November 2008

Barry Bonds

     Tell me all of your reasons, if you all wish, why Barry Lamar Bonds is or is not the greatest player to ever step on the diamond. 

DP MVP

     I can make a small argument for why I think Mauer was the MVP, but Pedroia is deserving as well.  126 OPS+, very good D at second base, and very entertaining.  I am glad that he is on my team. 

CC in “The City?”

     CC Sabathia was recently, yesterday to be exact, offered the largest contract in baseball history for a guy that relies mostly on one arm.  Six years and $137.5 million dollars by the team with the deepest pockets, the New York Yankees.

     There is much risk in this, but do I blame the New York Yankees for wanting one of the best pitchers in the game?  No, not really.  There seem to be Sabathia detractors littered around certain message boards/comment sections, but one of their arguments isn’t much of an argument in my mind:  Sabathia’s playoff track record.  Even with his struggles in the playoffs, how many pitchers are better than CC?  I guess we can still have Santana at the top after having another great season.  But how many other pitchers are better than CC?  Zero?  One?  Who knows.  I thought that Josh Beckett was on par, maybe even better, but then CC went and had his second consecutive great season.  Beckett however, merely had an above average year. 

     CC Sabathia does something that a lot of people seem to forget is very important, he has become an integral part in helping his team reach the postseason.  And a team cannot win in the postseason, if they do not get there.  Some fail to realize this.  There may be some issues with Sabathia, maybe he does experience the butterflies during the playoffs.  But it could be because of the innings he has thrown as well.  Sabathia has been a workhorse each of the past two seasons, but not come through in the postseason.  Whether it be butterflies, or his body tiring, he has proven to be a great pitcher regardless.  If he does end up in New York, then the Yankees need to do things right.  They need to go get a spot starter, someone like Bartolo Colon last season, or they can promote someone internally here and there if needed (Ian Kennedy?).  But if Sabathia signs, then he needs to be relieved of a few starts during the year, to keep him rested if the playoffs happen to be a likely destination.  The Red Sox do an excellent job of giving their guys breaks throughout the year, due to an enormous amount of quality depth.  The Yankees have the resources, and I like to think, the smarts to follow this blueprint. 

     One thing that the detractors also point to, that actually might make sense is this; Sabathia has thrown a ton of innings the past few years.  So maybe the innings eating will catch up to him some.  Look, there is a lot of risk giving a single player, pitcher much more so, this type of contract.  Pitchers are more susceptible to career threatening injuries, and more likely to require surgery that will sideline them for a period of time, etc.  They are a risky proposition.  But Sabathia is unlike most pitchers, because of his enormous ability, his performance the past two seasons speaks for itself: 494 innings, 460 K’s, 96 walks, and roughly a 150 ERA+.  Truly incredible, but also truly taxing on one’s arm.  That being said, there was a time when pitchers used to throw a ton of innings and did not feel many ill effects.  So Sabathia could stay healthy too, and it would seem some would make too much a deal about this. 

     That much money for one pitcher has its negatives, but then again there is a reason that Sabathia is being offered that much money to begin with.  If the Yankees do ink a deal, then they would potentially have the best pitcher in baseball, and definitely one of the five best.  But no one can foresee any injuries, and “tiring out” is something realistic, but not inside our crystal ball either.  Sabathia makes the Yankees an instant contender, again, in the most difficult division in baseball.  And as much as it pains me to say it, the Yankees would be obtaining a pitcher that I wouldn’t mind having on my team (would not mind AT ALL), if we needed him as much.     

Swisher in Pinstripes.

     Someone not too long ago wrote that this made sense…

                            

Road Numbers.

     An expert whose analysis I am quite fond of, always suggests that Jim Rice’s Hall of Fame candidacy is ridiculous because of how he played on the road.  It is true, very true in fact, that Rice was a heck of a lot better at home in Fenway than on the road vs. the rest of the AL.  But that is not the sole reason for an argument for or against a candidate, or any player. 

