Archive for October, 2013

The 2013 Fielding Bible Awards

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

THE 2013 FIELDING BIBLE AWARDS have been officially announced. Six new players and three returning players have been deemed worthy of the honor of being named the best fielder at their position for the 2013 season.

Andrelton Simmons set a single-season record (since we started tracking Defensive Runs Saved in 2003) by saving 41 runs at shortstop for the Atlanta Braves. And Simmons had company breaking the record. Gerardo Parra saved 36 runs in right field for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2013. But with four more runs saved in center field and one run saved in left, Parra also had 41 total Defensive Runs Saved and joined Simmons with the highest runs saved performances on record. They were, without a doubt, the best fielders last year at their position, regardless of league. On top of those two, Carlos Gomez saved 38 runs for the Milwaukee Brewers playing center field. And Manny Machado had 35 runs saved for the Baltimore Orioles at third base. They, too, deserved singular recognition.

All four of those players were rewarded with their first Fielding Bible Awards. In addition, we chose Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks at first base and R.A. Dickey of the Toronto Blue Jays at pitcher—both for the first time as well.

Repeat winners this year include Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox at second base (his second in three years), Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals in left field (his second in a row), and Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals at catcher (for an amazing sixth time).

A panel of 12 analysts, listed below—including Peter Gammons, Bill James, Joe Posnanski, and Doug Glanville—examined the 2013 seasons of every defensive player in Major League Baseball and then used the same voting technique as the Major League Baseball MVP voting. First place votes received 10 points, second place 9 points, third place 8 points, etc. A perfect score was 120.

One important distinction that differentiates THE FIELDING BIBLE AWARDS from most other baseball awards, such as the Gold Gloves, is that there is only one winner at each position instead of separate winners for each league. The goal of THE FIELDING BIBLE AWARDS is to stand up and say: “Here is the best fielder at this position in Major League Baseball last season.” Another key feature of the system is that it also recognizes the runners-up for each position. A complete record of the voting can be found in The Bill James Handbook 2014.

Here are the results of THE 2013 FIELDING BIBLE AWARDS:

Position Winner

Points

First Base Paul Goldschmidt

110

Second Base Dustin Pedroia

118

Third Base Manny Machado

120

Shortstop Andrelton Simmons

120

Left Field Alex Gordon

112

Center Field Carlos Gomez

119

Right Field Gerardo Parra

117

Catcher Yadier Molina

114

Pitcher R.A. Dickey

105

The Panel

  • Bill James is a baseball writer and analyst and the Senior Baseball Operations Advisor for the Boston Red Sox.
  • The BIS Video Scouts at Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) study every game of the season, multiple times, charting a huge list of valuable game details.
  • As the MLB Network on-air host of Clubhouse Confidential and MLB Now, Brian Kenny brings an analytical perspective on the game of baseball to a national television audience. He also won a 2003 Sports Emmy Award as host of ESPN’s Baseball Tonight.
  • Dave Cameron is the Managing Editor of Fangraphs.
  • Doug Glanville played nine seasons in Major League Baseball and was well known for his excellent outfield defense. Currently, he is a baseball analyst at ESPN, primarily on Baseball Tonight, ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine.
  • The man who created Strat-O-Matic Baseball, Hal Richman.
  • Named the best sports columnist in America in 2012 by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, Joe Posnanski is the National Columnist at NBC Sports.
  • For over twenty-five years, BIS owner John Dewan has collected, analyzed, and published in-depth baseball statistics and analysis. He authored The Fielding Bible and The Fielding Bible—Volume II, and co-authored The Fielding Bible—Volume III.
  • Mark Simon has been a researcher for ESPN Stats & Information since 2002 and currently helps oversee the Stats & Information blog and Twitter (@espnstatsinfo). He is a regular contributer on baseball (often writing on defense) for ESPNNY.com and ESPN.com.
  • Peter Gammons serves as on-air and online analyst for MLB Network, MLB.com and NESN (New England Sports Network). He is the 56th recipient of the J. G. Taylor Spink Award for outstanding baseball writing given by the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America).
  • After nearly fifteen years with ESPN.com, Rob Neyer joined SB Nation as National Baseball Editor in 2011. He has written six books about baseball.
  • The Tom Tango Fan Poll represents the results of a poll taken at the website, Tango on Baseball (www.tangotiger.net). Besides hosting the website, Tom writes research articles devoted to sabermetrics.
  • Our three tie-breakers are Ben Jedlovec, vice president of Baseball Info Solutions and co-author of The Fielding Bible—Volume III, Dan Casey, veteran Video Scout at BIS, and Sean Forman, the founder of Baseball-Reference.com.

