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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 251

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Bernadina has been clutch for us all year, this definitely tops the catch he made in CF last year against the Marlins though pimp.gif
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Blue Jays Pitchers Injured at Record Pace?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The news came down yesterday: The Blue Jays’ Drew Hutchison will undergo Tommy John surgery, and Dustin McGowan will have arthroscopic shoulder surgery. By itself, the news wasn’t very remarkable — McGowan has been injury-riddled his entire career, and elbow surgeries are relatively commonplace.

Except that Hutchison will be the third pitcher on the Jays to get Tommy John surgery this season. He’ll be the sixth pitcher to go under the knife, period. The devastation has been so complete in Toronto that they might be on their way to setting records.

First it was Jesse Litsch that went down — he never made it to Opening Day and eventually needed biceps tendon surgery. A month later, Dustin McGowan went down. His surgery was just scheduled. Around that same time, Sergio Santos reported some shoulder issues. He tried to rehab the pain away, but couldn’t, and ended up having shoulder surgery. Ryota Igarashi had a month-long hamstring strain before he hit waivers.

June was the real crucible for the Jays. Brandon Morrow went down June 12th, and has since lost two months to that oblique injury. June 14th, Kyle Drabek hit the disabled list on his way to Tommy John surgery. June 15th, Robert Coello felt some elbow inflammation that has kept him out since. June 16th, Drew Hutchison went on the schneid. For the record, that’s two Tommy John surgeries and four months of non-TJ missed time, all discovered in a one-week span.

The upshot of all of this is that the Jays have already lost 711 pitcher days to the DL so far this year. If you add in the days that they will lose to surgery, they’ll lose at least 1045 pitcher days this season. No team has lost as many as 1000 over the last couple of years. If you go back to 2002, you’ll see that the team is an oblique strain or two away from the top of the leaderboard:

Year Team Days on DL DL Trips
2002 Padres 1139 19
2004 Rangers 1101 18
2007 Royals 1064 15
2008 Braves 1010 18
2010 Nationals 992 11

There’s a slight caveat to these totals — they don’t include pitchers that never threw a pitch for their team that season. So players like Jesse Litsch wouldn’t appear here. But two things are immediately clear: Blue Jays pitchers are going down at an alarming (but not record-breakingly) rate this year, and they’ve done so with fewer trips to the DL. That means that when a Blue Jays pitcher has gone down this year, he’s gone down hard. Watch out, Jason Frasor.

The average DL expectancy for a pitcher is around 50 days once he hits the DL, so with 11 trips to the DL, the team should have expected 581 days missed. They’ll end up about twice as worse off. Given historical records, this seems to be within the normal ebb and flow and just due to the vagaries of chance, and not due to some organizational philosophy.

Another good sign is that those top five most-injured staffs since 2002 all bounced back the next season. Those five clubs averaged 543 days missed the year after they all topped 980 innings missed. The Blue Jays shouldn’t expect to miss as many days next year as they did this season. That would be a record.

Those facts — that the Blue Jays aren’t quite setting injury records, and that they should be fine next season — don’t quite help it hurt any less this season, on the other hand.

Brewers Jean Segura Earns A Shot.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
During Jean Segura‘s six year minor league baseball career, he has proven to be a very productive player when healthy. After missing a substantial amount of time in 2011, the young shortstop has rebounded with a .304/.358/.413 line in 2012 including a scorching .433/.500/.533 over his last ten games prior to being promoted. As the key piece in a deal sending Zack Greinke to Los Angeles, the Milwaukee Brewers are counting on Segura’s minor league numbers translating into major league production on the middle infield. Having seen Segura during his last two starts for Double-A Huntsville of the Southern League, I’m confident the Brewers have acquired a talented — but unrefined — player. Segura is likely to need additional seasoning at the minor league level before cementing himself as an everyday player.

Peter Gammons recently posted a tweet comparing Segura as the middle infield equivalent to Raul Mondesi, a member of the 30/30 club. This blew me away as I remember Mondesi as one of the most physically gifted baseball players of my teens and twenties, and he hit .299/.339/.511 through his age-26 season. After seeing Segura in person, I better understood the comparison, as the shortstop’s physical gifts include both strength and speed bordering on elite for the position. Had Segura been born in the United States, I’m confident he would have developed into quite the tailback at either the high school or college level.

However, Segura still has a ways to go in translating his physical gifts into in-game production , which is not uncommon for players in their early twenties. Segura has also missed valuable development time due to injury, so he has even less experience than most 22-year-olds. Lacking fluid baseball movements, Segura presents as a bull in a china shop, muscling his way through at bats and defensive plays without refinement. Premium athletes are often able to manage this at the minor league level, but big league pitching tends to reveal the warts, as personal favorite Anthony Gose can attest. Should Segura reach his maximum potential, then he’s a serviceable shortstop with a 15 home run, 30 stolen base peak. Add to this contact skills which have always been advanced for his age and the possibility exists for Segura to be an impact player through his prime.

In batting practice, Segura’s final three swings are burned into my memory, as all three left the park, including a towering shot to left-center. This prompted a pitcher shagging in the outfield to scream, “Hit the weight room!” That power potential has yet to really show up in his stat line, which is not surprising considering Segura struggles to let the ball travel and often finished his swing from one knee. In time, he should learn to sit back and trust his hands more which will allow for more lift and harder, barrel contact.

This weakness becomes brutally obvious against off-speed pitches. On at least a handful of occasions, Segura flailed wildly at breaking balls and changeups in the dirt. In the short term, pitchers should be able to exploit this, though Segura’s contact rates suggest that it shouldn’t be a long term problem.

At shortstop, Segura made the routine plays although his footwork wasn’t what I would consider clean. He also appeared a bit uncomfortable turning double plays and had some difficulty avoiding the slide of an opposing base runner. In Milwaukee, he’ll have every opportunity to stick at shortstop. However, it’s unlikely Brewers fans will mistake his defensive play for that of J.J. Hardy or Alcides Escobar anytime soon. In fact, Segura may be a player who spends his early-to-mid-20s at shortstop before sliding to second base for the remainder of his career.

From home-to-first, I was able to pull two times in the 4.0 range. This places him right on the bubble of an 80 run time from the right side. In 2012, Segura has 37 steals, but his 74% success rate leaves plenty of room for improvement. Once again, his lack of refinement may be a contributing factor to this.

In four seasons, Jean Segura is the best shortstop I’ve scouted not named Jurickson Profar. His combination of strength and speed is rare, but Segura is not without flaws. If his struggles with breaking pitches persist, then he may struggle in adjusting to the big leagues initially, but the talent is there for him to work through those issues. Hopefully the Brewers organization will practice patience with Segura should they allow him to work through shortcomings at the major league level.

Yu Darvish’s Bad Command Comparables.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Last night, Yu Darvish took the mound against the Red Sox, and not surprisingly, he racked up a lot of walks and strikeouts. This is a common trend for Darvish, who has ended 39.6% of opposing plate appearances with a walk, hit batter, or a strikeout. Darvish is the kind of pitcher who succeeds or fails on his own, relying less on his defense than just about any other pitcher in the sport.

It’s not unusual for guys with premium stuff — which Darvish definitely has — to struggle with command early in their careers. However, as Bill Petti showed back in May, normal aging curves for starting pitchers don’t show a drastic improvement in command. Is it any different with high walk, high strikeout guys who simply need to learn to harness their stuff? Or, to put it another way, have other Darvish-like starting figured out how to throw strikes and take advantage of their velocity and movement?

To look at this, I applied the new filters available on the leaderboard to restrict the list to guys who matched three variables – walk rate, strikeout rate, and fastball velocity. Since we’re relying on velocity as an input, that means we can only look back to 2002, so our sample is smaller but we’re more likely to get a better match in terms of stuff, so that’s a trade-off I’m willing to make. To come up with a list of guys who have had similar seasons to what Darvish is having now, I filtered using a minimum of 100 IP, 12% BB%, 20% K%, and FBv of 91.0 mph. While Darvish is well above the 20% strikeout mark, we do want to account for the fact that strikeout rate has been trending upwards, and so slightly lower K% in prior years were similar in terms of difference to league average. The list of names who match those inputs aren’t all that flattering.

Those filters return 14 seasons, but three of them belong to 2012 pitchers — Darvish, Francisco Liriano, and Edinson Volquez — which doesn’t really help us in understanding how pitchers like this develop in later years. Eliminating those three leaves us with the following 11 seasons, with Darvish’s 2012 left in for context.

Season Name Age IP BB% K% ERA- FIP- xFIP-
2009 Clayton Kershaw 21 171 13.0% 26.4% 69 75 91
2006 Carlos Zambrano 25 214 12.5% 22.9% 73 88 94
2005 Daniel Cabrera 24 161.1 12.2% 21.9% 104 94 94
2012 Yu Darvish 25 134 12.4% 25.8% 106 87 94
2009 Jonathan Sanchez 26 163.1 12.4% 24.9% 103 100 98
2006 Daniel Cabrera 25 148 15.7% 23.7% 103 92 102
2005 Scott Kazmir 21 186 12.2% 21.3% 88 88 102
2003 Oliver Perez 21 126.2 13.3% 24.4% 135 122 103
2011 Edinson Volquez 27 108.2 13.3% 21.3% 145 135 106
2008 Daisuke Matsuzaka 27 167.2 13.1% 21.5% 64 90 107
2008 Oliver Perez 26 194 12.4% 21.3% 101 111 110
2005 Oliver Perez 23 103 14.9% 20.6% 140 149 124

You’ll note a couple of repetitive names on there, as Daniel Cabrera and Oliver Perez both had multiple seasons that fell within the bounds of this type of year, so we’re not dealing with 11 unique pitchers. However, the fact that both show up on the list more than once illustrate the fact that neither really conquered their command problems as a starter. And neither did most of the other guys on the list.

Kershaw is obviously the huge success story, as he went from a 13% BB% as a 21-year-old to a 6% BB% as a 23-year-old, and has established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball despite early problems throwing strikes. He is what people hope for when they see a guy with bad command of good stuff.

But the rest of the list essentially serves as a cautionary tale. Zambrano had a nice career as a quality starter, but he never really got past his inability to throw strikes. He only managed to get his BB% below 9% in one season — last year, at 8.8% — but also posted his lowest K% in that same season, and his career best K/BB ratio in any year was 2.35. He had a four year stretch where he was extremely good despite mediocre walk rates, so he’s an example of how a pitcher can be effectively wild, but his command problems have stuck around for most of his career.

The rest of the list is essentially filled with guys whose command and health issues kept them from consistent production. Cabrera, Kazmir, Perez, Sanchez, Volquez, and Matsuzaka all had individual seasons where they were effective despite the walks, but none of them ever put together long stretches of success, nor did they develop into guys who could throw strikes with consistency. Whether we can learn anything from the fact that all of these guys had arm problems is still an open question — it would make logical sense that one significant mechanical issue could lead to both high walk rates and a propensity for injuries, but we don’t know enough about biomechanics to substantiate that kind of claim.

With only eight “similar” pitchers in the last 10 years, we shouldn’t be making any kind of definitive claim about whether Darvish can overcome his command problems. That said, given the Rangers investment, they probably would have rather seen a better success rate than two for eight, with only one of those two successes actually becoming a strike thrower. Unless Darvish is Kershaw 2.0, it seems like his problem finding the strike zone might not be so easily fixed.

Johnny Cueto’s Changeup Leads to Cy Young Caliber Season.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The past 46 starts of Johnny Cueto‘s career have been absolutely incredible. Between last year and this year, the Reds’ ace has posted a 2.41 ERA in 302.2 innings. Cueto was a big regression candidate after posting a 2.31 ERA, 3.45 FIP, and 3.93 SIERA last season, but he has followed that impressive season up with an even better year on the mound. While his ERA has jumped up a tick to 2.52, his FIP of 3.05 and SIERA of 3.70 are career lows, and despite pitching in an extremely hitter friendly ballpark, Cueto has allowed just 15 home runs over the past two years.

