Thursday, July 31, 2008

Daily Links - 7/31/08

The big news, of course, revolves around Manny Ramirez and the trading deadline. The Mill at Baseball Prospectus gives the details on the Yankees trade for Pudge Rodriguez and the overview on other rumors, while this blog entry by Will Carroll and this blog entry by Kevin Goldstein cover variations of the rumored Manny Ramirez/Jason Bay three way trade.

How about some non-deadline-related analysis? When Khalil Greene made his major league debut he was hailed as the next of the big shortstop superstars. He is a great fielder and it was thought that he would hit for average and power and quickly become one of the best shortstops in baseball. So what happened on his way to greatness?

Ok, back to the deadline: this post analyzes the potential Manny Ramirez trade from the Marlin's perspective. If before the season I had ranked the teams that might acquire a $20M/year player during the season, I think the Marlins would have been in the bottom four along with the Royals, Pirates and Twins.

Jon Heyman goes over all of the players that could get traded in the next several hours.

The breaking news is that Ken Griffey, Jr. has approved a trade to the Chicago White Sox. I have not seen what prospects will be headed back to Cincinnati.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pitch f/x: Dan Haren

Dan Haren was traded by Oakland to Arizona this past offseason as part of the rebuilding effort of Oakland and the push by Arizona to solidify their chances in the National League West. His addition gave them a strong 1-2 punch at the front of their rotation with Brandon Webb, allowing Randy Johnson to slot as their #3 starter.

The conventional thinking was that Haren would thrive in the National League, which is traditionally more of a small ball league. However, there were some in the media that looked at the pitching-friendly environment in Oakland and the hitter-friendly environment of Arizona and believed that the difference in leagues would be evened out, or even overcome, by the ballpark differences and that Haren would pitch worse in the NL than he did in the AL.

Well, Haren has, in fact, been signficantly better for Arizona than he was with Oakland last year. His ERA so far is 2.56 compared to 3.07 last year for Oakland. That difference grows to more than a run when you compare his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, defined here): this year he's at 2.75, while last year he was at 3.70. He has improved his strikeout rate, his walk rate, his homerun rate and his WHIP this season.

The interesting thing is that the difference does not seem to be due to haren changing leagues. Baseball Reference has a great tool that neutralizes statistics to allow them to be compared across leagues and seasons (their explanation of how it works is here). According to Haren's neutralized statistics, his ERA is still more than half a run better this season.

So why is Haren better? Haren turns 28 years old this September, so the improvement could just be the natural progression of his talent; he is just entering his prime and he is learning how to pitch to major league hitters and how best to utilize his talents. By looking at his Pitch f/x stats we can see exactly what he is doing differently that may account for his improvement.

The first thing to note is that the changes in Haren's pitch selection have been gradual over the last few years. His first year as a starter with Oakland (and coincidentally, the first year that Pitch f/x data was available) was 2005 and he threw 59.2% fastballs. That number has gone down every year since then, to the point where this year he is throwing 50.3% fastballs.

Also, in 2005 Haren was throwing a small percentage of curveballs and changeups. He has gradually worked those out of his repertoire. In 2007 he increased the number of splitters that he threw from 19.5% in 2006 to 22.9%, but those have also decreased this year, down to 20%. So with the decrease in fastballs and splitters and the elimination of curves and changeups, what is he throwing more of?

Well, there aren't too many pitch types left. The answer is sliders and cutters. He has always relied on his slider, throwing it as often as his splitter in 2006 and 2007, but so far this year it has gone up to 23.9%. His cutter was a rare pitch in previous seasons, never even reaching 2%, but this year he has thrown it almost 6%.

I would suggest that this change indicates that Haren is figuring out what works best for him and is paring away all of the other unnecessary pitches. By removing curves and changeups from his arsenal, he can focus on the pitches that work well for him. I also wonder if being around two other dominant pitchers with limited arsenals has worn off on him. Brandon Webb throws about 75% fastballs and Randy Johnson is primarily a fastball/slider guy (with a few splitters mixed in). Regardless of the reasons, Haren continues to improve as a pitcher and is certainly everything the Diamondbacks hoped for when they traded for him this past offseason.

Daily Links - 7/30/08

Here is Baseball Prospectus' take on the Mark Teixeira trade. On the other side of the ledger, here is a post that calls the trade a mistake for the Angels.

This just wasn't the year for the Braves. Despite what I said yesterday about their acquisition of Teixeira being a failure, they were positioned at the beginning of this season to be a contender in the NL East. Then all of their pitchers got hurt, Jeff Francouer fell apart, Chipper kept getting dinged up (while in the midst of his best season), and now Tim Hudson might be out for the next 18 months.

This is a cool article that uses pitch f/x to visualize a platoon split for a batter.

Some teams (like say, the Astros) are in acquisition mode at the deadline and it really doesn't make a lot of sense. But what if the Astros have decided that the best way to truly rebuild their franchise is to amass draft picks. So to do this, they are trying to trade some of their mediocre talent to get veterans in the last year of their contract, hoping to get draft pick compensation when the veterans leave via free agency. If the veterans can lead them to semi-respectability at the same time, all the better. I'm not saying that I agree with this strategy (although the Astros farm system is horrible and could use an infusion of draft picks) and it is probably more likely that the Astros are just delusional, but what if acquiring expiring contracts becomes as fashionable as it is in the NBA?

This is a great article about why we should not be upset with players for making so much money, but rather the men that pay them.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Trade: Mark Teixeira to Angels for Casey Kotchman

Well, yesterday's rumored trade of Teixeira to Arizona did not come true. Instead he was traded to the Angels for Casey Kotchman and a AA relief pitcher. When taken in isolation, the Braves did ok in this trade. In Kotchman they got a big league caliber first baseman that is relatively cheap and under control until 2011. Kotchman is not quite the power threat that Teixeira is, but scouts believe that his power will develop.

The problem for the Braves is that the trade will always be looked at in combination with the trade from last year when they acquired Teixeira. The Braves gave up multiple solid prospects, knowing that he would be a free agent after this season. The trade did not result in a playoff appearance for the Braves in 2007 and it will not result in a playoff appearance in 2008. In that sense, the Teixeira era in Atlanta will always be considered a huge failure. He did not improve the team enough to get them to the playoffs and the package they ultimately received for him was far inferior to what they gave up to receive him.

For the Angels, Teixeira probably doesn't represent the difference between making the playoffs or not - in all likelihood they were already going to make the playoffs. What Teixeira does for the Angels is give them a secondary power threat in their lineup behind Vladimir Guerrero. They already had one of the best pitching staffs in baseball and a very good defense, now they have an offense that rivals any in the league. The Angels have gone from being one of the players in the American League playoff picture to being the favorite in the American League. If they fail to win it all this year, they will have lost Kotchman, but will have two draft picks as compensation for Teixeira, who is almost certain to test the free agent waters. So, in essence they gave up Kotchman for two draft picks and the increase that Teixeira gives them in their chance of winning the World Series this year. I'd call that a good trade.

Daily Links - 7/29/08

The Mill is up and running at the Baseball Prospectus. If rumors are true, then the Braves are going to give up Mark Teixeira for Chad Tracy and a middling prospect, which is quite a step down from what they gave up for him last year. Since he didn't help them get to the playoffs in either year in which they possessed him, it is clear that trading for him didn't work out too well.

The first question in this round table includes a much better option for Arizona than Teixeira: Adam Dunn. They mention a couple of players that really make sense in trades, but aren't being talked about.

The history/myth of the Cal Ripken, Jr. as the first power hitter middle infielder is chronicled here.

The Francisco Liriano situation is sort of unbelievable. If the Twins legitimately feel like he isn't one of the best five starting pitchers in their organization, then I think they are crazy. If they have an excess of talent, right now would be the perfect time to trade one of these pitchers that have been pitching well to pick up another needed piece.

Peter Gammons has some harsh analysis of the Manny Ramirez situation, questioning not only his motivation (money) but also his competitive desire. The Red Sox receive so much media coverage that I tend to tune it out, so I missed that Manny has been skipping games with his "injuries" only when the opposing pitcher happens to be Cy Young quality.

