I’ve already done a breakout piece, but this one is a little different. With many pitchers coming back from injuries or a player coming back from a season of ineffectiveness, these names could end up being steals as buy-low options in fantasy leagues. However, not all of these pitchers will be worth a roster spot at the start of the season. Take a look at these names and store them in a safe place. They could surprise you in 2014:
Drew Hutchison, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
In 2012, Hutchison started 11 games for the Jays at the age of 21. By June of that season, he was done for the year due to Tommy John surgery. He only pitched about 55 innings in the minors in 2013 as he worked his way back, but with the Jays lacking any major players for the back-end of the rotation, he could quickly earn a look this season. He has his fastball back, touching the mid-90′s and sitting in the low-90′s, and he already has solid command of his secondary pitches, which shows the progress in his rehab. He may have to fight off super-prospect Marcus Stroman at some point for some innings, but if Hutchison gets a look, he has some excellent stuff. He has managed to get major league hitters out in the past, and he, likely, has matured through fighting his way back from surgery.
Casey Kelly, RHP, San Diego Padres
Once the centerpiece of the Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox deal, Kelly underwent Tommy John surgery in April of 2013, so he isn’t quite ready for game action. He could, however, be ready for San Diego by the middle of the 2014 season. He isn’t a future ace, but Kelly still has the big frame and, depending on his recovery, the stuff to become a tremendous mid-rotation arm for the Padres. The Friars have tremendous rotation depth, even after losing Cory Luebke to a second Tommy John surgery, as Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy, Josh Johnson, Eric Stults, Tyson Ross, Burch Smith, and Robbie Erlin are lined up as rotation members, with Matt Wisler and Keyvius Sampson ready at Triple-A. Kelly may have to leapfrog some other arms at this point, but he figures to have enough pedigree remaining to be on a radar, and, if nothing else, could be moved for a bat in a deal.
Brad Peacock, RHP, Houston Astros
After being acquired in the Gio Gonzalez deal from the Washington Nationals prior to the 2012 season, Peacock opened his career in Oakland with their Triple-A affiliate, posting a horrific 6.01 ERA over 134.2 innings. He was quickly shipped packing to Houston when the A’s dealt for Jed Lowrie, and things quickly got back to normal for Peacock. He posted a dazzling 2.73 ERA and struck out nearly 8.7 per nine innings before earning a look in Houston. While the Astros were nearly as horrible as Peacock was in 2012 last season, Peacock did show some signs of usefulness. His 5.18 ERA doesn’t tell the whole story. After pitching in the minors from June 9 through August 3, Peacock was promoted and posted a 3.64 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP over nine starts with a 54:20 K:BB in 54.1 innings and a .216 BAA. The Astros are gaining a lot of momentum due to the number of solid prospects that they have within their system, but there doesn’t seem to be enough ready talent to boot Peacock from the 2014 rotation. His numbers may not look all that pretty in the wins column this season, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see a guy with more than a strikeout per inning and respectable peripherals for a very low price this season.
Wade Miley, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Many people will be scared away from Miley due to his final numbers. The 3.55 ERA and 1.32 WHIP don’t seem like numbers that are all that favorable in fantasy circles, especially when you consider the 147 strikeouts in 202.2 innings. However, if you dig deeper, Miley was a monster over his final 22 starts, posting a much better 2.87 ERA to go with a 1.29 WHIP. While the WHIP isn’t all that sexy still, Miley had a tale of two seasons – posting a 5.01 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP in his first 11 starts. If you had him after his miserable start, he may have carried you to the playoffs. If you think that he isn’t as good as his second half numbers, you may be right – but he’s at least worth a look.
Brandon McCarthy, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Shoulder woes cost McCarthy over two months of the 2013 season. Injuries are nothing new for the tall, lanky right-hander, but at some point, things will break right for him. Last season, even when healthy, nothing seemed to. McCarthy’s 2013 is hard to explain. He had a 4.53 ERA and 1.35 WHIP despite maintaining his low walk rate (1.40/9), maintaining his groundball rate (48.2 percent), and being about league average in HR/FB rate (10.3 percent). What seemed to get him in his first season in the desert was luck, as his BABIP soared to .320 and his career rate now stands at .289. Chase Field won’t be nearly as forgiving as Oakland Coliseum, but you’d be hard pressed to find a veteran who is more likely to rebound from a sad 2013 than McCarthy in 2014.
Trevor Bauer, RHP, Cleveland Indians
Mechanics can be messy, especially when you don’t listen to coaches because of your fondness for your own routine. Such is the disaster of Trevor Bauer since reaching the majors in late 2012 with Arizona. He seems to have allowed Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway to make a few adjustments, finally, after watching Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez thrive under the coach in 2013. The results to this point seem quite promising. Bauer has shown excellent velocity, touching 98 and sitting 93 to 96 with his fastball, though he has walked three in five spring innings. Command will continue to be the kryptonite of Bauer reaching his full potential, but he has time and the right pitching coach – if he just opens his mind to the philosophies.
Henderson Alvarez, RHP, Miami Marlins
Alvarez pitched a no-hitter on the last day of the season in 2012, but it was the Detroit Tigers celebrating on the field when they clinched their playoff spot in Miami. Alvarez missed a lot of time due to shoulder inflammation in 2013, but upon his return to the field, he was very effective for the lowly Marlins, posting a 3.59 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over 102.2 innings and 17 starts. He doesn’t strike out a lot of batters (5.0/9) but he doesn’t allow many walks (2.37/9), home runs (HR/FB of 2.6 percent), or hits (.237 BAA), while keeping the ball down (53.5 percent groundball rate). He’ll be just 24 in 2014 and he is an impressive piece behind Jose Fernandez in the Marlins’ rotation. I’ve been a big fan of his since he came up with the Jays and was pounding a 98 mph sinking fastball in the bottom part of the zone, and while his fastball isn’t sitting there anymore, he’s still a potentially dominant arm.
Garrett Richards, RHP, Los Angeles Angels
Because Joe Blanton is not good, Mark Mulder got hurt, and the Angels have a weak farm system, Richards will settle behind C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver in the Angels rotation, likely in the No.3 spot, with Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs battling for their placement. Richards was actually pretty solid in his final 13 starts. In fact, if you remove his September 23 start against Oakland from the equation (4.2 IP, 7 ER, 8 H), he would have posted a 3.10 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP over those final starts. The WHIP may always be an issue, at least until Richards gets his fastball under control. It is an electric pitch, averaging 94.8 mph. If Richards can give the Angels some quality innings in 2014, they have enough offense to take control of the AL West again. He is a wild card due to his stuff, but his stuff could also lead to a spontaneous combustion of epic proportions.
Gavin Floyd, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Floyd missed all but five starts of the 2013 season after having Tommy John surgery in May. Like Kelly, he won’t be ready for the start of the 2014 season, but Floyd could be a nice, low-cost, luxury item for Atlanta. With Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, and Alex Wood in control of rotation spots, Floyd could be a long reliever or a swing man, while potentially filling a rotation spot if ineffectiveness or an injury occur. While Floyd hasn’t ever been a truly elite starting pitcher, he has been good for roughly 30 starts and 180 innings throughout his career, and at just a $4 million investment, he was a a worthy gamble for the Braves. If you can stash Floyd on a DL list, he may be worth the hold, especially if you’ve ever seen the violent nature of Alex Wood‘s delivery!
Erasmo Ramirez, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Ramirez has been the darling of dreamers for a couple of seasons now, as those looking for a good young arm to add to the spaciousness of Safeco Field have long drooled over his potential. Unfortunately, Ramirez hasn’t thrived when given a role by the Mariners, having posted a 4.98 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in 72.1 innings in 2013, including a 57:26 K:BB. His 1.49 HR/9 in 2013 is astronomical for a Seattle pitcher, even after they moved the fences in, and it’s fair to wonder if he still needs additional minor league seasoning. However, the Mariners may be forced into giving him a rotation spot at the start of the 2014 season due to injuries to Hishashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker, leaving just Ramirez, James Paxton, Scott Baker, and Brandon Maurer behind Felix Hernandez. There is still enough potential here to take a gamble, but, even at just 24, this could prove to be a make or break year for Ramirez.
Albert Pujols should be a first ballot Hall of Famer, even if you only consider his time with the St. Louis Cardinals. Pujols posted an 83 WAR (FanGraphs) from 2001 to 2011 in the “Gateway to the West”, winning three MVP awards and earning nine All-Star appearances in those 11 seasons. He parlayed that success into a 10-year, $240 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels prior to the 2012 season.
