Archive for August, 2009

Better Luck Next Year: Cincinnati Reds

August 31, 2009

You could say that a deficit of 19.5 games (that’s how far the Reds are behind the Cardinals as of this morning) isn’t likely to be made up in a year–especially not when there are three more teams between you and first place–and you’d be right. But the Reds have some intriguing young players and have been dragged down by some pretty devastating injuries, so it’s worth taking a look.

2010 Reds now under contract, with 2009 WAR
C Ryan Hanigan (0.9)
1B Joey Votto (2.7)
2B Brandon Phillips (2.3)
3B Scott Rolen (3.0)
SS Paul Janish (0.6)
LF Chris Dickerson (1.8)
CF Drew Stubbs (Rookie)
RF Jay Bruce (1.0)

Pitchers, with 2009 FIPs:
Aaron Harang (4.18)
Bronson Arroyo (5.10)
Johnny Cueto (4.75)
Homer Bailey (5.23)
Micah Owings (5.75)
Bullpen: Francisco Cordero (3.18), Nick Masset (3.84), Danny Herrera (4.05)

Bad, but filled with promise. Stubbs should be a hell of a player. Bruce is having a nightmare of a season, but was the top prospect in the game not two years ago, and he’s been terrific in right field. Phillips plays good D and can hit better than the league-average line he’s put up so far. Votto is a stud who missed a bunch of games this year, and his defense (by UZR) looks pretty bad for 2009, but was +10 runs (roughly +1 win) in 2008; a rebound by him should be expected and will make a huge difference.

Harang has taken a bit of a step back from his “unheralded ace” status of a couple years ago, but is still a solid pitcher, and all of the other four starters have shown signs that they can be very good pitchers (some more likely to be than others, but it’s all possible). This is a team, however, that will badly miss Edinson Volquez, who is expected to miss most of the 2010 season. Their bullpen is full of guys with pretty ERAs; most bullpen ERAs can’t be trusted, but given the sheer number of them, you have to figure they can find three or four talents in there that can anchor their 2010 ‘pen in front of Cordero.

Then again, they could just decide to blow the whole thing up any day now. Their odds are long, and Harang, Arroyo and Cordero are all pretty expensive. But let’s just say they decide to go for it. And anyway, why would they have picked up the last year and a half of Rolen’s contract if they weren’t going to go for it?

What They Need to MAKE Happen
1. Get an impact player at catcher or shortstop. Impact catchers are hard (okay, impossible) to find on the open market. Bengie Molina wouldn’t be a bad gamble at the right price (decent defensive skills and an OPS close to average qualifies as “impact” by catcher standards), but I’m sure someone (very likely his current club, the Giants) will overvalue his veteran leadership and RBIs and drive him well out of reasonable range.
At shortstop, I’m sure they can get the recently departed Alex Gonzalez back for a song, but that’s approximately one song more than he’s worth at this point. His defense has been good, but his bat has completely vanished, and comebacks by middling shortstops at age 33 aren’t good bets (even if the bat comes back, the defense slips–see Guzman, Cristian).
So unless someone like Molina falls into their laps or they can swing an improbable trade for an underutilized catcher on someone else’s team (I’m looking at you, Chris Iannetta), the focus should be on getting a better shortstop. The best of the free agent class is likely to be Marco Scutaro, though Miguel Tejada is out there too, and there are several likely to be available in fairly minor trades who could give you a +2.5-win-or-so performance.

2. Separate Dusty Baker from Willy Taveras and Everyone Like Him. I’d be all for firing Dusty Baker–the man just doesn’t know what he’s doing–but if you can’t do that, you’ve got to purge your team of all possible gutsy, toolsy players so that Dusty can’t be tempted to actually use them. Taveras is a blindingly fast runner, an excellent defensive center fielder, and an overall crap player because he can’t hit to save his life. He’d be a fine pinch runner/defensive replacement, but Dusty would use him way more than that. Drew Stubbs needs to be the center fielder of both the future and the present for this team. No more Taverases and Corey Pattersons, anywhere, ever. Unfortunately, Taveras is owed $4 million for 2010 for some reason, so if he’s healthy, he’ll likely be given every opportunity to win a spot on the team. So come to think of it, just fire Dusty already.

