Results tagged ‘ Los Angeles Angels ’

The Flaw of Sabermetrics: How WAR Can Ruin Payrolls

NerdI 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:

Excellent – Jose Bautista 10.3
Great – Hunter Pence 5.2
Average -Gaby Sanchez 2.0
Poor – Adam Lind 0.5
Horrendous – Adam Dunn -1.7

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?

Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw

Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw

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.

Angels OF Mike Trout

Angels OF Mike Trout

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.

What if…

What if…

What if…

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. 

Courtesy: Lewie Pollis and Beyond the Boxscore

Courtesy: Lewie Pollis and Beyond the Boxscore

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:

A's 3B Josh Donaldson

A’s 3B Josh Donaldson

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?

NumbersWAR 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.

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Vladimir Guerrero: Overlooked Greatness

Guerrero3Vladimir 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.

Guerrero2 ZimbioThe 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.

Guerrero4Guerrero’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.

Jay Jaffe, a Hall of Fame guru who writes for Sports Illustrated’s MLB blog The Strike Zone, had this to say in a recent article after Guerrero’s retirement:

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.

Guerrero5Based 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 

Larry  Walker

Larry Walker

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. 

Guerrero is also behind Ichiro Suzuki and Bobby Abreu in JAWS. How much of a player’s value comes from defensive skills and base-running here?

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.

Guerrero1Vladimir 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.

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Kevin Towers: Where the Diamondbacks Are Going

Courtesy: HalosHeaven.com

Courtesy: HalosHeaven.com

Maybe this is an overreaction, but Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers appears to be crippling the future of the team by making some strange trades. Certainly, Towers has many years of experience, holding the San Diego Padres GM position from 1995 through the 2009 season before being fired in October, then taking over in the desert in late September of 2010. As with any operational move completed by a baseball franchise, some will work and some won’t, but the last three major moves by Towers appear to be crumbling the foundation of long-term success for the Diamondbacks.

Skaggs

Angels new LHP Tyler Skaggs

When the club acquired Mark Trumbo from the Los Angeles Angels last week, they added a powerful bat, but they also added a first baseman and designated hitter who will be playing the outfield, as current first baseman, Paul Goldschmidt, was already present and had an MVP-caliber season in 2013. The Diamondbacks first had to acquire an additional arm to trade to the Angels, and they did so by dealing Adam Eaton to the Chicago White Sox for left-handed starter Hector Santiago. Towers then packaged Santiago with 22-year-old prospect Tyler Skaggs, who was rated the No.10 prospect in baseball by MLB.com prior to the 2013 season, in the deal for Trumbo, while acquiring a couple of fringy players, outfielder Brandon Jacobs and right-handed pitcher A.J. Schugel, as players who were named later in the deal. Eaton, who turned 25 in early December, was listed as the Diamondbacks’ starting centerfielder prior to the deal, and he has been supplanted by A.J. Pollock, who turned 26 in early December and appears to have a lot of Drew Stubbs to his game (solid defender, good power and speed, and a lot of swing and miss). Eaton was highly regarded by many saber-guys for his .450 career minor league on-base percentage and .951 OPS, and giving him up for Santiago, a back-end rotation starter (along with his five years of team-control), to acquire Trumbo was odd, but then Towers moved Skaggs. While Skaggs was pretty terrible in a very difficult league for pitchers in 2013 (4.59 ERA, 1.47 WHIP), he managed to strikeout 9.3 batters per nine as a 21-year-old in Triple-A. After watching Atlanta Braves right-hander Julio Teheran go from a 5.08 ERA and 1.44 WHIP as a 21-year-old in Triple-A in 2012 to 14-8 with a 3.20 ERA and 1.17 WHIP as a 22-year-old in the majors in 2013, could the Diamondbacks have just given up the arm that they appear to now covet in free agency, as they have been rumored to be interested in both Matt Garza and Masahiro Tanaka. Power may be in short supply around the league and you may never know how a prospect will turn out, but if Arizona had kept Skaggs and Eaton and signed Shin-Soo Choo, wouldn’t they be just as likely to contend?

Speaking of a powerful bat…

Upton

Braves OF Justin Upton

With power in such short supply, as Kevin Towers so boldly claimed after acquiring Trumbo, wouldn’t dealing Justin Upton and his team-friendly contract, along with third baseman Chris Johnson, to the Atlanta Braves for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Zeke Spruill, and minor leaguers Nick Ahmed and Brandon Drury have been considered a bad idea when using that philosophy? There were a lot of underlying issues that led to the Diamondbacks apparent “need” to deal Upton last off-season, but, considering the type of prospect that they just gave up to get a player with a career .768 OPS, shouldn’t Towers have aimed higher in dealing Upton, who has a career .830 OPS? Certainly, Martin Prado is a fine player and his versatility is very useful, but his bat doesn’t play all that well as a full-time third baseman, where he will be playing in 2014, and heading into his age-30 season, it is fair to wonder if he should have been the centerpiece in an Upton deal, especially as Upton enters his age-26 season in 2014, making him younger than even Trumbo! If power is so valuable, why would Upton not be worth a legitimate prospect and a player, considering his contract and disregarding whatever “issues” were making him so useless to Arizona?

