Thursday, December 31, 2009

It's Over

I've never said this before. I've always been a supporter, but this is too much. It is time to fire Jim Hendry. It's over.

For Christmas, Jim Hendry gave Cub fans the disaster that is Carlos Silva. Why? To save money in order to spend it on a center fielder.

What does Mr. Hendry do with his new freedom? He flushes $15 million over the next 3 years down the toilet that is Marlon Byrd's game. Happy New Year, Cub Fans! Marlon Byrd stinks. Last season, while playing for the Texas Rangers, Byrd his a career high 20 HR's. Did the Cubs ignore the fact that he hit 14 HR's at home, and only 6 HR's on the road?

According to UZR/150, his defense in Centerfield was below average last season. So, this is not the case of getting someone like Carlos Gomez, who can at least provide good defense while making outs 66% of the time.

Last season, as a 32-year old, Byrd had the best season of his career. Fangraphs valued his production at $3.1 million. So, the Cubs think he'll be worth $5 million each year in his age 33, 34, and 35 seasons. This is lunacy. The Cubs had Felix Pie, and gave him to Andy MacPhail for nothing. As Clark Griswold said towards the end of Christmas Vacation, where's the Tylenol?

Hall of Fame Voting

Now is a great time to read baseball articles from around the country, as Hall of Fame voters often write columns announcing and defending their ballots for next spring's induction.

Voters get to vote for a maximum of 10 players from the list of nominees that we glanced over in this post last month.

After careful (not very careful) deliberation, my Hall of Fame ballot would contain check marks next to the following names: Bert Blyleven, Tim Raines, Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell, Andre Dawson, and Fred McGriff. They won't all get in, but it would be fine for my Hall of Fame.

Posnanski recently spent 5,000 words discussing, among other things, the infinite possibilities of who's in & who's out of everyone's perfect Hall of Fame. He compared the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, with Baseball Think Factory's Hall of Merit.

So, why did I pick those eight guys? Why were these my 'eight men in'? (sorry, that's really bad.) Whom did I barely leave off my ballot? Who's asking these questions?

Bert Blyleven
Rich Lederer is my unofficial leader of the pro-Bert for HOF movement. This post from December 12, 2005 opened some minds. In fact, on December 17, 2005, Bob Klapisch, calling himself 'a late convert', joined the flock.

A simple Google search of "bert blyleven for hall of fame" shows 51,400 results. Joe Posnanski has written virtually countless words on the subject, most recently
here, here, here, and even here. One of my favorite stats recently pulled out by Joe, with help from one of his Brilliant Readers shows number of wins that pitchers got from 1-0 final score games...

Most 1-0 shutout victories

Walter Johnson: 38
Pete Alexander: 17
Bert Blyleven: 15
Christy Mathewson: 14
Cy Young: 13
Eddie Plank: 13
Doc White: 13
Ed Walsh: 13
Dean Chance: 13
San Coveleski: 12
Gaylord Perry: 12
Steve Carlton: 12
Fergie Jenkins: 11
Greg Maddux: 11.
Nolan Ryan: 11.
Sandy Koufax: 10.

So the next time someone tells you that Bert Blyeven never won a Cy Young, you can say: “Yeah, but he won more 1-0 shutouts than Cy Young.” And he did it when the ball was LIVE.

Tim Raines
Here is another guy that should be an obvious choice, and again writers on this blog's suggested reading list like Keith Law, King Kaufman, Jonah Keri, and Tom Tango. Of course, we want to steal even more from our favorite writer, Mr. Posnanski...

The Hall of Fame seems to come down to a player’s peak and his longevity. Was he truly great at his best? And was he good for a long enough time?

Well, Tim Raines had a huge peak. From 1983-87 — the five year peak — he hit .318/.406/.467 for a 142 OPS+, the same OPS+ that Jim Rice had during his five-year peak. During those five years, he averaged 114 runs scored, 34 doubles, 10 triples, 11 home runs and 71 stolen bases a year. He led the league in runs scored twice, batting and on-base percentage once, doubles once, stolen bases twice, and could have won three MVP awards. He had 163 win shares in those five years — an average of 32.6. Bill says a 30-win share season is an MVP-type year.

Tim Raines also had a huge career. He reached base almost 4,000 times … or to compare him to a similar player, about 150 times more than Lou Brock. He’s fifth all-time in stolen bases. His .385 on-base percentage is the second-best among eligible Hall of Famers with 9,000 plate appearances (behind only the Walking Man Eddie Yost), and his slugging percentage is better than Rickey Henderson’s or Brock’s and just two points behind Joe Morgan.

This is not a borderline Hall of Fame candidate here. This is a dominant player. He never really got his due as a player while he was playing … in part because he shared his era with the great Rickey Henderson, in part because he spent his best years in Canada, in part because he was hammered by collusion, in part because on-base percentage did not (and does not) get the respect it deserved, in part because leadoff hitters tend to be naturally underrated, in part because he spent his last six or seven years as a part time player and that image of the older Raines was burned in the memory of people (especially his two championship years with the Yankees).

Roberto Alomar
He had it all, or was just a touch less powerful than someone who had it all. He was the best defensive second baseman in the world for a while. He was awesome for about 11 years, from 1991 to 2001. Most importantly, he won and played well at the highest level with Toronto's first and last World Championship teams. Maybe I give him bonus points for flopping with the Mets in 2002. That was classic. Alomar was coming off arguably the best season of his career for the Indians in 2001, career high OPS of .956, to go along with 113 RBI, 100 R's, 20 HR's, and 30 SB's.

Barry Larkin
I find Barry Larkin's case to be similar to Alomar's and Trammell's. Larkin was an offensively gifted middle-infielder who lead his team to World Championship(s). His career shows how hard it can be to accumulate some counting stats. He played from the time he was 22 until he was 40, with a lifetime .295 Batting Average, yet he had only 2,340 hits. He's in my Hall due to his well-rounded abilities to use all five tools, my intangible feelings about winning and leadership, and other indefensible reasons like consistency. Here are some nice career stats: 379 stolen bases, caught only 77 times, BA/OBP/SLG career slash lines of .295/.371/.444, he walked more than he struck out, and of course he won a World Series ring in 1992.