3. Find a platoon partner for Chris Dickerson. The Reds have two reasonable options for left field: Dickerson and Laynce Nix. Nix has shown some nice power and both have played good D, but Dickerson is the better player, and both are lefties who can’t hit lefties. It would be ideal if the Reds could move Nix for a similar bit player who bats right-handed. Dickerson is a career .289/.388/.460 hitter against righties. If they were able to pair someone like the Tigers’ Ryan Raburn (.242/.355/.516 vs. LHP this season) with that, they could have the equivalent of something like a $10-12 million player for the cost of essentially two minimum salaries. (I have no particular reason to believe that Raburn would be available, but guys like him certainly will be–many are likely hidden away in AAA because of their inability to hit righty pitching.)

What They Need to HAVE Happen
1. Jay Bruce needs to get good fast. This was a guy that was projected as something like a .300/.350/.550, 40-HR hitter with good D in the outfield corners, and quickly. The defense has been there in ’09, but the offense has been offensive, with 18 homers but a .207 batting average and a .287 OBP through Saturday. On one hand, there are all kinds of reasons to expect him to bounce back; he’s very young, he’s walking more and striking out less than in 2008, and he’s been victimized by an almost unbelievably low .202 BABIP, so there’s no question that a lot of it is bad luck. On the other hand, though, his line drive and ground ball rates have plummeted while his fly ball rate has shot through the roof (35.2% in 2008, 49.6% in 2009), which isn’t conducive to getting a lot of hits. He’s very likely to be a productive player in 2010 regardless, but getting back to hitting the top half of the ball every now and then would probably help a lot.

2. Scott Rolen needs to stay healthy. It’s hard to believe Rolen will be just 35 years old in 2010; in some ways, he’s seemed old since pretty much the day he arrived with the Phillies 13 years ago. From 2004-2008 he played 142, 56, 142, 112 and 115 games, and if he plays every remaining game in 2009 he’ll still end up in only 132 for the year. But when he’s on the field, he’s still a star. He plays excellent defense — if not as excellent as five or six years ago when he was the best-fielding 3B anyone who missed Mike Schmidt’s prime had ever seen — and is currently hitting .312/.368/.466. Much of that was in the tougher American League, and there aren’t a lot of markers to suggest that he’s benefiting from a lot of luck, so .300/.370/.480 or so would be a reasonable expectation from a healthy Rolen in 2010. This is a team, as I’ve said, whose status as a contender kind of on the brink as it is, so they badly need every game they can possibly squeeze out of Rolen.

3. Either Johnny Cueto or Homer Bailey needs to fulfill his potential. A year or two ago, they were two of the better pitching prospects in the game, and while Cueto has been much better than Bailey in the majors, neither one has come close to doing what people thought he could do. One of those two guys needs to take the leap and form a strong 1-2 with Harang. The good news is that in his last two starts, Bailey is 2-0 with 11 hits, 5 walks, 11 strikeouts and an 0.60 ERA in 15 innings; the bad newses are that (a) Cueto has seemed to get worse every month he’s been in the majors, and (b) those performances dropped Bailey’s ERA all the way from 7.53 to 6.04.

The Reds are going to have a tough time avoiding the 90-loss mark this year, and they’re not going to emerge from Spring Training ’10 as anything like favorites. But if all these things happen and they get a couple more little breaks here and there, I can see them winning something between 85 and 90. And is it really that hard to see 87 wins or so being enough to win the Central?

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Hanley being Hanley

August 28, 2009

I know you’ve probably all seen this, but Rob Neyer thinks Albert Pujols might not be the MVP.

And I’m going to go one further: right now, right this very second, Pujols is not the MVP. Hanley Ramirez is.