Watched: Cubs at Brewers - 7/28/08

It is far too early to pin playoff hopes on one series, but this Chicago/Milwaukee series is as important as a series can be in late July. Miller Park was rocking last night and the atmosphere was similar to a playoff game. (Have I met my cliche quota, yet? Ok, good).

This game was so good that it is tough to avoid cliche in describing it. From the sixth inning until the end it was a back and forth battle that ended when a game-tying homerun bid fell short on the warning track. The Cubs kept taking leads and the Brewers kept launching home runs to come back - JJ Hardy, Ryan Braun and Russell Branyon all went deep.

CC Sabathia pitched well and was betrayed by his defense, particularly Rickie Weeks, in the seventh inning. Weeks flubbed a hard grounder that was ruled an infield hit (should have been an error) and then threw away the relay on what would have been an inning-ending double play, but instead allowed the Cubs to score the tying and go-ahead runs.

Regardless, the Brewers came back and tied the game again. But the Brewers bullpen blew the game in the top of the ninth when closer Solomon Torres couldn't keep the game tied. The Milwaukee bullpen has been a bit suspect lately, and while you wouldn't want to overreact to one game, it wouldn't surprise me if the Brewers moved quickly (duh, the trading deadline is in two days) to shore up their pen.

The teams play three more games this week and they will all be fun to watch, especially tonight's game featuring Carlos Zambrano and Ben Sheets.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Daily Links - 7/28/08

Ken Tremendous from Fire Joe Morgan seems to be getting bored doing his JoeChat breakdowns. I can understand - four years of the same schtick would get old, but he can't quit with all the great material Joe provides.

Joe Sheehan from Baseball Prospectus breaks down the trades from over the weekend. All three trades were one-sided in my opinion and I think I'll be writing my own breakdown tonight (unless something else worth writing about happens).

The first time I read about this new rule in Olympic Baseball I thought it was the beginning of a joke. But no, it's real. Let's hope no important games go into extra innings.

Tailoring your team to your ballpark isn't quite as easy as it may seem.

Chris Jaffe continues his look into the job that the BBWAA has done in selecting players for the Hall of Fame.

Also from the Hardball Times is this post from John Walsh, where he takes a look at the adviseability of throwing inside changeups.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Daily Links - 7/25/08

Ok, I really try not to do this, because this blog is supposed to be about baseball and the link I'm providing here isn't about baseball. But it is from Fire Joe Morgan and it is really funny, so I'm going to make an exception. Here, then, is the absurdity that is Steven A. Smith and Skip Bayless arguing about the virtues of the movie The Dark Knight.

Back to baseball. Hef gives an update on the games from last night, which is a good thing since I think last night was the first night all season that I didn't catch a single pitch from any of the games.

A brawl at a minor league game resulted in a player attempting to throw a ball into the opposing dugout, missing, and hitting a fan. Ugly stuff. I can't even imagine an appropriate punishment for the player.

In this interview Josh Kalk provides some valuable background information into understanding pitch f/x (a tool that I still haven't had the chance to play with enough).

Here are two articles from Fan Graphs. The first is a discussion of AJ Burnett's trade value and the second is an article discussing CC Sabathia's performance since the trade.

And that's all I've got for this week. The Cardinals bullpen has sapped my will to live... or at least to write about baseball for the time being.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Daily Links - 7/24/08

Every day when it is dinner time I have the same conversation with my wife, which Joe Posnanski (TBSWIA) goes into detail about in his latest post (it's amazing how much he knows about my wife and I when we've never met).

Do you know why some pitchers get better run support from their team than other pitchers? Yes, that's correct, it is a random confluence events that actually has very little to do with the pitchers themselves. Unfortunately, many people in baseball want to attribute the difference in run support between pitchers to magic and other nonsense. Luckily we have the Fire Joe Morgan guys around to make fun of the people that think these things. The link at the end of the post goes to a classic FJM post from about two years ago.

It seems self-evident that experience is a valuable commodity for teams in a playoff race - baseball announcers certainly tell us that often enough. But is it really true?

This note from Rob Neyer about an instance of cherry-picked stats underscores the old adage that 'you can make statistics say whatever you want.'

Jon Heyman has an update on the rumors swirling around the trade deadline.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wager Update

As I have mentioned previously, I have a bet this season on who will end up with better statistics on the season between Corey Hart (my pick) and Nick Markakis. We came up with a very complicated method for comparing the players, which isn't important here - I'm just going to provide the raw statistics as of games through July 22.

Corey Hart .286/.325/.507 16 hr, 59 rbi, 14 sb, 108 h, 52 r

Nick Markakis .295/.400/.489 15 hr, 54 rbi, 9 sb, 111 h, 66 r

As with last time, these guys are pretty close. Markakis has a pretty big lead in OBP and runs, and Hart is pulling away in stolen bases and has a decent lead in SLG, but all of the other categories are still up for grabs. If the season ended today, I think I would lose the bet but there are still two months to go. The Brewers are getting hot as they push for the NL Central lead, while the Orioles may dump players at the deadline. My hope is that Hart and Markakis will trend with their teams from here on out, bringing Hart ahead in the end.

Daily Links - 7/23/08

So, uh, that potential trade that I talked about yesterday that didn't seem to make any sense? It actually happened. I share Fetch's sentiment about not knowing what the Astros are doing and Tangotiger is even more harsh in his analysis.

TBSWIA, Joe Posnanski asked a good question the other day: how many great seasons does it take for a player to be considered great? He then went about answering that question. He posted a follow up that probably is better than his first attempt at answering the question. Also, there is an update in this post to a Stan Musial story he told a few days ago.

Baseball Prospectus has a running feature around the trading deadline called 'The Mill'. They haven't exactly started it up yet, but Will Carroll is posting trade rumors in a buildup to the beginning of The Mill.

The Baseball Digest Daily opines that the Mets lost because the Phillies outsmarted them.

The Cubs and Cardinals lost last night, meaning that the Brewers moved within a game of the lead in the NL Central, while the Cardinals stayed two games back. The Cubs are slumping and this division race keeps getting tighter.

This post describes the concept of "vulture wins" and gives a leaderboard for individuals and teams.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Contending Trading Partners

The trading deadline is a little more than a week away and the baseball world is buzzing with trade rumors. Usually trade deadline deals are between one team that is in contention and another team that is already thinking about next season. Occassionally, however, teams that are both in contention trade with each other because they have compatable needs. I wondered if this has ever led to players getting traded in-season and then facing their former team in the World Series. Here, then are the five occassions since 1980 where eventual World Series participants have transacted with each other during the course of the season:

August 23, 1998 - Yankees send Shea Morenz and Ray Ricken to Padres for Jim Bruske and Brad Kaufman

This one hardly counts because none of the players played an inning in the World Series and, in fact, only Jim Bruske even played in the major leagues that year (and he only threw a handful of innings for the Yankees).

June 10, 1984 - Padres sold Sid Monge to the Tigers

Once again, this was not an important trade to either team, as Monge did not appear in the post-season.

August 12, 1983 - Orioles sold Paul Mirabella to the Phillies

Similarly, Mirabella never appeared in the major leagues for the Phillies.

Ok, so those three were pretty worthless, but I've been saving the ones that actually mattered until the end.

March 21, 2004 - Red Sox trade Tony Womack to the Cardinals for Matt Duff

This trade occurred late in Spring Training and was basically a castoff of Womack by the Red Sox because he wasn't going to make their team. On the Cardinals, though, he became the everyday second baseman and leadoff hitter. He hit .307/.349/.385 with 26 stolen bases in the regular season and solidified the biggest question mark in the Cardinals lineup going into the season. The Red Sox did not regret his presence in the World Series, though, as Womack (and everyone else on the Cardinals) slumped against the Red Sox. His World Series line was .182/.250/.182.

Matt Duff never made it to the major leagues.

May 17, 1985 - Cardinals trade Lonnie Smith to the Royals for John Morris

Lonnie Smith had been one of the stars of the Cardinals team that won the World Series in 1982 and he played at a high level in 1983, as well. Then he mysteriously started to slide. Ok, it wasn't so mysterious, really: he had a drug problem that eventually landed him in front of a Pittsburgh grand jury testifying about drugs in baseball. Anyway, the Cardinals traded him across the state to Kansas City - whether they knew about the drug problem or they were just clearing space for phenom Vince Coleman is questionable.

