What about Bert?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 | | 0 comments

As you all probably know by now, Andre Dawson was the only one inducted to the Hall of Fame in this year's balloot. As you probably know too, there has been a lot of debate over wether Dawson was a HOF player or not. Traditional/old-school people usually say he was because he had a lot of power, was a good RBI man, played very good defense, had some speed,won an MVP, a ROY, and several Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers. Stat guys will say he didn't get on base at all, wasnt all that impressive according to OPS-plus, and might also not give him as much credit for his defense for the lack of advanced metrics to account for it.

As for the defense part, based on the avaliable defensive stats I consider more reliable, It seems to me he was an outstanding defensive Centerfielder, but I also leave room for doubt, since I neither saw him play nor have all the defensive metrics I'd need to make some kind of evaluation. On the offensive side, I see the stat guys' point, to some extent. Andre Dawson was very bad at getting on base, and I know that wasn't what he was asked to do, but I think the other parts of his offensive game were not good enough to make up for his low OBP. He was inconsistent from season to season, and unless he was hitting in very weak lineups, I don't think he was that much of an RBI guy. Still, taking into account both his offense and his defense, i think he was probably deserving of the induction.

The problem with all of this is that Byleven did not get in. I know there have been a lot of pitchers better than him, and that there have been quite a few to which he can't even be compared, but I think his body of work is better than Dawson's. In some seasons, he was more dominant than Dawson ever was, and his career stats are better. His candidacy has probably been unfairly hurt by his relatively low win total and win percentage, as he pitched almost five thousand innings and didn't even reach 300 wins. Still, his win total was severely damaged by a terrible lack of run support and/or good relief pitching. The best example of this might be his 1971-1976 seasons. In this period of time, he pitched 1745. innings, had a 2.76 ERA, a 133 ERA-plus......and a 98-92 record. I don't spend a lot time looking at stats, but I don't think I've ever seen a six-year stretch in which there is such a big contrast between a pitcher's performance and the help he gets from his team. With some real support, he could've easily won 30 more games in that stretch alone. There's a very real chance that this guy could've won 350 games or something close to that, and I doubt voters would be so reluctant to vote for him if that was the case. That's why I think it's not fair at all to vote for Dawson and not Byleven. He was a really, really good pitcher with some really, really bad run support who is being kept out because of a number he couldn't really control.

Chapman goes to Reds

Sunday, January 10, 2010 | | 0 comments

The Cincinnati Reds have reportedly signed Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman to a 5-year deal worth $25 MM with a player option for a sixth year and deferred payment through ten years. They outbid the Marlins, Nationals, Blue Jays, Angels, and probably a couple other teams for his services.

The scouting reviews on chapman pretty much coincide in that his fastball is great, he has a lot of potential, and is very raw.

As it has been proved countless times, japanese and cuban imports are risky and almost always overhyped. Hideki Matsui, Ichiro Suzuki and Kendry Morales are a few of the exceptions that have been able to perform at a top level in the major leagues.

For a team like the Reds, Making this signing has a big potential reward, but is also quite a risk. Stretching the payment out was a key part of the deal for a team with financial limitations like the Reds, though, as it could have become a real obstacle in the improvement of the team had the payment been regular. If Chapman turns out to be great, or at least very good, the deal will have been worth it. If he doesn't, they'll be in trouble, but at least for most of the 10 years of payment, that won't be a major difficulty for them. Given the way most scouts thought he wasn't a polished pitcher, it's unlikely Chapman reaches his full potential before the fourth year of the deal, so it's almost impossible that the deal becomes a bargain for the Reds.

The best shot they have at having a good/great MLB pitcher is in the last 2 years of the deal. That's probably the worst part of the deal, as a late development might put them in a position where they end up paying 30 million for one or two productive seasons from Chapman.

Just for the Record, if I'd been the Reds, I wouldn't have signed him for that much money. If there had been no other choice, then I would've saved that money to sign several young players either throguh the draft or international signings (mostly from DR and Venezuela, where players can be monitored more closely).

State of the Red Sox after the Beltre signing.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010 | | 2 comments

The Boston Red Sox have signed third baseman Adrian Beltré to a one-year contract worth $9 million with a player option for a second year worth $5 million. Beltré, one of the game's best defensive third basemen, should be a major improvement over the shaky defense Mike Lowell provided last year. This is yet another singing that helps the Red Sox' defense, as they have already signed an outstanding defensive outfielder in Mike Cameron. Still, the Red Sox' situation is not very fortunate, as they, in spite of having improved their roster to the point where it could have one of the best defenses in the league, don't have a solid enough offense. Many of their key lineup regulars are injury-prone, not to mention aging and declining, and that situation could lead to Boston missing the playoffs next season. There are multiple issues that could manifest themselves at any time and take the team down.