Furthermore, the trade that sent Matt Albers, Trevor Bauer, and Bryan Shaw to the Cleveland Indians for Lars Anderson (designated for assignment on 1/24/2013), Tony Sipp (designated for assignment on 11/20/2013), and Didi Gregorius is just as questionable as the package that is highlighted by Skaggs. Bauer was rated as the No.14 prospect in baseball by Baseball America prior to the 2013 season and the Diamondbacks seemed to sour on him due to his desire to train and prepare in a way that is strange to nearly all people who have had the pleasure of viewing him, with long-tossing from foul pole to foul pole and a crow hop seed from the pitchers mound to the catcher as his first warm-up pitch being a part of his hour long pitching preparation. Still, at just 23 on Opening Day of 2014, his long-term outlook is very good and drafting Bauer 3rd overall in the 2011 MLB Draft and dealing him nearly 18 months later for a slap-hitting, defensive-minded shortstop seems very odd, even with defensive metrics and shortstop values being taken into consideration. When looking at the value that the Indians received in Shaw and Albers, along with the fact that the Diamondbacks no longer roster two players that they received in the deal, this was a steal by the Cleveland Indians…and that is all before looking at how Gregorius may lose the everyday shortstop job to a prospect who was in house when the Bauer deal happened, Chris Owings, since Aaron Hill won’t be giving up the second base job.

Diamondbacks' GM Kevin Towers - answering serious questions?

Diamondbacks’ GM Kevin Towers – answering serious questions?

It is easy to question the style that a franchise is taking and it is even easier to say that you could make better deals than your favorite team’s general manager, but when you consider the recent track record of Kevin Towers in Arizona, most fantasy baseball managers agree – they could do a better job. Is Arizona now the New York Yankees of the west, trading all of their top minor league talent to fill their major league holes? Well, the Yankees never seemed to give away their top prospects without certain, immediate help. Can the Diamondbacks catch the Dodgers? Matching power with Los Angeles doesn’t seem to be an option, as a full season of Matt Kemp (if he isn’t traded), Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, and others will likely make the Dodgers that much more dangerous, and Arizona doesn’t have enough “grit” to overcome the L.A. payroll and talent – especially when they are trading the pieces that could get them over the top for veterans who have shown what they can do. Trumbo and Prado aren’t winning the Diamondbacks any championships, and, while they will make Arizona a bit more competitive, it is the front-line, affordable pitching that would have helped the Diamondbacks slither into contention.

Kevin Towers doesn’t seem to have a clear philosophy of where he is taking the Diamondbacks, and if the moves that he has made this season don’t work out, it is fair to wonder if he can make intelligent decisions going forward for any organization, experience be damned.

Early Favorite for Worst Rumored Deal of the Offseason

Courtesy: HalosHeaven.com

Courtesy: HalosHeaven.com

On Sunday, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported that if the Boston Red Sox are unable to re-sign Mike Napoli, they could look to make a deal with the Los Angeles Angels for first baseman/outfielder Mark Trumbo, saying:

Trumbo, who would come at half Napoli’s price, cannot become a free agent until after the 2017 season, has tremendous righthanded power (34 homers, 100 RBIs this season), and is considered an above-average first baseman. Yes, he strikes out a ton (184 times in 2013). The Angels could use a third baseman (Will Middlebrooks?) and a pitcher (Felix Doubront?). The Pirates and Rays could also be fits.

God bless columnists, who have to fill up a page in a dynamic market in a dying industry, but this is reaching. In fact, the major issue is that so many teams are rumored to have interest in Trumbo in the first place.

Trumbo has some serious power, mashing 95 home runs and driving in 282 runs over the last three seasons, but those numbers have come with a .251/.300/.473 triple-slash and a 457:115 K:BB in 1,837 plate appearances. Trumbo certainly has some power, but it is a power that will get very expensive within the arbitration process (see Ryan Howard‘s rapid salary increases) while producing very little elsewhere.

Add on the fact that Trumbo is a weak defender at first, third, and the outfield, and you’re paying premium dollar for a player who should truly be hidden at the designated hitter spot, which won’t really work with some guy named David Ortiz in Boston, while it certainly won’t help the Pirates in the National League.

doubrontMore damning is why the Red Sox would give up Will Middlebrooks and Felix Doubront for Trumbo, who is arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2014 and is already 27, coming off of his worst season (based on OPS and WAR) of his career. Middlebrooks isn’t even arbitration-eligible until 2016 and Doubront is 26, left-handed, breathing, and under team-control through 2018, while showing improved numbers in ERA and WHIP in 2013.