Smith became a key player for the Royals the rest of the year. He put up a .257/.321/.366 line during the regular season for the Royals, but more importantly, he scorched the Cardinals to the tune of a .333/.400/.444 line in the World Series.

Whether the trade was meant to open up a spot for Vince Coleman or not, that was the result and Coleman won the Rookie of the Year award in the National League. However, while Smith was tearing up the Cardinals in the World Series, Coleman was watching from the sidelines after getting run over by the automatic tarp system in Busch Stadium. It is pretty safe to say that, while the Lonnie Smith trade didn't exactly come back to haunt them in the World Series, they weren't particularly happy to see him on the opposing team, either.

John Morris, by the way, did not make his major league debut until 1986.

Daily Links - 7/22/08

I wonder if Dave O'Brien has ever heard of Fire Joe Morgan. I hope not. I hope that someone at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution goes up to Dave's desk this morning and says "Hey, did you see Fire Joe Morgan this morning?" And he says, "What's that?" And they say, "It's a really funny website, you should check it out." And then he does a quick Google search and seconds later is smacked in the face by this.

I'm using this link to Joe Sheehan's second half preview of the National League as a way to let you know that this is a free week of Baseball Prospectus. If you aren't a subscriber, take this week and read all the articles. Then hang your head in shame for calling yourself a baseball fan and not having a subscription. Then pay for a subscription.

Here is a potential trade that makes no sense to me whatsoever. The Astros? They have played better than I thought they would, but they are 12 games back in their division and Roy Oswalt is headed to the DL - they can't give up prospects for Randy Wolf, can they?

John Sickels reviews his top twenty prospects for the Tampa Bay Rays. Even if you aren't interested in the Rays, go to Sickel's blog and look around, because he is reviewing his top twenty prospect lists for every team.

John Donovan says that the NL Central is the race to watch this season. With the Cubs and Brewers loading up for the stretch run, the Cardinals hanging tough and all three teams within 2 games of each other, Donovan's point is hard to argue.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Daily Links - 7/21/08

Stan Musial gets the Joe Posnanski (TBSWIA) treatment. It is well done, as always.

Rick Ankiel version 2.0? I saw Adam Loewen pitch in Spring Training and he was lobbing up meatballs to the Cardinals (in fact, this picture I took of Albert Pujols crushing a homer off of him is the wallpaper on my computer).

One of the great arguments in baseball is about who deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. I am of the opinion that the Hall of Fame should be reserved for the greatest of the great and guys like Gary Carter, Bruce Sutter, Andre Dawson and Jim Rice (two in, two not in, but get a lot of support) should be left out. Dawson and Rice were great, but were they really in the same conversation as Mays and Musial? Anway, this post looks into the job that the BBWAA has done in electing Hall of Famers.

Speaking of starting arguments, SkyKing lists who he believes are the top ten best position players in baseball. He's got a method to his madness, although he admits that it isn't 100% scientific.

A few years ago it was thought that Rocco Baldelli would be leading the Rays to the top of the AL East. The Rays have made it, but Baldelli hasn't quite. This is a somewhat sad story, but it still may have a happy ending.

Jon Heyman gives his latest trade rumors/speculation (including one about Ray Durham that is now dated).

Weekend Miscellany

It was an interesting weekend in baseball. First, the Rays have gone 2-8 over their last ten games, but found themselves back in first place in the AL East this morning because the Red Sox got swept over the weekend by the Anaheim Angels. Don't look now, but as both Boston and Tampa struggle, the Yankees are making headway in the division, having gone 7-3 in their last ten and pulling to 4.5 games out. This should make for an interesting stretch run.

There was also a trade over the weekend. The San Francisco Giants traded Ray Durham to Milwaukee for two prospects. The prospects weren't premium ones, but they might be useful down the road. One is pitcher Steve Hammond, who is left handed and strikes a good percentage of batters out, so that will probably earn him some play at some point. The other is outfielder Darren Ford, who profiles as a pinch runner/defensive replacement/fourth or fifth outfielder at the big league level. These guys aren't top prospects, but they are a bit more than organizational filler, too.

Durham could make a significant difference for the Brewers. For all of his tools and promise, Rickie Weeks has not performed as a major league second baseman. Durham is almost old enough to be Weeks' father, but he's putting up a line of .293/.385/.414 compared to Weeks' .216/.326/.365. The Brewers don't have too many weak spots in their lineup, but if they platoon Durham and Weeks (they are almost perfectly suited for this - Durham is significantly better against right handers and Weeks is much better against lefties) they will have filled the biggest weak spot admirably.

There is also a three team race in the NL East, with the Mets pulling into a tie with the Phillies and the Marlins hanging around a half game back. It should be fascinating to watch the Mets down the stretch because the media will mention their second half collapse last year at every turn.

Also, Oakland has gone 3-6 since trading Rich Harden and has now fallen nine games back of Anaheim in the AL West.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Daily Links - 7/18/08

Rob Neyer reports that Oakland may trade everyone on its major league roster with a pulse (not really, but almost). I agree with what Rob is saying except that I am just not sure that Oakland is trading these guys at the absolute height of their value.

This is an interesting post that gets into the nitty gritty of performance projection. After reading this you may need to head over to Major League Jerk for some bathroom humor to balance yourself out.

The Baseball Think Factory analyzes the Joe Blanton trade.

John Perrotto of the Baseball Prospectus runs down his list of buyers and sellers at the trade deadline.

And that's all I've got for today. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Trade: Joe Blanton to Philadelphia

Don't question Billy Beane. That was the response of many after Oakland traded Rich Harden to the Cubs last week. It's understandable to feel that way based on the way Beane has fleeced teams in the past when making trades. Many of Beane's moves over the years seemed unconventional at the time, but made his team better in the long run.

Perhaps the moves Oakland has made this month will be looked at the same way in the future, because it is certainly unconventional to trade 40% of your starting rotation when your team is seven games over .500, only six games out of the division lead and only four and a half games out of the Wild Card race. Oakland's rotation is down to Justin Duchscherer, Dana Eveland, Greg Smith and Sean Gallagher - not exactly an intimidating rotation.

So trading Joe Blanton to Philadelphia for prospects (and the best of these prospects isn't very close to the big leagues) seems to be an odd move on its face. In an earlier post, I said that I thought that Oakland was a team that should go for it and be buyers at the deadline. Clearly Billy Beane disagreed and I admire his ability to honestly evaluate his team and its chances of making the postseason this year. It certainly won't be a popular decision with the fanbase.

My biggest problem with the trade, which is the same objection I had to the Harden trade, is that it doesn't seem like Oakland maximized its return on Blanton. With two weeks left before the deadline, it seems like Oakland could have created a bidding war and increased the return by waiting. There will certainly be other teams that will be looking for dependable pitching at the deadline, and while Blanton is having an off year, he has proven to be a solid middle of the rotation starter in his career.

As always, only time will tell, but I wonder how many GMs around the league are scratching their heads and thinking "I would have given him more than that for Blanton." Then again, it's Billy Beane, who am I to question the move?

Daily Links - 7/17/08

Finally we will be back to having regular season games to watch tonight. The day after the All Star game is one of the worst days for sports all year - none of the four major sports have any games going on. I'm sure that isn't the only day of the year that happens because I'm sure in February there are days when there aren't any NBA or NHL games, but with nothing else in season right now, the All Star break just seems to drag. Anyway, we are thankfully past it and back to games every night.

Now, on to the links:

Joe Posnanski (TBSWIA) writes a post about dead stadiums (AL Edition). I have only been to four dead stadiums, myself: Tiger Stadium, the Astrodome, Milwaukee County Stadium and Busch Stadium II. Tiger Stadium is probably the #3 coolest stadium that I've ever visited, behind Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. Just for the fun of it, I've also seen major league games at Camden Yards, Turner Field, Yankee Stadium, Jacobs Field, New Comisky (or Cell Phone Park or whatever they are calling it), Coors Field, Busch Stadium III, and Kaufman Stadium.

The Fire Joe Morgan guys fire away on Murray Chass' new blog, wherein Chass professes his hatred for blogs and other curmudgeony nonsense.