Since joining the Angels, the Pujols that you grew to love (or hate) has played in just 253 games, compiling a .275/.338/.485 triple-slash with 47 home runs and 169 RBI, while amassing a 4.4 WAR over the last two seasons. “Prince Albert” certainly hasn’t lived up to expectations, but the partial tear of his left plantar fascia played a major role in his sudden decline in 2013, as his 30 home runs and 105 RBI in 2012 can’t truly be considered a failure – unless your own expectations could have been judged in the same way.
Bob Nightengale posted a piece at USA Today which detailed a response that Pujols had to an interesting question:
Are you motivated to put up the same numbers as Mike Trout?
Pujols’ response was intriguing, to say the least:
“Can you imagine someone saying that to me? I felt like saying, ‘Come on, are you serious? Are you really asking me that? Check out my numbers. I know what Mike Trout has done in his first two years is pretty special, but will you look at my numbers. I’ve been doing this for almost 14 years. The only guy in baseball who can match the numbers I’ve put up is Barry Bonds, and someone is actually asking if I can put up numbers like Mike Trout? Are you freaking kidding me?”
We do seem to forget greatness rather quickly in our society, which lives in the now thanks in large part to social media and a non-existent attention span; however, does Pujols have a point?
You could argue that what Pujols has done – nearly 500 home runs and a little over 2,300 hits – will reach numbers that guarantee a legacy and enshrinement into Cooperstown. If he continues to stay clean, which has been an argument from some in the past, that seems to be a lock, but, as we all know, one wrong move, one wrong vitamin, and one wrong trust in a trainer could leave Pujols waiting on steps of the museum with Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Sammy Sosa, and others.
Let’s just say that Pujols remains the clean producer that he has been. Pujols will still be considered a monster, likely the second player with 3,000 hits and 600 home runs in Major League history (joining Willie Mays). Does he need to prove anything to anyone, considering that he could post 100 hits and 15 home runs per season over the next seven years to reach those milestones? He certainly wouldn’t be worth his average annual value with that type of production, but given the Angels’ television revenue and the gate revenue that comes along with the milestone chase, perhaps the Halos could still break even.
Here is a bigger question: Is it fair for a member of the media to ask if Pujols can put up numbers that Mike Trout has the last two seasons?
No. Pujols never has posted those numbers and he certainly won’t as he continues to age and decline.
You see, for all of his greatness, Pujols will forever lose value in the battle of statistics. With Wins Above Replacement being such a dynamic measuring tool in player values, Albert Pujols has to understand that he has NEVER been as valuable in a single season as Mike Trout has been in his first two full season. Mike Trout has accumulated a massive 20.4 WAR (FanGraphs) in those two seasons, establishing himself as the top player in the game, even though he has not managed to snag the last two American League MVP awards from Detroit Tigers’ first baseman Miguel Cabrera.
For all of the 14 years of production that Pujols can stand on, for the nine All-Star games, for the three MVP awards – baseball has moved on from legacies and histories to projection. By developing statistics that measure player values currently and in the future, like Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS system, there is information available to teams and fans to dissect and look towards the future with, while hoping that their teams utilize the seemingly endless media revenue streams to lock-up their young stars, like Trout, to long-term deals. Albert Pujols has very little projection left and it seems unlikely that in today’s market, just two years removed, that Pujols would have received the type of contract that he did in Los Angeles.
As for the history that comes with Albert Pujols, he isn’t the player that the Angels are building their franchise around any longer. Although Mike Trout isn’t under team control as long as Pujols, the franchise is aware of the future success of the club, and it lies in the all-around skills and dominance that comes along with the generational talent that they drafted and developed, not the man that they committed a quarter of a billion dollars to in free agency.
If Mike Trout continues to be Mike Trout and he isn’t crippled by injuries like Grady Sizemore or Tony Conigliaro, Pujols will look back at this question and statement to remember that he was the one that could have used a serving of humble pie. Trout’s overall numbers may not reach the 700 home run plateau, but his WAR value could lead him to becoming the greatest player ever.
Pujols has never had a season as valuable as the last two that Trout has managed to post. If he thinks that he is the more valuable player of the two still today, he has to be kidding all of us, right?
After acquiring R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, and Melky Cabrera through trades and free agency prior to the 2013 season, it would have been easy to assume that the Toronto Blue Jays would become contenders in the American League East – immediately. With Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion already on board offensively, the Jays possessed a dynamic offense, and the added pieces to the rotation and the top of the order seemed like enough to help Toronto find their way back to the early-1990′s glory days.
Instead, the Jays went 74-88, 23 games back of the Boston Red Sox, battling Justin Bieber for the title of Biggest Canadian Train-wreck of 2013.
Johnson is now in San Diego and the Jays look to be struggling to develop a solid rotation around Dickey and Buehrle, as Brandon Morrow, who has battled numerous injuries and ailments over the last couple of seasons, Esmil Rogers, J.A. Happ, Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek, and Todd Redmond will battle to fill out the remainder of the Jays rotation in 2014. For that reason, the Jays will likely need to win games by outscoring the opposition.
How can the Jays fix their already present issues?
First, the club needs to move Brett Lawrie back to second base. Ryan Goins, Brent Morel, and Maicer Izturis are currently listed on the club’s depth chart for second, and Lawrie would obviously be a huge offensive upgrade. Lawrie played 249 games at second in the minors and did a nice job fielding the position. If he were to stay healthy and live up to his lofty expectations, he would produce at an All-Star level offensively, likely becoming a fantasy darling and very valuable within the sabermetric community due to his ability to run – and his athletic ability should allow him to thrive as an up-the-middle player, once again.
Obviously, third base would then be open if the Jays moved Lawrie back to second. Edwin Encarnacion played the position horrendously in Cincinnati, but Toronto could move Jose Bautista back to third. Bautista has played all of 21.1 innings at third since 2011 and he posted negative value at the position in his career, but with such low expectations from the current options at second base, Bautista’s negative influence at third could still be smaller than what the Jays will likely receive from Goins, Morel, and/or Izturis.
To be honest, one of the major reasons that this move makes sense is because of the outfield options that the Blue Jays have. Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra could provide value to the club if either player was given a full-time opportunity, and both warrant a longer look than what they will likely be given due to the current lineup alignment.
Gose is just 23 and has two years of experience at the major league level, as he has 342 plate appearances in Toronto. Gose has over 900 plate appearances at Triple-A, though, and while he has a lot of swing and miss in his game, he seems to have a lot of similarities to Michael Bourn with a lesser hit tool. Tremendous speed and defensive skills will be his calling card, but he does have some power, as well. Giving him a bigger role in 2014 will allow the Jays to have a better idea of options on-hand for the 2015 offseason, as center field will be very weak and the club could lose Colby Rasmus on the open-market.
Sierra, 25, has shown some power at the major league level, posting an .827 OPS (126 OPS+) in 35 games in 2013, including 14 walks in 122 plate appearances after walking all of 17 times in 422 minor league plate appearances last season. The power seems legit, though, as Sierra ripped 46 home runs in 1,395 minor league plate appearances since the start of 2011. He profiles nicely as a corner outfielder, and, while he doesn’t have elite speed, he seems to understand how to utilize the skills that he does possess (77 stolen bases in his minor league career). Maybe he was just bored in the minors and it led to his horrific approach?
Of course, maybe the offense wouldn’t have to be manipulated in any way to improve the team’s chances if the Blue Jays signed another starting pitcher or two. Considering that the Jays’ 9th overall and 11th overall picks in the 2014 MLB Draft are both protected, why weren’t they more aggressive in the top-flight pitcher market? They would, essentially, be giving up a second round pick for a player who is tied to compensation, and their win-now approach, evident from their trades last offseason, warrants that type of investment.
It wouldn’t be too surprising for the Jays to settle on a one-year deal with Ervin Santana, just to show some kind of effort this offseason. A better option, however, would likely be Cuban right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne, whose unfamiliarity with the league would at least allow for early success – if he were dropped immediately into the rotation. Other options at this point are not good – Joe Saunders, Barry Zito, Clayton Richard, Jeff Niemann, Jason Marquis, Jeff Karstens, Jair Jurrjens, Johan Santana, and Jon Garland are all that remain of major league free agent starters, while Brett Myers “could” be tried in that role once again after failing horrifically due to injuries with the Cleveland Indians in 2013.
Outside of changing the team’s offensive alignment or signing a free agent starter, the Blue Jays appear to be heading towards another last place finish in the AL East. The Yankees and Orioles made some interesting additions, the Rays re-upped with James Loney and have their core intact, and the Red Sox are only the defending champions. After mortgaging the clubs future (Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, Justin Nicolino, Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Jake Marisnick) to make a run in 2013, the quiet offseason should be disappointing to fans. After altering the competitive window, the club is now just out there in the land of mediocrity – not strong enough to truly contend and not bad enough to win the Carlos Rodon sweepstakes in 2014, and whoever the top player in 2015 will be sweepstakes, as well.