Certainly, dealing for a powerful bat is intelligent rather than going to the free agent market and giving nine-figures to a player like Shin-Soo Choo, but Trumbo isn’t really a “guy” when it comes to improving a roster. Considering that in 660 plate appearances, Will Middlebrooks has a .254/.294/.462 triple-slash with 32 home runs and 103 RBI, don’t the Red Sox already have Mark Trumbo?

Boston should try to get Napoli to re-sign, they should even try to get Jarrod Saltalamacchia to re-sign, but they need to be smarter than this type of trade to make sure that they don’t fall back to the 2012 Boston Red Sox instead of the 2013 champion-version.

Trumbo2Mark Trumbo is highly overrated due to his power production, but teams like the Red Sox could find players who are just as productive when looking over the last three season’s OPS leaders, where you’ll find Jason Kipnis, Seth Smith, Lucas Duda, and Jason Heyward, with  the same .773 OPS since 2011 that Trumbo sports, while players such as David Freese (.785), Adam Lind (.776), and Brandon Belt (.798), could be more affordable options in a trade or non-tender situation in 2014, while outproducing Trumbo in the OPS statistic over the last several seasons.

Minor League Report, 8/8

I haven’t done one of these in quite some time. When I search minor league stats, I look for strikeouts and WHIP leaders out of guys with solid frames out of pitchers, solid plate discipline and gap power and speed out of hitters. I am not a scout that can go to games, but I tend to find some pretty interesting talent on numbers alone. It worked for Billy Beane, right? Here is a list of some players to get to know or keep an eye on based on their production.

Domingo Leyba, 2B/SS, Detroit Tigers – Dominican Summer League

Year Age Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 17 DOSL DET 50 220 177 44 62 15 8 4 31 16 8 32 24 .350 .451 .593 1.044 105
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2013.

At just 17, Leyba has shown a fantastic approach with solid speed and gap power in one of the lowest levels of minor league baseball. While he is quite a long ways away from making an impact in Detroit. Leyba is tied for 2nd in the DSL in total bases and if he can maintain this type of production as he rises up through the minors, he could become quite a fantasy baseball asset.

Miguel Castro, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays – Dominican Summer League

Year Age Lg Aff W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 17 DOSL TOR 3 2 4.87 8 3 20.1 16 13 11 1 11 0 20 3 1.328 7.1 8.9 1.82
2013 18 DOSL TOR 5 2 1.36 11 10 53.0 40 14 8 0 12 0 71 5 0.981 6.8 12.1 5.92
2 Seasons 8 4 2.33 19 13 73.1 56 27 19 1 23 0 91 8 1.077 6.9 11.2 3.96
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2013.

An 18-year-old that is 6’5″, 190 pounds putting up a 12.1 K/9 is definitely someone to keep an eye on. Castro isn’t that much older than his counterparts in the DSL but he is certainly making a mockery of them. When he signed, he reportedly had a low-90’s fastball, a solid slider, and a changeup, so with a frame that could fill out with existing decent stuff, Castro could be another solid arm in the Blue Jays system.

Devon Travis, 2B, Detroit Tigers – High-A: Florida State League

Year Age Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 21 NYPL DET 25 107 93 17 26 2 2 3 11 3 1 8 10 .280 .352 .441 .793 41
2013 22 2 Lgs DET 106 465 406 73 148 23 2 10 61 18 3 44 45 .365 .434 .505 .939 205
2013 22 MIDW DET 77 339 290 55 102 17 2 6 42 14 3 35 32 .352 .430 .486 .916 141
2013 22 FLOR DET 29 126 116 18 46 6 0 4 19 4 0 9 13 .397 .444 .552 .996 64
2 Seasons 131 572 499 90 174 25 4 13 72 21 4 52 55 .349 .419 .493 .912 246
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2013.

Say what you want about 5’9″ players not cutting it physically, but Jose Altuve has proven the stereotype wrong. Travis has hit very well in the lower levels, as he should have being a collegiate player out of Florida State. However, his impressive gap power, solid speed, and plate discipline could lead to continued success as he climbs the organizational ladder. The Tigers don’t seem to hang onto the players that they continue to churn out, instead trading them for major league talent, but Travis looks like he could become valuable wherever he ends up.

WinkerJesse Winker, OF, Cincinnati Reds – Low-A: Midwest League

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 18 Billings PION Rk CIN 62 275 228 42 77 16 3 5 35 1 3 40 50 .338 .443 .500 .943 114
2013 19 Dayton MIDW A CIN 103 449 387 62 108 16 5 16 74 5 0 56 67 .279 .374 .470 .844 182
2 Seasons 165 724 615 104 185 32 8 21 109 6 3 96 117 .301 .400 .481 .882 296
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2013.

