Saturday, February 07, 2004

An arrest warrant was issued to Luis Martinez, Milwaukee prospect, suspecting him of shooting a man in a hotel parking lot.
A nice thing happened to Jamey Newberg yesterday:

So I'm getting up from our table at the banquet as the evening concludes with Alex's final remarks. I decide to go say so long to T.R., who's still sitting on the stage.

I walk about 10 feet and see T.R. shielding his eyes from the lights, apparently to track me down, and then he motions for me to come on up, which I was about to do anyway.

I make my way up, swimming against the tide of hundreds of people leaving, and T.R. says he wants to introduce me to one of my biggest fans. He invites me to walk up to the stage and follow him. I figure we're headed over to Kathleen O'Brien or maybe Jesse Sanchez, since I haven't met them before.


T.R. says to come around and climb up onto the stage. Then he walks about 10 feet, and brings Buck Showalter back over to where I'm standing.

Buck said some very nice things about my work.

I won't go into any more detail than that. It was very, very cool.


Stick around long enough, and you might get some noteworthy readers.
Who would be valuable to you 2004 Seattle Mariners:

Second lefty Ron Villone, or potential John Olerud handcuff Greg Colbrunn/Eduardo Perez/Eric Karros/Ellis Burks/etc. ?


Anyway, Rob Neyer had an off-day. He claims that just because Karros has a history of destroying lefties doesn't mean he's going to do it again next year, because such dramatic platoon splits are atypical.

The A's are better with Karros than without him. But that's a testament more to Hatteberg's ineffectiveness than to Karros' effectiveness. Karros did mash lefties last year, but that doesn't mean he's going to mash lefties this year. What's most likely is that he'll revert to numbers against lefties that represent his true ability. And that means an OPS against southpaws in the 750-800 range. Worth a million dollars? Perhaps. But not much more.

I see two possible reasons why Neyer wrote this column:

1) He honestly believes what he's writing.
2) His inbox was flooded with angry emails from Angels fans, asking why he always picks on Darin Erstad while applauding Oakland's every move, and he decided to fire something off to appease them.

Platoon splits are very real. For his career, Karros has been a considerably better player against lefties than righties, improving his line by 12%/15%/7% when facing southpaws. In the last three years, the splits have grown increasingly dramatic, with OPS differences of 174, 200, and 303 points since 2001, respectively. If quantitative analysis has taught me anything, it's that track record is a good predictor of future performance, and Karros' track record shows a definite trend towards mashing lefties while flailing against right-handers.

It's possible to play off Karros' numbers as a sample size thing, I guess, but how do you explain guys like Eduardo Perez or Matt Stairs, who have obscene platoon splits? John Olerud has a 142-point OPS difference in his splits. Players with significant performance discrepancies dot every roster, some more dramatic (Ken Harvey's 324-points difference) than others (Aaron Boone's 136-point difference). Although I haven't done any research to verify this, there appears to be a distinct tendency for players to have wider platoon splits in their old age than when they were younger. Regardless of the accuracy of this statement, there is more than enough evidence floating around the major leagues that platoon splits are real, and that it's unlikely that a player with a history of mashing southpaws is suddenly going to revert closer to his total career numbers just because he struggles against righties.
I bear good news:

According to sources, the Mariners are close to bringing back pitcher Ron Villone to fill the bullpen vacancy created by the departure of Kazu Sasaki.

The left-hander is expected to get about $1 million to join lefty Mike Myers, previously signed as an invitee to camp, as a left-handed setup man in front of closer Eddie Guardado.

Villone, as you may know, was atrocious against lefties last year (116 OPS points worse than against righties), and has allowed a .249/.334/.387 by lefties in the last three years. Essentially, we're signing a lefty for the sake of signing a lefty, despite having better players dotting our AA and AAA rosters.



Minor league contract?


$300k deal?


We're paying this clown 133% more than Ellis Burks will get as a Red Sox.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Michael Wolverton wrote a piece on Brian Sabean's offseason, part of the free section of Baseball Prospectus. The article responds to a Sabean statement that he didn't make a bid on Vladimir Guerrero because doing so would prevent the Giants from bringing in an assortment of other players. I'll spare you the details, save for the concluding paragraph:

But regardless of Guerrero's fit with the Giants, Sabean's answer highlights the problem of his off-season. While the contracts he's given to very replaceable players have all been small enough to escape scrutiny individually, they've added up. And they could have added up to someone who would have made a difference.

This is precisely how I think about our offseason; a bunch of ill-advised but tenable decisions that, when put together, look like a whole bunch of nothing.

