If you were to normalize his 2009 season and 2010 season, your looking at a solid(albeit unspectacular) .260/.310/.385 sort of player. The real benefit to playing Ryan is naturally his stellar defense with a team that features Jaime Garcia (56% ground ball rate), Jake Westbrook (career 59% ground ball rate), Chris Carpenter (never had a season with St. Louis with a ground ball rate under 51%), and Adam Wainwright (perhaps the only pitcher on the staff who could be called a “strike-out pitcher”-career 49% ground ball rate). If I could get my pick, Ryan would open the season as the starting shortstop.

Not every team is as fortunate to have their own black hole. The Cardinals are lucky, they have two of them (I’m referring to second base and third base but 3B is a topic for another day). Skip Schumaker was abysmal last season. Skip is the owner of -13.2 UZR at 2B. That is Adam Dunn territory right there. He didn’t do much with the bat either (.265/.328/.338) but was a .300 hitter the past 3 seasons so I tend to think this season was a bit of an aberration with the bat. This still doesn’t excuse his terrible defense at second base. Skip was one of few players with a negative WAR last season at -.2. Last season, when he was a .300 hitter, he still had abysmal defense and posted a near replacement level 1.5 WAR in 586 PA’s. His best asset to the team would be as the first man off the bench and as 4th/5th outfielder-the role he belongs in. Unfortunately, he is one of the popular kids in the playground and has Tony La Russa’s seal of approval. Obviously he won’t come out and say the skip-experiment at second base was a failure but that is what has transpired. He must be replaced. II-the farm. The Cardinals farm features some pretty unspectacular options. The only half hearted reasonable options are Dan Descalso who projects to be at best an average second baseman defensively with “doubles-power” at the position. His ceiling reminds me of a David Eckstein type. The other is the gifted Tyler Greene. Greene features plus tools almost across the board but can’t put everything together. Now is do or die time for Greene. He is out of options and this could be his last chance to make something out of his talents.

II A- the Free Agents. This years middle infield free agent class is a very underwhelming group. The only options that are even somewhat enticing are as follows: 3b/ss Miguel Tejada, Swiss Army Knife Bill Hall, and 3b/ss/2b Juan Uribe. This is the cream of the crop. I feel if we are to upgrade the middle infield, it must come through trade. However, the idea of having an insurance policy such as Bill Hall and Juan Uribe fills the cardinals needs very well. They had a thin bench and it became exposed with Ryan’s down year, Schumaker’s being Schumakerness, and Freese’s injury. Unfortunately, both of these guys will probably be looking for more of a full-time role and I just don’t think they will find that in St. Louis.

II-B Non Tender- This person has got me very intrigued. Shortstop JJ Hardy seems to be flying under the radar. Overall, he had another down season with injuries but had a very productive second half of the season. He quietly hit .304/.363/.442 in 56 games after the allstar break (this was probably a bit inflated by his .340 BABIP). He might be nontendered by the Twins because of his $5MM dollar salary, which he would probably receive a raise on. If JJ were to come into the fold at about a 1yr/$3MM dollar investment, I say go for it. Honorable mention: SS Jason Bartlett.Although a career .300 hitter, Schumaker slipped in 2010 with the bat, and the glove.

A career .300 hitter, Schumaker fell with both the bat and glove in 2010.

III- trades Jose Reyes leads my wish list for Christmas.  He has the high salary($11MM) but might be just the investment the Cardinals could be looking to make.  The Mets are basically in a rebuild mode and should be looking to move some players.  Thats not to say they will be just handing their talented players out like candy on Halloween, however.  If we were to examine the New York Mets needs, we might be able to find a potential match.  They could be in the market for some bullpen help, an outfielder, and a second baseman.  Unfortunately, the Cardinals are also in the market for a second baseman but lets pretend for now that they don’t intend to give Descalso or Greene a chance for that role and will use them as trading chips.  The Cardinals farm system as a whole, well, it isn’t the most stellar group.  However, the feature one of the strongest relief cores out their with Adam Reifer, Casey Mulligan, Eduardo Sanchez, and Fernando Salas.  All of whom could be helping the Cardinals in 2011 at some point.  At the major league level, they have flamethrowers Jason Motte and Mitchell Boggs.  Perhaps a package of Motte, Mulligan, and the met’s choice of Jon Jay or Allen Craig. Would it work? Maybe. 

