Friday, April 23, 2010

Sea Dogs stacked with Prospects

Here's a good article about all the prospects on the 2010 Sea Dogs, with a nice comparison to the 2005 team.

We'll see. I'm not saying that this isn't a stacked team, but having "10 of the top 20 prospects in the organization, including seven of the top ten" is all relative. I think that 2005 pool was really really good.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Losing Ugly

My first Sea Dogs game of the season last night, and it got ugly quick. The second batter of the game hit a two-run home run, and the Binghamton Mets never trailed after that. Starter Ryne Miller had nothing, giving up five hits and four walks in three innings, though he did manage to strike out five. He also managed to walk the bases loaded and then clear them with a grand slam courtesy of Jose Coronado. The bullpen didn't fare any better, and manager Arnie Beyler decided that second baseman Nate Spears would be a good option in the ninth. He wasn't, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis unloaded one of the longest home runs you'll ever see to cap off the scoring.

Nieuwenhuis, with five hits, nearly matched the Sea Dogs total of six. Ryan Kalish had two hits to lead the Portland "attack." I was excited to see Lars Anderson hit, because early indications are that he's bounced back from his horrible season last year. But he looked just the same to me, with a walk worked in between two groundouts and a strike out. Highly-touted Cuban shortstop Jose Iglesias was a disappointment, hacking his way to three strikeouts in four at bats.

At least the weather was nice.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

2010 Sea Dogs Loaded with Prospects

The new season is upon us, and the Portland Sea Dogs are once again stocked with many of Boston's top minor leaguers. Top prospects returning for another go-round, at least to start the year, are first baseman Lars Anderson and outfielder Ryan Kalish. Joining them are highly-touted pitcher Casey Kelly and Cuban import shortstop Jose Iglesias. This exciting core will be complemented by lesser prospects like Yamaico Navarro (moving to third base to accomodate Iglesias), and starting pitchers Steven Fife and Felix Doubront, among others.

The beginning of the season should be a fun time to watch the Sea Dogs. If guys like Anderson, Kalish or Doubront start off strong, they will probably be moved up to AAA by mid-season, but the new arrivals will likely be in town all season.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Another Year, Another Monkee

It's that time of year again - Monkee Time! In which we put some numbers into a spreadsheet and have it spew out a fairly inaccurate projection for the upcoming season. But hey -

C Victor Martinez (age 31)
237 PA: 3364053/507, 8 HR, 43 Runs Created 2009 Red Sox
540 PA: 298/371/464, 16 HR, 82 Runs Created 2010 Monkee

C Jason Varitek (age 38)
425 PA: 209/313/390, 14 HR, 47 Runs Created 2009
464 PA: 223/325/386, 14 HR, 52 Runs Created 2010
200 PA: 223/325/386, 6 HR, 22 Runs Created 2010 Adjusted

Jason Varitek's bat disappeared once again in 2009, especially after the All Star break, but the Red Sox fixed that problem by trading for Martinez. Victor can really hit, and the Sox will definitely benefit by having him in the lineup instead of Varitek. Martinez had an awful, injury-plagued season in 2008, which is bringing the projection down. I think he'll do better than this.

1B Kevin Youkilis (31)
588 PA: 305/413/548, 27 HR, 117 RC 2009
607 PA: 304/402/535, 25 HR, 114 RC Monkee

Youkilis has been pretty consistent over the last couple of years, and there's no reason to think that sill stop. Given his history prior to 2008, I'm still dubious about his long-term prospects as a power hitter, so I think a mid-20's homer total is probably reasonable.

2B Dustin Pedroia (26)
714 PA: 296/370/447, 15 HR, 105 RC 2009
690 PA: 310/372/463, 14 HR, 108 RC Monkee

Pedroia is becoming a steady producer at the top of the order. His batting average dipped a bit in 2009, but I expect a bounceback in 2010. I'm always bullish on Pedroia, but he's getting to that age where he should have two or three really great seasons in him. So let's say that I think the Monkee projection is a little light.

3B Adrian Beltre (31)
556 PA: 268/316/432, 17 HR, 68 RC Monkee

3B Mike Lowell (36)
484 PA: 290/337/474, 17 HR, 63 RC 2009
514 PA: 294/348/477, 18 HR, 73 RC Monkee

As with Varitek, the Sox went out and replaced a member of the starting lineup while he is still on the roster. In this case it's Lowell, who can still hit but whose limited mobility has made him a liability in the field. Beltre gives a little bit back with the bat, particularly in terms of OBP, but his fielding is excellent and should make up for any offensive shortfall. That said, many people believe that Beltre will thrive with Fenway's short porch, and exceed the power numbers projected here.

