Saturday, January 17, 2004

One good thing about being back in New England is that I get NESN. As coincidence would have it, the Bruins played in Ottawa tonight, and I caught it live.

What an effort.

Martin Prusek is making a good case for being the best backup goalie in the NHL, having posted back-to-back shutouts against Boston as bookends to their seven-game unbeaten streak. Ottawa's one point behind Toronto for the division lead, with two fewer games played.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Mike Myers, predictably, is a Mariner, according to Mike Thompson at the PI Blog. Since 2001, Myers has held lefties to a .236/.326/.366 line, but he has control problems, having posted a bb/9 ratio alarmingly close to 5 over the same time span. While he doesn't get hit particularly hard, he puts a ton of people on base, which isn't what you want from a situational reliever.
The Detroit Tigers have thrown caution to the wind and offered a $40m/4year contract to Ivan Rodriguez.

Brandon Inge must feel great about himself right now.
Jeremy Giambi signed a minor league contract today with the Dodgers, a year after putting up a .197/.342/.354 line off the bench for Boston.

Giambi, like 98% of all professional baseball players, could have helped out the bench this year, and with a minor league deal there's no risk (and the potential for a big gain). He's a lefty, too, which we know the front office loves, but his personal history doesn't really scream "future Mariner" to anyone.
In today's breaking news, the Milwaukee Brewers have been put on sale. Reports cite Wendy Selig-Prieb as saying in a press conference that the team is looking for a local owner who won't move the franchise.
In case you hadn't heard, Scott Sauerbeck won't pitch this season, narrowing down the second lefty possibilities to Myers, Sherrill, Madritsch, and *sigh* Blackley.
Mike Matthews is off the list of available southpaw relievers. Minor league deal with the Reds.

No big loss.
We all know what's going to happen.

Following a minor bidding war, Maels Rodriguez will sign an expensive three-year deal with Seattle and promptly get suspended for a year for lying about his age.
Art Theil didn't make any new friends in the front office with today's piece.

The column pretty much echoes the general consensus of the blogosphere; the only part with which I take issue is the implied parallelism between elite baseball players and Keanu Reeves.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

They just keep on impressing.

Falling behind the Islanders 4-0 on home ice with under six minutes left in the second period is terrible, if not inexcusable. I wonder how many teams could muster the intestinal fortitude to fight through the final period and tie the game.

I love this team.
Ben Davis signed a $1.4m/1year deal with us today.
Speaking of Ryan Franklin, here's a terrible column.
In the spirit of recognizing flaws in Seattle's shiny new front office, allow me to suggest that Bill Bavasi has never heard the phrase "buy low, sell high" in his life.

Eddie Guardado was given closer money to be a setup man. Raul Ibanez, Scott Spiezio, and Ichiro all signed new contracts after letdown years, but the amount of money involved in these transactions indicates that ol' Billy hasn't once considered the idea that the three players came into the offseason with less value than they had a year ago. Freddy Garcia, his value having reached an absolute minimum (given the context of his career), was presented with an identical sum to the one he signed for last offseason, despite the fact that his performance was spottier in 2003 than the year before.

On the other side of the coin, Bavasi shipped Colbrunn and Guillen away for a combined package we may euphemistically label as "driftwood". Nevermind that each player, when healthy, is quite useful; keeping them for a few weeks into the year to allow them to get some at bats and hit the ball would greatly increase their trade value, and in the event that one of them gets hurt, you really aren't any worse off in that situation than you are trading them for rubbish. Of the four trades we've witnessed this offseason (excluding the nixed Guillen and Cirillo deals), the only one in which Bavasi "sold high" was the Simpson/Buglovsky deal, in which we gave away some potentially useful bullpen fodder in exchange for an offspeed demon coming off a 4.83 ERA in AA (with terrible peripherals). We may, for the sake of argument, assume that Jeff Cirillo's quantitative value entered a perpetual vacuum two years ago.

