Archive for the ‘Analysis’ Category

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Los Angeles Angels

If talk is cheap, Spring Training workout talk is “wheelbarrow full of devalued currency” worthless. Everybody is in the best shape of their life, everybody is primed for a big season, everybody is ready to leave last year in the past.

When it’s Mike Trout who starts making noise about improving over 2013 and being in the best shape of his life, people tend to notice. In a pre-camp State of the Franchise address with Angels media, Trout expressed a desire to bring his stolen base totals up after swiping a mere 33 bags in 2013.

Stolen bases aside, the question of Mike Trout’s future performance is a very interesting one. Specifically: how much better can he get? And on the flip side of that question, what would it look like if he got worse?

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MLB: Kansas City Royals at New York Mets

There has been a lot written in this space about Ubaldo Jimenez in the past few months. About his value as a durable starter, about his turnaround after an ugly 2012, and his upside as a big league starter.

For every sentence written about Ubaldo, by all rights there should be a comparable sentence written about Ervin Santana. Because almost all the above statements regarding Ubaldo Jimenez hold true for Ervin Santana.

But, somehow, it doesn’t quite feel the same for Santana. Yes, he was great in 2013. He added a new pitch and rediscovered the form that made him a 5 WAR pitcher in 2008 and a three win guy in both 2010 and 2011. So where’s the love? Does Ervin Santana deserve the same type of deal as Ubaldo Jimenez?

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MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers-Workout

There was a time, not too terribly long ago, that Josh Beckett was one of the best pitchers in baseball. Full stop. He was an incredibly sought-after high school pitcher in Texas, selected with the second overall pick of the 1999 amateur draft by the Florida Marlins.

Beckett raced to the big leagues, famously leading his Marlins to the 2003 World Series title with some unbelievable playoff performances. Traded to Boston after the 2005 season, Beckett performed nearly the same feat, leading the Red Sox to the 2007 World Series. He was named MVP of the 2003 World Series and of the 2007 ALCS, where Boston outlasted Cleveland in a seven game series, with Beckett turning in two dominant starts.

That Josh Becket, the one who sat at 95 mph with his fastball and used a devastating curveball and cutter to retire both righties and lefties, is gone. In his place is a question mark. The Josh Beckett ready to compete for the Dodgers fifth starter job before striking out in the free agent world is a far cry from the big game stud of a decade ago.

The Dodgers could certainly use tangible contributions from Josh Beckett in 2014. Is there a chance they the big righty produces for the Dodgers during the upcoming season?

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MLB: Oakland Athletics at Texas Rangers

There is more than one way to skin a cat. There is no single formula for success as a starting pitcher in the big leagues. Some pitchers are great strikeouts pitchers, some pitchers possess pinpoint control, some just have a knack for keeping runs off the board.

The last zillion years of baseball research shows that walks are bad and home runs are bad, too. Strikeouts are good because they minimize damage. For a while, we considered strikeout to walk ratio to be the mark of a good pitcher. Upon further reflection, maybe a greater strikeout differential is better than a ratio. A guy who strikes out nine and walks three batters per nine innings gets my attention more quickly than somebody who strikes three out and walks one.

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MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Texas Rangers

Nelson Cruz is still a baseball player, I assume. He’s a free agent awaiting a contract, so technically he’s unemployed. When you’re sitting on a big payday — even if that payday might be less than you first imagined — you can probably call it “funemployed.”

This period of funemployment won’t last much longer for Cruz. When the winter started and his lofty contract expectations became public, many fans feared giving a player like Cruz the kind of commitment he expected. A few months later, he is still out there. It is important to recognize that, while Cruz isn’t a star by any means, he remains a valuable player who can help the right team in 2014.

Who are these right teams that can tackle the risk of adding Nelson Cruz knowing that the back half of his deal (like just about every other FA contract) won’t look as attractive?

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MLB: NLDS-Los Angeles Dodgers at Atlanta Braves

There is nothing fun about baseball’s arbitration process. It is a necessary evil, an inefficient means to a satisfactory end. Nobody likes going the arbitration route, where dirty laundry is dredged up and the seeds of animosity can sometimes take hold.

It is a tool and a risk for teams, especially those that opt for the “file and trial” no-nonsense stance. If player and team cannot reach an agreement before the deadline, teams like Toronto and Atlanta shelve discussions until they’re making their cases to the arbitrator.

Eno Sarris of Fangraphs wrote an interesting piece on the subject, using the very slight difference between Jason Heyward‘s asking price and the number the Braves countered with as his framing device. He describes a “maturing of the process” as both sides do their best to avoid alienation by stating their case in good faith.

But money is money. Sometimes the two sides are arguing over a significant amount of money. Take Craig Kimbrel, for example. Kimbrel filed for $9MM, almost $2.5 million more than the team’s number of $6.55MM.

Just for fun, let’s play this out (like BP did last year but less smart). I’ll argue for Craig Kimbrel and, umm, for the Braves as well. Which side makes the most compelling case? With whom will the arbitrator (me again) side? Let’s bridge the divide!

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The Many Faces of Average

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks

There is nothing wrong with league-average production. Too often, league-average becomes a four letter word, which is foolish. By definition, a significant portion of the baseball population looks up at league-average with envy.

Offensively, not all league-average hitters are created equally, of course. A shortstop who hits at a league-average rate is a very valuable player indeed, just as a league-average catcher makes a hot commodity. The offensive threshold at these positions is so low, even modest offensive up the middle looks like a godsend. Conversely, an average hitter at first base or DH isn’t much good, since they can’t be counted on to produce in other ways for their team.

Just as league-average offense means different things at different positions, there are many different ways to arrive at capital-a Average. As a matter of personal preference – what kind of league-average hitter would you prefer on your team?

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