SS Marco Scutaro (34)
622 PA: 235/294/358, 12 HR, 68 RC (Green, Lugo, Gonzalez, Lowrie) 2009
588 PA: 274/357/384, 9 HR, 75 RC Marco Scutaro Monkee

A good baseball axiom would be that a lot of Nick Green is a bad thing. Last year, the Red Sox saw a lot of Nick Green, with the result that the Boston shortstops combined for an abysmal, sub-.300 OBP. Scutaro is not a great offensive player by any stretch of the imagination, and I think the OBP number here is a little high. But Scutaro is not in the business of giving away outs, so he'll definitely be an upgrade here. His glove work might not be up to the standards of Alex Gonzalez, but he's steady and clearly superior to Green on defense.

LF Jacoby Ellsbury (26)
691 PA: 301/352/415, 8 HR, 99 RC 2009
650 PA*: 296/346/412, 9 HR, 91 RC 2009 Monkee

Ellsbury moved his game forward a bit last year, bringing his OBP up to an acceptable figure for a leadoff man. His modest power numbers were augmented by a ton of speed (70 steals). He's a guy who seems to have the ability to use his speed to be an effective offensive player, and I expect more of the same this year.

CF Mike Cameron (37)
638 PA: 267/384/537, 36 HR, 117 RC (LF Jason Bay) 2009
593 PA: 246/336/455, 24 HR, 83 RC Monkee

Here he is, the guy who has absolutely ruined the Red Sox offense for the 2010 season. Jason Bay was the only "Big Bopper" in the Boston lineup last year (irrespective of 20+ HR guys like Martinez and Youkilis and Lowell and Drew and Ortiz), and there is no way Cameron can replace that offense. Oh, sure, he's a decent bet to hit 20+ homers himself, and he gives you a decent OBP for a low BA/high strikeout guy, but still. The offense sucks because of this guy. Good thing he's so incredibly much better than Bay with the glove. Holistic sabermetric valuation has Cameron just as productive a player as Bay.

RF JD Drew (34)
539 PA: 279/391/522, 24 HR, 96 RC 2009
514 PA: 277/392/499, 20 HR, 87 RC Monkee

Drew's numbers have been remarkably similar the last couple of years, and the Monkee expects more of the same. The calculation goes back three years, so JD's 11-homer 2007 season dampens the power projection. I think he'll slug over .500, but that's picking nits at this point.

DH David Ortiz (33)
627 PA: 238/332/462, 28 HR, 86 RC 2009
590 PA: 267/369/511, 28 HR, 98 RC Monkee

Ortiz' numbers have shown a precipitous decline over the last couple of years. Big Papi struggled mightily over the first two months, especially in terms of power production. Given this dropoff, the Monkee seems a little optimistic showing this kind of bounceback. However, these numbers aren't far off from what Ortiz produced from June 1 on last year (264/356/548), so they should be attainable. I hope.

The Red Sox were third in the American League last year with 872 runs scored (5.38 per game). Because there was a lot of talk about the Sox improving their "run prevention" with the additions of Beltre, Cameron and Scutaro (along with starting pitcher John Lackey), there has been a lot of jabber about how this is going to be a poor offense. I just don't see it. Sure, the Red Sox have given up runs in the Bay/Cameron swap, but they've also added runs at catcher and shortstop, and hopefully will get a bit more production from the DH position.

The Red Sox lineup contains three guys who are among the elite hitters at their position (Martinez, Youkilis and Pedroia), and six other guys who are above average. That's a very good offense, one that will score a lot of runs. I look for the Sox to again be among the top three scoring teams in the AL. Combine that with pitching and defense that should significantly cut back on the runs allowed, and you once again have a powerful team.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Hall of Fame pReview Part 7 - The Final Chapter

It's been two months since I started this project, and a month since the Hall of Fame vote made the "preview" aspect of this moot, but we've finally reached our last three candidates: the returning pitchers! There are three players in this group, all of whom have been riding the fence for some time now.

Bert Blyleven (1970-1992 with Minnesota, Cleveland and others): 287-250, .534 W/L%, 3.31 ERA, 118 ERA+, 1.20 WHIP.

