Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Yonder Alonso: Late Bloomer or Lame Duck?

Earlier today, the Oakland A's traded pitchers Drew Pomeranz, Jose Torres, and a player to be named later to the San Diego Padres for first baseman Yonder Alonso and reliever Marc Rzepczynski. Initial reactions lean towards this being a win for San Diego because Pomeranz is the most valuable commodity in the transaction. Future performance, of course, is the unknown. What strikes me as most interesting in this deal is what is in store for the A's new first baseman.

Yonder Alonso was born in Havana, Cuba in the spring of 1987. He was a highly touted prospect in the Reds' organization from 2009-2012, but clearly blocked by perennial MVP candidate, Joey Votto. He got his first exposure in the Major Leagues with the Reds, mostly as a pinch-hitter in 2010 and playing out of position in Left Field over 47 games of 2011. In that brief time, he showed his bat could play. His line in 2011 was a wildly promising .330/.398/.545, good for a 153 OPS+. The following winter, he was traded to San Diego, in a loaded package including Yasmani Grandal, Brad Boxberger, and Edinson Volquez, for the mercurial right-hander Mat Latos.

Joey Votto blocked Yonder Alonso in Cincinnati
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America

As most batters that move to San Diego, his hitting did not improve, but this was not due to the ballpark. His home road splits, over his career, have been quiet even.

Yonder Alonso MLB Home/Road Splits (Career)
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/2/2015.

In fact, his career numbers at the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark of Cincinnati have been horrendous, as evidenced by his .292 OBP while playing along the shores of the Ohio River. What's really never returned from his repertoire after 2011 is any semblance of power. He has never topped 9 home runs in a season, and his slugging percentage has been below .400 since he left Cincinnati. The Padres didn't expect Alonso to hit lots of homers. When they decided to trade Anthony Rizzo to Chicago for Andrew Cashner, their strategy relied on the fact that a line drive hitter, like Alonso, would be more likely succeed in their cavernous ballpark than a fly ball hitter, like Rizzo.

Current front office management in San Diego has changed since the Rizzo for Cashner deal, so it's not like they are living in regret. A.J. Preller is moving forward. This could be a good move for the Friars. It opens up first base for fragile Wil Myers and gives them a strong arm for the rotation. Pomeranz has good stuff, and he's moving to the National League, which should help his run prevention.

Back to what interest me of this move. Will this be an opportunity for Yonder Alonso to finally blossom as a player? He turns 29 in April and has two more seasons before Free Agency. For all the Alonso bashing we've heard off his underwhelming performance in San Diego, the dude had a .361 OBP last year and 111 OPS+. Among hitters with at least 400 PA's last year, that was the 20th highest On-Base Percentage in the National League. Alonso has been hurt for most of the past three seasons. If he gets a good string of health, it's not unreasonable to expect a slash line in the neighborhood of .300/.380/.410.

On the other hand, he could be keeping first base warm for another Cuban-born first baseman in the A's system who has hit well everywhere he's played. 23-year old Rangel Ravelo was born in Havana sixteen days after little Yonder's fifth birthday. They have a lot in common, both having gone to high school in the Miami area, both good contact hitters who have struggled with recent injuries that have sapped them of their already humble power, and now they both have a chance at the same Major League job. Take a look at these career numbers from Ravelo:

Rangel Ravelo MiLB Batting Stats
2011192 TeamsA-Rk25201431.338.381.415
2013212 TeamsA+-A41345157.299.388.432
2015233 TeamsAAA-AA-Rk24632342.304.377.439
Minors (6 seasons)Minors197621173270.302.369.426
Foreign (2 seasons)Foreign199104619.429.568.721
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/2/2015.

Would it surprise anyone if A's General Manager, David Forst, flipped Alonso in another trade this winter to open the door for Ravelo to win the first base job? Whenever and wherever Ravelo gets his opportunity, will the results be much different?

Rangel Ravero has been great in the 2016 Venezulan Winter
League, winning Player of the Week this Oct 26 - Nov 1
Photo from

Friday, November 6, 2015

Warming Up the Hot Stove

For fans of teams that didn't partake in serious contention of a title, and that's most teams, this is their favorite time of year. They say Opening Day brings optimism, but it's really the hot stove league that can give all fans the chance to dream.