Marcus Stroman is nearly ready for the rotation, but the Aaron Sanchez‘s and Roberto Osuna‘s are too far away for the Jays to count on in 2014. After dealing so many of their near-ready prospects last year, the only way to salvage the season is to give Moises Sierra and Anthony Gose a larger role, while increasing the team’s ability to outscore their opposition.
Brett Gardner is a good baseball player. He has been around since 2008, but he didn’t really get a full-time shot until 2010. He posted a 6.0 WAR in 2010 due to his 97 runs, 47 stolen bases, 79 walks, and solid defense while manning left field (123 games) and center field (44 games) throughout that season. He followed that up with a good 2011, compiling a 4.9 WAR and leading the American League in stolen bases (49) while seeing his wRC+ fall below 100 (97). The 2012 season was lost due to right elbow surgery (he played in 16 games), and the 2013 season was solid (3.2 WAR), while Gardner become better than league average in creating runs (108 wRC+) while leading the AL in triples (10) and manning center full-time for an injury-crippled Yankee squad.
However, this winter, the Yankees have been very active, acquiring a new catcher in Brian McCann, a solid rotation addition in Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka, and adding one of the elite players on the open market – Jacoby Ellsbury – from their division rival, Boston. This clearly improved the roster and should allow the Yankees to be much more competitive in 2014 and beyond, but with these additions, especially the addition of Ellsbury, Gardner’s name was listed throughout many rumors, as his bat isn’t going to produce the numbers that many corner outfielders are capable of.
On Sunday, the Yankees signed Gardner to a four-year, $52 million extension. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman had this to say about the signing:
“He would be a leadoff hitter and playing center field for most organizations because most organizations don’t have multiple center-field options. There are certain places that need a center fielder and would love to have a leadoff hitter. He fit that criteria, and you have to pay him that way.”
Are there other teams out there that have two players locked into the same role, and, why, when the club was so cautious (prior to this offseason) of the payroll, was it necessary to give a decent player $13 million per season in average annual value for his age 31 to 34 seasons, when he will, likely, be less likely to run and maintain defensive value?
The Atlanta Braves just signed Andrelton Simmons to a seven-year, $58 million extension last week, so it wouldn’t be ideal for the Braves to try to sign Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz to a deal similar to what the Dodgers paid Erisbel Arruebarruena, as both are defensive-minded shortstops, though Simmons showed unexpected pop in 2013. Should the Yankees be excused from this type of investment because of their revenue streams?
Sure, there are other teams that have decided to employ solid defense in the outfield, potentially leaving some runs on the base paths to ensure that it is harder for the opposition to score. The Cleveland Indians, for example, went into the 2013 season with three capable center fielders in their outfield – Michael Brantley in left, Michael Bourn in center, and Drew Stubbs in right – and they became contenders, winning 92 games in 2013 after winning just 68 in 2012. Certainly, Nick Swisher‘s addition, improved production from Jason Kipnis, and surprising seasons from Yan Gomes and Ubaldo Jimenez helped, but…maybe it was the defense.
The Angels had Peter Bourjos penciled into center in 2013 until hamstring and wrist injuries kept him on the disabled list for 106 games in 2013. With Bourjos, Mike Trout, and Josh Hamilton, the Angels, on paper, had a group of three center fielders, as well; although, it would be a reach to consider Hamilton a center fielder at this point. There is also the dynamic offensive numbers that Trout can put up wherever he is playing that separates him from any of the Indians’ outfielders, as well as Gardner – so with Bourjos gone and J.B. Schuck and Kole Calhoun taking his spot, Trout manned center and, once again, posted MVP-caliber numbers while the Angels finished with a disappointing 78 wins.
There are certainly arguments for defensive value that make the Gardner extension reasonable, but $13 million per season seems like a lot of money for the 20th most valuable outfielder in baseball from 2013, tied with Rays’ outfielder Desmond Jennings and Braves’ outfielder Justin Upton with a 3.2 WAR. There are so many other options who could have been more affordable for New York as players like Coco Crisp, Marlon Byrd, and Shane Victorino could have been available to them, and they each posted more productive seasons while earning similar totals to what Gardner will earn from 2015 through 2018.
Beyond Gardner’s peers, should the Yankees be concerned about his production when compared to his past production?
His best season will be three-plus years ago when the 2014 season starts and his production has been all over the place since then. You can see that Gardner’s walk rate has gone from 13.9 percent in his breakout 2010 to 8.5 percent in 2013, while, at the same time, his strikeout rate jumped to a full-season worst 20.9 percent in 2013. Gardner may have been pressing due to a need to be productive with all of the injuries around him, but if he isn’t on base, he isn’t running, and if he isn’t running, where does his value lie? It lies in his defense and if he isn’t playing center field, does that decrease his overall value?
Again, there is such a thing as an elite defense, but teams tend to want big offensive production from their corner spots. Brett Gardner is not as sexy in left as he is in center, and with Jacoby Ellsbury unlikely to ever reach the outlier power numbers that he showed in 2011 ever again, there isn’t room for error, regression, or depreciation in Gardner’s skill-set over the next four seasons for him to be worth this investment.
Whether a win is worth $5 million, $7 million, or it is immeasurable, this contract seems unlikely to contain any room for surplus value for the Yankees.
While the Yankees may be able to afford a failed investment that a team like the Reds, Rays, or Pirates can’t, but $52 million for a league-average player doesn’t seem like a wise investment – cost of a win be damned.
I bought in. I did research. I studied numbers and related them to the players, while developing a deeper understanding of the game. All of the random numbers that took the place of a batting average, home runs, RBI, ERA, and wins in the evaluation in baseball stole my heart. Sabermetrics gave creative, number-crunching baseball fans a means to display defensive values, base running values, and even what a pitcher could do without that guy with stone hands playing shortstop. They even provided a way to determine how Roberto Clemente matches up to Vladimir Guerrero thanks to ballpark adjustments, allowing statistics to see what a player from the past could do today.
All of that is great. Fine. Dandy, as my late grandpa would say. However, for every xFIP, FIP, wRC+, and OPS+, there is WAR – Wins Above Replacement. What is WAR exactly? Well, it’s funny that I ask myself such a question and then provide the answer.
FanGraphs has a nice explanation:
Offensive players – Take wRAA, UBR & wSB, and UZR (which express offensive, base running, and defensive value in runs above average) and add them together. Add in a positional adjustment, since some positions are tougher to play than others, and then convert the numbers so that they’re not based on league average, but on replacement level (which is the value a team would lose if they had to replace that player with a “replacement” player – a minor leaguer or someone from the waiver wire). Convert the run value to wins (10 runs = 1 win) and voila, finished!
Pitchers – Where offensive WAR used wRAA and UZR, pitching WAR uses FIP. Based on how many innings a pitcher threw, FIP is turned into runs form, converted to represent value above replacement level, and is then converted from runs to wins.
Then, Baseball Reference has a deeper explanation – first for position players:
WAR for position players has six components:
- Batting Runs
- Baserunning Runs
- Runs added or lost due to Grounding into Double Plays in DP situations
- Fielding Runs
- Positional Adjustment Runs
- Replacement level Runs (based on playing time)
The first five measurements are all compared against league average, so a value of zero will equate to a league average player. Less than zero means worse than average and greater than zero better than average. These five correspond to the first half of our equation above (Player_runs - AvgPlayer_runs). The sixth factor is the second half of the equation (AvgPlayer_runs - ReplPlayer_runs).
They also have an explanation for pitchers at Baseball Reference, starting with a basic idea:
At its most basic level, our pitching WAR calculation requires only overall Runs Allowed (both earned and unearned) and Innings Pitched. Since we are trying to measure the value of the pitcher’s performance to his team, we start with this runs allowed and then from there adjust that number to put the runs into a more accurate context.
But it doesn’t stop there! Baseball Prospectus has WARP – Wins Above Replacement Player, which they consider:
Wins Above Replacement Player is Prospectus’ attempt at capturing a player’ total value. This means considering playing time, position, batting, baserunning, and defense for batters, and role, innings pitched, and quality of performance for pitchers.
Perhaps no sabermetric theory is more abstract than that of the replacement-level player. Essentially, replacement-level players are of a caliber so low that they are always available in the minor leagues because the players are well below major-league average. Prospectus’ definition of replacement level contends that a team full of such players would win a little over 50 games. This is a notable increase in replacement level from previous editions of Wins Above Replacement Player.
Here is an example of the Wins Above Replacement Player spectrum based on the 2011 season:
With so many different versions of player value calculations, how do you determine which one is most appropriate in truly determining player values?
Even if you have a preference of which WAR or WARP system to use for your ranking or player value thought processing, why are you using it, but most importantly, why would a Major League Baseball team consider using WAR when discussing player contracts – now or in the future?
