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Rafael Soriano or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Three Year Reliever Deals

January 17, 2011

In my place of work (“Work!” you might say? Yes, I do indeed have a regular job to fill the days I don’t update this blog, which is basically all of them) the climate of the economy has forced pay cuts across the board for employees. Now, percentage wise it is the same for everyone. But 15% of the pay for some of the higher ups making, say, $300k a year adds up to a lot steeper pay cut than what I have taken. Still, it comes across as very disingenuous for someone so wealthy to try and complain side by side with me about how bad we all have it with the pay cuts. They might be losing out on $45k a year, but that’s probably double what the low tier employees make total, before the pay cut. They’re also still left with $255k a year, enough, I would presume, to get by.

By the time Soriano's contract is up the Rays will probably have turned the Yankee's draft picks into a 4 star OF prospect.

The Yankees are the rich executives of the sports world (let’s ignore the fact that basically everyone in the professional sports world is rich). When they blow over 30 million dollars on a soon to be 31 year old reliever in Rafael Soriano it stings as a fan, because it is clearly a waste of money. However, I have trouble convincing myself that this will in any way hamstring them in the near future. It won’t impact the draft, it won’t impact international free-agency, and it most likely won’t affect how they go after other free agents, this year or next. The Yankees don’t have infinite revenue, and they don’t have an unlimited salary, but they do have the closest thing to it in modern sports. So even when they give away stupid money to a reliever (already a bad idea) who is over 30 (worse idea) and has an injury history (see where this is going) for three years (worst idea), I can’t get too angry without feeling entirely hypocritical. This isn’t the same as the Reds blowing more than 16 percent of their payroll on a closer.

Now on the other hand, let’s remove the money from the equation. If Soriano sucks, he can be demoted to the back of the pen and someone can be paid to replace him. If he gets hurt, the Yankees can eat the money. Soriano was a Type A free agent, and the Yankees were nowhere near protected pick status. For the most part, it is just fine to give up a draft pick to acquire a player of need. This particular transaction hurts in more than one way. The Yankees are now one first round draft pick poorer, and the Rays (who do fantastic job of drafting) are one richer (not to mention the supplemental pick they also gain from losing Soriano). So the final cost of our 70 innings middle reliever comes to:

$35mm

1 first round lost

1 first round pick gained by division rival

I also have to mention here that Grant Balfour, while not quite the reliever Soriano was, was had for 2 years and $8 million by the A’s.

A much finer bargain.

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The Wrong Way To Play Baseball

April 30, 2010

Prince Fielder hits a homerun to win a game for some of his best friends while 25 thousand people cheer for him. But then he ruins it by untucking his shirt as he rounds third base. What do you do?

Kill Him.

Well maybe not. It seems like some people wanted to, though. Last year Torii Hunter decided it was his place to flip his lid about the Brewers celebrating a victory in a game that took place in a different stadium, timezone, and league than Hunter and his Angels (in the process undoing all of the good will I had towards him for the combination of his robbing Barry Bonds’ all star game homerun and making this commercial). It was a rant of bitterness, misplaced nostalgia and absurdity matched only by Torii Hunter’s rant for the current season about the plight of the black baseball player, which he seemed to think is caused in part by the lowball offers received by “imposter” blacks, namely Dominicans and other Caribbean islanders. I seem to have drifted off of my intentioned path on to a Torii Hunter rant, so just one more Torii Factâ„¢ before I continue: when Torii’s children have fun at school he tells them “School isn’t supposed to be fun,” and then hits them with a baseball between the shoulder blades.

The main issue with “unwritten rules” is that they vary from person to person. Why do some celebrations rub people the wrong way, while others are okay? Why is it bad to talk trash but fine to hit someone in the wrist with a fastball? It seems very hypocritical for people to think they can determine how others will express their personality on (or off) the field. J.D. Drew quiet off of the field, and is a smooth fielder who takes good routes to the ball and doesn’t have to dive very often. Therefore, he is a loafer who doesn’t care. Jacobi Ellsbury runs around like a lunatic because he doesn’t know where the ball is, and has a pretty face. That makes him scrappy and clutch. Robinson Cano used to have occasional mental lapses in the field, which seemed to give an impression of him being lazy or not caring. Kevin Youkilis is a total dick, but that gets read as passion and fire.

I think what I am trying to get at is that you can’t judge someone’s personality because of what they do on a baseball field. Getting back to the Brewers antics of last season, why did so many people jump all over them for their various homerun celebrations?