Edgar Martinez
The best Designated Hitter I've ever seen deserves his own post, or series of posts. He is a player who got a late start, after being mishandled by the Mariners as he toiled away in the Minors until he was 27 years old. Look at his stats, from 1992 and 1995 through 2003, when his OBP never dropped below .403, he hit with power, and ended his career with slash lines of .312/.418/.515. He gets penalized by some voters for playing most of his career as a DH, but I don't buy that for many reasons, of which I'll share three. First, should he be rewarded if his manager sent him out to play terrible defense like we sometimes see with guys like Jack Cust, Adam Dunn, and Jason Giambi? Do they help their teams more than guys who spare their teams crappy defense and DH? Second, the argument holds some water, if we're talking about a borderline hitter, but Martinez is an elite warrior with the bat. He could work the count, take a walk, hit an occasional "ground ball with eyes", and drive mistake pitches into gaps and over walls outfielders' heads with regularity. Third, the precedent has been set when Paul Molitor got in on the first ballot. Sure, he had the automatic ticket of 3,319 hits. Still, he was a DH for many of those hits, and his career OPS+ of 122 is dwarfed just enough by Martinez's 147, that I have to stand firm on this one.

Alan Trammell
I feel that Trammell will never get into the Hall, mostly for being in the shadow of Cal Ripken his entire career. He was a leading winner in Motown for Sparky Anderson (not easy), and he had a very impressive peak in the mid 1980's. He's a borderline candidate, and I will stand with his supporters until proven otherwise.

Andre Dawsom
The Hawk is my favorite player of all time. He was the first super-human player I ever rooted for, and there is NO WAY he's staying off my ballot. I've heard the arguments against his induction, most loudly the fact that his career OBP was an abysmal .323. I choose to believe the arguments that only three players have 400 HR's and 300 SB's: Mays, Bonds, and Dawson. He won a bunch of Gold Gloves. Played Centerfield beautifully in his hey day in Montreal. Then, he commanded Right Field, with a cannon arm and great instincts in Wrigley Field and stops with Boston and Florida after that.

I also think that playing his peak years one Montreal's concrete & turf field ruined his knees more than most players in baseball history. If he'd played on a surface that kept him limber, he could have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Of course, the Hall of Fame would have thousands of players if we could all cancel out a few "if's".

Fred McGriff
I expect McGriff to get in eventually, but I'm not sure about this year. He never (or very rarely) felt like a Hall of Famer during his playing days. How many Hall of Famers are traded four times? His ability to play, like Larkin, from the age 22 season to age 40, enabled him to hit 493 Homeruns, drive in 1,550 runs, and 2,490 hits, with a career 134 OPS+.

All right, folks, let's hear from you. You can only vote for 10 guys. Who's on your ballot?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Good Friends, Keepers, & Sleepers

As most of our loyal readers know, I've been living in New York for about 20 months... To let you know where I'm coming from, literally, I'm a Chicago guy, who "colleged" in New Orleans, and since them has lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland (Oregon), and now Manhattan.

A tradition that many of my NY friends, which I rather like is a yearly boys' night out, where we go "shopping" for our significant others one evening in mid/late December. The tradition has evolved from a group of guys at a department store, before going to a bar - to a group of guys who just meet at a bar and skip the shopping entirely.

We had a good time this year, although we missed some friends who couldn't make it. One of our friends of the blog, let's call him "Horn", couldn't have been more pleasant to catch up with. Here we were on December 17th, and all Horn wanted to do was talk baseball. We huddled up around the imaginary hot stove at a midtown Irish bar, while I gently nursed a Sierra Nevada and Horn admitted to a hangover & asked for a Pepsi.

Horn is a Yankee fan. That can mean a lot of things. To be more precise, Horn is the kind of Yankee fans who supports the team, expects them to compete for championships, while always feeling nervous about the outcome. He's one of the few people I know who felt drama during the Bronx Bombers dominant, Championship run. I think he's a nervous fan. There's nothing wrong with that. On the contrary, nervous fans are outstanding. What's more fun that watching a game with a fan who's mere sanity is hanging on the outcome of every play? To the point that Horn is a great fan, he loves following major New York sports teams. I even remember seeing him passionately watch the end of an early round New Jersey Devils playoff game, while pacing around a New Orleans hotel room during Jazz Fest circa 2003.

Back to the bar, my Sierra turned into a Blue Moon, both on draft of course. Horn, asked for a water.

Horn has always been a terrifically supportive fan of the ol' blog. When we go too long in between posts, Horn is usually one of the first to notice and ask us what's going on. From what I gather, he loves to hear about sleepers and prospects. It's a nice reminder of what this blog was supposed to be about, at inception. We were looking for a place to read & write about baseball, while maintaining focus on both worlds of reality & rotisserie. Horn asked us for more updates on sleepers, so to this holiday party we will bring up a discussion of sleepers & I'm going to use potential keepers from my rotisserie league as a starting point.

Scoring in this league is pretty standard, except we play with OBP instead of Batting Average. Stats are: OBP/HR/R/RBI/SB and W, SV, K, ERA, WHIP

Going into the offseason, we select ten players from our roster (who were not drafted in the top four rounds) and they are in our "Keeper Consideration Pool". Cool name, I know. A few days before the draft in March, each team picks five players from their KCP as their keepers. Since keepers must be drafted after the 4th or 5th round, I think most of them are either big surprises or sleepers. You can keep a guy for 4 more years, so teams can really stockpile value if they play their cards right.

My team's Keeper Consideration Pool:

Alexei Ramirez
Cameron Maybin
Chris Coghlan
Colby Rasmus
David Price
Desmond Jennings
Dexter Fowler
Elvis Andrus
Joe Mauer
Tommy Hanson

Joe Mauer and Tommy Hanson are not sleepers. Mauer is coming off an all-time great MVP season, and Hanson is a bona fide weapon. He'll probably give up more home runs next season, due to an unsustainable Homerun/Flyball rate, but just take a look at the WHIP numbers he's put up since he started 2008, as a 22-year old in High-A.