Ok, this is completely ridiculous, but it made me laugh pretty hard, so forgive me for a little goofiness this time.

This is an interesting look at what might have happened in recent years if baseball didn't have interleague play and an unbalanced schedule.

Here is a quick and easy post about the team leaders in runners left on base. There is a passing reference at the end to why this supposedly negative stat isn't necessarily a bad thing.

The Big Lead (and commenters) give their predictions for the second half of the season.

Preseason Predictions Revisited

Why is the All Star Game played so late in the season? It is considered the halfway point of the season, but it seems to be creeping later into the season every year. Most of the teams are in the mid-90's of games played and the Red Sox have played 97 games. Not that it really matters, but it just seems strange that the "midway point" in the season should be almost 60% of the way through the season.

Three and a half months ago I gave my predictions for both the National League and the American League. Let's see how those predictions are working out a the midway point:

Division Leaders

NL East - I took the Mets, with the caveat that I was nervous about Pedro Martinez' health. The Mets currently sit a half game behind the Phillies for the division lead and Pedro has been injured for much of the first half of the season. I was a little off in my support for Atlanta as a division contender, but I feel pretty good about the Mets pick.

NL Central - I took the Brewers, with the Cubs winning the Wild Card after a season-long battle between the two teams for first place. I was't too far off: the Cubs lead the division and the Brewers are five games back. What I didn't foresee was that the Cardinals would be in the mix as well - they are four and a half games back of the Cubs and lead the Wild Card race. I still feel confident about my Brewers pick, though, and while they might not overtake the Cubs, I think both the Cubs and Brewers will head to the playoffs.

NL West - The Dodgers were my pick in the West, with Colorado, Arizona and San Diego bunching up behind them. This division has been very disappointing with none of the teams having a record over .500, but Arizona and the Dodgers are at the top of the division, with Arizona leading by a game. I feel pretty good about this pick, too, because it is basically a coin toss between Arizona and Los Angeles at this point.

AL East - I picked the Red Sox, with the Yankees coming in second and winning the Wild Card - a safe pick considering the past few seasons. I missed the emergence of the Rays, though. They are currently in second place and led the division for a bit of the first half. They are currently the Wild Card leader. So, while my pick of the division leader looks pretty good, I missed one of the bigger stories of the first half.

AL Central - I missed pretty badly in this division, picking the Tigers as the division winner and picking their main competition to be the Indians. The Indians have completely fallen apart and are currently in last place in the division. The Tigers still have an outside chance at winning the division - they are seven games back - but they will have to overcome both the Twins and the White Sox. This pick would be my worst if it wasn't for the next one...

AL West - I picked this division to be the worst in baseball and picked Seattle to win the division. Instead, three of the four teams in the division have records over .500 and Seattle is the odd team out and are twenty games out of first place. Seattle has been one of the worst teams in the league. At least I didn't actually like Seattle, I just thought they'd win the division by default. Instead, the Angels look like one of the best teams in baseball and Oakland and Texas are surprisingly good, while Seattle is just terrible.

Most Valuable Player

NL - I picked David Wright and he wasn't a bad pick. Wright has solid numbers and a good second half that propels his team to the playoffs could still win him the award. That being said, the MVP at the midway point would probably be Chase Utley, Lance Berkman, Hanley Ramirez or Albert Pujols.

AL - Alex Rodriguez was my pick, which wasn't very courageous, and it wasn't a bad pick. A-Rod would certainly be in the group of finalists at the point along with Josh Hamilton, Carlos Quentin and Grady Sizemore.

Cy Young

NL - I took Ben Sheets and the pick looks pretty good right now as Sheets was the starter for the NL in the All Star Game. He would probably be in contention with Edinson Volquez, Brandon Webb and Tim Lincecum.

AL - Daisuke Matsuzaka was my pick and if he hadn't been injured he might be the pick. He is 10-1 with a 2.65 ERA. If the season ended today, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Justin Duchscherer would be the favorites.


NL - Geovany Soto has lived up to my preseason expectations and he is probably the Rookie of the Year at this point, with Joey Votto, Kosuke Fukudome and Jair Jurrjens as his main competition.

AL - My pick was Adam Jones and he has played ok, but probably not up to ROY standards. I mentioned that Evan Longoria would win if he had started the season at the big leagues, but he is probably the front-runner even though he started the year at triple A.

Overall I feel pretty good about my predictions. The only truly embarrassing pick is Seattle to win the AL West. This is probably the best set of predictions I have ever done, which only means that they will all fall apart in the second half. My first have grade on my picks: B+.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Daily Links - 7/16/08

I didn't get a chance to write a main post for today because I needed to finish up a post for Future Redbirds that I'd been procrastinating about for a while. You'll just have to make do with links today.

Joe Sheehan posts about a late night walk through Yankee Stadium.

Also from Baseball Prospectus, here is a look at the warming trade market as we enter the last two weeks before the deadline.

I find this kind of stuff interesting because looking at groupings of 162 game periods that don't begin and end with the start and finish of a baseball season can provide you with some unexpected results.

This breakdown of a poor trade by the Tigers illustrates the danger of "going for it" and sending prospects for a veteran with little left in the tank.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Daily Links - 7/15/08

The announcing was horrible (as usual) on the home run derby broadcast last night, but I'm not going to critique it, I'll leave that to the experts.

I plan on taking a look at my preseason predictions this week, but MLJ jumped in and took a look at some predictions from the "experts".

Josh Kalk looks into whether relief pitchers are less effective after their first inning of usage.

Rob Neyer gives his opinion on some complaints regarding prices in the new stadiums in New York.

And, as it is a pretty slow day and I don't feel like linking to nonsense about who will close for the AL in the All Star game or to articles that rehash Josh Hamilton's rise from meth addict to home run derby hero, I'm going to leave it at that.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Watched: Josh Hamilton

At the end of the movie Tin Cup (ugh, I can't believe I'm starting a post that way) Kevin Costner's character is lamenting that he just threw away the U.S. Open and his girlfriend says something to the effect of "who cares? No one's going to remember who won the Open in five years, but they will always remember your 12. Why, it's immortal."

There came a point during Josh Hamilton's first round performance at tonight's home run derby where he crossed that threshold. It wasn't immortal, of course, it was only a home run derby, after all, but there came a point where it didn't matter who ended up winning the competition. All anyone will remember is Josh Hamilton's first round performance. He hit twenty-eight bombs, including 13 in a row, and there weren't many cheap ones. He hit three that went over 500 feet, including a mammoth 518 foot shot into the third deck in rightfield. It was a stunning display that eviscerated the competition of its intrisic meaning: it no longer mattered who ended up winning.

So what other baseball events fall into this category? I'm thinking of Carlton Fisk's homerun in the 1975 World Series - everyone remembers Pudge waving the ball fair down the line, but what's often lost is that the Reds won the next game and took the Series. Pujols' bomb off of Brad Lidge in the 2005 NLCS probably qualifies, too. I'm thinking the George Brett three homer game in Yankee Stadium fits, too, because I honestly don't know if the Royals ended up winning that series or not. [They didn't - in fact, they didn't even win the game - it was Game 3 of the 1978 ALCS] Are there any others that I'm not thinking of at the moment?

Daily Links - 7/14/08

The All Star festivities kicked off on Sunday with the Futures Game, which is odd since all of the Major League teams still had games. I, for one, was really interested in the game and it is my impression that the number of fans following the minor leagues and watching prospects is growing exponentially. It doesn't make sense to me, then, that the showcase game of the season for the brightest prospects (supposedly, there were issues getting in the way of some of the brightest prospects playing) is buried on ESPN on Sunday afternoon amidst a full slate of big league games. Regardless, it was interesting and here is Joe Sheehan's take on the game.

Also from Baseball Prospectus, here is an interesting Q & A with one of the best pitchers in baseball, Brandon Webb.

Over the weekend Joe Posnanski, TBSWIA, gave tribute to Bobby Murcer.

The Home Run Derby is tonight and here is a post that breaks down the idea that participants are ripe for a second half letdown.

And SkyKing posts about why we should be interested in watching each of tonights participants.

Tangotiger takes a look at why the AL is a better league than the NL.

