Breaking Down The DH Market

8 01 2011

Posted by Brady

This season there are 3 super premium options for the designated hitter role. Two of which will definitely have a job somewhere if they want it, and one….might not. Naturally, I am talking about Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, and Manny Ramirez.  These are three aging future Hall of Fame hitters with limited defensive skills, who can still hit the ball a mile. All three of them have their advantages and their disadvantages. Let’s break it down, shall we?

Jim Thome

Anyone who has read my work on Pine Tar and Pocket Protectors in the past knows that I have always been, and will always be a huge Jim Thome fan. He’s Jim Thome. Who doesn’t love him? In any season where he’s played in 100 games his career LOW in home runs is

His ISO was a ridiculous .282, and at age 39 he just had what you could call a career year.

23.  You know exactly what you’re getting from him every year. Just pencil him in for 25 bombs and let it go. But he does more than just launch baseballs. 1679 walks. That is good for ninth all time and first among active players. He owns a .278/.404/.559 hitting line, and an OPS+ of 147.  His ISO is a ridiculous .282, and at age 39 he just had what you could call a career year.

As far as any issues with Thome, it’s pretty clear. The only man who has been rung up more than Thome is Reggie Jackson. He can’t be nor does he want to be a full time player, and he’s a career .238 against left handed pitchers. He can’t even play an emergency 1B. He hasn’t touched a glove since 2007, and that was only for one game.

Manny Ramirez

His plus side is so ridiculously similar to his former Indian teammate that it’s barely worth talking about. 555 home runs, .998 career OPS, and a 155 OPS+. Everything that Thome can do, Manny Ramirez can do, just a little better. .312/.411/.586 career hitter. The only thing that Manny Ramirez can’t do with a bat better than Jim Thome is pure extra base power. Ramirez only has a .274 ISO. But

The only problem with Manny Ramirez is that he is Manny Ramirez.

over their careers, Manny and Thome have been virtually just as valuable. Thome brings a career 73.5 WAR to to Ramirez’s 72.2

The only problem with Manny Ramirez is that he is Manny Ramirez. Do I really need to recap this? How many problems did he have in Boston? How many problems did he have in Los Angeles? How many problems did he have in Cleveland? I can’t think of many in Cleveland….but that was 10 years ago. Cleveland is his ideal destination. It seems like he wants to finish where he started. Any team looking to sign him better be careful, as he hasn’t had 500 PAs since 2008. He is still a game changer. But only when he wants to be.

Vladimir Guerrrero

How can anybody not what Vladimir Guerrero on their team? Over the course of 162 games he averages 35 home runs.  And while Thome and Ramirez average 40 and 39 respectively, he has one thing that they don’t. An uncanny ability to not strike out. How does

How can anybody not want Vladimir Guerrero on their team?

he do it? He has an uncanny ability to make contact, and good contact, on any pitch in any count, in any situation against any pitcher. The man doesn’t strikeout, but the man doesn’t walk. He his, however a career .320/.383/.563 career hitter. Only Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmy Foxx have a .320 average and 400 or more home runs.  His ISO is lower than Thome and Ramirez, at .243 but his OPS+ is right in line at 143.  Throughout his 15 year career Guerrero has contributed 61.7 WAR to the Expos, the Angels, and the Rangers.

I’ll be honest, I tried to think of any cons to a team trying to sign Guerrero, other than being old, there isn’t a lot. He doesn’t have a significant injury history. He’s reached 600 PAs every year but one since becoming a full time player. And he is a suitable back up outfielder. Teams start a lot worse (Delmon Young) than Guerrero. In my personal opinion, he is the best option at DH this year.

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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.





The Hall of Fame Isn’t Far for Roberto Alomar.

21 11 2010

Posted by Brady

Ten Gold Gloves (deservedly), two World Series rings, 474 stolen bases, and 12 All-Star games make up Roberto Alomar’s Hall of Fame resume. Alomar, along with Bert Blyleven, should easily make it baseball’s shrine on this ballot.

When people speak about Alomar, the phrase “greatest second baseman in history” is often times uttered. And rightfully so. According to baseball-reference.com, several of the most similar hitters to Alomar are Hall of

When people speak about Roberto Alomar, the phrase "greatest second baseman in history" is often times uttered.