We got the hot stove out of storage last night, by loosely breaking out free agents into tiers. Tonight, we are going to get it warmed up with a few notes, quick thoughts, and observations.

As noted by the indispensable, twenty players were offered 1 year/$15.8 million qualifying offers. This is the fourth offseason qualifying offers have existed, and no player has ever accepted one. The choice is accept the offer, or enter free agency. Most players have waited so long for free agency and can't resist their intense desire to enter the market in hopes of a larger payday. What complicates matters is a player who rejects a Q.O. will cost his new team their first round pick, unless the team has one of the first ten picks in the draft. That means that most good teams, who tend to have the ability for higher payrolls, also tend to have an aversion towards players who will cost them a first round pick. One interesting wrinkle to the game theory of acquiring players attached to a qualifying offer is that once you sign one of them, you may as well sign two or three, because the subsequent costs of losing a second and third round pick is much less. We've seen some players reject their qualifying offers and not get signed until after the next year's June draft, Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew from a couple of years ago jump out in recent memory. Below are the twenty players with qualifying offers this year:

Photo credit: Unknown
Brett Anderson
Wei-Yin Chen
Chris Davis
Ian Desmond
Marco Estrada
Dexter Fowler
Yovani Gallardo
Alex Gordon
Zack Greinke
Jason Heyward
Hisashi Iwakuma
Howie Kendrick
Ian Kennedy
John Lackey
Ian Kennedy: Environmental Beneficiary
Photo credit: Sean M. Haffey
Daniel Murphy
Colby Rasmus
Jeff Samardzija
Justin Upton
Matt Wieters
Jordan Zimmermann

The question most often brought up is, "Who's going to be the first player to accept their qualifying offer?" This year, it looks once again like no-one will. The next thought would be, "Will any of these players need to wait until June to be signed for next season?" I think all of these players will reject their offer, and they will all be signed before Spring Training. For the record, I think the worst player on this list is Ian Kennedy. He's been durable, making over 30 starts for six consecutive seasons, and there's enough value in that to get him a deal worth more than 1 year/ $19 million. Positioned one way, his agents can show a decent ERA of 3.92 the past two seasons, but his ability to actually prevent runs has been well below average the past three seasons. Baseball-Reference shows his Runs Allowed per 9 innings has been 4.79, when an average pitcher facing the same competition would have allowed an RA9 of 3.89 since the start of 2012. Any team who signs Ian Kennedy will likely be disappointed when he gives up 30+ home runs and has an ERA over 4.50 next year if he stays healthy.


One of the top free agents this year is Johnny Cueto. He has a strong track record, is still only 30 years old, and has shown durability. He's also the only professional athlete worth following on Instagram.


One international free agent we failed to mention is 24-year old Cuban hurler, Yaisel Sierra. He's a 6-1 right-hander who throws hard, has a lively arm, but doesn't have the statistics to show that he can miss bats as often as he misses the strike zone. Still, a guy who is this young and has been clocked up near 97 mph will get every opportunity to, at least, stick in a Major League bullpen. Below is a recent scouting video that shows some of his stuff and, optimistically, a repeatable and clean delivery.

2015-16 MLB Free Agent Tiered Rankings

Credit: Bruce Hemmelgarn/Getty Images 
At the moment, I believe the top free agents to be Jason Heyward, Yoenis Cespedes, David Price, Zack Greinke, Justin Upton, and Alex Gordon. That would be my top tier, consisting of six outstanding players who are still young enough to provide All Star production for three or more seasons.

A second tier would look more like a tier 1A, with Jordan Zimmermann and Johnny Cueto. They are 30-years old, the same age as Price, younger than Greinke, but a step below in track records.

Our third tier is all position players: Ian Desmond, Chris Davis, Howie Kendrick, Matt Wieters, and Ben Zobrist. This is where I'd start to place International free agents, like starting pitcher Kenta Maeda, first baseman Byung-ho Park, and outfielder Ah-seop Son.

