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Indians, Reds Come out Far Ahead in Three-Way Trade with Diamondbacks

According to Yahoo! Sports, the Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks finally finished a three-team deal, but it wasn’t with the Rangers and didn’t involve Justin Upton or Asdrubal Cabrera. 

Instead, the two teamed up with the Cincinnati Reds in a deal centered around around Shin-Soo Choo.

In all, there are nine players moving. Each team’s haul follows with the sending team in parentheses: 

Reds: Shin-Soo Choo (Indians), Jason Donald (Indians)

Indians: Trevor Bauer (Diamondbacks), Drew Stubbs (Reds), Bryan Shaw (Diamondbacks), Matt Albers (Diamondbacks)

Diamondbacks: Didi Gregorius (Reds), Tony Sipp (Indians), Lars Anderson (Indians)

There are two really interesting parts to this. The first is Choo with the Reds. Cincinnati is now without a true center fielder, but the offensive help is probably more than enough to make up for it. Reds leadoff hitters had an abysmal .208/.254/.327 triple slash last year.

Choo, entering his age-30 season, had a slash line of .283/.373/.441 last season and has had a line as good as .300/.401/.484 in the past (as recently as 2010, too). This is a huge upgrade for them. Even though Choo is a free agent after this year, it’s more than made up for by the fact that the Reds didn’t even surrender the best prospect in the deal.

The Indians, I would say, also won. Granted, they don’t get the certainty of Choo for 2012, but he was leaving next year, while Bauer gives them the better opportunity to win going forward. The starter just finished his age-21 season, and while his first four starts weren’t ideal, there’s a lot of hope for the future.

The 2011 No. 3 pick threw 130.1 innings in AA and AAA last year and picked up 157 strikeouts while allowing a 2.42 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. Keith Law listed him as the No. 21 best prospect before 2012 and has been projected as an ace. He may be ready to start this season and provides Cleveland with a lot of upside.

The Diamondbacks are the only team that confuses me. Yes, they had a pitching surplus. But most teams were still very high on Bauer’s potential. For someone who was rated so highly, this is a weak looking return.

Gregorius is a strong-fielding shortstop who can’t hit; his minor league career has seen him have a slash line of .271/.323/.376. Yes, he’s only 22, but minor league OBPs below .330 are not anything to get excited about.

Sipp is a 29-year old reliever who hasn’t shown himself to be extraordinarily dominant. Anderson is a former well regarded prospect who’s now 25 and only has 56 plate appearances in the majors. In AAA last year, he had a line of .250/.353/.396, which wouldn’t be bad if he played up the middle.

Instead, he’s a first baseman. Maybe he can put it all together, but he won’t be getting a shot in Arizona with Paul Goldschmidt there now. None of those players looks good enough to justify giving up a prospect like Trevor Bauer. 

As for the other four other players other than Choo that are headed to the two Ohio teams, most are closer to spare parts. Matt Albers is a 29-year-old reliever with a career 94 ERA+. Shaw is a 25-year-old reliever with fewer than 90 innings in the majors. He’s carried a 129 ERA+ so far, and he looks most likely to be a decent middle reliever if nothing else. Donald is a below-average hitting utility man. 

Stubbs is the only other player with any sort of serious value, and that’s more of a possibility than a certainty.

His batting average on balls in play was a career low last year (.290), and if it bounces back up to his career .323 mark, he’ll provide league average offense and a solid glove in center field, making him slightly above starter level. He’s 28, so he’s still fairly young, but he’s probably more of a useful part than an all-star.

So, the long and short of it: The Reds made a smart all-in move to compete next year. The Indians got a great prospect to maximize their possible future winning, and the Diamondbacks got involved for reasons that are not clear to me.

This article is also featured at Hot Corner Harbor.

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3 Small Fixes That Could Make a Big Difference in Baseball Hall of Fame Voting

Hall of Fame season is fast descending upon us. The ballot for the 2013 was announced Wednesday, and writers are already mobilizing to build support for voting movements and ideologies.

I think most people can agree that the Hall of Fame is facing several issues, both in this election and the upcoming ones, and people are always determined to come up with solutions to the problems. Ideas like letting the players and managers vote, introducing a limit on ballots a player can appear on and banning steroid users get thrown out with alarming frequency at this time of year. 

So many of these fixes aren’t worth the trouble, though. The players and managers have a horrible track record in recognizing greatness in fellow players, whether it be All-Star Game backups or Gold Glove award winners. Limiting a player ignores the many deserving players who, for one reason or another, haven’t gone in on the first ballot. Banning steroids users ignores the long history of cheaters already enshrined.