Complete results and voting on THE 2013 FIELDING BIBLE AWARDS are presented in The Bill James Handbook 2014, published on or before November 1 every year. For more information on THE FIELDING BIBLE AWARDS, visit www.fieldingbible.com.

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Offseason Series: Free Agency

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Free agency in Major League Baseball is one of the simpler issues we’ll deal with in this offseason series. Thankfully, it was also made significantly less complicated by the current collective bargaining agreement, which went into effect two off seasons ago.

The basics of free agency are that players with at least six years of Major League service time and are not otherwise under contract with a team are free agents. These players are free to sign with any team, and become free agents the day after the World Series ends.

The following 2013 Cubs will be free agents at that point: RHP Scott Baker, RHP Kevin Gregg, RHP Matt Guerrier, and C Dioner Navarro. OF Ryan Sweeney would have been a free agent as well, but the Cubs signed him to an extension earlier this month.

The wrinkles in free agency are the tender and free agent draft compensation systems, although these were simplified by the current CBA. Under the old CBA, a team could receive draft compensation for a player if he was rated a Type A or Type B free agent by Elias Sports Bureau. A player was a Type A free agent if he was one of the top 20 percent of players, and a Type B free agent and between 21 and 40 percent. To obtain draft pick compensation for a Type A or Type B free agent, the player’s current team had to offer arbitration to the player, he had to reject arbitration, and another team had to sign the player.

If the free agent was a Type A free agent, the signing team gave up a first round draft pick, unless their pick in the first round was in the first half of the next year’s draft. Then they would give up a second round pick. If the signing team previously signed a Type A free agent, and then signed a second Type A free agent, they would give up their pick in the next eligible round. So, for example, if a team with the fourth worst record in baseball signed two Type A free agents, it would lose its second and third round picks. However, if a team with the fourth best record in baseball did the same, it would lose its first and second round picks. Those draft picks would go to the team who lost the player to free agency, which would also gain a supplemental pick in a sandwich round in the first and second rounds. The Elias rankings determined the order of the picks in this sandwich round. In other words, the player that the Elias rankings thought was the best would garner the first pick in the sandwich round.

For Type B free agents, the signing team would not lose any draft picks. Instead, the team that lost the player to free agency received a supplemental draft pick in the aforementioned sandwich round, but behind the Type A free agents.

This system tied whether players would be tendered arbitration heavily to their value as compared to other players at their position, and to their arbitration award in their final year in arbitration. For example, a decent closer who made $6 million in his final year of arbitration eligibility, but tallied enough saves to be labeled a Type A free agent, could be tendered arbitration. This would either let the pitcher’s team from the prior season keep him on a one year deal through arbitration, or get two high round draft picks as compensation.

Under the new system, the team that had the free agent the prior season must tender him a “qualifying offer”: a one year contract for at least the average annual value of the 125 most expensive contracts in baseball to obtain draft compensation for a departing free agent. For this offseason, a qualifying offer will be a one year, $14 million deal. However, teams can only obtain draft pick compensation for players they controlled for the entire preceding season. For example, the Texas Rangers cannot obtain draft pick compensation for Matt Garza, who they picked up from the Cubs in July. But the Cincinnati Reds can obtain draft pick compensation for Shin-Soo Choo, who they traded for last offseason and was on the Reds for the entirety of 2013.

After being tendered a qualifying offer, the player has 7 days to decide if he wants to accept the qualifying offer. If he accepts the tender, he agrees to the one year, $14 million deal. If he does not, he is a free agent.

The team that signs a free agent who rejected a qualifying offer will give up a draft pick. If the team has one of the first ten picks in the draft, it will lose its second round pick. If the team does not have one of the first ten picks in the draft, it will lose its first round pick. As with the old system, if a team signs a second player who was tendered a qualifying offer, it will give up its pick in the next eligible round.