Earlier in the winter, I advocated bringing in Ned Coletti for a GM interview, because he'd bring knowledge of the quantitative side of baseball without offending the organizational traditionalists. At this point, though, I have to think that he'd just be more of the same.
Trot Nixon signed a three-year extension with Boston today. Financial terms undisclosed.

Update: The deal is worth $19.5m over three years, each season being $6.5m. There are also escalators based on award voting.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

I've never felt so ill in my life.

I don't want to post a link. Sports and B's know what I'm talking about, so ask them if you're really that curious.

You guys think trading Colbrunn for McCracken hurts?

It can get much, much worse.
In more delightful news, Paul DePodesta will interview with LA.
On Burks, there are two distinct ways to view the situation:

1) Burks wanted to return to Boston, where he started his career, and we couldn't do anything about it, OR

2) Bavasi's poor roster management is the reason Burks thinks Boston has a better chance at the title than we do.

The lingering optimist in me prefers #1, but then I read quotes like this:

Burks accepted Boston's offer over a proposal from Seattle. His choice was made after hours on the Internet, comparing the teams' pitching staffs and lineups.

...and I just feel worse.
Ellis Burks = $750k.

I think I'm going to need a permanent distraction from baseball for the next six or seven months.

Update: we actually made a higher bid for Burks, but he chose Boston. Not Bavasi's fault, this time.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

You should all check out the blogs I have listed on the right; I'm to the point where I'm adding a new one about every day. Today I added 6-4-2 and The Gravy Train, and they're more than worth a look-see.
The Orioles signed Mark McLemore to a minor league contract.

He would probably be our best player on the bench right now.

In order to clear up a few misunderstandings, the AL West previews are being done section-by-section; there is still plenty more to come. Specifically:

-Starting Pitching

(Possibly not in that order.)
Ellis Burks could be a member of the Red Sox within a few days.

Burks against lefties, last three years:


This is starting to get old...

Monday, February 02, 2004

The second half of today's edition is up: catch Steve's Seattle outfield preview here and Adam's Texas preview here. I've decided against copying and pasting the full text on this site, so go check them out for yourself.
...and Wil Cordero is a Marlin.

He and Karros off the market on consecutive days. Does Bavasi care anymore?
As part of our collaborative project, featuring Athletics Nation, Mariners Wheelhouse, Texas Rangers Blog, and myself, the following is a review of Anaheim and Oakland's outfields entering 2004. The Mariners and Rangers' previews will be posted as soon as they are published on their respective sites; the direct link to the A's OF review can be found here.


Anaheim Angels 2004 Outfield Review:
As the first in a series of posts breaking down the Anaheim Angels piece by piece, it’s only appropriate that we begin with the outfield. The Angels, driven by new owner Arte Moreno’s bursting checkbook, made one of the biggest and most surprising signings in the history of free agency, inking flashy right fielder Vladimir Guerrero to a $70m/5 year contract. Guerrero adds punch to the middle of a lineup that suddenly became one of the most fearsome in the Major Leagues, and in a matter of hours Anaheim went from a third place team to a popular divisional favorite. In order for the team to achieve its lofty goals for the upcoming 2004 campaign, though, it will need a consistent contribution from its powerful starting outfield. And so, without further ado:

Left Field
“So, when we evaluate our players and our teams, our memories are very strongly influenced by the season just concluded, and we generally start by assuming that, without changes, the next season will be like the last season.” –Steve, of Mariners Wheelhouse

Jose Guillen brings three and a half months of legitimate Major League success into Anaheim, where Bill Stoneman will hand him $6m over two years in the hopes that, against all odds, his new left fielder’s 2003 performance wasn’t an anomaly. Guillen is coming off a season in which he more than doubled his 2002 isoSLG and experienced a 42% OPS increase despite having his plate discipline remain stagnant. As any scout will tell you, Guillen’s had this kind of potential ever since he hit 21 homers in Lynchburg in 1996. Minor league track record aside, though, for more than 2000 at bats against the highest level of competition, Guillen was nothing better than an athletic fourth outfielder, posting a career-best .750 OPS four years ago. The only potential indicator that a fraction of this progress is permanent is the fact that Guillen is only 27 years old, suggesting that he may retain some of his power spike for the next few seasons. Even so, he needs to hit .290 to muster a tolerable OBP, and the odds are slim that he manages to hang on to that level of performance. On a team with a bunch of disciplined high-OBP hitters, Guillen would be palatable in left field, but on the Angels, he’s just another potential out machine.