2008 High-A, WHIP: 0.65
2008 Double-A, WHIP: 1.13
2008 Az Fall League, WHIP: 0.85
2009 Triple-A, WHIP: 0.85
2009 MLB, WHIP: 1.18

Bill James projects Hanson to win 14 games next season, with a 3.30 ERA, and 206 strike outs in 191 innings.

Alexei Ramirez is not a sleeper. I think he was a disappointment last season, especially with his unsightly OBP every year. We'll probably still keep him because of position scarcity and his impressive Power/Speed number (17.94).

We are pretty undecided about who the other two keepers will be. Rasmus, Coghlan, and Andrus feel like safe bets, at least on the real-life field. David Price was supposed to be a super star by now, but we don't need to keep him. His stock is so low that we think we'll be able draft him, or better pitchers, in later rounds.

We spent time last summer on Dexter Fowler. I'm sold on his tools... he really looks fast and strong. I'm not sure if he has an everyday job in the Rockies' outfield.

Cameron Maybin is a sleeper because he has pretty much always struggled at the Major League level. I think he's ready to take off, but he might be one of those guys who's fast & can hit but doesn't hit HR's or steal enough bases to be a fantasy thoroughbred. Think of a speedier, streakier, David DeJesus.

The real sleeper on my list is Desmond Jennings of the Tampa Rays. He has yet to make his major league debut, but there is no doubt that he's really, really fast. They're calling him the next Carl Crawford, and that will suit us just fine for the next five years. Jennings has shown, unlike Maybin that he really knows how to steal a base. Last season in 100 double-A games, he stole 37 bases in 42 tries, with a .395 OBP. In 32 triple-A games last year, Jennings stole 15 bases in 17 tries, while OBP'ing .419. During his last five stops in the Rays' system, his BABIP's have been .324, .348, .299, .350, and .354. The question is if Jennings can win everyday at bats, while competing with guys like Matt Joyce, Fernando Perez, Gabe Kapler, and Justin Ruggiano. I think he has a chance to shine and win 2010's AL Rookie of the Year.

What defines a sleeper? I'm not sure. This discussion could go in many different directions, but let's try to stay on track. Back at the bar, Horn just left, David showed up late and my Blue Moon turned into a glass of scotch.

Other potential "sleepers" that came to mind during our discussion:

Fernando Rodney
Alcides Escobar
Jason Heyward
Carlos Santana
Aroldis Chapman
Ben Sheets
Bud Norris
Jake Fox
Matt LaPorta
Travis Snider
Rickie Weeks
Tim Hudson
Chris Tillman
Wade Davis
Elijah Dukes
Brian Bruney
Felix Pie
Jonny Gomes

Let's get the sleeper discussion started in the comments. Anyone else that should be top-of-mind for savvy drafters? Should we do a prospect spotlight for any of the names listed above?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Beauty of Hee Seop

The life around the Cubs hot stove is desperate and lonely. We, fans, are starving for feelings of pride and splendid anticipation for the upcoming season. Rumorville brings us no hope, as the foreseeable future brings us the gloom of signing Marlon Byrd, Scott Podsednik, Melky Cabrera, or that douche'r Rick Ankiel. I swear, less than 12 months after we gift wrap Felix Pie to old friend Andy MacPhail in Baltimore, we are combing through the dregs of garbage outfield options.

I've always liked Jim Hendry. His work ethic is legendary, but sometimes you need to see positive results or at least a sound "process". For too long, we've been scratching our heads over his moves before the benefit of hindsight. He's turning into the Anglo Omar Minaya, and that isn't a complement. Where can the Cubs find another Jack Zduriencik? That's what we need.

Ok, well I promised a positive post, and believe it or not, this is it...

Where do we turn when we are at our low point? We turn to family and old friends, no matter how far away they may be...

Enter the inspiration of Hee Seop Choi... Here is a guy who climbed the mountain to the Show of Major League Baseball. He reached cult-hero status on the Northside of Chicago but never achieved the glory of traditional stardom or, of course, championships.

After being traded for Derek Lee, he toiled away in the Marlins system and returned to his homeland to play for the Kia Tigers.

I'm hoping we can get through these trying times, as fans, by learning from the acquired wisdom of our old brother in arms, Hee Seop Choi. There is inspiration in the story we bring to you today. I won't muddle it with my own interpretation, but we can learn much about the healing powers of hard work, determination, and patience... When you get a chance, please take a look at one of our favorite stops on the InterWeb, the Joong Ang Daily: "Athlete climbs to health on Mt. Seorak"

Go bless the Cubs, the fans, and God bless you, Hee Seop Choi.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Oh Noooooooo!!!

Hope does not spring eternal. There is no hope for the Cubs next season.

From the AP, via ABC News...
A baseball official with knowledge of the trade says the Mariners have acquired mercurial outfielder Milton Bradley from the Chicago Cubs for expensive and underperforming pitcher Carlos Silva.
The Cubs traded away a problem for an even bigger, and more expensive problem. I don't know how we, as fans, can recover from this. I can't get the image of Frank Castillo out of my head.

Expect a happier post later today or tomorrow.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Get Well Soon, Jose Arredondo

Jorge Arangure (on Twitter) recently broke the news that Jose Arredondo will miss the 2010 season, due to Tommy John surgery.

That's terrible news for one of our two favorite setup relievers from the 2008 season. (Carlos Marmol was actually our favorite that season. But hey, we did start the Jose Arredondo fan club on Facebook.)

Let's let's Mark Polishuk recap Arredondo's last two seasons.
Arredondo posted a 1.62 ERA in 52 games (plus 3.2 scoreless playoff innings) during his 2008 rookie year, but struggled to a 6.00 ERA in 43 games with Los Angeles in 2009. He was sent down to the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees at midseason and spent some time on the disabled list with a strained elbow ligament.

On the bright side, this brought me to thinking about who was my favorite flame-throwing non-closing reliever of 2009. It took me only about 6 seconds to remember the incredible performance of Neftali Feliz.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Best Team Money Can Buy: Full Throttle

We referenced in our recent post on The Best Team Money can Buy that we weren't going to purchase an entire 25-man roster. Sorry, I couldn't resist. Here is our money-is-no-object best team money can buy... Keep in mind, some guys have signed... So, while I would love to have Chone Figgins at 3rd base, he's not available anymore...