While he may have been a tad bit more lucky than good last year, he has improved his peripherals with the increased usage of his change up. The pitch was a solid secondary offering over the past few years, being thrown between 9-11% of the time, but he has upped the usage of his change up to 19.1% this season as he has reduced the reliance on his fastballs and slider.

Cueto also has not been afraid to attack right-handed hitters with the change up. Last season, he threw just 43 change ups to right-handed hitters. This year he has already thrown 120 change ups to righties, good for 12% of his pitches to right-handed batters. With the added frequency against right-handers, his whiff rate is up to 10.8% — the highest of any of his pitches — compared to last year’s 2.3% whiff rate, which was the lowest of any of his offerings. And not coincidentally, where Cueto has derived most of his value this season has been against right-handed batters, who have just a .236 wOBA against him this season compared to lefties who have a .325 mark.

Even though lefties have hit him well this year, Cueto has still relied upon his change up to improve his strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is now 3.44 against lefties compared to a career ratio of just 2.10. He has actually done better in terms of strikeout-to-walk ratio against lefties this year than righties, but his BABIP has jumped to .360 and caused his results to decline. It is not entirely incorrect to say he has pitched better against lefties than righties this year but has simply received worse results. Change up usage jumping to 24.5% against lefties with a 11.6% whiff rate is a large reason for the improved strikeout-to-walk ratio, and his results against left-handed batters should improve if he continues to pitch as well as he has this season.

As you can see from the three above .gifs from his most recent outing, with the top .gif being of his fastball and the bottom .gifs being of his change up to a left-handed and right-handed hitter, his change up does have a vast amount of fade and solid arm action when compared to his fastball. Cueto’s change up is not one of the top pitches in the league, but in combination with a very nice fastball, it is an extremely useful pitch which he is continually getting more comfortable with.

While many called for a regression this year after last year’s performance in relation to his peripherals, Cueto has improved on the mound and has been able to maintain a similar level of success in terms of runs allowed. Without the increased usage of his change up against both right-handers and left-handers, those calling for a regression may have been right. Instead, Cueto is having a Cy Young caliber campaign and is the best pitcher on arguably the best team in baseball.

Ian Desmond Has Natitude.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Ian Desmond has become a legitimate threat in the lineup. This may come as a big surprise to fans of sabermetrics, as Desmond’s swing-happy approach, led to him being one of the worst regulars in baseball. Last season, Desmond finished ahead of only Yuniesky Betancourt and Alex Gonzalez in WAR at the shortstop position. This year, he trails Elvis Andrus 3.8 to 3.7. If not for a recent oblique injury, Desmond would likely be the most valuable shortstop in baseball this season. While his approach hasn’t changed much, there are some signs that he’s become a better player.

The biggest change has been Desmond’s ability to hit for power. Through 385 plate appearances, Desmond already has 17 home runs. For reference, Desmond has hit just 18 home runs in his last two seasons combined. Throughout his career, Desmond has relied on pull-power for home runs. While he’s still very dependent on his ability to hit home runs to left field, Desmond has has begun to slug to all fields for the first time in his career. Coming into this season, Desmond had never hit a home run to the opposite field. He’s already hit three this year.

Opposite Field HR SLG wOBA wRC+
2010 0 0.373 0.289 75
2011 0 0.376 0.280 73
2012 3 0.470 0.324 101

After two years of being a below average hitter to the opposite field, Desmond’s power surge has finally made him an average hitter to right. A similar improvement has happened in center, where Desmond has a .547 slugging percentage and a 137 wRC+ this year, both of which are career highs.

Desmond new-found ability to hit for power is definitely surprising, but his ability to do so to all fields was really unpredictable, especially after last season. Desmond only hit eight home runs last season, all of which were pulled to left. He didn’t hit any home runs to center or to the opposite field in 2011. And while half of his home runs were hit to center in 2010, he was still a slightly below-average hitter up-the-middle. Desmond needs to retain those improvements to center and to the opposite field, because there’s no way that his 47.4% HR/FB rate to left is sustainable going forward.

While power has been the driving force behind Desmond’s breakout, he’s also made significant progress against right-handed pitching.

Vs Righties AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
2010 0.257 0.295 0.369 0.291 76
2011 0.264 0.300 0.359 0.289 79
2012 0.284 0.329 0.482 0.348 118

After struggling to hit same-handed pitchers over his career, Desmond has finally emerged as an above-average option against them at the plate. And, obviously, his improvement against righties has been a contributor to his power surge. After two season of sub-par slugging numbers against righties, Desmond has managed to raise his slugging percentage to .482 against them this year.

Desmond’s breakout has been fueled completely by power. And because Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse missed significant time earlier in the season, Desmond has emerged as the team’s best hitter this year. He still has an aggressive approach, and refuses to take walks, which could be a concern going forward. If his power surge can continue in the future, it may not matter. For the first time in his career, Desmond finally looks like a strong major-league ballplayer. That’s quite a turnaround from last season.

Why First Basemen Get Paid So Much.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
First basemen and outfielders seem pretty overpaid if we look at their salaries and their WAR. At the same time, catchers and the three other infield positions seem pretty underpaid. As I showed in February, second basemen were only paid about $3 million per WAR from 2007 to 2011; first basemen were paid exactly twice that much. I think I might know why.

Claims that some positions are relative bargains using $/WAR hinge on “positional adjustments” — estimates of how much more valuable equivalent production is from different positions — using what hypothetical defensive performance would be if you moved players between positions. Last month, I looked into how much credit general managers seem to give performance at different positions, and how offensive performance varied across those positions. My logic was that, if the average first baseman produces only a few more runs per season than the average second baseman, then it may explain why general managers pay so much more for power-hitting first basemen.

In that story, I produced the following table:

Table 3—Average FanGraphs adjustment based on defense, average general managers’ adjustment with free agents and average differences in offensive performance at each position

Position FanGraphs Adjustment General Managers Adjustment Offensive Adjustment
C 12.5 8.5 11.3
1B -12.5 -7.9 -9.6
2B 2.5 -8.8 0.6
3B 2.5 -6.9 0.3
SS 7.5 -1.5 5.8
LF -7.5 0.4 -4.9
CF 2.5 7.2 -2.2
RF -7.5 -3.6 -8.2
DH -17.5 -9.0 -2.2

Offensive performance was usually pretty close to the positional adjustment, which is evidence that GMs weren’t valuing positional adjustments correctly. Of course, the average offensive performance at each position is not the perfect metric to use. The real question is not the difference in average performance, but the difference in replacement-level performance.

Let’s say you’re a general manager and the free-agent market is wrapping up, but you still need a first baseman and a second baseman. Your owner tells you that you have $10 million left to spend, and fortunately there is a first baseman on the market who you expect to have a .330 wOBA and a second baseman who you also expect to have a .330 wOBA. If you sign the first baseman, you have a few minor-league veterans who are prepared to take over at second base, and there are also a few more minor-league veterans who are prepared to play at first, if they’re needed. If you ask WAR, it will say to go with the .330 wOBA from the 2B, since he plays the harder position. But a general manaher must determine how much pop they will get from the replacement-level players.

But who are these replacement-level players we keep talking about? To know what replacement-level is, we need to know who is a replacement-level player. The standard sabermetric definition is “a freely available talent who could fill into a player’s role at little cost.” You can’t use salary to define “at little cost,” unless you limit yourself to players with service times close to or exceeding three years, since most young players get paid little but are not easily available and won’t come cheap. On other words, “cost” can’t just mean salary. Using playing time to find back-ups and looking at their performances is tricky too, since players who get lucky and play over their heads are going to get more at-bats in case they can keep it up. On the other hand, using future-performance projections to eliminate that concern only makes it harder. After all, projections for fringe players are based on “Minor League Equivalencies,” which are the performances only for minor-leaguers who were given the chance to be promoted.

So I came up with three different methods to look at replacement-level, and they all lead me to similar conclusions:

1) I separated players into “major-leaguers,” who were among the top 50 players in their position in PA that year, and “replacements” who were not.
2) I tried to use all the replacement-level players who had enough service time to be paid more, but were not.
3) I found all the players who were older than 26, who had at least 20 plate appearances in Double-A or Triple-A and who had fewer than 400 plate appearances in the major leagues. I called them “replacement level”.

Method 1

Taking the 50 players with the most PA at each position in a season, we can estimate who would be on a major league roster if everyone were healthy. But we also probably include some people in the “replacement level” pool who we shouldn’t and perhaps we’re excluding some people we should consider replacement-level. Anybody who plays above their true talent level is going to get extra plate appearances, so this method excludes over-performers (who end up with too many PA) and includes relatively more underperformers. It’s no surprise that this method yielded the biggest gap between “major leaguers” and “replacements” among the three methods.

I calculated what I call a “run gap” for each position, which is the difference in performance for “major leaguers” and “replacements” in batting runs, baserunning runs and UZR (though UZRs were pretty close to zero, on aggregate).

Since I only had a few thousand plate appearances at each position, and since the sample is somewhat biased, I took the “run gap” for majors versus replacements, normalized it to a 20 runs per position average (normal FanGraphs replacement-level) and regressed the differences between positions halfway back to average hitting performance for each position. This gave us some new numbers for replacement-level, which I used on my free-agent data to determine $/WAR.

This gives us pretty similar conclusions to last time. Outfielders are overpaid across the board; middle infielders and third basemen are underpaid; and designated hitters are a little underpaid. But catchers and first basemen are both paid pretty fairly. This is quite different than looking at average performance at each position. As it turns out, minor-league catchers are not all that much worse than minor-league first basemen at hitting — which changes our perceptions star first basemen’s value.

Position PA majors PA rep. level Majors Runs per 600 PA Replacements Runs per 600 PA Run Gap Majors vs. Replacements Half regressed normalized Run Adjustment Method 1 $/WAR
C 82,598 14,355 -6.6 -24.58 17.98 7.73 $5.30
1B 92,805 6,412 13.63 -10.36 23.99 -9.76 $5.45
2B 92,004 7,995 4.28 -25.35 29.63 3.3 $2.99
3B 88,667 8,486 5.42 -29.5 34.91 7.97 $4.11
SS 94,067 6,380 -1.93 -30.99 29.06 5.21 $3.46
LF 80,740 13,690 9.81 -9.91 19.72 -7.23 $7.16
CF 94,147 7,120 6.25 -16.12 22.37 -2.98 $6.05
RF 87,717 8,697 13.03 -9.22 22.25 -9.59 $6.71
DH 33,536 3,551 8.12 -15.67 23.8 -3.81 $4.22
All hitters (non-P non-PH) 746,281 76,686 5.64 -18.99 24.63 - $5.05

Method 2

The next thing that I tried was to look for players whose salary and service time suggested that they were replacement level. These were guys who made under about $1.4 million, even though the CBA allows them to be bid up if they are worth it. First, I found all players eligible for free agency who had low salaries. Next, I found all players who were eligible for arbitration, but were non-tendered and then received low salaries. Unfortunately, this does not give me many players at all. It also seemed to include many players on “make good” contracts, who had non-guaranteed deals. Some weaker players got Spring Training invites, looked bad, and were released, so they were not included in the sample, while other players made the team but had low salaries. As a result, these players were only about six runs below an average major league player at batting, baserunning, and fielding combined, so they looked a little too good to be “replacement level.”

Nevertheless, when I normalized the positional differences to the FanGraphs standard 20 runs per season, and then used these to determine replacement level, I found that free agents’ salaries (in my original free agent data for 2007-11) followed the same pattern. Middle infielders and 3B are underpaid, and outfielders are overpaid. But now catchers do look a little underpaid and 1B do look a little overpaid. Designated hitters still seem pretty fairly paid.

There seemed to be a problem with sample size for SS, CF, and RF, which might suggest this isn’t a great method. With half as many PA at these three positions, it looks like players like these were placed at easier positions more often and regular backups were shifted over to harder defensive positions.