Another name to consider is Arizona Diamondbacks’ Kelly Johnson. Kelly had a resurgent 2010 season where he hit .284/.370/.496.  People can point out to him being a “Chase Field product”, but if they did a little more investigation to his time in Atlanta, we can see that he has naturally fluctuating H/A splits. Even if we were to get the 07-08 version of Johnson, I would be down with that.  He would provide an upgrade on both offense and defense.  Arizona has some pretty obvious needs.  Most notably the bullpen.  Seeing as Johnson is just a one year rental, I could see a package of Mitchell Boggs+ their choice of Casey Mulligan/Adam Reifer along with former top prospect Blake Hawksworth who doesn’t seem to have a future with St. Louis as the throw-in.

The Cardinals middle infield was a very underwhelming group and their are some pretty underwhelming solutions.  However,  an upgrade can be done in a variety of methods.





Contraction in Baseball: An Economic Gain (Part 1)

30 10 2010

Posted by cubs223425

To start, let it be known that I do not believe that the following is what will occur within the game of baseball. It is simply what I believe to be the best course of action for the financial status of the league, along with the best course of action to achieve a better league. I want this to happen, but I do not think it will.

So, over the last several days on

Evan Longoria made it well known throughout the 2010 Season that he was not pleased with the Attendance numbers at Tropicana Field

the MLB Trade Rumors forums, there have been some discussions on baseball’s league and division formatting. People have stated displeasure with the 16-14 setup that is currently in place between the two leagues (16 teams in the NL; 14 in the AL). For some, they propose the league simply move a team over. However, that isn’t exactly a feasible solution.

As of now, baseball is a daily sport. Mondays and Thursdays are the only time that teams are consistently off throughout the year. Because of that, there are 15 games scheduled 5 days of almost every week. If the leagues were 15 teams each, then who would play the fifteenth teams each day? An odd number of teams will not work in a game that requires two teams to play. It would require considerably more doubleheaders or expanded interleague play to the point of almost one game per day. Since that idea has been mostly established as not being feasible, there are two other options: expansion or contraction.

Being the cynic that I am, I elected to handle the contraction article, and WAMCO is working on his own piece in favor of league expansion. In either instance, the idea is to add or subtract two teams, in order to set the American and National leagues on an even playing field in terms of team count, either at 16-16 in a 32-team league or 14-14 in a 28-team one.

Now this is not going to be a simple matter. To determine which teams would best be contracted, we will have to look at a variety of factors. For starters, the team’s popularity has to be considered. Even though the Yankees are a huge payroll with pinstripes, removing them would not be an option because they are also an enormous source of income for the league, which also means more for the other teams in revenue sharing.

Of course, winning is a large factor as well. Though the Rays might not even be drawing 20,000 fans per game, they have done an excellent job of building a winner through the scouting and player development departments. To reward an ownership group with playing the game the right way and succeeding with a giant axe in the back would be crazy.

Team history is also a factor. When comparing a constant loser like the Pirates to the Padres, the team with the 18-year streak of losing seasons might be the easy pick. Still, Pittsburgh has a rather rich baseball history, so just pulling the rug out from under that team might not be the best idea.

When it came down to it, I saw a lot of potential teams. For the sake of time and sanity, though, I elected the commonplace method of examining five teams is the best way to go. I’ve considered several portions of a franchise when I determined if it should be in the final five to be considered for removal from the league. When it came down to it, my personal preferences went to these teams: The San Diego Padres, the Florida Marlins, the New York Mets, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Cleveland Indians.

