Monday, December 26, 2011

Last Year's Best Roster Additions

The final days of December are just a bit past the midpoint of baseball's hot stove season. Many big purchases have been made, while a few marquee prizes still shine in the sales brochures produced by their agents. This season, Prince Fielder, Ryan Madson, Edwin Jackson, among others, will make many millions of dollars after Christmas.

Instead of the usual guessing game as to who will end up where, let's take a quick look back at the 2011 season. Which players changing teams added the most to their clubs?

For this exercise, we are using our old standby of avWAR, or Average Wins Above Replacement from Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs. It should go without saying, Wins Above Replacement does not tell us the whole story. Unfortunately, the comment section will every so often contain a comment stating that, so I guess the disclaimer can't hurt. For the record, no one statistic tells the whole story. That's the point. More information is better. We could rank batters by Hits and pitchers by Strikeouts, and our list of Top 10 roster additions probably wouldn't vary much more than using avWAR, but avWAR is substantially more judicious than traditional counting stats of batting average and ERA.

Top 10 Roster Additions of 2011
10.) Shaun Marcum, Brewers: 3.0 avWAR
Milwaukee's #3 starter was worn out by the end of the season, but he added enough value during the Summer that he helped the Brew Crew win their first division title since they were in the American League.

9.) Melky Cabrera, Royals: 3.6 avWAR
Somehow, Melky scored 102 runs last season, and to Dayton Moore's credit, he flipped him to Brian Sabean for a lottery ticket called Jonathan Sánchez.

8.) Cameron Maybin, Padres: 3.8 avWAR
Cam Maybin is still getting better.
One of Jed Hoyer's finest moves as General Manager in San Diego was capitalizing on the organization's depth in relief pitching and plucking a potential budding star in Centerfield. Cameron Maybin will turn just 25 next year.

As he grows into his body, a season with 20 HR's and 40 SB's could be on the horizon. More importantly, he has shown the aptitude of an improving, soon-to-be dangerous hitter, a good defender and outstanding base runner.

7.) Matt Garza, Cubs: 4.0 avWAR
This was not one of our favorite Jim Handry moves, as we didn't see any need to fight for 75 wins, when the 2011 team did not look good.

As a consolation, it looks like Garza's productive 2011 campaign could benefit the team if Theo and Hoyer can flip him for better prospects than he cost a year ago. Doubtful, but there's a chance.

6.) Brandon McCarthy, Rangers: 4.2 avWAR
Blog favorite Brandon McCarthy, used impeccable control to lead the American League in FIP last season.

For all you stat-head youngsters out there, the Hardball Times defines Fielding Independent Pitching as "a measure of all those things for which a pitcher is specifically responsible. The formula is (HR*13+(BB+HBP-IBB)*3-K*2)/IP, plus a league-specific factor (usually around 3.2) to round out the number to an equivalent ERA number".

5.) J.J. Hardy, Orioles: 4.5 avWAR
Who would have thought that in the sorry state the Orioles have been the last few years, they would have made one of the finest acquisitions of 2011? Not us.

The Orioles are in a terrible place, and more and more signs point to the only hope being ownership change.

Much like the Mets in the National League, the Orioles are destined for last place next season in the AL East.

4.) Lance Berkman, Cardinals: 5.1 avWAR
We're finding little comfort being right when we suggested the Cubs sign Berkman last November.

3.) Adrián Beltré, Rangers: 5.5 avWAR
The Rangers second straight run to the World Series provided a showcase of their fabulous third baseman. Not only has Adrian Beltre shown an ability to control the strike zone and hit with power, but he is the finest 3rd baseman we've seen in years.

2.) Adrián González, Red Sox: 6.75 avWAR
Boston's got 99 problems,
but 1st base ain't one.
Folks in Boston aren't too happy about the Red Sox these days, but they shouldn't really complain about having Adrian Gonzalez for the next half a dozen years. It looks as if the Boston faithful may have a trying year, or two, as their team ages quickly, while the Blue Jays improve dramatically and the Yankees and Rays remain in the AL East's Top 3 teams.

1.) Cliff Lee, Phillies: 6.8 avWAR
Watching Lee take a little less money to pitch in Philadelphia than New York satisfied fans from coast-to-coast. Does anyone know if Cliff Lee has a prescription for Adderall or Ritalin, and if so if he has ADD or ADHD? This isn't an accusation, just a claim that he looks like he's on Adderall. Doesn't he look like he is so zoned-in... especially the way he's gnawing away on his chewing gum... am I crazy about this? I can't help but think that he's one of the many players to get a prescription for speed after baseball outlawed amphetamines.

Honorable Mention: Víctor Martínez, Casey Kotchman, Hunter Pence*, and Carlos Peña.

*If Hunter Pence had spent the entire season with the Phillies, he would have comfortably placed in our Top 5, as he earned 2.4 avWAR for the Astros before being traded to Philadelphia, where he accumulated 2.6 avWAR in just 54 games.

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