     Rice had a decent .277/.330/.459 line on the road during his career.  And at home it went a little like this: .320/.374/.546.  So although he was incredible at home, and close to mediocre on the road, there is little to suggest that what his road numbers were, was what he actually was.  It is not uncommon for a hitter to play better at home, than they do on the road.  Now, I am not an advocate for Jim Rice as a Hall of Fame worthy player.  I do believe that he was a beneficiary of Fenway’s friendly dimensions, but I do not believe that the road numbers accurately reflect what he was as a player altogether.  There is no proof that Rice would have posted the first line of numbers, had he played in an average park his entire career.  So while I don’t believe that Rice is Hall worthy, I also am not sure that he was actually the equivalent of Dante Bichette, as the analyst suggested. 

     Which leads me to some sort of point that I am trying to make…I don’t know how I come off in regards to Matt Holliday, but I do not think that he is what his road numbers are.  There are cases when a player simply performs better at home, than on the road.  So I don’t think the A’s are getting a player with a career OPS of .800, which is what his career road OPS is.  If that is what I thought they were getting, then I would say that they had been ripped off.  And a side note:  Holliday’s road OPS’ the past two years are better than his career road numbers, naturally, because he is sitting in his prime right now.  And those same road numbers are actually closer to his home numbers than in the years previous. 

     But I am still skeptical, hesitant, disinclined, reluctant, dubious, etc, etc, etc, when I want to admit what exactly I think Matt Holliday is.  I think he is good, but I don’t know that he is great, and I am not sure that he is much more than solid.  Solid is a pretty flimsy word in this context anyway.  I do know that road numbers are not everything though.  But I have trouble thinking that Holliday will end up posting an OPS north or .900 playing in that park, and in that league.     

Holliday an A

     Matt Holliday is better than what his career road numbers indicate.  It is very doubtful, however, that he is as good as his overall numbers indicate. 

     There are questions within my head that make the A’s acquisition of Matt Holliday slightly odd.  We all know that Holliday is a good player, but what do the A’s want with him?  Billy Beane would not make this deal unless it was for a reason, and if that reason is having a team that will compete this year, then it makes this look odd as of now.  There may be some pending moves, yet to be made.  I have heard lingering rumors such as signing Furcal at SS, or some other type of move to improve the club.  If something else happens then this will be a little more clear.  When Mark Ellis was re-signed, I thought to myself that Beane must be thinking that the prospects that are waiting down below, must be closer and more ready then we are aware of.  And obviously, acquiring a player like Holliday makes this team even closer to the reality that they can give the Angels a run. 

     So if Beane is going to compete, we have established that he is going to need a little more to accomplish that dream.  With Holliday, the A’s have two big time bats in the lineup.  One that excels in only the categories included in the “three true outcomes.”  And one who has been much, much better at home in Colorado his entire life.  Both are up for debate as to how good they actually are.  We know this about Holliday, or so analysts have pounded it into my head:  Much better at home, great? baserunner, “adventurous” fielder, and whatever we think, he is a capable hitter at least, and most likely better than that. 

     But there is one question left that may solve a few others.  Is Beane going to trade Holliday at the deadline as everyone seems to think is the case?  I would assume that if the A’s aren’t winning baseball games, that Beane would move him.  Because it is apparent that Holliday will not get an extension via the Oakland Athletics.  The same Oakland Athletics that simply do not give lucrative, long-term deals to good players, outside of Eric Chavez.  But there are a few aspects to why Holliday’s value cannot get any better.  Holliday is moving from a good hitters park, not so great as it was, but still good.  Holliday is moving to what we all perceive as being the better league.  And if Holliday is going to be moved at the deadline, then his short time with Oakland will be filled with a period of “league adjustment.”  Holliday will be facing a whole new crop of pitchers, in a whole new environment, in a different city, etc.  I will not judge Holliday much on his first year in the AL, but if he struggles some adjusting to the pitching/talent than some GM’s may be hesitant to give up too much for him.  And those GM’s that don’t appear to browse the right numbers, are going to see a drop in home runs, batting average, etc, because, well, Oakland is a tougher place to hit.  Is that going to matter to some of the GM’s willing to throw half of their farm at Holliday in a deadline deal?  It may. 

