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 are broached.

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

World Baseball Classic

The World Baseball Classic is not the World Cup. The sooner we can grasp this concept, the sooner we can move on to enjoy a very fun international tournament timed to begin and end just before the biggest baseball league in the world starts its regular season.

Journalists and fans, apparently struck bored by all that lacks in their lives without baseball, have been complaining this week that the tournament  lacks meaning without star players attached to it. This, to me, is like wandering the desert for days without water, finally coming across someone who offers you a sip from their bottle, and asking them if it’s Evian. It’s Springtime baseball with some meaning. It doesn’t decide the best baseballing nation in the world. You don’t have to live and die with every pitch. It’s a fun few weeks before the grind of the real season begins.

Please, stop whining and hup honkbal.

Avoiding Arbitration

There are a few things in baseball that annually blow the minds of the more casual fans: Spring Training statistics, small sample sizes in general, the variance in reliever statistics from year to year, the trading of draft picks, the impact of the Rule 4 Draft, the meaninglessness of the Rule 5 Draft, the importance of team controlled years in a player’s service time and of course, the way a player’s salary increases through his arbitration eligible years.

A player’s salary will typically go up season by season, even if they were worse than the previous season, through their arbitration eligible years. Put simply, arbitration eligible years are typically the fourth, fifth and sixth years of a player’s career. However, if a player spends a lot of time on the Major League roster over the first two years of his big league career, compared to other players who have been in the big leagues, he’s eligible for an extra year of arbitration. The process isn’t that complicated. the player and the team both submit a dollar figure that represents the salary for a new contract. An arbitrator hears cases from both sides, and then chooses one number or the other.

The important thing to remember here is that in the arbitrator’s decision-making, he puts a lot of stock in service time, and thus we see players making more money even if they have relatively poor performances in the previous season. Most arbitration eligible players manage to avoid arbitration by agreeing to contracts with their teams before going before an arbitrator, as we’re seeing today.

If the increase pay seems unfair, remember that for the first three years of a player’s career, he’s making close to the minimum amount of money that he can be paid. For instance, last season, Mike Trout, the best player in baseball by a good measure, made $480,000. With the way that salaries are structured in Major League Baseball, a player doesn’t get to be paid according to what he’s worth on the open market until his seventh season.

So, when Hunter Pence signs a $13.8 million contract to avoid arbitration in his final year of eligibility before free agency, it’s a fair figure based on all of these factors.

Cliff Lee. The Best.

I don’t believe there to be a more mutually appreciated baseball player at The Getting Blanked offices than Cliff Lee. We were talking fondly of the pitcher earlier this week, and I remembered something ridiculous about him.

Over the last five years, Lee’s 5.95 K:BB ratio is the best in baseball, over Roy Halladay’s 5.63 and Dan Haren’s 4.82. Lee has incredible control and barely walks anyone, so this not a surprise. Remember, that was over the last five years. Now, let’s look over the last three years:

  • Cliff Lee: 7.16 K:BB;
  • Roy Halladay 5.65 K:BB;
  • Dan Haren 4.40 K:BB.

That’s just utterly ridiculous. His control is so absolutely insane that it’s just as much fun to watch the catcher receive his pitches as it is to watch him wind up and throw. Wherever that glove is, that’s where the ball will be.

The Washington Nationals Are The Best Team In Baseball

Take a look at the last three things that the Washington Nationals have done:

  • Sign Adam Laroche to a two-year contract worth $24 million.
  • Sign Rafael Soriano to a two-year contract worth $28 million, giving up their first round draft pick.
  • Trade Michael Morse for A.J. Cole, Blake Treinen and another prospect to be named later.

They sign Laroche, thus making Morse extraneous, given that they had already traded for Denard Span earlier this offseason. Then, they sign Soriano, but have to part with a draft pick to do so. After already giving up Alex Meyer to acquire Span, and with so much young talent playing for them at the big league level, it appeared as though the system’s cupboard’s would be rendered bare. It’s no problem, though, because they merely move Morse to get back Cole (plus other prospects), whom they reluctantly traded the previous off season to acquire Gio Gonzalez, to restock the system.