This article on Fan Graphs discusses some pitchers whose performance is due for some regression after the All Star break.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

What We Know

Last season the NL Central was widely considered to be the worst division in the league and deservedly so. Only two of the teams were over .500, the Cubs and the Brewers, and neither won more than 85 games. None of the six teams in the division were over .500 against any other division in the NL (although both the Cubs and the Brewers were over .500 against the AL). No other division was so completely futile against the rest of the league.

Things change, though, and they change quickly. While the NL Central was the laughingstock of baseball last year, I couldn't help shaking that as recently as 2005 the NL Central had the team with the best record in baseball (the Cardinals) and the NL Wild Card winner (the Astros). In fact, St. Louis had the best record in baseball and the Astros had won the Wild Card in 2004, as well.

In contrast, the NL West in 2007 was considered one of the strongest divisions in baseball, with four of the five teams finishing over .500. In 2005, however, the NL West was the laughingstock with San Diego winning the division with only 82 wins.

In the first half of this season fortunes have changed again. The landscape looks much more like 2005 than it does 2007, with none of the NL West teams having a record over .500 and the NL Central having three teams over .500, including the team with the best record in baseball (the Cubs). All six of the NL Central teams have respectable records against the other divisions in the National League.

So, again, things change and they change quickly. One of the things that makes this game great is that what we think we know about a team today can be 100% different tomorrow. Prior to September of 2007 most thought that the Mets were the best team in the National League. They ended up sitting at home in October. I can't wait to find out what happens in the second half to change what we think we know right now.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Daily Links - 7/11/08

While I agree with this post from the Fire Joe Morgan guys in principle (sacrifice bunting is often the wrong move to make), their irony/sarcasm is a little too subtle when mentioning Nate McLouth's bunting ("He probably hasn't been asked to bunt in a real game in years, given that he is an awesome hitter, and bunting is stupid for awesome hitters."), as he has two sac bunts on the year this year and ten in his 371 major league games played. Regardless, note that the two posts below the Nate McLouth post are from earlier this year and are all-time classics.

I really like both Evan Longoria and Corey Hart, but they clearly were not the right choices for the final all star roster spots.

This post raises some interesting points about the Hall of Fame. While I don't agree that we shouldn't base enshrinement on statistics, I do think there should be a much higher standard to get in.

There are some interesting names in this list of starting pitchers that might be available at the trade deadline. There are a number of those guys that might be valuable down the stretch and wouldn't require a top tier prospect to acquire.

This is Chris O'Leary's revised explanation of the 'Inverted W' in pitching mechanics.

Shysterball writes about Jorge Posada's positional complaints and he links to It Is About The Money's take on the same topic - raising an intresting point about Derek Jeter in the process.

And finally, Joe Posnanski (the best sportswriter in America) discusses Batting Runs.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Going For It

With the trade deadline approaching, I'd like to consider the concept of when a team should "go for it". When should a team decide that they have a chance that's good enough to give away some of the future (ie talented prospects) to increase the chance that they have in the present?

First, let me say that I think that a championship is worth almost anything. If by making a trade you could somehow guarantee a championship now, I would trade the potential of every player in the minor league system to get that championship. Of course, there is never a guarantee, so adjustments to the scale must be made, but if we start at that absolute (trade everything for a championship), then we have a baseline for the discussion.

Let's start at the end of the spectrum that can be labelled 'obvious': Cleveland, Kansas City, Seattle, Washington, San Francisco, Colorado and San Diego are all at least ten games below .500 and are all at least ten games back in the Wild Card standings and basically have no chance at the post-season. Clearly there is no way that any of these teams should be trading prospects in an attempt to improve themselves for this season.

The next tier of teams include Baltimore, Toronto, Houston, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Cincinnati. These teams are all under .500 and at least 7.5 games out of the Wild Card. It is highly unlikely that there is anything that any of these teams can do at this point to give them a legitimate shot at the playoffs. The only way that a trade where these teams are giving up prospects for a better shot to win now makes sense, is if the trade would bring young talent that would be with the team for multiple years, making them contenders in the future as well. Those type of prospects for young talent trades are unusual, though. The only team in the group listed here that might be an exception is the Atlanta Braves. They are only 6.5 games back in their division and are only 6 games below .500. They have a positive run differential of +30, so they have been a little unlucky to this point, so there is reason to think that they might be a better team than their record suggests. They have quite a bit of young talent with Brian McCann, Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar, so they could be a team that might be able to trade some minor league prospects without damaging their future too much, but with the odds stacked against them, I'd think the trade would have to be a clear win for them to consider it.

The next group is probably the most difficult to gauge. This group really needs to be looked at on a team-by-team basis:

The New York Yankees are seven games over .500, 6.5 games back in their division and 4.5 games back in the Wild Card. They have a positive run differential and are playing exactly to their expected record. This is a team that historically has gone for it and I think they are in position to go for it again this year. They are in striking distance and the window for success with older players like Jeter, Giambi, Abreau, Pettitte and Mussina is shrinking. According to Baseball Prospectus the Yankees currently have a 10% chance of making the playoffs. If they can find a big move to make that will give them a 5-10% better chance, they should take it.

The Detroit Tigers, who I talked about extensively before the season started, are currently one game over .500, 7.5 games back in their division and in the Wild Card and they are playing exactly to their expected record. They have a mix of young and old on the team and it is conceivable that if they could make a big move that they could improve themselves into contenders. The problem is that they really don't have much left in their farm system to trade at this point.

The Minnesota Twins are ten games over .500, three games back in both the division and the Wild Card and are playing three games better than their expected record. This is one of the borderline teams for me - they traded Johan Santana prior to the season and so you would think that they are rebuilding, but they are close enough to the playoffs that it could be worth it to go for it. I think they should probably play it about half way, too.

The Texas Rangers are four games over .500, 6.5 games back in their division and six games back in the Wild Card. They, however, have a negative run differential and they are playing eight games better than their expected record. That means they have been lucky and it is uite possible that they will regress a bit in the second half. This is exactly the kind of team that can get fooled into making a deal at the deadline because they think they are in it, but they shouldn't be trading. If the team regresses as expected any improvement through trade will only be towards maintaining their current pace, which isn't good enough to make the playoffs.

The Oakland A's are eight games over .500, 4.5 games back in the division and four games back in the Wild Card race. They have a huge positive run differential and are actually playing four games worse than their expected record. Yet, Billy Beane just traded Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin to the Cubs for prospects. I have seen it suggested that Beane didn't trust Harden to stay healthy until the trading deadline and that some predict that Sean Gallagher (the 22 year old pitcher that Oakland received as part of the trade) will win more games in the rest of the year than Harden. I'm not sure I buy all of that, but I would expect Oakland to have a strong second half (unless they trade away more of their talent). They would be a team that I would advocate for making a deal to go for it at the deadline, but the team is run so unconventionally that it is difficult to predict what they will do.

The Florida Marlins are three games over .500, two games back in the division and 3.5 games back in the Wild Card. However, they have a negative run differential and have played four games better than their expected record. This team has not historically acquired veterans at the trade deadline and it would be surprising to see them do so. They might be a team, though, that could improve themselves enough to stay in the playoff race until the very end. While they have been somewhat lucky and could be expected to regress, they are close enough to the top right now that even keeping pace allows them a chance at the playoffs. I wouldn't mortgage the future, but it could definitely be worth it if they could trade some of their second tier prospects for a chance to win now.

The St. Louis Cardinals are nine games over .500, 4.5 games out in the division and only a half game out of the Wild Card. They have a positive run differential but have played about three games better than their expected record. In my opinion, the Cardinals might be in the most dangerous position in all of baseball. They have a fanbase that expects them to contend every fall, they have recently tasted success with an over-achieving team and their farm system has finally become average after years of being at the bottom of the league. This is a team that will be tempted to go for it and make a dramatic trade to improve their team for the second half, but they shouldn't. This team will almost surely play worse in the second half and there isn't a clear way to "put this team over the top" with a trade. If they can make a 'go for it' trade with their second tier of prospects, they should do it. Otherwise, they should concentrate on 2009 (when they are much better set up to make a run).