It was barely two weeks ago when I said this: “it’s impossible to make an argument against Albert.” And it was. But since I wrote those words, late on the evening of August 11, here’s what’s happened:

Pujols: .261/.404/.522
Hanley: .481/.542/.731
and just for fun, Utley: .296/.500/.729

Well, that changes things, doesn’t it? I don’t think Albert’s getting that triple crown after all (sorry, lar).

As I write this, Fangraphs has the three top NL WARs as 6.9 for Ramirez, 6.8 for Utley, and 6.4 for Pujols. That half-win difference isn’t big, but it isn’t too close to call, either. Say you don’t think they’ve got defense right at all, and you want to go with plus-minus instead of UZR? That bumps them about four runs closer together. Narrows the gap a lot, but doesn’t close it. Hanley still wins.

Look, Pujols is going to win the MVP. No question about it. And that’s certainly not any kind of a tragedy; he’s still having an incredible season. But imagine you’re at the beginning of the 2009 season and building a brand-new team. You can get an average defensive shortstop (and Hanley is that, despite his bad reputation) who you know is going to hit .365/.428/.575, or you can get an average defensive first baseman (and Pujols has been that in ’09, despite his good reputation) who you know is going to hit .313/.441/.666. Knowing what you do about what most shortstops are like and what most first basemen are like, don’t you grab the SS and hope to pick up a 1B who can hit a little later on? I know I do. And that (well, the stats, but that in a nutshell), to me, is why Hanley Ramirez is the NL MVP right now.

Happy Birthday…

August 27, 2009

Jim Thome!

I can’t think of a hitter in the last 10 or so years that has been more fun for me to watch than Thome, #1 on my now-two-man list of tolerable White Sox. He turns 39 today, and is in his nineteenth season in the major leagues. (Incidentally, his 20th seems at least somewhat likely to come with his fourth different ballclub. Maybe the Mariners?)

Three quick things about Thome:

(1) If he wants to, he’s now almost a lock to top 600 homers. He’s not the hitter he once was, with a 124 OPS+ in 2008-09 after a 154 OPS+ from 1995-2007, and he has to rest or miss games to injury a lot more than he used to, but there has got to be at least one AL team (like, say, the Mariners) who can use 120 games of a .250/.370/.500 DH. He’ll come close to 30 homers again this year, but even if he doesn’t hit another one this year and falls off precipitously after that, all he needs is 18 homers a year for two more years. If he’s healthy and wants to play, it’s almost impossible to see him not managing that. Maybe once he’s the eighth to hit #600 (only six right now, but A-Rod will almost certainly get there first), people will start noticing him a little.

(2) He’s got close to the most extreme splits of any Hall of Fame hitter ever. He’s hit a Bondsian .294/.430/.616 (1.046 OPS) vs. RHP, and a Todd Zeilean .239/.342/.423 vs. LHP. In fact, there’s little doubt that, just as is the case with Ryan Howard (more on that in the coming weeks, probably), for most of his career it would’ve made sense to platoon him, if not for the fact that his performance against righties (who are, after all, something like 70% of MLB pitchers) is so great that his overall line gives him a reputation that prohibits it.

Thome’s OPS against lefties is just 60% of his overall OPS. That’s kind of amazing (though since I brought him up, Howard’s is 58%). Obviously most lefties have a hard time hitting lefties, but consider some of the other all-time elite lefty hitters of the retrosheet era: McCovey, 75%; Reggie, 83%; Helton, 75%; Mathews, 70%; Bonds, 87%; Yastrzemski, 65%; Griffey, 85%; Mauer (couldn’t resist), 72%. Yaz was actually pretty dreadful against lefties, too, but even he had less extreme splits than Thome, and none of these other guys is anywhere close. Which kind of draws attention to how incredibly awesome he’s been in those other 70% of his PAs.

(3) He’s really quite funny in fictional, all-caps chatroom form.

Better Luck Next Year: Seattle Mariners

August 26, 2009

Today begins a series that will be in an unspecified number of parts over an indeterminate number of weeks in which I look at a team that is out of the 2009 playoff picture, but that might have designs on 2010.

