Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Best Free Agents Left

Most of the guys from our Top 50 Free Agent post two months ago have been signed, leading to a potential discussion of "Who are the best free agents left out there?"

We know that the Mariner's have about $5 to $10 million that they are comfortably ready to spend. Most teams are quietly waiting in the wings for players' asking prices to drop. If you were a GM, which players on the following list entice you the most. For a perspective of "price is no object", or "best value". In terms of best value, we rank the remaining 20 as follows...

1. Jermaine Dye
2. John Smoltz
3. Chan Ho Park (as reliever only)
4. Erik Bedard
5. Joe Crede
6. Hank Blalock
7. Johnny Damon
8. Jonny Gomes
9. Yorvit Torrealba
10. Kiko Calero
11. Rob Quinlan
12. Reed Johnson
13. Adam Kennedy
14. Orlando Cab
15. Rod Barajas
16. Orlando Hud
17. Melvin Mora
18. Chien-Ming Wang
19. Nomar Garciaparra
20. Jarrod Washburn

Did we leave anyone really good out? Considering we actually have Melvin Mora and Jarrod Washburn on the list, I sure hope we didn't leave anyone out.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Anyone got Hendry's Number?

Note: I wrote this on my blackberry and apologize for any formatting malfeasance.

Jason Stark has the impression that the Cubs have set aside their interest in Ben Sheets as they pursue a bench bat and a setup man.

Who are the Cubs interested in?

Kiko Calero, for sure. I'm down with that. Injury is an acute risk with him, but he's one of the best relief pitchers left on the market, perhaps the best.

Bench bat? I've heard Adam Kennedy rumors and hope they are false.

Jim Thome is there, but he's still trying to be a full time, or platoon, Designated Hitter before relegating himself to "bench bat". Besides, the Twins are reported to be interested, and Ozzie Guillen said he wants the White Sox to decide on Thome by Sunday. The Sox liked having Thome, but they have also mentioned the desire to utilize the DH spot to give regular players time off from playing defense.

Another former White Sock, Jermaine Dye, has been linked to Cubs' interest. I can't believe that he would settle for 4th Outfielder status so easily. He's a better fit with the Yankees or another team that could use a starting OF, like maybe Seattle. I don't know. If the Cubs got him, I'd be shocked. He should get more than the $3.65 million deal that Rick Ankiel just got from Kansas City.

Orlando Hudson is a starting second baseman, not a bench bat. The Cubs have been reported as "happy" with a Jeff Baker/Mike Fontenot platoon. I'm not as thrilled about their combined 1.6 expected WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player). Who knows? Maybe they'll combine for 25 Homeruns and 105+ RBI.

It's probably more likely that they will occasionally get hot, routinely stink, and rarely play above average defense. Personally, I'd rather have a slick-fielding second baseman who can run, even if he can't hit. Those guys are available. You might find them as free agents, or in trades, or even in your own minor league system.

Heck, the Cubs will probably sign Jonny Gomes. They've done worse. At least he can hit a little.

It's hard to talk about which bench players to sign, when there is a likely ace out there in Ben Sheets. Okay, maybe he's not "a likely ace" but he is definitely a possible ace.

I just want the Jim Hendry and the Cubs to shoot for the stars again. The win differential between signing 4th outfielder A, versus 4th outfielder B, or C, is negligible compared with having Ben Sheets in your rotation versus Carlos Silva.

I've never done this before, but I think he's "a likely ace", and it's my blog.

Sorry, but the comment section is for y'all.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rookie Stuff

So, my buddy Weino tells me all the time that he prefers shorter, quick-hit posts to long, rambling posts about six dozen ballplayers, their agents, and hyperbole. Personally, I like to have something to say before I start the posting process, and before I know it, I have too many things to mention.

Tonight, we'll try something different. I just got back from dinner at Otto*, and I have a lot I'd like to touch on including: Andre Dawson, Mark McGwire, Ben Sheets, Johnny Damon, "24", Kiko Calero, Rocco Baldelli, Willis Jackson, Randy Wells, Tony Reagins, Felipe Lopez, and Joe Mauer. Even though I would like to attempt at least one pithy comment for each individual above, I'm going to keep this short & sweet.

*It was decent, but I don't recommend it.