However, the team losing the free agent won’t get the pick the signing team gave up, instead getting a pick in a sandwich round between the first two rounds. Also, as there is no ranking of the free agents, the draft order is decided by which free agents are signed first. For example, both Robinson Cano and Carlos Beltran are pretty likely (guaranteed in Cano’s case) to be tendered one year, $14 million contracts, which at least Cano is guaranteed to reject, and Beltran is somewhat likely to. No one would argue that Beltran is a better player than Cano at this stage in their careers. But if Beltran signs with a team aside from the Cardinals on November 30 and Cano signs with a team aside from the Yankees on December 1, the Cardinals would get an earlier pick in the sandwich round than the Yankees.

How This Affects the Cubs

The Cubs aren’t losing much in free agency this season, with the biggest loss being backup catcher Dioner Navarro. Navarro was fantastic at the plate last season, and will likely try to turn his strong 2013 into a 2014 starting gig. Considering the defensive and OBP strides that Welington Castillo made last season, combined with his low, controlled cost, the Cubs are unlikely to be able to offer Navarro anything close to a starting job, and I doubt they will be able to bring him back.

Matt Guerrier and Kevin Gregg are both gone. Guerrier was a salary for salary dump in the Carlos Marmol trade, and was never expected to come back, even before suffering a major injury at the end of the season. Regarding Gregg, the Cubs appear to want to give Pedro Strop the opportunity to close in 2014, while Gregg might try to parlay a decent, but likely better in his mind than reality, season, into another shot to close somewhere else. On top of that, Gregg clashed with Cubs management in a pretty public way at the end of this season, making it even less unlikely the Cubs desire his services.

Baker had decent results in his return from Tommy John surgery at the end of the season, but awful peripherals. The Cubs might look to bring him back, but I would be surprised if it would be on anything more than a split contract, which would start as minor league deal but allow Baker to exit the contract by, say, April 30, if he isn’t on the Major League roster.

As far as adding players through free agency, the Cubs’ first round draft pick (fourth overall) is protected. However, I still find it unlikely that the Cubs will sign anyone they would have to give their second round pick up to get, unless they decide to get in on the bidding for a Cano, Ellsbury or Choo. I think it is unlikely the Cubs end up as serious bidders for any of those three, all of whom are likely to sign contracts for at least 5 years and very close to $100 million. I could see them in on a whole host of players who aren’t tendered contracts, though, from Carlos Beltran types (older former stars who might cost more money than the players the Cubs have signed recently, but likely won’t need more than 2 year contract), to the David DeJesus/Scott Feldman/Nate Schierholtz/Paul Maholm signings they’ve made over the past two seasons.

If the Cubs are going to go big after someone, I’d bet on Choo. I know a lot of people like to connect the Epstein/Hoyer front office to Ellsbury because of the Boston ties, but Ellsbury’s best asset (speed) is one that has a tendency to fade quickly as a player proceeds through his 30s. Choo is a .400 OBP hitter with solid power, which the Cubs could desperately use. I have a feeling the bidding is going to get too high for the Cubs on a guy with an injury history who should only play left field and struggles against same handed pitching, but that would be my bet.

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Cubs Valuation: Is It Right?

Friday, October 25th, 2013

In the past we’ve heard about the value of the Cubs and other MLB teams from Forbes, but now Bloomberg has released its own financial rankings list and the Cubs come in at $1.32 Billion. Is that right? Does it sound too high or too low? It’s hard to tell, and since their financial situation didn’t sound so rosy 2 months ago it might be the morale boost that the team needs.

The Cubs come in 5th on the valuation list and apparently they do not yet exploit the media opportunities that are available to them. This means that they could be worth even more in the future, and when their WGN-TV contract expires at the end of the 2014 season they can cash in on other, better offers before the expiration of the CSN Chicago deal expires in 2019. There is a lot of money to be made if the Cubs can kick up their attendance levels, find a good coach and enjoy sustained success. At the moment this ranking is really good for the team’s confidence and it’s kind of the baseball equivalent of hitting the jackpot at iPadcasino.ca as the rewards can change player’s lives in the future.

