Archive for January, 2007

How Bad Were We? – Centerfield

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

In case you’ve missed the first part of this series, here are some links for you to read through.

Part IThird base
Part IICatcher
Part IIISecond base
Part IVShortstop
Part VFirst base
Part VI2003 Cubs vs. 2005 White Sox
Part VIILeftfield

Also, just in case you missed in, be sure to download the interview we did with Len Kasper last week that previews the Cubs 2007 season. You can find it at The Big League Baseball Report. Remember to sign up via iTunes, E-mail, or RSS when you’re there so you can always be updated when the new podcast hits the airways. Alright, let’s VORP the CF position for us.

1. Grady Sizemore – 69.1
The Indians have gotten themselves a winner with Sizemore. He was drafted in the 2000 draft by Montreal in the 3rd round. Yet another good youngster in that Expo farm system. From there, he was dealt to Cleveland in 2002 in a fairly big trade for both teams. There were some names involved that at the time, may not have been household names, but have since blossomed into very productive Major League players. The trade that went down looked like this:

Cleveland Receives

  • Grady Sizemore – CF
  • Cliff Lee – SP
  • Brandon Phillips – 2b
  • Lee Stevens – 1bMontreal Receives
  • Bartolo Colon – SP
  • Tim Drew – P (He is the brother of J.D. & Stephen Drew and was a 1st round pick in ’97)Remember that Montreal finished 2nd in the division that year. They were making this deal early in an effort to catch the Braves for the division.

    2. Carlos Beltran – 68.5
    I remember the days when the Cubs were actually rumored to be going after him. How I wish that would have come true. Imagine what our lineup may have looked like with him in there protecting Lee and Ramirez. Things may have turned out differently these last few years. The funny thing is, Beltran, for all the stink people raised about his salary, only made $11.5 million last year.

    Just for fun, here is the specifics of the deal that brought Beltran from KC to Houston:

    June 24, 2004: Traded as part of a 3-team trade by the Kansas City Royals to the Houston Astros. The Oakland Athletics sent Mike Wood and Mark Teahen to the Kansas City Royals. The Houston Astros sent Octavio Dotel to the Oakland Athletics. The Houston Astros sent John Buck and cash to the Kansas City Royals.

    3. Vernon Wells – 58.9
    Wells is a product of Toronto’s farm system. He was a first round pick in 1997 in a draft that was loaded with talent in the first round. It’s the same draft that produced Tim Drew from earlier in the post. Just to give you an idea of the names that were in that draft, here they are. All of them were first round picks with the exception of the last name, who was picked in the 16th round.

  • J.D. Drew – PHI (Did Not Sign)
  • Troy Glaus – ANA
  • Vernon Wells – TOR
  • Michael Cuddyer – MIN
  • Jon Garland – CHC
  • Lance Berkman – HOU
  • Adam Kennedy – STL
  • David Eckstein – BOS4. Gary Matthews – 50.0
    Somewhere, at this moment, Mini Sarge is laughing all the way to the bank. He cashed in big time on a fluke season and will benefit the rest of his career due to baseball contracts being guaranteed. Here is the scouting report on him courtesy of STATS Inc.

    Matthews never had done much against righthanded pitching until hooking up with Rangers hitting instructor Rudy Jaramillo. Matthews grasped Jaramillo’s simple tenets of separating the parts of a swing and saw his average jump from the left side after hitting .240 that way in his first five seasons. Matthews has the special talents necessary to patrol Arlington’s huge center field. He also has the arm strength to play right. He is slightly above average as a runner.

    5. Andruw Jones – 49.3
    Jones can turn on a fastball. The ball makes a different sound jumping off his bat, and his strength can produce prodigious longballs. Yet as productive as his numbers can be, Jones frustrates the Braves with his inability to take his game to the next level. A streaky hitter, he struck out a career-high 147 times last year and owned an .833 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), which ranked just 17th among NL outfielders. Despite spending eight-plus seasons in the major leagues, Jones continues to be fooled by breaking balls down and away. ~ STATS Inc.

    12. Juan Pierre – 18.0
    Jim Hendry came out with egg on his face for the deal to get Pierre. Thank God he didn’t re-sign him. Pierre would have fit this team if we had gone out to get Furcal to bat behind him. That was what worked in Florida with Castillo. Hendry couldn’t get it done and we suffered for it. In addition, we lost a couple of pitchers, mainly Ricky Nolasco, that could come back to bite us. I don’t think they’ll bite as hard as Jon Garland did, but it will leave a mark.