In truth, the real fixes Cooperstown needs are much simpler.

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Stephen Strasburg’s Inning Limit and the Washington Nationals’ Playoff Chances

I know the topic has been beaten to death. But I have some sort of interest in the Nationals (even if I don’t fully understand why), so I might as well weigh in on the Stephen Strasburg inning-limit story. 

I can understand the desire to keep Strasburg healthy. I trust the Nationals have looked into the topic. But I think there are plenty of problems with the “keep pitching him until he hits 180 innings, then shut him down for the year” plan.

First, there’s the apparent plan to just pitch him like normal until he hits 180 innings. A win in April does count the same as a win in September. However, that isn’t true for October. Three losses ends your season totally. Playoff starts are disproportionately weighted, so why not save Strasburg for those? Why not skip starts here and there to save him for the games that spell an automatic game-over for the season?

Second is the 180 limit itself. Why 180 innings specifically? I mean, to an extent, it makes sense. More innings are bad. But why set a hard limit that apparently means a total end for Strasburg’s season? Why not be flexible? 

I liked the prior “We’ll shut him down when we think it’s time” approach. That seemed to account for so many things, including how the team is doing and how Strasburg is feeling. I would imagine the latter is much more important to determining if a player re-injures their elbow. Look at players like Joel Zumaya, who have managed to injure their arms repeatedly despite rarely pitching anything close to excessive innings. 

Yes, players like Mark Prior and Kerry Wood injured themselves after heavy workloads. However, the early 2000s were a different time, before pitch counts were as big as they are now. Prior threw 120 or more pitches in a start nine times during 2003, while Wood crossed that margin 13 times in 2003 alone (as well as eight times during his rookie season).

Strasburg has yet to reach that mark once in his career. Maybe innings are the determining factor, but number of pitches seems to be just as likely a culprit, and the Nationals have been much smarter about managing Stephen in that regard.

But then there’s the more team-focused argument. Yes, the Nationals have a deep rotation, and Strasburg might not be the ace just yet (although I would probably put him as their No. 2 right now, even ahead of Jordan Zimmermann).

But I don’t think that there’s any argument that, come October, a Gio Gonzalez-Strasburg-Zimmermann-Jackson/Detwiler rotation is stronger than a Gonzalez-Zimmermann-Jackson-Detwiler one. Playoff series are short, and you need to take every advantage you can.

I know there’s the argument that the Nationals’ window to win should stay open for several more years. But windows to win don’t always stay open as long as they should. The Phillies and Brewers were both supposed to be good at least for this year, maybe next. The mid-2000s Mets and Indians were supposed to remain competitive for years. 

And will that window ever be as good as it is now? The rotation hasn’t faced any major injury set-backs (yet, not to jinx it). The line-up (with the exception of catchers) looks to be healthy for the stretch run, if not the playoffs themselves. Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond are having career years. You should take advantage of every playoff appearance you can.

Even if you do continue winning, you never know if you’ll wind up like the Indians or Braves or Mariners teams of the 1990s; good, but with not enough to show for it, World Series-wise.

Not only that, it’ll be hard to catch them. The Braves have been good, but have had much worse injury luck. The big-market Phillies look to be temporarily out of the picture. And on top of that, the Nationals have built up a 70-43 record, good for a .619 winning percentage, to go with a 4.5 game lead on the division. That makes them strong favorites for the division, a huge factor with Bud Selig’s new playoff scheme in place.

Yes, they may be better next year, or the year after. But they’re on pace for 100 wins and have the best record in baseball. This will be hard to top. If I’m betting on next season’s win total, barring a late collapse, I’d probably take the under on the Nationals.

Not that I expect them to be bad next year. It’s just very difficult to predict a team to repeat or improve on “best record in baseball”, especially a year or two down the road. 

I mean, I can’t fault a team too much for being careful. But this seems to be a very good year to try for it all. You need any advantage you can get in a short series, and Stephen Strasburg is definitely an advantage.

Would there be any harm in skipping one or two of his starts the rest of the way to prepare for October? I mean, why not aim for a 170-inning goal and save him for the postseason? 

The playoffs are already pretty random; there’s no guarantee he’d be going too far over the 180 mark even if he does pitch. He might get anywhere from one to maybe five starts (I would guess one in the DS, two in the CS and two in the World Series at most). If you go over those two extra starts you save by skipping late-season, he hits maybe 190 innings or so.