C: Yorvit Torrealba
1b: Nick Johnson
2b: Felipe Lopez
SS: Orlando Cabrera
3b: Adrian Beltre
LF: Matt Holliday
CF: Mike Cameron
RF: Vladimir Guerrero

Bench: Xavier Nady. RF, LF, 1b
Bench: Coco Crisp, OF
Bench: Rob Quinlan, IF/OF
Bench: Bobby Crosby, IF
Bench: Garret Anderson, LF
Bench: Bengie Molina, C

SP: John Lackey
SP: Aroldis Chapman
SP: Ben Sheets
SP: Joel Pineiro
SP: Jon Garland

RP: Kelvim Escobar
RP: Rich Hill
RP: Chan Ho Park
RP: Kiko Calero
RP: Mike Gonzalez
RP: Jose Valverde

I'm sure some of my selections are pretty terrible, and I'm hoping the comments section reflects that. I mean looking at Sheets, Escobar, Nick Johnson, Nady, and Crosby makes me think that I will need to have Dr. Timothy Kremchek on staff. Plus, we'll need a reliable shuttle to/from Triple-A for replacement starters, who could end up being guys like Daniel Cabrera, Shawn Hill, Brett Tomko... heck maybe even Kris Benson & Mark Prior.

Millwood Trade Reaction

Congrats to the Rangers who just traded Kevin Millwood and $3 million to the Orioles for Chris Ray. Most importantly, they saved $9 million in the deal... Meaning, they can go get a pitcher who will likely be better than Kevin Millwood.

Do Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels feel like a couple of gamblers? I'd say so because Ranger fans will probably see most of those $9 million go to Rich Harden or Ben Sheets, who each have at decent chance of getting hurt again. I like the move, though. The Rangers have more than five viable starting pitching options right now. So, adding a high-risk/high-reward ace makes sense.

The Orioles will likely prosper from this trade, as well. I think Kevin Millwood will be a good influence on the young starters in Baltimore: Tillman, Matusz, Guthrie, etc. He will likely pass on some of the lessons he learned as a teammate of Greg Maddux, in Atlanta, and as a disciple of brilliant pitching coach, Mike Maddux, last season. The Rangers don't need that mentor because they have, um, Nolan Ryan.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Best Team Money can Buy

We hear the expression all the time. Usually teams with stars that win titles and have high payrolls, like the Yankees, Red Sox, and in other sports the Lakers or Real Madrid. But, building powerhouse teams is of course more than just buying players off the free agent market. It takes years, and you still have to deal with drafts and trade proposals.

Let's say the crazy baseball gods created an expansion team for a super wealthy owner, but there was no expansion draft. He just had to go into the free agency period and buy the best team possible. For the sake of our sanity, we won't look at 25-man rosters and finding bargains for the back of the rotation and bench players. Let's say a super wealthy ownership group was given the green light by MLB to start his franchise. What would be a good starting 9, with no worries about salary?

First, a little back ground. It is currently the night of December 8th, 2009. Some free agents have recently signed, like Chone Figgins (Mariners 4yr/$36m), Marco Scutaro (Red Sox $15.5m/3yr), and Ivan Rodriguez (Nationals 2yr/$6m). Randy Wolf was rumored to have been offered a 3yr/$31m deal from the Brewers. He should probably sign that right away.

Let's look at what a starting lineup might look like...

2b: Felipe Lopez
CF: Mike Cameron
1b: Nick Johnson
LF: Matt Holliday
RF: Vladimir Guerrero
3b: Adrian Beltre
C: Yorvit Torrealba
SS: Orlando Cabrera
SP: Aroldis Chapman

I just have a feeling that Chapman will be better than Lackey. I'm probably just being seduced by the mysticism of the unknown ability by this exotic prospect. This is irrelevant to the circumstances created above, but when it comes to worrying about cash, I'd rather give Chapman $20-something million than give Lackey $80-something million. I would also rather roll the dice with guys like Ben Sheets and Rich Harden.

We might need to balance out the right-handedness of our lineup a little bit, but other than that we'd look okay. I thought about Miguel Tejada at Shortstop or Third base, but I don't think he can play short anymore, and Beltre is still a world class third baseman, even if he doesn't hit like he used to.

Well, brilliant readers, where did I go wrong? How can we make this team better? Remember, we can't talk about guys like Curtis Granderson or Doc Halladay because we have no-one to trade.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Contracts: The A-Teams

I was thinking about how columnists and reporters often write about which "bad" contracts teams are trying to move. It makes sense, since trade rumors are fueled by what can happen. Teams usually don't want to move "good" contracts, so those rumors are dismissed right away.

I didn't want to write a post about the "10 worst contracts in MLB", or anything like that. It has been done more than once in recent weeks. By now, everyone knows that Vernon Wells is probably the worst contract in all of baseball. In most circles, it is well known that Alfonso Soriano, Dontrelle Willis, and Barry Zito have albatross contracts. I thought of a couple of angles that peaked my interest. If we looked at every team, what would their #1 bad contracts be? Who would be each team's best valued player? Since no-one wants to read 20,000 words on and some 75 player references for this idea, I'm going to break it up into parts. For Part 1 of our Best/Worst Contracts series, we shall examine the best contract and worst contract for the three "A-Teams": the Angels, Astros, and Athletics.

Most of the Angels good, young players are arbitration eligible this year, so this is an important offseason for them. Looking ahead at their future payroll, their best value is probably Kendry Morales for $1.2 million in 2010 and arbitration starting in ‘11.

On the other side of the spectrum, Gary Matthews, Jr. lives in a fantasy world where a team that will give him a starting job exists. He requested a trade a couple of weeks ago because he wants to play every day. Even if the Angles agreed to pay his entire salary, $11.4M in 2010 & $12.4M in 2011, I don’t think a team is foolish enough to give him 600 at bats.

If Bud Norris or Tommy Manzella contend for 2010 NL Rookie of the Year, they’ll be doing it at/near league minimum salary.