Instead, I'm going to piggy-back on something interesting I read in this Hardball Times article by Harry Pavlidis that examines the Pitch F/X data of last season's rookie pitchers. For all you remedial readers out there, the point of this post is to highlight some potential sleeper arms for 2010. The following charts are from Harry's post...
Best average fastball (mph), 2009 debuts - relievers
1Henry Rodriguez100.1
2Daniel Bard98.4
3Waldis Joaquin97.0
4Neftali Feliz96.8
5Daniel Runzler96.7
Regular readers of this space should know that we admired Henry Rodriguez, Daniel Bard, and Neftali Feliz from afar last season. In fact, the three of them were significant contributors to our fantasy team, Good Friends.

What shocked me is that I have never heard of Waldis Joaguin or Daniel Runzler. Shame on me. Waldis, by name alone, should be a fan favorite. Here is the line from the HT article that got me excited about Daniel Runzler...
The second Giant on the list [Runzler] makes it with his two-seamer. Again, as sample sizes grow, Runzler's four-seamer (95.3) should float to the top of the speed list.
Moving on to making hitters miss...
Highest whiff rate (misses/swings), 2009 debuts

1Esmerling VasquezChange-up.491
2Alfredo FigaroSlider.487
3Luke GregersonSlider.468
4Kris MedlenChange-up.446
5Samuel GervacioSlider.432
We vultured a Win with Esmerling Vazquez last August, but I've never heard of Samuel Gervacio. Why didn't Osh ever mention him? Surely, he must've noticed an Astro reliever missing bats on 43.2% of his pitches.

There are some really exciting notes to go along with the following chart, which we will include in this snipet:
Highest fastball whiff rate (misses/swings), 2009 debuts

1Gervacio.394
2Andrew Bailey.343
3Bard.296
4Brad Kilby.283
5Jhoulys Chacin.280

I wasn't kidding about Gervacio being impressive. To miss that many bats with a fastball is just nuts, small sample and everything. Bailey, who threw 703 four-seamers (compared to Gervacio's 80 for this list) is even more impressive. And he did win Rookie of the Year, natch. Bard makes the list with his four-seamer—his two-seamer (which ranked on the fastball list) had a whiff rate below .08 as he threw that to contact. Nice bag of tricks, Mr. Bard. Kilby's rate, while impressive, continues our march away from the stratosphere occupied by Gervacio and Bailey. Kilby made his debut for Oakland as a lefty swingman, and he was successful in the limited work. Jhoulys (not Gustavo) Chacin edged out the Cubs'
Esmailin Caridad for the last spot on this list. Chacin looked a little rough in his first outings for the Rockies, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's given a good hard look this Spring.
How about that?! The Cubs have an exciting young arm in the bullpen. Alright! I can't wait to build the bandwagon for Esmailin Caridad.

There is a lot more to read in the original Hardball Times post, including a few graphs not shared here that cover high ground ball rates, popup rates, and the ability to throw strikes. If you check it out, you'll see good numbers from Carlos Carrasco, Ricky Romero, Fu Te-Ni, Clay Zavada, and (again) Pedro Feliz.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Single Season Homerun Record

No time for Hot Stove or Sleeper analysis today, but in anticipation of Mark McGwire's impending public castigation, I would like to provide my interpretation of the actual single season home run records, without Big Mac, Slammin' Sammy, Baroid Bonds, and the rest of 'em. Let's see how it looks...

First, the Top 50 list (Year / Player / Homeruns)...

