Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday

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:


A lot has been made over the last week of the lies told by Jeffrey Loria and the Miami Marlins front office to the free agents that they signed last off season. It’s a little bit strange that the thinking class of baseball fans are so eager to celebrate the market manipulation of teams like the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays, while denigrating the same thing done by Miami.

Of course, the motivation of the Marlins, given the history of its owner, is presumed to be financial gain, while the motivation behind the transactions made by the Athletics and Rays seems to be an improved record while remaining financially responsible. However, it’s very possible that we’re assuming too much in our opinions.

I don’t want to sound naive, and I’m far from certain that this is the case, but the Marlins could very well be exercising a strategy that represents boom-or-bust cyclical thinking. This point was very well argued earlier this week by Eno Sarris, and I’m inclined to agree with his analysis of the Marlins, without necessarily agreeing that the overall strategy is best.

Think about acquiring the Marlins now, with a man-child Giancarlo Stanton in the middle, flanked by a young roster. If the team can find a buyer for Ricky Nolasco, there won’t be a player on the team with more than a $5 million salary. The overall payroll will sit under $20 million without their highest-paid pitcher, and it will have a chance to go down in the future. The Marlins will have a history of making profits and will take in revenue sharing money. In a new stadium.

That seems like a well-run enterprise and an attractive corporation to acquire.

It’s hard to disagree.

Making The Competition Look Good

According to ESPN’s Jim Bowden, free agent catcher, first baseman, designated hitter and utility tobacco sallower Mike Napoli is holding out for four years in his negotiations with the Boston Red Sox.

According to everyone else: No he isn’t.

This isn’t the first time that this has happened. It all adds up to make you appreciate a reporter like Ken Rosenthal, who in addition to breaking news to readers, possesses enough of a filter and critical thinking skills to understand that not everything he hears from sources is actually worthy of being reported. Of course, even the great ones are duped once in a while.

Nightmare Scenario

We’re all human. We’re all prone to error. In certain occupations, mistakes are brushed off. In others, a single error could result in death. There’s a lot of variance in there. I remember working a summer job framing houses, and having to cut pieces of wood to specific measurements. I was terrified of making bad cuts, and as someone whose handiness is usually only referred to in an ironic sense, there was a lot of wasted two by fours. Working in my current environment, this has replaced short wood as my worst nightmare:

Of course, this tweet ended up being incorrect. The Toronto Blue Jays actually signed Maicer Izturis’s 23-year-old younger brother Julio Izturis to a Minor League contract, which rendered Caesar Izturis’s fake Twitter feed all the more hilariously absurd.

Mark Reynolds

The Baltimore Orioles made it known that they didn’t believe Mark Reynolds to be worth $11.5 million for the 2013 season when they refused to pick up his option for the coming year. The question now becomes whether or not they believe Reynolds to be worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $9 million, the anticipated cost of his arbitration. If not, Reynolds will be non-tendered, and free to sign a contract with any team that wants him.

Over his last two seasons in Baltimore, Reynolds has put up a total of 0.8 fWAR, while receiving $12.5 million in compensation. He was acquired by the Orioles in an unfortunate deal with the Arizona Diamonbacks in which the orange birds lost underrated reliever David Hernandez.

At first glance, you would think that the right-handed hitting Reynolds is likely best used as a platoon player and a bat off the bench, despite last season’s brush with reverse splits.  So, a non-tendering they shall (more than likely) go. However, it’s hard to justify the non-tendering of a player who has hit 60 home runs over the last two seasons, and 164 in the last five. Since 2009, only five other Major League Baseball players have hit more home runs. However, over that same period of time, only Kelly Shoppach has struck out in a higher percentage of plate appearances.

I just don’t know what I’d do if I was the Baltimore Orioles. $9 million seems excessive for a player of this ilk, but how do you just let all those home runs go away? I think Reynolds likely represents one of the tougher decisions to be made this off season in all of baseball.

World Baseball Classic Confessions

I’ve never watched a final of the World Baseball Classic. In fact, I’ve never watched a game after the United States was beaten out.

Vacuum Analysis

In a vacuum, it seems obvious that you’d rather have a 26-year-old center fielder about to enter his second year of arbitration instead of a 38-year-old pitcher in his last year before free agency.

This isn’t to pick on Mike Wilner of Sportsnet Radio (who does excellent work, not only as the Toronto Blue Jays pre and post game radio voice, but also during his rare opportunities in the radio booth during games) nor is it meant to open up a can of mock trade worms. It’s merely meant to point out that a lot of the analysis being done in baseball circles is too dependent on a vacuum mentality, when we in fact should be looking more to the specifics of each case.

For instance, given Toronto’s new classification as a competitor for the American League East crown, why wouldn’t they give up on a player now two years removed from being any good at all for a pitcher who won the Cy Young Award last season? Adding more fuel to the Dickey-over-Rasmus fire is that the free agent market for center fielders is very good.

In fact, it’s so good that it likely negates the New York Mets from being the least bit interested in such a proposition.

Center Field Market

Let’s consider that free agent market for a second. Here are the likely starting center fielders available:

  • Michael Bourn (30-years-old)
  • Josh Hamilton (32-years-old)
  • Angel Pagan (31-years-old)
  • B.J. Upton (28-years-old)
  • Shane Victorino (32-years-old)

There are probably question marks as to whether or not you’d consider Hamilton and Victorino to be true center fielders, but compared to every other position on the free agent market, center fielder is the only one with any depth at all.

Accordingly, there are a number of teams in need of a center fielder: Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants, and the aforementioned Mets. Bourn, whose defensive numbers from the past season might be suspect given the numbers that the entire Atlanta Braves outfield put up, attains most of his fielding value through his range.

This, one might imagine, would make him a very attractive option to the Giants, whose outfield dimensions at AT&T Park are best described as a vast expanse of a timeless place. The sentimental choice for San Francisco would obviously be Pagan, who played incredibly well down the stretch, and we can assume that he’d likely come at a lower cost than Bourn. However, I can think of a great many worse ways to spend that influx of bonus World Series winning playoff cash.

Overall, my preference for the five outfielders listed above, considering their projected costs: Bourn – Pagan – Upton – Hamilton – Victorino. No questions asked.

A Cutter Defined

David Laurila of Fangraphs spoke with Toronto Blue Jays pitching coach Bruce Walton. Among the many interesting revelations, Walton’s clear definition of the cutter, a pitch often confused with a high velocity slider, is the most insightful.

A cutter is a pitch that’s mostly thrown at the belt. It’s not thrown down in the zone as much as a slider. It looks like a belt-high fastball coming in, but when you swing at it, it’s moved off center a little bit.

A New Breed Of Player Analysts

For the most part, current players and former players make bad baseball analysts. That’s not to say that people who haven’t played at the Major League level know more about baseball than them. We don’t. It most likely means that their talent extends to such a level that they don’t have to think about what’s actually happening on a baseball field to the same degree as an untalented person. They just do it.

I think that this fact reduces our expectations for what a player or ex-player can tell us. So much so, that guys like C.J. Nowitzki or Dirk Hayhurst are celebrated by baseball fans for being insightful, when they’re really just a little bit more articulate than their contemporaries.

Then, there are players like Brandon McCarthy and former players like David Cone, who completely blow these barely above replacement level analysts out of the water.

Here’s Susan Slusser on McCarthy. And here’s another interview that David Laurila did with David Cone.

Baseball The Good (Thanksgiving Edition)