The final group of teams are those that are in lead for a division, the Wild Card or are close enough that it could be a coin flip. This group includes Tampa Bay, Boston, both Chicago teams, both Los Angeles teams, Philadelphia, the New York Mets, Milwaukee and Arizona. There are ten teams in this group and any of the ten can make it to the playoffs and win the World Series. These are the favorites as of today. Some might not need to do anything to get there, but the teams in this group should all be willing to trade the future for the chance to win today, because the championship is out there for the taking.

Daily Links - 7/10/08

Is the other shoe (wait, the third shoe?) going to drop? This article mentions in passing that the Cardinals could be in the hunt for Erik Bedard.

I have a love/hate relationship with Jon Heyman of SI - I love the behind-the-scenes information that he reports on a regular basis, but I am vehemently opposed to his version of analysis (or actually, his aversion to any non-traditional statistics). He is a nice guy, though, we traded emails about VORP a few months ago and at least he has a sense of humor about the issue. This article is in the vein of behind-the-scenes info regarding who might get traded at the deadline. I love articles like this.

There is a recap of the Johan Santana trade after a half season on the Major League Jerk blog. As you know, I enjoy this kind of stuff, too. I'm just upset that they beat me to it.

I was able to see a game at Tiger Stadium the last year that Detroit played there and I am very happy that I did. It was one of the great old stadiums in the league. The picture that accompanies this story makes me a little sad.

This is kind of a mixed bag of items, but I really like the concept he talks about in the first part, equating strike outs and infield pop ups to pitcher dominance.

I'm not sure how I missed parts 1 and 2 of this series (they are linked from part 3), but this is great.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Daily Links - 7/9/08

I think there are three distinct 'hot periods' in the baseball season when everyone is talking about baseball and the internet is buzzing with baseball rumors and opinions. The first period is Spring Training through Opening Day. It can last a couple of weeks into the season at times, but everyone that writes about baseball (including me) feasts during that time because there are so many available stories to write: season predictions, rookies making the club, veterans trying a comeback, etc. The second period is the trading deadline, for obvious reasons. We have entered the second period a bit early this season, with the Sabathia and Harden deals happening before the All Star break. It will be interesting to see if the momentum will hold up through July 31.

Oh, and the third period is the pennant race/playoffs, naturally. Now, on to the links.

It is amazing that the best sportswriter in America primarily covers the Kansas City Royals. It might be difficult to believe, but his blog is actually better than his columns. This one tells a historical tale that I had not heard before.

Here is a blogger's reaction to the Harden trade from the perspective of the only NL Central contender not to make a huge trade this week: the Cardinals.

Christina Kahrl gives the Baseball Prospectus breakdown of the Rich Harden trade. She asks the question that popped into my head immediately when I heard the package of players going to Oakland: Where is Felix Pie? [subscription only]

Tangotiger has a response to the Paul DePodesta blog entry that I linked to yesterday. I chortled.

Here is a quick list of the first round draft picks that have signed and what they are doing so far in their professional debuts.

And finally, The Big Lead does a side-by-side comparison between the Brewers and Cubs starting rotations. With Harden and Sheets prominently involved, they should have included a section for each team's training staff.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Watched: Power Lefty Night

There were three games that I wanted to watch tonight and all involved left handed power pitchers. CC Sabathia was making his first start for the Milwaukee Brewers against Colorado, Scott Kazmir was starting for the Tampa Bay Rays against the New York Yankees and Cole Hamels of the Phillies was facing the St. Louis Cardinals.

The story of the night, of course, was supposed to be CC Sabathia and he lived up to expectations. The crowd in Milwaukee was loud, the Brewers offense came out swinging (Ryan Braun hit a three run homer before the Rockies had recorded an out in the first inning) and Sabathia was pumping heat. He looked a little nervous, walking two batters in the first inning, but he was also getting his fastball up to 97 mph in the first frame. Sabathia's stuff seemed fantastic all night, but he was a bit wild - walking five men on the evening and piling up the pitch count as he worked in and out of trouble all night. The walks caught up with him in the sixth inning when the Rockies loaded the bases on an infield hit and two walks and then Yorvit Torrealba slashed a two-run double to right. Sabathia survived the inning without giving up another run and left the game with a 4-3 lead (only two runs were earned), having struck out five over his six innings of work. The Brewers tacked on some runs against the Rockies bullpen and won the game 7-3.

Scott Kazmir looked great to start the evening, as well. He struck out five of the first six hitters and seven of the first nine outs he recorded were by strikeout. Unfortunately, he also allowed a single and two doubles in the third inning resulting in two runs. Kazmir didn't manage his pitch count very well, which happens pretty often to strikeout pitchers. He only lasted five innings (97 pitches), striking out nine and giving up five hits and a walk. On the other side of the ledger was Andy Pettitte, who was dominant. He went 8 innings, giving up five hits and no runs and the Yankees took the win, 5-0.

Cole Hamels was also dominant, but, like Kasmir, he was outdueled on this evening. Hamels only gave up three hits over seven innings and struck out eight, but two of the three hits were solo home runs (Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick). Those were the only runs that the Cardinals needed to beat Hamels and the Phillies on this night as Joel Piniero pitched 6.1 shutout innings and Ron Villone, Kyle McClellan and Ryan Franklin were almost untoucheable in relief (Franklin allowed a base hit in the ninth - the only hit off of the St. Louis bullpen).

Trade: Harden to Cubs

The Cubs wasted little time in answering the Brewers' aquisition of CC Sabathia. Rich Harden isn't quite as much of a sure thing as Sabathia is, but if he can stay healthy he can provide similar results.

While I liked the Sabathia deal for both the Brewers and the Indians, I'm not as sure that I like this deal for Oakland. Perhaps they felt that they had to strike while the Cubs were still feeling the pressure of the Brewers deal or perhaps they wanted to make the move before Harden could hurt himself again, but the move seems a little premature to me. Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus wrote that he believed that the Indians could have gotten more for Sabathia if they had waited until closer to the trade deadline, I can only imagine what he thinks of this move (actually, I'll probably read about it tomorrow). It seems to me that Oakland had even more incentive to wait to trade Harden: with Sabathia off the market, Harden became the best available starting pitcher on the trade market. Had Oakland waited and played all of the potential suitors off of one another, they could have driven the price up - potentially higher than what the Brewers paid for Sabathia.

There are several differences between this trade and the Sabathia trade. First, Harden will not be a free agent until after the 2009 season, so he is not merely a second half rental, as Sabathia is expected to be. Second, Oakland is also sending Chad Gaudin to the Cubs. Gaudin is a young (25 years old) right handed pitcher that has started some in his career and has also come out of the pen. He is the type of pitcher that will not be a difference maker, but can be a valuable pitcher to a contender. Third, none of the players that Oakland received back from the Cubs appear to have star potential like Matt LaPorta does in the Sabathia trade. Sean Gallagher is probably the best prospect in the deal; he is a twenty-two year old starting pitcher that has a pretty decent strikeout ratio. I've never seen him pitch, but he seems like he might have the potential to be a decent mid-rotation starter. Matt Murton has proven to be a valuable fourth outfielder for a major league team (he was probably being under-utilized by the Cubs, actually). Eric Patterson is an exciting slash and burn type of player that would be much more valuable if he could stay at second base, but the Cubs had decided that he would have to be an outfielder if he was to make it in the big leagues. Perhaps Oakland disagrees and will shift him back to the infield. The final piece is Josh Donaldson, who is a catcher that is still at low A Peoria, so it is difficult to know what they've got in him.

So, while LaPorta seems to be the type of player that can be used by the Indians as a foundation to their offense, Oakland hasn't really received anyone with quite as clear of a path. Gallagher represents one of the most valuable commodities in baseball: a cost-controlled starting pitcher, but those are also much more speculative than players of LaPorta's ilk (as Oakland knows - it worked for them with Danny Haren and did not with Dan Meyer).

I'm not trying to argue that Oakland should have received as much as Cleveland received for Sabathia, I am only wondering why they made the deal now, for a package that can hardly be described as 'bowling them over'. It is almost heresy in some circles to criticize Billy Beane's moves, but they don't always work out (as the Tim Hudson for Dan Meyer deal showed). Oakland almost certainly got some useful pieces in this deal, but I have to believe that they could have gotten more had they waited until July 31st to make a trade. They may get to test that theory if they decide to also trade Joe Blanton this month.