Is the difference between 180 innings and 190 innings really that big injury-wise that it’s worth totally shutting down one of the best pitchers in the league during a chance at a title?

This article is also featured at Hot Corner Harbor.

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MLB Draft 2011: What Makes a Successful Draft, Position Players?

Major League Baseball’s draft is fast approaching—it starts this Monday. In preparation of that, I decided to ask a question that has been asked before, but research it in my own way just to demonstrate the value of drafting: What type of success can you expect out of draft picks?

Everyone knows that the first round picks are the most important, and it’s fairly obvious why. The players taken first should, in theory, be the best ones. But just how much better? If your team doesn’t have a pick until the later half of the first round, could it still strike gold? Well, yes, but it might be harder than you think.

My methodology was looking at the top 25 position players for each of the last 11 years (from 2000 to 2010), and compare them against their position in the draft. As a quick reference, I used and sorted top position players by Wins Above Replacement, or WAR. WAR calculates a players total contributions through batting, fielding, games played and position, although here it was mostly used as a quick way to find a year’s best set of players. Then, I figured out what round and pick number each of those players was drafted (or, if they were an international free agent, marked them as such). Then, I did some rough tabulations on the data and came across the following.

The first overall pick is extremely important.

You probably knew this to some extent. What you might not know is just how important. On average, out of a given year’s 25 best players, 2.5 will be former number one overall picks. This group has included names like Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey, Jr., Joe Mauer, Chipper Jones and Josh Hamilton. There is a very good chance these guys will be good and for a long time. This may seem low, considering how many first overall picks should be playing at any given time (my guess would be somewhere around a dozen at any one time). First of all, this data doesn’t include pitchers, and, second, this is easily the most well-represented draft slot. For example, the second overall pick didn’t show up at all under position players and only five times was one the third overall pick a top 25 player (Troy Glaus and Evan Longoria twice, and Jose Cruz, Jr. once). All told, in the last 11 years, the top 25 position players have included 27 seasons by a number one overall pick, meaning number one picks represent 9.375 percent of these seasons (288 seasons are counted, as there were several ties).

Envy the Rays.

The Rays get 10 first round picks this year, thanks to a savvy front office. That’s good for them because Round 1 is far and away the most important. Of the top seasons since 2000, a whopping 38.5 percent have come from just Round 1; the rest of the draft combined only produces around 37.5 percent. So, you really have to hope your first round pick is good. Having a successful draft after botching your first round is a bit like managing the Cubs to a World Series: You can probably do it, but you’re already starting at a disadvantage, and it will probably take a miracle (although one of the two will require a much larger miracle).

…But the Diamondbacks might be even better off.

As they couldn’t sign their first pick last year, the Diamondbacks get a compensation pick at number seven to go with their third overall pick. This is extremely good for them. What the first round is to the rest of the draft, the first 10 picks are to the remainder of the first round—that’s how important the first 10 overall picks are. Players drafted in the first 10 slots comprised 25.7 percent of the best seasons since 2000. It would make sense, as the worst teams get these slots in order to speed up rebuilding. How much better are the first 10 picks than the rest of the first round? We can assume that these spots averaged 2.6 percent of the best seasons each (in case you were wondering, that equals 7.5 seasons per slot). That leaves 12.8 percent for the rest of Round 1, based on what I calculated earlier. Assuming all 30 teams get a first round pick, that would leave at least 20 picks in the first round, meaning slots 11 through 30 average .64 percent of the best seasons each (meaning, in this case, each gets a little under two of the best seasons since 2000).

However, Round 1 also includes a sandwich round—compensation picks for teams that lost free agents, if they offered arbitration to the players—of varying numbers of picks; that’s how players like Aaron Rowand, David Wright and Brian Roberts are considered first round picks despite being drafted 35th, 38th and 50th overall. So, in reality, the percentage per slot for the rest of Round 1 is even lower than .64 percent. In case you were wondering, Round 1 this year is 60 picks.

International free agents are the second best source for building from within.

Sixty-nine of the top seasons (24.0 percent) came from an international free agent, or about 6.3 per year on average. That was just an interesting fact I found while researching. Analyzing international free agents would be an entirely different task, due to the fact that the process is not at all similar to the draft.

Rounds 2 through 5 are your team’s last real chance to recoup a lost draft. 

