Baseball has lost every case in federal court. Their track record is bad. I'm not going to say he's going to win but I think he has a great chance.
They did a lot of shady things to get Alex. Alex might lose the battle but MLB will lose the war. MLB paid for Bosch's court and lawyer fees. Also paid over 150K in cash and never filed it which is illegal. MLB, also knew about Boscho's clinic and supplying minors with these drugs and ignored it while hunting down Alex.Tracked down ex employees and the clinic and paid cash for evidence and their testimonies. He's never had one official failed drug test which makes it seem like they're singe him out. Bud and his peers have repeatedly broke many laws to get him and Alex has like five different of the best lawyer fees in this world. I think he knows he's going down but he's going to expose MLB and make them look just as bad. There was also some shady stuff with the Arbitrator and Selig but I can't remember what that situation was.
I look forward to this case and Bud Selig going down
No way this goes to court or ARod wins. You can't bargin and shorter suspensions, have both sides agree on it, THEN take it to court. If ARod really wanted to take it to court, he wouldn't have settled got 162 and continued to fight it. You can say about the can of worms it would open on MLB, but ARod also docent want his personal can of worms open to public court. It would destroy his imagine even more.
Jordy Nelson: Best WR in the game.................................. The Roc Boys in the building tonight
Jordy Nelson: Best WR in the game.................................. The Roc Boys in the building tonight
The problem with that is when leagues have CBAs the courts don't get involved. Yeah it looks bad that MLB paid for Bosch's lawyers but so did A-Rod. He paid a $25,000 retainer for a lawyer to represent Bosch and then wired her another $50,000 that she returned cause she said she wasn't representing him. A-Rod is fighting a losing battle no matter how you look at it. Its gonna be difficult if not impossible for him to get a court to take this case. If the case is heard, A-Rod would have to argue that the arbitrator was wrong and wasn't impartial. That's gonna be difficult. Horowitz is one of the most respected arbitrators and most judges are gonna take his side over A-Rods. Saying a judge does take A-Rod's side, Horowitz's reason for his decision that is private is now opened and it surely isn't going to be in A-Rod's favor. If all of that is heard, its gonna come down to Bosch's testimony. A-Rod's side is gonna try to say he's lying but MLB could call all of the other players that were suspended to testify and ask them questions. I'm sure MLB would have no problem getting immunity for the players to testify honestly without incriminating themselves. But they would give Bosch and his testimony credibility. Everything is basically on baseball's side.
You do realize that A-Rod is going after MLB's "procedural due process"? This isn't about getting the arbitrator's ruling overturned, it's about going after MLB and their illegal due process. They will sue MLB for damages and win. A-Rod will not only seek his salary for the 2014 season, he will also get enough in the settlement to pay for legal fees. What I am more interested in is if the Federal Government will finally decide to re-evaluate the Anti-trust laws that MLB is clearly in violation of still.
The process is collectively bargained (entering into a contract). The court has no substantial interest in getting involved because there nothing illegal being done here.
His legal team is going after the process. There is no need to keep going back and forth; you tend to believe his team doesn't stand a chance to win and I believe the exact opposite. I'll revisit this thread once a decision in the court has been made.
His legal team is going after the process. There is no need to keep going back and forth; you tend to believe his team doesn't stand a chance to win and I believe the exact opposite. I'll revisit this thread once a decision in the court has been made.
You realize A-Rod and all other players agreed to the process, right?
His legal team is going after the process. There is no need to keep going back and forth; you tend to believe his team doesn't stand a chance to win and I believe the exact opposite. I'll revisit this thread once a decision in the court has been made.
You realize A-Rod and all other players agreed to the process, right?
The court doesn't care if it's unfair.
But you do understand that the process and the way MLB handled pretty much everything was illegal. From leaking court documents and illegally obtaining evidence/witnesses. I'm not saying Alex wins but Alex doesn't care about his image and MLB will come out looking real bad. Alex already looks bad to most people. Another problem is a lot of these reports and articles you read are biased and paid for by MLB. It will be a fun **** storm to watch unravel.
Rodriguez has already sued baseball commissioner Bud Selig and MLB in a New York state court, arguing that the suspension and baseball's alleged leaks to the media have damaged his career. He would have to turn to federal courts to challenge Horowitz's decision, which he said in his statement he plans to do. A likely first step would be to seek a preliminary injunction of the suspension. In doing so, Rodriguez would ask a federal judge to essentially "suspend the suspension" until there can be a full court hearing, likely later in 2014, on the merits of his lawsuit.
Unfortunately for Rodriguez, a judge would be unlikely to do that. Judges usually reject requests for preliminary injunctions, which are sometimes described as "extraordinary" remedies, because they tend to dramatically impact litigations and are typically based on incomplete records. Consider the impact of a preliminary injunction being granted for Rodriguez: He would be able to play in 2014 until a trial, which may not be scheduled for well into the this season or beyond.