I’ve been planning for a couple days now to do this starting with the Mariners, a team I already know pretty well, but then yesterday Rob Neyer had to come in and rain all over my parade, concluding that the Ms’ “long-term prognosis doesn’t look so bad. But the growing pains might be a bit ugly. Perhaps the only bright note at the moment is that there’s nowhere to go but up.”

First of all, what? Did he write that last year (when the Mariners were 61-101) and forget to post it until this year? Because right now the Mariners are better than a .500 team, and when you’re a .500 team there’s about as far to go down as there is up. I know what he meant, though: most of the article was about hitting, and the Mariners’ offense has been truly dreadful. And it’s true that you have to score runs to win baseball games.

But here’s the thing: you don’t have to score a lot of runs as long as you give up even fewer runs. And that’s been the Mariners’ mantra this year, due mostly to the most vastly improved defense in the entire history of sports that use the term “defense.” I think they’re in a pretty good position to keep doing it next year, too…with a few tweaks here and there.

Here are the Mariners’ best position players currently under contract for 2010, with their current 2009 WAR in parentheses:
C: Johnson(0.5)/Johjima (0.3)
1B: Brad Nelson? (rookie)
2B: Jose Lopez (1.7)
3B: Jack Hannahan (1.1)/Bill Hall (0.2)
SS: Jack Wilson (1.9)
LF: Michael Saunders (rookie)
CF: Franklin Gutierrez (4.2)
RF: Ichiro! (4.2)
DH: Mike Carp (rookie)

Pitchers, with 2009 FIPs:
Felix Hernandez (3.11)
Carlos Silva? (5.91)
Ryan Rowland-Smith? (5.27)
Brandon Morrow (5.70)
Jason Vargas? (5.26)
Bullpen: Aardsma (3.14), Lowe (3.56), White (3.86)

It looks bad, but it’s not, at least for a starting point. Ichiro seems to go from overrated to underrated and back again just about every other year, and currently he’s underrated again, and having what might be his finest offensive season while still playing great D. Gutierrez has continued to be the best defensive outfielder in the game while blossoming into an average-hitting outfielder, which makes him on balance one of the better players in the league. King Felix will be my recurring pre-season pick for Cy Young every year from 2010 until further notice (perhaps 2019 or so). The bullpen is good.

What they need to MAKE happen:
1. Re-sign Russ Branyan. He won’t be as cheap as he was this year ($1.4 million), but it shouldn’t be all that tough to convince him to stay, either. The Mariners will have ended up giving him something like 100 more PA in a season than any of his seven other teams ever have, and Safeco Field–a pitcher’s park in general but a friendly place for lefty home run hitters–is a great place for him. Brad Nelson is 26 and has put up just an .811 OPS in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League; that’s not going to do it for this team. Branyan provides badly needed power, can get on base, and actually holds his own at first. Unless somebody wants to go crazy and give him a ridiculous contract based on one surprising performance, he’s a no-brainer for them.

2. Sign one pretty good starting pitcher. Erik Bedard and the Mariners were a match made in that place that also brought you Ike and Tina Turner. He’s gone. That starting rotation after Felix looks awful, but remember, they’re a better-than-.500 team with a rotation that’s no better than that right now, plus a fluky performance by Jarrod Washburn. One good pitcher would make a big difference. No telling who will really be available at this point (Rich Harden? John Lackey? Bring back Joel Pineiro? Randy Wolf? The reanimated Ben Sheets?), but they’ll be out there.