Winker, who doesn’t turn 20 for another week or so, has done a great job at the dish since he was drafted in the 1st round (49th overall) in the 2012 MLB draft. He has a very good approach with solid power to all fields and good plate discipline. One knock on him is his inability to drive the ball against left-handed pitching, as he has just four extra-base hits in 83 at-bats against them in 2013, but he hasn’t been overmatched, posting a .277/.381/.398 line against them. Winker could very well take Jay Bruce‘s spot in Cincinnati in 2016 if the team was to decline his 2017 option, if he doesn’t force an earlier callup to play left field prior to that.

Daniel Winkler, RHP, Colorado Rockies – Double-A: Texas League

Year Age Lg Aff W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2011 21 PION COL 4 3 3.92 12 12 57.1 64 31 25 6 19 0 65 1 1.448 10.0 10.2 3.42
2012 22 SALL COL 11 10 4.46 25 25 145.1 152 80 72 16 47 0 136 22 1.369 9.4 8.4 2.89
2013 23 2 Lgs COL 12 5 3.01 23 23 134.1 88 52 45 16 40 0 157 9 0.953 5.9 10.5 3.93
2013 23 CALL COL 12 5 2.97 22 22 130.1 84 48 43 15 37 0 152 9 0.928 5.8 10.5 4.11
2013 23 TL COL 0 0 4.50 1 1 4.0 4 4 2 1 3 0 5 0 1.750 9.0 11.2 1.67
3 Seasons 27 18 3.79 60 60 337.0 304 163 142 38 106 0 358 32 1.217 8.1 9.6 3.38
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2013.

When Tony Cingrani and Tyler Skaggs went through the California League, they posted results similar to what Winkler has this season. Does that mean that Winkler will be a similar prospect or produce similar results? Probably not, but the Rockies need some consistent arms and their system is full of unfriendly ballparks. For that reason, Winkler’s statistics are pretty impressive. He appears to work inside (look at all of those HBP!) and his improved stinginess in allowing base runners shows that he may have turned a corner.

BlachTy Blach, LHP, San Francisco Giants – High-A: California League

Year Age Lg Aff W L ERA G GS GF IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 22 CALL SFG 11 3 2.64 19 17 1 112.2 109 35 33 7 14 0 103 1 1.092 8.7 8.2 7.36
1 Season 11 3 2.64 19 17 1 112.2 109 35 33 7 14 0 103 1 1.092 8.7 8.2 7.36
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2013.

Blach hasn’t received the kind of hype that fellow California League teammates Kyle Crick and Clayton Blackburn have received in San Jose, but he probably should. A 5th round pick last year out of Creighton, this is Blach’s professional debut, and he has done a tremendous job in a tough pitching environment, while showing amazing control and command. While his ceiling may not be as high as his teammates’, Blach appears to be the same type of prospect that Danny Hultzen was prior to his shoulder woes: he is what he is…so he’ll move quickly.

Zach Borenstein, OF, Los Angeles Angels- High-A: California League

Year Age Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 20 ARIZ LAA 31 136 113 21 31 6 4 2 21 12 1 17 21 .274 .397 .451 .848 51
2012 21 MIDW LAA 79 327 293 42 78 25 3 11 50 13 5 27 60 .266 .339 .485 .824 142
2013 22 CALL LAA 89 364 324 64 112 19 7 23 82 4 5 29 68 .346 .399 .660 1.060 214
3 Seasons 199 827 730 127 221 50 14 36 153 29 11 73 149 .303 .375 .558 .933 407
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2013.

Brandon Wood was once a superstar, power prospect in the California League, so one could wonder if what Borenstein has done in the 2013 season is a product of the league or improved skills. His plate discipline is solid considering his apparent power stroke and he isn’t running as much (since he is jogging around the bases), so it’s hard to decide whether he should be brushed aside. With Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton around, Borenstein could make a push for left field if Peter Bourjos doesn’t lock down a roster spot in the next two years. At 22, Borenstein could be on his way to establishing himself as a legitimate prospect or solid organizational depth, it just depends on who you ask. I say he’ll work his way into the Angels’ plans.

Andrew Aplin, OF, Houston Astros – High-A: California League

Year Age Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 21 2 Lgs HOU 68 304 268 57 84 13 7 7 38 24 10 28 38 .313 .386 .493 .879 132
2012 21 NYPL HOU 44 196 164 38 57 9 5 4 25 20 7 24 22 .348 .441 .537 .978 88
2012 21 CALL HOU 24 108 104 19 27 4 2 3 13 4 3 4 16 .260 .287 .423 .710 44
2013 22 CALL HOU 111 523 437 91 123 29 5 8 92 20 6 74 53 .281 .381 .426 .806 186
2 Seasons 179 827 705 148 207 42 12 15 130 44 16 102 91 .294 .383 .451 .834 318
A+ (2 seasons) 135 631 541 110 150 33 7 11 105 24 9 78 69 .277 .365 .425 .790 230
A- (1 season) 44 196 164 38 57 9 5 4 25 20 7 24 22 .348 .441 .537 .978 88
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2013.

