A Long Overdue (Excuse)

In addition to writing at Scouting The Sally, I’ve been fortunate enough to be picked up by the great guys over at Bullpen Banter to write, as well as starting my own podcast with a few friends. In light of these recent events, my writing here has waned considerably.

OK. I lied. It’s totally stopped. All of my off season energies are being poured into those two projects, and for that I apologize. Once Spring Training and the season comes around, I’ll be doing live game casts as well as quick writeups. In the mean time, if you can’t get enough of me via twitter (and that couldn’t possibly be true) then feel free to reach me at my other sites.

Much love,

David Lee Wiers

A Yunel Escobar Trade Retrospective

For some reason, Frank Wren catches a lot of crap from the sabermetric community.  I’ve never completely figured this out as Atlanta is middle of the pack in payroll, yet since he took over and the organization moved on from the core of the division title run has been quite competitive.  The move that gets the most scrutiny is the trade of Yunel Escobar to the Blue Jays.  Usually when Braves fans cite this trade they talk about the reported standing ovation in the clubhouse when the deal was announced.  I’m going to completely ignore that in this piece and purely look at the trade from a baseball perspective and see if the scrutiny holds up.

First the actual terms of the deal.  The Blue Jays received Yunel Escobar and Jo-Jo Reyes for Alex Gonzalez, Tim Collins, and Tyler Pastornicky.

Toronto got the best player without a real question.  Yunel Escobar had 3 and a half years of control left and had shown an ability to post wRC+’s in the one-teens.  Atlanta received players 2,3,4 and the Blue Jays got Jo-Jo Reyes.  Jo-Jo Reyes is a failed prospect who has a career FIP of 5.33.  I’m going to just ignore him.  It was a lottery ticket for the Blue Jays that didn’t work or hurt Atlanta’s pitching depth.

As for Atlanta’s haul, they received a starting SS of their own, Alex Gonzalez.  Per FanGraphs WAR, Alex was worth 7.9 million dollars in his year plus in Atlanta while making about 3 million in that time.  He was valuable for Atlanta.  He was a net loss from Escobar long term but Atlanta was in a playoff push that season.  This is why Atlanta received other peices.

Tim Collins is 5’7″.  Due to this, he has been undervalued his entire career even though his minor league FIP’s were in the low 2’s.  He is a situational reliever with limited upside but productive relievers at league minimum are quite valuable.  Seeing this, Atlanta flipped Collins, Gregor Blanco, and Jesse Chavez for Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth.  Cue the snickers from the sabermetric crowd.  Fun Fact: in the last 2 months of 2010, after this trade, Farnsworth and Ankiel netted Atlanta .9 WAR.  Not earth shattering by any stetch but enough to offset the loss in value from Escobar to Gonzalez and help Atlanta sneak into October with the Wild Card.

This brings us to our final peice, Tyler Pastornicky.  When Atlanta made this trade, it took both a short term and a long term view.  Gonzalez replaced Escobar in 2010 and 2011 and it appears that job will pass to Pastornicky in 2012.  I won’t try to guess his line next year or put a value on him.  I’ll just say he doesn’t have to light the world on fire to be a productive major league shortstop these days.  If he winds up a utility player, as some have prognosticated, Atlanta loses this trade.  If he becomes even a second division regular who can post 1-2 WAR for a few years, Atlanta could very well be the winner.

The conclusion is this.  Whenever I see this trade mentioned it is often derided as Atlanta getting slaughtered.  What this usually fails to realize it the trade was not just Escobar for Gonzalez.  The other pieces helped Atlanta both short term and long term.  Frank Wren isn’t perfect, but neither is Alex Anthopoulos.  Don’t let reputations cloud analysis.

CBA: Quick Hits

I’m holding off on the draft because the details are still rolling out.  I need a bunch of questions to be answered yet before I make statements on how it will affect the market in the upcoming years.  There are other aspects of the CBA that I can analyze now.

1.  Houston changing leagues.  Fortunately Wiers and I already tackled this.  Here are our thoughts.

2.  The second change was the added Wild Card.  The instinct for the sabermetrically inclined is to say “This diminishes the playoffs even further.”  Your right.  But here is my counter – Is that really important?  The best team rarely wins the World Series.  I’m ok with this because I no longer have the expectation that the best team will win.  I enjoy the playoffs because they are exciting.  I enjoy them because they tend to be very good baseball.  We see great pitchers, incredible hits, defensive plays and comebacks.  We get drama that hopefully captivates average fans and increases the cultural pull of the game.  A one game playoff only enhances this.  As a Braves fan, I didn’t exactly enjoy the last day of the season but I can’t deny its appeal.  We had 3 incredible games that directly influenced the playoffs.  I remember the one game playoff where Matt Holliday didn’t touch home plate and the one where Alexi Casilla and Carlos Gomez broke the Tigers backs in the 12th inning.  This is what 1 game playoffs do.  They make for incredible drama and as a baseball fan I love it.  Also, it only lessens the fact that the better wild card team advances.  The wild cars play one another, not affecting the chances the division winners win the World Series.