Rodriguez's attorneys are also likely to struggle to prove the necessary elements for a preliminary injunction. A judge would balance four factors in reviewing whether to grant an injunction.
First, Rodriguez would have to show he has a substantial likelihood of success on the merits. The problem for Rodriguez is that federal courts are highly deferential to arbitration rulings and Horowitz is both experienced and respected. Rodriguez would have to supply compelling evidence that Horowitz exhibited what's known as a "manifest disregard of the law" in his decision-making. This standard usually requires a showing that the arbitrator made an egregious error in evaluating the evidence or otherwise ignored basic legal principles. It seems unlikely that Horowitz made such an error. Rodriguez may highlight how Selig avoided having to testify, but it's unclear why Selig "had" to testify to make the arbitration valid. Selig, according to published reports, has never testified in an arbitration related to performance-enhancing drugs.
In addition, the fact that the players' association did not formally challenge Selig's absence does not help Rodriguez's case. Rodriguez would also assert that MLB strategically leaked information to sympathetic media members as a way of undermining his chances in arbitration, but proving such a claim with actual evidence would be difficult.
Rodriguez might fare slightly better arguing the second factor for a preliminary injunction: if no injunction is granted, he would suffer irreparable injury. Rodriguez would likely insist that if the suspension is carried out, he would suffer permanent damage to his career and legacy. The problem with this is that "irreparable injuries" are generally considered those that can't be repaired by money. While Rodriguez might insist that no amount of money can repair his legacy -- and his Hall of Fame chances -- if he ultimately wins a trial later this year or in 2015, a court would probably be skeptical of such an argument. Judges usually find money damages to be able to repair most types of legal harms, including those to one's reputation.
Rodriguez would also face a challenge establishing the third factor: that a preliminary injunction would not harm MLB more than it helps him. He would emphasize the suspension is primarily about him, not MLB. For its part, the league would contend that an injunction of any player's suspension would jeopardize important dispute-resolution agreements between MLB and the players' association. An injunction might also encourage future suspended players to file lawsuits.
Lastly, Rodriguez would have to convince a judge that an injunction would advance the public's interest. He could insist that MLB's purported media leaks have unfairly prejudiced his legal rights and tainted perception of the evidence. He might also criticize his own union for not fighting as hard for him as perhaps it has for others players. Essentially, Rodriguez would claim that it is in the public's interest to have a court evaluate the process that led to his suspension. Baseball, however, would claim that Rodriguez, by virtue of his membership in the players' association, agreed to the dispute-resolution process that he now criticizes. If Rodriguez has a grievance with the players' association, MLB might add, perhaps he should sue the players' association for failing to satisfy its duty of fair representation.
The best deal that Alex Rodriguez might have made with Major League Baseball would have happened last spring, before Tony Bosch came in from the cold and agreed to be a witness for Major League Baseball. There were talks about a negotiated plea bargain then, deals put on the table.
If Rodriguez had agreed to something last spring, before MLB investigators had all the Biogenesis details from Bosch, Rodriguez might've been able to barter for a suspension for something close to 50 games, or what a first-time offender gets for a first positive PED test.
If he had taken responsibility then, owned up and made his best possible deal, then A-Rod probably would've been back on the field late in the 2013 season, with the whole matter behind him. Yes, a deal with MLB then would've cost him about $9 million, or a third of his $28 million salary in 2013, and he would've been forced to do another perp walk, as he did in 2009. He probably would've had to endure another excruciating, embarrassing news conference, and this time around, his teammates might have let him do it solo, unlike in 2009, when they stood with him.
But if he had settled his case in April or May, he would've been back on the field in 2014 doing what he loves to do above all else: playing baseball. A-Rod's sincerity has been picked apart on a lot of levels, but even teammates who don't like him don't question his love to be on the field. If he had settled his case in April or May, his uneasy relationship with the Yankees would've remained workable.
But as MLB bore down on Biogenesis and all the players whose names were scrawled in Bosch's notes, A-Rod did what he had done (repeatedly) in the past, in interviews with Katie Couric and others: He dug in and doubled down on the deceit. He figured he would find a way to win. He shoved aside some lawyers and hired other lawyers; he hired more public relations advisers, who probably aren't working for free and probably told him what he wanted to hear.