Meet the future leadoff hitter for the Houston Astros…maybe. Aplin is not really repeating High-A, having spent all of 24 games in Lancaster last season, but being a 5th round pick out of Arizona State last season, he appears ready to take his place as a decent prospect in the Houston organization. Certainly Aplin’s power is inflated in Lancaster, but the plate discipline is a thing of beauty for stat geeks like Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow. While Aplin may never be an All-Star caliber player, he appears to have enough skills across the board to be useful, especially for a team that may be very good in about three years.

SemienMarcus Semien, 2B/SS, Chicago White Sox – Triple-A: International League

Year Age Lg Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 20 SALL CHW 60 262 229 35 58 15 2 3 26 3 4 22 53 .253 .320 .376 .696 86
2012 21 CARL CHW 107 487 418 80 114 31 5 14 59 11 5 55 97 .273 .362 .471 .833 197
2013 22 2 Lgs CHW 112 515 422 96 123 26 5 16 50 20 5 87 69 .291 .417 .491 .908 207
2013 22 SOUL CHW 105 483 393 90 114 21 5 15 49 20 5 84 66 .290 .420 .483 .903 190
2013 22 IL CHW 7 32 29 6 9 5 0 1 1 0 0 3 3 .310 .375 .586 .961 17
3 Seasons 279 1264 1069 211 295 72 12 33 135 34 14 164 219 .276 .376 .458 .834 490
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2013.

At 22 in Triple-A and having hit the way that he has since making his professional debut late in the 2011 season, it is shocking that Semien hasn’t gained more attention, especially since he appears capable of handling shortstop (though he will likely end up at second base). Semien has very good plate discipline and surprising pop for a middle infielder. For a White Sox team that could be headed towards a quick rebuild, he could become a very useful bat by the middle of next season, as he could play second while the resurgent Gordon Beckham plays third. Regardless of where Semien plays, his stats prove that he shouldn’t be as overlooked as he appears to be.

Kyle Hendricks, RHP, Chicago Cubs – Double-A: Southern League

Year Age Lg Aff W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2011 21 2 Lgs TEX 2 2 2.02 21 1 35.2 24 8 8 0 6 0 38 0 0.841 6.1 9.6 6.33
2011 21 NORW TEX 2 2 1.93 20 0 32.2 20 7 7 0 4 0 36 0 0.735 5.5 9.9 9.00
2011 21 TL TEX 0 0 3.00 1 1 3.0 4 1 1 0 2 0 2 0 2.000 12.0 6.0 1.00
2012 22 2 Lgs TEX,CHC 6 8 2.99 25 24 147.2 140 57 49 11 18 0 123 7 1.070 8.5 7.5 6.83
2012 22 FLOR CHC 1 0 4.24 5 4 17.0 17 8 8 3 3 0 11 1 1.176 9.0 5.8 3.67
2012 22 CARL TEX 5 8 2.82 20 20 130.2 123 49 41 8 15 0 112 6 1.056 8.5 7.7 7.47
2013 23 SOUL CHC 10 3 1.85 21 21 126.1 107 34 26 3 26 0 101 5 1.053 7.6 7.2 3.88
3 Seasons 18 13 2.41 67 46 309.2 271 99 83 14 50 0 262 12 1.037 7.9 7.6 5.24
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2013.

Hendricks was acquired in the Cubs deal with the Texas Rangers for Ryan Dempster last season and he has established himself as a useful part in the future plans of the Chicago Cubs. While he doesn’t have a tremendous ceiling, Hendricks hardly walks anyone and gets his fair share of strikeouts, though he isn’t dominant. If Hendricks is able to continue to pass on the free passes and maintain his impressive WHIP totals in the majors, he could become a very good mid-rotation starter for the constantly rebuilding Cubs.

Mike Trout: Still Special Despite New Flaw

Trout2At this time last season, Mike Trout had won the hearts of baseball nerds around the world. At the completion of the Angels 6-2 win over the Texas Rangers, Trout had played in exactly 81 games and had posted a .353/.411/.608 line with 80 runs, 20 doubles, five triples, 18 home runs, 55 RBI, and 31 stolen bases. His .404 BABIP helped those numbers to that point, but Trout has proven that those numbers aren’t uncharacteristic in his brief career.

In 2013, Trout has continued his torrid pace, posting a .331/.412/.568 line with 73 runs, 31 doubles, eight triples, 17 home runs, 66 RBI, and 23 stolen bases in 104 games, including a .358/.442/.625 over his last 79 games.

After winning the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year and finishing second to Miguel Cabrera in AL MVP voting, what more can Trout do to prove his worth on the field? Fangraphs has Trout at a 6.7 WAR (1st), while Baseball Reference has him at 5.2 (eighth)…maybe it is the inconsistency in WAR calculations that has made statistical measurements in Trout’s value so worthless to some baseball writers, but the proof is in the defense, and I mean the glove and not further arguments.