My fourth tier has a baker's dozen of players, who should be good at least in 2015, but seem to have lower floors than most of the players listed above. This tier is mostly pitchers, or batters with unmistakable flaws, featuring Colby Rasmus, Yovani Gallardo, Jeff Samardzija, Marco Estrada, Scott Kazmir, Wei-Yin Chen, Bartolo Colon, John Lackey, Brett Anderson, Hisashi Iwakuma, Mike Leake, Dexter Fowler, and Daniel Murphy.

Credit: Jim Rogash/Getty Images 
So far, we've listed 26 Major League and 3 International free agents. Now, we start talking about role players (Gerardo Parra, Chris B. Young) and lottery tickets (Rich Hill). Steady big leaguers can be acquired in Dioner Navarro, Alexei Ramirez, Denard Span, Nori Aoki, Asdrubal Cabrera, Steve Pearce, Alex Avila, and David Freese. Back end of the rotation arms, like Doug FisterMark Buehrle, Ian Kennedy, and J.A. Happ can be found along with relievers like Ryan Madson, Darren O'Day, and Matt Thornton.

Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
The bargain bin is littered with more role players and guys looking for one more year in the sun. Drew Stubbs can still be a good pinch-hitter, hits lefties pretty well, and can run. Marlon Byrd has found the fountain of youth a few times. Will Venable might have something more to give. You could do worse than Brayan Pena as your backup catcher. Justin Morneau is a former league MVP looking to stay in the game. Gordon Beckham and Austin Jackson are still only 29 years old and can be a good utility infielder and fourth outfielder, respectively.

That's 53 Major League and 3 International free agents. This isn't the most top-heavy free agent class we've seen, but there should be a decent amount of good players to go around and Major League GM's play musical chairs with their 40 man roster spots. Afterall, the tiers above still don't include Shane Victorino, the pitcher Chris Young, Cliff Pennington, Mike Napoli, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Geovany Soto, Chad Qualls, Justin De Fratus, John Jaso, Tyler Clippard, Chris Iannetta, Juan Uribe, Jimmy Rollins, Kyle Lohse, Rajai Davis, Alejandro De Aza, Dillon Gee, Aaron Harang, former top prospects Travis Snider and Domonic Brown, reclamation projects Brandon Morrow and Bobby Parnell, fan favorite Munenori Kawasaki, nor games finished folk heroes Matt Albers and Ryan Webb.

Who doesn't love the Hot Stove?
Photo: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
That's a total of 83 players who are looking for work, and range from players demanding 9-figure contracts to those hoping for a Spring Training invitation. Experts will start posting their lists of top Free Agents in the next few days. It will be interesting to see how our tiers vary from theirs, and ultimately, which players proved to be worth their investments.

Did overrate or underrate someone egregiously? Did we miss anyone completely? As always, please provide feedback in the comments section below or on one of our social media channels.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

2015 MLB Award Ballot

Voters shouldn't allow postseason performance to skew their voting for regular season awards. With the same caution we now present our 2015 MLB Award Faux ballots... No-one was hurt in the making of these choices. Please feel free to add your own perspective in our comments section or by hitting us up on social media.

AL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award
1. Carlos Correa, Astros
2. Francisco Lindor, Indians
3. Miguel Angel Sano, Twins

No time for lots of chatting today. The playoffs are starting this evening. I just want to get these picks on the record.

In addition, I would point out that the influx of talent at the shortstop position has been tremendous this year. Correa and Lindor may be the best shortstops in all of baseball at the moment, not just the best rookies. Other promising shortstops to debut this year include Addison Russell, Corey Seager, Trea Turner, and Jung-ho Kang. Correa, Lindor, Russell, and Seager are poised to be this generation's version of Arod, Jeter, Nomar, plus +1.

NL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award
1. Kris Bryant, Cubs
2. Noah Syndergaard, Mets
3. Jung-ho Kang, Pirates

You know who really fell off the radar? Joc Pederson looked like the front runner in June. By having one of the worst 2nd halves of any player, he's not even in the discussion. Matt Duffy of the Giants would have been 4th, if the ballot went that deep.