     One scout that I rely on says that Holliday will have issues with more difficult fastballs in the AL.  This may be true, and I think the talent he will be facing overall in the AL, WILL be more a “task” than he has encountered in the NL.  But Holliday has had to face some good pitchers in the NL too, it isn’t as if the league consists of only replacement level players, that seems to be what some of us think sometimes.  But if Holliday has to face Lackey-Santana-Escobar (when healthy) in a three-game series, it won’t be easy.  But then again, I guess that is the extreme, as he will also face three straight Rangers pitchers, even though eventually that Rangers team will have “prospects” take the place of bad pitchers. 

     Point is…Matt Holliday will probably struggle some transistioning to the new, more difficult American League.  And I wonder if that will hurt Billy Beane’s return at the deadline, if in fact, that is his plan.  But short term, the A’s have a better lineup, Holliday himself makes it better.  But there needs to be something else if they want to win in 2009.  There needs to be a Rafael Furcal, who is 31, and does not seem the right age for Billy Beane to throw the bank at.  However, Furcal would definitely be a good acquisition for the next few years if nothing else. 

     Know this, if Billy Beane made this move, then there is reason to believe that it will work out on the positive side in terms of the health of this organization.  And if nothing else, Beane is a getting a player with a lot of passion who should hit the ball some, giving the fans something to cheer for.  Beane may not put too much into that passion thing, I don’t know maybe he does.  But the passion will be there, as long as Matt Holliday is there.   

      

    

NFL Picks, Week 10

    
     Falcons 31 Saints 27

     Bears 19 Titans 16

     Jaguars 26 Lions 22
 
     Dolphins 27 Seahawks 18

     Vikings 27 Packers 24

     Patriots 21  Bills 19

     Jets 21  Rams 20

     Ravens 29 Texans 26

     Panthers 30 Raiders 13

     Colts 20 Steelers 17

     Chargers 31 Chiefs 21

     Eagles 27 Giants 23

     Cardinals 34  49ers 19

Be Wary of the Holliday.

     I love this quote that was found within a Jerry Crasnick article:

“I’m not sure that anyone gives up the necessary package for a one-year
Scott Boras client with a big home-road split,” said an AL executive.

Is Chase Utley the Best Player in Baseball?

Excerpt from BP’s Joe Sheehan chat:

Henry (Princeton): Hey Joe, Keith Law in his chat yesterday declared Chase Utley
to be the best player in baseball, better than Pujols. Considering
Pujols out-VORPed Utley 96-62 this year and is a GG defender at first
(screw what the vote says) is it safe to say that KLaw is off his
rocker on this one?

Joe Sheehan: You also have to screw what the vote says on
Utley, who according to at least one metric (+/-, by BIS), was the best
defensive player in baseball this year. I disagree with Keith’s
conclusion, but you know, I think he’s a lot closer to the truth than
the mainstream opinion of Utley, which wouldn’t have him anywhere near
the discussion.



Chat excerpt from ESPN’s Keith Law chat:


Ian (Bellingham, WA): Utley is turning thirty this offseason. You really think he can maintain production long enough to make the Hall?

SportsNation Keith Law: He’s
a good athlete and a plus-plus defensive player – those guys tend to
age pretty well. Now, this is the part that might make my head explode,
but the voters often look at stuff like Gold Gloves, so he needs to
start winning some to boost his HoF chances. In my opinion, if a guy is
the best player in baseball for a year or so and stays at/near that
peak for a good 4-5 years, he’s a HoF candidate. And Utley is the best
player in baseball right now.