Teams are getting surplus value out of the pre-arbitration and arbitration years of their team-controlled talent, prior to the players cashing in with the exorbitant figures that seem to be getting thrown around on the free agent or long-term extension markets. Clayton Kershaw‘s seven-year, $210 million deal was likely the stepping stone to several future $30 million or more average annual value (AAV) deals in the near future. Based on Kershaw’s 18.5 WAR (FanGraphs) over the last three seasons, he is the epitome of excellence on the mound – a modern day Sandy Koufax in the familiar Dodgers uniform…without the ice baths and elbow pains. You could assume that no pitcher currently in MLB is worth more than Kershaw due to his prolonged dominance, age, and market value , as the Dodgers seem to have an unlimited budget thanks to their TV deal, which allowed for such a record-breaking deal. With Kershaw locked up, the next generational talent name likely to receive an in-house extension within a major market would be Los Angeles Angels’ outfielder Mike Trout.
Trout has posted back-to-back 10-plus WAR seasons to start his career. After earning $500,000 in 2013, the Halos are about to reach arbitration figures that have never been seen before. ESPN’s Dan Szymborski wrote an interesting piece on Wednesday detailing the possible long-term contract that Trout could earn due to his production:
Assuming Trout receives league-minimum salary for 2014 and arbitration awards of roughly 25 percent, 45 percent and 70 percent of his open market value from 2015-17 (superstars tend not to do as well on a percentage basis in arbitration as typical players do), ZiPS estimates $69 million as a fair offer to get Trout through his arbitration years. Then the fun begins.
Even at 7.7 WAR (his 2018 projection as of now), if the value of one WAR increases at 5 percent from the $5.45 million I estimate that teams are paying for this in 2014, that’s enough to get Trout past the $50 million mark per season. So if we are estimating a 10-year deal, that gives us $69 million for his next four years, plus $312 million for the following six seasons (2018-23), for a total of $381 million over 10 years.
Szymborski detailed how it wouldn’t be wise for the Angels to wait much longer on a potential long-term contract, adding:
If Trout plays up to his elite level this season, the cost of signing him for 2018 through 2023 goes up substantially. While we originally calculated that time period to cost $312 million, it goes up to $335 million if he meets his 2014 projection.
If he hits his new 2015 projection, that goes up again to $362 million before 2016. And if he continues to hit his mean projection for the 2017 season, that goes up to $395 million. In other words, if the Angels continued to go year-to-year with Trout and nothing terrible happens in the interim, the price to sign him just for 2018-2023 pops up by more than $80 million.
The Angels could really use Mike Trout for the next decade, especially after locking up Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton to long-term, lucrative deals, only to see them fail to live up to projections and expectations, but isn’t that the problem with projections?
Teams may have access to unlimited amounts of data, the eyes of scouts, and brilliant baseball minds, but you can’t project injuries; otherwise, Chris Sale‘s left arm would have had a surgery or two on it by now, right? You can’t predict when a player declines a bit too early, as Prince Fielder proved at the age of 29, when he posted an .819 OPS in 2013, the lowest of his professional career, despite Miguel Cabrera‘s continued dominance around him in the Detroit Tigers lineup.
However, teams have long gambled on the skills of players in major sports. It’s why Kwame Brown was employed by seven NBA teams by the age of 30, and why Mark Mulder received a spring training invite after not throwing a pitch in MLB since 2008.
Regardless, sabermetrics continue to influence the front offices across Major League Baseball, as teams continue to use data to develop a better understanding of player values. A lot of times, it seems that those player values, particularly within free agency, are founded upon those educated guesses that I consider gambles. Obviously, the general manager is spending someone else’s money so liberally in these situations, and the incoming revenues lead to a heavy squashing of a lot of the risks involved, but are players truly worth their WAR value?
Lewie Pollis wrote an article at Beyond the Boxscore which detailed the cost of a win via free agency, finding that wins aren’t worth $5 million, as Szymborski stated and what FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron discussed several years ago. Instead, Pollis found data which details a more dramatic cost to improve a club:
So if you’re the owner of an MLB franchise and you want to make your team one win better, you should expect to have to pay $7 million. Planning to bring in a league-average player? That’ll be $14 million. And if you’re willing to splurge to move up 10 games in the standings, you’d better be prepared to open your wallet to the tune of $70 million.
Pollis’ research is much more thorough and includes a lot more information than previous win-value research, but if teams are actually spending $7 million per win from season to season, and that number is only going to increase with the infusion of more money through various media revenue streams, how will “small-market” teams improve or compete in the next few years if they are unable to sign a league-average player for less than $14 million per season?
If projections are essentially educated guesses or hypothesis, then how about this:
Suppose Josh Donaldson was a free agent after the 2013 season. He signs with the Houston Astros, replacing Matt Dominguez (who was worth 1.0 WAR in 2013), which would improve the Astros by approximately six wins, as Donaldson was a 7.7 WAR player in 2013. Based on the cost per win, it would take nearly $42 million per season to sign Donaldson, while improving the Astros from a horrific 51 win team to a horrific 57 win team. Meanwhile, Donaldson, who just turned 28 in December and has all of 996 plate appearances in the majors, becomes the highest paid player in baseball.
Sure, this scenario isn’t playing out this winter because Donaldson isn’t and won’t be a free agent until 2019, but what is the value of win-values when you consider that teams aren’t going to pay players like Donaldson, coming off of a career season after spending five and a half years in the minors, like a superstar? Certainly, clubs bask in the glory of receiving superstar production from their players while they are being underpaid as pre-arbitration or arbitration-eligible major league roster-worthy talent, but is it fair to expect or anticipate clubs spending money based on their value when compared to replacement level talent?
Not everyone in Major League Baseball is replacement level and the fact that WAR is a comparison of an average minor league player with major league talent seems insane. Of course Mike Trout has a 10 WAR when he has had two incredible seasons when compared to your average player – that number should be gigantic when compared to someone who loiters within the minor leagues for several years; however, saying that Josh Donaldson and his 7.7 WAR from 2013, was only worth 2.7 fewer wins than Trout seems kind of insane, as well. Defense and offensive numbers aside, how about a dose of reality?
I love number crunching as much as the next guy, I even spent quite a bit of time trying to create my own value system over the winter, but the idea that WAR is tied to wins and those wins should be tied to free agent contracts, at least in the eyes of sabermetric gurus, seems horribly wrong. While the money may appear endless with all of the new media deals, there will come a point down the road that your mediocre, utility player could be earning $10 million per season – just because the money is there to warrant the contract. Is that good for baseball? Then, when baseball fails because it has become too big for its own britches, what will the gurus crunch for enjoyment?
WAR is great and fun, and it is very creative…but it is flawed. Why else would there be three different theories that provide the same type of data, thanks to Baseball Reference, Baseball Prospectus, and FanGraphs? If the value of a player is based upon a statistic that can be skewed, molded, or shaped based on the philosophy of its creator, is it fair to use that statistic to determine the finances of the game?
I don’t think so. Sabermetrics are great and they allow for a lot of debate, but a lot of that information has become just that…information. Data that can be manipulated like any other form of a statistic.
Teheran didn’t have as much service time as Freddie Freeman, but this looks like a potential steal. Read more from SI…
Originally posted on The Strike Zone - SI.com:
Julio Teheran spent four years on Baseball America‘s Top 100 prospects list before enjoying a breakout 2013 season. The Braves obviously liked what they saw, and now they’ve locked up the 23-year-old righty with a six-year, $32.4 million extension, a deal that includes an option for a seventh year. Though it obviously carries some risk, it’s a smart move for cash-conscious Atlanta, particularly given the limitations on its finances and the way the free agent market for pitching has dried up.
Derek Jeter announced that the 2014 season would be his last on Wednesday, giving fans a full season of farewells, just as the league provided (along with some wonderful parting gifts) to the greatest closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera, during the 2013 season. After 20 seasons of Hall of Fame worthy production, it may be fair to wonder if a part of the New York Yankees will disappear with him.
The “Core Four” of the Yankee dynasty will officially be gone after the 2014 season. Jeter, Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte, led the Yankees to five World Series titles and seven American League pennants over 17 playoff appearances since the start of the 1995 season. While Pettitte and Posada slowly faded away from the club, the departure of Rivera and Jeter seem to sting a bit more.
It was easy to connect Rivera to this generation of Yankee dominance – as he was responsible for finishing 952 games and collecting a save in 652 of them, not counting his 42 postseason saves and 0.70 ERA over 141 postseason innings. Rivera and “Enter Sandman” were connected to that dominance and the lack of hope that so many opposing teams felt from this era of Yankee success.