American League Cy Young Award
1. Dallas Keuchel, Astros
2. David Price, Tigers
3. Sonny Gray, A's
4. Wade Davis, Royals
5. Dellin Betances, Yankees

So far, the Astros are 2-for-2 in AL awards on this blog.

National League Cy Young Award
1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
2. Jake Arrieta, Cubs
3. Zack Greinke, Dodgers
4. Max Scherzer, Nationals
5. Jacob deGrom, Mets

This will likely be the most debated of all the awards. Each of the top 3 has had a worthy season. It really depends how you want to look at it. In my opinion, Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball. He had very bad luck in the first couple of months of the season, and yet his overall numbers are right there. If his luck had been average at the start of the year, there would be no question who deserves it.

American League Manager of the Year Award
1. Joe Girardi, Yankees
2. Jeff Banister, Rangers
3. Paul Molitor, Twins

National League Manager of the Year Award
1. Terry Collins, Mets
2. Joe Maddon, Cubs
3. Clint Hurdle, Pirates

This week's firing of 2014 NL Manager of the Year, Matt Williams, once again exemplifies how meaningless this award should be.

American League MVP Award
1. Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
2. Mike Trout, Angels
3. Manny Machado, Orioles
4. Adrian Beltre, Rangers
5. Chris Davis, Orioles
6. Lorenzo Cain, Royals
7. Carlos Correa, Astros
8. Francisco Lindor, Indians
9. Dellin Betances, Yankees
10. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

National League MVP Award
1. Bryce Harper, Nationals
2. Joey Votto, Reds
3. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
4. Jake Arietta, Cubs
5. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
6. Zack Greinke, Dodgers
7. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
8. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
9. Buster Posey, Giants
10. Kris Bryant, Cubs

What do you think? Whom did we overlook (Kipnis or Pollock?) or overrate?

What would have been some of your choices?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

MLB Starting Pitching Trade Market

This started off as a simple tweet about Andrew Cashner's career FIP as a starter. As you can see, it became much more than 140 characters, when we wanted to add the context of other starting pitchers who have been traded, or rumored to be on the market this July. First, a simple list of those pitchers, ranked by Career FIP as a starter...

Career FIP (as a Starter)
David Price 3.24
Alex Wood 3.26
Tyson Ross 3.28
Andrew Cashner 3.36
Mat Latos 3.40
Cole Hamels 3.46
Mike Fiers 3.55
Jesse Chavez 3.57
Hisashi Iwakuma 3.60
Jeff Samardzija 3.63
Carlos Carrasco 3.64
Yovani Gallardo 3.72
Dan Haren 3.76
C.J. Wilson 3.77
James Shields 3.79
Johnny Cueto 3.80
Julio Teheran 3.84
Scott Kazmir 3.89
Matt Garza 4.00
Ian Kennedy 4.02
Aaron Harang 4.13
Mike Leake 4.15
Bud Norris 4.22
Jeremy Hellickson 4.28
J.A. Happ 4.30
Kyle Lohse 4.30
Jorge de la Rosa 4.35

How about that Tyson Ross?! No wonder he's sounding like such a priority to the Cubs' brain trust, especially when considering his low salary. Pedro Moura made a similar observation when others speculated that Wood could be flipped for Hamels.

Now, there's speculation that Wood could be flipped for David Price. I don't see that making much sense, either. If you wouldn't flip him for Hamels, why would you flip him for 2-3 months of Price?

Since we are here, let's rank them again by xFIP, K:BB ratio, and Opponents' OPS, then provide an overall ranking if we give equal value to each statistic and scoring of 1 point for finishing in last place, 2 points for second-to-last, etc. As always, this is supposed to be fun, and like in old episodes of "Fat Albert", we may learn something...