Famers. Ryne Sandberg, Joe Morgan, Bill Mazeroski, Frankie Frisch, Charlie Gehringer, and Bobby Doerr are all Hall of Fame second basemen, keeping this Hall of Fame second baseman company.

Alomar spent most of his career with the Toronto Blue Jays (5 whole years) and won two World Series rings with Cito Gaston’s Blue Jays. And he was a stud in the Jays title drive. He hit .320 /.380/.471 during it. Alomar took home the ALCS MVP in 1992. In 1993, during the Jays second title drive, it was a similar story, but no MVP award.

After the 1995 season, Alomar signed with the Baltimore Orioles, and he did not miss a beat. He put up almost identical numbers, and proved to be one of the best top of the order hitters around. Though he didn’t run as much in Baltimore as he did in Toronto (his Baltimore high stolen base total was 17, which would have been his low in Toronto), he did find more power. He clouted an at the time career high 22 home runs and 43 doubles.  As productive as Alomar was in Baltimore, his first season there was not without its controversy. After arguing with an umpire over a third strike call, Alomar hurled his saliva in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck. Naturally he was thrown out of the game, and fined. But, luckily for Alomar and Ty Cobb, being a nice person is not a requirement for enshrinement, despite how much some voters try to tell you it is.

After Alomar was done with Baltimore in 1998, he went to Cleveland, to play with older brother Sandy Alomar. This was actually the second time the two would play on the same team. They both played on the 1988 and 1989 Padres team. He put up great numbers in every aspect of the game, and his first year in Cleveland, he hammered a new career high in home runs. 24.

Through his time with Toronto, Baltimore and Cleveland, Alomar was racking up the awards. 12 straight All-Star games, 10 Gold Gloves, and 4 Silver Sluggers.

He was as disiplined at the plate as they come. He never struck out more than 96 times, and he walked more than he struck out seven times.

It’s hard to keep Alomar out of the Hall of Fame. The only question is what insignia will he have on his cap? My guess is Toronto.





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.





Picking Apart Ozzie Guillen

19 08 2010

Posted by BaconSlayer09

As the 2010 Chicago White Sox season unwinds into the dark depths of failure, Ozzie Guillen is at it again. In another one of his famous “Ozzie being Ozzie” segments, he finally admitted that he was wrong for not wanting Jim Thome. Yet, he is still extremely bitter about the questions that are coming from the fans, as well as the reporters, in regards to the topic. I know many have tried to analyze an Ozzie Guillen rant, but I’m going to put a new spin on things.

  • “For all those people there saying it was my fault about Jim Thome, yes it’s my fault. If those people don’t like that, (bleep) them.”

Alright Ozzie, if you stole somebody’s wallet and they found out, they shouldn’t be mad at you? You’d tell the victim of your crime to go (bleep) themselves? Nevermind that these people are the ones helping you pay your salary. What an ungrateful bastard.

  • “I’m not afraid. I can care less what people think. We’re in second place. When Jim Thome was here, we finished third three times out of four years. We went to one playoff because he hit a home run to go to the playoffs.”

Thome is currently holds a .412 wOBA, which leads everyone on the White Sox' current roster.

Now I feel like I’m arguing with an 8 year old. What the hell is that supposed to mean? Is it Jim Thome’s fault that the White Sox sucked in 2007 because they had no bullpen? Is it Jim Thome’s fault that the pitching staff fell apart in the second half of 2006? Is it Jim Thome’s fault that the White Sox were a mediocre team in 2009? You can’t pin the team’s previous failures on one player, especially when the said player hit 30 or more home runs for you in three straight seasons. The fact that this 2010 team has had success is not due to the offense. If anything, the White Sox have been winning despite a mediocre offense. But oh, you do bring up the fact that Thome hit a huge home run in the play-in game in 2008. So what the hell is your point Ozzie?

  • “Listen, I don’t make that decision, we made that decision. It was hard for me to do this. A lot of people in Chicago talk about Jim Thome. How about J.D.? I think Jermaine Dye did more stuff for the Chicago White Sox than Jim Thome did, with all my respect to Jimbo.