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    Our SP Vision is Blurry

    Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

    One of the things that frustrates me a lot about people who talk and write about baseball is when they begin to label a pitcher as a number. Things like “He’ll never be a number two starter,” annoy the crap out of me. The reason I say this is because as far as I know, and i’ve read the rules for 2007, Major League Baseball doesn’t have numbers for various starting pitchers. This is something that has been made up and as a result has skewed our impressions of various starting pitchers around the league. It’s caused us to devalue what precious little pitching talent the league has to begin with. Recently, I read a couple of articles that tried to define what the various rotation spots should look like. This was an attempt to remove our blinders and give us a clearer picture of what our rotation should produce from each slot. As you may have guessed, they come from The Hardball Times. On a quick side note, if you’re not reading THT, then shame on you. Plug them into the RSS reader you use and lose yourself in their wonderful baseball knowledge and research.

    Here was some of Jeff Slackman’s findings.

    After going through that procedure for all thirty MLB teams, we can make some generalizations. To start with, here are the averages for each rotation position:

    Lg      #1      #2      #3      #4      #5
    MLB     3.60    4.14    4.58    5.10    6.24
    AL      3.70    4.24    4.58    5.09    6.22
    NL      3.51    4.04    4.57    5.11    6.26

    What immediately jumps out at me is how high the #4 and #5 ERAs are. If there’s one thing most people agree on when they talk about rotation spots, it’s that a guy with an ERA over 5.00 ought to be your #5 starter. As it turns out, fewer than half of major league teams could claim an ERA under 5.00 from their #4 spot.

    In fact, only three teams in baseball got an ERA under 5.00 from their #5 spot: the Tigers (4.48), the White Sox (4.99), and the Padres (4.91). And if we adjusted for park, the Padres would sneak over 5.00. Only two other teams–the Giants (5.18) and the A’s (5.16) are under 5.50 from that position. Given the enormous difference between the best teams and the league averages, it’s all the more apparent just how valuable rotation depth can be.

    To address the issue I raised at the outset, we can use these averages to come up with rough dividing lines between rotation spots. Armed with this data, you can take any pitcher’s ERA and eyeball where they would fit in to the average team’s starting corps. For instance, in the table below, if a pitcher is between 3.87 and 4.36, he is, on average, a #2 starter.

    Spot    MLB     AL      NL

    In other words, an AL pitcher who managed an ERA under 4.00 over 32 starts very likely qualifies as an ace. To take a few examples: Jason Schmidt is the “average” ace; a fringey #1 guy is Dontrelle Willis; an average #2 starter is Matt Cain, and the protoypical #4 is Luke Hudson. The rotation that was closest to major league norms was Milwaukee’s.

    For those who are interested, here are last year’s complete results for all 30 major league teams:

    Team    #1      #2      #3      #4      #5
    ARI     3.10    4.20    4.60    4.90    6.39
    ATL     3.49    3.98    4.76    4.95    6.88
    BAL     3.76    4.72    4.94    5.71    8.45
    BOS     3.84    4.54    4.92    5.15    6.95
    CHA     4.28    4.52    4.54    4.85    4.99
    CHN     3.33    4.25    5.02    5.78    7.40
    CIN     3.30    3.72    4.60    5.27    6.34
    CLE     3.27    3.99    4.33    4.72    5.63
    COL     3.78    4.15    4.24    5.45    6.00
    DET     3.64    3.84    3.85    4.07    4.48
    FLA     2.96    3.65    3.99    4.58    6.56
    HOU     2.55    3.26    4.20    5.26    5.92
    KC      4.96    5.49    5.70    6.05    7.32
    LAA     2.97    3.58    3.91    4.42    5.68
    LAN     3.52    3.76    4.34    4.65    5.75
    MIL     3.86    4.11    4.50    4.88    6.21
    MIN     2.47    3.41    4.32    5.84    6.51
    NYA     3.52    3.63    4.34    4.93    6.44
    NYN     3.72    3.97    4.41    5.02    6.55
    OAK     3.83    4.10    4.58    4.87    5.16
    PHI     3.91    4.12    4.82    5.38    6.92
    PIT     3.99    4.59    4.75    5.17    6.30
    SD      3.41    3.64    3.78    4.22    4.91
    SEA     4.22    4.49    4.52    4.67    6.03
    SF      3.59    4.18    4.72    4.95    5.18
    STL     3.09    4.12    5.10    5.68    6.59
    TB      3.39    4.47    4.95    5.32    6.85
    TEX     4.41    4.51    4.78    5.63    6.21
    TOR     3.19    4.11    4.49    5.06    6.44
    WAS     4.64    4.96    5.27    5.58    6.23

    What I draw from this is a couple of things.