So many national writers were clamoring for Trout to win the MVP in 2012 due to his defense, especially when compared to Miguel Cabrera’s defense at third for Detroit:

Year Tm Age Pos G GS Inn Ch PO A E DP Fld% Rtot Rdrs Rtot/yr Rdrs/yr RF/9 RF/G lgFld% lgRF9 lgRFG
2012 LAA 20 OF 139 138 1225.2 347 340 3 4 1 .988 15 21 15 20 2.52 2.47 .986 2.17 2.16
2012 LAA 20 CF 110 108 885.2 268 264 2 2 1 .993 12 23 17 31 2.70 2.42 .989 2.58 2.56
2012 LAA 20 LF 67 29 328.0 76 75 0 1 0 .987 2 -1 9 -4 2.06 1.12 .984 1.94 1.93
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/31/2013.

Based on the numbers, Trout saved 21 runs with his defense in 2012 and played rangy, above league average defense for the Angels. In 2013…not so much:

Year Tm Age Pos G GS Inn Ch PO A E DP Fld% Rtot Rdrs Rtot/yr Rdrs/yr RF/9 RF/G lgFld% lgRF9 lgRFG
2013 LAA 21 OF 104 104 926.0 253 251 0 2 0 .992 6 -15 8 -19 2.44 2.41 .988 2.23 2.22
2013 LAA 21 CF 73 70 629.0 178 177 0 1 0 .994 3 -12 5 -23 2.53 2.42 .990 2.66 2.65
2013 LAA 21 LF 38 34 297.0 75 74 0 1 0 .987 4 -3 14 -13 2.24 1.95 .992 1.97 1.96
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/31/2013.

Trout is still above average in left field as far as range, but his defense in center field and the outfield, in general, hasn’t been nearly as solid this season, as the 21-year-old outfielder has cost his team nearly 15 runs this season.

TroutTrout did pack on some weight this offseason, weighing in when he reported to camp at 241 pounds, but you his strong, muscular frame hides it well, or has already burned it off; however, is it possible that there is conditioning to blame for his sudden lack of defensive metric love?

Mike Trout is an amazing baseball player and there is no doubt that he should be in the conversation, once again, for the AL MVP; however, when writers get to their arguments this year, will his numbers be enough to overcome the seasons that Baltimore’s Chris Davis and Detroit’s Cabrera have put up this year? Is the speed and ability to steal bases worth more to voters than the fact that Trout is considered the 15th best defensive centerfielder in baseball this year (based on UZR/150)? Time will tell, but Trout is still one of the most exciting players in all of MLB to watch, regardless of future accolades, which will, at his current pace, reach Hall of Fame worthiness.


//

O’s My Goodness: Manny Machado is Elite

Strange relationship for you here:

Player A:

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2012 19 51 202 191 24 50 8 3 7 26 2 9 38 .262 .294 .445 .739 99 85
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/13/2013.

Player B:

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2003 20 87 346 314 39 84 21 3 12 62 0 25 84 .268 .325 .468 .793 106 147
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/13/2013.

Both of these players were shortstops in their first full seasons in the minors, but upon arrival in MLB, they were playing other positions (third base and/or outfield). In 2012, Player A’s team went 33-18 (.647) in his 51 games and Player B’s team went 56-31 (.644) in his 87 games in 2003. Both players led their surprising teams to the playoffs and both players are now dominating in 2013.

If you looked at the years and guessed that Player A is Manny Machado and Player B is Miguel Cabrera, congratulations.

Machado1Machado was a year younger when he reached Baltimore but in 2013, he has erupted offensively in the same way that Cabrera did in 2004 for the Marlins. Machado’s 2013 line:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2013 20 BAL AL 66 303 284 42 90 28 2 5 34 5 14 42 .317 .351 .482 .834 124 137
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/13/2013.

Miguel CabreraWhen compared to Cabrera’s first full season, Machado’s numbers won’t really measure up, but, again, he is a year younger. After all, a 20-year-old who is currently on pace for 68 doubles, 12 home runs, 85 RBI, and 12 stolen bases isn’t awful, but they don’t really touch Cabrera’s All-Star 2004 season:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2004 21 FLA NL 160 685 603 101 177 31 1 33 112 5 68 148 .294 .366 .512 .879 130 309
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/13/2013.

Machado3Manny Machado is finally gaining the attention that is so well deserved. Not only is he producing offensively, but he has become the top third baseman in baseball. He ranks third in fielding percentage (.985 behind Placido Polanco and Juan Uribe, who are brutal as far as their range is concerned), first in range factor (3.06), and first in UZR/150 (28.2, David Wright is second with a 20.2 among third basemen).

Certainly, it seems unrealistic to label Manny Machado as the next Miguel Cabrera, as the Detroit Tigers third baseman is currently just three home runs back from Machado’s teammate Chris Davis (18 to Davis’ 21), or he would be leading in all Triple Crown categories, after becoming the first Triple Crown winner since 1967 (Carl Yastrzemski) when he won the award, along with AL MVP honors, in 2012; however, Machado has become one of the top players in baseball and worthy of the same hype that Mike Trout and Bryce Harper had last season. While he isn’t putting up the absurd numbers that Trout did in 2012, that doesn’t mean that he isn’t just as special. After all, how soon we forget about Trout hitting .220/.281/.390 in his first 135 plate appearances.