Position PA replacement level Replacements Runs per 600 PA Normalized Run Adjustment Method 2 $/WAR
C 8,326 -20.88 -14.75 $3.72
1B 6,313 5.63 11.77 $5.98
2B 5,846 -7.09 -0.95 $3.24
3B 6,846 -14.11 -7.97 $3.94
SS 3,688 -20.58 -14.44 $2.84
LF 8,250 -1.6 4.54 $6.24
CF 3,727 7.24 13.38 $7.58
RF 3,692 6.24 12.38 $7.91
DH 3,077 3.21 9.35 $5.12
All hitters (non-P non-PH) 49765 -6.14 - $5.05

Method 3

This is my favorite method, though it took the most work. I figured that replacement-level players were probably expendable enough that they were shuffled up and down between the major and minor leagues. Sometimes, prospects get moved up and down, but players older than 26 are rarely considered prospects. Players were replacement-level if they were older than 26 years old, had fewer than 400 plate appearances in the majors, and had more than 20 plate appearances in Double-A or Triple-A. The result was a larger player sample that appeared to represent most replacement-level players.

The overall replacement level for these players came in at about 13 runs below average, which is smaller than the typical 20 runs used at FanGraphs. Note that this doesn’t account for “chaining,” where backups are put in the field and weaken the available pinch-hitting pool. I suspect that this might account for the difference between 13 runs calculated and 20 runs used. (When I tried experimenting with lower replacement levels in the past, I found that superstars appeared to be underpaid using $/WAR. Because of that, I agree with the 20 runs below average replacement level). After normalizing the “run gaps” to average 20 at each position, I got the table below.

The results are pretty similar to what we found in the other two methods: Outfielders still appear to be very overpaid, especially corner outfielders; and middle infielders and third basemen are underpaid. This is partly because replacement-level players had poor UZRs in the infield and good UZRs in the outfield. But the table still looked very similar when I re-set everyone’s UZR to zero, so that doesn’t drive the results.

Interestingly, first base, catcher and designated hitter all seem to be slightly underpaid using this method. The varying results for catcher and designated hitter show the difficulty figuring replacement level at these positions. Catchers are a unique breed, since other players cannot play catcher well and catchers cannot play other positions well. Designated hitters are the opposite. Anyone can be a designated hitter, though there are varying skills to staying fresh while sitting on the bench.

Position PA majors PA rep. level Majors Runs per 600 PA Replacements Runs per 600 PA Run Gap Majors vs. Replacements Half regressed normalized Run Adjustment Method 3 $/WAR
C 86,346 10,847 -7.32 -24.57 17.26 12.31 $4.15
1B 98,452 5,883 12.94 -10.91 23.85 -5.23 $4.54
2B 97,634 7,755 2.61 -12.89 15.5 0.72 $3.27
3B 95,431 7,449 3.69 -23.51 27.2 6.33 $4.04
SS 96,769 6,649 -2.85 -18.07 15.22 5.87 $3.72
LF 93,288 11,370 7.69 0.75 6.94 -9 $7.93
CF 95,909 10,460 5.71 -9.07 14.78 -2.43 $5.98
RF 96,741 7,757 10.51 6.66 3.85 -13.86 $8.75
DH 42,616 5,639 5.99 -5.94 11.93 -3.85 $4.22
All hitters (non-P non-PH) 853,812 80,315 0.87 -12.08 12.95 - $5.05

Note that I also regressed the “run gap” halfway to the average positional difference using this method as well. The results would be more extreme, but qualitatively similar had I not done so.

Averaging all three methods, I get the following table with $/WAR for each position, which reinforces the arguments above.

Position Methods 1-3 average $/WAR
C $4.39
1B $5.32
2B $3.17
3B $4.03
SS $3.34
LF $7.11
CF $6.54
RF $7.79
DH $4.52

Other People’s Players?

So how do teams get their hands on these undervalued infielders? Can they? Or do teams lock them up quickly? Take a look at the upcoming free agents this offseason and you see that solid infielders are poised to reach the open market. There are Kelly Johnson and Marco Scutaro, but no superstars. Dustin Pedroia and Troy Tulowitzki both would have reached free agency this winter, but the Red Sox and Rockies signed them to long-term deals.

One point that I have hammered hard for several years is that teams get a pretty bad deal when they sign free agents from other teams. Teams get far better bargains on re-signing their own free agents. This is far truer for pitchers than hitters, but it’s still true for hitters. So what if we look at re-signed players (RSP) $/WAR and other team’s players (OTP) $/WAR separately? Do we still see this difference between outfielders and infielders? Yes.

Position Re-signed Players (RSP) Other Team’s Players (OTP) OTP Premium
C $5.39 $2.84 -47%
1B $5.76 $7.53 31%
2B $3.55 $2.24 -37%
3B $4.76 $3.52 -26%
SS $3.31 $3.77 14%
LF $6.31 $8.01 27%
CF $8.16 $4.80 -41%
RF $5.23 $6.53 25%
DH $7.95 $7.20 -9%

The argument holds up: Infielders are better bargains than outfielders, even if you restrict it to players who reach free agency. The best-priced infielders on the market in recent years have been Adrian Beltre (on three different deals), Alex Rodriguez’s 2001-2007 deal, Edgar Renteria’s 2005-2008 deal, Luis Castillo’s 2004-2007 deal, Mark DeRosa’s 2007-2009 deal, Miguel Tejada’s 2004-2009 deal, Orlando Cabrera’s 2005-2008 deal and Troy Glaus’ 2004-2008 deal. There are other players, as well, but the point is that these bargains are out there for savvy general managers to find.

What Should Teams Do?

Once again, it seems that the best bargains are in the infield and the worst prices are in the outfield. When Josh Hamilton becomes available this winter, teams should be wary about just how much they want to spend. It’s pretty obvious that teams will have an opportunity to put decent role players in outfield positions who can get the job done.

On the other hand, the mantra that teams should stop spending so much on first base might be wrong. Although you won’t get the same WAR for the money, the replacement-level first baseman who teams use often is below the technical replacement level. Teams are often forced to pay a lot to get “one of the good ones.” Even still, the best bargains remain at other infield positions, and smart general managers would be wise to make sure that they have money available when star infielders become available.

post #7503 of 73652
Thread Starter 
Second Look: Correa and Davidson.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Carlos Correa
Position: SS
Level: Gulf Coast League
Age: 17
Law's midseason ranking: 20

The Houston Astros made Carlos Correa the first Puerto Rican-born player to go No. 1 overall in the draft two months ago, and he has the noisy tools as a projectable shortstop to justify himself as the top pick. I recently saw Correa play for the Rookie-Level Gulf Coast League Astros and came away as impressed as you can be from a quick look at a player at the complex league level.

[+] Enlarge
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Barring injury, Correa has the physical skills and developing tools to be a future All-Star.I didn't see Correa as an amateur but did see the other two top prep bats in the recent draft, center fielders Byron Buxton (No. 2 overall, Minnesota Twins) and Albert Almora (No. 6 overall, Chicago Cubs). Correa was described to me as the second best in the group tools-wise (behind Buxton) and the second-most refined (behind Almora). When you add in Correa was the youngest of the group (17 on draft day with a September birthday) and will play in the infield (likely third base), it's completely reasonable to tab Correa as the best all-around prospect in the group and thus in the whole draft.

Getting Correa at a discount allowed the Astros to afford prep righty Lance McCullers, a personal favorite of mine and top-15 talent, which makes the pick seem obvious in retrospect.

Correa lived up to his billing with a strong, tapered, projectable 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame with broad shoulders that will support added muscle. The expectation is that he will put on this muscle. However, using a draft peer such as Florida prep shortstop Addison Russell (No. 11 overall, Oakland Athletics) as a case study, we see a player who appeared ticketed for third base but actually lost weight to stay at short. This just goes to show that position prognosis isn't always accurate and Correa might stick at short.

As is, Correa moves well enough to stay at shortstop; he has an above-average arm, average speed, good hands, solid actions and a feel for how to play the position. The tools are there to be above-average at third if he does add weight, and his power will fit the profile at the hot corner.

At the plate, Correa has a swing that maximizes his raw tools. His hands get a little higher and a little deeper than many players. But with the bat speed to make this odd hand placement work, Correa still is able to create more power without sacrificing the ability to hit for average. He keeps his head still while he takes a direct path to the ball, and his bat speed and powerful hip turn whip the bat through the zone to create plus raw power that will only improve as Correa matures.

Being 17 and playing the longest season of his life means there are still some things for Correa to work on, but I didn't see anything that should stand in his way of reaching his All-Star potential. He showed a slight bat wrap late in his swing that he'll need to eliminate as he's challenged at the upper levels, and he'll also collapse his back side at times, another common occurrence with young hitters. He's got the tools and feel at the plate to hit almost any pitch, but was fooled at times by some off-speed pitches that he'll learn to lay off of with experience.

Matt Davidson
Position: 3B
Level: Double-A Mobile
Age: 21
Law's midseason ranking: 34

Arizona Diamondbacks third base prospect Matt Davidson has been a known quantity for years as a 2009 sandwich pick out of Yucaipa (Calif.) High School, but his consistent production is raising his profile as he's now a 21-year-old in Double-A with a big league opportunity just around the corner.

When I first saw Davidson take the field, the body comparison for him that first came to mind was Matt Cain, a frame that doesn't exactly scream elite athlete. That said, Cain and Davidson show that elite baseball players don't always look like track stars or bodybuilders. Davidson looks a little thick in the lower half to play third base. Indeed, he's a below-average runner and limited moving laterally, but he's passable when coming in on the ball.

That said, he's got an above-average arm and good hands, and he makes all the plays he gets to. He's likely a fringy to below-average third baseman, but not so bad he's a liability. Davidson could play third through his control years in the big leagues as long as the stick is above-average and the shortstop next to him has good range.

The good news is that the stick should be plenty to accommodate this plan and maximize Davidson's value by playing third base.

I can see why scouts might have been skeptical of his ability to hit for average, as Davidson has some parts of his swing that point to limited slugger. He raises his hands early and leaves them high when in the hitting position with the bat cocked, similar to Juan Gonzalez. His high finish, coupled with a high start for his hands and some length to his path, points to a low-average hitter geared only for power. He might have trouble at higher levels, and he hasn't set the world on fire with his career .266 minor league batting average.

Davidson also has shown other bad habits at times: drifting onto his front foot, wrapping his bat and barring his lead arm. Despite all this, he just keeps hitting because he shows a feel for his swing, the bat head and the strike zone, and he continues to do it against higher-level pitching. Those results prove his swing could be sustainable at the big league level. It's a high-wire act that seems less and less risky the more often he does it successfully, and often at years younger than the pitchers he is facing.

Most hitters that have the attributes I just described are "Quad-A" sluggers -- stiff and limited to first base -- but Davidson has the fluidity and feel to prove he's a big leaguer. Davidson has easy raw power that's above-average to plus that he can tap into in games and the bat control to square up different kinds of pitches. He's a late-count hitter and probably always will strike out a good bit as a trade-off for power and walks. But Davidson has a good chance at his peak to hit in the .270 range with 20-25 home runs and could get a chance to do this at some point in 2013.

Others of note
• I mentioned that Davidson's chances to play third in the big leagues are increased with a rangy shortstop lining up next to him, and that guy could be the one playing next to him for Double-A Mobile, Chris Owings.

Owings was a fellow prep sandwich pick by Arizona in the 2009 draft out of Gilbert (S.C.) High School, and he shows all the tools to be an everyday shortstop.

Owings is a plus runner with above-average bat speed and 45 raw power despite his slight, sub-6-foot frame. He has good range and steady hands at short with an above-average arm that add up to a solid-average defensive package. Owings also shows advanced bat control to where he can hit almost any pitch between the on-deck circles.

