Sunday, July 26, 2009

Yep, I'm back already.

Sure, a week ago I said I was probably not going to be spending much time over here, and that's probably still the case. But every now and then, when something non-Yankees just must be written about, I'll make the trek. I hope you'll make it with me.

Much-maligned Royals #1 overall pick Luke Hochevar had the game of his life yesterday against the Rangers, striking out 13 batters en route to the win. Now, Hochevar was selected 1st overall in his third draft, after holding out for more money each previous year--and he hasn't exactly justified that pick yet, and so when I saw that he'd dominated the Rangers (a very good hitting team!) so thoroughly, I figured the umpire might have had something to do with it. A quick jaunt over to brooksbaseball told the story:


Not only did he not receive much help from the umpire (three balls called strikes off the lefthand side of the above graph), he was significantly hurt by him (EIGHT strikes called balls, a number of which weren't even close to the edge of the strikezone). That's a crazy impressive start, and if you are trolling for starting help on the waiver wire, now's the time to strike. Go get Luke Hochevar.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Happy News Of The Day

The Mets, realizing that bringing in Jeff Francoeur wasn't the blockbuster move they wanted, have made their next big acquisition, signing Angel Berroa to a minor league contract today.

I just don't get it. As noted previously in this blog, his OPS+ this year so far is negative. How does this guy keep getting chances?

Interesting look at the value of your New York Yankees

This bit of research was prompted by fellow blogger Antone, over at AllHipHopSports.com, in an article that (correctly) shows that Matt Kemp got absolutely jobbed out of a spot in the allstar game, first with less valuable OF Carlos Beltran being elected over him, then Victorino as well, and finally Charlie Manuel using his managerial decision to choose one of his own (decidedly unworthy) players--Jason Werth.

Looking at the total value list on fangraphs, for which the derivations are explained in depth in the Fangraphs glossary, I wondered how the Yankees have done. For all the resources wielded by the Evil Empire and those Beaneaters over in Boston, just one player makes a showing on the top 10 list--and it's not who you think. No, not Mark Teixeira or Alex Rodriguez, not Johnny Damon (having his best season yet) either.

It's Derek Jeter, clocking in at $15.6 million in value so far this year, good for 8th on the list. Read that again....in half of this season, Derek Jeter has been worth $15.6 million in production to the Yankees. Now, just by being a shortstop, Jeter gets a boost--3.4 win shares. In comparison, Albert Pujols (unsurprisingly leading the major leagues in value) takes a bath in win shares, losing 6.6 just for being a first baseman. Jeter's value is almost entirely locked up in his offensive abilities--he has 18.4 offensive win shares this year, in comparison to 0.2 defensive win shares. But just by being average defensively, Jeter is adding more defensive value than he has in the past. Between 2005 and 2008, Jeter was worth -36.9 win shares (though last year he was surprisingly average as well, only losing 0.5 win shares defensively).

Jeter's contract is often raised as an example of the excesses of Yankee financial might. People justify his massive contract through his leadership, his conduct, his intangibles. But this year, Jeter is doing it on his own, on pace to be a downright bargain (and this is completely separate from the money the team makes on Jeter memorabilia, or the tickets sold to fans who come to the games to see him). Now, he's probably not going to end the year worth $30 million to the team, mostly because his defense is likely to tick downward, and his slash line against lefties isn't going to remain .460/.535/.667 . But unless he falls off a cliff, the Yankees captain will be well worth his contract this year on pure performance, and that's going to make it extremely difficult for the Yankees come contract time with Jeter, who will be able to both raise his image as Yankee icon, and his performance as Yankee player, when making his demands.

Derek Jeter $15.6 million
Mark Teixeira $11.2 million
Robinson Cano $9.8 million
Alex Rodriguez $9.3 million
Jorge Posada $9.2 million
Brett Gardner $9.2 million (wow!)
Johnny Damon $7.7 million
Nick Swisher $6.6 million
Hideki Matsui $5.3 million
Melky Cabrera $4.3 million (note how low he is relative to Gardner...)
Ramiro Pena $1.3 million
Jose Molina $1.2 million
Francisco Cervelli $0.1 million
Cody Ransom -$2.0 million
Angel Berroa -$2.3 million

Your humble author is one who has been open about his desire to see Derek Jeter move from shortstop to a more suitable position--maybe center field, maybe 2B in a swap with Robinson Cano. Today, I am fairly happy to sit back and marvel at the player that Jeter is. How lucky we are to have had him for so long. This is going to make Brian Cashman's life very hard when decisions on what to do about Cap'n Jetes come around a few short years from now.