While the Astros probably don’t want to pay Kaz Matsui $5.5 million for next season, the $19 million they are paying Carlos Lee in each of the next three seasons is probably their worst contract.

The poster boys of the Moneyball phenomena have been extremely limited with long-term commitments to players, as evidenced by having only two players with non-arbitration guarantees for 2010. Eric Chavez will get $12.5 million for 2010, probably not play a single inning, and then collect a $3 million buyout for his 2011 buyout.

Oakland’s best 2010 investments will be whichever player performs the best out of this gaggle of guys being paid the minimum: Andrew Bailey, Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, Daric Barton, or Dallas Braden. It could even be recent free agent pickup Dallas McPherson. Our prediction is that Brett Anderson will be the best of the bunch in 2010.

Friday, November 27, 2009

2010 Hall of Fame Ballot

The 2010 Hall of Fame Ballot has been released.

A look at the hopeful candidates...

Roberto Alomar
Kevin Appier
Harold Baines
Ellis Burks
Bert Blyleven
Andre Dawson
Andres Galarraga
Pat Hentgen
Mike Jackson
Eric Karros
Ray Lankford
Barry Larkin
Edgar Martinez
Don Mattingley
Fred McGriff
Mark McGwire
Jack Morris
Dale Murphy
Dave Parker
Tim Raines
Shane Reynolds
David Segui
Lee Smith
Alan Trammell
Robin Ventura
Todd Zeile

So loyal readers, who do you like? Who's going to drop off the list? We think Alomar, Larkin, and McGriff have a great chance to get inducted on the first try.

Raines, Martinez, Tramell, Baines, Smith, and even Todd Zeile can spark a lively debate.

Here's to hoping Andre Dawson and Bert Blyleven get their overdue rewards. More Hall of Fame analysis to come throughout the offseason. Have a great weekend!

Free Agent Predictions

Happy Black Friday, everyone. I hope none of you are being trampled by a bunch of idiots at Wal-Mart. Sometimes this country really makes me question mankind.

Anyway, I can't believe we I forgot this in our Top 50 Free Agents column, but here are our predictions for where we think our top free agents may land. One point of caution: I don't expect many of these to be correct. Would getting 20 out of 50 be considered successful? I guess we'll find out. Still, do NOT go to Vegas with any of these predictions.

  1. Matt Holliday = Red Sox
  2. John Lackey = Mariners
  3. Jason Bay = Angels
  4. Chone Figgins = Cubs
  5. Aroldis Chapman = Yankees
  6. Andy Pettitte = Yankees
  7. Rich Harden = Twins
  8. Randy Wolf = Dodgers
  9. Jose Valverde = Astros
  10. Noel Arguelles = Mets
  11. Adrian Beltre = Twins
  12. Nick Johnson = Mets
  13. Felipe Lopez = Dodgers
  14. Rafael Soriano = Braves
  15. Mike Cameron = Yankees
  16. Mike Gonzalez = Yankees
  17. Vladimir Guerrero = Mariners
  18. Orlando Hudson = Nationals
  19. Ben Sheets = Rangers
  20. Mark DeRosa = Phillies
  21. Jermaine Dye = A's
  22. Miguel Tejada = Phillies
  23. Johnny Damon = Yankees
  24. Adam LaRoche = Braves
  25. Marco Scutaro = Red Sox
  26. Joel Pineiro = Rockies
  27. Jason Marquis = Mets
  28. Brad Penny = Giants
  29. Rafael Betancourt = Cubs
  30. Orlando Cabrera = Indians
  31. Erik Bedard = Orioles
  32. Hideki Matsui = Royals
  33. Billy Wagner = Red Sox
  34. Jon Garland = Mariners
  35. Fernando Rodney = Tigers
  36. Yorvit Torrealba = Giants
  37. Hank Blalock = Tigers
  38. Kelvim Escobar = Red Sox
  39. Placido Polanco = Padres
  40. Marlon Byrd = Giants
  41. Carl Pavano = Brewers
  42. Bengie Molina = Mets
  43. Jarrod Washburn = Mariners, Dodgers, or retirement
  44. Chan Ho Park = Phillies
  45. Darren Oliver = Angels
  46. Jim Thome = White Sox or retirement
  47. Pedro Feliz = Orioles
  48. Aubrey Huff = Royals
  49. Rany Wynn = Cubs (ugh)
  50. Adam Everett = Tigers

The comment section awaits your brilliant arguments. Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Top 50 Free Agents

Our scouting trip to the deep south concluded with thoughts on the "Top 50 Free Agents" in baseball. There are several writers supplying their lists, so I thought I'd throw in our two cents.

This hot stove league looks a bit warmer on the trade front than free agents. Scott Boras will talk about Matt Holliday's place in history and Johnny Damon's genetic disposition until he's blue in the face. That doesn't change the fact that there is no sure thing that all 30 teams are pursuing.

Without further ado, here is our list of Top 50 Free Agents to keep you warm this winter. Happy Thanksgiving!

1. Matt Holliday
We do not fear that he is just a player who can mash National League pitching. His struggles with the A's were symptomatic with adjusting to a new league for the first time and moving from a home park in Colorado to a cavernous football stadium in Oakland. Given time, protection of a good lineup, and a home ballpark like Fenway, Holliday will put up near Blake Street numbers - at least for a few more years.

2. John Lackey
Lackey has been consistent, when healthy. He used to be durable - whatever that means. And, a couple of years ago when checking to see if he was over the hill for fantasy purposes, I was shocked to see that he was still in his late 20's. He'll turn 32 during the 2010 World Series.

3. Jason Bay
Bay’s terrible defense "drops" him to third on this list. I would not want my favorite National League team to invest in him.

4. Chone Figgins
He'll be 32 in January, and his best asset is his speed. I'd be concerned that the legs are the first to leave a player, but we’ve recently seen guys stay in condition to run into their mid 30's (see: Damon, Abreu). Figgins has also made himself a much better hitter in recent years, as his advanced metrics suggest more solid contact & line drives than his first few years in the league.

5. Aroldis Chapman
If Matsuzaka had performed well this season, Chapman would be at the top of a few lists. The Yankees can win the bidding war easily, then trade Chamberlain and/or Hughes in mega deals for someone like Doc Halladay or King Felix.