Excerpt from the Statistician Magician’s Mind:

Keith Law is the best analyst that I know of.  Law combines a rare blend of the ability to scout, mixed with the ability to analyze the numbers.  More importantly, analyzing the “Right” numbers.  There is a reason that Law was employed by “Baseball Prospectus” before he began his tenure with ESPN and Scouts, Inc.  But on this particular subject, I must mildly disagree. 

     Chase Utley is among the best players in the game, I am not denying that.  A very good defender at an up-the-middle position (second), and a great bat for any position, but obviously it is that much more valuable because he plays second.  Utley, according to OPS+ was 35% better than the average hitter in 2008 with a line of: .292/.380/.535.  Utley even stole 14 of 16 bags, which percentage wise, is very, very good.  Utley was sixth in the league in Win Shares this season, fourteenth last season (but would have been higher had he not been injured), and was thirteenth in 2006.  10th in VORP in 2008, too.  And an assortment of other statistical categories that point to Utley being one of the five or ten best players in the game.  Utley by almost any measure, is great.  And I step aside to listen to those numbers. 

     But is he the greatest among the current crop of players?  I say no.  Albert Pujols would be my choice.  Pujols year in and year out is the best in the game it seems, outside of last year. 

     So while I agree with Joe Sheehan that Keith is probably closer than one might think, I believe that Pujols is the best.    

The Gold Snub Awards.

     Shortly after awards are announced, shortly after a baseball related story is revealed, baseball analysts and experts everwhere, the ones that are paid to do this for a living, are all over whatever the given topic be.  So once again, I am left in the dust, left on “mop-up” duty.  But nevertheless, I will address what has taken place the past two days. 

     The Gold Glove awards have become somewhat of a joke occurrence each year among the baseball writers whose opinions I value most.  And after doing much research the past few years myself, and learning more so now to think for myself about the subject than ever, I agree for the most part.  One thing that I feel needs to be said is that certain experts tend to value the results of these awards a lot more than I do, almost so much as an obsession.  Fine for them.  I care, and I do want the right players to be selected for whatever the given award happens to be.  But I will not (cliche alert) lose any sleep over it. 

     The award should go to the best fielder, period.  It should have absolutely nothing to do with what the player does in the clubhouse, in the batters box, at the night club, in which city he plays, etc.  Best fielder, period.  But we must also be aware that the player that earns the award must have played enough games at the position.  A minimum amount of defensive innings, or maybe simply qualifying for the batting title would work as well. 

     The objective measure of fielding performance that I tend to rely on is John Dewan’s “Plus/Minus” system.  It seems to be pretty consistent in choosing, not necessarily the “Right” candidate, but more so someone who is close to the “right” candidate.  There seem to be a few questionable choices each year with my chosen metric, however who am I to judge?  I for one completely understand that I do not see enough of a sampling of all defenders to make an accurate assessment on the quality of the glove work that they produce.  The experts however that designed this metric do get to see enough, or so they tell us.  And I also keep in mind that defensive metrics, although somewhat reliable, are not what offensive numbers are.  They are not as accurate, and not as close to being definitive as my chosen offensive statistics appear to be. 

     The Gold Glove voters make some terrible choices sometimes.  It isn’t as if they choose the wrong player every time, it is that they sometimes choose a player that has no business winning the award.  Sometimes, too often perhaps, they seem to choose a player that should have one a few years previous, or a player that makes a great play in a large market, or even a player that is a poor defender, but has a great bat.  It has made the award a joke, to some, and rightfully so. 

     So as most of us know, my one loyal reader and I, the Gold Glove awards were chosen for each league the past two days.  So here are the winners, and a few sentences why they are worthy or not, based on my oh so humble opinion (But mostly Plus/Minus’ humble objective opinion). 