Possibly the most maddening of anything, though, is the apparent reluctance to examine the market for Ryan Franklin. Everybody and their grandmother is aware that, more than any other player in baseball, Franklin has reached his peak. His 2003 ERA was 42 points better than his CERA, and had he been pitching in front of a league-average defense, rather than one of the best in baseball history, his ERA may have approached 5. Even if the Mariners are completely and utterly unaware of this - which would come as no surprise to me - they know that Rafael Soriano is a more than capable starter who needs to get an extended rotation audition sometime soon, and also that we have more than our fair share of high-ceiling hurlers coming up the ladder. And so, with this knowledge, Bavasi decided to re-sign Freddy Garcia and hold on to Ryan Franklin.

There is a market for guys like Franklin, pitchers who put up a shiny ERA despite ominous peripherals. I know for a fact that the Brewers were interested in him earlier in the offseason, but were apparently turned away. Suppose that a willing-to-play-third-base Junior Spivey was offered to us in exchange for Ryan Franklin (prior to our signing Scott Spiezio); would you do it? What if the deal was bigger, including Geoff Jenkins and Franklin as the biggest names? It's impossible to know what the market is for a guy like Ryan, but it's something the Mariners should investigate sometime before the season starts and he loses his trade value. When you have the possibility to upgrade at a weak position while suffering little or no dropoff in the rotation, why run the risk of having your pitcher exposed the next year? All you wind up with is an ineffective rotation spot and the same weak position you could have remedied earlier. The Mariners are taking the same gamble with Franklin that they are the rest of their players; the team depends on its assumption that everyone on the roster will perform at the same level as they did in 2003, if not exceed that performance.

It's just too bad that guys like Franklin haven't had the best track record.
Does anyone want to speculate as to this guy's fate had he been a Mariner last year?

After Houston's final game last season, Wagner accused McLane of trying to keep the Astros competitive with "tape jobs" and not pushing them toward the playoffs.

Wagner's got a few quotable quotes in there, including "...they got rid of me because they don't like me," and "I'm happy for the team, and wish I was a part of it...". You can take this in one of two ways: either Wagner will set out with something to prove in 2004, that it was a mistake for Houston to deal him, or that he really does miss Houston, and will perform below his abilities. I guess the third option is that they're just words that have little or not bearing on his 2004 season, but that's too easy and not worth writing about.

There's a tangentially related quote from Gerry Hunsicker at the end of the article that caught my eye, as well:

"I'm disappointed that I continue hearing that we are trying to dump Richard Hidalgo, that's unfair and untrue," Hunsicker said. "Richard is a very important part of our offense, and I don't anticipate a move regarding him at this time."

Houston's roster management is, in a word, curious. Unable to decide whether they're a small- or big-market team, they act like a combination of both, dealing a replaceable Wagner to save money but adamantly refusing to deal a replaceable Hidalgo at the same time. They threw unspeakable heaps of money at Andy Pettite, including a final year in the contract worth $17.5m (with $7.5m deferred until 2008), the same year they'll be paying Jeff Bagwell seventeen million undeserved dollars. This worthless $27.5m on the 2006 payroll will inhibit Houston's ability to pay Roy Oswalt, in what will be his final arbitration year, and will likewise cut into their ability to pay Lance Berkman, if they decide to give him a multiyear deal. They're headed for payroll doom (of a lesser sort than the Yankees future holds), which is a dire situation for a team whose top prospect put up a .659 OPS as a 23 year old catcher in AAA. In recent years, they've been able to remain afloat due to a virtual pipeline of cheap, adequate talent flowing from the system, but this is a luxury they'll have to do without in the next few years.

In the short term, the Astros have a few extremely talented young players (Berkman, Oswalt, Dotel, Lidge, to name a few) who provide terrific value for the dollar. Down the road, though, these guys will either be more expensive or playing elsewhere, and Houston will need to make up for the loss, or else risk total collapse.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Sidney Ponson = $22.5m/3years.

This is a bad, bad idea for Baltimore.
Adam, over at his Texas Rangers blog, had a terrific post tonight, inspired by one of the more blatant cases of irresponsible journalism I've read in quite some time.