6. Andy Pettitte
Why wouldn't the Yankees throw 8 to 10 million at this guy? He seems to settle down everyone's nerves in the playoffs, which is worth more than a few miles per hour on his cutter. Plus, you know he'll take a shot in the behind for his teammates.

7. Rich Harden
I'd rather go for talent, upside, the best stuff on the market… just don't spend all your money on this guy, and get another innings eater, while you're at it.

8. Randy Wolf
Randy Wolf will probably want to cash in on his '09 success and sign early, and maybe the team that signs Harden should sign him, too. It can be a challenge for any team to sign two of the Top 10 free agents in one offseason, but look at what the Yankees did last year. They signed the three biggest free agents on the entire market for BIG dollars. This offseason, no-one is going to make the kind of money that Sabathia & Teixeira got - not Holliday, Lackey, Bay, or anyone. But looking at it on a smaller scale, why couldn't a mid-market team sign the two Top 5 free agent pitchers this season? Staying away from Lackey & Chapman makes everyone else relatively "affordable".

9. Jose Valverde
Papa Grande can bring da heat. He's a little bit crazy, but he can solidify the back end of your bullpen in a hurry. We've always liked him and think he's been underrated by playing in lower-exposed markets. If you need a closer this offseason, you should trade for one on the cheap. If you have nothing to trade, sign Valverde. On game days, cook him up some rice 'n' beans, and tell him to settle in until the 7th inning.

10. Noel Arguelles
Another Cuban flamethrower. He doesn't have the buzz that Chapman in getting, but he's only 19 and already throws in the low 90's in his long, lean, and athletic frame. He should sign for about 8 million dollars. (Paging Jim Hendry, please stop giving $7.5 million to guys like Josh Grabow, when you can get guys like this for $8 million. Let's get younger, not more mediocre.)

11. Adrian Beltre
There are a lot of star 3rd basemen in baseball, like Longoria, Arod, Wright, Zimmerman, & Chipper. That being said*, Beltre is a world class defender, terrific athlete, and good hitter. He won't get fat on another mega deal, but he'd be a great pickup on a one or two year deal.

12. Nick Johnson
He's very valuable when healthy. As a perenial leader in On-Base Percentage, Johnson proves to be one of the toughest outs in baseball. His injury history will limit him to a 1 or 2 year deal, and his lack of power & speed should limit him to 4 to 6 million per year.

13. Felipe Lopez
Lopez should still have a couple more "prime" years left. Let's see which team helps him cash in.

14. Rafael Soriano
Soriano is another flame throwing right-handed reliever. He is more injury prone than Valverde, but a little less crazy. I still think he's crazy, but not as crazy. Personally, I like my relief pitchers to be as crazy as possible without going over to Julian Tavarez land.

15. Mike Cameron
Some people see the Yankees coveting Cameron to take over Centerfield until Austin "Action" Jackson is ready to be anointed as the next Yankee great. I could see that happening, too. Why not? They can get anyone they want.

16. Mike Gonzalez
The Yankees requested medical reports on Gonzalez and Soriano from the Braves. My money is on Brian Cashman choosing the more sane option, who also happens to pitch from the left side.

17. Vladimir Guerrero
I'm rooting for Vladdy Daddy to have a resurgence. He doesn't perform at a superstar level anymore, but he's still got something left.

18. Orlando Hudson
I thought Hudson was having a good year, but Joe Torre gave his position away to Ronnie Belliard at the end of last season. Some think that he has slowed down in his swing and his legs, and he has a lot to prove in 2010.

19. Ben Sheets
We could swap Sheets and Harden on this list because they both have no-hitter stuff and long injury histories. I'd love for the Cubbies to get him.

20. Mark DeRosa
DeRosa is coming off wrist surgery, which could diminish his power for a year or longer. His versatility still has more than a handful of teams interested in his services. I see him signing relatively soon with a good club.

21. Jermaine Dye
Dye is still a dangerous hitter. He's been underrated in certain circles, but I still see and hear him hit the ball squarely all the time.

22. Miguel Tejada
Miguel's home/road splits and advanced aging process show he needs to be in a hitter's park. The fact that he can still bang close to 200 hits every season, shows he has some value.

23. Johnny Damon
The Yankee Stadium wind tunnel helped Damon's Homerun totals, but he also had a very good OPS+, which tries to negate ballpark effects. He's gotta be an HGH guy, right?

24. Adam LaRoche
LaRoche is a notorious slow starter, who mashes right-handed pitching. He may need a platoon partner versus tough lefties, but a guy who can hit 20+ HR's in 400 AB's vs right handed pitching has value to many clubs.

25. Marco Scutaro
I just don't believe in gambling on guys who have career years at age 34.

26. Joel Pineiro
The most hittable pitcher in baseball doesn't walk people because AB's rarely last 4 pitches against Pineiro. His groundball tendencies can lead to successful longevity, but I wonder if this is the next coming of Dave Duncan's Jeff Suppan. How's that working out for the Brew Crew?

27. Jason Marquis
The pride of Staten Island wants to go back to the city. I think he grew up a Yankee fan, but the way he can hit makes him perfect for the National League. How perfect? His teams have gone to the postseason in every season of his 10-year career. Prize to anyone who can show cause & effect for this.

28. Brad Penny
The White Bartolo Colon is going to try to have a productive career in his late 30's by throwing heavy fastballs, high heat, and enough breaking pitches to get quality starts.

29. Rafael Betancourt
I think Betancourt has a chance to blossom into a fine closer. At the very least, he should be able to be a bridge to a closer for a more established bullpen.

30. Orlando Cabrera
His defense is slipping, but he's still a leader who guys like to play with. If he moved to second base, his defense would go from average at shortstop to very good at second.

31. Erik Bedard
I don't think Bedard can be counted on for much of 2010, but if he can project to value in 2011, teams may want to sign him now with at least a club option.

32. Hideki Matsui
He can only play DH. That is limiting, even for a World Series MVP. Could his Japaneseness make him a Mariner? Do the Angles want him? I could see the A's want him, but he'd likely go back to Japan before taking a huge paycut to play in Oakland.