3. Re-sign Adrian Beltre. Among the many brilliant things he’s done, rookie GM Jack Zduriencik actually did a fantastic job making arrangements in the event of a Beltre departure in free agency. Bill Hall hits lefties well, Jack Hannahan hits righties…well enough to spell Hall when he’s flailing, and they both play very good defense while costing relatively little. But put them together, and they’re no better than an average player. As Dave Cameron wrote on USS Mariner yesterday (bad day for me to try to talk M’s, come to think of it), they badly need another core player, and as awesome as the Gutierrez trade was for them, they had to give up real major-league value for that–value that they can’t afford to part with this year. A healthy Beltre is that kind of player. He might be a hard sign–he’s a Boras client, and a lot of teams understand how huge his defense is now–but then again he’s coming off a horrible, injury-plagued season, and maybe he likes Seattle. Who knows? If not that, they need another core player. But who? They should have a ton of money–pretty much everyone save Ichiro is pretty cheap right now–but there just aren’t that many free-agents-to-be out there who would fit, and they don’t have the kind of prospects that would being in a superstar.

What they need to HAVE happen:
1. Those few core players they do have–Ichiro, Felix, Gutierrez, and hopefully Beltre or a reasonable facsimile–need to stay healthy. You always hear that, but this is an especially thin team at the top, making it especially true.

2. Brandon Morrow needs to make a big comeback. No, he’ll never be the guy who was drafted five picks later, but he’s still got basically unhittable stuff. A little control would go along way.

3. One of those rookies, Saunders or Carp, needs to show something. I’m sure Zduriencik can (and will) replace one of those guys, but not both, and there’s really nothing else on the way up.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I like the team and really want this to be true, but seeing how they’re doing this year, I think with a few tweaks and a little luck, this team could win 90-93 games in 2010 and make a really good run at the division.

Figuring Out the AL Central, or: I Have Hope Again

August 25, 2009

About a week ago, everybody was writing off the 2009 Twins. I certainly did. Most Twins bloggers did. The folks on the wrong side of the MVP debate were arguing that Joe Mauer couldn’t win it because he was playing for a team that wasn’t going to make the playoffs, and the argument against them wasn’t that the Twins were a contender after all (they weren’t), but that the whole idea that the MVP and the playoffs were somehow linked was absurd (it is). And yeah, the 2006 team overcame a bigger deficit in a short amount of time, but as Aaron Gleeman reminded everybody, that team was good; this one is not. The Twins had the easiest schedule of any contender post-All-Star Break, and they came out looking terrible.

Well, there’s another difference from 2006, too: Detroit and Chicago were good back then, too, and now they’re fundamentally no better than the Twins are. Coming into play yesterday, all three of those teams had Pythagorean records of within a game of each other (right around 63-61). And the actual standings, the Twins having won six of their last seven games while the other two have scuffled a bit, now look like this:
Tigers 66 58 —
Wh.Sox 63 62 3.5
Twins 62 63 4.5

The Tigers are still in control, but it’s far from decided. Now take a look at the teams’ remaining games against opponents that aren’t each other:
Det (24): LAA-2, TB-6, CLE-6, KC-6, TOR-4
Chi (25): BOS-7, NYY-3, OAK-2, LAA-3, SEA-3, KC-3, CLE-3, CHC-1
Min (23): BAL-2, TEX-3, CLE-6, TOR-3, OAK-3, KC-6

The Tigers have 8 games against very good teams, the Twins just 3. The White Sox have 13, and then 4 more against the M’s and Cubs, against whom they’re about equally matched. The Twins’ five opponents other than Texas (who they handled pretty well on the road last week) are the five teams with the most losses in the American League. I think it’s fair to expect the Twins to pick up 1 game on the Tigers and 2 on the White Sox based on that schedule, and if they don’t, either they’re tanking or one of those two teams is playing out of its head. That would leave the Tigers 3.5 up on the Twins and 5.5 up on the White Sox. Then you’ve got this:

Det vs. Min: 7 games
Det vs. Chi: 6 games
Min vs. Chi: 6 games

It’s easy to say it’ll all come down to that, but realistically, it’ll all come down to Detroit. If the Tigers can win 3 of those games against the Twins and 3 of those games against the White Sox, it’s hard to see them falling apart so badly in their other games that they give up the lead. But if the Tigers drop 4 or 5 games against either or both, it should be a pretty good fight.

