Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday

TGIF!

For many, Friday represents the end of a long work week that’s filled with heavy doses of drudging, sludging and other words that don’t actually exist but rhyme with “udging” and connote menial and tedious tasks that are ultimately distasteful. It’s my hope that at the end of such misery, at that moment in time that only occurs on a Friday afternoon when it’s too far away from closing time to leave work early, but too late in the day to start anything new, you’ll join us here to read some random observations about baseball and contribute your own thoughts on the subjects that get brought up.

So, without further ado, I present this week’s Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday:

The Melk-Man Cometh!

The Toronto Blue Jays signed Melky Cabrera to a two-year contract worth $16 million. That’s an incredibly team-friendly contract. And the more I think about it the more there is to like about it from a Blue Jays perspective.

First of all, it amazes me that Cabrera’s value had fallen to such a low level that a signing like this would be possible. The devaluation of the outfielder in terms of a contract is as artificial as the testosterone that was in his blood this summer. Cabrera, and his agents, would have been aware of this, but instead of signing a one-year deal for as much money as he possibly could, Toronto convinced him to sign for two, at a very decent rate.

Even if Cabrera plays below average for the next two seasons, which is unlikely given his age (28-years-old) and current trajectory of batting value, the contract for the next two seasons will still work out. He basically only has to play. That’s it, and this contract will be a success.

But I think that Cabrera is going to do a whole lot more than just come up to bat 1,000 times over the next two years, and play 2,500 innings in left field. Cabrera is aggressive at the plate. He hits a ton of hard ground balls and line drives. And now he’s playing on the turf at Rogers Center which should make those hard hit ground balls roll forever. Forever!

This is such a good fit for a single season, it continues to blow my mind that Alex Anthopoulos and the rest of Toronto’s front office was able get this player for two seasons. A brilliant move. Perhaps the best of his time as the team’s GM.

The Counter-Argument

You just read that above section, and I know what you’re thinking: “We don’t know what his value is as a hitter because what he accomplished last season, and possibly the season before is tainted by the banned substances he used.”

I agree that we don’t know, but I think it’s more likely that the supposed performance enhancers that Cabrera used did not lead to a large increase in BABIP, and in turn a higher batting average. Drugs aren’t magical. Artificial testosterone could very well have led to him being more fit, which in turn allowed him to play better, but staying fit is something that can also be accomplished through hard work and supplements that aren’t banned by baseball.

Hopefully, the positive test and subsequent suspension scared him away from using those substances, but I find it incredibly unlikely that he will have changed whatever regime he was on drastically enough that his physicality will return to his less fit days in Atlanta.

The Lineup

I wonder what the rest of the American League East thinks of this:

  1.  Jose Reyes, B, SS
  2. Melky Cabrera, B, LF
  3. Jose Bautista, R, RF
  4. Edwin Encarnacion, R, DH
  5. Brett Lawrie, R, 3B
  6. Adam Lind, L, 1B
  7. J.P. Arencibia, R, C
  8. Colby Rasmus, L, CF
  9. Emilio Bonfacio, B, 2B

The first four batters in the Blue Jays lineup will be pretty close to the batting order used by the Dominican Republic at the coming World Baseball Classic.

The Baseball Blogging Triumvirate

A few weeks ago, I snuck away from the office with Scott Lewis (Baseball Insider) and Justin Bourne (The Score’s Hockey Blogger) to have a drink over lunch. Bourne, who has been writing remotely for more than a year, had recently joined us in our Toronto office, and it was a good opportunity to make a new friend.

The three of us talked shop (if you will, and you really shouldn’t), discussing sports media, and comparing hockey writers with baseball writers. I think I might have been a bit more acerbic than necessary because an exasperated Bourne eventually asked me in a beleaguered manner if there were any baseball writers that I liked. I thought about it for a moment and assured him that there were, I was just unable to think of any in my suddenly grouchy state.

I like a wide array of baseball writers, and I’m blown away by a lot of the content that’s produced on a daily basis by a number of websites. However, Bourne’s question stuck with me, and made me wonder why I couldn’t think of any off the top of my head. During this introspection, I was reminded of another drinking session with a new friend a few months before.

This past Spring I met up with Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus out in Long Beach, California for a drink at a local dive bar. We, too, talked about what we do because we’re fairly boring people, and Miller said something that stuck with me. He complimented Grant Brisbee of SB Nation and Jeff Sullivan, now of FanGraphs, for blogging at a level above everyone else. I agreed with this sentiment at the time, but I don’t think I realized how much I agreed with it.

I’d also put Miller’s writing in the mix with Brisbee’s and Sullivan’s. It’s not that they’re the best writers on a technical basis or that they’re breaking new ground with their analysis of baseball. All three possess and utilize their imaginations in a way that few others are able. Put simply, they have a unique perspective and they’re able to express it in a manner that allows readers to inhabit it, and maybe take for granted just how unique it is. This is a profound talent, and as baseball fans, we should count ourselves fortunate that they’re writing about something that we all love.