However, it was and always has been Derek Jeter as the heart and soul of this group. With the names of Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Joe DiMaggio hanging behind him and around him, Jeter overcame the shadows of greatness to become a lingering figure for those who will come next, creating an unreasonable expectation for the man who steps foot at shortstop from Opening Day 2015 and beyond – just as David Robertson will face as the new closer in 2014.
The accolades were numerous for Jeter:
- Five-time Gold Glove winner
- Five-time Silver Slugger winner
- 13 All-Star games
- 3,316 hits (10th all-time) NOTE: Jeter is 198 hits from Tris Speaker (5th), 119 hits from Cap Anson (6th), and 104 hits from Honus Wagner (7th)
- 1996 American League Rookie of the Year
- 2000 All-Star Game Most Valuable Player
- 2000 World Series Most Valuable Player
- Two-time American League Hank Aaron Award winner (2006, 2009)
- 2009 American League Roberto Clemente Award winner
- 2010 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award winner
While all of those awards and honors detail his effort and character, the immeasurable value of his leadership will remain one of his most impressive skills and traits. He overcame the distractions of Alex Rodriguez, Pettitte, and Jason Giambi, when their names were linked to the Mitchell Report and other steroid rumor. Additionally, he undertook a leadership role in leading baseball back to provide healing for America after the 9/11 attacks, and, while the Yankees dropped Game Seven to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001, he has still found a way to cope with the insanity of the New York media circus and the audacity of those around him, or in the game, who have attempted anything to get an edge.
Based on what we know, Derek Jeter is clean – outside of the laundry list of women that he has cycled through over the years; however, Jeter is New York – he is the Joe Namath face of the game, he is the water cooler and hot dog stand conversation between fans, he is the neon lights and the hustle and bustle of Times Square, and he is pinstripes and the lore that comes with the Yankee franchise.
Sure, the Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brian McCann, but none of those men will be Jeter. No one will ever be Derek Jeter. While some baseball players leave a legacy of numbers and amazing stories, Derek Jeter has touched the game in a different way. Even after being tied to the “Core Four” for such a large part of his career, Jeter separated himself to become a larger part of baseball in New York.
Jeter is the Yankees. Jeter is the pinstripes. Jeter is New York. Jeter is Major League Baseball.
When he leaves the game after the 2014 season, the heart of the game will need to beat a little harder for the rest of baseball to work. While the Yankees may wonder how to replace Jeter for quite some time, Major League Baseball as a whole has to do the same thing.
With all teams reaching Spring Training by the end of this week, the 2014 season just became a bit more special. While the tributes, gifts, and focus on Derek Jeter may become obnoxious by the All-Star break, he has earned it. Love or hate the Yankees, you still have to respect Jeter.
Vladimir Guerrero arrived in Major League Baseball for good on May 3, 1997, after having a cup of coffee in September of 1996, becoming an instant success for the Montreal Expos at the age of 22, posting an .833 OPS over his first 354 plate appearances, finishing sixth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting (Scott Rolen won the award that season). In 1998, Guerrero became a superstar, posting a .960 OPS and a 150 OPS+, the first of ten straight years with an OPS above .900 and eleven straight years with an OPS+ of 130 or higher.
From 1998 through 2008, Guerrero was one of the top players in baseball, ranking 8th in baseball in WAR over those eleven seasons (53.5, courtesy of FanGraphs), ranking behind Hall of Fame worthy producers: Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Scott Rolen, and Derek Jeter. Guerrero made eight All-Star appearances, won seven Silver Slugger awards, and won the 2004 American League MVP, posting a .325/.392/.581 triple-slash (.972 OPS, 149 OPS+) while averaging 35 doubles, 35 home runs, and 112 RBI per season over those eleven seasons.
The 2009 season seemed to bring the mid-30′s decline that is typical of many non-steroid using baseball players, as Guerrero’s final season with the Los Angeles Angels ended with a .794 OPS and a 107 OPS+ (both the lowest of his career to that point, outside of the 1996 September trial), although much of his sudden decline (Guerrero was 34 for the entire 2009 season) could be attributed to surgery on his right knee in late 2008, followed by two different stints on the disabled list (35 games due to a pectoral muscle strain and 21 games for a calf strain), which resulted in the weaker, end-of-season counting stats.
Suddenly, Guerrero, who was a superstar for a decade prior to the 2009, injury-plagued season, was a free agent at the age of 35, and he was offered a one-year contract for the 2010 season with the Texas Rangers (with an option for the 2011 season) to be the club’s primary designated hitter. Guerrero, a star for such a long period of time, had to wait until January for his one-year deal from Texas, and the Rangers were rewarded for their $5.5 million deal, as Guerrero posted a .300/.345/.496 triple-slash (.841 OPS) with 27 doubles, 29 home runs, and 115 RBI, earning his ninth and final All-Star appearance and his eighth and final Silver Slugger, helping to lead the Rangers to the World Series, where they would lose to the San Francisco Giants in five games.
You would think that the Rangers would pick up Guerrero’s 2011 option, but that was not the case. His $9 million option was declined, Guerrero received a $1 million buyout and he headed to free agency, as the Rangers rolled with Michael Young and Mike Napoli as options at designated hitter in 2011.
Guerrero would wait until February for a contract offer for 2011, inking a one-year, $8 million deal ($3 million of which was deferred) with the Baltimore Orioles. The 2011 season was quite a disappointment for Guerrero, as he posted a .733 OPS and a 98 OPS+ despite posting the highest contact rate since 2006 (82.1 percent). The ball just didn’t seem to drop right, or over the fence, as Guerrero finished with just 13 home runs and 63 RBI, and a career-low .126 ISO and 2.9 percent walk rate.
While Guerrero’s production had slipped, was it worthy of resulting in his career ending?
After not signing with a team over the winter, Guerrero eventually took a minor league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays on May 11, 2012, earning a prorated $1.3 million deal (based on time spent in the majors). Guerrero spent all of one month and 12 games in the minors for Toronto, posting a .358/.364/.679 triple-slash with three doubles, four home runs, 12 RBI, and a 2:0 K:BB in 55 plate appearances, before his ultimatum to be promoted resulted in his release. Guerrero’s production wasn’t enough to force Edwin Encarnacion (who was enjoying a breakout season that ended with a career-high .941 OPS and 42 home runs) to first base and Adam Lind (who had a nice 2013 but had a .729 OPS in 2012) to the bench.
Since that point, Guerrero was rumored to be seeking employment, potentially with the independent Long Island Ducks, prior to announcing his retirement from baseball on September 13, 2013.
Guerrero’s career was basically over at the age of 36, which is shocking when you consider that Jason Giambi was still rostered by both the Colorado Rockies and the Cleveland Indians in 2012 and 2013, actually receiving over 300 plate appearances, combined, at the age of 41 and 42. There aren’t many who were or are expecting Guerrero to have a Raul Ibanez-like aging renaissance period, but even with negative defensive value, he would seem to be a more appropriate designated hitter than the likes of Travis Hafner, Luke Scott, and Carlos Pena, all of whom failed to produce while receiving over 150 plate appearances in 2013. Looking at Guerrero’s resume, you’d think that he would warrant a look more than those players. Perhaps it is the fact that he is a right-handed hitter and the others are left-handed bats? With so few players around Major League Baseball who are capable of reaching 25 to 30 home runs, someone with Guerrero’s ability to make contact and provide some right-handed power, even with the ugliest of swings, is worth something in the current swing and miss era of offensive production.
Given a ballot logjam that among outfielders could include Raines (who would be in his 10th year of eligibility), Walker (seventh year), Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa (both in their fifth year), Ken Griffey Jr. (if he doesn’t make it in on the first ballot in 2016), Luis Gonzalez (fourth year), Jim Edmonds (second year), Sheffield and Manny Ramirez (both also debuting) and more, Guerrero’s candidacy will have to battle for attention and space. Unlike many of the aforementioned, he has no known connection to performance-enhancing drugs, but like them, he put up his big numbers in an offense-happy era. As Raines and Walker have shown, the Expos’ disappearance is no boon to a candidate. On the other hand, like previously elected Montreal predecessors Andre Dawson and Gary Carter, Guerrero played the second half of his career in a larger media market, which could make up for some of that.
Ultimately, Guererro’s electrifying style went beyond sheer numbers, and I suspect he’ll build enough support among voters to attain his bronze plaque. As a player who made the hair on the back of peoples’ necks stand up, he won’t soon be forgotten.
Based on Baseball Reference’s Similarity Scores, Guerrero was most similar to Jeff Bagwell, Larry Walker, Albert Pujols, and Todd Helton, as well as Hall of Fame players Jim Rice, Willie Stargell, Billy Williams, and Duke Snider. His career was full of seasons that were most similar to those of Willie Mays, Manny Ramirez, Snider, Gary Sheffield, and Rafael Palmeiro as he aged, which should make you wonder how there is any doubt whatsoever as to whether or not he should be enshrined in Cooperstown. As Jaffe mentioned, Guerrero was not linked to performance-enhancing drug use, but with the PED-era being shutout of the Hall of Fame by many within the Baseball Writers Association of America, it could take several ballots for Guerrero to be seriously considered.