    1. Not everyone has an Ace, as they are very slim pickings
    2. It’s time to rethink what we consider a # 1 starter, a # 2 starter, and so on. (A number 1 doesn’t mean an Ace)

    I’m in the process of crunching some historical pitching numbers of my own. I’ll have more results for you soon. In the meantime, enjoy this.

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    What do you do when the NFL and MLB act like monopolies?

    Monday, January 15th, 2007

    Recently Joe wrote an article that said that Major League Baseball was discussing an exclusive TV contract with DirecTV. Under this agreement only DirecTV subscribers could purchase the MLB Extra Innings package.

    I for one am very tired of major sports leagues acting like monopolists. If they choose this role, then they should be regulated and their anti-competitive actions should be estopped by the Justice Department’s anti-trust divsion. Of course we all know what the chances of that happening during the next two years are…you have a better chance of winning the lottery!

    Fortunately Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) has decided to go to bat for sports fans. Specter has announced that he will introduce legislation that will eliminate the NFL’s antitrust exemption. Baseball also has such an exemption and both sports have the right to “choose” whom they will broadcast with under the 1961 Sports Broadcasting Act. Furthermore, baseball is also protected under a 1922 Supreme Court ruling which decrees that major league baseball does not constitute interstate commerce. I do not believe that decision would be upheld if it were contested in today’s courts.

    Sports fans should not be muscled into choosing their television provider because of these draconian arrangements. I commend Senator Specter’s efforts and urge all of you to support choice and contact your elected officials in this respect. I also urge you to contact and tell him what you think about exclusive contracts!

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    How Bad Were We? – Leftfield

    Monday, January 15th, 2007

    In case you’ve missed the first part of this series, here are some links for you to read through.

    Part IThirdbase
    Part IICatcher
    Part IIISecondbase
    Part IVShortstop
    Part VFirstbase
    Part VI2003 Cubs vs. 2005 White Sox

    Also, just in case you missed in, be sure to download the interview we did with Len Kasper last week that previews the Cubs 2007 season. You can find it at The Big League Baseball Report. Remember to sign up via iTunes, E-mail, or RSS when you’re there so you can always be updated when the new podcast hits the airways. Alright, let’s VORP the LF position for us.

    1. Manny Ramirez – 66.1
    Simply put, Ramirez arguably is the best all-around righthanded hitter in the league. He hits lefties and righties equally well, has tremendous power, even to the opposite field, and is not afraid to take the occasional free pass. His quick hands and good bat speed mean he is able to turn on most any pitch. Opposing pitchers will nibble around the corners against him with sliders and curves, not because Ramirez can’t hit them, but because anything over the middle to him is asking for trouble. ~ STATS Inc.

    2. Matt Holliday – 56.8
    Ask most common baseball fans outside of Colorado who this guy is and most will have no clue. However, in only his second full year in the majors, Holliday is quickly becoming one of the best LF in the game. With Manny another year older and the rest of this top five less than dominant, there is no question in my mind that Matt Holliday could be considered the best LF in the game next season. Mark it down in your books. He will lead this category next season.

    3. Jason Bay – 49.7
    Bay showed somewhat surprising power in his rookie season, pulling balls to left field with good loft in his swing. He also used the gaps well, especially the spacious left-center one at PNC Park. Bay can handle the best fastballs and sliders, though he can be made to chase slow stuff out of the strike zone. He showed good plate discipline in the minor leagues but has not displayed that skill so far in the majors. ~ STATS Inc.

    4. Alfonso Soriano – 48.2
    Well, we upgrade our LF with the number four guy in the majors. I’ll take that any day of the week.

    For the fourth straight season, Soriano struck out at least 120 times and failed to draw 40 walks. He will swing at anything. When he’s in a groove, he can hit almost anything, but he is prone to long slumps. He will start to lunge at pitches and gets off balance. Then the strikeouts come in bunches.

    Baserunning & Defense
    When Soriano arrived in Texas, he made it clear he intended to stay at second base, because, he said, he was a two-time All-Star at the position. It certainly wasn’t based on defense. For the fourth consecutive year, he led all second basemen in errors. Most of those errors are “lazy” errors that seem to come when Soriano gets tired. As he wore down, the errors started piling up. Soriano’s stolen-base total dropped off in 2004, but that was more because he spent most of 2004 in the No. 3 hole. In the three previous seasons, he averaged 40 steals a year. ~ STATS Inc.