33. Billy Wagner
Showed he had something left last autumn. He may not be an All-Star again, but I think he'll be effective and overpaid.

34. Jon Garland
Garland can be overpaid, or a bargain. He has a lot at stake this year and may have to settle for another 1-year deal hoping for a better economic marketplace next offseason.

35. Fernando Rodney
Rodney is an interesting free agent. He doesn't strike out a ton of guys and he walks too many. Yet, he is a young guy with 70 career save and even closed for a very talented Dominican Republic bullpen in the WBC. I think he wants to stay with the Tigers because he (like us) loves Jim Leyland.

36. Yorvit Torrealba
Torrealba seems like one of those late-blooming, defensive catchers who will have a great influence on his teammates. Perhaps, I'm confusing him with someone else, but I'd rather have him than Bengie Molina.

37. Hank Blalock
It seems that Blalock's problems have been with staying healthy. Since moving to DH, his health has improved and the production (at least against RHP) has been valuable. He's like a younger, and less accomplished Jim Thome. I wouldn't mind it if my favorite American League team gave him $5 million and 400 AB's as a DH.

38. Kelvim Escobar
The comeback trail is a long and filthy road for some. In the past few years, Kelvim Escobar has spent enough time in trainer's rooms and rehab sessions to last five careers. Everyone prefers a healthy arm to one with injury history, but sometimes I feel like guys who've been out for so long, but haven't lost their velocity, are due and will finally have a great year.

39. Placido Polanco
Talk is he might move to 3rd base, but I don't see him improving on his power. How much longer can this guy remain effective in the batter's box?

40. Marlon Byrd
Byrd's stock is at an all-time high after banging 20 HR's last season. Unfortunately for him, he is only good in Texas' ballpark, as his Home/Road OPS shows: .873/.740.

41. Carl Pavano
I really do not like Carl Pavano, but he proved last year that he can be effective when motivated.

42. Bengie Molina
Molina will probably never bat cleanup again and probably won't even get 400 AB's again. But, he could be a good mentor for a young catcher, cough, cough, Buster Posey.

43. Jarrod Washburn
Last year showed that Washburn can be good in a big ballpark with excellent outfield defense. Unfortunately for Washburn, dozens of fly-ball pitchers fall into that category.

44. Chan Ho Park
His value remains only if he stays in the bullpen. There have been rumblings out of Park's camp that he wants to start again, but that would be about as effective as having Mike Harkey start games for the Yankees.

45. Darren Oliver
Oliver reinvented himself once focusing on the bullpen. He was almost out of the game a couple of years ago, but now he is eagerly anticipating a large payday as a free agent. He may be able to get a Grabow contract, but regardless I expect him to return to the Halos.

46. Jim Thome
All DH all the time. I hope he doesn't have to retire, but he may have to follow the footsteps of Frank Thomas and get his Hall of Fame speech ready.

47. Pedro Feliz
Feliz couldn't hit when he was a young player. The fact that he can still play above average defense at the hot corner means that he will find work somewhere. His World Series ring and "leadership"/"intangibles" will make him more appealing to someone.

48. Aubrey Huff
Huff was so bad for the Tigers, that he might be forced into an early retirement. Seriously.

49. Randy Wynn
Wynn is not going back to San Francisco, but who's going to throw away over 3 million dollars per year to sign him? His power has disappeared. His Career Homerun to Flyball percentage is 7.8%, and that is AFTER last season's HR/FB% of 1.4%.

50. Adam Everett
Some team is going to give Everett a million bucks to play gold glove shortstop. Unfortunately, he's better suited for the American League because he's too weak a hitter to combine with a pitcher.

So, that rounds out our Top 50. Anyone we left out? Let us know in the comments section. Any Mark Hendrickson fans out there? Ronnie Belliard? Who's overhyped? Who are the best bargains out there? As we said before Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Rookie of the Year Ballot

The Seamheads Postseason Award Ballots that we shared last month didn't ask for Rookie of the Year votes. Here is our unsolicited Rookie of the Year ballot for the ol' blog.

American League Rookie of the Year
1.) Elvis Andrus
If he could learn to hit a bit, he could be the AL's version of what Jose Reyes was supposed to be.

2.) Rick Porcello
Loyal readers of this space know how much we appreciate Porcello. He had an incredible season, as a 20-year old who flourished a rotation spot for a team that was competitive through 163 games. He didn't strike out a lot of guys, but I think some on the job training in his early 20's could teach him a thing, or two, about strikeout pitches.

3.) Gordon Beckham
Bechham was a big part of the White Sox getting on track this season. With Kenny Williams trading for Mark Teahen, Beckham will be moving back to second base next season, upping his fantasy value along the way.

Mention: Jeff Niemann, Brett Anderson, Nolan Reimold, Andrew Bailey

National League Rookie of the Year
1.) Chris Coghlan
Coghlan was under the radar, with a .368 OBP in June, slowed down a bit in July... and then, he just got scorching hot. His Batting Averages in August, September, & October were: .385, .382, .462. (Also look for Coghlan to move to move to 2nd base next year, if/when the Marlins trade Dan Uggla.)

2.) Tommy Hanson
Some numbers: 11 Wins in 21 starts, 2.89 ERA, 522 batters faced, 105 Hits, 46 walks.

3.) Andrew McCutchen
Anyone who has seen this guy play immediately saw the talent, quick swing, tremendous speed, and exciting style. Yes, I just went from numbers for Hanson and hyperbole for McCutchen. Most of McCutchen's numbers don't jump out, but here are a couple of doozies... McCutchen made the league minimum salary ($400,000). He was a midseason call-up, so he only played 108 games. His performance for the Pirates was valued at 15.8 million dollars, in 108 games.

Mention: Dexter Fowler, JA Happ, Casey McGehee, Randy Wells

Monday, November 9, 2009

Varitek Valued?

In the expected news of the day department, the Red Sox will not pick up Jason Varitek's option. Jason Varitiek has five days to exercise his $3 million option (plus $2mm incentives) to return to the Red Sox as co-catcher with Victor Martinez.