Here are their latest examples of what I’m writing about:

  • Grant Brisbee’s Wait, Why Is This Mike Trout Thing About Stats. [SB Nation]
  • Sam Miller’s Daniel Cabrera Is Back (And So Is Manny Ramirez)! [Baseball Prospectus]
  • Jeff Sullivan’s This Year’s Longest Plate Appearance. [FanGraphs]

A Smart Non-Starter

It had been widely speculated that the Texas Rangers were willing to let Josh Hamilton depart via free agency this off season without much in the way of a struggle. That was confirmed last week by rumors that the team’s maximum offer to Hamilton would only be a three-year deal. The slugger is reportedly seeking a seven-year contract.

You can be forgiven for wondering why the Rangers would bother extending a three-year deal to Hamilton if they know that he’s not going to take it. It doesn’t make much sense on the surface, but the more I think about it, the more I like it. It offers Hamilton a team-friendly safety net from which to negotiate his other contracts, while simultaneously not hand-cuffing Texas from preparing as though their future is without Hamilton.

If the former AL MVP can’t find a contract to his liking, a shorter, with an assumed high average annual value is on the table. The Rangers don’t have to take the risk that would be involved in a long-term deal. It’s a luxury offer that can only be afforded by a team that really, truly doesn’t care if you take or leave their offer because they’re prepared to move on without Hamilton, but still see an opportunity for value.

It reminds me of shopping for a used vehicle when you’re under no pressure to buy one. Indifference is a strong place from which to negotiate. You can find a car, settle on a value for that car that suits you best, and approach the seller with a figure that he can take or leave without much in the way of potential heartbreak.

Numbers Win Again

Much was made of Nate Silver’s perfect 50 for 50 state by state projection for the U.S. Presidential election, especially because the former baseball writer took such heavy heat from political pundits for his dealing in probabilities through mathematics.

It reminded me of something that Bill James once wrote about baseball that’s equally applicable to politics:

Baseball men, living from day to day in the clutch of carefully metered chance occurrences, have developed an entire bestiary of imagined causes to tie together and thus make sense of patterns that are in truth entirely accidental. They have an entire vocabulary of completely imaginary concepts used to tie together chance groupings. It includes ‘momentum,’ ‘confidence,’ ‘seeing the ball well,’ ‘slumps,’ ‘guts,’ ‘clutch ability,’ being ‘hot’ and ‘cold,’ ‘not being aggressive’ and my all time favorite the ‘intangibles.’ By such concepts, the baseball man gains a feeling of control over a universe that swings him up and down and tosses him from side to side like a yoyo in a high wind. I think that the randomness of fate applies to all of us as much as baseball men, though it might be exacerbated by the orderliness of their successes and failures.

When we use statistics to predict, we speak on a level of probability and likelihood. No one is saying anything is definite, because it’s not. What blows my mind is that the same people who criticize projections for supposedly being absolute, are largely the same people who rely on the list of terms that James includes in the above paragraph.

Speaking of that above paragraph, consider it when someone tries to defend the decision to award the American League MVP to Miguel Cabrera.

Jeremy Bonderman’s Return

The Detroit Tigers have offered Jeremy Bonderman a Minor League contract.

I jest. I know the team is ultimately risking nothing by offering a Major League contract to a 30-year-old pitcher, even if said player hasn’t competed professionally since 2010. I truly wish him all the best in his return. It’s just … come on. The pitcher had a really good year back in 2006, and well, not a whole heck of a lot since.

Outrage. Outrage? Outrage!

There was a lot of anger expressed over Mitch Albom’s recent column for the Detroit Free Press titled Miguel Cabrera’s Award A Win For Fans, Defeat For Stat Geeks. I don’t really understand why so many people would hate such a wonderfully well-written piece of satire like this.

There is no end to the appetite for categories — from OBP to OPS to WAR. I mean, OMG! The number of triples hit while wearing a certain-colored underwear is probably being measured as we speak.

So in areas such as “how many Cabrera home runs would have gone out in Angel Stadium of Anaheim” or “batting average when leading off an inning” or “Win Probability Added,” Trout had the edge. At least this is what we were told.

I mean, did you do the math? I didn’t. I like to actually see the sun once in a while.

Genius! Absolute genius. Almost as smart as the time he wrote about the reactions of former players at a Michigan State basketball game who weren’t even present.

New Old Jerseys

The St. Louis Cardinals unrelenting pursuit of my eternal love is getting a little bit ridiculous. As reported earlier at Getting Blanked, this is their new home alternate jersey:

Yes. Yes. Yes. A thousand times, yes.

Next Steps For Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays should sign Zack Greinke and boost their payroll for next season to be among the top five in baseball. Yes, he’ll come at a premium price, but these are dollars that would be well spent, positioning the club from a 90-92 win team to a 95-97 win team. Those wins cost more than the wins that it takes to go from 80-85.

Oh, and for the sake of all that is holy, sign Johnny Gomes to platoon with Adam Lind. It just makes entirely too much sense, especially if the team signs a manager that understands the value of platoon splits. Against right-handed pitchers, Lind plays first base and Edwin Encarnacion acts as the designated hitter. Against left-handed pitchers, Encarnacion plays first base and Gomes can be the DH.