The article, written by Gerry Fraley, includes a paragraph (ironically entitled "Smart Money") that applauds Anaheim's recent spending spree while condemning the Alex Rodriguez contract. One could argue - perhaps quite convincingly - that Anaheim got better value per dollar than the Rangers did when they signed Rodriguez, but Fraley's attempted justification of his point ventures well beyond conventional opining and into the realm of intentional deception.

Smart money: Anaheim's spree offers more evidence as to why the Alex Rodriguez contract has never made and will never make sense. The Angels added the best outfielder in the game in Vladimir Guerrero, a front-line outfielder in Jose Guillen and two quality starting pitchers in Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar at a total commitment of $145.8 million. That is $106.2 million less than the Rangers' commitment to Rodriguez.

It is a fact that Anaheim has made a lesser aggregate commitment to its four players than Texas did to Rodriguez, but this is misleading. The Angels will be paying an average of $36m per year to the four aforementioned FA signings, whereas the Rangers will be on the hook for $24-25m for Alex Rodriguez. Whether or not you believe that A-Rod is worth the money he's getting, the Anaheim foursome will be collecting approximately 150% as much money per season as Alex Rodriguez. The main difference between Anaheim's contract's and Alex Rodriguez's is that the latter was given more guaranteed years, thus upping the total amount of his contract.

In order to further his wholly inaccurate point, Fraley embellishes Anaheim's FA signings. Adam does a good job of breaking each player down, but for the sake of brevity:

-Vladimir Guerrero fought with a significant back injury last year which could flare up again at any moment (although Will Carroll doesn't think it's a big deal).

-Jose Guillen is not a front-line outfielder.

-Both Colon and Escobar have question marks, the former being conspicuously out of shape, the latter being maddeningly inconsistent.

Alex Rodriguez, of course, is arguably the most valuable player in baseball; certainly the most valuable in the American League. He is a 28 year old shortstop who hits like a DH, plays the best defense at his position in the AL, and isn't showing any signs of imminent decline or fragility.

To quote Adam:

This is a level of intellectual dishonesty that offends me, as a reader. It indicates to me that either the author doesn't care whether his arguments are blatantly transparent, suggesting that he is just cynically trolling to elicit a response, or he holds the reader in such low esteem that he feels that they aren't smart enough to catch the logical distortions in his arguments. Either way, I find it insulting.

Gerry Fraley has never liked the Alex Rodriguez contract, considering it to be inexplicably expensive and inhibitive. As a professional journalist, he should know better than to risk further damage to his credibility (if such a thing is possible) by deliberately blurring the facts and misleading his readers in order to make an erroneous point.
Byung-hyun Kim is on the verge of signing a $10m/2year deal.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Biggest win of the year?

It's one of them, anyway; beating the Leafs 7-1 in their place was impressive, but they weren't at full strength, whereas the Devils didn't have any such excuses.

A season that began so poorly has taken a turn for the better in the last month, and suddenly Ottawa can be considered a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. We can all hope that Daniel Alfredsson's promise of triumph goes as well as Chad Johnson's.
By the way, Ryan Anderson is back after going unclaimed.

So much for the symbolism.
Andy Brown sums up the offseason over at Ballpark Analysis. In short, he agrees with the blogosphere consensus that Bavasi sucks, but also offers a shred of optimism:

That said, the Mariners still have a very good chance at making the playoffs. The A’s, at least on paper, would not appear to be better (and many expect them to be worse) and while the Angels have greatly improved, they may not have improved enough to seriously challenge the leaders.

At this point, I don't think that we're significantly worse in the short-term; our bench is terrible, but it wasn't particularly good last year, and whatever production we get from Spiezio will be a dramatic upgrade over the Dueling Banjos. 2005 is when Bavasi will ruin the team, unless he suddenly picks up a book and learns about replacement-level talent before the next offseason is upon us.
Terrmel Sledge tested positive for steroids. He's been banned from international competition for two years.
Looks like Cirillo is headed to Pittsburgh.