Now you’re getting off-topic Ozzie. Jermaine Dye has nothing to do with this Jim Thome discussion. The difference between Dye and Thome is that Thome is left handed. Thome still has power. And lastly, Dye was stubborn about his contract and his playing time. Plus, did you see how Dye hit in the second half last year? I’m sure you did Ozzie, because you were in the same clubhouse as him.

I’m totally sure it was so hard to decide between Jim Thome and Mark Kotsay. Think about it, one guy is a future hall of famer who came off an acceptable year as a DH. The other guy is completely past his prime and can’t hit or play the outfield anymore. But, oh it was so hard! That’s what she said. She as in Mark Kotsay’s wife.

  • “What’s going on here? I don’t get it. Why do people forget about J.D.? People don’t even talk about J.D. at all. If Thome was a better player than J.D. for the White Sox, that’s the answer. J.D.’s not playing for the Twins.

Of course you wouldn’t get it Ozzie, you probably don’t even know what slugging percentage is.  After all, I wouldn’t expect you to due to your Venezuelan education. As for Thome vs. Dye, Dye accumulated only 6.4 WAR over the course of his stay with the White Sox. Thome racked up 12.5 WAR with the Sox, not to mention he played one less season in Chicago than Dye. So I think the answer is clear Ozzie, Thome was more valuable to the White Sox, a lot more valuable.

  • “That’s it. If (Nick) Punto hit that home run, I might still be crying. Or (Denard) Span. Or (manager) Ron Gardenhire. Jim Thome’s hit almost 600 home runs, good for him.

So you dumped a guy with almost 600 home runs for Mark Kotsay and Andruw Jones? My god…

  • Every time we had Jim Thome here, we couldn’t play him against the National League. Why won’t anybody give me credit for that one? We won 15 games. And Jimbo had one, two at-bats every time we played those guys. And we made this run because we played good against the National League. We got hot then.”

Ok, so you won 15 games against the Cubs, Pirates, Nationals, Marlins, and Braves. I’ll give you credit for the Atlanta sweep, the rest is a bunch of chump change. Plus, it would have been nice to have Thome as a pinch hitter. The slight versatility of Mark Kotsay isn’t an advantage when he’s hitting .230. Just so you know.

  • “But I hope he hits another (bleeping) one today. He had all three hits against lefties. Is it my fault we can’t pitch against his (rear)? No. Well … I feel proud of him, to be honest with you. When I see him hit that (ball) out there all the way to the building out there at 98 (mph), I don’t see that for the last three years with us. Good for him. A lot of people talk about the home run from Jim Thome. How about the eight or nine runs before that? But that’s OK. I’ll wear it. I’ll take it. I’ll take the heat.”

It could be your fault that you left Matt Thornton in when he had already pitched an inning and a third before that. Where was J.J. Putz? Where was Chris Sale? Overusing one guy will be your demise, as it always is. Plus, Jim Thome hit PLENTY of balls hard on good fastballs. The guy is a notorious fastball mistake hitter. Why is it so hard to appreciate what Thome did for this club?

  • “Because I know my mind, my heart and my soul, they’re very clean. I have my head on my shoulders, and I think we did the right thing with what we did in spring training. If people don’t like it, good. They don’t like it, they don’t have to watch the (bleeping) White Sox.

Tell me how the hell you have your head straight when you just told a good amount of your employer’s fans to go screw themselves? Reverse psychology maybe?

  • “Oh and I got one more year on my contract, just make sure to tell Jerry (Reinsdorf), get it ready, this crazy (bleeping) Mexican, it’s fine with me. They going to blame me about one home run, I’ll take the blame.”

Guillen's antics are getting very tiring for many White Sox fans.

You still don’t get it Ozzie, do you? That one home run is not the entire reason. Your stupid mistake, as well as Kenny Williams’ stupidity to listen to you, might have cost the White Sox the 2010 AL Central division title. I hope you sleep well and don’t give a shit about the people who pay your salary. Because if you truly think that way, nobody in their right mind would like to see you at 35th and Shields come next April.

Stuff like this is why I hate Ozzie Guillen. He’s stubborn, he’s offensive, and he comes off as an immature 8 year old who happens to be managing a baseball team. I think it is in Kenny Williams’ best interest to never ask Ozzie what he wants ever again. Because if he listens, they’ll both be looking for jobs in the baseball unemployment line. Make no mistake about it.