This rules, don't argue

Why is is such a big deal to have fun on the field? I guess the obvious answer is that it can be construed as “showing up your opponent.” Well you know what was way more embarrassing than Prince Fielder pretending to be a bowling ball? Prince Fielder hitting a game winning homerun off of one of the Giants pitchers. If you don’t want someone to celebrate, don’t give them a reason to. This isn’t Prince Fielder hitting a homerun off of a little leaguer, then taking a dump on the mound after touching home. For one at bat he dominated a major league pitcher and he should get to do all of the celebrating he wants after the game.

You don’t have to like it when someone celebrates, but it doesn’t hurt you when they do. It doesn’t hurt J.D. Drew to have as much personality as a sack of potatoes, he’s a fantastic ballplayer either way. Matt Kemp isn’t a prima donna loafer because he is off to a slow start. Plus I already told you, he is awesome.

Baseball is a game. Games are fun. Everyone has their own way of playing, and bitching about creativity in a game that has hardly changed in 100 years is inane.

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Can You Take The Marlins Higher?

April 16, 2010

The Yankees may have Jay-Z, LeBron James, and Me, but the Marlins have Scott Stapp.

YES.

Can You Take The Marlins Higher?
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Best iPod/iPhone Apps For The Baseball Season

March 28, 2010

With one week to go before the 2010 MLB season opens up I thought I’d give a quick list of some of the cooler and more useful baseball apps for iPods and iPhones. I suppose I could list apps for androids and blackberrys and all that, but I don’t have either and so that would be of no benefit to me. And, as we all know, I am the only person that I care about.

SO! What sort of things to people do at baseball games? Drink until they’re brave enough to yell shit at people twice their size; eat a meal of hot dogs, popcorn and soda that costs more than most surf and turf platters; and, if you’re a huge nerd or over 70 years old you keep score. Now, there are a bunch of scoring apps, but only one seems to have the delightful combination of being free and not crappy. That would be (heads up, clicking the links for apps will also open iTunes for most of you guys) ScorePad Baseball Free.

It has a cool looking interface, and it can be filled in with custom lineups for use with MLB games or baseball of any level. This will make calculating little Johnny’s VORP all the easier (the first step is identifying the right fielder as the replacement level player).

The next apps you need to have for the baseball season are MLB.com At Bat or MLB.com At Bat Lite. If you are familiar with mlb.com’s gameday and mlb.tv then you’ll know what you’re getting in these apps. The full version is $14.99, but if you have an iPhone and a mlb.tv account you’ll probably find it to be well worth the price. It can be used in conjunction with an MLB.tv account to watch live games anywhere.

The lite version is still pretty great. It is far less impressive than watching live baseball while driving, shaving, or operating a crane, but it still gives you pitch by pitch live, including pitch types and location and up the the minute scoring. And, like its genetic brother gameday, the lite version will provide video highlights for various games as they pop up. For a free baseball app it can not be beat.

Finally, I have an app that just premiered earlier this week. Batting Goggles is an app put out by the wonderfully titled blog Sabometrics. Being that I own an iPod and not an iPhone my favorite part about Batting Goggles is that it does not require a live internet connection to work, so I can use it anywhere. The app allows you to look up hot and cold zones for every batter and pitcher in baseball, showing by location (both inside and out of the strikezone) how well that player performs in and what their sample size is.

The stats can be broken down into splits and totals, showing batting average and slugging percentage, and by clicking on a location the number of balls in play from that zone is revealed. Batting Goggles isn’t free, but ninety-nine cents is a great value. [familyguyjoke] I haven’t seen a better value since before inflation hit the prostitution business. [/familyguyjoke]

If you have any other awesome sports applications leave a comment so I can check it out!

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Who is The Best Base Stealer in MLB?

March 20, 2010

After several seasons of watching Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton run amok around the A.L. East, it’s been refreshing to see elite speed on the Yankees in the form of Brett Gardner (side note: have you ever seen the actual definition of the word amok? Less mischievous and more sinister than I would have guessed. A manic urge to murder. Yikes.) As a team, the Yankees have been a better than average base stealing team for the past several years (ranking 7th in the A.L. in 2009, 4th in 2008, 4th in 2007, 2nd in 2006 and 6th in 2005). However, that’s more due to the fact that they featured so many players capable of stealing bases, with none being at an elite level. Jeter, Damon, Abreu, and A-Rod have all been capable of 20-30 steals in their time as Yankees, and both Joe Girardi and Joe Torre have been more than willing to let them run. None of those players possess the base stealing potential or the incredible speed that Brett Gardner does. While it is certainly way too early to say Brett Gardner is the best base stealer in baseball (he hasn’t even played a full major league season), his ability and potential to take that title have made me wonder just who is.