    5. Carl Crawford – 41.1
    A serious case could be made that this guy is one of the most electric players in the game today. He hits for average, can field his position very well, has average power and, oh yeah, can steal bases like the great Lou Brock. Want some proof? Here’s a clip of the game last year when CC swept for the cycle. It doesn’t get much better than that.

    14. Matt Murton – 16.2
    For as much junk as Murton took last year, he really had a decent rookie campaign. Here is a graph that shows Murton’s OBP compared to the league average for the first two years of his career.

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    Until Later Today, Let’s Celebrate

    Monday, January 15th, 2007

    I’m working on the VORP post for Leftfield today. I’ll have it posted later on this afternoon. Until then, close your eyes if you’re one that is only for Cubs content on the site, cause I wanna gloat and celebrate a big win.

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    Cubs in the News

    Friday, January 12th, 2007

    Here are a couple articles that were good reads.

    Question: If Barry Zito is worth $126 million for seven years on the open market, then what is the value of Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano if they get to free agency in the fall?
    Answer: More than the White Sox and Cubs care to know, albeit for different reasons.
    For the Sox, whatever Buehrle’s worth—and it potentially could be more than Zito—is more than they care to pay.
    For the Cubs, Zambrano’s future price—potentially above any pitcher in history—is something they would rather avoid by signing him soon.
    The differing financial philosophies on the best young potential free agent pitchers is a continuing pattern this winter.
    The White Sox are gobbling up inexpensive youth to stay good while the Cubs are spending gobs to get better.

    For 12 years, under the presidency of Andy MacPhail, the Cubs never reached a salary-arbitration hearing with a player.
    That streak appears to be in jeopardy this winter because of three tricky and interesting cases: Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano and Will Ohman.
    MacPhail and his charges were of a mind that it was better to settle on a compromise salary figure than go through the arbitration hearing, which can become contentious and leave bad feelings.

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    Len Kasper Previews the Cubs

    Thursday, January 11th, 2007

    We had Len Kasper on the podcast last night. We tried to steer clear of the awful season last year. We had a good time with Len and hope you enjoy the interview. ~ Listen to the Interview is the podcast website. You can sign up to receive it in the iTunes, E-mail or RSS readers.

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    More drug use – guess who?

    Thursday, January 11th, 2007

    George Carlin once said: “Used to be ‘getting up for the game’ was sort of a spiritual thing..” Well Barry Bonds has proven once again that he will take whatever it takes to get to Hank Aaron’s record and baseball immortality. But will he?

    Recently we all saw what happened to another cheater; Mark McGwire’s 23% fell just 52% short of the number of votes required for induction into baseball’s Hall of Fame. It appears now that Bonds failed a drug test for amphetamines in 2006 and blamed it on teammate Mark Sweeney. According to the New York Daily News, Bonds said he got the substance from Sweeney’s locker. Even if this is true, what did Bonds think he was taking, candy? There’s no doubt in my mind that the next time he gets caught for something he’ll say he got it from a bicycle seat.

    It remains to be seen if Bonds will be indicted for perjury soon – Bonds denied consciously using steroids before a grand jury in 2003 and another federal grand jury is considering his fate as we speak. Many people contend that Barry Bonds should be inducted to the Hall of Fame because of his accomplishments prior to the steroid era – my contention is that Bonds should be denied this honor because of the irreparable damage he has done to the game. If he does break Aaron’s record, no one is more deserving of an asterisk than he. Barry Bonds should be indicted, not inducted.

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    Come on Now

    Tuesday, January 9th, 2007

    Before I make my rant for the day, I wanted to let everyone know that Len Kasper is scheduled to appear on Thursday’s podcast to preview the upcoming season. I’ll post a link when the show it up. If you’ve got a specific question for Len, leave it in the comment section and we’ll do our best to work it in. Now, on to my rant.

    Baseball Prospectus tipped me off to this potential story.

    John Orerand and Eric Fisher of the Sports Business Journal have reported that MLB is in advanced talks with DirecTV to make the satellite television company the exclusive provider of MLB Extra Innings. While Extra Innings was initially only offered on DirecTV in 1996, the package has been available on cable since 2001, and on Dish Network since 2004.

    Now this doesn’t directly affect me, because I have DirecTV, but up until last year, I have always had cable. This kind of monopolizing by DirecTV needs to end. They’re doing it with the NFL and it needs to stop. Why do the leagues even consider cutting their opportunity to sell their product in half? It can’t possibly be a good investment.

    On a side not, congrats to Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. on their big news. Two good guys in baseball history get honored with a most deserved priviledge.

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