A look at the pitching through a similar lens to follow later.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Stop The Madness

If you ever needed a reason to keep Ramiro Pena on the major league team instead of Cody Ransom, tonight's the night, as Ransom is getting the start at shortstop. Fangraphs' UZR tells us that the last time Ransom's defense was above average at SS was in 2003, when his UZR/150 was 6.5. Since then he's been double digits bad each year he's had a chance to register on UZR's radar.

This isn't big news--anyone watching the games would probably agree that Ransom looks shaky out there, and that's been at 3B. Why we would ever expect Ransom to reasonably man the most important defensive position in the game effectively when he's unable to handle lesser assignments particularly well, I don't know. And we know it's not for his bat, which has dissapeared since the league realized that it's silly to throw Ransom fastballs in the zone (his OBP is .243, in an admittedly tiny 65 AB so far this year). Maybe we're just trying to handicap ourselves to make the game fairer for the Angels, who put their two biggest boppers on the DL yesterday in the persons of Vladimir Guerrerro and Torii Hunter.

The best reason I can think of for Cody Ransom to still be up is that Cashman's brain trust has looked at the numbers and determined that last year wasn't entirely a mirage--that Ransom might actually have some offensive upside in his bones. I don't see it, but there's a reason they get paid the big bucks. Also, by all accounts Ransom is an extremely good guy, well liked by his teammates, and he's had a fairly rough year with the quad injury after a slow start--possibly the thought process is that they'd like to give him an opportunity to be useful or fail, rather than simply assuming that he would be useless. It's a bit of a gamble--the difference between Ransom and Pena isn't likely to cost the Yankees any games when he's at 3B--but it's likely to be an adventure with him at short tonight, and if he boots a ball at a key point in the game, you can expect the second guessing to start.

Good thing we're up 3-0 to start the night out.

Update: Check that--Jeter came in to take Ransom's place, and promptly dropped a routine pop up. Along with an ARod error as well, this game was downright brutal.

Omar Calls For Reinforcements

Cue the band, here comes the Mets' bigtime acquisition to save the season.

Amazingly, for this white knight, they only had to give up Ryan Church--mere peanuts, right? Thus far this season he's gone .280/.332/.375 in limited playing time, which is good for a .310 wOBA--below his career average of .342. That makes him a slightly below average player, though his defense adds some value, with single digit positive UZR/150 for both this season and for his career. In terms of Fangraphs' value delivered, his last two seasons he's created $11.7MM and $7.1MM, and has a decidedly meh $1.7MM thus far this year.

So, the cost isn't particularly big--and as MLB reported, it's a straight up swap. Except, the player coming back is Jeff Franceour, he of the .282 OBP. Let that OBP number really sink in for a moment.

But of course, Francouer is known for being a strong defensive player, right? As recently as 2007, he put up a 17.1 UZR/150 in RF over the course of the season, and his career average is 7.7. Except last year he was good for -4.9 UZR/150, and this year it's -1.5 so far. Other than being 25 and having a strong arm, it doesn't look like there's any upside whatsoever for Franceour. In terms of Fangraphs' value created, here's what his last three years look like:

In 2007: $14.1 million (great)
2008: -$5.7 million (yikes)
2009: -$2.6 million (so far)

Numerically, it looks pretty clear that any number of cheaply available RF are better players than Frenchy, among them Ryan Church. This is a rough sell to the fanbase, as well--it neither helps now, or in the future. I suppose that the bright side is they didn't give up any prospects in the deal?

My main question: why didn't the Mets go get Eric Hinske, if they were so determined to give in to Jerry Manuel's dislike of Church?

I was also astounded to find out that Jeff Francoeur has a website of his own.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hey Boss--I didn't do my job, and you can't do jack about it.

That's essentially what 3B umpire Marty Foster said to Derek Jeter on Monday after calling him out on an attempted steal of third base. From the AP, via MLB.com:

"I was just baffled by the explanation," Jeter said. "I was told I was out, because the ball beat me, and he didn't have to tag me. I was unaware they had changed the rules."

There are always going to be some mistakes made by umpires. They're just as human as the rest of us, and over time the mistakes are going to even out. But there has to be some accountability for these guys, who make a hefty living (Rob Neyer quotes $300k per year, for only 6-7 months of work).

Even worse, crew chief Rob Hirschbeck answered all the questions for Foster's blunder (and didn't help matters much):

"You have to make sure that you have a tag," Hirschbeck said. "It used to be if the ball beat you, you were out. It isn't that way anymore. It's not a reason to call someone out. You have to have a clean tag."

Hirschbeck added that, if Jeter's representation of Foster's on-field comments were correct, Jeter's confusion would have been understandable.

"In my 27 years in the big leagues, he's probably the classiest person I've been around," Hirschbeck said. "It would make his actions seem appropriate if that's what he was told."