I don't really like the deal from a San Diego standpoint, as it's going to hurt them when the rest of the roster is ready to compete.

Update: The trade is dead. Oh, and San Diego grabbed Jay Payton off the scrapheap.
I'm with Jeremy. Cam Neely was a terrific player who would be considered one of the best in history, if not for his hip injury.

Put Cam Neely in the Hockey HOF.

For the curious, I switched my commenting service from Blogspeak to Haloscan, because the former seems to be having trouble with his site hosts. Thus, all previous comments have been removed, for better or for worse.
You know you're a good writer when you don't know Scott Spiezio's first name.

Monday, January 12, 2004

The Devil Rays picked up Mitch Meluskey today.

He would've been nice to grab.
I've completed my mini-project concerning park factors. I've put together a spreadsheet detailing each park's impact on Batting Average and Slugging Percentage (I excluded OBP because the park shouldn't have an influence on walks, errors, or HBP's, meaning that the numbers would look awful similar to the BA list). What follows are two lists: the first lists parks favorable to batting average in decreasing order; the second lists parks favorable to SLG in decreasing order. These are solely based on 2003 statistics.

Batting Average (Percent above/below road BA)
1. Colorado (+10.3%)
2. Texas (+9.5%)
3. Boston (+9.2%)
4. Kansas City (+7.4%)
5. Montreal (+6.8%; I don't have separate stats for Olympic Stadium and Hiram Bithorn)
6. Arizona (+5.7%)
7. San Francisco (+4.1%)
8. Toronto (+3.5%)
9. Pittsburgh (+3.4%)
10. New York Mets (+2.0%)
11. Minnesota (+0.9%)
12. Houston (+0.3%)
13. Cincinatti (-0.5%)
14. Tampa Bay (-0.7%)
15. Chicago Cubs (-1.3%)
16. Anaheim (-1.4%)
17. Chicago White Sox (-2.0%)
18. St Louis (-2.0%)
19. Baltimore (-2.2%)
20. Atlanta (-2.5%)
21. Milwaukee (-2.5%)
22. New York Yankees (-2.8%)
23. San Diego (-4.2%)
24. Philadelphia (-5.0%)
25. Oakland (-5.1%)
26. Detroit (-5.9%)
27. Cleveland (-6.2%)
28. Seattle (-6.4%)
29. Los Angeles (-6.6%)
30. Florida (-6.6%)

Slugging Percentage (Percent above/below road SLG)
1. Montreal (+17.3%)
2. Colorado (+17.3%)
3. Texas (+13.2%)
4. Arizona (+12.2%)
5. Toronto (+7.6%)
6. Kansas City (+6.8%)
7. Chicago White Sox (+6.0%)
8. Boston (+6.0%)
9. Houston (+4.5%)
10. Milwaukee (+3.6%)
11. Cincinatti (+2.3%)
12. Minnesota (+1.5%)
13. Pittsburgh (-0.5%)
14. San Francisco (-1.2%)
15. Baltimore (-2.5%)
16. Chicago Cubs (-2.7%)
17. New York Mets (-2.8%)
18. Los Angeles (-2.8%)
19. Oakland (-3.5%)
20. Tampa Bay (-4.3%)
21. New York Yankees (-5.1%)
22. Philadelphia (-5.3%)
23. Atlanta (-5.6%)
24. Anaheim (-5.9%)
25. Seattle (-6.3%)
26. St Louis (-6.9%)
27. San Diego (-8.6%)
28. Detroit (-9.0%)
29. Florida (-10.9%)
30. Cleveland (-11.9%)

According to these numbers, the top five hitter's parks in 2003 were:
1. Colorado
2. Montreal (combined)
3. Texas
4. Arizona
5. Boston

...and the top five pitcher's parks in 2003 were:
1. Cleveland
2. Florida
3. Detroit
4. San Diego
5. Seattle

Update: According to Baseball-Reference, Hiram Bithorn and Olympic Stadium were 1-2 in terms of hitter friendliness in 2003. So, there you go. Thanks for pointing that out, Steve.
Ryan Franklin's 2003 Component ERA:

3.99 (His actual ERA was 3.57; the large difference is due in part to both luck and defense)

25% of balls put in play against Franklin dropped for hits. Let's say this is bumped up to 29% (which would be about league average)

Ryan Franklin's Defense-Adjusted 2003 Component ERA:


John vander Wal signed with Cincinatti for $700k/1year.