Guillen will be replacing Garret Anderson, who’s moving to center field, and will be worse than his predecessor in every respect, save for throwing arm. While his raw power is superior to GA’s, he doesn’t have the same ability to make contact or – and I’m being serious, here – work the count, and thus his offensive numbers will end up considerably lower than Anderson’s 2003 line. Defensively, Guillen’s lone attribute is the ability to launch missiles 300 feet to home plate every so often. He’s prone to the occasional lapse, and while his cannon right arm is good, it doesn’t make up for Anderson’s better range. Anaheim’s 2004 left field will be worse than the prior edition, by any metric.

Thus, in comparison to 2003, I believe that the Angels will be worse off both offensively and defensively in left field.

Center Field
Garret Anderson endures persistent abuse from statheads for not walking enough, but despite this imperfection he remains a consistently productive bat. His BA and SLG peaked last year in his age 30/31 season, and his OBP came within seven points of matching his career high. It’s probable that all three numbers will regress in 2004.

To make room for Jose Guillen, GA is moving to center, replacing incumbent Darin Erstad, who has won fans over with his determination and who remains extremely popular despite a string of lousy offensive seasons. While Anderson is likely to experience a moderate decline from his 2003 success, his final numbers will be far and away superior to the .268/.317/.364 line the Angels got from center fielders last season.

Garret Anderson is said to be a natural center fielder, and there has been some debate over who is the better defensive player, Anderson or Erstad. Regardless of the answer, Erstad appeared in only 67 games last year, with Eric Owens, Jeff DaVanon, and Chone Figgins playing center for the other 60% of the season. Any fan of Baseball Primer’s UZR metric will tell you that Erstad is one of the greatest defensive players the game has seen in recent years, but he doesn’t contribute very much when he only plays for two-fifths of the year. I expect Anderson to be a lateral switch from last year’s quartet of center fielders.

Therefore, in comparison to 2003, I believe Anaheim will be considerably stronger in center field, with no significant defensive change.

Right Field
It says a lot about a player when divisional rivals have to hope for a back injury to flare up in order to prevent said player from producing runs. Enter Vlad Guerrero, whose mission in 2004 is to replace the .295/.373/.442 line Anaheim got from its right field amalgamation of Salmon/DaVanon/Owens. Barring injury – which seems unlikely, at least in the short-term – the bare-knuckled superstar will top those numbers, posting a line somewhere in the neighborhood of the .311/.375/.545 career numbers he has on grass.

At the same time, it needs to be pointed out that there is a 96-point difference between Guerrero’s career OPS on turf and on natural grass, and also that he’s been 70 points worse away from home. This isn’t to say that he’s a bad player, of course, but rather that his days of near-.600 SLG and 1.000+ OPS figures are likely gone for good, as he’ll regress from Ubermensch level to just really, really good.

While his defense is spotty at best, the Angels won’t be any worse off than they were last year, as their assortment of right fielders combined to be nine runs below average in the field. There really isn’t much of a comparison; Anaheim’s right field situation will be in much better shape in 2004 than last year.

So in summation, I expect the offensive and defensive contributions from right field to be better than last year’s.

Overall, the Angels have improved right and center fields by a good margin, but they will be worse off both offensively and defensively in left. Also, moving Darin Erstad to first base from center field will hurt the team more than they think. More on this at a later date.

Coming up next: the Anaheim infield, which looks an awful lot like last year’s version.


A's Outfield Picture 2004
Looking at the Oakland Athletics outfield in 2004, one can draw the same conclusion that many a teenager in the Friday the 13th movies make about 75 minutes in..."Well, we've lost half our group, it can't get ANY worse, can it?"

For the A's outfield, it seemingly CAN NOT get any worse than 2003. One of the most pitiful offensive performances in recent memory was turned in by the A's 03 outfield. Seriously, they could've played without an outfield in 2003 and had roughly the equivalent outfield offensive contribution. Even Jose Guillen, who was acquired to strengthen the team's outfield offense down the stretch, struggled to capture his Cincinnati Reds form in the green and gold. Maybe Al Davis has put a hex on the grass out there?