More interestingly, all six of those games between the Tigers and White Sox come in Detroit’s last 10 games, and the other four of the last ten are all against the Twins. As I said, the Tigers are still in control: the various playoff odds sites seem generally to have the Tigers at about 50-55% and the Twins and Sox at 20-25% each, and that seems about right (though I’d put the Twins closer to 25% and Sox closer to 20% based on the remaining schedules). What that means, though, is that there’s almost a 50% chance that the Tigers won’t win the Central. Which, if nothing else, should once again make for some very exciting baseball in those last ten games in the least exciting division in baseball.

How is this possible?

August 24, 2009

I mean, how is THIS possible?

I mean, from a job performance standpoint, I’d be one of Minaya’s strongest defenders. He fleeced the Twins in the Santana deal. He’s spent a ton of money without wasting a ton of money. Sure, he gave $13 million a year to a highly overrated and declining 70-innings-a-year pitcher, but everybody makes mistakes, and in New York that’s hardly the kind of thing that ruins seasons. Their season was ruined by injuries, not any failure of Minaya’s.

At the same time, though, is he irreplaceable? Consider for a moment how many brilliant baseball people would love to take the Mets’ GM job tomorrow. If you put all of those people in a line, would Minaya stand out? And if you put all those people in a line and knew that one of them had waited way too long to fire a good friend who totally messed up and then tried to blame it all a reporter who was just doing his job, wouldn’t you eliminate that one from consideration?

I don’t know. I just don’t get it. I mean, Minaya is under contract for at least three more years, but even to the cash-strapped Wilpons, Minaya’s salary isn’t the kind of thing that will be missed (he’s making about 1/3 of what they’re paying J.J. Putz. I gotta think Kim Ng and Paul DePodesta are wondering what a body has to do to lose a job around there about now…

Frivolous Friday

August 21, 2009

Bit of a cop-out today. Again. But a fun one this time, I think.

First things first, though: it’s 2009, and ya gots ta do what ya gots ta do.

Ergo, you can now become a fan of the blog on Facebook or follow the blog (-slash-me) on Twitter. I hope you’ll do both. Not much going on in either place yet, but stuff will happen eventually.

Also, this blog now has an e-mail: BillDailySomething (at) gmail dot com. So if you’ve got something to say that you don’t want to share with (a tiny, tiny portion of) the world, send it there. Sometime soon I’ll have a box where you can access all that stuff. In the meantime, join the FB page and follow me on Twitter anyway.

Second: so I’ve been a fan of The Onion for something like thirteen years now. Just brilliant, funny stuff. And they were all over the baseball today.

First: I actually think their written stuff has declined a bit in the last few years, but this little number is pretty perfect. That’s baseball.

And where they’ve fallen behind in the written content, they’ve made up for with their marvelous fake-tv stuff. At least as amusing as the bit itself is how perfectly they’ve mimicked the ludicrous excess of Sportscenter:

Baseball Superstar Accused of Performance-Enhancing Genie Use

A Few Observations on Andruw

August 20, 2009

When will this guy stop talking about the Rangers? It’s all Rangers all the time at this blog allasudden!

I don’t have a ton to say today, but I’ve been thinking about Andruw Jones.

First, the Dave Cameron article
Away back on May 1, I linked to an article that Cameron, one of my favorite baseball writers, wrote on April 28 called Welcome Back, Andruw (and then responded to criticism over that, Cameron did, with this piece on the usefulness of small sample sizes). My feelings on it were only insinuated in this space, but you could pretty much tell (or tell for sure if you read my comments below the initial article) that I was really skeptical about basing anything on 35 plate appearances by anybody, no matter how great those 35 were.

Since April 28? Jones has gone on being a part-time player, batting .204/.312/.463 in 253 PA to drive his season batting average from .370 to .222, his OBP from .514 to .337. He’s still got tons of HR power (a rate of 39 per 162 starts). but not a lot else.