On top of this, they only commit to two year contracts with the two players on whom they ended up spending money, a good portion of which is deferred on the Soriano contract. In addition to likely having the best roster in baseball, the team has the majority of that roster signed through at least the next two seasons.

It’s been a very tidy off season of improvement for a team that had already won the National League East title the previous year.

Worst. Promotion. Ever.

Minor League Baseball has built itself a reputation for innovative and fun promotions to draw fans, but this has to be the worst promotional effort that anyone has witnessed in a long time.

On Thursday, May 23 the Freedom will be giving away the Manti Te’o Girlfriend Bobblehead to the first 1000 fans through the gates.

Yes Freedom fans, the boxes will be empty.  But that’s where fan imagination can run wild and individual unique stories about what the bobblehead should really look like can begin.

Let’s relive a story from four months earlier with an empty box. Gotta go to that game.

The Most Foreseeable Thing In Baseball

Earlier this week, Brian Wilson tried out for the New York Mets, and according to reports, generally failed to impressed. The reliever was already non-tendered by the San Francisco Giants, who were uninterested in paying a reliever less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery an arbitration eligible figure that would’ve likely been close to $10 million.

Wilson gets a bad rap, and it’s both deserved and undeserved. Yes, the whole persona is a bit annoying after a while, but I’ve never seen an injured player more involved with his team than Wilson was this past season. His current situation is too bad, but maybe some time off and further rehabilitation on his arm could be the remedy he seeks to get that two-seamer back in line.

This remains one of the saddest moments from the 2012 season. Poor beleaguered Brian Wilson after his last appearance.

Top Five Catchers In Baseball

Apropos of nothing but a conversation earlier this week about the value of Matt Wieters, here are my rankings of the top five catchers in baseball, measuring offensive and defensive abilities.

  1. Buster Posey: Coming off an MVP 2012 season, his .395 wOBA at AT&T Park is jaw dropping. Oh, and he’s only 25-years-old.
  2. Yadier Molina: His aging into a power hitter wasn’t really necessary to qualify him as an elite receiver, but 36 home runs and a .173 ISO over the last two years cements his status as one of the best in baseball.
  3. Carlos Ruiz: Not that far off the batting pace that Posey set for 2012, Ruiz offered the Phillies a lone dependable offensive force while maintaining his better than average defense.
  4. Miguel Montero: Perhaps the most underrated catcher in baseball, no one has caught more MLB innings over the last two years. Every aspect of his game is above average.
  5. Matt Wieters: Second to Montero in innings caught over the last two seasons, he infamously hasn’t hit over .800 OPS in his career. He more than makes up for that by being the best defensive catcher in baseball according to FanGraphs.

The Trade That Wasn’t

Toronto Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos told John Lott of the National Post this week that a collapsed trade just after the World Series set the stage for the blockbuster that brought star shortstop Jose Reyes and four other Miami Marlins to Toronto.” The only other hint as to what that deal might have been is Anthopoulos admitting that the deal that fell apart would’ve had the same impact on the 2013 payroll as the deal with Miami. In other words, the team would’ve taken on roughly $44 million in salary.

Andrew Stoeten did some sleuthing with financials over at DJF, but nothing really made much sense.

I wonder about that $44 million figure, though. If we count the salary that the Blue Jays gave up and acquired, the figure is actually $34 million. If we also include the $8.5 million that the Blue Jays acquired from Miami, the figure decreases to $25.5 million. That sort of range opens up the possibilities.

My money is on a trade with Diamondbacks for Justin Upton. It seemed to occur right around the time that his availability was discussed. If it involved D’Arnaud, perhaps it also involved Miguel Montero. Aaron Hill would’ve been another interesting possibility, and taking on Jason Kubel’s salary might have seemed like a better idea in the weeks before Melky Cabrera was signed to such a ridiculously team-friendly contract.

What Are The Mariners Doing?

I count as few as five, and as many as seven players listed on this depth chart whose defensive abilities are probably best described as designated hitter. I also count as many as zero names on the chart whose first position should be catcher.

Go Here And Support This

Michael Clair, who operates the Old Time Family Baseball tumblr is hosting a blogathon (yes, you read that right) this weekend to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders. I’m very happy to be donating some of my time for a post on Sunday. Come, check it out, and toss a few dollars in the way of a good cause.