Catchers:

     Joe Mauer-  Mauer is regarded as one of the best defenders in the game at the catching position.  This is the one position where I will not rely on the Plus/Minus system, because I am pretty darn sure that they can not sum up everything that a catcher does defensively, nor did they even post the results on the website.  One writer suggested that Jose Molina was the best defender.  Ok, maybe he was, but he played in a total of 81 games.  This is not “Anti-Yankee” bias, this is simple near-fact that a catcher who plays 54 fewer games than another cannot be as valuable, assuming that both parties are competent at what they are doing.

     Yadier Molina-  Ask me again when I watch him play more.

1B:

     Carlos Pena-  Dewan (Plus/Minus) has him as the fifth best defender at first base.  Not going to complain, even if he wasn’t the best, he was rated the best among AL first baseman, so this is probably a fine choice.  Mark Teixera was rated the best, but spent a lot of time in the NL.

     Adrian Gonzalez-  Maybe Pujols deserves to win this award again.  Pujols is second in plus/minus and noted as one of the best at his position.  But I haven’t exactly heard much about Adrian being a poor defender.  May not be the best choice, and probably wasn’t the right choice, but could be worse. 

2B:

     Dustin Pedroia:  Since I watch Pedroia a lot, I see that he is a very good defender.  But even though I let my eyes tell me what they see, I am hesitant to make any rash judgements into what he is until I see the metrics.  And the metrics backed up my thinking, which is what I enjoy.  Pedroia was second in the AL in plus/minus, and the only player ahead of him played 31 fewer games at the position.  Pedroia is a more than an acceptable choice, although Mark Ellis is good.

     Brandon Phillips:  Ok, two writers that I read frequently, Law and Neyer, believe Utley was the best defender, and I cannot disagree with them.  but Phillips is still a solid choice.  It isn’t as if he was terrible, plus/minus has him fourth in all of baseball, although Utley has a rather sizeable advantage over everyone.  But the point is to get someone in there who is good, rather than “not good.” 

SS:

     Michael Young-  Hilarious!  Shouldn’t have won, this goes in the egregious category.  But as one ESPN commentor said, the SS crop in the AL was very weak.  Either they did not play enough games, or they didn’t field well enough.  Still, this is a horrid decision, although Young is the kind of player we all like. 

     Jimmy Rollins-  Rollins is a complete player.  Not much better than the average hitter, but still better.  And a good fielder.  I doubt Rollins will ever end up his 2007 self again, but his defense was tops in Dewan’s metric at SS.

3B: 

     Adrian Beltre-  Everyone knows Beltre’s glove work is the reason he may be worth what he earns. 

     David Wright-  Wright is a great player, and gets a lot of crap for it in the New York media.  Maybe not the best choice, but could be.

AL OF:

     Torii Hunter, Grady Sizemore, Ichiro Suzuki- 
    
     Hunter is good out there, but Carlos Gomez blew away the AL field in center, and according to Neyer was “the best OF on the planet.”  The metrics show he most likely deserved an award, but did not get one.  Eventually, his reputation will catch up with his defense.
    
     Sizemore wasn’t at the top of the “omnipotent” plus/minus system.  But I like to think that he knows what he is doing out there. 
    
     Ichiro is and has always been a good fielder, and I don’t see any evidence that he declined much this season.  But he did only play 69 games in center, so one could make a case that there was a “full-time” CF that was more deserving.

NL OF:

     Nate Mclouth, Shane Victorino, Carlos Beltran: 
    
     Mclouth was dead last among CF’s in all of baseball,
yet the voters chose him anyway.  No one sees him play, no one knows how good his defense is.  But the metrics say he was a putrid coverer of ground this season.  I have a difficult time believing that this award is accurate.
    
     Victorino-  Metrics say that he is either worthy, or close to being worthy.
    
     Beltran-  Best +/- among all NL CF’s.  I am on board.

P:
    
     Mike Mussina- Cool.
    
     Greg Maddux-  Awesome.
          

       

         

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