Here he is, the hottest of the hot-button candidates in the battle between "traditional" voters and the newfangled "Sabermetric" voters. When studied objectively with the slightest bit of rigor, Blyleven's numbers reveal that he was a great pitcher for a very long time. He was among the league leaders in ERA for the first time when he was 20, and he was for the final time when he was 38. And he was among the league leaders in ERA 8 times in between. He was very durable and regularly finished among the league leaders in innings pitched (11 top 10 finishes), complete games (12) and shutouts (10). He also regularly hit the leaderboard in WHIP (11 times), strikeouts (15) and K/BB ratio (16!). He is 50th all time in K/BB ratio, 27th in wins with 287, 9th in shotouts (60) and 5th all time in strikeouts with 3,701. He played on two World Champions and had a 2.45 career postseason ERA. His 10 most similar career comps include 8 Hall of Famers (Sutton, Perry, Jenkins, Wynn, Roberts, Seaver, Niekro and Carlton) and two close-but-no-cigar guys (Tommy John and Jim Kaat).

The case against Blyleven revolves around the fact that he didn't get to 300 wins, and that his win/loss percentage is rather pedestrian. Both are the result of playing for some not-very-good teams, particularly the Twins early in his career. Another knock against Blyleven is that he gave up a lot of homers over two seasons while playing for the Twins late in his career - though he provided 540 innings of 4.00 ERA pitching in the process. But I think the biggest knock against Blyleven is that he doesn't "feel" like a Hall of Famer - he wasn't considered one of the best of his era, as evidenced by his modest support in Cy Young voting. Again, this can largely be traced to his playing for poor teams and the overemphasis placed by voters on win totals.

Ultimately for me, the argument comes down to actual performance rather than the buzz that might have surrounded a player during his career. I think Blyleven's performance makes him worthy of the Hall (and he's practically a shoe-in after falling just five votes short this year.) Then there is the anti-Blyleven:

Jack Morris (1977-1994, primarily with Detroit). 254-186, .577 W/L%, 3.90 ERA, 105 ERA+, 1.30 WHIP. Morris was a good pitcher. He had a high won/loss percentage. He won more games than any other AL pitcher during the 1980s. He was Dominant! Though, curiously, Morris has the exact same number of Cy Young awards as Bert Blyleven (0). As Blyleven's career record was a product of his teams, so was Morris, who was on some terrific Tigers teams during the 80's and finished up as a mercenary on some champion Twins and Blue Jays teams in the 90's. And of course he outdueled John Smoltz with a 10-inning shutout to lead the Twins to the 1991 World Series title. He was a postseason God.

But he was also a postseason chump. He got hammered in the 1992 postseason - 0-3 with a 7.00+ ERA, but that didn't stop him from earning a ring with the Blue Jays. His ERA is much higher than any other Hall of Fame pitcher, and his 105 ERA+ is barely above average. It's good, but certainly not immortal. What Morris did well was pitch a lot of innings, regularly appearing among the league leaders in starts, complete games and innings pitched. And because he was doing so for good teams, he racked up a lot of wins. For sure, Morris also has a lot of Hall of Famers among his career comps (Gibson, Ruffing, Rusie, Grimes, Feller and Bunning), but there is also a close-but-no guy (Tiant) and three players who nobody considers Hall of Famers: Dennis Martinez, Jamie Moyer and Chuck Finley.

For fun, go here and compare Jack Morris to Dennis Martinez. Then come back and try to argue that Morris is more deserving of the Hall. I don't think you can do it.

Lee Smith (1980-1997, primarily with the Cubs and Cardinals): 71-92, 3.03 ERA, 131 ERA+, 1.26 WHIP, 478 Saves. A top reliever whose career spanned from the "Fireman" days of the late 70's/early 80's to the "closer" days of the 1990's. Smith was a four-time league leader in saves and once held the all-time record in the category. (He's now 3rd.) Voters have had a hard time gauging how relievers are to fit in to the Hall of immortals. Some question how important closers really are, while others think they need to be compared with their peers. The problem is that the position of "closer" is so new that the save totals are constantly being pushed forward.