Jaffe is widely known for his JAWS system of ranking players. JAWS is described at Baseball-Reference.com, where the data is held and easily accessible, as a means to measure a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness by comparing him to the players at his position who are already enshrined, using advanced metrics to account for the wide variations in offensive levels that have occurred throughout the game’s history. I asked Jaffe a few questions in regards to his JAWS system and his thoughts on Guerrero when compared to similar players from his era, and how his body of work holds up comparatively.
Can you give a little bit of background on JAWS and how you came up with it or why? How long did you work on it before it was perfected?
Though it didn’t bear the name at the time, the system that became JAWS debuted at Baseball Prospectus in January 2004. The currency was BP’s Wins Above Replacement Player, and along with career WARP, I defined the peak as a player’s best five consecutive seasons, with allowances made for injuries and military service on a case-by-case basis. The JAWS name arrived in December 2004, as I looked at the 2005 ballot. By the time of the 2006 ballot, I had switched to defining peak as a player’s best seven seasons overall, which allowed for a more automated process (believe it or not, I hand-cranked the scores for all Hall of Famers in my first two years).
For the 2013 ballot, I switched from BP’s WARP to Baseball-Reference.com’s version of Wins Above Replacement, in part because BP’s pre-1950 advanced stats remained unpublished, and in part because B-Ref’s Sean Forman agreed to feature it on his site, creating cool leaderboards and featuring the scores on every player page. Who could pass that up?
I was thinking about Vladimir Guerrero recently and I went to see where he ranks all-time in JAWS and I was surprised to see that he was the 22nd ranked RF in baseball history. His career ended pretty abruptly, although there haven’t been many rumors of PED use in his case, he could be getting lumped in with the whole Steroid Era, just as Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell seem to be. A big surprise, to me at least, was that Larry Walker ranked 10th among RF all-time. Obviously, with a very crowded ballot, Walker saw his Hall of Fame vote drop from 21.6% in 2013 to 10.2% in 2014. With Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and the other holdovers, it looks like it could be some time before Walker gets the nod, and Guerrero is likely to join him on the ballot during that time…In my observations, Guerrero seemed like the better player, and I wasn’t sure if Walker’s production was aided by the thin air of the pre-humidor Coor’s Field. What is it, in JAWS or your opinion that separates these two players?
Baserunning and defense, mostly. You can actually see it itemized on each player’s B-Ref page, in the Player Value section. All numbers refer to runs above or below average (they’re converted relative to replacement level later on in the process):
Rbat (batting): Walker 418, Vlad 433
Rbaser (baserunning): Walker 40, Vlad −3
Rdp (avoiding double plays): Walker 10, Vlad −17
Rfield (fielding): Walker 94, Vlad 7
Rpos (positional adjustments): Walker −75, Vlad −114
Purely as a hitter, Vlad was slightly more productive, albeit over 1,029 more career plate appearances — that’s even after adjusting for park and league scoring environments. Having said that, Walker’s 21-point edge in on-base percentage made him a slightly more productive hitter on a rate basis even after the air is taken out of his stats.
Meanwhile, Walker has a 43-run edge on the bases, a 27-run edge when it came to avoiding GIDPs (thanks to his speed and situational hitting ability) and an 87-run edge as a fielder. What’s more, while both generally played right field, which requires a −7.5 run per year positional adjustment, Vlad’s time as a DH requires a requires a −15 run per year adjustment.
In all, the two were of comparable offensive value in their careers (62.2 oWAR for Walker, 59.0 oWAR for Vlad), but the former’s defensive value (dWAR) was +1.5 wins, the latter’s was −10.7, in other words about a 12-win difference.
Well, it can differ greatly from player to player. Obviously, Vlad didn’t accumulate much positive value in those categories, while Abreu had some, and Ichiro had outstanding value there (+62 Rbase, +106 Rfield) but much less as a hitter (+119 Rbat).
Is Vlad Guerrero a HOFer? Larry Walker? Bobby Abreu? Ichiro?
I believe both Ichiro and Walker are worthy of the Hall of Fame. I’m less sold on Vlad than I think the general electorate may be. I wouldn’t be surprised if he eventually gets in, nor would I be disappointed – at least unless Walker doesn’t get in, which appears to be the way things are heading. I’m just not going to be the guy who waves the flag for Vlad.
Why do you think that Guerrero isn’t receiving much interest over the last several years when Jason Giambi was rostered for a full season and produced in Cleveland after admitting his prior PED use? The same goes for Abreu…
Guerrero’s physical decline turned him into a part-time DH in his early 30s (208 games there from age 31-34, compared to 335 in the field) and a full-time DH by his mid-30s. Increasingly, we’ve seen fewer and fewer teams willing to roster such players because they tend to be high-salaried without contributing a whole lot. When you look at Vlad’s career, you can see that he was worth just 3.2 WAR over those final three years, that while making around $28 million. That’s not an acceptable return on investment for most teams, and in the drive towards rational spending, he became a victim. I’m not sure how much of his complete disappearance from the majors after his age 36 season owes to an unwillingness to accept a lower salary or a part-time role, but I’ll bet it was a big factor. Giambi, by comparison, has really embraced that role and become a managerial candidate.
From the standpoint of being a Hall of Fame candidate, guys whose careers end in their mid-30′s face an uphill climb because their career totals are generally low. Vlad’s less so – 2,590 hits and 449 homers are Hall of Fame numbers if they come from an earlier era — but had he stuck around a couple more years in better health, 3,000 and 500 might have been attainable.
As for Abreu, his defensive woes and declining power probably trimmed a couple of years off his career, too. Sadly, I don’t think he has an ice cube’s chance in hell of making the Hall because his plate discipline and speed were so under appreciated. Despite a very similar oWAR/dWAR breakdown to Vlad (60.4/-10.6), he only made two All-Star teams to Guerrero’s nine!
Jaffe’s explanation was very valuable in showing the differences between the players, and the fact that he took time out of his schedule to answer those questions for me was really cool for a lowly blogger like myself and it is much appreciated. Regardless, something that wasn’t factored into the questions or responses that is another useful statistic in detailing the differences between Walker and Guerrero, specifically, was the player’s OPS+ and wRC+, which factors in park effects. Walker finished with a career OPS+ of 141 and wRC+ of 140 and Guerrero finished with a career OPS+ of 140 and wRC+ of 136, another example of their offensive resemblances. Guerrero and Walker will remain similar in production comparisons due to their numbers not reaching the Hall of Fame lock-in plateaus of 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, and despite the defensive and base running differences, the two may be lumped together for several years on the ballot while the writers pick apart their resumes.
Vladimir Guerrero was a tremendous player who passed the eye-test of this blogger. While he didn’t have the counting stats of the juicers, he was certainly no less gifted and talented. So many superstars will be bypassed for Cooperstown enshrinement over the next decade due to the actions of others during their playing careers, and, just as Jaffe predicted, there will likely be a day when Larry Walker, Ichiro Suzuki, and Vladimir Guerrero are rewarded with their plaques by the required vote. When the baseball writers begin picking apart the numbers, I hope that they don’t continue to overlook just how special Guerrero was during his career peak, as we look back on a career that was magnificent for so long and faded off to retirement largely unnoticed by many. No team. No press conferences. A sad goodbye to a great player.
When you look at a team that is coming off of a 74-88 season, you typically see several holes that need to be filled, and, potentially, a team that could be headed towards a rebuild. However, when you look deeper at the Milwaukee Brewers, you can see that they are a team that isn’t too far away from actually contending, and it could happen in 2014.
Sure, the farm system doesn’t appear to have anything of immediate value, featuring a big, fat zero prospects within the Baseball Prospectus Top 101 and just one (Jimmy Nelson, No. 83) in the MLB.com Top 100, but IF the 25-man roster can maintain health and production, there is a tremendous chance that they could look a lot like the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates – minus the youth.
This is a club that won 96 games in 2011, and while they did lose Prince Fielder to free agency, they still managed to finish with 83 wins in 2012. In 2013, a lot of things went wrong:
- Ryan Braun was injured and suspended for his PED use
- Rickie Weeks had another unproductive season
- Yuniesky Betancourt received over 400 plate appearances – something that should never be forced upon the eyes of fans or the other 24 men of any Major League Baseball roster EVER AGAIN!
Fortunately for Milwaukee and their fans, there were several things that went right, which is why this team will improve in 2014…dramatically.