The problem is that, at times, he'll get too confident in this ability and goes out of the zone to try to do this. There's enough polish here to see Owings as a .260-type hitter with 10-12 home runs and steady defense at short to team with Davidson for an exciting left side of the infield of the future for the Diamondbacks.

Atlanta poised to win NL East.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Atlanta Braves have been a top-15 team in the ESPN Power Rankings for most of the season, but lately they have cemented themselves in the top 10. This week marks their fourth straight in the top 10, and they have climbed into the top five for the first time since June 11. The Braves continue to overcome injuries to their pitching staff and are poised to leapfrog the Washington Nationals in the final two months of the season.

The Braves have had to scramble a bit in regard to their starting rotation. Brandon Beachy blowing out his arm wasn't part of the plan nor was Jair Jurrjens' continued regression into oblivion. Tommy Hanson's injury problems could have been foreseen, but certainly the Braves were hopeful that he would be healthy this season.

But each time someone falls, someone steps up.

Ben Sheets has a 1.46 ERA and 1.95 FIP in four starts for Atlanta. Sure, it's just four starts, but who thought Sheets had even one more major league start left in him? Newly acquired Paul Maholm should fit in nicely as a league-average innings muncher who the team can count on every five days.

Then there's Kris Medlen. After compiling a 2.72 FIP in 54 1/3 innings out of the bullpen, the righty stepped into the rotation this week for the first time in nearly two years and pitched effectively. He allowed just two runs in 10 1/3 innings and struck out nine. Time will tell if the 26-year-old Medlen needs to be a permanent part of the rotation mix -- much of that will depend on Hanson's health -- but he provides the Braves with a high-upside play in case Hanson misses extended time (as do Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran).

The Nationals, on the other hand, have no such depth. If Stephen Strasburg is shut down for the season, they will need to turn to John Lannan, an enormous downgrade by any metric. In addition, even with Drew Storen's return, the Nationals' bullpen has not been as invincible as it was early in the season.

After posting above-average numbers for the season's first three months, the bullpen posted a 4.66 ERA and 4.77 FIP in July, the latter of which was the third-worst in the game. The rotation has remained solid, but with Strasburg potentially being removed from the picture by the end of September's first week and the bullpen reeling a little bit, Washington may not finish the season with the same dominant pitching with which it started.

Aside from Chipper Jones and Jason Heyward, the Atlanta offense has gone in spurts. Early in the season, Michael Bourn, Martin Prado and Dan Uggla were hot while Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann started slowly. Recently, Freeman and McCann have come on as Bourn, Prado and Uggla have struggled. Pile up the whole season, though, and the Braves have a deep unit capable of supporting its pitching staff. Atlanta is tied for 10th in wRC+ this season, and it should be even better once Andrelton Simmons returns from his broken right pinkie finger. At the time of his injury, the rookie shortstop was pairing above-average contact skills and a decent batting eye with superb defense.

The Nationals should improve offensively once they get shortstop Ian Desmond back. This week saw Jayson Werth return to the Nats' outfield, and he shook off the rust quickly, notching at least one hit in each of his first four games. But even with Werth, Washington's outfield play leaves something to be desired. For the season, the Nationals' outfield has a minus-5.8 UZR. That should tick up slightly with Werth roaming the green pastures, but he is not the elite defender he used to be; in the past four seasons, his cumulative defensive value is in the red. Contrast that with Atlanta, whose outfield trio of Bourn, Heyward and Prado is by far the best defensive unit in the game. In fact, Atlanta's only below-replacement defensive starter has been Freeman, and at minus-0.8, he is barely so.

Catcher is another consideration that points heavily in Atlanta's favor. While the Braves have a great backup in David Ross (136 wRC+ in 116 PA) to pair with the increasingly hot McCann, the Nationals have struggled to find a catching solution in the wake of Wilson Ramos' injury. Jesus Flores has been awful, and Sandy Leon hasn't been much better. This week, the Nats brought in Kurt Suzuki in a trade with the Oakland Athletics. While he still plays good defense, it's hard to see him as an upgrade offensively. Only five players have a worse BB/K ratio than Suzuki this season (minimum 200 plate appearances), and his 44 wRC+ is even worse than Flores' 48.

The Braves have heated up in the second half and have won 10 of their past 12 games. When the first half ended, the Nationals seemed like clear front-runners in the National League East. Though they have maintained a slim lead, it may not last.

There are cracks in Washington's facade, which will widen once Strasburg is shut down. The Braves, meanwhile, have solidified their starting rotation, found hitters to carry the team for stretches and played great defense the entire season. Should the Nationals take their foot off the gas pedal, the Braves will be ready to speed past them.

Michael Bourn's market among rivals.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
One executive joked recently that there is not a more inevitable offseason connection than the Nationals and center fielder Michael Bourn, who is eligible for free agency in the fall. "Can we just put that one in the books now?" he said, noting all the factors in play. They are:

1. The Nationals need a center fielder, and Bourn is a former Gold Glove winner whose performance this year is charting very well. His UZR/150 rating is the best among those at his position, according to FanGraphs.

2. Bourn, 29, is at the peak of his career as a hitter, and his .756 OPS this season is his second-best. Bourn ranks sixth in the majors in runs scored, and of course, all of his damage has been done as a leadoff hitter. Washington's leadoff hitters ranks 19th in OPS this year.

3. And Bourn is represented by Scott Boras -- and there are a whole lot of Nationals represented by Boras, from Stephen Strasburg to Bryce Harper to Jayson Werth to others.

But another rival official noted all the money that the Phillies have freed from their payroll, with the trades of Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton. "You know who they want, right?" the official asked. "They love Michael Bourn."

He was drafted and developed by the Phillies, of course, as a fourth-round pick in 2003, and the Phillies know all about his gregarious personality, and that he has a grinder's mentality. For years, manager Charlie Manuel has tried to settle on a leadoff hitter; sometimes he has used Jimmy Rollins, sometimes Shane Victorino.

If the Phillies make a strong push for Bourn, it's unclear whether they would be willing to outbid the Nationals. Washington opened this season with a payroll of $92 million, and if its wealthy ownership is willing, it has a lot of room to grow under the luxury-tax cap. Bourn figures to get a multiyear deal for something in the range of $16 million to $22 million annually, and as has been well-documented over the last six weeks, the Phillies already have a lot of payroll obligations well into the future, with $20 million-plus commitments to Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard on the books. The Phillies also will have to find a third baseman, a starting pitcher and at least one outfielder, depending on their internal evaluations of Domonic Brown and John Mayberry Jr.

Josh Hamilton will be the most dynamic free agent outfielder this fall, albeit with a lot of questions about how much he can be counted on. But Bourn might be in the best leverage position of all the outfielders if, in fact, the Nationals and Phillies -- division rivals -- focus on luring him away from another division rival, the Braves.


• Bourn may be the target of the Phillies this offseason, writes Bob Brookover.

• Barry Bonds says he belongs in the Hall of Fame, "without a doubt."

I agree. I will vote for him when his name appears on the ballot this winter, for all the reasons outlined here many times before. But I don't think he'll get in.

• Roger Bernadina saved the day for the Nationals. As the ball sailed toward Bernadina, writes Amanda Comak, it carried the weight of all that came before it.

Here's video of Bernadina's catch.

• Miguel Cabrera had another great day, and the Tigers won; Drew Sharp believes he is crushing others in the MVP race. Cabrera has 95 RBIs. From ESPN Stats & Information: Cabrera's home run came on an inside pitch, his league-leading 19th on a pitch in that area of the zone. Here is where he is ranked:

Miguel Cabrera: 19
Ryan Braun: 16
David Ortiz: 12
Mark Trumbo: 12

Chicago's lead over Detroit is down to a half-game.

• Wrote here the other day about how Ryan Dempster could regret landing in Texas, but he pitched terrifically against the Red Sox on Tuesday night.

• With Evan Longoria back in the lineup, the Rays won.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Carlos Pena is going to sit more against left-handers.

2. The Nationals are sticking with Tyler Clippard as their closer.

3. Fredi Gonzalez decided to keep Dan Uggla away from Cole Hamels, as Carroll Rogers writes.

4. Chris Getz is getting regular playing time with the Royals.

5. Jose Lopez was designated for assignment.

6. Bryan LaHair has been benched.

7. Zach Britton was sent down.

8. Roy Oswalt says he felt 200 pitches in a week was enough, in explaining why he declined to take another inning of relief. Oswalt met with Ron Washington.

Dings and dents

1. Joey Votto is very close to returning to the Cincinnati lineup.

2. Tommy Hanson is feeling better.

3. Jordan Schafer landed on the disabled list.

4. Kevin Youkilis is questionable for today's game.

5. Jose Bautista is still feeling discomfort, as Bob Elliott writes.

6. Pablo Sandoval is getting better.

7. A Padres reliever wants to have surgery after the season is over.

By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Information

5: Players in MLB history with a home run on their 21st birthday after Mike Trout did it Tuesday night.
10: Consecutive home wins by the Tigers (one shy of longest streak by franchise in live ball era).
11: Extra-inning games without a win for the Astros this season; according to Elias, they're only the second team ever to lose their first 11 extra-inning games in one season (1969 Expos).
53: Consecutive wins by Pirates this season when leading after seven innings before losing Tuesday to the Diamondbacks after leading 4-3 entering the eighth inning.

AL East

• The Yankees continue to struggle, and their lead is down to 4.5 games. From David Waldstein's story:

"There should be a high level of concern," [Eric Chavez] said. "Anybody who says there isn't is lying. We've just got to win ballgames and we're not finding a way to do that right now. There should be a concern. It's that time of year where, yeah, it's a concern. We have to start winning games."

• Curtis Granderson has replaced A-Rod as the Yankees' lightning rod, writes Ken Davidoff.

• J.A. Happ got his first start for the Blue Jays.

• Adam Jones delivered, and the Orioles are now within 4.5 games of first place.

• Jon Lester pitched OK, but not good enough to win. The Red Sox continue to have issues with umpires.

AL Central

• The Indians had their guts ripped out, again.

• Billy Butler hoisted the Royals on his shoulders.

• The Twins have had a nice second-half surge.

AL West

• Bartolo Colon shut down the Angels. The Angels have fallen back into third place. Mike Trout managed to steal the spotlight again: He hit a homer on his birthday, and he's swiped 26 straight bases.

• The Mariners were frustrated.

NL East

• The Marlins are a mess right now, but with Mike Stanton back in the lineup, they pulled out a win.

• Cole Hamels fired a shutout.

• An ex-Met was back in New York, and the Mets lost.

NL Central

It was not a good day for the NL Central contenders:

• For once, the Pirates' bullpen had a bad day, as Bill Brink writes.

• The Astros lost again.

• The Cardinals' winning streak was stopped at four.

• The Reds' losing streak has reached three.

• Brooks Raley lost in his debut. Dale Sveum gave the Cubs a pep talk.

• A Milwaukee rookie flirted with perfection. From ESPN Stats & Information, more on Mike Fiers' strong outing:

A. Fiers threw his fastball 61 percent of the time, his highest percentage in a start this season. Fiers got 14 outs with the pitch, including four strikeouts.
B. Reds hitters were 0-for-4 with a strikeout in at-bats ending with a Fiers curveball. For the season, opponents are 6-for-50 (.120) with 24 strikeouts in at-bats ending with a curveball from Fiers.
C. Fiers started 13 hitters ahead 0-1, and all seven of his strikeouts came against those hitters. He got ahead of seven hitters 0-2 and struck out six of them.

From Elias: Fiers' perfect game was broken up by Reds' rookie Zack Cozart to lead off the seventh inning. It's the second time in the last five seasons that a rookie broke up a no-hitter of six-plus innings by a rookie pitcher. On Sept. 7 last season, Guillermo Moscoso of the A's had a no-hitter for 7 2/3 innings before it was broken up by Salvador Perez of the Royals.

NL West

• Chris Johnson keeps mashing homers for the D-Backs, as Nick Piecoro writes.