Rickey Henderson still leads the league in Rickey

Aside from the list of players above, there are a number of others who belong in the discussion: Jose Reyes (operating on the assumption that his bionic legs are intact), Jimmy Rollins, Brian Roberts, Michael Bourn, Ichiro, Willy Taveras and Chone Figgins. A few others perhaps worth mentioning but who I’m not factoring in the the discussion are Rajai Davis and Nyjer Morgan (like Gardner they haven’t had enough time to fully display their skills in the majors but will probably be among the best in the years to come), and Carlos Gomez and Joey Gathright (neither of whom plays enough due to other limitations to make full use of their ability… but there’s always this).

I’m going to look at the last three years worth of data, checking out the basics (stolen base totals, stolen base percentage) plus trying to figure out how well they put their speed to use. A simple (and very, very raw) way of estimating how much use these players get out of their talents would seem to be how many bases they are stealing in relation to how much they play. Now of course that is very heavily dependent on a lot of other factors (where in the lineup they bat would affect how often they’re on base with men in front of them, and could also impact how comfortable a manager would be green lighting a steal), but it should hopefully provide a rough estimate. The way I will be calculating that is:

(Stolen bases-caught stealing)/plate appearances

Unlike finding data for batting with men on base, finding data for base running with other men on base has proven to be a bit difficult, so this quick formula neglects it (as well as neglecting a ton of other factors). Even with a decent margin for error I think it will be a helpful tool in figuring out who the best base stealer in baseball is. By the way, for a running total of spring training SB’s you can click here.

The google doc is here. So, what say you dinosaur writer guy? Well, let’s look at the counting totals first, and remember everything is for 2007-2009:

In spite of all of his missed time Jose Reyes has the highest total, followed by Carl Crawford. Figgins was caught the most in the group, followed by Reyes and Upton.

Jimmy Rollins has an incredible 87.5% success rate. Upton and Figgins probably run more than they should, stealing below the magic number of 75% success.

Now as for who makes the most out of their skills. Willy Taveras is not very good at getting on base. His career OBP is a hilarious .321, easily the lowest out of of the entire group. Yet he still produces more successful steals (discounting for CS) per plate appearance than any of the others. What that’s saying is that if Taveras had even average on base ability, say somewhere in the range of .340-.350, you could be looking at a guy who steals 80 bases annually.

So who do we conclude as the best base stealer in baseball? I’m going to have to go with Taveras. Among all of the top base stealers he has the second best success rate, which he maintains even while taking off more liberally than any of the others. In a perfect world Brett Gardner turns into a base stealing clone of Rollins, Ellsbury or Taveras, hopefully getting on base more often than any of them (and playing better defense, in the case of Ellsbury). Best case scenario is that Gardner turns into a 100-110 OPS+ player who steals a ton of bases and plays excellent defense at a premium position in center. Worst case would seem to be a much better version of Gathright; a defensive replacement and pinch runner who can be valuable depending on the situation and proper use.

By the way I think manic urges to murder needs to become a more frequently used post tag. I will use it every time I write an article ranting about Mike Lupica.

thzxUnlike finding data for batting with men on base, finding data for base running with other men on base has proven to be a bit difficult.
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My Favorite Players for 2010

March 10, 2010

Am I the only person who finds themselves randomly attached to players and teams that have nothing to do with your own fan base? I don’t mean rooting for guys who have moved on from your own team, like Chien-Ming Wang and Jason Giambi. Just players who seem genuinely likable for one reason or the other; they’re exciting players, they seem underrated, or they just plain seem like nice guys. Every year there’s a couple of players and teams I find it hard to root against, even if the Yankees are involved. Last year for me was the Upton brothers. This year there are a bunch more, but the three in particular that I plan on watching religiously are Brett Anderson, Troy Tulowitzki and Matt Kemp.

As you may or may not be aware of depending on your level of reading comprehension and attention to my blog, I have been spending the better part of my time in northern California. Between that and my fiance being a A’s fan the team has begun to grow on me (the same could be said for the Giants, and who could resist Tim Lincecum and his luscious hair). I watched a lot of Brett Anderson last year. I heard a lot about him in the minors, both before and after he was traded for Dan Haren from Arizona. I’m sure a lot of you know him, but you really need to watch him pitch. Just look at his stat line, it is a thing of beauty: A 4.06 ERA, a 3.69 FIP, 7.70 k/9 against 2.31 bb/9, all as a TWENTY-ONE YEAR OLD ROOKIE. Absurd. Oh yeah, and he’s a lefty. Bold Prediction: Brett Anderson will start the all star game this year.