On average, 4.4 of a season’s top 25 players will come from these rounds, or about 16.7 percent. For another way of thinking of it, each one of these four rounds averages about 4.2 percent of the best players in any year, or one player per round. Overall, 48 of the 288 seasons came from these four rounds. However, the biggest thing that I noticed is that these players were much less likely to reappear on later lists. Only four players from this group showed up in more than two years: Jason Giambi (three times), Grady Sizemore (four times), Scott Rolen (four times) and Carlos Beltran (six times). It’s also worth noting that only Grady Sizemore was drafted later than Round 2 (and even then, he was pick 75, so he would have been a second rounder in some years). Granted, my arbitrary endpoints likely cut out some other players with good seasons in the 1990s or future successes to come: Jeff Bagwell, John Olerud, Curtis Granderson, Carl Crawford, Justin Morneau, Brian McCann and Joey Votto, etc. However, this is more to give a rough idea of just how important each round is. Rounds 2 through 5 may produce occasional superstars, but it’s much more likely to produce role players who may have one really good season.

Albert Pujols is not the rule.

Everybody knows the legend of Prince Albert and how he rose from a lowly Round 13 pick to be the best player in baseball. Obviously, this doesn’t happen very often. Since 2000, 60 of baseball’s top seasons have come from players drafted after the first five rounds, an average of around 5.5 per season. This contributes about 20.8 percent of all seasons. This may sound promising—heck, that’s even more than Rounds 2 through 5 had! However, keep in mind that the MLB Draft goes on for dozens of rounds. Rounds 2 through 5 are only four rounds; meanwhile, the latest round I could find on any player to make this list came from Marcus Giles, who was drafted in Round 53.

So, these 60 players represent what is easily the largest category on this list. Also, like Rounds 2 through 5, this group of leftover players only has a few players who managed to represent the group more than twice. Pujols (Round 13, 1999) contributes 10 of the 60 seasons. Jim Edmonds (Round 7, 1988) is next with five. Jim Thome (Round 13, 1989) and Jorge Posada (Round 24, 1990) each bring four seasons to the group. Travis Hafner (Round 31, 1996), Brian Giles (Round 17, 1989), Mike Cameron (Round 18, 1991) and Matt Holliday (Round 7, 1998) have three each. So 35 of those 60 seasons are made by eight players. Unlike Rounds 2 through 5, there isn’t a lot of promise that this number might significantly change.

I might have missed a few seasons in the 90s from Jeff Kent (Round 20, 1989). Kevin Youkilis (Round 8, 2001) needs one more season to join the group, and he’s off to a good enough start this year that he might make it. Ian Kinsler (Round 17, 2003) is another two-timer who might make it. Jose Bautista (Round 20, 2000), Ben Zobrist (Round 6, 2004) and Matt Kemp (Round 6, 2003) all have one season and a good start to this year, but they still have a ways to go.

Really, even with these few successes, you can pick up on a few patterns. For the most part, all of the players with three seasons or more under their belt were drafted in the late 80s or early 90s. I’m not an expert on the field of scouting, but I would wager that it has changed quite a bit since then. Also, not every member of this group feels the same-the round six, seven, and eight players seem much more like round two through five players than they do the round thirteen,eighteen, twenty, etc. group. In a lot of these cases, too, it almost feels like you can see why the player went as low as they did. Youkilis’ story as the undervalued Greek God of Walks was made famous in Moneyball. Posada and Kent have had questions about their defensive skills or possible lack thereof. Thome and Hafner’s defensive shortcomings have long since gone from questions to definitive answers. Bautista and Zobrist have stories about retooling their swings. Posada was drafted as a second baseman. Holliday had a scholarship to play quarterback at Oklahoma before he was drafted, which almost certainly affected his “signability.”

The point is, there’s a reason these players are rare. Hoping your team finds one of these players is almost guaranteed to fail. The draft went on for 1,350 picks after Round 5 ended last year. Multiply that by however many draft years you feel might be represented during the time span I covered. Out of that many players, these 60 seasons were all that made the top seasons. So, the lesson is: Don’t waste your first round pick, especially if you have a top ten pick. If you’re lucky, you might find a good player or two in your next few rounds. If you pray, you might, by some miracle, find a Pujols.