From ESPN Stats & Information: Both of Johnson's home runs came off fastballs or sinkers. For the season, he's hitting .376 in at-bats ending with a fastball or a sinker, the fourth-highest average in the league among players who have seen at least 750 such pitches behind Andrew McCutchen (.424), Joey Votto (.415) and Joe Mauer (.382). By contrast, he's hitting just .210 in at-bats ending with an off-speed pitch.

• Colorado assured itself of its first series win in L.A. in two years.

• Buster Posey clubbed another homer; he's hitting about .450 since the All-Star break.

• Ross Ohlendorf rebounded, as Jeff Sanders writes.

How much is Mike Trout worth?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Mike Trout is having a season for the ages. That shouldn't be news to you. But let's forget about the present and think about what could be an even more promising future, as terrifying as that sounds.

By common thought in the statistical community, Trout -- who turned 21 yesterday and leads the AL in batting average, runs and steals -- is still six to eight years away from his peak. If you are the Los Angeles Angels you want that peak. That means a contract extension for the most valuable young asset in the game. So let's say the Angels decide today that they need to sign Trout to a long-term extension, knowing full well that he isn't eligible to be a free agent until after the 2017 season. How do they even approach this?

To find out, I talked to a combination of 10 scouts and executives to get their take and figure out what a contract extenstion for Mike Trout would look like.

Approach No. 1: The Cautious Route

For many polled, now is simply not the time to discuss a Trout extension. "I'll go low because I can just pay him $1-1.5 million for the next two years [before he hits arbitration] and then try to do an eight-year deal going into his age-23 season," a National League executive said.

"You're going to be paying him either way," another National League official said. "So I would probably wait another year or two since you still get him relatively cheap."

An American League assistant GM noted that Trout's remarkable performance over his three-plus months in the big leagues means you are paying at his absolute peak.

"I think they've missed the window to lock him up," he said. "I know he's not going to suck at any point, but he may at least cool off sometime in the next two years and give you a chance to actually compare him to someone else."

All deals out there are baselines for future deals, and Trout's lack of comparable performances has the potential to create a real problem for the Angels.

"Right now, there are no comps, and you open the door to any contract number the agent wants to throw out there," the exec continued. "A hundred million isn't crazy right now, but that's kind of the problem."

Approach No. 2: Fair Market Value

For many officials, this is really just a math question, and it falls into three parts.

The easy part is the known quantity of Trout's 2013 and 2014 seasons, or to stick to the industry jargon, the pre-arb years. Those are simple enough to calculate, and even with the Angels giving Trout considerable raises simply as a nice gesture, both seasons should come in at well under $2 million.

Things get complicated from 2015-17, which are Trout's three years of arbitration. For one National League executive, the best comparable for these years might be Phillies slugger Ryan Howard.

"Howard went rookie of the year, MVP, and then back-to-back top-five MVP finishes, and he got $10 million and then $15 million in his first two arbitration years," the official said. "I know Trout could go higher, but a reasonable guess can't be much more than this."

But others think Trout could creep a bit higher than Howard.

"He has a chance to set arbitration records since he dominated in the statistical categories arbitrators look at and has a chance at some hardware," an American League official said.

[+] Enlarge
Scott Rovak/US Presswire
The $100 million deal that Albert Pujols signed three years before free agency turned out to be a bargain for St. Louis.Ranges for Trout's three years of arbitration ranged from $52 million to $55 million -- which is fairly similar to the extension Howard signed that bought out the final three years of his arbitration -- but there was a remarkable universality in the value of Trout's free agency at this time.

"My approximate math has him at $25 million for free agency," said a National League executive, and AL official had the exact same estimate. Therefore, we'll assume $25 million on the free agent years.

Add up the $1.5 million for 2013-2014, and average estimate of $53.5 million for the arbitration years and $75 million for the three free agent years, and you have a total of $130 million for the next eight seasons, covering 2013-2020. Eight years seemed to be a magic number for those that responded as it buys out three years of free agency while still allowing Trout to hit the open market at 28.

So the question becomes: What's the discount for providing Trout with immense security, and how does one structure the deal?

For many, options could provide additional opportunities for both sides of the table.

"I'd be aiming at eight years at $85 million with two option years at $20 million and each with a $5 million buyout," a National League exec said. "That guarantees $95 million for eight years with the potential for $115 million over 10."

That was the general range of logic, but that's also considerably more than previous similar deals done with young stars like Carlos Gonzalez (seven years, $80 million) and Evan Longoria (six years, $17.5 million with the potential for nine years, $33.5 million), and ranks with Ryan Braun's two contracts that add up to 13 years and $150 million, but five of those years represent free-agent time.

"I'm not even sure a $100-million offer would start the conversation at this time," an American League official said. "That first Pujols deal with the Cardinals (7 years, $100 million and signed right before his first arbitration hearing) might be the barometer, and in retrospect, that ended up looking like a very club-friendly deal."

Approach No. 3: All-In

The Pujols situation noted above presents the exact problem the Angels would be facing if they wanted to try to extend Trout right now. In the midst of a historic season, and clearly a remarkable talent, and obviously so incredibly young, would Trout even entertain anything but an equally historic offer at this point?

"You might need a 12-15 year contract for it to make sense from Trout's side," explained an American League executive. "Otherwise why not dominate your arbitration years and test free agency at 26?"

Even with those parameters, many team officials were interested. When one National League scout was asked how much he'd offer Trout, he simply responded, "Whatever he wants."

"I don't think anything is too much for Trout," another National League official said. "It's just such a different situation given the leverage. If I'm the Angels, I'm looking to do something historic, and we're talking those 12-15 years, to make sure is is the man for our franchise for as long as possible."

When asked for dollar figures, the NL exec said either 12 years, $150 million or 15 years, $200 million.

One thing was certainly clear with competing executives. They'd all love to have Trout on their roster, but they did not want to be in the Angels' shoes when it came to trying to keep Trout around long term.

"I do not envy the Angels. They are in a very precarious situation with this kid," an American League front office official said. "That being said, I'd certainly try to sign him."
post #7504 of 73652
this lame officiating crew gave the sox a homerun last night, then took away a homerun from cruz today. mean.gifmean.gifmean.gif stay classy fenway umps.
"what ch'all know 'bout dem Texas boys!?!"
"what ch'all know 'bout dem Texas boys!?!"
post #7505 of 73652
F&(#%$ Angels bullpen !!!! mad.gifmad.gif
Team Lakers
1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1972, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010
Team Lakers
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post #7506 of 73652
Angels don't want it.
post #7507 of 73652
Thread Starter 
Not like Greinke did you guys any favors either laugh.gif
post #7508 of 73652
True.... 5 walks in 5 innings sick.gifmean.gif

though we were up by 1 in the sixth when Latroy came in
Team Lakers
1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1972, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010
Team Lakers
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post #7509 of 73652
Here is to the Orioles playing meaningful baseball in August! First time in 16 years or so.....Jeffrey Mayer!!!! smokin.gif
Straight Cash Homey
Straight Cash Homey
post #7510 of 73652
Originally Posted by Kookcle View Post

F&(#%$ Angels bullpen !!!! mad.gifmad.gif

When I saw Hawkins warming up I knew he would blow it laugh.gif
post #7511 of 73652
I hope Trout ends up in the NL. mean.giflaugh.gif
post #7512 of 73652
You're not alone, man... I love seeing him all the time because he's so damn fun to watch, but I'll get MLB's season plan. laugh.gif Just go away.
post #7513 of 73652

Cards got that *** taxed tonight sick.gif

One again...Lord Stanley Resides In The Windy City.


One again...Lord Stanley Resides In The Windy City.

post #7514 of 73652
Machado getting called up already? No AAA?
post #7515 of 73652
Originally Posted by bbllplaya23 View Post

I hope Trout ends up in the NL. mean.giflaugh.gif

He is so fun to watch pimp.gif 1 of the main reasons I went to the game today pimp.gif
post #7516 of 73652

Tears of joy

We finally won one.


post #7517 of 73652
Vogelsong has been 1 of the best pitchers in baseball this season. Cy Young candidate?
post #7518 of 73652
I think im gonna denounce net york mets baseball
FT - DS White Cmnt IV (12) (or sizeswap for an 11)
FS/T- DS Thunder IV (11)
FT - DS White Cmnt IV (12) (or sizeswap for an 11)
FS/T- DS Thunder IV (11)
post #7519 of 73652
The Angels bullpen will be the death of me.

So many gray hairs sprung in these past few days.
"Nothing is wrong with letting the girls know that you're money, and you wanna party"
"Nothing is wrong with letting the girls know that you're money, and you wanna party"
post #7520 of 73652




Tonight.  pimp.gif


*Best move Buck has made was putting Markakis at leadoff.  Dude has been ON FIRE since he came off the DL. 


Let's keep it going fellas!!

post #7521 of 73652
Thread Starter 
I really like the kid and I hope he has a hell of a career. But I hope this doesn't backfire on them either. I haven't been watching lately DJ's, how have they been running the lineup out there lately? Reynolds at 1st and CD the everyday DH? Machado is going to play 3rd then?

BTW, every game in the AL East being meaninful down the stretch > * but it'll be like the old NFC East, these dudes are going to beat the piss out of each other the next month in a half and get taken out in the first round laugh.gif
post #7522 of 73652
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

I really like the kid and I hope he has a hell of a career. But I hope this doesn't backfire on them either. I haven't been watching lately DJ's, how have they been running the lineup out there lately? Reynolds at 1st and CD the everyday DH? Machado is going to play 3rd then?
BTW, every game in the AL East being meaninful down the stretch > * but it'll be like the old NFC East, these dudes are going to beat the piss out of each other the next month in a half and get taken out in the first round laugh.gif

Yea....reynolds has been getting a lot of burn at 1st - that being said, he's been pretty bad all year.  There isn't a chance in hell that he's back with the O's next year.  Also. with Thome being out, CD is getting some time at DH.  I think Davis has a pretty bright future with the team.  The thing with him is that he's either really hot, or in a horrible slump.  I think Machado is gonna spell Betemit at 3rd tonight.  Rumor has it, if the O's are still in contention for the playoffs come September, Dylan Bundy might get a call up to work out of the bullpen. 


I gotta say, the dumpster diving that Dan Duquette has been doing has been paying off.  Guys like Miguel Gonzalez and Omar Quintanilla have been playing very well when given the opportunities. 


When the season started, all I wanted was this team to play around .500 ball.  They've exceeded expectations and it's been a long time since things were this tight all the way around in then AL East.  Like u said...there is nothing better than games being meaningful down the stretch.  You being a Yankees fan wouldn't know that b/c you're a lock every year to get to the playoffs LOL. 


Seeing the Yankees win appreciation!  <---- Kiss of Death. 

post #7523 of 73652
Thread Starter 
Yea, that's all they need this year is a Kiss of Death thread from you and I'll move from 90% to 100% certain they're out in the first round laugh.gif

Olney wrote something this AM about DD and how many moves they've had to make.

Baltimore's successful scramble.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Ripkens and the Tylers have been the lords of baseball in Baltimore for decades, and for those who are more familiar with Cal Sr. and Cal Jr. and Billy than the Tylers, a quick primer is in order. Ernie Tyler was in charge of the Orioles' clubhouse operations for years, before his sons Jimmy and Fred took over; this while Ernie ran the umpires' room, preparing baseballs and running them out to the plate ump during games.

It has been their responsibility to respond to and prepare for every roster move the Orioles make, with the lockers and the jerseys and other equipment. So consider all the work that has entailed in this crazy summer -- they deserve an extra month in their offseason.

The Orioles have been winning this year, and as they begin play today they are 4.5 games out of first place; and because of injuries and because of matchups and roster advantages and disadvantages and extra innings and even Mother Nature, the team has made a staggering number of roster moves.