Machado4Manny Machado’s ceiling is that of an All-Star and if he ends up back at shortstop after J.J. Hardy‘s eventual departure, you’re looking at a player that is capable of matching Troy Tulowitzki‘s production in the middle infield. Not only that, but if Machado fills out his 6’2″ frame, he could even match-up with the man that he was compared to so frequently after being drafted at of a Miami high school – Alex Rodriguez…but…since ARod isn’t really a very “clean” name right now, lets just say that Machado becomes one of the top right-handed hitters of the generation, just like Cabrera.

Interesting Pitch

Rob Neyer‘s blog had an interesting story on Angels’ right-hander Robert Coello and his forkball-knuckler with a GIF of the pitch. It appears to have no spin and a lot of wiggle. It will be interesting to see what he can do, but the 7 strikeouts in 4 innings is a nice touch. At 28, he could take the R.A. Dickey rout through the bullpen, dominating the opposition due to the ability to harness a pitch that others just can’t figure out.

Here’s the the GIF:

Coello Pitch

Read the article HERE.

And…when you’re done looking at that pitch, watch this video to see the sickest 87 mph slider that anyone will ever throw, courtesy of MLB.com and Reds’ closer Aroldis Chapman

May I Have Another: Guys on Fire

Move over Alicia Keys, these boys are on fire in the month of May:

MorelandMitch Moreland, 1B, Texas Rangers

.347/.407/.796, 17-49, 11 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 8 RBI

Long overlooked as an asset in the Rangers order, Moreland appears to be establishing himself as a valuable piece to a Hamilton-less Rangers offense. His left-handed power is needed in the middle of an order that features Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz along with switch-hitting DH Lance Berkman. Moreland is 27 and in the midst of his prime. While he does feature a pretty ugly .662 career OPS against left-handed pitching, that number has bumped up to .789 in 2013, so he could still make an interesting career out of playing in Texas. He could certainly turn his recent hot streak into a total breakout.

Trout1Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

.340/.393/.720, 17-50, 10 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 3 SB

After taking the world by storm last season, Trout started the season slower than some fantasy nerds would have liked, posting a .261/.333/.432 triple slash in the first month of the season. He is picking things up, though, in May, displaying the power and speed that made baseball enthusiasts drool last season. Trout could be on his way to posting numbers like this over the rest of the season. Just imagine what he would be doing if Josh Hamilton was alive and breathing for the Angels…if only he could pitch, the Angels might not look like such an embarrassment.

TabataJose Tabata, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

.522/.542/.783, 12-23, 3 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 SB

Do you need a sleeper? The Pirates are pretty loaded in the outfield with Andrew McCutchen in center and Starling Marte in left; however, right field is a little…Travis Snider-y. Snider is still just 25 but he is under-performing, again, as the Pirates primary right fielder in 2013. His .267/.347/.356 is very weak and Tabata is heating up with the weather. Tabata, himself just 24, is another floundering former top prospect, but his ability to use the gaps and his speed would make him an asset in real-life and fantasy baseball. Clint Hurdle is an interesting manager, to say the least, so it will be interesting to see if he sticks with a strict platoon or gives Tabata a chance.

Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins

.447/.552/.660, 21-47, 13 R, 10 2B, 5 RBI

Mauer continues to prove that his 2009 power surge and MVP season was an anomaly. The Twins are floating around .500 due to Mauer’s production and a whole lot of crappy pitching. If the club was serious about contending, they probably would have done something about Vance Worley and Kevin Correia being their No.1 and No.2 starter prior to the season. With a lot of their talent in their 30’s, including Mauer, the club will be hard pressed for a quick recovery. Oswaldo Arcia has been a nice addition but to even float around being mediocre, Mauer may have to hit .447 over the rest of the 2013 season. He’s hot and he’s a hitting machine.

ZimmermanAces on Fire 

Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle Mariners: 2-0, 3 GS, 0.82 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 22 IP, 20:3 K:BB

Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers: 1-0, 3 GS, 0.79 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 22.2 IP, 20:5 K:BB

Chris Sale, LHP, Chicago White Sox: 2-0, 3 GS, 1.16 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, 23.1 IP, 19:2 K:BB

Jordan Zimmerman, RHP, Washington Nationals: 3-0, 3 GS, 1.19 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 22.2 IP, 20:2 K:BB

CorbinShutdown Surprises

Patrick Corbin, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks: 3-0, 3 GS, 0.89 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 20.1 IP, 16:10 K:BB

Shelby Miller, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals: 2-0, 2 GS, 0.60 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 15 IP, 18:1 K:BB

Scott Feldman, RHP, Chicago Cubs: 2-0, 3 GS, 1.23 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 22 IP, 21:5 K:BB

Velocity and Value

Maddux1Once upon a time, Greg Maddux was winning four straight Cy Young awards (1992-1995) and Tom Glavine was painting the corners and winning 20-games three straight seasons (1991-1993) for the Atlanta Braves. While PITCHf/x wasn’t around back then, it is safe to say that Maddux and Glavine got by more on movement and location than blowing hitters away, as Maddux’s best average fastball over his last seven seasons was in 2002, when it was 85.8.