In about half a day, he will likely decide to return to his position of Captain of the Red Sox. Is Boras still his agent? Wouldn't this be an exciting time for his agent to pull off some nearly-tampered deal to get his client a well-payed, two-year deal?

It would be fun to see Red Sox fans freak out and bash their long-time leader if he bolted for Torre & Mattingley's Dodgers to be co-catcher with Russell Martin. The heart and soul of so many Red Sox squads could join forces with Yankee legends on the blue pinstripes of the West Coast.

It doesn't matter. I don't think Varitek has that much to offer while standing in the batter's box. I just wanted to throw out my own hot stove rumor, in the spirit of terribly far-fetched rumors that have no basis in fact.

In an unexpected bit of reporting, an anonymous source added, "no comment."

Prospect Spotlight: Tommy Manzella

This is the first in our long anticipated Prospect Spotlight series. If you enjoy this post, please email mosquito @ keeping me up half the night [dot] com.

"How about a shout out for Tommy Manzella of Tulane fame. Finally made it to the show and got a hit in his first at bat. Rumor has it that he might be Adam Everett 2.0" -- Brillian Reader Osh - Sept 17, 2009

"GM Ed Wade when asked about Tejada: “At this point, we’re prepared to commit to Tommy Manzella playing shortstop." Tejada could return at 3B" -- the Twittering thumbs of Brian McTaggart - Nov 6, 2009

More Wade, via McTaggart: "Tommy is ready to play in the big leagues, and we think Miggy is capable of playing third base. That's been discussed last year, and we didn't feel it was right to make the move at that point in time. [Geoff] Blum was playing well at third and did a good job and Miggy was doing well at shortstop. It didn't make sense to walk down that path last year." - Nov 6, 2009

The Early Story
According to the Tulane Official Athletic Site, Thomas Samuel Manzella, Jr. was born in New Orleans and sports a hometown of Chalmette, Louisiana. While Tommy was conceivably growing up in Chalmette, the town hosted what I can say with experience was one of the most unique and colorful Mardi Gras parades, Shangri-LA. The Mystic Krewe of Shangri-LA become such a hit in the late 1990's that they were invited to move the parade to New Orleans. With the tough economic times, they had to scale back this year to an "Imperial Stroll" through the French Quarter. If any of our readers have the crazy idea of attending another Mardi Gras, see if Shangri-LA coincides with your trip. The true spirit of Mardi Gras should be firmly embraced by this krewe.

Where were we? Oh yeah, well Manzella was a terrific student and he hit .360 with 3 HR's in his Senior Year. That is showing no power.

His Freshman season at Tulane produced an empty .296 batting average. He only managed 8 walks in 192 plate appearances, again flashing no power with only 6 doubles, 3 triples, & 3 HR's. Tommy did not steal bases particularly well, with 4 steals in 7 attempts.

The next three seasons at Tulane were more impressive. For three straight seasons, from 2003 - '05, NCAA pitchers could not seem to cool him down. His worst batting average those seasons was .311, and he muscled up to hit 80 extra base hits. He never raised his proclivity to walk to an acceptable level, as his college career high of 20 walks came his Senior year in over 310 plate appearances.

Minor Leagues
I want Tommy to be a good major leaguer, but minor league slash numbers of .268/.321/.374 do not lead to great hitting success in the major leagues. Other than showing more doubles power and having sporadic success on the basepaths, Manzella's numbers never suggested adjustments in his hitting approach for improved plate discipline. He even showed less ability to avoid strikeouts as a professional, with a couple of alarming campaigns with 80 and 99 strikeouts.

Next Steps
Indications scream that Manzella will be given a chance at the everyday job for Brad Mills' 2010 Houston Astros. Defensive metrics aren't so available at the minor league level, but you'd think that a guy who can't hit minor league pitching with authority would be a great defensive player. When considering that Manzella is an old rookie, at 27 years old in 2010, a projection of Adam Everett 2.0 may be considered Tommy Manzella's best-case scenario.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Canyon of Heroes

Loyal readers, it has been an honour touring the wonderful game of baseball since this season's Opening Day. Our highly anticipated hot stove league coverage should begin soon. (teaser: tommy m.)

Here is an extensive photo library of the Yankees Championship Parade from deep within the archaic bowels of the Canyon of Heroes.

The construction workers had the best views on top of the scaffold.
Sorry if some of these pictures are fuzzy, tasteless, or worthless. I think the float in the fuzzy picture above had the trophy.

MVP Hideki Matsui was the first player to appear in the parade. The crowd chanted MVP! MVP!

Most people didn't realize Brett Gardner was on this float. I think Xavier Nady and a few other players were there, too.

This fan was a riot, straight out of "A Bronx Tale". My favorite was when he was screaming and pointing at a float yelling, "Giuliani! Giuliani! Giuliani!!"
The crowds were squeezing into Broadway, and the buzz in the air was getting louder. Why?

It's Gangster AlexRod! Fans near me were yelling, "Arod's got his own float!" I can't help but have Kobe Bryant flashbacks to the times I lived in LA and he was celebrating his first Lakers' championship without any teammates.

Where's Kate? Is that AlexRod's ex wife? I could see her making her presence a requirement if her kids were to be on the AlexFloat.
Seeing AJ Burnett on his own float made me think that maybe Boras clients negotiate that into their deals. Why wouldn't the Yankees agree to giving them their own float if they win the title? They just want to win the title.

I was the only one around us who recognized Burnett. Not a good thing.

Jerry Hairston, Jr keeps the ex-Cub vibes around.

This was a fun float with Sabathia and Teixeira. The Bronx Tail fan and I were both yelling "CC! CC! CC!" like schoolchildren. Sabathia is a star.

Terrible shot, but that is the top of Robinson Cano's head.

Fans going crazy...
They're squeezing in... could that be him?
Oh yeah, Cap'n Jetes!
Hang loose, my man.
Posada and Jeter were on the same float. That was nice.

Pettitte looked like a man who would only do HGH for the benefit of his teammates.

Moving down towards Bowling Green...

And the best game finishing pitcher of all time brought the parade to a close. With all respect for Matsui, Rivera is our pick for 2009 World Series MVP. As Harry would say, "They're DANCING in the streets of Panama City."