Jay Moskowitz and Monica Pence of the Orioles pinned down the exact number of club transactions since the day the Orioles' roster was set: As of 11 AM on Wednesday, it comes to 118 moves (including the four guys Baltimore placed on the DL to begin the season):

27: Players optioned to the minors
22: Players recalled
16: 15-day DL
13: Contract selection, from the minors
12: Players designated for assignment
9: Disabled list reinstatement
8: 60-day DL
3: Players lost to waivers
3: Players outright
3: Player acquired in trades
1: Waiver claim
1: Paternity list

But keeping track of the Orioles' transactions is a little bit like asking what time it is, because these numbers are forever changing. Ryan Flaherty was placed on the disabled list, and Manny Machado -- one of the game's top prospects -- was summoned from Class AA, to get a chance to be the Orioles' third baseman. Machado is expected to get his first start tonight against the Royals.

On Tuesday night, the Orioles played a 15-inning game, and in the midst of that, the decision was made to send Zach Britton to the minors. Before the game was over, Tommy Hunter -- who was scheduled to start the next day -- had to warm up in the bullpen, which means that manager Buck Showalter needed a starting pitcher from the minors.

This type of thing has been going on day after day after day with the Orioles, and they have been finding a way to stay in the race. When Orioles GM Dan Duquette answered the phone Wednesday, I asked him the question everybody in baseball has been wondering: When are the Orioles going to collapse?

Duquette laughed; the joke was on me, for sure.

"We've been piecing it together," Duquette said on Wednesday morning. "I think it's important that you have your best team out there every night. ... The combinations that you can bring can you help win a ballgame.

"Buck knows how to get the matchups he wants out of the bullpen, and he knows how to get the most out of the guys in the field."

With all the different platoons and combinations he has been using, Showalter has made sure to keep one player who is good defensively in the mix at each position, an important element in the Orioles' play this year. The manager listed the group of players he might theoretically field in a given game: Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy, Robert Andino, etc. "That's pretty good defense," he said.

Showalter also ticked off a number of subtle additions Duquette and his staffers have made, like Miguel Gonzalez, a 28-year-old pitcher signed out of Mexico midway through spring training, after being seen by Fred Ferreira. Gonzalez has helped to prop up a rotation that has been hurt by injury, with six starts, and nine appearances. Ten different pitchers have made starts for the Orioles this season; they've used 22 different pitchers.

Part of the reason why the Orioles have had success amid change, Showalter believes, is because the culture of the clubhouse. "It's a very professional group," said Showalter. "It's very blue collar -- a lot like Baltimore. They really like each other. And they like to win."

Showalter told all the players brought to spring training that they would get an opportunity, no matter where they opened the year. It may have sounded like manager-speak, but the Orioles could not have stayed in the race without help from players who have climbed from almost all levels of their organization this year.

Manny Machado is only the latest. Somewhere, the Tylers are preparing his jersey for him this morning.


• It's the Summer of Cinderella in Major League Baseball, with the Orioles, but also with the Pirates and the Oakland Athletics. Oakland closed out a series win over the Angels with a game that probably reinforced two thoughts in the minds of all the participants:

1. The Athletics are absolutely for real, because of the depth of their pitching staff and because of the emergence of Yoenis Cespedes and Chris Carter. Cespedes is given free rein, writes John Shea.

2. The Angels' bullpen is a serious, serious problem.

The Pirates just keep on plugging away: They clubbed some home runs to beat the D-Backs, as Bill Brink writes.

Pittsburgh summoned a New Hampshire product to help their bullpen.

• Bryce Harper butted heads with home plate umpire Angel Hernandez, who seemed to administer some frontier justice, repeatedly calling strikes on pitches that appeared clearly out of the zone against Harper -- and so it's probably a good time for Harper to have a day off.

Within his story, Adam Kilgore writes about Harper's reaction after being called out on strikes the second time:

Harper cocked his bat with one hand, as if he was going to throw it, then restrained himself. He chucked his helmet and tossed his bat, and as he ripped his batting gloves off in the middle of the diamond he shook his head.

"I talked to Angel about it right after that at-bat," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "I said, 'What's going on? From where I'm at, those balls are down.' He assured me that they were good pitches. He said he would never do that to Bryce, he loves him, he loves the way he plays and that there's no kind of initiation there. He called it the way he would call it to anybody."

LaRoche said he hoped umpires would be more professional than to single out a 19-year-old rookie, but he admitted the subject had come up.

"I've been in that position," LaRoche said. "I've talked to Bryce a lot about it. I said, 'You've got to keep your mouth shut, but at some point, if it gets really bad you've got to stand up for yourself and not sit there and take it.' Especially as competitive as he is, he's done it right for the most part. He's held his tongue and, eventually, you lose it and he's going to let somebody know about it. Again, I haven't gone back and seen 'em, so I don't know if they were close or how bad they were. Angel told me they were good pitches."

I'd love to be a fly on the wall for the conversations that could take place between MLB and Hernandez, because some of the pitches looked way out of the zone and the whole thing had the feel of an older sibling holding his kid brother down and rubbing snow in his face.

By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Information

0: wins for the Cubs vs the NL West on the road this season (0-13).
7: RBI for Marco Scutaro. Before today, he had never driven in more than four runs in a game.
18: Consecutive at-bats WITHOUT a hit for Ryan Braun before his double in the eighth inning. Just one at bat shy of the longest hitless streak of his career (19 done twice).
21: Home runs for Giancarlo Stanton. FROM ELIAS: Alex Rodriguez is the only other active player who had 20 or more home runs in a season three times before turning 23 years old (1996-98). 24: Wins for the Pirates in one-run games this season, most in the majors.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. It's time for the Mets to start thinking about 2013, writes Anthony McCarron. The Mets have lost nine straight games at Citi Field.

2. The Astros are looking to expand their reach into Mexico.

3. Heath Bell doesn't think he'll be the Marlins' closer again.

4. An extension for Melky Cabrera is not coming soon.

5. The Indians cut Jason Knapp.

6. The Twins need to end their Tsuyoshi Nishioka era, write Patrick Reusse. He had a terrible series against the Indians.

Dings and dents

1. Paul Konerko has a mild concussion, and could be out awhile. And meanwhile, Alex Rios is hurting.

2. Brendan Ryan is hurting.

3. An old injury popped up for Allen Craig. The Cardinals would love to see what Craig could do, writes Bernie Miklasz.

4. Joey Votto could be back next Tuesday, as mentioned within this notebook.

5. Jose Bautista is getting another MRI exam.

6. Yonder Alonso was back in the Padres' lineup.

NL East

• Kyle Kendrick got hit hard, as Matt Gelb writes.

• Jimmy Rollins hit his 40th career leadoff home run. ELIAS: That's the fifth most in MLB history behind Rickey Henderson (81), Alfonso Soriano (54), Craig Biggio (53) and Brady Anderson (44).

• In a season of frustration, Giancarlo Stanton and the Marlins had a great day, as Joe Capozzi writes.

• Dan Uggla racked up three hits, and the Braves rolled again.

AL East

• The Rays have won both games they've played since Evan Longoria came back, and they continue to get great pitching.

• Curtis Granderson and the Yankees piled up a bunch of runs and stopped the bleeding. The Yankees will take this ugly win, writes Ken Davidoff.

• The Red Sox lost another series, and Josh Beckett was hit hard again. Beckett and Jon Lester are at the root of Red Sox woes this season, writes Michael Silverman.

From ESPN Stats & Information, more on Beckett: In his 19th start, Josh Beckett allowed eight earned runs giving him 64 earned runs on the season. In 30 total starts last season he allowed 62. He's now allowed eight earned runs in nine different starts with Boston (of 192). With the Marlins, he never allowed eight earned runs, in 103 starts. All the occurrences of Beckett allowing at least eight earned runs have come since 2006. That is tied for the most such starts in the Majors over that span.

How Beckett struggled against Texas:

A) The Rangers swung at 41 of Beckett's pitches, missing just three (7.3 pct). The 7.3 pct is the lowest in a Beckett start since 2009.
B) Beckett went to a two-strike count in 11 at-bats, but did not finished those at-bats well. The Rangers went 4 for 9 with two home runs and two walks in at-bats getting to two strikes.
C) The Rangers crushed Beckett's fastball and cutter, getting all eight hits against those pitches. The Rangers were 5 for 7 with a triple and homer against the fastball and 3 for 7 with two home runs against the cutter.

NL Central

• My God, the Astros are losing almost every game.

• The Cubs have dropped eight straight games, as Paul Sullivan writes.

• The Cardinals unraveled in a fiasco, writes Rick Hummel.

• The Reds were swept.

• The Brewers are trying to figure out why Jim Henderson was in the minors for so long.

AL Central

• Anibal Sanchez got knocked around, and the Tigers' trade for him looks a little wobbly, writes Drew Sharp.

• Jeremy Guthrie was The Man.

• The Indians ended their losing streak.

NL West

• The Giants crushed the defending champions, putting on a show of offense, as Henry Schulman writes.

• The Dodgers rediscovered their offense.

• Jeff Francis struggled again.

• It was a tough day for Chris Young and the D-Backs.

• Clayton Richard was dominant.

AL West

• Josh Hamilton had a big day; as Nelson Cruz said, he is the heart of the Texas lineup.

• The Rangers overcame a blown lead.

• The Mariners got swept.
post #7524 of 73652
^Great Olney piece. Thanks for posting.

Buck has these boys punching far above their weight. He's been absolutely incredible working the bullpen, and managing the seemingly daily roster changes. DD did the right thing by not bringing in an expensive rental at the deadline. Last year we should have shipped out Hardy when his value was highest, but instead we gave him three years based on a career high HR/FB rate. sick.gif

Regardless of how the season ends, I'm just going to enjoy the ride because I had absolutely no expectations for this team.

Manny Mach debuting smokin.gif Probably needs more time as he's not exactly dominating the minors, but if he can provide some offense it'll be worth it.
Edited by abovelegit1 - 8/9/12 at 8:27am
post #7525 of 73652
Yes, it's just good to see baseball back being relevant in Baltimore during the latter days of Summer. Would be nice to see them make a run into the playoffs.
Straight Cash Homey
Straight Cash Homey
post #7526 of 73652
Thread Starter 
Orioles Rush Machado. Good For Them.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
After last night’s victory over the Mariners, the Orioles announced they were calling up top prospect Manny Machado from Double-A and giving him the third base job for the stretch run. Wilson Betemit hasn’t been a total disaster, posting a 100 wRC+ in 356 plate appearances, but he’s one of the worst defensive players in baseball and is dreadful against lefties, so moving him into a 1B/DH platoon isn’t a bad use of his skills.

The promotion is still a bit of a surprise, however, as Machado is a teenager whose numbers in Double-A don’t suggest that he’s ready to start hitting Major League pitching right away. A .266/.352/.438 line isn’t all that different from what Betemit is doing, and of course Machado is posting that line against inferior pitching. But, despite the mediocre looking slash line, there are reasons to think that Machado might be more ready for the big leagues than the raw numbers suggest.

The first thing to note is that the Eastern League isn’t exactly an offensive haven. The average hitter in the EL this year is hitting .260/.331/.392, and the run environment for the league is just 4.31 runs per game. This isn’t the PCL or the Cal League, where you need to hit .350 just to call it a respectable season. Machado’s line might not look all that sexy, but it is good for a 122 wRC+, and ties him for the 18th best offensive season of any qualified player down there. He’s not tearing up the league, but relative to his peers, his overall line is still pretty good.

Then, there’s the park to consider. Our minor league wRC+ doesn’t include park factors right now, but if it did, Machado would jump to around 130 or so. Dan Szymborski’s published minor league park factors give Bowie a 95, which makes it the most pitcher friendly park in the Eastern League. Not surprisingly, Machado has shown a pretty large home/road split, hitting .254/.327/.398 at home and .279/.375/.478 on the road. Bowie isn’t Petco or anything, but it’s not a great place to hit, and we need to keep that in mind when looking at Machado’s overall numbers.

