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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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.





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.





Trevor Cahill’s Smoke and Mirrors Show

2 10 2010

Posted by BaconSlayer09 (This article was written on September 25th, not all stats are up to date)

Not so long ago, I came across some fans who wanted to see Trevor Cahill win the AL Cy Young, if not finish in the top 5. This is understandable, as Cahill is currently 17-7 with a 2.81ERA and a 1.07 WHIP. There is no denying how good Trevor Cahill has been this year–he’s been very good–as shown by the above numbers. However, what if he played on another team? What if we were to take out numerous dependent factors from Cahill’s stat line?  How good of a pitcher would he be? Let’s find out.

Thanks to Oakland's infield defense, Cahill leads baseball with a .226 BABIP

First thing’s first, I want to say that Cahill has drastically improved as a pitcher this season. His 2009 was very disappointing, but he has turned himself into a pretty respectable pitcher this year. Now, on to business. Trevor Cahill, at best, has been a good, but not great, pitcher this year. This is shown by his 4.18 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching ERA) and 4.17 xFIP (x is for expected). His ERA – FIP is -1.37, the highest mark in all of baseball, meaning that he has been incredibly fortunate this year. Unlike ERA, FIP is a predictive stat. As all statisticians know, predictive value in a statistic is extremely crucial. However, in the case of Cahill, his ERA run might continue and FIP could be totally wrong (for a reason, too). And that’s completely fine, FIP is not the end all be all, it is just a factor we can look at to see what’s really going on.

Since the ‘FI’ in FIP stands for fielding independent, something tells me that I should look at how good that Oakland defense is. But before that, we should look at the amount of fly balls, ground balls, and line drives Cahill gives up to assess how much of the defense he utilizes. As of today, Cahill has given up 14.2% line drives, 56.4% ground balls, and only 29.4% fly balls. His 56.4% GB rate is second in all of baseball behind only Justin Masterson (we’ll get to him later). These rates all result in a measly, league leading, .226 BABIP. Nevertheless, this BABIP is not only the result of his low line drive rate, it is also a result of one of the best infield defenses in baseball.  A’s infielders have combined for a UZR of 36.2 runs. Daric Barton currently leads baseball in 1B UZR. Kouzmanoff is third at 3B, Ellis is 4th at 2B, and Pennington is 3rd at SS. It is pretty clear that this infield defense is phenomenal. In fact, A’s pitchers lead all of baseball with the lowest BABIP against at .279. So that .226 BABIP Cahill owns is starting to make a whole lot of sense. After all, if you throw 56% of your batted balls on the ground and you have one of the best defensive infields in baseball, you know something good is going to come out of it.

Masterson is a victim of the worst defense in baseball

So Cahill is good on the A’s and will probably remain very good with the A’s if Billy Beane keeps this current infield setup and Cahill keeps pounding the ground with baseballs. But let’s just play pretend for a second, what if Cahill wasn’t on the A’s, the best defensive team in the American League? What if he was on the Indians, the worst defensive team in the league? Lucky for us, our experiment has already been done for us. His name is Justin Masterson, he leads baseball in throwing ground balls (60%), yet he owns a ERA a whole two runs higher than Cahill’s and a BABIP 110 points higher. Masterson’s 15.4% line drive rate is not much higher than Cahill’s and Masterson has also given up less home runs (3 to be exact). Thus, Masterson and Cahill are very similar pitchers. Yet, one has 17 wins and a 2.8 ERA while the other is 6-13 with a 4.8 ERA. Moreover, the separation in defense is even more evident when you consider Masterson’s .254 batting average against on ground balls compared to Cahill’s .146 figure. While we don’t have the data to see how hard these balls were hit or where they were hit to, we do know that Masterson has actually given up less extra base hits (doubles down the line) than Cahill on grounders. Thus is the difference between a pitcher who has a 36.2 UZR behind him and a pitcher with a -15.2 UZR behind him. That 52 run differential is actually enough to make or break a pitcher. Yet, Cahill and Masterson aren’t all that different.

There you have it, two similar pitchers, one fortunate, the other not so much. Cahill has been blessed to have such a great defense behind him. If it wasn’t for the group of Kouzmanoff, Pennington, Ellis, and Barton, Trevor Cahill might be 7-17 with a 4.8 ERA, much like Justin Masterson. I don’t want to make it sound like I’m penalizing Cahill for being on a team that does something well, not at all. What I’m trying to say is that in a Cy Young voting situation, you want the best pitcher to win, independent of team factors such as defense and offense. And in the case of Cahill, his success has been heavily dependent on the infield defense behind him. That needs to be taken into account, just like evaluating run support when looking at a pitcher’s W-L record. But that’s for another post at another time.