I doubt Dave will say it–after all, Jones is better than he was in 2008 (it would be hard to be worse), and, for the year as a whole, better than 2007–but he got one wrong for once. Not just with Andruw–a guy with a .300ish OBP (as he’s been since the 28th) who is mostly a DH and LF just isn’t a particularly useful player–but with his ruminations on small sample sizes. Line drive rates and contact rates and all that fun FanGraphs stuff are approximately as susceptible to sample size fluctuations as batting average and homers. As I pointed out in the comments to Dave’s initial article, Andruw Jones had almost the exact same stretch in 2007 as he did to start 2009–but in July, not April, so nobody even noticed. Small samples are interesting, not useful. A great month should adjust our expectations for what we expect a guy’s final line to look like (as I tried to do a few times very early on), but we should wait a bit more than 35 PA before we start adjusting our expectations for the rest of the season.

Second, on defense
This is just a passing thought, because I’ve watched Andruw just twice this year and have no idea what I’m talking about. But: he’s just 32 years old. I know he’s gained some weight, but has he really fallen so far in two years that he’s gone from a (deserving) Gold Glover in 2007 to a DH in 2009?

I just can’t believe that. First, even in 2008 when he looked completely lost and useless with the Dodgers, UZR had him as approximately an average center fielder. Second, in his limited time this year (5 games in RF and 12 in LF), his UZR has been great (doesn’t mean much, but it doesn’t mean nothing, either). Third, he’s tried five steals in what was, let’s face it, not very many times on first base, and he’s only been caught once. I have to believe that he’d at least hold his own if given a chance in left, and, I mean, he’s Andruw Jones. How do you not even try him in center, even once?

Now, the Rangers’ D has been great (and is probably the biggest part of their success). Consider: UZR thinks Michael Young is as bad at 3B as he used to be at SS, but no one else on the team has been more than 1 run below average at any position. With Nelson Cruz and Elvis Andrus, they’ve got two of the best at their positions in the game, and even Josh Hamilton (who looked horrible last year) has put up a good number. But anyway, Hamilton has been hurt, and guys need rest now and then. How has Andruw gotten a total of 17 innings in the OF? Has he really lost that much at 32?

Third, a weird observation about his splits
Putting those crazy first 35 PA back into play, so for the whole season: .224/.302/.552 vs.R, .220/.380/.420 vs.L. 13 of his 17 HR have come against righties, but 20 of his 30 walks have come against lefties.

That’s two totally different players. You might think a lot of guys are two different players based on their splits, but all that usually means is that one is a good player and one is a bad player. Andruw is two totally different players–of roughly equal value, but just about as different as they can be. Against righties, he’s Dave Kingman; against lefties, Max Bishop.

I’m sure that’s not that unusual, especially with less than a full season’s worth of PA. But I thought it was kind of funny.

The Worst Intentional Walk I’ve Ever Seen

August 19, 2009

I watched the Twins game against the Rangers last night. One of those weird games that for a while, nobody seemed to want to win…least of all Rangers manager Ron Washington.

Now, I don’t see a lot of the Rangers, but I’ve always liked Ron Washington. Maybe because he’s a former Twin, maybe because he just carries himself like the kind of guy who should be a very good manager (the way I think most non-Twins fans probably see Gardy). But this was…interesting.

Top of the 6th inning. Four runs already in for the Twins, now tied at 5. Nick Punto on first, Delmon Young on third, two outs. Right-handed reliever Jason Jennings is the new pitcher. Before even throwing a pitch, he picks Punto off, but the defense bungles it — Omar Vizquel throwing to third behind Delmon for no particular reason, and unsuccessfully — so now there are runners on second and third with two outs. Leadoff hitter and LHB Denard Span at the plate. After Span comes RHB Orlando Cabrera. Washington has Span intentionally walked to get to Cabrera with the bases loaded and two down.

Some numbers for you to consider:
Denard Span vs. RHP, season: .281/.367/.381
Orlando Cabrera vs. RHP, season: .294/.318/.394

Now, granted, Jennings himself has huge platoon splits, and would much rather face a righty than a lefty. But Span is an atypical lefty. He’s never had big platoon splits in the majors or minors, he has almost literally no power, and this year, he actually has severe reverse splits (with an .842 OPS against lefties compared to the .748 above). As a right-handed pitcher, the only thing you’re worried about against Span that you’re not especially concerned about with Cabrera is the possibility of the walk–the very thing you’re handing him for free!