Still, given that he was only good-not-great in Double-A, he’s probably not ready to come in and dominate in a playoff push. For context, when the Marlins promoted Miguel Cabrera from Double-A at age 20, he was hitting .365/.429/.609 as a 20-year-old, and was still only capable of putting up a 105 wRC+ as a rookie. The two level jump is a big one, especially for an inexperienced kid who probably hasn’t seen a lot of high quality off-speed stuff yet. Odds are pretty decent that he’s going to struggle, and that he’s not going to represent any kind of real upgrade over Betemit down the stretch.

But the odds are already stacked against the Orioles anyway. They are 60-51 despite being outscored by 47 runs, and everyone keeps expecting them to fall out of the race any day now. Instead, they just keep winning. Yes, they’ve built their record on unsustainable performances, racking up 12 straight extra inning wins and going 22-6 in one run games. The way the Orioles have put themselves in contention suggests that they’re not as good as their record suggests, and that of all the teams fighting for the wild card, they’re the one least likely to continue winning games at this pace.

But none of that should matter to the Orioles. The reality is that those 111 games are in the books, and no one is going to be stripping wins from them simply because they won more close games than we would have expected. Baltimore is tied with Oakland and Detroit for the lead in the wild card race with 51 games to go, and in that kind of small sample, the variation in expected record around a team’s true talent level is pretty large. Even if we accept that the Orioles are playing over their heads, that does not preclude them from continuing to play over their heads for the rest of the season.

It might not be the most likely outcome, but the Orioles shouldn’t give up on a playoff run simply because the results aren’t likely to turn out in their favor. Even if we thought the Orioles were a true talent .460 team, we’d still expect there to be a wide range of possible outcomes given their current situation. In general, standard deviations around a team’s true talent level are believed to be about eight to 10 wins per full season, so it’s completely normal for a 75 win team to win 65 or 85 games just due to normal variation. In smaller samples, the variations are even larger, so even if we analyze the Orioles as a true talent .460 winning percentage team, that just means that they’ll probably win between something like 39%-53% of their games in August and September. In other words, they could be good, they could be bad, or they could be anything in between. Their underlying stats suggest that the mean is shifted towards the losing side of the curve, but that doesn’t mean that the winning side doesn’t exist simply because they’ve already “gotten lucky” in terms of wins and losses. They are not more likely to underperform now simply because they’ve already overperformed in the first four months.

The Orioles shouldn’t be the favorites to capture a playoff spot, but there’s a real chance that they sneak in and steal one. Cool Standings gives them a 19% chance of making the playoffs, which is simply too large of a window to ignore. The potential returns on a playoff run are huge, and push the value of going for it well into the positive, even given the unlikelihood of success.

We can sit here and say that Machado is probably not ready for the big leagues, and the Orioles probably aren’t going be able to hang around with Detroit, Anaheim, and Oakland in the wild card hunt, and odds are pretty good that at the end of the season, we’ll be right. But, what good does it do Dan Duquette to join in that crowd and tell his fan base to not get too excited because this probably won’t last? The Orioles wisely chose not to punt their future to make a marginal upgrade at the trade deadline, but calling up Machado now is nothing like trading away a good young player for a rent-a-veteran. The Orioles are basically giving themselves another lottery ticket, and if Machado’s talent overcomes his lack of experience, then they might have a slightly better chance of continuing to beat the odds.

That it probably won’t be enough isn’t really the question. Is it worth trying in a season where the team has given fans a reason to come back to the park, even if the odds are stacked against them? Absolutely. The cost of promoting Machado at this point is quite low. If he flops, then he’ll simply start next year back in the minors, and they’ll still be able to manage his service time if they want to get that extra year of team control. The only way they lose that extra year is if he’s good enough to force them to keep him in in the Majors for the next seven years, which also sounds like a pretty good outcome for the Orioles.

Perhaps the more interesting decision will come in September if the team is still hanging around in the wild card race. The Orioles also promoted Dylan Bundy to Double-A after his start for Frederick last night, and if they get into September and need an additional arm, they’ll have a premium stuff teenager knocking on the door. That one might be a tougher call, given how hard they’ve tried to manage his workload this year, but limiting his innings in April and May might serve to give them confidence that he’s still got something left for September. If Machado hits and the Orioles win, we could be having this same conversation about Bundy’s promotion in three weeks.

For the Orioles franchise and the sake of a fan base that hasn’t had much to cheer about in the last 15 years, I hope they keep beating the odds, and I’m glad to see that they’re willing to take steps to try and push those numbers towards the more favorable outcomes when they can.

What Will Melky Cabrera Make On The Market?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Melky Cabrera is having a career-year. After posting 4.2 WAR last year, Cabrera has once again been effective. The 27-year-old outfielder has already passed that total this season, accumulating 4.8 WAR so far.

Cabrera’s performance comes at a great time for him. At the end of the season, he can become a free-agent. And it looks like he’ll have a chance to hit the market, since the San Francisco Giants have put off negotiations with him until then. Cabrera’s two-year breakout is also interesting since he’s never produced like this before. All of those factors make Cabrera one of the most unique players to hit the market in quite some time. Because of that, no one is really sure how much he’ll make.

For the purpose of this article, I’m not going to focus on whether Cabrera’s performance is sustainable. Many teams will likely be cautious with Cabrera considering his past performance never gave any indication that he would breakout like this. I’m going to focus mainly on how much value he’s produced recently, and compare it to similar contracts.

Trying to find similar players to Cabrera is difficult. Sorting by players who accumulated similar value throughout their careers may not be helpful since Cabrera is mainly going to be paid for what he’s done the last two seasons. At least it gives us a starting point, and more examples of potential contract ideas for Cabrera. Over his career, Cabrera has been worth 11.6 WAR. His first year in the league with significant playing time came when he was 21-years-old, and he’s 27-years-old now. Sorting with those parameters gives us a good starting place. (You’ll have to skip to page three on that list to find Cabrera.)

As expected, the list doesn’t give us many great comparisons. Most of the players on that list were average players who never signed long-term deals, or younger guys who accumulated the same amount of WAR in less time than Cabrera. There were three players that stood out on the list.

Player First Year WAR Deal
Justin Morneau Age-23 12.0 Six-year, $80 million
Torii Hunter Age-23 12.6 Four-year, $32 million
Alex Gordon Age-23 11.8 Four-year, $37.5 million

All of these players produced similar value to Cabrera during their careers, and signed deals at age-27. This list is far from perfect, though. All three players on the list experienced their first seasons with significant playing time at age-23, two years later than Cabrera. All three players also signed extensions with their teams, which means they probably took less than they could have received on the market. This also gives us a wide range to work with. Gordon and Hunter made around $30 million, but Morneau made $80 million. The most comparable player of this bunch is probably Gordon, who experienced a similar surge in value right before he signed his extension. And that could be a fair starting point when you consider Cabrera’s breakout has lasted two seasons, and Cabrera will be able to test the market. At the very least, Gordon’s contract gives us the floor for a Cabrera deal.

In order to account for Cabrera’s recent performance, we can use the same criteria, but sort to only include players during their age-26 and age-27 seasons. That should give us players who experienced similar value just before receiving a new contract.

In his last two years, Cabrera has accumulated 9.0 WAR. There’s a good chance he’ll add to that number before the season is out, too. Using the new list, there were two players that produced similar value, and signed a deal after their age-27 season.

Player WAR Deal
Jimmy Rollins 9.3 Five-year, $40 million
Alex Rios 10.6 Seven-year, $70 million
Melky Cabrera 9.0 ???

Again, these deals are not completely ideal as both were actually extensions. Still, they give us an idea of what might happen. What’s interesting is that Jimmy Rollins made $40 million while signing an extension in 2006. That could suggest that Cabrera is sure to make more this off-season.

The more interesting comparison here is Alex Rios. Rios had a decent career before exploding for two straight seasons of +5 WAR before signing his extension with the Toronto Blue Jays. Cabrera is highly unlikely to receive a seven-year deal on the market, but should make more per season since he’ll make it to the free agent market. In the first two years of his extension, Rios made less than $6 million both years. Since Cabrera is already making $6 million this season, he’s unlikely to take a pay cut with his new team.

So, let’s put together the information that we have and estimate a contract for Cabrera. Since Gordon was our most recent example, let’s assume Cabrera signs a four-year deal. We’ve also determined that Rios’ deal is too long, and too cheap early on. The Blue Jays were able to make those two seasons relatively cheap since Rios was an extension. That won’t happen to Cabrera on the market. So, we’re going to sign Cabrera to four years of the Rios contract, but drop the first two seasons. That gives us a four-year, $46.2 million deal for Cabrera. And Assuming Cabrera demands five years, we can add in the final year on Rios’ deal, giving us a five-year, $58.7 million deal. Either way, Cabrera will make slightly over $10 million per season.

Going back to Gordon’s deal, this actually makes sense. Gordon is our most recent comparison and he only made $37.5 million over four years. But since Melky will hit the market, he’ll likely command a larger salary. It looks like anywhere between $45 million to $60 million is what it’s going to take to sign Cabrera.

Mike Fiers or Marco Estrada for the Future?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Brewers current rotation might be the most fascinating group in baseball at the moment. With Chris Narveson and Shaun Marcum on the DL and Zack Greinke in Anaheim, the team has had to turn to three unproven big league starters to fill out their rotation – Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, and Mark Rogers. Generally, when you move a guy from the bullpen to the rotation and call up two kids from the minors, the results aren’t great, but Fiers, Estrada, and Rogers have been fantastic, and the team hasn’t seen a real drop-off by going with the kids.

Fiers has gotten the most attention, as he’s run off nine straight starts with at least six innings pitched while allowing two runs or fewer, posting a 1.03 ERA over that 61 inning stretch. And, certainly, Fiers story deserves to be told, especially considering his 88 mph fastball and general lack of pedigree as any kind of top prospect. His eye-popping 5/1 K/BB ratio without big time stuff has made him a central topic of discussion, and rightfully so. However, when I was looking at the list of guys who have posted similar statistical seasons to Fiers, I couldn’t help but notice that Estrada was on that list too.

To filter out Fiers-like pitchers, I looked at starting pitchers over the last 11 years who have posted a walk rate below 6%, a strikeout rate above 20%, and a ground ball rate below 35%. Essentially, this skill set is strike-throwing fly ball guy who misses more bats than you might expect due to location and deception, and the other names who have had similar types of seasons are all pretty good pitchers — Ted Lilly, Scott Baker, Colby Lewis, and Phil Hughes. But, those four are joined not just by Fiers, but also by Estrada, who is having a very similar season to Fiers in some ways.

If we look at them side by side as just starting pitchers this year, the comparison looks like this:

Fiers 79 IP 5.1% BB% 24.8% K% 30.7% GB% .286 BABIP
Estrada 72 IP 4.1% BB% 24.9% K% 32.8% GB% .290 BABIP

In four of the five main variables that drive run prevention, Fiers and Estrada are nearly equal. However, Fiers has a 1.82 ERA as a starter, while Estrada checks in at 4.40. The difference? The long ball.

Fiers’ HR/FB rate is just 3.6%, while Estrada checks in at 15.8%, which translates to an extra 12 home runs allowed for Estrada despite facing 22 fewer batters. The average home run generates about 1.4 runs of offense, so we’d have expected those 12 home runs to lead to an extra 17 runs allowed for Estrada, while the actual gap is 20 runs allowed. In other words, nearly all of the difference in run prevention between the two is home run prevention.

We can be pretty sure that neither of these guys are going to keep giving up home runs at their current paces. Even if Fiers was the second coming of Matt Cain (career 6.8% HR/FB) or Jered Weaver (7.5%), we’d still expect him to be north of 8% simply because of the ballpark he’s playing in. And, of course, 70 innings isn’t near enough of a sample to conclude that Fiers’ home run prevention skills make him another exception to the rule.

With Estrada, we have a little more data that points to a home run problem not being a complete fluke, as 12.5% of his fly balls had gone for home runs even before this season began, so this isn’t entirely new for him. Of course, we’re still dealing with a career total of just over 200 innings, so we don’t want to say that Estrada is definitely the new Brett Myers just yet. Most likely, Estrada’s home run rate is going to come down while Fiers is going to go up, but you know all of this already.