3.  Baseball added a 26th roster spot for double headers.  Win for the MLBPA as it increases the number of players getting service time and Major League Salaries.  The effect this will have on the game is basically zero.

4.  The elimination of Type A/B Free Agents is a good thing.  The valuation of players is always a gray area no matter how accurate we think our stats become.  Getting rid of lines of demarkation between free agents just simplifies the process.  Players are either worth compensation or not.  I’m supportive of the new system, although I would rather see it jsut go away all together.

5.  The super 2 deadline was also pushed back.  It was done by increasing the percentage of players eligible from 17% to 22%.  I like this as the extra month in the minors will make more teams say the hell with it and put their best players in the majors when they deserve it, not when their service time dictates it.  Another good move by the MLBPA.

6.  The tobacco thing is useless regulation.  These are grown men, let them do what they please.  This just reeks of a political statement for the purpose of making a political statement.

7.  Baseball is going to mandate players wearing the Mr. Magoo helmet David Wright wore a few years ago.  Obviously from a player safety standpoint I support this but I would support it even more if baseball had not written the helmet had become “less bulky.”  I loved that helmet from a aesthetic standpoint.  Everyone who wore it looked ridiculous.

8.  I hate the LoMo twitter policy.  More useless regulation.  These guys are adults, let them do what they want outside of the stadium.

9.  My most controversial statement is coming up, be warned.  I hate the HGH testing.  I firmly believe steroids do not help baseball players.  Go here and just read for a few hours, you’ll agree.  So all HGH testing does in my opinion is invade players privacy while not solving a problem.  There is also a too little too late sentiment towards HGH.  If players are serious about trying to gain an advantage there are always other performance enhancing drugs they can turn to if that do not show up on Major League testing.  I just think this is unnecessary.  Baseball and the MSM need to give up this steroid crusade and focus on things that matter, like DUI’s.

 

CBA: International Market

The new CBA has been released and with it came many questions about how baseball treated the acquisition of talent from the amateur ranks.  To me, it was the only part of the CBA I really had strong feelings about and so it’s the one I’m going to write about.

Let’s begin by getting one thing clear.  The CBA is agreed upon by two groups: MLB owners and the MLBPA.  Nobody else’s opinion ultimately matters.  With that being said let’s get into it.

I’m going to start with the cap on international signing bonuses.  People seem to think this limits teams ability to sign amateur talent in Latin America. I disagree.  What this means for kids in Latin America is smaller signing bonuses.  The truth of it is, the opportunity for these kids to come to the U.S. and play professional baseball is still an opportunity of a lifetime.  Depressing bonuses by 25% or 50% or whatever the fallout winds up being will not change that.  So Miguel Sano only gets 2 mil, the $100,000 guys only get $40,000.  Does that really matter from a baseball perspective?  I say no.  The biggest argument is that this is unfair to the players.  Of course it is.  That is why I wrote the second paragraph.  Latin American signees are not in the players union, so it is ultimately not the players unions responsibility to get them more money.  Also, if these bonuses are reduced that extra money previously being spent on these bonuses could likely go towards major league salaries.  A chance of increasing MLBPA member’s salaries is exactly what the MLBPA is for, they win here.  For our other negotiating party, the owners, they win too.  As I said a limit on spending internationally will not affect the amount of money pulled in by major league clubs.  Same revenue + less spending = profit.  Some owners can choose to pocket this money; others will reinvest it in the club.  Either way, another win.

An argument I’ve heard against this is that it creates a market where potential contracts these players receive will all look very similar, resulting in players choosing teams for reasons besides contract size.  I disagree with this.  Even in an open market, teams create player evaluations and base offers off of those evaluations.  Evaluations for players are bound to have differences for each team.  What teams must decide is how much of their budget they can allot to a one player.  Finally, each team may spend the same amount this offseason, but in future offseasons the available amount of money for Latin American bonuses changes by major league team record the year previous.  This also will change the amount of money a player is offered because with different caps, 1 million to one team is different than 1 million to another team.  Different evaluations, different spending caps, as well as organizational philosophy on balancing elite talent/money with signing multiple players creates enough variables that players will still receive different dollar amounts from different teams.