Are you kidding me?

Doesn't vander Wal fit the Mariners mold to a T?

The Yankees have designated Fernando Seguignol for assignment.

Claim him, BB. Claim him now.
Roger Clemens is an Astro.
A few days late, but here's a report on Soriano's Winter League performance:

Starting Pitcher - Rafael Soriano (Escogido/Mariners), 1 -1 - 0.21 ERA in seven starts
Sure, Esteban Yan and Robert Ellis won more games (5), Doug Linton pitched more innings and had a 1.48 ERA, and Juan Cruz had arguably the best stuff in the league. But, what do you do with a 0.21 ERA? Ignore it? If a pitcher's job is to prevent the other team from scoring runs, nobody was better than Soriano this season. As we mentioned in a previous report, his strikeout-to-walk ratio should have been better, considering his superior stuff, but the guy allowed just 19 hits and TWO extra-base hits in 42.1 innings pitched. It wasn't his teammates either, as he pitched in front of the league's worst defense according to defensive efficiency ratings. The Lions featured one of the worst offensive groups in the history of the league, scoring just 3.3 runs per game. With an average offense, defense, and bullpen, the guy should have won at least four games.

In the end, Soriano was 0.006 runs short of the single-season ERA record established by Bartolo Colón in the 1996-97 season. Colón allowed one earned run (four in total) in 43.2 innings pitched for a 0.206 ERA, a slightly better mark than Soriano's 0.212 this season.

If you're a BP Premium subscriber, you can find the rest of the article here.
Does anyone know when BP will update its player PECOTA cards?

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Question for the readers:

With the knowledge that Anaheim has vastly upgraded its roster, and that Oakland should be about as good (or better) than they were last year (I don't think the offense is going to get any worse than it was), should the Mariners go out and bring in a short-term bopper to try to put us over the top this year, or should they suffer some short-term losses and build for the future?

(I omitted the option of "Do neither by acquiring guys who won't help in 2004 *or* the future" because it upsets me.)

Leave your opinion in the comments section of this post.
I have a great deal of respect for the guys over at USS Mariner, and I appreciate that they let us know about something interesting when it comes up, but unless they want 50% of the Mariner fan base to commit suicide tonight, I question the wisdom in reporting the Soriano rumor. Having Guerrero go to Anaheim hurt plenty; the last thing we need is Bavasi making a knee-jerk blockbuster trade where we deal Soriano and an A-ball live arm for Moises Alou.
This post is in response to a comment left by RD following this post of mine:

The Ballpark in Arlington inflates BA/OBP/SLG by 9%/6%/13%.

Coors inflates BA/OBP/SLG by 11%/6%/17%.

It's closer than I thought, but Coors still reigns supreme as the top hitter's park in baseball (although I don't have numbers on Bithorn).
What can you say about something like this?

A terrific player - one of the best in the game - enters the free agent market during his assumed prime. He fills an obvious need, and better yet, has few suitors after the big boys finish their little arms race. If that isn't sufficient, your team has more than enough money to pay the player what he wants without having to take a major hit somewhere else on the roster.

So how do you explain Bill Bavasi completely ignoring Vladimir Guerrero?

I don't know, and, quite frankly, I don't want to know. I'm going to sleep, where Ottawa beats Toronto, the Mariners sign useful players, and pigs fly out of my ass.
Vladimir Guerrero has reportedly agreed to a multiyear deal with...

...the Anaheim Angels.

If that isn't a kick in the teeth...

Update: ESPN is confirming the story, but their source is the NY Daily News, so take that for what it's worth.