But, the question remains: if the Brewers have to just pick one for their 2013 rotation — this is a hypothetical, as they can of course have both if they want — which one would you rather go with? The 2012 performance results obviously point to Fiers, but the stuff points to Estrada, as his fastball is two full ticks higher, and he’s generated more swings and more swinging strikes than Fiers as a starter. Estrada also has a longer Major League track record of missing bats, while Fiers is running a higher strikeout rate in the Majors than he did in Triple-A, which is fairly unusual.

You can make arguments for preferring the long term future for either one. I’m honestly not sure what side I’d come down on, so let’s put this to a poll. Pick one – Michael Fiers or Marco Estrada. Who you got?

Bartolo Colon’s Streak Without An Earned Run.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
On Tuesday evening, 39-year-old Bartolo Colon handcuffed the Los Angeles Angels for seven innings, only surrendering a single unearned run in his final inning of work.

Although that unearned run ended his consecutive scoreless inning streak at 22.1 innings, he does currently maintain a streak of 22.2 innings without surrendering an earned run. The last earned run given up by the right-hander came on a solo home run by the Yankees’ Curtis Granderson on July 22 in Oakland. Since that home run … nothing.

Extended stints without allowing an earned run are not uncommon in Major League Baseball. After all, Ryan Dempster threw 33-consecutive innings without surrendering an earned or unearned run in July.

Instead, the intriguing aspect of Colon’s streak lies in his pitch selection and how he is finding success on the mound.

On Tuesday against the Angels, Bartolo Colon threw 83 fastballs amongst the 93 pitches needed to span his seven-inning performance. He threw a fastball 89.2% of the time. The crazy part of that extreme reliance on his fastball is that it perfectly mirrors his seasonal numbers. In 2012, the Dominican Republic native has featured his fastball in 89% of his pitches. That is by far the highest in the league amongst qualified pitchers, with Justin Masterson (78.6%) ranking second.

We can take this even further, though. Since 2002 — when FanGraphs began having pitch-specific data — no pitcher (min. 100 innings) has thrown a higher percentage of fastballs in a single season than Bartolo Colon has in 2012. Justin Masterson again shows up in 2011, throwing his fastball 84.4% of the time, but that is the closest challenger to Colon’s 89% fastball usage this year.

Most pitchers who heavily rely on a fastball either generate a high percentage of ground balls — such as Justin Masterson or Aaron Cook — or miss a ton of bats with the fastball.

Bartolo Colon does neither. He is just above the league average for ground ball rates this season, sitting at 46.3%, and his career average ground ball rate is only 41.9%. Not only that, but he also has the lowest SwStr% of any qualified pitcher this year at 4.5%. On Tuesday evening, he threw 83 fastballs and got Angels’ hitters to swing and miss at exactly one fastball throughout his entire seven innings on the mound.

Certainly playing in the cavernous Coliseum aids his success — as does having the Oakland Athletics defense behind him — but the majority of his success comes from pounding the strike zone, limiting walks, and getting opposing hitters to swing at pitches outside the strike zone. Despite throwing mostly fastballs with a pedestrian average of 90.3 miles per hour, Colon induces swings at pitches outside the strike zone 32.6% of the time — though opposing hitters do not often swing and miss outside the strike zone. Instead, he is able to induce weaker contact outside the zone.

To narrow the scope to his last three starts, within which the vast majority of his recent streak has occurred, Bartolo Colon has thrown 290 pitches. Of those 290 pitches, 262 of them have been fastballs (90.3%). Of those 262 fastballs, the right-hander has only induced 11 whiffs, meaning he has generated a 4.2% SwStr% on his fastball over that stretch.

All of those numbers are almost identical to his season numbers, yet he is experiencing abnormal success. At 39 years old, Bartolo Colon has been fascinating to watch. He is once again finding success in a major league rotation, despite legitimately being a one-trick pony.

Colon is tentatively scheduled to pitch next Tuesday on the road against the Kansas City Royals, where he will attempt to lengthen his streak, and you can be sure the Royals hitters already know what’s coming: a heavy diet of fastballs in the strike zone.

Reviewing the AL Sleeper Prospects of 2012.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
One of the more enjoyable parts of the annual Top 15 prospects lists that I do at FanGraphs is unearthing and writing about new, unpolished prospect gems. As a result, I added an extra player to each Top 15 list during the pre-2012 series and highlighted a “sleeper prospect” that did not make it into the featured group.

The minor league regular season ends in less than a month and the 2013 Top 15 prospect lists are already forming in my mind so I though it would be a good time to reflect back on my collection of sleepers and see how many of them woke up.

The AL East

Dalton Pompey, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: Pompey, 19, was assigned to short-season Vancouver to begin 2012 and was looking good (20.5 BB%, 172 wRC+) before a broken hamate bone in his left wrist wiped out his season after just 11 games.

Zach Davies, RHP, Baltimore Orioles: The 19-year-old hurler received an aggressive assignment to low-A ball in 2012 despite not playing in ’11 after signing his first pro contract. He’s done a solid job in 20 appearances (12 starts), although his strikeout rate (6.63 K/9) could use some helium.

Jeff Ames, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays: A raw pitcher with big-time velocity, Ames has a 1.85 ERA (2.67 FIP) in nine starts in short-season ball. The 21-year-old pitcher is ironing out his repertoire in hopes of finding one or two reliable pitches to go with the heat but I’m betting he’s a future reliever at the big league level.

Jose Vinicio, SS, Boston Red Sox: Vinicio just recently turned 19 and has spent much of the year in low-A ball where he’s hit .282 but his wRC+ is just 91 so he’s been a little below-average with his overall offense game, thanks in part to a low walk rate (4.8 BB%) and a high strikeout rate (20.5 K%).

Isaias Tejeda, C, New York: I had to dig deep into the Yankees system to pick a sleeper because so many prospects receive attention. I may have dug a little too deep for Tejeda. The 20-year-old catcher has hit just .136 in short-season ball after posting a .971 OPS in rookie ball in 2011.

The AL Central

Alex Monsalve, C, Cleveland Indians: Monsalve, 20, hasn’t taken the big leap I was hoping for, but he’s gotten better. Moved up to full-season ball in 2012 for the first time in his career, the young catcher has seen his wRC+ increase from 88 to 102 while also displaying more power. He’s also trimmed his strikeout rate from 19.4 to 11.2% and recently received a promotion to high-A ball.

Humberto Arteaga, SS, Kansas City Royals: A Latin gem out of the Royals system, Arteaga made his debut in 2011 at the age of 17. He then moved up from rookie to advanced-rookie ball in 2012 and has been OK, but not great, with the bat. He has a wRC+ of 86 but he’s shown a little pop in his bat and has struck out just 7.4% of the time. Unfortunately, his walk rate sits at 2.3%.

Tyler Collins, OF, Detroit Tigers: With a thin system in terms of impact prospects, Detroit can use all the help it can get and Collins has been a revelation. After a solid debut in 2011, he’s built upon that success with a nice campaign in high-A ball that’s seen him post a 136 wRC+ while hitting just under .300. He doesn’t have a huge ceiling but Collins, 22, could develop into a solid No. 4 or platoon outfielder.

Niko Goodrum, SS, Minnesota Twins: Goodrum started out very well in June but came back to earth in July. Overall, he’s hitting .242 but has shown surprising power with 18 extra base hits in 39 games. His 21.5% strikeout rate will be a little more palatable if he keeps showing the power and continuing to display a high walk rate (currently 16%).

Jeff Soptic, RHP, Chicago White Sox: Soptic is your typical White Sox pitching prospect. In other words, he throws hard. The right-hander has struggled in 2012 while battling control issues that have seen him post a walk rate of 5.59 BB/9. When he finds the plate, though, he’s tough to hit (5.90 H/9).

The AL West

Kole Calhoun, OF, Los Angeles Angels: After posting a wRC+ of 142 in high-A ball in 2011, Calhoun was skipped over double-A and landed in triple-A to begin this season. He’s hit well in the minors and even received some injury-fill-in time at the big league level. Calhoun looks like a respectable future fourth outfielder at the big league level.

Gregory Paulino, RHP, Oakland Athletics: Paulino’s 4.78 ERA in rookie ball is nothing to write home about but the 19-year-old prospect has a solid FIP at 3.06 and he’s shown good control of the strike zone (2.08 BB/9). He’s also missing quite a few bats (8.72 K/9).

Carter Capps, RHP, Seattle Mariners: Capps, who turned 22 yesterday, blew through the minors in less than two years and reached the majors at the end of July. Prior to his promotion, the hurler struck out 72 batters, with just 12 walks, in 50.0 double-A innings.

Matt West, RHP, Texas Rangers: Converted from third baseman to hard-throwing pitcher in 2011, West injured his elbow at the beginning of ’12 and hasn’t been right since.

Lyle Overbay: Sneaky Stretch Addition?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Lyle Overbay is available. The 35-year-old was designated for assignment July 31 by the Diamondbacks, a move that set him to clear waivers Friday and become a free agent should no team take him off Arizona’s hands.

It’s understandable why the Diamondbacks let Overbay go. He only mustered two hits in his final 25 at-bats for the team as Paul Goldschmidt established himself as the everyday first baseman. No platoon necessary there, and with 40-man roster spots required to make deadline math work out, Overbay was out.

But even with his brutal finish, Overbay hit .292/.367/.449 (112 wRC+) for the Diamondbacks and has a three-year line of .248/.330/.413 (100 wRC+). Average hitters are scarce in August. Can Overbay still impact a playoff race?

Perhaps not in a typical season — it isn’t often we see multiple contenders struggling to adequately man first base. But such has been the case in 2012. The Orioles and Rays, each within 1.5 games of a Wild Card slot, have identical wRC+ marks of 93 from the cold corner. The Pirates check in at 92, but will try Gaby Sanchez instead.

These laggards bring us to two NL West teams, the most fitting suitors for the former Diamondback: the Giants, sitting in 25th at an 88 wRC+, and the Dodgers, last in the majors with a decrepit 68 wRC+. Thank James Loney (.252/.302/.332, 325 PA) and Juan Rivera .250/.286/.357 (.252/.302/.332).

The Giants have at least considered the Overbay option, but the fit only works if Brandon Belt‘s reverse platoon splits are legitimate. He owns a .378 career wOBA against lefties with just a .297 mark against righties. But with just 382 plate appearances against righties and 125 against lefties, chances are things will at least even out.

Without those reverse splits, an Overbay-Belt platoon makes little sense (beyond any development concerns for the young Belt), as Overbay’s usefulness is limited to facing righties. He owns a .347 wOBA in the split since 2009 compared to a .285 mark against lefties. Still, the Giants could use him on the bench — San Francisco pinch hitters have managed just a .160/.234/.244 line this season. Overbay would be a marked improvement over Aubrey Huff (49 wRC+).

And so we have the Dodgers. New ownership at Chavez Ravine has made the big moves, bringing in expensive players in Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton. The club still faces a grind to the playoffs though, 1.5 games behind San Francisco in the NL West. First base is the major need, and Overbay’s preference to hit right-handers works fine for the Dodgers. Their static duo has been even worse against right-handers, with a .273 wOBA trailing the 29th-best Mariners by 12 points.

The Dodgers have toyed with post-July additions in the past — Greg Maddux and Jim Thome, just as examples. Rarely do we see a team so lacking in one spot get the chance to patch it after the deadline. Los Angeles just might have that chance with Overbay, a chance well worth dipping into the August transaction market again.

post #7527 of 73652
MLB gettin serious now about length of games laugh.gif

post #7528 of 73652

O's getting their ***** kicked, but Machado just got his first MLB hit - a triple.

post #7529 of 73652
Broxton blows.
post #7530 of 73652

Machado with 2 homers tonight...

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