And remember, there are two outs, so no double play. The only advantages here are the chance for the 3B or SS to get a closer force out (how often do you think that really makes the difference?) and whatever small advantages you think you get from facing Cabrera rather than Span and from Jennings facing a RHB rather than a LHB. And for that you’re loading the bases — in a tie game in just the 6th inning, remember — and risking a huge inning, a run scoring on a HBP or unintentional walk, etc.

Ohhhhhhhhh, and I have just one more set of slash stats for you. Consider the guy who comes up after Cabrera:

Joe Mauer, vs. all pitchers, 2009: Seventy million/eleventy billion/Zorbon-X6Qsquared.

That’s right. Rather than face slap-hitting, reverse-splitted Denard Span with two outs (a situation in which the most likely negative outcome was a walk anyway), Ron Washington thought it would be a good idea to intentionally load the bases to face what in that situation was a very similar hitter, just one hitter in front of the very best hitter on the planet. Say O-Cab scratches out an infield single? You’re looking at a one-run deficit with the bases still juiced and Babe Freaking Ruth coming up. And for what purpose again? Oh yeah…none in particular. I’d much rather have two chances to get the out pre-Mauer than one.

Pretty definitely the worst IBB decision I’ve ever seen. One of the worst managerial moves I’ve ever seen, period.

Ah yes, and it “worked.” Cabrera hit the ball hard, but Byrd tracked it down in center, and Mauer was left on the on-deck circle (and naturally homered to crazy-deep center to lead off the 7th, his second of the game). No justice, I tell you.

But then, okay, here’s a little bit of justice for you: if Jennings pitches to and retires Span to end the inning, and then O-Cab leads off the 7th with the out to center, there are three outs in that inning, rather than two, at the point when Delmon Young comes up and hits the 2-run homer that real-life Delmon hit to give the Twins the lead (and eventually the win). Not nearly as immediately gratifying as my O-Cab-single-plus-Mauer-grand-slam scenario would have been, but a little bit of karmic retribution nonetheless.

Intentional walks are dumb. Intentional walks that load the bases one seeing-eye single in front of the best hitter in the game are unforgivably dumb.

Mid-day Update: Ask and You Shall Receive

August 18, 2009

Often. If you ask the right guys, I guess.

I posed the question of this morning’s something to the esteemed David Pinto in a comment at his blog, and this afternoon he took the time to answer it. His approach to the question is more simple sabermetrically than my own attempt (he just took their career averages, no messing with BABIP and stuff) and infinitely more complicated mathematically (he actually understands math)…and is, I’m sure, much, much better overall. Here’s where he comes out:

Summing all the individual probabilities results in an overall probablility of .3259 for Albert finishing ahead of Ramirez in the batting race. That doesn’t mean he wins the batting title. Pablo Sandoval is still in the mix, and Bruan and Helton are more than capable of putting on a push of their own. One in three aren’t bad odds, however.

One in three! I mean, figure that if Pujols passes Hanley, there’s about a 50/50 chance that Pablo or Braun or Helton end up ahead of Pujols: .163. Then, more realistically than I was this morning, say there’s a 40% chance that he ends up ahead in both HR and RBI. .065. The number looks awfully tiny, but that would mean (if my guesses were at all accurate, which they’re not, but I figure they’re good enough to give us an idea) there’s about a 6-7% chance that Albert Pujols will be the first Triple Crown winner in 43 seasons (73 in the NL).

Pretty cool, huh? I mean, I’ll confess, I didn’t want to guess at the odds this morning because I didn’t want to embarrass myself (like I’m about to), but I was thinking something like 1 in 200, 1 in 500, etc. Eh. But 1 in 14 or so? That’s something I can get kind of pumped up about.