As part of the collaboration with Mariners Wheelhouse, a Texas Rangers blog, and Fire Bavasi (we couldn't find an active Angels blogger to assess that team), here is a look at the A’s outfield expected results 2004:

Left field:
Barring a monstrous spring training performance from Eric Byrnes, Bobby Kielty will be the A’s new left fielder. Kielty is someone Beane has openly coveted for a while now, much like Durazo last year, so expect him to be given the the preference over Wild Man Byrnes. Even though Kielty is still at the age where offensive improvement can be likely, he is a bit of a wild card. Although he has a very discerning eye at the plate and his OBP is always around .370 and a career OPS of .795. But playing at the Coliseum might counter his offensive growth curve due to the large foul territory and the heavy nighttime air. Defensively, Kielty is a stark improvement over Eric Byrnes, who was basically the A’s default left fielder last year. He certainly is better than Terrence Long, who was another option. I also think Kielty will thrive with the Athletics, a team that preaches a batting philosophy he already subscribes to. The A’s outfield couldn’t get much worse than it was offensively in 2003. Consequently, I think the A’s left field position will be improved both offensively and defensively.

Center field:
Mark Kotsay solves a defensive puzzle that has existed in the A’s center field position since Johnny Damon departed. Kotsay had an off-year offensively in 2003, but the true question is whether Kotsay peaked offensively in 2001? He slipped slightly the following season and took a dramatic downturn last year. If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kotsay rebound back to close to 2001 or 2002 numbers and hit .290 this year, sport a .360 on-base percentage and an .800 or so OPS. That would be a significant upgrade over any of the A’s that roamed centerfield last year, be it Eric Byrnes or Chris Singleton. Kotsay is also still relatively young at 26, so he is more likely to improve on his mediocre 2003, barring injury, than regress. Consequently, the A’s center field position will be improved both offensively and defensively in 2004.

Right field:
Right field will be a tough position to assess because it featured both Jermaine Dye and Jose Guillen last year. Guillen happened to be having a career year, but he also only played right field for a very short time period until Jermaine got healthy once again. Dye’s struggles have been well documented and his ability to perform up to his billing is crucial to the A's in 2004. Since fouling a ball off his leg in the 2001 playoffs, he hasn’t been the same player. Last season, Dye batted an abysmal .172 with a .261 OBP and a .514 OPS. These are well below his career averages, but because he has basically been off the radar for nearly two years, expect Dye to improve the A’s outfield in the outfield improvement trifecta. He better improve since the A’s have allocated $11 million to him for 2003, an incredibly high percentage of the overall A’s budget (18 percent of the expected $61 million payroll). Guillen didn’t put up the same numbers with the A’s in the second half, if you don’t count the playoffs. A .265 average, a .311 OBP and a .770 OPS didn’t compare favorably to his 2003 time with the Cincinnati Reds. Therefore, I expect offensive improvement compared to the A’s blended outfield of 2004 because for most games, Jermaine roamed the right field corner, not Guillen. Because of age and accumulating injury-problems (Jermaine turned 30 on January 28th), expect a slight defensive drop from the Dye-Guillen blended outfield.

The above assessment indicates the A’s outfield is far more likely to perform better both offensively and defensively in 2004. But that's much like saying we can expect Gigli to get better on second viewing...since it certainly couldn't get any worse.

Outside of a couple of blazing months toward the start of the year from Eric Byrnes, the A’s outfield largely contributed nothing to the A’s overall offense in 2003. That was why Billy Beane made it a top priority this offseason. He seems to have accomplished what he set out to do.
Pay Jody Gerut's blog a visit. Provides a good view into the world of baseball from the mindset of a successful rookie. Yesterday's topic: the sophomore slump:

Having been through it once I am in no mood to go through it again- and I may not have to. The word 'sophomore' literally means 'wise fool' (many thanks to my high school etymology teacher). It means simply that you think that you know more than you actually do. It's a frame of mind and it's a dangerous one but it can be actively dealt with if you are cognizant of its existence. Unfortunately it plagues many young players as they embark upon their second go-around in the show- the attitude that 'I did it once and it really wasn't that hard. I'll just cruise through this thing because I have all the answers. I did it once- I can do it again.' Amidst a fury of postseason congratulations from teammates, fans, family, friends, and media this attitude almost manifests itself from within being constantly fed. Eventually it is born into an aura of arrogance that pervades one's mind and one's world.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Congratulations to the New England Patriots.

Adam Vinatieri will be hailed as the most clutch kicker in the NFL for another year, despite having a miserable game, and the poor, inconsistent officiating will be overlooked while Tom Brady is compared to Joe Montana.

In the end, it's probably Jon Kasay's fault for kicking it out of bounds. Once a Seahawk, always a Seahawk.
On Soriano:

When asked what role he prefers, he didn't hesitate to answer.

"I like being a relief pitcher," Soriano said. "You only have to pitch a few innings, so I think it's easier."

Soriano added that he'd like to eventually become the Mariners' closer...

Let's all hope that such a monstrous talent doesn't go to waste in the bullpen.
Steve Kelley kicks some ass in today's Times.