The players and coaches make themselves available for the media when they make game changing errors. Yet umpires rarely do. To be clear, an umpire is best doing his job when we don't notice he's even there. But that's during the game, Marty. You screw up your job, and then openly admit it (without admitting you've done anything wrong, either) and then toss Joe Girardi when he decides to say something about it, you better be willing to answer a question or two after the game.

No doubt about it. If the events that have been reported thus far are completely accurate, Foster should be fired.

Back from vacation, part two

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, folks. I had to get my inner patriot on, and made it out to Maine to celebrate the 4th of July. But I'm back, stuffed to the gills with lobster, crab, and leaking pure Sauza from my pores.

And what a week it's been! We've seen the return of Mannywood, the Jays' epiphany (which we suggested here at TYD weeks ago), the beginning of the end for "fake tag" calls, the continuation of the Tom Hicks' financial woes (again, called months ago here at TYD), two buyers for the Cubs, and Billy Beane making sweet, sweet rape to his old friend Paul DePodesta (or at least, Paul's boss, Kevin Towers).

All of these will warrant posts of the their own in the next day or two--as well as an interesting giveaway from a Yankee-minded entrepreneur, for some lucky reader. Check back later for much, much more.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

More Than I Ever Needed To Know About Ian Snell

Demoted pitcher Ian Snell fanned 13 AAA batters in a row (and 17 overall) yesterday, which has to be some sort of record. That prompted the following exchange, on live TV.



Nice.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Yankees acquire Eric Hinske

It's just been announced that the Yankees have acquired Eric Hinske from the Pittsburgh Pirates for two minor leaguers, OF Eric Fryer and RHP Casey Erickson. Joel Sherman suggests eight reasons this deal got done.

First off, Eric Fryer and Casey Erickson were essentially non-prospects on the Yankees. Fryer is behind current big leaguers Gardner and Melky, and the much balyhoo'd Austin Jackson (among others). The Yankees will likely target Matt Holliday in the offseason as well (if they don't resign Johnny Damon, who is having his best year yet). Casey Erickson is having a fine season at Single A ball, but he turns 24 in August--at his advanced age, he should be toying with that level of competition. Neither have ever made the Yankees top 30 prospect list as published by Baseball America.

That the Yankees didn't give anything significant up for Eric Hinske does not necesarily make it a good deal. Especially as the Yankees have indicated that they will send Ramiro Pena down to clear space for him (opting for Cody "Angel Berroa" Ransom as utility infielder, and virtually assuring that Francisco Cervelli will go down for Jose Molina).

I suppose that Hinske's ability to play 3B, 1B and the corner OF positions makes him somewhat attractive, and Fangraphs' defensive metrics have him as a positive contributor at all but 3B over the course of his career. Additionally, he was very valuable as a member of the AL champion Rays last season, when his batted ball statistics were very closely in line with his career averages, with one exception: the percentage of his fly balls which left the yard, which stood at 16.8%, a full five percentage points above his career average. This year, his power seems to have fallen significantly, as his fly balls are only clearing the fences a measly 3.2% of the time, and he is hitting line drives at a 15.4% clip, 4.5% below his 2008 performance.

Coming to the Yankees will instantly drive up his HR/FB%, as has been documented just about everywhere (though it isn't helping Nick Swisher, for some bizarre reason). The Yankees are also probably counting on his LD% returning to previous norms. It appears this will be the last hurrah for Cody Ransom, who has really had it bad this year, between starting off terribly and then getting significantly injured. Pena will be back at some point, very possibly to stay in the team's "Chone Figgins" role, otherwise known as utility OF/IF.

Hinske is on the wrong side of 30, but he's essentially free, cost just about nothing to acquire, and has a bit of upside in him if he rediscovers last year's power.

Update: Uber-Blogger Rob Neyer weighs in on the subject.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mariano Rivera Is My Hero

Lifetime regular season batting line: 0 for 2 with a walk and an RBI. And now he's got 500 saves.

Note to K-Rod: Karma's a bitch.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Jeff "Kevin Brown" Bennett

So, remember Jeff Bennett, the Braves relief pitcher who came in to try to pitch out of a tough situation and didn't exactly succeed last night? He's ended up channeling Kevin Brown last night, and broke his hand punching a wall. But amazingly, he did this between innings. And came out to pitch with a broken hand, after popping the break back into place himself. Quoth ESPN:

"ATLANTA -- Braves right-hander Jeff Bennett has been placed on the 15-day disabled list a day after breaking his left hand when he punched a door in frustration.

Bennett on Thursday said he was angry after allowing inherited runners to score on Alex Rodriguez's two-run single in Atlanta's 8-4 loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night .