2001 Barry Bonds 73
1998 Mark McGwire 70
1998 Sammy Sosa 66
1999 Mark McGwire 65
2001 Sammy Sosa 64
1999 Sammy Sosa 63
1961 Roger Maris 61
1927 Babe Ruth 60
1921 Babe Ruth 59
1932 Jimmie Foxx 58
1938 Hank Greenberg 58
2006 Ryan Howard 58
1997 Mark McGwire 58
2001 Luis Gonzalez 57
2002 Alex Rodriguez 57
1998 Ken Griffey, Jr. 56
1997 Ken Griffey, Jr. 56
1930 Hack Wilson 56
1949 Ralph Kiner 54
1961 Mickey Mantle 54
2006 David Ortiz 54
2007 Alex Rodriguez 54
1928 Babe Ruth 54
1920 Babe Ruth 54
1977 George Foster 52
1956 Mickey Mantle 52
1965 Willie Mays 52
1996 Mark McGwire 52
2001 Alex Rodriguez 52
2002 Jim Thome 52
1990 Cecil Fielder 51
2005 Andruw Jones 51
1947 Ralph Kiner 51
1955 Willie Mays 51
1947 Johnny Mize 51
1996 Brady Anderson 50
1995 Albert Belle 50
2007 Prince Fielder 50
1938 Jimmie Foxx 50
2000 Sammy Sosa 50
1998 Greg Vaughn 50
1998 Albert Belle 49
2000 Barry Bonds 49
1987 Andre Dawson 49
1936 Lou Gehrig 49
1934 Lou Gehrig 49
2001 Shawn Green 49
1996 Ken Griffey, Jr. 49
2001 Todd Helton 49
1964 Harmon Killebrew 49
1969 Harmon Killebrew 49
1954 Ted Kluszewski 49
1962 Willie Mays 49
1987 Mark McGwire 49
2006 Albert Pujols 49
1966 Frank Robinson 49
1930 Babe Ruth 49
2002 Sammy Sosa 49
2001 Jim Thome 49
1997 Larry Walker 49

*Note, there are 60 players on the Top 50 list above because of all the guys tied with 49 HR's. The 'Top 50' list below has 52 players, with a bunch tied at 48 HR's.

While removing the usual suspects, I find myself hesitant to cross off three players from the list. So, I'm going to leave them in. See if you can spot them (the three are revealed after the list)...

1961 Roger Maris 61
1927 Babe Ruth 60
1921 Babe Ruth 59
1932 Jimmie Foxx 58
1938 Hank Greenberg 58
2006 Ryan Howard 58
2001 Luis Gonzalez 57
1930 Hack Wilson 56
1997 Ken Griffey, Jr. 56
1998 Ken Griffey, Jr. 56
1920 Babe Ruth 54
1928 Babe Ruth 54
1949 Ralph Kiner 54
1961 Mickey Mantle 54
1956 Mickey Mantle 52
1965 Willie Mays 52
1977 George Foster 52
2002 Jim Thome 52
1947 Johnny Mize 51
1947 Ralph Kiner 51
1955 Willie Mays 51
1990 Cecil Fielder 51
1938 Jimmie Foxx 50
1995 Albert Belle 50
1998 Greg Vaughn 50
2007 Prince Fielder 50
1930 Babe Ruth 49
1934 Lou Gehrig 49
1936 Lou Gehrig 49
1954 Ted Kluszewski 49
1962 Willie Mays 49
1964 Harmon Killebrew 49
1966 Frank Robinson 49
1969 Harmon Killebrew 49
1987 Andre Dawson 49
1996 Ken Griffey, Jr. 49
1997 Larry Walker 49
1998 Albert Belle 49
2001 Jim Thome 49
2001 Shawn Green 49
2001 Todd Helton 49
2006 Albert Pujols 49
1933 Jimmie Foxx 48
1962 Harmon Killebrew 48
1969 Frank Howard 48
1971 Willie Stargell 48
1979 Dave Kingman 48
1980 Mike Schmidt 48
1996 Albert Belle 48
1999 Ken Griffey, Jr. 48
2004 Adrian Beltre 48
2008 Ryan Howard 48

It's nice to see Roger Maris and Babe Ruth back at the top of this list. It's staggering to see Ryan Howard sitting there with 58, and - yes - Luis Gonzalez is one of the guys I probably should have taken off the list. There have certainly been more than whispers with Luis, but I still think he's engendered enough goodwill in numerous communities to have earned the benefit of the doubt. For how long? I don't know.

Did I remove anyone who should have stayed on this list? I doubt it.

The other two players I wanted to remove from the second list, but left for varying reasons were Adrian Beltre and Albert Pujols. Are there questions around Albert Belle? Should there be doubts with Shawn Green? Greg Vaughn? I guess this is where the discussion stops being fun.

Let's take comfort in the names at the very top of the second list.

Maris. Ruth. Foxx. Greenberg.

Two of those greats are, with Lou Gehrig, in the picture below...