Career xFIP (as a Starter)
Hisashi Iwakuma 3.21
David Price 3.36
Cole Hamels 3.36
Carlos Carrasco 3.39
Tyson Ross 3.40
Jeff Samardzija 3.49
Alex Wood 3.52
Andrew Cashner 3.54
Mike Fiers 3.56
James Shields 3.58
Yovani Gallardo 3.61
Mat Latos 3.63
Dan Haren 3.65
Jesse Chavez 3.66
Mike Leake 3.76
Johnny Cueto 3.82
Julio Teheran 3.87
Ian Kennedy 3.95
C.J. Wilson 3.95
Matt Garza 4.01
Bud Norris 4.04
Scott Kazmir 4.05
Jorge de la Rosa 4.13
Aaron Harang 4.17
Jeremy Hellickson 4.28
J.A. Happ 4.31
Kyle Lohse 4.38

Career K:BB Ratio (as a Starter)
Hisashi Iwakuma 4.59
Dan Haren 4.09
Cole Hamels 3.75
David Price 3.62
James Shields 3.56
Mike Fiers 3.48
Jeff Samardzija 3.29
Carlos Carrasco 3.12
Andrew Cashner 3.11
Julio Teheran 3.11
Mat Latos 3.05
Alex Wood 3.04
Jesse Chavez 2.93
Johnny Cueto 2.84
Ian Kennedy 2.74
Mike Leake 2.71
Aaron Harang 2.64
Yovani Gallardo 2.51
Matt Garza 2.51
Tyson Ross 2.40
Scott Kazmir 2.35
Bud Norris 2.35
Kyle Lohse 2.35
Jeremy Hellickson 2.31
C.J. Wilson 2.09
J.A. Happ 2.06
Jorge de la Rosa 1.92

Career Opponent's OPS (as a Starter)
David Price .651
Mat Latos .658
Hisashi Iwakuma .662
Andrew Cashner .665
Tyson Ross .670
Johnny Cueto .674
Cole Hamels .675
Alex Wood .681
C.J. Wilson .684
Jesse Chavez .693
Yovani Gallardo .696
Julio Teheran .696
Jeff Samardzija .703
Dan Haren .709
Matt Garza .710
Mike Fiers .712
Scott Kazmir .718
Jeremy Hellickson .718
James Shields .721
Mike Leake .735
Ian Kennedy .736
Carlos Carrasco .753
Kyle Lohse .755
J.A. Happ .756
Bud Norris .760
Jorge de la Rosa .760
Aaron Harang .763

David Price 103.5 pts
Hisashi Iwakuma 98 pts
Cole Hamels 93.5 pts - traded to Rangers
Andrew Cashner 86.5 pts
Alex Wood 83 pts - traded to Dodgers
Mat Latos 82 pts - traded to Dodgers
Tyson Ross 79 pts
Jeff Samardzija 76 pts
Mike Fiers 74 pts
Dan Haren 70 pts
Carlos Carrasco 67 pts
Jesse Chavez 67 pts
James Shields 63 pts
Johnny Cueto 60 pts - traded to Royals
Yovani Gallardo 59 pts
Julio Teheran 57 pts
C.J. Wilson 45.5 pts
Matt Garza 39.5 pts
Mike Leake 39 pts
Ian Kennedy 37.5 pts
Scott Kazmir 33 pts - traded to Astros
Aaron Harang 23 pts
Jeremy Hellickson 21 pts
Bud Norris 20.5 pts
Kyle Lohse 14.5 pts
J.A. Happ 10.5 pts
Jorge de la Rosa 9.5 pts

If we take salary commitments and years of team control into consideration, the rankings shift again. That's where we will leave it up to personal choice. Where would you, the reader, rank any of these players? Maybe just consider the top 5 or 10, based on total cost, what it would presumably take to get them, and how long they could help your favorite team?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Kung Fu Panda and Red Sox Angst

Photo by Brandon Wade / AP
Unclogging our writer's block...

On twitter this Sunday afternoon, the legendary Michael Schur bemoaned how much the Red Sox owe Pablo Sandoval: “Don't worry, Sox fans -- we only have to pay Sandoval $18m a year until 2019 and then we're free! (Except for a $5m buyout in 2020.)”

Ken Tremendous is one of my favorite writers and contributors of the past ten years; none of this is designed to criticize his statement. On the contrary, it got me thinking… how bad has Kung Fu Panda been? I’ve seen him in highlights. Looking into today's action, it's clear the outburst was partially triggered by Panda's defense.