The questions we are left with are: Is AJ Burnett the next pitcher to get traded? Erik Bedard? Which team will feel the pressure to make a move next (St. Louis?)?

Daily Links

The bloggers union has been getting on me about the lack of links that I provide on a daily basis, so I decided I should try and fulfill my quota. Here, then, are links to the stories that I've been reading today.

Joe Sheehan (who I almost always disagree with) had a nice take on the CC Sabathia trade.

I love this idea for a yearly column, some of the guys on the list, though, seem to have been washed up for a while now.

I didn't see this play happen live, but I watched the replay multiple times last night and this morning.

Buster Olney's recap of news stories from around major league baseball is a must-read every morning and I agree with his take on the Cubs response to the CC Sabathia trade.

Fan Graphs has Evan Longoria as the most valuable commodity in major league baseball. I'm not sure I can agree with that, but they've got the numbers and methodology to support that position. Agree or not, it is a fascinating piece.

Former Dodger's GM Paul DePodesta is in the front office for the Padres now and he wants the public's opinion on what the Padres should do at the trading deadline.

And that's all I've got for now. I'll try to post a half dozen or so links every day, just to keep the blog union thugs from knocking on my door.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Watched: Braves @ Dodgers

I have never seen a no-hitter. Not in person and not on television. So when I heard that Hiroki Kuroda had put down every hitter he'd faced through five innings, I turned on the game. I figured that as soon as I started watching, the Braves would get a hit. But he put them down in order in the sixth and then he got Chipper Jones to weakly ground out to end a perfect seventh and I started to wonder. Blake DeWitt made a brilliant play on a bunt attempt by Gregor Blanco to lead off the seventh and that's when it started to feel like it might be really happening.

This was the first time that I'd seen Kuroda pitch. All I really knew about him is that the Dodgers paid a pretty good price for him to pitch for them and he hadn't really lived up to the hype. Looking at his stats, though, he hasn't pitched all that poorly. Going into the night he was 4-6 with a 3.59 ERA.

Kuroda has good "stuff" - his fastball touched 95 and he also threw a nice sinker at 88-89 and a slider in the mid 80's. As would be expected, he was hitting his spots almost without fail. He wasn't striking out a ton of guys, just six through seven innings, but he wasn't giving up any solid contact, either.

Mark Teixeira led off the eighth inning and... I still haven't seen a no-hitter. Teixeira ripped a double down the right field line, ending the perfect game and no-hitter. The Dodgers ended up winning the game 3-0 and Kuroda finished off a masterful complete game one-hitter.

Trade: Sabathia for LaPorta and others

The first big trade of the season came today, more than three weeks before the trading deadline. Getting the trade done so early puts the Brewers in a unique position: they could conceivably trade Sabathia away if they somehow fall apart in the next three weeks. Imagine a scenario where the Cubs and Cardinals (or some other Wild Card contender) get hot, Ben Sheets gets injured (not hard to imagine) and the Brewers fall ten games back in the Central and 5-7 back in the Wild Card. Under such a scenario, maybe the Brewers re-trade Sabathia for prospects in an effort to re-load for next year.

Ok, now that the implausible is out of the way (it is much more likely that the Brewers are energized by the acquisition and pull ahead in the Wild Card and closer to the Cubs in the Central), lets get to the trade itself. I think the trade is a great one for both teams. From the Brewers perspective, they now have arguably the best 1-2 punch at the top of their starting rotation in the National League (Arizona with Webb and Haren would be the other candidate for that honor). The move also allows Jeff Suppan to slot back into the #3 slot in the rotation, which fits his 'league-average-innings eater' profile much better. With young stud lefthander, Manny Parra, in the #4 slot and future-ace Yovanni Gallardo scheduled to come off the DL late in the season, the Brewers could have a very stingy rotation come playoff time.

Then you look at what they gave up. The big name, of course, is Matt LaPorta. LaPorta was a power hitting first baseman at Florida and many considered him to be the best college hitter in the 2006 draft. The Brewers took him with the seventh overall pick, which surprised everyone because they already had Prince Fielder holding down first base for the foreseeable future. The Brewers turned LaPorta into a left fielder and he has been tearing up the minor leagues since being drafted. The problem was that, even if he could play outfield passably (which is up for debate), the Brewers still didn't really have a spot for him. They moved Ryan Braun to left field from third base this season - a move that was an absolute necessity considering Braun's defense at third. It is unlikely that LaPorta would be able to play a credible right field, but even so, the Brewers have Corey Hart, who is one of the better players on the team (and a personal favorite of mine). There is some talk that Hart could play center field, but an outfield of Braun, Hart and LaPorta would have certainly been the worst defensive outfield in all of baseball. Maybe ever.

So while it was becoming apparently that LaPorta didn't have much left to prove in the minor leagues, it was a serious question of where the Brewers were ever going to play him. That he became the centerpiece in a deal to acquire one of the top pitchers in baseball seems like a perfect utilization of assets to me.

The Indians, on the hand, have no use for CC Sabathia right now. They faced the grim realization that their hopes for contending this season are over (they are in last place in the AL Central, a game and a half behind the Royals as I'm writing this). Grady Sizemore is having a fantastic season and Casey Blake is playing well for being, well, Casey Blake. Otherwise, every one of their offensive players have disappointed this season. Many people expected Travis Hafner to bounce back after a down season for him last year, but instead he fell off a cliff. Ryan Garko has slugged .342 as the Indians everyday first baseman. Victor Martinez' OPS is .665 and he hasn't hit a home run yet. On the pitching side, Cliff Lee has been outstanding and Sabathia has been great since his rough first month of the season. Paul Bryd has been his usual less-than-mediocre self and Fausto Carmona has been injured for about half of the season.

On top of the really bad baseball that they've been playing all season, the Indians were in a bad spot with Sabathia. He is due to be a free agent after the season and he refused to work on an extension with the team during the season. Left with the option of holding onto him and receiving two compensatory draft picks for him, or trading him for four prospects, I think they made the right decision. LaPorta is almost certainly more valuable by himself than the highest of those picks, if only because he has proven to be successful at AA and draft picks are still mostly a crap shoot (not to mention that there is no guarantee that the picks would be at the top of the first round - that depends on who signs Sabathia as a free agent).

So they get LaPorta (for starters), who should be competing for either Garko or Hafner's job next season and will certainly be a starter in the big leagues by the end of 2009 (barring unforeseen circumstances). He will probably never hit for a high average in the major leagues, but he should provide solid power in the middle of the Indians lineup. As long as they hold onto Sizemore and Ben Francisco continues to develop, LaPorta gives them the start of a nice offense. A couple of other savvy pickups and they are right back in the playoff hunt - which makes this deal a nice accelerant for a rebuilding effort.

The trade should really be analyzed like this:

To Brewers:

The increase in potential to make the playoffs in 2008

The ability to try and sell Sabathia on Milwaukee for the rest of the season (possibly negligible in value)

A first round pick (assuming Sabathia signs elsewhere)

A supplemental first round pick

From Brewers:

A former top draft pick with no position to play for the foreseeable future

Three other lesser prospects

To Indians:

A potential middle-of-the-order hitter that can replace either of two weak spots on the big league squad within a season or so

Three other lesser prospects

From Indians:

An ace starting pitcher that wasn't going to make any significant difference in the outcome of this season and who wouldn't be with the Indians next year (unless they sign him as a free agent, which they can still do)

The right to two draft picks.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

All Star Rosters

The last two days I've discussed who should be selected as starters for both the National Leauge and the American League. Now I'm going to close the loop on this subject by giving you what I think should be the complete rosters for each team. Then I'll be done discussing the rosters for the All Star Game (finally). I have followed the rules for roster construction, so each team is represented and there are 32 players per team.