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2011 MLB Preview: Five Common Predictions for the Season That Won’t Happen

Every year, there seems to be some trendy prediction that everyone loves to make before the season. For example, last year, everybody (myself included) seemed to think the Mariners were looking like a playoff team. Or the year before that, when several people were convinced that the Royals had a shot to be that year’s Rays. Granted, sometimes, these risky, yet trendy picks do actually work out, such as two years ago, when several writers were picking the Rays to be 2008’s “this year’s Rays team” before we actually had that term (because, you know, that was the year it first happened). In any case, I have been seeing a couple of predictions recurring much more than they should be for 2011, and I just want to be the person with enough foresight to say why they won’t happen before they happen. Because I pointed these out, they’ll probably all happen just to prove me wrong, but nonetheless, I will begin.

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Future Hall-Of-Famer Retires: Reflecting on Jim Edmonds’ Career

Center fielder and Cardinal great Jim Edmonds is retiring. After deciding his injury is too severe to risk a comeback, the eight-time Gold Glove winner is retiring as a member of the team he is most associated with. It’s a shame, too, as he was very productive last year with the Brewers and Reds

Nevertheless, as with all retiring greats, talk now moves to Edmonds’ chances to make the Hall of Fame. And if you don’t think of Edmonds as a good choice for the Hall, you may want to reconsider.

His straight counting stats do not immediately jump out as Hall of Fame numbers; he only reached 393 home runs and 1949 hits. His .284 batting average may also seem lackluster.

However, there is much more to these facts than meets the eye.

For example, as Aaron Gleeman at Hardball Talk notes, Edmonds compares quite well to center fielders already in the Hall.

Only seven center fielders have 350 or more home runs and most of those are considered legends. In some cases, they are even recognizable by one name: Mays, Griffey, Mantle, Dimaggio and Snider. The only other player on that list is active outfielder Andruw Jones.

Additionally, his offensive case is strengthened by 998 career walks and 3615 total bases, giving him a .376 on-base percentage and a .527 slugging percentage. His .903 on-base plus slugging is already remarkable; when accounting for league and home park, Edmonds had an OPS+ of 132, meaning he was 32% better than an average hitter over the entire course of his career. That ties him with Hall members Joe Morgan, Al Simmons and Tony Gwynn, and puts him ahead of Rod Carew (131), Wade Boggs, Roberto Clemente, Dave Winfield (all 130), Eddie Murray and Carl Yastrzemski (129), to name a few.

Of course, his offense is only part of his case, as Edmonds is also noted for his incredible defense.

Over his career, he won eight Gold Gloves and was a nightly fixture on Web Gems. More advanced stats agree on his defensive reputation; for example, Total Zone has that Edmonds saved 91 runs over the course of his career with his glove, the equivalent of over nine wins. And this came while manning a demanding position (most analysis has center field roughly on level with third base for difficulty to field, with both just after second base).

As an all-around player, Edmonds is definitely worthy.

One final note; a newer stat, Wins Above Replacement or WAR, encompasses a player’s offense, defense and position to determine roughly how many wins they are worth to their team.

60 WAR is usually where a player enters into the Hall of Fame discussion, and 70 WAR is usually where players are considered a lock for Cooperstown. Edmonds has 68.3 career WAR, putting him in a virtual tie with Hall members Luke Appling, Brooks Robinson, Tony Gwynn, Duke Snider, and Carlton Fisk and contemporaries Manny Ramirez, Ivan Rodriguez and Barry Larkin.

In fact, Edmonds has a serious claim as seventh-best center fielder in baseball history. Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, and Joe Dimaggio are all clearly better. After them, Edmonds and Snider are neck and neck (Snider was the better hitter, but Edmonds was easily the superior fielder). 

As a Cardinals fan, Edmonds brought an excitement to the game through his excellence in every part of the game.

Hopefully, in five years, the BBWAA will realize this and make the right choice.

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MLB Knee-Jerk Reaction Roundup: Tampa Bay Rays Prove Brilliant; Angels, Less So

The baseball world seems to have gone crazy to end the week. The Tampa Bay Rays have acquired both Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. What’s truly amazing is the size of the deals: for one year of each, the Rays spent a mere $7.25 million. Both played well enough last year, and look to provide value in 2011.

Ramirez played 90 games for the Dodgers and White Sox last year, mostly due to injury. Since he looks to be primarily a DH next year, he should be able to stay in the lineup. In 2010, he posted a .298/.409/.460 line (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage), which should provide decent value over more games. His wins above replacement (WAR) (which accounts for hitting, fielding, position and playing time) for the year were 1.6. He could easily post above two WAR (about starter-level) in 2011 with more playing time, even accounting for some decline. 

Damon, meanwhile, played 145 games for the Tigers, with a .271/.355/.401 line and 1.9 WAR. He may not provide as much value as Ramirez, but he too could easily provide two WAR. In an AL East race that looks to be very close, the Rays will need every win they can get. 