I do have two issues with the spending cap.  First, I feel teams should be free to spend however much money in whatever part of the game they so choose (as evident in my Right of First Refusal post).  This budget does not allow for Texas to spend 17 million dollars in one year like they did in 2011.  Second I dislike using major league record as the basis for a team’s spending budget.  The current major league roster does not properly reflect organizational health.  Teams can go all in on the major league roster and compete but be hurt long-term.  Two current examples of this are the White Sox and the Phillies.  Chicago went all in with veterans since their 2005 run and now the organization is in rough shape.  The team has been competitive in recent years though and this cap would have kept them from spending money in Latin America and building a talent base with which to replace these veterans.  That they don’t have these prospects now is of their own doing, the Phillies will not even have the option.  Philadelphia is headed downward.  They have a below average farm system due to trades for Hunter Pence, Roy Oswalt, and Roy Halladay.  They have an aging core and an awful contract for Ryan Howard that will limit the team financially in the future.  The way Philly could avoid that slide is by bringing in young talent to replace their veterans.  Because of their on field success in 2011 and probably in 2012 it will be hard for them to pick up the high impact talent they need.  In the end it all comes down to money. Despite my complaints the bottom line is this new arrangement in Latin America benefits the owners and major league players equally.

Finally, I’ll end the international signing section with answers to questions I have seen many places and you may have read answer to many places.

  • This does not affect Japanese players or the posting system at all.  MLB has had an understanding with the NPB about player moves for almost 20 years and it would require NPB cooperation to change the posting system
  • It does not affect Yoenis Cespedes.  The rules do not apply to Cuban players who are either older than 23 (Cespedes is 26) or have played professionally for 3 years (in Cuba).

As for our CBA coverage, I will be writing at least one more article on the draft but after that there hasn’t been much talk going forward between Wiers and I about how we are going to handle it.  Stay tuned for more articles.

Two (Relatively) Quick Thoughts

It all started with an off the cuff tweet by yours truly, which kicked my brain into over-drive over two subjects that shouldn’t ever be talked about by anyone. The sad truth is that the topics are all too readily at hand to discuss. What I mean is DUI’s and player safety.

With the recent kidnapping of Wilson Ramos (thankfully he was rescued safe and unharmed) and now the even more recent tragic news of Greg Halman’s death is breaking. All too often our society retroactively acts to protect. Look at AMBER alert system. It helps saves lives and find lost children. Such a shame that it is named for Amber Hagerman, a 9 year old girl who was kidnapped and murdered. Something more should have been in place at the time of her kidnapping. Instead, we enacted a system after the fact.

For all the right reasons, the MLB casts great lights upon its players. Both on the field and off the field at charity events, team sponsored events, on the red carpet, etc. MLB is a brand, and the players are what sells the brand. Unfortunately, fame is a double-edged sword. With affluence and recognition comes a price. The price is of course the higher likelihood of assault, kidnapping, and ransoming.

Out of recent memory I can name these events:

-A breaking and entering + robbery of the house where Tampa Bay stars Evan Longoria and David Price live
-Wilson Ramos’ kidnapping
Yorvit Torrealba’s son being kidnapped
Dernell Stenson’s robbery and ensuing murder
-Greg Halman being murdered

I really have no idea what the MLB could do to ensure the safety of its players. I don’t want teams to start carrying massive security teams with them. I don’t want players to to stop coming to public events for fear of the safety of themselves and loved ones. I don’t want players, International or not,to be fearful of going back home. I often times like to be snarky about Bud Selig for being behind the times (instant replay anyone?). This is time where jokes are not appropriate. Make no mistake: the lives and well being of Bud’s players are in jeopardy here.

Another quick tangent I’d like to get up on my soap box for is the new CBA. It hasn’t been announced yet, but trickles of details have already leaked out. What I would really like to see is a stricter punishment for DUI offenders. In addition to the legal punishments I would like to see the MLB go beyond what they currently have now.Off the top of my head Derek Lowe, Shin-Soo Choo, Adam Kennedy, Austin Kearns, CoCo Crisp and perhaps most famously Miguel Cabrera have all been charged on DUI’s.

If the MLB was truly setting an example to the younger generation then they would enact a much stricter policy on these crimes. Have we all forgotten about Nick Adenhart?