After the injury, Bennett said he popped a bone into place in his left hand, allowing him to pitch the seventh, but Nick Swisher led off the inning with a homer to give New York a 4-1 lead."

Holy crap.

Give Jorge some love...

David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has come out and said that Brian McCann and Joe Mauer are two of the best hitting catchers of his lifetime.

I can't argue with Joe Mauer, not one bit. He's been nothing short of astonishing. But just in terms of hitting? Mike Piazza is the obvious question here, who is almost certainly the best offensive catcher with any reasonable # of at bats in the history of the game. But there's another who you can't dismiss, Jorge Posada.

Brian McCann, in his 5 years playing in the majors, has a 124 OPS+. Jorge Posada, over 15 years has......a 124 OPS+.

Now, McCann is very young, still 25. He's still coming into his own. But let me make it very clear: It's unlikely that 10 years from now his OPS+ will still be as high as 124+. There just aren't many catchers, across the history of major league baseball, who have performed to such a high level over such a long time. And all of them who have (correct me if you know of someone I haven't seen) are in the hall of fame, or have not yet been eligible to be on the ballot (Piazza). Sure thing HOF Ivan Rodriguez (bleh) checks in at a yawn-inducing 109 OPS+.

Jorge Posada is one of the most underrated players in the majors today, something very hard to be while a member of the New York Yankees. It's not just a coincidence that their not making the playoffs since 1995 was also the year they lost Posada for the vast majority of the season (though Wang certainly did his part).

Of course, David O'Brien's home newspaper has nothing to do with him including Atlanta catcher Brian McCann, and not a very obviously more deserving player.

Farewell, Sweet Prince

Much, much too late, Angel Berroa has been exorcised from the Yankee lineup.

It's a shame that this didn't happen earlier in the season, partially because we had to expose several reasonable prospects to the rest of the league to keep him, and partially because Berroa had a -6 OPS+ for the Yankees this year. Read that again--and be amazed. I wasn't even aware that a normalized statistic could be negative. That means that Angel Berroa is more than 100% worse than the average offensive player. Isn't that impossible?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Come on, Peter.

Peter Gammons is the top of the sports journalism world, having been honored by the Hall of Fame for his contributions to the sport.

But sometimes he really throws out some boneheaded stuff, and most of the time this has to do with the Red Sox, his favorite team. Now, don't get me wrong--I'm not one to complain about an ESPN analyst having fan leanings one way or the other--I think it's fine for journalists to be open about their chosen teams (in fact, I think it adds a lot to the conversation). But Peter, if one of my friends made the suggestion you threw out in your most recent blog post, regarding what it would take to pry Brad Penny away from the Red Sox, I would openly mock their suggestion. The comment in full, below:

"Brad Penny would probably be the best starting pitcher out there [on the trade market], but unless someone comes up with a Justin Smoak, Matt LaPorta or Brett Wallace -- which isn't going to happen -- they are going to hold onto Penny, who is two years removed from finishing third in the NL Cy Young race."

Do you want me to list the have beens and the luckboxes who have managed to finish 3rd in a Cy Young race? The Sox signed Bartolo Colon last year, who was 3 years seperate from WINNING the Cy Young. Think you could have traded him for more than a bag of balls?

Last year, Matt LaPorta was traded for C.C. Sabathia, who had won the previous year's Cy Young, and went on to garner a significant number of Cy Young votes playing a HALF SEASON in the NL. Justin Smoak is a 22 year old who is absolutely torching AA, with a line of .325/.444/.503. He's drawing comparisons to Mark Teixeira. Brett Wallace is not on the same level as either of the previous prospects (especially as he's put up a .294 wOBA since being promoted to AAA) but given his pedigree and previous performance (~.400 wOBA before this year through AA) he's still extremely highly thought of.

Brad Penny is not worth any of these prospects. Especially given that he is blocking laptop stealing uberprospect Clay Buchholz, who is killing it in AAA; John Smoltz, who expects a chance to start; and solid prospects Justin Masterson and Michael Bowden. The Red Sox would be very foolish to hold on to Penny, and simply assuming that he's going to continue on his current streak. I could pick you out several periods in which Barry Zito was very good over the past few years. Or Livan Hernandez, for that matter. Could Brad Penny be back? Sure, it's possible. Would I bet on it (even if he were on the Yankees)? Nope. Given the massive depth the Red Sox have at starting pitching, they're really much better off moving Penny, and other teams know it.

Is Penny worth a decent prospect or two? Sure. But he's not worth a team's first rounder, and Gammons should know this better than most of us. He's been around and intimately involved in the sport for a long time. Which is why it's tougher to swallow this sort of crud from him.