These are both very team-friendly, low-risk/high-reward deals for the Rays. Based on the contracts handed out over the offseason, Fangraphs has estimated one WAR went for about $5 million through free agency. Therefore, should Ramirez and Damon both reach two WAR, the Rays will have gotten $20 million in value, which is $12.75 million more than they paid for the two of them combined. They fill several gaps the Rays have: both designated hitter and bench. The 2011 Rays look somewhat like this:

C: John Jaso

1B: Ben Zobrist/Matt Joyce

2B: Sean Rodriguez

3B: Evan Longoria

SS: Reid Brignac

LF: Desmond Jennings/Johnny Damon

CF: B.J. Upton

RF: Matt Joyce/Ben Zobrist

DH: Manny Ramirez/Johnny Damon

The downside is that it looks like top prospect Desmond Jennings will be out in the cold. However, these moves give the Rays both depth and flexibility. Worst-case scenario: If the Rays fall out of contention, the can likely flip them for prospects come the trade deadline.


The Angels, meanwhile, are trying to be the anti-Rays. They have reportedly swung a deal for Blue Jay Vernon Wells, sending over catcher Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera. The money alone should show just how bad this deal is: Rivera has one year at $5.25 million on his contract. Napoli has two more arbitration years, and made $3.6 million last year. Wells has $86 million left the next four years.

Apparently, the Angels decided to do something with the money they had left over from not signing Adrian Beltre or Carl Crawford.

Granted, Rivera was nothing special (.252/.312/.409 line, .5 WAR in 124 games for 2010); however, Mike Napoli is a 29-year-old catcher coming off of a .238/.316/.468 season, with two more years under contract. He even posted 2.7 WAR, a number that looks to rise.

The man who takes over for him is manager-favorite Jeff Mathis, who posted absolutely atrocious numbers last year (.195/.219/.278, -.6 WAR). Granted, he is supposed to be better defensively than Napoli. But, for what it’s worth, Napoli threw out a higher percentage of baserunners last year. Plus, Mathis is only under contract through 2011.

The Angels have not only committed regular subtraction, but also subtraction by addition. Granted, Wells did have a bounce-back year last year, posting a .269/.328/.467 line with four WAR. However, the three seasons prior to that, he posted WAR of 1.5, 1.5 and zero respectively. To add insult to injury, he just turned 32, meaning the Angels get to pay him $86 million for his decline years. For reference, here’s what the Angels could have done with the extra money they are spending.

This deal isn’t all bad, though. The Blue Jays front office did a remarkable job seizing the opportunity to remove an albatross deal.


And, on a final deal of more personal concern, the Cardinals signed 33-year-old infielder Nick Punto to fill Tony LaRussa’s need for another grinder or something. It’s not even for twice the major league minimum, so I guess it’s not too bad. I would just feel much better about this situation if they didn’t already have an almost identical type of player in Ryan Theriot. Or, even better, if they had a major league-caliber shortstop, like, say, Brendan Ryan, so they didn’t have to start Theriot at shortstop.

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Carlos Gonzalez’s Confusing New Mega-Deal with Rockies: Knee-Jerk Reactions is reporting that Carlos Gonzalez has signed a seven-year extension with the Rockies worth $80 million. This deal is rather questionable, for several reasons.

There is no question that Gonzalez is young and talented, as evidenced by his .336 batting average, 34 home runs and a .974 OPS. Conventional thinking would seem to say that this is a strong move. However, a deeper look shows this move could have potential downside.

More advanced stats do confirm that CarGo had an excellent season in 2010. He posted an OPS+ of 143; OPS+ adjusts for the park a player plays in to determine how much above average their OPS was. So, Gonzalez was about 43 percent above average. Wins above replacement (WAR) is a stat that accounts for batting, defense, playing time and position to figure out how much better a player is than the average player who could be picked up off waivers. A five WAR player is about All-Star level; Carlos racked up six in 2010. Clearly, he is a good player. Additionally, he will be 25 next season, meaning his contract would run until after his season at age 31, meaning his entire prime should be covered.

There are some worrisome factors, though. For example, Carlos posted a 1.161 OPS at home, but only a .775 OPS on the road. Granted, players don’t usually hit as well away from home; however, he was still only about 18 percent above league average in that situation.