With no further ado, here are my rosters (the starters are marked with an asterisk):

National League

Catchers: Brian McCann*, Russell Martin, Geovany Soto
First Basemen: Lance Berkman*, Adrian Gonzalez
Second Basemen: Chase Utley*, Dan Uggla
Shortstops: Hanley Ramirez*, Jose Reyes
Third Basemen: Chipper Jones*, Aramis Ramirez
Outfielders: Pat Burrell*, Jason Bay*, Carlos Beltran*, Ryan Braun, Ryan Ludwick, Nate McLouth, Kosuke Fukudome
Designated Hitter: Albert Pujols
Starting Pitchers: Brandon Webb*, Edinson Volquez, Tim Lincecum, Ben Sheets, Danny Haren, Aaron Cook, Johan Santana, Jair Jurrjens
Relief Pitcher: Brad Lidge, Billy Wagner, Kerry Wood, Jon Rauch, Brandon Lyon

Jon Rauch was the only selection that was a bit of a stretch so that all teams were represented, but he's had a pretty decent half season as closer for the Nationals. Aaron Cook is the only Colorado representative and there were other pitchers that were probably more deserving, but his selection isn't a huge stretch. Notable snubs on my selected team include Mark Teixeira, David Wright, Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Tim Hudson, Cole Hamels, Kyle Lohse, Chad Billingsly.

American League

Catchers: Joe Mauer*, Dioner Navarro, Gerald Laird
First Basemen: Jason Giambi*, Kevin Youkilis
Second Basemen: Ian Kinsler*, Brian Roberts
Shortstops: Michael Young*, Derek Jeter
Third Basemen: Alex Rodriguez*, Evan Longoria
Outfielders: JD Drew*, Josh Hamilton*, Carlos Quentin*, Grady Sizemore, Manny Ramirez, Jermaine Dye, Magglio Ordonez
Designated Hitter: Milton Bradley
Starting Pitchers: Cliff Lee*, Joe Saunders, Roy Halladay, Zach Greinke, Felix Hernandez, James Shields, Justin Duchsherer, Ervin Santana
Relief Pitchers: Francisco Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera, Joakim Soria, Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon

The American League was easier (which makes sense with fewer teams) - there were no choices that were made solely to make sure each team is represented. Jermaine Dye was not on my list on Monday, which was an oversight on my part. Notable snubs include Nick Markakis, BJ Upton, Justin Morneau, David DeJesus, John Danks, Shawn Marcum, Dana Eveland, Greg Smith, Gavin Floyd, Matt Garza, Jon Lester.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

National League All Star Selections

Yesterday I went through the American League All Star selections and discussed the criteria for my selections. I am not going to go through that again with the NL, you can look at yesterday's post for my methodology. Today I'm just going to get right to the picks.

[All statistics are through June 30, 2008]


It wasn't too long ago that the catcher position was a weak spot in the National Leauge, but in the last couple of years there has been a renaissance at the position with some of the best hitters in the league playing catcher. Here is the list of candidates:

Brian McCann - .295/.365/.536 - 14 hr, 45 rbi
Russell Martin - .307/.404/.444 - 8 hr, 37 rbi, 7 sb
Geovany Soto - .281/.367/.513 - 13 hr, 47 rbi

Ryan Doumit - .346/.391/.622 - 10 hr, 25 rbi

I set Doumit apart because he missed about twenty games while he was on the DL. His statistics are fantastic, but he's been limited to only 156 at bats, which is just more than half of what the other candidates have logged (which actually makes the homerun total more impressive).

McCann and Martin are just about a toss up for the catcher's spot on the team and Soto isn't far behind. You get a bit more power with McCann and a bit more OBP and speed from Martin. Both are solid behind the plate and you can't really go wrong with either choice. I would take McCann because his edge in power is larger than Martin's edge in OBP. Neither have an edge in the 'legacy' category, as they have pretty similar performance histories.

First Base

Because the All Star Game is being played in an American League park this season, the NL will get to utilize a DH in the starting lineup, which is good for the NL, because the two best hitters in the league both play first base. Here are the candidates:

Lance Berkman - .365/.448/.699 - 22 hr, 68 rbi, 12 sb
Albert Pujols - .357/.482/.635 - 17 hr, 47 rbi, 2 sb
Adrian Gonzalez - .288/.358/.530 - 21 hr, 68 rbi
Mark Teixeira - .276/.379/.495 - 16 hr, 62 rbi

This is obviously a two man race. Berkman and Pujols are both putting up MVP caliber seasons to this point. Pujols is a bit behind on the counting statistics because he spent 15 days on the DL with a leg injury, but Berkman's rate statistics are probably a tick better than Pujols' anyway. Berkman's twelve stolen bases are already a career-high, and they are surprising for a guy that once called himself "Fat Elvis". Pujols probably has the edge in 'legacy' as a former MVP winner, but Berkman is the right choice, regardless.

Second Base

Before I had looked at the numbers, I thought this position was a no-brainer, but it is a lot closer than I had thought (although my original thought was the right one). Here is the list:

Chase Utley - .297/.384/.610 - 23 hr, 65 rbi, 7 sb
Dan Uggla - .289/.375/.620 - 23 hr, 58 rbi, 4 sb

Utley would have won the MVP last season if he hadn't missed some time towards the end of the season due to injury. He started this season on fire - hitting eleven homers in March/April, then slowing down considerably in May (8 hr, .259/.354/.537) and June (4 hr, .266/.364/.511) which allowed Uggla to start to catch him statistically with a torrid May (12 hr, .347/.425/.827). I think Utley still gets the nod, but it is much closer than I would have thought. Utley might have a slight edge in the 'legacy' category, but they both have a pretty decent history of performance.

Third Base

Chipper Jones - .394/.485/.630 - 16 hr, 46 rbi, 2 sb
Aramis Ramirez - .289/.390/.502 - 14 hr, 55 rbi
David Wright - .283/.376/.492 - 15 hr, 64 rbi, 8 sb

Chipper is having a historically good season, which is only tempered by his inability to stay healthy. He has already missed twelve games with various nagging injuries, but any time he is in the lineup he has hit and hit for power. Expectations are so high for David Wright that his performance to this point is seen as a little bit of a disappointment. Wright should have won the MVP last season and he is one of the best players in the National League, but there should be nothing disappointing about the numbers above, no matter who you are.


There are two wonderfully talented young shortstops in the National League and they are joined by an over-the-hill player that has somehow raised his game to levels no one expected. Here is the list:

Hanley Ramirez - .296/.384/.536 - 19 hr, 36 rbi, 20 sb
Jose Reyes - .292/.354/.478 - 9 hr, 34 rbi, 28 sb
Christian Guzman - .314/.342/.434 - 5 hr, 27 rbi, 3 sb

Now, Guzman shouldn't really get any votes above Ramirez or Reyes, but I just have to mention him here. I wrote about his history a bit in an earlier post, so I won't go into it again, but everyone thought he was washed up two years ago and now he is playing better (at age 30) than he has ever played in his life. Pretty amazing.

Ramirez is one of the best young offensive players in the game, but is absolutely brutal defensively. He will almost certainly be moved to the outfield at some point in the near future. For now, though, he gets my vote for the All Star team because his offensive advantages over Reyes overcome his defensive deficiencies.


The NL outfield is a bit odd this season. There aren't any big name players dominating and making the choice an easy one and most of the candidates have some flaw that keeps them from being an automatic vote. Here is the list of contenders:

Pat Burrell - .271/.410/.571 - 19 hr, 49 rbi
Jason Bay - .284/.387/.531 - 16 hr, 43 rbi, 6 sb
Carlos Beltran - .271/.374/.479 - 12 hr, 54 rbi, 11 sb
Ryan Ludwick - .285/.362/.574 - 16 hr, 56 rbi, 4 sb
Ryan Braun - .282/.317/.544 - 20 hr, 58 rbi, 8 sb
Nate McLouth - .280/.359/.522 - 15 hr, 52 rbi, 9 sb
Kosuke Fukudome - .296/.404/.430 - 6 hr, 34 rbi, 7 sb

That's an odd looking group to be discussing for All Star berths, right? Carlos Beltran is the biggest star on the list and his numbers aren't necessarily eye-popping. Burrell's numbers are great and he has some history of this kind of performance in his career, but he has been very inconsistent from year to year. Bay is returning to form after a sub-par 2007 by his standards. Ludwick has never been healthy enough to keep a job for a full season and there isn't much prior history with him to determine whether his hot start is for real. Braun was the ROY last year and has picked things up after a slow start, but his OBP is still a bit low for my taste.

I suppose I'd take Burrell, Bay and Beltran, but you could almost take any three players on this list and make a solid argument in their favor.