I want to see a minimum of 25 games missed for a DUI. It’s not only breaking the law, its potentially murder. MLB would be wise to make this a priority.

Don’t Trade Martin Prado

I was 7 years old living in suburban Atlanta the year Hideo Nomo robbed Chipper Jones of the NL Rookie of the Year award in 1995.  Chipper is my favorite athlete of all time and I am completely irrational about him.  He is a 1st ballot Hall of Famer and worth every penny of his 13 million dollar contract next year.  All this being said, what Chipper can’t do is play every day.  At this point, projecting him for 120 games is reasonable.  Projecting him for much more is not.

What this means for an Atlanta team with playoff aspirations is there has to be a viable back-up.  Atlanta can’t just roll with Diory Hernandez for potentially 200 or 300 PA in 2012 and expect to compete.  The back up the Braves should use also happens to be the starting left fielder and the subject of this post, Martin Prado.

Martin Prado got luck-dragoned in 2011.  He had a BABIP 50 points lower than his career and 65 points lower than his previous full seasons in 2010 and 2009.  He is most likely a true talent 110-115 wRC+ hitter and a roughly 3 WAR player.  His real value to me, besides being an above average hitter, lies in his ability to play LF, RF, 3B, and 2B.

Take a look at those positions and think about the makeup of Atlanta’s roster.  Prado himself is the current starter in LF, but I would like to see Atlanta sign a LF and use Prado as a super utility type.  As I mentioned earlier, Chipper will miss 45 games.   Jason Heyward should be given every opportunity to succeed but if his 2012 begins to resemble 2011 Prado could be used in a platoon against LHP given the 25 advantage in wOBA Prado has over Heyward.  At 2B, Dan Uggla has never had health problems but Prado could be used to spell him too occasionally or long term if an injury occurs.  I remember how effectively the Angels used Chone Figgins in 2005 and believe Atlanta has the perfect player to replicate that kind of season.

If Atlanta signs a LF it then has the versatility to cover one obvious roster issue with an average starter, while also having a good pinch hitter, defensive replacement, and long term injury replacement at 4 different positions.  So I agree with Frank Wren that Martin Prado should not be the starting LF for the Atlanta Braves next year.  What I can’t get behind is the thought that he should be traded.

A Visual Look At Jonathon Sanchez

I’ve decided to throw my hat into the ring of bloggers writing about Jonthan Sanchez. With his recent trade to Kansas City in exchange for The Melk Manmany people are taking sides as to which team “won” the trade�. As usual, I shall be the contrarian. I’m going to look at the curious case of Sanchez’s release point. Er, I should say points because over the years, he has been everywhere with his arm.

�For the record, I would rather have Melky Cabrera than Sanchez.

Not too surprising, the inconsistency of Sanchez’s mechanics have lead to high walk rates. And “high” in an understatement. Despite those warts, Sanchez does in fact have elite strike out rates, but sometimes not even a gorgeous K-ratecan hide that ugly FIP. Let’s play a little spin control. I want to see how good and how bad we can make Sanchez look by viewing some of his different career stats.

The Good

K% BABIP SwStr%
Career 23.9% .287 10.3%

The Bad and the Ugly

BB% WPA FIP xFIP
Career 12.2% -4.95 4.11 4.17

Well now. That kind of says it all. So what we have here is a starter with reliever like swing-and-miss stuff, with an ability to suppress BABIPover a long period of time (In this case, over 700 IP) and a terrible walk rate and someone is basically a league average pitcher. Sanchez’s career FIP-of 100 clearly attests to him being dead on average. His ERA- of 103 corroborates his proven averageness. Clearly the is a fundamental lack of control. Take a look at his progressively different release points from 2008 to 2011.

Wow. There is obviously a largeshift in his release point from year to year. From 2009 to 2010 and again from 2010 to 2011 it appears as though Sanchez is drifting higher and higher on his release. Asnoted inmy previous post on Wuertz’srelease point, I’m no scout. It is very possible (and I think probable) that this lack of consistency in his release point have leadto his perennially high walk rates. Then again, this could all very well be me trying to do the classic “correlation equates causation” fallacy.

Despite my lack of formal scouting education, on an intuitive level it does make a tremendous amount of sense as to why Sanchez has routinely struggled with his control, let along command. He clearly has first-rate “stuff” but his inability to consistently find the strike zone has cost him his starting job in the past. With a new pitching coach and the classic change-of-scenery maybe Sanchez can get some consistency with his release point, and thus, probably find that long elusive strike zone.

Pitch f/x data courtesy of TexasLeagers.com