Additionally, and easily more worrisome, is his batting average on balls in play. Basically, BABIP calculates how many balls in play the defense converted into outs while a player was batting. CarGo hit .384 last year once he put the ball in play. This looks to be .030-.045 above what we should expect, based on his career, meaning his average will likely fall next season. Given his low walk values, his offense will likely drop in 2011.

Realistically, he shouldn’t be horrible in the near future, barring bad luck equal to or greater than his luck on balls in play this year. Bill James projects him to finish with a slash line of .308/.357/.545, which is still more than fine. Also, most estimates currently place the value of one WAR at $5 million on the open market. Essentially, Gonzalez will have to produce just over two WAR per year over the contract, which should be more than manageable.

Really, the only confusing thing about this deal is why the Rockies jumped this early on the topic. Gonzalez just finished a career year, with just over two years of service time. He was due major league minimum for this year, and had three years of arbitration before he would even be a free agent. Really, the Rockies only gained three years.

Wouldn’t it have made more sense to wait a year (or even two) to see how he does in his third season and beyond? If he regressed (as he seems likely to do), they might have been able to strike this same deal next year or the year after, when it would get the Rockies an extra year or two and save them money by not buying out a year of CarGo at major league minimum and possibly arbitration. Really, though, this is a fairly realistic, if somewhat premature, deal.

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Okay, Bud Selig, It’s Not Funny Anymore: More Instant Replay, Please

I don’t claim to have watched every game this postseason, due to the unfortunate  condition of having things to do during the day. And yet, somehow, I’ve managed to see many, many blown calls. This is rather alarming, seeing as MLB lacks any process to review these mistakes. 

You may have heard of some of them. There was the ball that Yankee’s right  fielder Greg Golson trapped before it could even bounce (a feat that I bet few Hall of Famers could lay claim to). There was the three-run home run Ranger’s third basemen Michael Young hit after swinging and missing with two strikes (the only play here that I haven’t seen).

There was Giants catcher Buster Posey scoring the only run in Tim Lincecum’s gem, despite being tagged while stealing second earlier. I would even add Phillie’s second baseman Chase Utley‘s trip around the bases in Friday night’s game. 

I’m a little skeptical that Utley got hit by Aroldis Chapman in the seventh inning. I would have to say that my suspicions were aroused when Utley managed to show absolutely no reaction to apparently getting nicked in the fingers by a 102 mph fastball (I’m guessing fingers; if you forced me to guess what part of the body he was hit on based on his reaction, I’d have to guess “personal space bubble”).

Chase, here’s some advice: in a couple of weeks, you’re going to get some time off. Get some acting lessons in that time in case this situation arise again. That performance looked like Keanu Reeves next to Derek Jeter’s Shatner-esque show a few weeks ago. 

I would also love to see the following play at second again, but apparently, TBS has taken the Division Series-wide stance of “Maybe if we ignore the close plays, they’ll go away.” We got two camera views following the original play, one of them apparently taken from the cell phone of a drunk fan standing on an building adjacent to the stadium (just my two cents).

TBS, some more advice: don’t be afraid to show close plays repeatedly. People love to have something to be angry about. Especially anything involving the Yankees or Red Sox in any way. 

In any case, Bud Selig has apparently decided that the adage “Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it” is actually an Ancient Phoenician curse never meant to be heard by the ears of man.

After ignoring calls for more instant replay after last year’s playoffs (and last year’s regular season, and the Armando Galarraga game, and the Phillies-Marlins game, and…), Selig has continued to ignore calls for more replay (shocker, I know), claiming he hasn’t heard anyone close to the game request more replay.

For his sake, we’re not going to go too in depth with that claim; he doesn’t need anymore help to look dumb (although, in Bud’s defense, maybe those close to him have assumed that the need for replay was obvious and that Bud didn’t need THAT much help to make such a leap). 

Look, whatever your reasoning is, Bud, it’s not funny anymore. We can put a fifth umpire in the booth to review any close plays, and it won’t slow down the game (especially compared to the time a manager takes to come out and argue). It doesn’t even have to be strikes and balls, it can just be close plays on the field.

 I don’t really know what’s holding this up. Do you think umpires don’t deserve the right to correct their mistakes? Is it some crippling case of technophobia? I mean, you’re looking worse than my grandfather, and he didn’t know you had to delete e-mails to save space UNTIL THIS YEAR. He even STILL uses his VCR because he can’t figure out how to work a DVD player. This is pitiful. Or maybe this is the cause of some wild bet with Murray Chass to see just how fast you can turn people against you? 