According to Bloomberg the average valuation of teams in the MLB is around $1 billion, with 10 teams topping that figure by a substantial amount. This is 35% higher than previous estimates but it may in fact be accurate when you look at the stats. Finally MLB teams are catching up to NFL valuation figures and it’s about time that the values where equalized. If valuations continue to increase and the Cubs manage to stay in the top 5 I’ll be a happy camper, and I know I’m not the only one.

So, if this is the right valuation for the Cubs and they are 5th on the list whose at number 1? No surprise here, the New York Yankees took the top spot and where valued at $3.3 billion. They are the kind of franchise most MLB teams try and emulate, and considering the Cubs are only 4 spots away we think that’s a pretty good result. Now the question is, can they do better?

I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on these new valuations.

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Friday Nuggets

Friday, October 25th, 2013

  • Bloomberg put together an awesome interactive article related to the value of major league baseball franchises. The Cubs are in fifth place in overall value behind, in order, the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, and Mets, and ahead of the Giants (the Orioles are listed as the seventh most valuable franchise – I would have NEVER guessed that). This is a great piece that lets you explore how teams compare to each other on a variety of metrics, including all sources of incoming and outgoing revenue. The area in which the Cubs fall short in relation to other incoming revenue areas is in “sponsorship” – which may make it easier to understand why the Cubs are busy trying to maximize the value of signage and other ad potential at Wrigley Field.
  • Cubs farmhand (acquired in the Matt Garza trade) C.J. Edwards was named MiLB.com’s Pitcher of the Year (that’s considering all pitchers at all levels in the minors – pretty awesome). If you don’t know much about Edwards, you’ll probably find yourself rooting hard for the kid after reading this profile on him.
  • Someone is suing the City of Chicago and Cubs-affiliated entities over the proposed hotel-on-Wrigley-property construction.
  • The Cardinals lost Game 1 of the World Series, and of course they’re complaining that Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester cheated. You can judge the evidence in question for yourself over at Hardball Talk.
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The Offseason Schedule

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

With the World Series about to start in just a few days, the offseason is right around the corner. A couple of months ago, Joe and I discussed how the Major League offseason contains some vagaries that many fans don’t completely understand. From the way free agency works, to the arbitration system, to exactly how the Rule 5 draft works, the offseason procedure isn’t exactly transparent. I thought starting with the basic schedule would be helpful, and the timing works right now, as the start of the MLB offseason is tied to the end of the World Series.

Right After World Series: Eligible Article XX(B) players become free agents. XX(B) players are what are thought of as “standard” free agents. They have more than 6 years of service time and are beyond team control.

Fourth Day After World Series: Last date to request waivers on Draft-excluded players until next spring. My understanding is that “Draft” being referenced is the Rule 5 draft.

Fifth Day After World Series: (1) Last date to reinstate players from 60-day disabled list; (2) last date to outright potential Minor League free agent without Major League contract, if permissible; (3) last date for former club to tender qualifying offer to XX(B) players; (4) Minor League players become free agents at 5 p.m. ET, if applicable.

Sixth Day After World Series: XX(B) and Minor League free agents may sign with all clubs.

Twelfth Day After World Series: Last date for XX(B) players to accept qualifying offer from former club.

November 10, 2013: Outright waivers secured on or after September 1 expire at 5 p.m. ET.

November 11, 2013: New waiver period begins.

November 11-13, 2013: GM/Owners Meetings.

November 18, 2013: Last date to ask outright waivers on an injured player, if permissible.

November 20, 2013: (1) Last date to outright an injured player to the Minor Leagues, if permissible; (2)reserve lists for all Major and Minor League levels filed.

December 2, 2013: Tender deadline for arbitration eligible players.

December 5, 2013: Last date to request outright waivers to assign player prior to Rule 5 Draft.

December 9, 2013: Last date to outright a player prior to Rule 5 Draft.

December 9-12, 2013: Winter Meetings.

December 12, 2013: Rule 5 Draft.

February 2014: Arbitration Hearings.

At the least, I plan on covering free agency (including free agent tenders), arbitration, the winter meetings, and the Rule 5 Draft. I’ll also cover how we can expect these items to affect the Cubs this offseason. However, if there are any particular items you find interesting, please leave them in the comments and we’ll see if we can expand this series to cover them.

Oh, also, on this World Series Eve: Booo Cardinals! Booo! The actual language I’d like to use is a bit more colorful, but this is a family friendly website.

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