Yovani Gallardo suffered from another drop in velocity in 2013, and he had a very difficult time adjusting to that, posting a 4.83 ERA and 1.43 WHIP over his 20 first half starts; however, the second half brought much better results, as Gallardo managed a 3.09 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 11 starts. There should still be some concern over his velocity issues and his drop in strikeout rates (7.17 in 2013 is, by far, the lowest of his career – 8.24 in his rookie 2007 season is the next lowest), but if Gallardo has learned to pitch with what he has, he could find the same success that he had in the latter part of the 2013 season going forward. Keep in mind, he is turning just 28 years old later this month.
On the surface, going 11-15 with a 4.37 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 32 starts and 183.1 innings isn’t all that impressive, but, at 24, Wily Peralta was actually much better than those numbers. From June 21 to September 22 (17 starts), Peralta posted a 3.05 ERA and 1.23 WHIP over 103.1 innings, going 7-7 during that time. Peralta doesn’t strike out 10 batters per nine, posting just a 7.3 K/9 over this impressive 17-start span, but he does possess solid stuff (his fastball averaged 94.8 mph in 2013) and he keeps the ball in the park, even when pitching half of his games in Miller Park (19 home runs allowed in 2013). If Peralta can improve his 9.2 percent career walk-rate, he’s going to be capable of an All-Star season. He’ll turn just 25 in May of 2014, giving the Brewers a piece to continue to build around.
Jean Segura was a piece received from the Los Angeles Angels in the Zack Greinke deal, and while Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena may not do much of anything for the Brewers after coming over in the deal with Segura, the Brewers clearly won the trade when Greinke signed with the Dodgers last winter, gaining several years of control of the Dominican shortstop. Segura, then, had a huge 2013 season, posting a 3.9 WAR (Baseball Reference) and earning a spot on the National League All-Star team. He became a fantasy baseball darling, amassing 20 doubles, 10 triples, 12 home runs, and 44 stolen bases. His second half was not good (.241/.268/.315), but if he can get somewhere between those numbers and his breakout first half (.325/.363/.487), he’ll continue to be an asset for the Brewers and fantasy geeks alike.
Jonathan Lucroy became a near-elite offensive catcher in an injury-shortened 2012 and he continued that trend in 2013, posting a .795 OPS to go along with his 18 home runs and 82 RBI. Those 82 RBI led all catchers in the majors and his nine stolen bases were a nice addition, as well. At 28, Lucroy is in his prime and could post more impressive numbers in 2014 with a healthy and present Ryan Braun protecting him in the Milwaukee lineup.
Carlos Gomez posted an 8.4 WAR in 2013 (Baseball Reference) and went nuts, posting an .843 OPS along with his 27 doubles, 10 triples, 24 home runs, 73 RBI, and 40 stolen bases. He made his first All-Star game and won a Gold Glove for his tremendous defensive prowess, even earning a 10 percent share in the NL MVP voting by finishing 9th for the award. It is fair to wonder if this type of success can hold up from Gomez, considering his past and his continued plate discipline issues (146:37 K:BB in 590 plate appearances), but the potential was always there, and despite being around since 2007, he’ll be just 28 in 2014.
Khris Davis made his debut for Milwaukee on April 1st as a pinch-hitter. He then rotted on the bench collecting all of two starts and 18 plate appearances before being sent to the minors, where he would get regular playing time. Davis then returned to the majors to sit on the bench for part of July before taking over left field full-time on July 30. Over the next 36 games and 129 plate appearances, Davis posted a .287/.357/.617 triple-slash, blasting 10 home runs and driving in 26 runs. Over 162 games, that is a 32 home run player. I’m not saying that Khris Davis is going to do that, but he has posted an .898 OPS over his 1,705 minor league plate appearances prior to this big league outburst. The guy can hit, and while he’s already 26 years old (he was a college senior draftee out of Cal-State Fullerton, while missing most of 2012 due to a leg injury), he has pushed Braun to right field and cleared a path to become a producer.
Aramis Ramirez is still the third baseman, and while that may be an issue defensively, his bat is still useful. Another issue still remains that ARam will be limited by some sort of ailment that will keep him off of the field. At 36, it could be enhanced, but if he gives the Brewers 145 games, you’re going to see 25 home runs and 90-plus RBI with something close to his career .285/.345/.501 triple-slash.
First base has been an issue in Milwaukee since Fielder bolted for Detroit after the 2011 season, but there could be an interesting platoon. Juan Francisco posted his typically horrific strikeout totals and low average in 2013, but he did hit 13 home runs in 270 plate appearances for Milwaukee. He couldn’t hit a left-hander if the pitcher actually put it on a tee for him, but with the addition of Mark Reynolds (.852 career OPS vs. left-handers), the two could combine to post 40 home runs while striking out nearly 300 times – the power is an asset, though. If the Brewers choose to scrap Francisco, who turns just 27 in 2014, they did sign Lyle Overbay to a minor league deal, and he could also platoon with Reynolds.
The list seems to go on and on, but it doesn’t stop here. Kyle Lohse is a solid innings-eater and effective weapon in the rotation, Marco Estrada is a fine back-end of the rotation option, Jim Henderson established himself as a shutdown reliever, Brandon Kintzler and Francisco Rodriguez will be very good setup men (if they don’t steal some saves), Tom Gorzelanny is a solid left-handed option out of the bullpen, and Logan Schafer makes for a respectable fourth outfielder. Add in the depth at starting pitcher with Jimmy Nelson, Hiram Burgos, and Mike Fiers as possible rotation fillers (in the event of an injury), and you have a group that has enough depth to withstand the grind of a 162-game season.
With the addition of Matt Garza, the Brewers have built an above-average rotation that could stand toe-to-toe with most teams in baseball. If Garza, Lohse, and Gallardo stay healthy and the Brewers get steady production out of Peralta and Estrada, this could easily be an 85 to 90-win team. Offensively, if Davis and Segura produce, and Braun, Gomez, and Ramirez stay healthy, the offense is legitimately scary.
The national media will clamor over the St. Louis Cardinals, due to their long-term success, and the Pittsburgh Pirates will be the darlings after reaching the playoffs for the first time in 20 years, but there isn’t any reason to think that the Brewers can’t become contenders again in 2014. While the farm system leaves a lot to be desired, there is talent at the major league level, and it is enough to be taken seriously.