Whatever, the case, you can’t just continue to ignore the problem. Maybe you can say “the bad calls even out over the whole season”. That’s because the regular season consists of somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 bajillion plays.

The playoffs aren’t that forgiving. Any one play can alter who wins the game, or even the series, and guess what? There aren’t enough games to say it’ll even out later. What is it going to take, a blown call that affects which team wins the World Series? 

Oh, wait…

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Colby Rasmus and Tony La Russa: How The Cardinals Should Resolve The Rift

I don’t usually write about teams that I am a fan of-admittedly, that’s partly because my teams aren’t always doing something interesting, so it’s easier to write about the current events. But it does also help keep my writing mostly unbiased. However, with both and are reporting that Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus has had various issues as of late, ranging from unhappiness to an alleged rift with manager Tony La Russa, I feel that I need to weigh in. I don’t claim to know anything more than what is said in the articles on the two aforementioned websites. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t put my two cents in on the matter.

Both stories seem to agree on the basic points: Colby Rasmus has had some problems adjusting to the Major Leagues, and he has denied rumors that he has requested a trade. Also, both mention what Albert Pujols has to say on the matter and mentioned Rasmus’s supposedly strained relationship with St. Louis skipper La Russa.

First, I’ll mention Pujols’ thoughts on the subject; they seem to me to be addressing the reports that Rasmus requested a trade, rather than his teammate himself. This is an important distinction, as it means that Pujols’ presence in the article is more than likely meant to draw attention to the article, rather than provide any confirmation to the story. Rasmus has denied that he requested a trade, and I have no problem accepting that. The story may well be a rumor taken to press to attract attention. That sort of thing happens.

I also don’t mind if he has had problems adjusting to being in the Majors. Rasmus isn’t even a month over 24; not everyone can be a Jason Heyward, who seems to have been born specifically for the purpose of playing baseball professionally. If he takes a little longer than some players, I’m fine.

No, the part of this story that worries me the most is the story of La Russa and Rasmus having issues getting along. If this is the case, then I think that the Cardinals may have to let La Russa walk this winter. 

It isn’t easy to say that, after all of the success that he’s brought to the organization. But there are several reasons that it would need to be done. La Russa isn’t exactly the easiest manager to get along with. He’s run several players out of town in his time (including one of my favorites, Scott Rolen, but I’ll try to leave bias out of this). However, more importantly, he doesn’t always make sound judgements as a manager. I don’t even live in St. Louis, so I can only see the Cardinals when they’re on national television or when they come to town. Despite this obvious limitation, I can still instantly recall at least two games this season where his over-managing likely cost the Cardinals the game (the two I have in mind specifically being the 20-inning debacle against the Mets in April, and the Cubs game last month in which La Russa pulled all of the starters only to see the back-ups mount a near comeback). Of course, we can bicker all day about what might or might not have happened if La Russa hadn’t been making calls.

However, we can definitely show that La Russa hasn’t been putting the best players on the field. For example, as of late, Pedro Feliz and Skip Schumaker have been the starters at third and second base, respectively. You may recognize these two as two of the worst players in the majors. Going by Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement calculations, the two have each been worth -.1 wins this year in their time with the Cardinals (keep in mind WAR is a cumulative stat).  The Cardinals have THREE players on the bench who have a higher WAR in less playing time (Tyler Greene, Felipe Lopez, and Aaron Miles). Yet, Tony La Russa continues to run out one of the worst infields in the majors, even though the Cardinals are trying for a playoff spot (and this isn’t even accounting for Brendan Ryan, who has managed one win ENTIRELY through his glove).

At the same time, it seems La Russa has been hesitant to guarantee Rasmus anything. Last year, he continued to put Rick Ankiel in the line-up despite Rasmus’s better numbers (2.3 wins to 0). When Ryan Ludwick returned from the DL, La Russa chose to sit Rasmus in order to keep Jon Jay in the line-up. Moments like these seem to indicate at best that La Russa isn’t fond of Rasmus, and, at worst, that he both dislikes Rasmus and has a blind devotion to struggling veterans that may cost the team a post-season. At the very least, I would say a 24-year old center fielder with All-Star-level ability is more valuable to the Cardinals going forward than a 65-year old manager. Again, I say this with all due respect and gratitude with La Russa and what he’s done for the team; this is merely what I think would benefit the franchise going forward.

I don’t know if this is truly an either/or situation. But if it truly does come down to keeping Tony La Russa OR keeping Colby Rasmus happy, I would have to side with Rasmus.

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