Troy Tulowitzki is a bit more seasoned than Brett Anderson, and probably much more widely recognized. Appearing in a World Series as a rookie will do that for you. I have liked Tulo’s game since he came up, and even my A’s loving lady has had an obsession with him since his rookie year, one matched only by Tulowitzki’s own obsession with Derek Jeter (by the way, since I have mentioned her twice, her list of favorite non players would probably be topped by Tulowitzki and Nick Swisher). Jeter and Tulowitzki make for a fun comparison. Discounting Tulo’s injury plagued off-year of 2008, the two match spot on in wOBA, and the small difference in OBP is made up for by an inverse difference in slugging and speed.

Tulowitzki’s defense was vastly superior to Jeter’s early career, but Jeter’s immense improvement has closed that gap and each can now be considered a good defender.

My explanation for Matt Kemp is a lot simpler. He has a cool twitter page. He is dating Rihanna. And this picture is awesome:

I'd wear my jersey EVERYWHERE if I were in the big leagues.

For an almost creepy amount of Matt Kemp photos check this out.

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The Mark Buehrle Rule

March 8, 2010

Do you ever read one of Ken Rosenthal‘s foxsports articles just to get a glimpse into the mind of a madman? Insane? Maybe. But fun? Definitely. Don’t you enjoy concocting crackpot scenarios in which the Yankees end up with Bonds and Griffey, and we wouldn’t have to give up that much? Do you pop in MLB The Show or Baseball Mogul and take pride in the ability to swindle the Giants out of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain with a package of 5 star low A relievers?

Now, the differences are obvious. Ken Rosenthal works for a national sports company. He is on TV. He writes for a major website. So maybe it is strange when he suggests realigning baseball with little logic or reason (the last one is my favorite, move the A’s into the Yankees and Red Sox division in a format that groups teams by payroll, then plunk them in New Jersey). These are the kind of ideas I expect to hear from my friends after a fine afternoon spent huffing paint and watching PTI. This is not what I expect from a national sports writer. But maybe that is a good thing. If Ken Rosenthal can do it, so can I! So I hereby grant myself license to both make up news and write about inane ideas. The best part is that unlike Mr. Rosenthal I can’t have my articles pulled by the big bosses, as so frequently happens to him.

Here is what I propose as my grand change to baseball: speed up the games!

Groundbreaking, eh? I guess perhaps I am not as creative as my fellow writer, but I really don’t see the need or benefits of realignment, of eliminating or standardizing the DH, of changing the mound height, or of putting a salary cap in place. Baseball is great because of the oddities and differences between the leagues and between teams.

Every team operates with a different strategy. Depending on your league, your home field, your budget and your personnel your team will develop an independent persona. The cap seems unnecessary because in spite of the issues of “unfairness” any team can be competitive with competent management. I’ll save any further arguing against a cap for another day, because it will inevitably come up as a national topic at some point during the summer and I will turn to this screen to rage against the man on TV.

But back to my wholly unoriginal but entirely important idea. I see no issues with the mechanics of the game, so the efforts should be turned to streamlining it. Faster games would mean several things: You can watch more of them (hooray for mlb.tv), the playoffs won’t end so late on the east coast, and casual fans will be more inclined to watch something with a less boring pace.

The Hardball Times has a list (from 2008, mind you) of the fastest and slowest paced pitchers in baseball, and if you’ve seen him pitch (especially during his perfect game) you’ll probably see just the man you expect to be at the top of the list: Mark Buehrle. Another article from the same site mentions baseball’s rulebook, which states that the ball must be delivered within 12 seconds, with timing beginning when the pitcher has the ball and the batter is in the box ready to bat, and ending when the ball is released. Not only is that not the norm, but it is pretty rare to see the ball delivered that quickly.

So it seems to cure for this issue isn’t to change a rule, but to simply enforce a rule that is already in place. Even extending the rule to 15 seconds would work, and would allow for pitcher to move briskly without being rushed. Small fines (such as the fines handed out to Jonathan Papelbon last year) won’t cut it. On field penalties are the only way to make sure the rule is followed, and the rulebook itself calls for a ball to be added to the count whenever there is a violation. It would be simple for the umpire to enforce, it can be counted off the same way several violations are counted off in basketball, or they could use a watch/scoreboard clock.

Barring putting the Mark Buehrle rule in place I suggest something a little more… extensive.

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