As strikeouts continue to pileup in abundance around Major League Baseball, are there reasons for the sudden rise? Are pitchers attacking more, throwing more strikes, or throwing harder…or is it the approach of the hitters, looking to hit home runs instead of making solid contact, to blame for the free breezes for fans in stadiums around the league?

So far in 2013, there are 27 pitchers with an average fastball of 92.0 or higher. In 2012, that number was 37. Of course, that was an entire season and some pitchers could be working out some stamina issues early in the season before truly unleashing their heat. There were some interesting trends that I saw when looking at velocity, though:

2012:

Courtesy: dcobb1621.blogspot.com

Courtesy: dcobb1621.blogspot.com

Name FB Vel. K/9 Wins ERA WHIP
David Price 95.5 8.74 20 2.56 1.10
Jeff Samardzija 95.1 9.27 9 3.81 1.22
Justin Verlander 94.7 9.03 17 2.64 1.06
Max Scherzer 94.2 11.08 16 3.74 1.27
Matt Moore 94.1 8.88 11 3.81 1.35

In 2012, two of the top pitchers in baseball, Price and Verlander, ranked within the top three in velocity. Neither pitcher is ranked in the top five in fastball velocity in 2013, and Verlander’s ERA is lower than it was last season, while his K/9 is slightly up (9.19). Moore’s fastball is down to 92.2 in 2013, 24th in MLB, but his ERA is down to 1.13 and his K/9 is up to 10.69.

2013:

Name FB Vel. K/9 Wins ERA WHIP
Stephen Strasburg 95.6 8.04 1 3.16 1.12
Jeff Samardzija 95.0 10.74 1 3.03 1.10
Garrett Richards 95.0 6.93 1 3.65 0.93
Matt Harvey 94.6 10.03 4 1.54 0.69
Jordan Zimmerman 93.7 4.75 4 2.00 0.86

Another interesting trend would have to be the average ERA and WHIP of the top five fastballs in MLB over the last two seasons:A big difference between the two seasons above: Richards and Zimmerman have very low K/9 rates, and Strasburg’s strikeouts are surprisingly low, considering that he had an 11.13 K/9 in 2012.In 2013, wins don’t count for much due to how early we are in the season; however, when looking at some of the top names in baseball, Strasburg and Harvey rank near the top in the hype machine right now. Are they dominant because of their repertoire or because of the swings and misses across baseball?

Year ERA WHIP
2012 3.14 1.15
2013 2.59 0.93

Again, it’s early, but when you consider the results from last season, are the top pitchers in baseball those who throw the hardest? If you consider that Harvey’s early season dominance appears to be the outlier of the statistics, they could be meaningless…BUT, looking at 2012, in particular, you could argue that flamethrowers are going to be successful.

Courtesy: fantasyfurnace.com

Courtesy: fantasyfurnace.com

Remember, also, that Matt Moore was one of the best pitchers in baseball down the stretch last season, when he posted a 9-3 record and a 2.90 ERA from June 1 through September 1. So, is his slight drop in velocity what was necessary to dominate or was his velocity a part of his mid-season dominance last season?

At the beginning of the season, there were concerns over the velocity of long-time aces Roy Halladay and C.C. Sabathia. Halladay’s two-seamer has averaged 89.8 mph this season, but two-seam fastballs tend to be a little slower than a pitcher’s four-seam fastball. Halladay has used a cut fastball and a splitter along with his two-seamer since the start of the 2012 season, so, while he did struggle in his first two starts, Halladay is 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, and a 16:5 K:BB over his last three starts (21 innings). Sabathia’s fastball is down to 89.7 mph in 2013 from 92.3 in 2012, and he has had a couple of rough outings, including his Opening Day start against Boston and earlier this week against Boston. However, his three starts between those outings included 23 innings with a 1.56 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and a 19:4 K:BB. He also got the win Saturday with eight innings and three earned runs against Toronto.

Courtesy: mythicalmonkey.blogspot.com

Courtesy: mythicalmonkey.blogspot.com

So…what is the lesson here? Young pitchers with impressive fastballs can become tomorrow’s future stars and the same guys that used to top the charts with velocity can become crafty veterans, adapting to their changing skills to maintain brilliant careers. Unfortunately, there are a lot of pitchers that fall somewhere in between those two extremes, so while there was some interesting data here, the only conclusions that I would recommend are to try to stock up on guys that throw hard so that when they learn how to pitch on top of having stuff, you’ll have a pocket full of aces.

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