Victor Martinez cannot be counted on to catch more than 130 games and stay both healthy and productive offensively all at the same time, which means he'll have to play at fist base sometimes. This will slide youkilis to third base and put Varitek in the lineup and on the field, a decision that, while being helpful because of his game-calling, creates a hole in the lineup and gives green light to pretty much any runner to go and steal a base. They will also probably be affected by Drew's absence in the lineup and on the field for 20-plus games, and a possible dropoff in Scutaro's offensive production after what was by far his career year.

All these issues, combined with the injuries John Lackey and Josh Beckett are very likely to have and the loss of quality in the bullpen, make the Red Sox a team that, because of it's talent has a chance to go deep into the postseason, but is also within serious danger of missing the playoffs. And health will be the one to determine whether they do one of those two or end up somewhere in the middle.

Prospect Rushing

Friday, January 1, 2010 | | 0 comments

When small market teams are near their budget limit, and do not have a good team on the field, they have no choice but to rebuild. They trade their most expensive players for prospects and try to build a good team as those prospects develop. Being able to do this well and as fast as possible is what makes a small market team effective.

A succesful rebuild of a team depends on three things: Good talent recongition, proper prospect handling and smartly spent money. The talent part is probably the most important of all three, because a team cannot win if it's players lack talent. However, the prospect hanlding is the most underrated one. It is is how fast teams move their prospects throguh the minor leagues and to the majors (Don't know if those are the right terms or if that's exaclty the right definition, but you get the point) . Sometimes a prospect is referred to as a failure or disappointment. Team officials, fans and sports writers/columnists tend to attribute a prospect¿s failure to succeed to pressure or to a supposed bad evaluation of his talent, when many times, the truth is that he was rushed to the Major Leagues.

When a prospect is considered as a can't-miss, his organization tends to move him throguh the minors way too fast, and bring him up to the majors, expecting him to develop properly there. Many times, when this happens, since the prospect isn't ready, he struggles in the majors, and his development is severely affected by playing at a level where his skills at the time are overmatched. Then, the prospect ends up as nothing more than a mediocre player, and people start looking for excuses and explanations without even considering the obvious fact that the player was rushed. It is much better to leave a prospect in the minors for an extra year than to bring him up a year early, because in the second case, the Major League team might be affected by having to wait longer to succeed, but when the prospect does arrive to the majors, he'll be readier than ever to help it win.

Here are some examples of players who have been rushed to the Major Leagues:

Daric Barton, Oakland Athletics.

He was considered a very good prospect, but the A's put him in their lineup for a full season in 2008 at age 22, despite seeing him prove he wasn't ready by struggling mightily at the major league level by hitting .213 throguh May and .230 through June.

Vin Mazarro and Gio Gonzalez, Oakland Athletics

The A's might also be making the same mistake with some of their young pitchers, especially Vin Mazzaro and Gio Gonzalez, who were both counted on to make 17 starts despite pitching terribly. They both had some good games, but they also had some really bad ones. We still don't know how good they'll be, but the way they were handled this season might affect them in the future.

Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers.

The same thing happend, with Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, who was brought up by the rangers at age 20 without having played a single game at AAA and penciled in as the starting shortstop. They even made Michael Young move from his position, as if it had been necessary to bring Andrus up. His numbers in the minors weren't impressive, but they weren't terrible either, and being 20, his hitting probably had some room for improvement. Bringing Andrus up prematurely might cost him and the Rangers in the future. It might have been the best move for the Rangers in the short-term though, as Andrus' outsanding defense is much better than that of Young, and it helped lower the number of runs the Rangers' pitchers allowed.

Felix Pie, Chicago Cubs/Baltimore Orioles.

Pie was at one point a top prospect for the Cubs, but was left in the majors for too long in 2007 and was kept in the majors for the whole season as a bench player by the orioles. Had he spent more time developing in the minors as a starting player, by now he might have been ready to contribute in as not only a good defensive player, but also as a good offensive player, something which he is not and may never be.

Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals

Sometimes the rushed prospect ends up being a really good player, but never reaches the full potential he had. I think Ryan Zimmerman is an example of this. After a great season between levels single-A and double-A(he never played in AAA), the Nationals made him their starting third baseman. He had a great season for a rookie at age 21 and ended up second to Hanley Ramirez for the Rookie of the Year award, but regressed the next two seasons to an above-average, but not outstanding hitter. In 2009 his offense came back and he went to the All-Star game, won a gold glove and a Silver Slugger.

Zimmerman will probably continue to be one of the best third basemen in the game, but for a guy who hit .336 and had a .941 OPS in his first and only season in the minors, he hasn't been able to do nearly as much as he could have done given enough time to develop. And the worst part is that the Nationals could really use having one of the best players in all of baseball, instead of just a really good third baseman.

Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals

He started his pro career in double-A, and he had a great season there. Without ever moving him up to triple-A, the Royals brought him up to the Major Leagues in 2007 and gave him the starting job at third base. For the first two months of the season, he hit under .200, but they kept him in the MLB club. He finished the season with a .247 average, without getting on base or hitting for a lot of power. That season might have forever hindered his potential of becoming a great hitter. Last season, he was injured and terrible, and next season, when he'll be 26, might be his last chance to become at least part of what he could have been with some time in triple-A and/or some common sense from the Royals officials who kept him in the major leagues after he hit .185 for the first two months of the season.

These are just a few examples of something that happens all too often among Major League Baseball teams. And I think it's no coincidence that the teams of the ex-prospects I've mentioned are currently losing teams. Rushing prospects is one of the most underrated ways of dooming a small-market team's future nowdays, not to mention their prospects' careers. There are of course, players like Hanley Ramirez, who despite being somewhat rushed to the majors without playing in triple-A or excelling in double-A, end up reaching their full potential. There are also players who, like Dustin Pedroia, succeed in their first full season despite being terrible at the beggining, but those cases are the exception, not the norm.

The Mets' injury situation

Wednesday, December 30, 2009 | | 0 comments

Finally, the New York Mets have acquired the power hitter they coveted so much in Jason Bay. Provided the injured stars of the Mets' lineup return to their past production and the mets find a first baseman who provides power, such as Adam Laroche, their offense should be pretty good. Still, while it is extremely unlikely that the Mets will again suffer the amount of injuries they did in 09, there is a serious red flag to be taken into account regarding the health of one of their key players. They should be very aware and careful about this issue, as their negligence regarding injuries has seriously affected them in past seasons. That player is Carlos Beltran. And the issue is his knee.

Although he has been getting injured every season for a few years now, he always manages to play 140 or more games, 2009 notwithstanding, and that has led a lot of people to think that his health next season is as likely to be good as, say, Jose Reyes' is.

That is a real misconception, as he had a bone bruise last season, one that required microfracture surgery and 12 months rest after the procedure. Instead of having the surgery, Beltran decided to come back and play. When he came back, he did well, but the danger of the injury reappearing is there.

The Mets have gotten themselves in trouble more than once for ignoring situations like this.

When the Mets acquired J.J. Putz from the Mariners, it was known he had some elbow issues. They let him pitch, and early in the season he started showing signs of not being completely healthy. A few weeks into the season he was diagnosed with a bone spur. They let him pitch through the injury, downplaying it and atributting his very uncharacteristic ineffectiveness to random “factors” such as “lack of confidence”. Jerry Manuel even changed his role from setup man to 7th inning guy, claiming that Putz needed to get his confidence back. After such a senseless experiment failed, Putz had to have the surgery anyway, at a time when he wouldnt be able to come back until next season. If they had been more proactive in the diagnosing and trating of the injury, they might have been able to get him back, at least for the end of the season.

Making things worse is that they went through the same situation with John Maine in 2008, with the same kind of injury. Maine showed discomfort, but they let him pitch through it. He was later diagnosed with a bone spur, but they still tried to let him pitch trough it. When he proved he couldn't be neither comfortable nor effective pitching in that condition, they had to stop him. To remove the bone spur surgery was needed, but they chose to have him rehab to see if he could come back. He tried to rehab, and was activated near the end of the season, still being unable to pitch pain-free. He never pitched in a Major League game for the rest of the season, and had the surgery after the season anyway. He came back in 2009, but had pain in the same shoulder where the surgery was performed and ended up missing significant time, and I think that, given Maine's willingness to pitch no matter what condition he's in (he always wanted the Mets to let him pitch in spite of his bone spur) there's a possibility of that being caused by Maine trying to rush things to be ready for spring training. If they had shut maine down as soon as the bone spur was diagnosed, and strongly recommended him to have the surgery, he would have had much more time to rehab after the surgery and a better chance of being 100% for 2009.

Another example is When the Mets were trying to get Jose Reyes back on the field in spite of having no realistic chance of reaching the playoffs with all the injured players they had, instead of getting him to have the surgery and start getting ready for 2010, having plenty of time to rehab.

While there was no way for the Mets to go to the playoffs with so many injuries, they could have been quite a bit better had they handled them better and more cautiously.

Alex Gonzalez, Marlon Byrd, and Brian Giles have all had microfracture surgeries and have come back succesfully, so while that surgery is a bit rare among baseball players, it's not a complete uncertainity either. Still, it is possible that the best choice, in this case, is to avoid the surgery, but if Beltran's bone bruise reappears next season, it might dramatically reduce the Mets' chances of going to the postseason.