Sandoval's batting numbers are below average, with just a .312 OBP and .369 SLG. Does his hitting line deserve the vitriol from Schur? Probably not. Sandoval is hitting about the same, or better, than Mookie Betts, David Ortiz, and Xander Bogaerts… they’ve been the lousiest of the everyday Red Sox hitters through May.

Does Sandoval deserve so much blame for this anxiety? Probably not, but he is struggling with a low output of extra base hits. Sandoval has only 5 doubles and 5 home runs this season. How poor is that performance? As any good economist will say, it depends.

Numbers and data can often be found and used to make a case for either side of an argument.

Pablo Sandoval has the 7th lowest extra base hit rate, among everyone with at least ten extra-base hits this year (xBH/100 PA's):
Plate appearances are a better criteria than extra base hits. Simply drawing the line at Pablo Sandoval's 180 PA's, there are fifteen players averaging less than Panda's 5.46 xBH's per 100 plate appearances.

At 150 min PA's, Sandoval has the 24th lowest score. The lightest hitting player with at least 150 PA's is Melky Cabrera, who has only 5 xBH's in 215 PA's (2.33 per 100 PA's).

We'll get to some more provocative thoughts soon, but we just needed to get the ink flowing again. Be well and enjoy the games!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Yankee Prudence

"Hal Steinbrenner" by Paul J. Bereswill
Living in New York for most of the past decade, it's easy to pick up the rhythms of the metropolis's professional sports teams. It's well known the Yankees have changed since the heyday of George Steinbrenner's wild spending on free agents. His sons have run the team with what seems like a bit more financial restraint, although their spending spree last winter completely contradicted the mantra from the prior two offseasons ago, to get under the luxury tax number. Instead, they signed Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann, and Hiroki Kuroda.

Word out of New York is that they are done spending big dollars this winter and will not pursue Max Scherzer. As Ken Davidoff writes: "Steinbrenner didn’t speak like an owner expecting to add another big piece to his club". I'd challenge anyone to find that sentence in a newspaper last century. I'd love to see it, in fact.

Let's take a quick look at front office game theory. Should the Yankees just say they're in on Scherzer so the price tag goes up? Or, is it worth it to them - in an effort to keep salaries lower across baseball - to say they are out of it and hope Scherzer doesn't set any records? If Scherzer gets close to $200 million from somebody, will it wind up costing the Yankees more for a different free agent in the future?

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015 Hall of Fame "Suspense"

There's a lot of talk about the suspense surrounding tomorrow's announcement as to who will get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this Summer. Unfortunately, I'm not really on the edge of my seat on the matter. Due the the great work of Ryan Thibbs and Darren Viola, we have an excellent idea of how the votes will shake out. In fact, this year, I feel that there's more suspense with who will fall off the HOF ballot than who gets inducted.

Pedro is an Inner Circle HOF'er
Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz will get in. Craig Biggio is a "probably", and Mike Piazza is a "probably not". That's it. No-one else is getting in through the BBWAA ballot this year. With the overstuffed ballot and an archaically arbitrary limit of 10 votes per ballot, many players who deserve to stay on the ballot will receive less than 5% of the vote, and not make it into the consideration set next year.

The cases for Gary Sheffield, Nomar Garciaparra, and Carlos Delgado weigh particularly heavily on my mind. I'm not saying these players are or aren't Hall of Famers, but they were definitely good enough to deserve a few years on the ballot to have their cases considered. Heck, in my hypothetical ballot this year, I would vote for Larry Walker, and he is also in danger of getting eliminated. These great players stand too good a chance of being abandoned and forsaken. My hopes for who will or won't get in don't actually have much to do with the individual players. If Biggio or Piazza don't get in this year, they will in another year or two. However, if they get in this year, it lessens the bottleneck of great players and would allow more voters to fit deserving players like Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell on their ballots next Winter. Still, the greater suspense right now seems to sit with the marvelous players who are getting almost ignored. If a great player gets knocked off this ballot, he'll likely have to wait decades to be considered by a veterans committee. Those committees, often made of living Hall of Famers, have traditionally been too busy keeping their private club as exclusive as possible, granting little hope for the living.