Before we begin, though, let us cover all of our bases. I am sure there will be fans of some teams that think my choices are without merit, but those questions will be answered in the main portion of the article. Meanwhile, those same fans will start to throw other teams under the bus, suggesting that they are more deserving of a boot. I will quickly voer those teams, just to put those complaints to bed beforehand.

New York Yankees: As I said, it is irrational to think that probably the biggest economic draw in the league would be an option, but many fans have a dire hatred for the way the Yankees operate. That is not their fault, though, as they are well within the league rules, and they feed back into the revenue sharing pool with the huge attendance and merchandise sales.

Tampa Bay Rays: The lack of a crowd draw for a playoff team is almost inexcusable, but they are winning, and how can we really fault them for that? There are plans for a new stadium in the next 3-5 years or so, meaning that the attendance woes will likely lessen over time.

Baltimore Orioles: This team has been a cellar-dwelling team for a long time, so looking at it would be reasonable as well. However, they are building

Building around young talent, such as center fielder Adam Jones, has kept Baltimore off of the hypothetical chopping block.

a great core of players, including  Brian Matusz, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Matt Wieters. They have also been showing a willingness to spend on a big free agent that could change the franchise, such as their efforts with Mark Teixeira before ye got Yank(e)ed away.

Houston Astros: My plan was to only cover NL teams, but I thought that a bit harsh. They were the fifth NL club I considered, but they have done a good job in the fairly recent past, and IO would like to see how they do in a rebuilding effort.

Arizona Diamondbacks: There were thoughts with this team as well. I think that having a professional team near a spring training site is desirable as well, and the team has some young talent. Also, their last World Series was fairly recent.

Washington Nationals: Ultimately, I felt that this team is just in a good location. Having America’s pastime in its capitol is almost a requirement, I think. Like Baltimore, they have started to build  a young core of talent. They were also willing to spend on Adam Dunn, and still might.

Chicago Cubs: As a Cubs fan, this suggestion baffles me. I had someone on the forums mention that the Pirates were not a reasonable choice because of their losing, but that the Cubs are more logical because of their World Series drought. Granted, part of the omission is probably my bias towards my team, but that is a small factor. They have the oldest park in the game, so they clearly are not drawing money from taxpayers like teams that have recently erected new homes like the Yankees, Mets, Cardinals, and Twins. Even without being a title contender in a while (2007 and 2008 were major disappointments), the team draws one of the top-10 largest crowds each year, if not top-5. The farm has improved of late, and they have a new owner, so I see good going forward.

There are my defenses for those teams. In Part 2, I will cover the main idea of my post, so stay tuned.

EDIT: Part 2 is up.





2011 Chicago Cubs: First Base

10 09 2010

Two articles in, and I haven’t even discussed the team I’m here to represent, the Chicago Cubs! If I can’t do that, why am I even here?

So, let’s get down to business. The Cubs sent Derrek Lee off to Atlanta a few weeks back, gaining a return of a few pitching prospects that some minors expert can analyze.

Derrek Lee was traded to the Braves at the July trade deadline for Robinson Lopez and two other prospects.

What I want to focus on is how this will affect the Cubs for next season.

As of now, Cubs fans have been getting a steady diet of Xavier Nady at first, with a dash of Micah Hoffpauir on occasion. We’ll ignore the five games Captain Quad A has manned first and focus on Nady to start. Nady’s defense definitely hasn’t been great. He has posted a -0.8 UZR, not terrible, but bad considering he is replacing the +2.1 UZR Lee was posting this year (along with a career +7.3).

Nady has never been much of a defender (his career UZR at his primary position of RF is a -12.7). As a hitter, getting the regular playing time at first has helped him a bit. He’s hit .289, but his lack of pop (.141 ISO at first) makes putting him on a team as an everyday 1B is a mistake. Without a serviceable option in the minors, the Cubs are going to have to look outward into the free agent pool this winter, in the hopes of finding a new (or old?) 1B.