Smith was a fine pitcher who had a much longer life as a back-end guy than most. He finished among the league leaders in saves 14 times, and he made 7 all star games. The problem is that he wasn't always that good in racking up those saves, evidenced by his 3.88 ERA while compiling 46 saves in 1993. Does durability and longevity make a Hall of Famer? I'm not sure. His career comps include a couple of the guys already enshrined (Rollie Fingers and Bruce Sutter), and two guys who will definitely get in (Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera). But they also include John Franco, and as with the Morris/Martinez comparison above, I'll ask the you compare Lee Smith to John Franco. Either they are both in or they are both out, in my opinion, and I don't think John Franco is a Hall of Famer. Therefore, neither should be Lee Smith.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Hall of Fame PReview, Part 6

Wow, time flies! We're already into February. Perhaps we'll get this done before Spring Training.

Today we'll look at four hitters who all deserve serious consideration, one of whom received same:

Andre Dawson – OF (1976-1996, primarily with the Expos and Cubs): 279/323/482-438-1,591, 119 OPS+, 314 SB. 1987 NL MVP and perennial candidate. 8 time All Star and 8 time Gold Glove winner. Many have decried Dawson's election, which was inevitable given Dawson's vote total and the election of Jim Rice to the Hall in 2009. I don't think Dawson is a strong Hall of Famer, but he was a much better player than Rice and others in the Hall. Before his knees started to betray him, Dawson was a true five-tool power who combined terrific power with terrific defense. His NL MVP in 1987 is considered a travesty by Sabermetrically-inclined analysts because it's the direct result of an overemphasis on RBI. While I agree that Jack Clark probably deserved the trophy, Dawson did have a good season, except for his low on-base percentage. And that's the primary knock on Dawson - that his career OBP is far below any other outfielder in the Hall. (This is widely but erroneously reported as Dawson's OBP being lower than any other player in the Hall, but there are catchers and middle infielders with lower OBPs than Dawson). Dawson does OK on the Gray Ink and HOF Monitor measures, and he's got a host of immortals on his top career comps (Billy Williams, Tony Perez, Al Kaline, Ernie Banks and Dave Winfield,)

So, despite the criticism, the voters could have done worse than to elect Andre Dawson to the Hall of Fame. But they could have done better, considering Dawson was not the best player from the 1980's Expos teams who was on the ballot.

Tim Raines – CF (1979-2002, primarily with Montreal): 294/384/425-170-980, 123 OPS+, 808 SB (5th all time). One of the greatest leadoff hitters in the history of Major League Baseball, and in my opinion the most deserving player among the returnees on the ballot, Raine's candidacy faces two roadblocks: 1) he was a direct contemporary of THE greatest leadoff hitter of all time (Rickey Henderson); and 2) Raines' extraordinarily long career resulted in his hitting the ballot a full 20 years after his last great season in 1987.

As noted above, Raines was one of the most prolific base stealers of all time, leading the NL four times in his career. He was also one of the most efficient, and his 85% success rate was one of the best all time. Raines also led the league in runs scored on two occasions and won a batting title. He also routinely was among the league leaders in drawing walks, a valuable skill that was underappreciated during his career. Raines had many good seasons over the last 15 years of his career, but he incurred many injuries and his seasonal totals were dampened by the lack of playing time. Still, his career totals measure up to the standards of others who have been enshrined, and he counts Hall of Famers Lou Brock, Max Carey, Fred Clarke and Enos Slaughter among his top career comparable players.

Mark McGwire – 1B (1986-2001, Oakland and St. Louis): 263/394/588-583-1,414, 162 OPS+. One of the most prolific home run hitters of all time. McGwire broke Roger Maris' single season record by hitting 70 in 1998. The arguments for his enshrinement are pretty solid: Rookie of the Year in 1987, 12-time All Star, former single-season record holder for home runs, four time HR champ, 8th on the all-time HR list, best HR/AB ratio of all time. Oh, and he won a gold glove once. The arguments against him: he was a one dimensional player, and he accomplished what he did due to steroids.

On the first count: well, McGwire did a little more than hit home runs. He drew a lot of walks and had a high OBP. He was OK in the field. And that one thing that he was real good at IS kind of the best thing a hitter can be good at.

On the second count: I haven't addressed it much in this blog, if at all, but I'm not really worked up about steroids. Without question McGwire wouldn't have had the kind of career that he had absent steroids. On the other hand, we're comparing him to his peers, and it's becoming more and more apparent that many (most) McGwire's peers also were taking steroids. It was the steroid era, and the best players under those circumstances should, in my opinion, be allowed into the Hall of Fame.