With drafts already starting and Spring Training just hours away, now is the time to really get a better idea of where you should be ranking players. Below, you’ll find the top 250 players in Major League Baseball for 5 X 5, standard format fantasy leagues:
1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
2. Miguel Cabrera, 1B/3B, Detroit Tigers
3. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
4. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks
5. Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
6. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
7. Robinson Cano, 2B, Seattle Mariners
8. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies
9. Adam Jones, OF, Baltimore Orioles
10. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
11. Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles
12. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies
13. Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
14. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers
15. Yu Darvish, SP, Texas Rangers
16. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, New York Yankees
17. Prince Fielder, 1B, Texas Rangers
18. Carlos Gomez, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
19. David Wright, 3B, New York Mets
20. Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals
21. Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle Mariners
22. Adam Wainwright, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
23. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays
24. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox
25. Cliff Lee, SP, Philadelphia Phillies
26. Max Scherzer, SP, Detroit Tigers
27. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins
28. Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
29. Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland Indians
30. Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco Giants
31. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves
32. Jose Fernandez, SP, Miami Marlins
33. Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals
34. Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers
35. Jay Bruce, OF, Cincinnati Reds
36. Justin Upton, OF, Atlanta Braves
37. Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
38. David Price, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
39. Cole Hamels, SP, Philadelphia Phillies
40. Jean Segura, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
41. Chris Sale, SP, Chicago White Sox
42. Jose Reyes, SS, Toronto Blue Jays
43. Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
44. Zack Greinke, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
45. Carlos Santana, C/1B, Cleveland Indians
46. Albert Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles Angels
47. Alex Rios, OF, Texas Rangers
48. Craig Kimbrel, RP, Atlanta Braves
49. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals
50. Buster Posey, C/1B, San Francisco Giants
51. Ian Desmond, SS, Washington Nationals
52. David Ortiz, 1B, Boston Red Sox
53. Homer Bailey, SP, Cincinnati Reds
54. Aroldis Chapman, RP, Cincinnati Reds
55. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Detroit Tigers
56. Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals
57. Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
58. Anibal Sanchez, SP, Detroit Tigers
59. Gio Gonzalez, SP, Washington Nationals
60. Mat Latos, SP, Cincinnati Reds
61. Jordan Zimmermann, SP, Washington Nationals
62. Mike Minor, SP, Atlanta Braves
63. Kenley Jansen, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers
64. Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore Orioles
65. Elvis Andrus, SS, Texas Rangers
66. Everth Cabrera, SS, San Diego Padres
67. Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland Athletics
68. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers
69. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Washington Nationals
70. Josh Donaldson, 3B, Oakland Athletics
71. Matt Holliday, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
72. Hunter Pence, OF, San Francisco Giants
73. Matt Carpenter, 2B/3B, St. Louis Cardinals
74. Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
75. Joe Mauer, C/1B, Minnesota Twins
76. Matt Cain, SP, San Francisco Giants
77. Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates
78. Allen Craig, 1B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals
79. Greg Holland, RP, Kansas City Royals
80. James Shields, SP, Kansas City Royals
81. Shelby Miller, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
82. Hisashi Iwakuma, SP, Seattle Mariners
83. Ben Zobrist, 2B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays
84. Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves
85. Alex Cobb, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
86. Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
87. Gerrit Cole, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
88. Brandon Phillips, 2B, Cincinnati Reds
89. Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros
90. Kris Medlen, SP, Atlanta Braves
91. Carlos Beltran, OF, New York Yankees
92. Trevor Rosenthal, RP, St. Louis Cardinals
93. Koji Uehara, RP, Boston Red Sox
94. Julio Teheran, SP, Atlanta Braves
95. Hyun-jin Ryu, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
96. Masahiro Tanaka, SP, New York Yankees,
97. Mark Trumbo, 1B/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
98. Domonic Brown, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
99. Alex Gordon, OF, Kansas City Royals
100. Jayson Werth, OF, Washington Nationals
101. Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals
102. Kyle Seager, 3B, Seattle Mariners
103. Matt Moore, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
104. Jered Weaver, SP, Los Angeles Angels
105. Desmond Jennings, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
106. Billy Butler, 1B, Kansas City Royals
107. Michael Cuddyer, 1B/OF, Colorado Rockies
108. Glen Perkins, RP, Minnesota Twins
109. Jonathan Lucroy, C/1B, Milwaukee Brewers
110. Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs
111. Shane Victorino, OF, Boston Red Sox
112. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs
113. Pablo Sandoval, 3B, San Francisco Giants
114. Joe Nathan, RP, Detroit Tigers
115. Addison Reed, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks
116. R.A. Dickey, SP, Toronto Blue Jays
117. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Cleveland Indians
118. Alexei Ramirez, SS, Chicago White Sox
119. Doug Fister, SP, Washington Nationals
120. Martin Prado, 2B/3B/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
121. Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies
122. Zack Wheeler, SP, New York Mets
123. Francisco Liriano, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
124. Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds
125. Brian McCann, C, New York Yankees
126. Sergio Romo, RP, San Francisco Giants
127. Rafael Soriano, RP, Washington Nationals
128. Aaron Hill, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks
129. Matt Adams, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
130. Johnny Cueto, SP, Cincinnati Reds
131. Jason Grilli, RP, Pittsburgh Pirates
132. Brett Lawrie, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
133. Daniel Murphy, 2B, New York Mets
134. Andrew Cashner, SP/RP, San Diego Padres
135. Hiroki Kuroda, SP, New York Yankees
136. Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants
137. Michael Wacha, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
138. Victor Martinez, UTIL, Detroit Tigers
139. J.J. Hardy, SS, Baltimore Orioles
140. Josh Hamilton, OF, Los Angeles Angels
141. Wilin Rosario, C, Colorado Rockies
142. Jeff Samardzija, SP, Chicago Cubs
143. Jonathan Papelbon, RP, Philadelphia Phillies
144. Jim Johnson, RP, Oakland Athletics
145. Chase Headley, 3B, San Diego Padres
146. Will Venable, OF, San Diego Padres
147. Brandon Moss, 1B/OF, Oakland Athletics
148. Mark Teixeira, 1B, New York Yankees
149. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers
150. Coco Crisp, OF, Oakland Athletics
151. Jed Lowrie, 2B/SS, Oakland Athletics
152. Carl Crawford, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
153. Jon Lester, SP, Boston Red Sox
154. Brett Gardner, OF, New York Yankees
155. Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Mets
156. Leonys Martin, OF, Texas Rangers
157. Josh Reddick, OF, Oakland Athletics
158. Mike Napoli, 1B, Boston Red Sox
159. Jedd Gyorko, 2B, San Diego Padres
160. Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins
161. Huston Street, RP, San Diego Padres
162. Andrelton Simmons, SS, Atlanta Braves
163. Norichika Aoki, OF, Kansas City Royals
164. CC Sabathia, SP, New York Yankees
165. Clay Buchholz, SP, Boston Red Sox
166. David Robertson, RP, New York Yankees
167. Grant Balfour, RP, Tampa Bay Rays
168. Ben Revere, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
169. Casey Janssen, RP, Toronto Blue Jays
170. Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles
171. Howie Kendrick, 2B, Los Angeles Angels
172. Jarrod Parker, SP, Oakland Athletics
173. Lance Lynn, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
174. Sonny Gray, SP, Oakland Athletics
175. Wilson Ramos, C, Washington Nationals
176. Steve Cishek, RP, Miami Marlins
177. Jurickson Profar, 2B, Texas Rangers
178. Matt Garza, SP, Milwaukee Brewers
179. Ernesto Frieri, RP, Los Angeles Angels
180. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies
181. Austin Jackson, OF, Detroit Tigers
182. Jimmy Rollins, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
183. Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox
184. Nelson Cruz, OF, FREE AGENT
185. B.J. Upton, OF, Atlanta Braves
186. C.J. Wilson, SP, Los Angeles Angels
187. Dexter Fowler, OF, Houston Astros
188. Patrick Corbin, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
189. Torii Hunter, OF, Detroit Tigers
190. Michael Bourn, OF, Cleveland Indians
191. Bobby Parnell, RP, New York Mets
192. Alfonso Soriano, OF, New York Yankees
193. Jhonny Peralta, SS, St. Louis Cardinals
194. Jason Castro, C, Houston Astros
195. Danny Farquhar, RP, Seattle Mariners
196. Ervin Santana, SP, FREE AGENT
197. Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati Reds
198. Jake Peavy, SP, Boston Red Sox
199. Tony Cingrani, SP/RP, Cincinnati Reds
200. Chris Tillman, SP, Baltimore Orioles
201. Xander Bogaerts, SS/3B, Boston Red Sox
202. Anthony Rendon, 2B, Washington Nationals
203. Drew Smyly, SP/RP, Detroit Tigers
204. Brian Dozier, 2B, Minnesota Twins
205. Rex Brothers, RP, Colorado Rockies
206. Rick Porcello, SP, Detroit Tigers
207. John Lackey, SP, Boston Red Sox
208. Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Boston Red Sox
209. Jim Henderson, RP, Milwaukee Brewers
210. John Axford, RP, Cleveland Indians
211. Evan Gattis, C/OF, Atlanta Braves
212. Adam Eaton, OF, Chicago White Sox
213. A.J. Burnett, SP, FREE AGENT
214. Kendrys Morales, UTIL, FREE AGENT
215. Chris Archer, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
216. Neftali Feliz, RP, Texas Rangers
217. Ivan Nova, SP, New York Yankees
218. Omar Infante, 2B, Kansas City Royals
219. Yordano Ventura, SP, Kansas City Royals
220. Erick Aybar, SS, Los Angeles Angels
221. Adam Lind, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays
222. Khris Davis, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
223. Neil Walker, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates
224. Bartolo Colon, SP, New York Mets
225. Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies
226. Chris Johnson, 3B, Atlanta Braves
227. Dan Haren, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
228. Danny Salazar, SP, Cleveland Indians
229. Taijuan Walker, SP, Seattle Mariners
230. Nick Markakis, OF, Baltimore Orioles
231. Michael Brantley, OF, Cleveland Indians
232. Nick Swisher, 1B/OF, Cleveland Indians
233. Corey Hart, 1B/OF, Seattle Mariners
234. Justin Masterson, SP, Cleveland Indians
235. Jonathon Niese, SP, New York Mets
236. Jonathan Villar, SS, Houston Astros
237. Jose Veras, RP, Chicago Cubs
238. Alexander Guerrero, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers
239. Yonder Alonso, 1B, San Diego Padres
240. Yasmani Grandal, C, San Diego Padres
241. Jackie Bradley, Jr., OF, Boston Red Sox
242. Kole Calhoun, OF, Los Angeles Angels
243. Gerardo Parra, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
244. Ian Kennedy, SP, San Diego Padres
245. A.J. Griffin, SP, Oakland Athletics
246. Tyson Ross, SP/RP, San Diego Padres
247. Logan Morrison, 1B/OF, Seattle Mariners
248. Nate Jones, RP, Chicago White Sox
249. Jose Iglesias, SS, Detroit Tigers
250. Stephen Drew, SS, FREE AGENT