Rather than spend ten pages going through all of the mediocre free agents (Lyle Overbay, Mark Katosay, Troy Glaus) or covering the bases with every trade option (Yonder Alonso, Chris Davis, Alex Gordon, etc.), let’s stick to the big boys: Lance Berkman, Derrek Lee, Adam Dunn, and Carlos Pena. The Cubs have a lot of money coming off of the books from Derrek Lee and Ted Lilly, so those funds need to go somewhere. The question is: where do they go?

First up, we’ll tackle the former Cub Derrek Lee. While he has always been a fan favorite and an outstanding defender (see the aforementioned UZR totals), it would be tough to see him back. His numbers were way down after a strong 2009, and he vetoed a trade to the Angels once. It makes me wonder if Cubs management basically a) begged him to leave to get some return on their investment, or b) told him to get lost because they were letting him walk either way. The defense and clubhouse presence would be nice, but the team needs some offense, and I cannot help but wonder if the man exited on less than ideal terms (and he probably wants to play for a sure-fire contender at his age).

Lance Berkman has an option for next year. At $15 million, it is a very pricey chunk of change for a man who has put up a 97 OPS+ as a Yankee and has been in steady decline for a couple of years now. Instead, look for him to get bought out by the Yankees (and watch the $13 million saved go towards Jeter’s salary). Defensively, he could be the piece the Cubs need to replace Derrek Lee. His UZR this year is a +3.8, even higher than Derrek’s +2.1. Still, he is a less than reliable hitter now, and I have heard nothing to indicate that the Cubs are looking at him. Personally, I think going after a guy that plays solid defense and can hit around .280 with an OPS over .800 would be splendid, but–as I said before–there are no signs pointing to this match.

Then we have the cream of the infield crop, Adam Dunn. Dunn has always been known as a masher with a glove of stone, and he still is, but his defense is less like that of a black hole this year, raising his UZR from a -14.3 to a -1.9. His hitting is still fantastic, though. His SLG is up a bit, but his OBP is way down (due to a drop in walks from 116 to 67 thus far), leading to a 13-point drop in OPS. The problem in signing Dunn is the money. Even a deep-pocketed team with a lot of free money like the Cubs would struggle with taking his deal on.

Although Adam Dunn would be the Cubs' #1 choice, his asking price is too steep for their taste.

His demands will likely sit in the 3+ years and $15 million+ range, and the Cubs are already trying to fix the messes of Carlos Zambrano and Kosuke Fukudome. To pile on, they will still be stuck with Alfonso Soriano’s ugly mistake until 2014, so taking an aging hitting machine is a risk, even one as consistently powerful as Dunn.

This leads us to my personal preference, Carlos Pena. That’s right, folks, I prefer the 33-tear old first baseman with a sub-.200 average. Why? Several reasons. First off, the walks. He may sport a saddening .203 average, buy his on-base percentage is still a useful .330, crazy for a guy to manage that, huh? His power is another bonus as well. Fans and critics have begged for a power bat from the lefty side for years (Dunn could work, but the money hurts).

Although Pena sports a mediocre .203 batting average, his power numbers and and strong BB% could help the Cubs in 2011.

He should be good for about 30-35 home runs for a few more years, and that would help to break up the monotony of Byrd, Ramirez, and Soriano.

Of course, the man is far from flawless. His average is a mess. Even his career average is a weak .242. His defense has been suspect for a couple of years now, and one does not typically have a spiritual awakening with the glove at age 33. The final reasoning I prefer Pena to the other options is probably the most important: the commitment.

I expect Carlos Pena to take the Adrian Beltre route next year. He will look for a reasonably priced deal for 2011, and will in turn try to restore some value to his stock before looking for one last multi-year deal before 2012. His price tag should sit in the $5-8 million range, and that is more than reasonable for a power bat at a position the Cubs desperately need production. Grabbing Pena would allow them to look for a prospect to groom for a year or two (maybe the Red Sox would send them Lars Anderson?), while not costing them the entirety of their offseason budget.

This way, the Cubs can look to fill the other holes they have this offseason: the back-end of their rotation and the bullpen.