So far, it's not looking all that good for Big Mac, but he belongs. His career comps, none of whom match up all that well, are Harmon Killebrew and Willie McCovey. #1 and #2 on his list are notorious 'roiders Jose Canseco and Jason Giambi.

Alan Trammell – SS (1977-1996, Tigers): 285/352/415185-1,003, 110 OPS+. Trammell's an interesting case. He was a very good hitter for a shortstop, and he was a fine fielder who won four gold gloves. He was a six-time All Star and earned MVP votes seven times, finishing second in the 1987 vote. He also batted .450 in the 1984 World Series and was named MVP of that series. Working against Trammell is the fact that three contemporary shortstops (Ripken, Yount and Ozzie Smith) are already enshrined. Also working against him is the fact that he missed a lot of time in the latter part of his career, exceeding 130 games only once in his 30's.

I think Trammell is a borderline guy who, had he played in the 1950's, would have been elected by the Veteran's Committee, and I think his candidacy might be going in that direction. I'm not sure how I would vote on him if given the opportunity. But he'd not be the worst guy in the Hall. Career comps include Hall of Famers Pee Wee Reese and Ryne Sandberg, and the list is topped by probable inductee Barry Larkin.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hall of Fame PReview, Part 5

Now that the voting is in and Andre Dawson has been elected, it's time for me to continue my review of this year's candidates. Since we already know how the voting turned out, I'm going to sort of start from the bottom and work my way up.

Today we'll look at four bats who all fall a bit short:

Harold Baines – OF (1980-2001, primarily with the Chicago White Sox): 289/356/365-384-1,628, 120 OPS+. A good hitter, especially in the first part of his career with Chicago, Baines' candidacy is sunk by the fact that he played in about 60% of his games as the Designated Hitter. Made six all star games, including the 1999 classic at age 40, a season in which he posted a 135 OPS+. Won't make the Hall, because his very good hitting comes with zero defensive contribution. A handful of Hall of Famers on his career comps, including Tony Perez, Al Kaline, Billy Williams, Jim Rice and Dawson. All but Kaline are fairly marginal members of the Hall.

Dale Murphy – CF (1976-1993, primarily with Atlanta): 265/346/469-398-1,266, 121 OPS+. The classic example of prematurely labelling a player as a "sure-fire Hall of Famer" mid-career. At age 31, Dale Murphy was a sure-fire Hall of Famer. Two MVP's, seven all star appearances, five gold gloves, and 310 career home runs - well on his way to 500 for his career. Then it all stopped. Murphy only hit above .250 once more in his career (.252), never again hit more than 24 HRs in a season, never again knocked in more than 84 runs, never made another all star game, and he was finished at age 37. Murphy only has one Hall of Famer on his career comp list, and not a particularly strong one in Duke Snider.

Dave Parker – OF (1973-1991, primarily with the Pittsburgh): 290/339/471-339-1,493, 121 OPS+. Like Murphy, Parker was a monster at the beginning of his career. Through age 27, Parker was a perennial MVP candidate with one already under his belt, along with three gold gloves and two all star games. Then he found the drugs, and the drugs didn't like his game. He made a couple more all star teams the next couple of seasons, but went five years with sub-800 OPS. Then he came back with a huge year at age 34 with the Reds (.312-34-125, second in the MVP vote) and followed up with another almost as impressive. Parker hung around as a decent bat for a few more years, but is one of the great "Coulda Beens" of the last 30 years. Top career comp is Luis Gonzalez, with HOFers Perez, Billy Williams and Dawson (along with Baines) rounding out the top 5.

Don Mattingly – 1B (1982-1995, Yankees): 307/358/471-222-1,099, 127 OPS+. Stop me if you've heard this one before: Mattingly was one of the best players in the majors his first few seasons in the big leagues. At age 28 he was a lifetime .323 hitter with a 144 OPS+, had one batting title and one MVP to his name, and was already a six-time all star and five-time Gold Glove winner. Then he had a back injury that sapped him of his power for the rest of his career. Mattingly remained a solid fielder, and his supporters point to his 10 total Gold Gloves as a prime consideration for his inclusion in the hall. But the bottom line is that first basemen get into the Hall of Fame by hitting home runs, and 222 is just too low a number to warrant inclusion. It doesn't help that his career fit neatly between the perennial Yankee playoff teams of the 1970's and 1990's. Mattingly's injuries and shortish career leave him outside looking in at the Hall of Fame.