When Bosch met with MLB investigators, other players realized all attempts to run and hide were fruitless. Ryan Braun was the first to plea bargain. He had lied repeatedly after a positive drug test in 2012, verbally attacked collector Dino Laurenzi and called into question the whole drug-testing system, and after winning his appeal, he turned again to Bosch. Yet in the end, because Braun worked out a plea bargain, he got a relatively soft landing: a 65-game suspension, at a cost of about $3 million in wages and a lot more in embarrassment. In the press release that accompanied the announcement of his agreement, he was actually praised by Rob Manfred, MLB's No. 2 official:
"We commend Ryan Braun for taking responsibility for his past actions. We all agree that it is in the best interests of the game to resolve this matter. When Ryan returns, we look forward to him making positive contributions to Major League Baseball, both on and off the field."
This could've been A-Rod's deal in the spring. If he had been the first to admit to cheating, and lying, this almost certainly could've been his plea bargain.
But the deal that was possible in April or May was gone by late July. Still, Major League Baseball wanted to get the whole matter behind it, and MLB officials made deals all over the place -- with Jhonny Peralta, Nelson Cruz, etc. -- and they continued to talk with the union about a deal for Rodriguez, too.
A-Rod's chance at a settlement vanished when Bosch (right) entered the picture.
Maybe it would've been for something in the range of 100 to 150 games at that point, because MLB had learned from Bosch about the layers of Rodriguez's deceit. But they had something on the table.
Michael Weiner, the late head of the Major League Baseball Players Association, made reference to a possible plea bargain for Rodriguez in a radio interview.
"I don't want to give a number, but there was a number that I gave A-Rod and we advised him to take it," Weiner told host Chris Russo on Sirius/XM's Mad Dog Radio. "He was never given that number."
What was evident from the words of Weiner -- who had seen the evidence gathered by Major League Baseball -- was that there was reason for Rodriguez to seek a plea bargain. Weiner didn't attack the evidence, as A-Rod did; he recommended a plea bargain, at a certain level.
If he had worked out a plea bargain then, it's possible he would've been back on the field by June 1 of this season. His relationship with the Yankees would have remained civil, and the team might have welcomed him back, given its financial obligation to him at that moment ($25 million for 2014, $21 million for 2015 and $20 million for 2016 and 2017).
But the plea bargain talks never advanced. A-Rod hired more expensive lawyers, got more PR advice. His relationship with the Yankees quickly moved from uneasy to disastrous, and by the end of the fall, A-Rod was at war with his employers, as well as with Major League Baseball.
He went through his weeks of arbitration with drama and rhetoric. He and his lawyers went after MLB, the Yankees and their doctors, Bud Selig, and even the sport's arbitration process, which was negotiated by union legend Marvin Miller. He went on the radio and said what he wouldn't say in the arbitration hearing, that he hadn't used PEDs; Manfred noted in his "60 Minutes" interview that Rodriguez was the first player ever to decline to testify in his own defense.
But he lost, and now that Rodriguez has almost fully played out his options through his stonewalling, this is where he stands. He will lose $25 million in salary through his season-long suspension -- and he presumably owes many more dollars for his representation that is taking his fight in federal court.
And now his relationship with the Yankees may be so toxic that the organization -- which has a lot more money than he has -- may go all out to mount a legal challenge on A-Rod's contract. The Yankees could try to argue that through his actions last fall, Rodriguez violated the terms of his contract. They may work to void the last three years of his deal, worth $61 million -- and even if they're unsuccessful in that, they may reach the conclusion that it's just better to cut him after he serves his suspension.
If that happened, A-Rod would get a lot of the money owed to him, but there is no guarantee that any other team would sign him because he's not an elite player any more. A year from now, he'll be 39 years old, with a history of major hip operations, more than 15 months removed from his last game action, and he'll have an ugly reputation within the game. He'll bear the promise of a circus and a largely negative media and public reaction for any team that considers signing him.
In 2007, Barry Bonds had an on-base percentage of .480 with the San Francisco Giants -- .480 -- and an OPS of 1.065. The Giants cut ties, and in spite of the fact he clearly still had some skills, Bonds never found work; to this day, he hasn't formally retired.
Maybe you choose to believe that the promise of a headache was too great for any prospective employer to sign Bonds, or maybe you believe some teams took the high road, or maybe you believe he was blackballed. Whatever the reason, MLB teams turned their backs on Bonds, once and for all.
And whenever the Yankees sever their working relationship with Rodriguez, he may face the same fate.
It didn't have to be this way, of course. It's easy to think about what could have been with Rodriguez. I remember the first time I saw Rodriguez, when he was still a teenager. He had been drafted No. 1 overall by the Seattle Mariners in the summer of 1993, and as he went through a protracted negotiation with the Mariners, he stopped by Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego early one afternoon.
All-Star right fielder Tony Gwynn and a few other Padres were on the field for early batting practice, and I was a beat reporter covering the team for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Rodriguez stood in the empty stands, right next to the home dugout, and talked with Gwynn, seeking out his advice. The canvas in front of A-Rod at that moment was entirely blank. He was regarded as one of the most talented prospects ever, with a whole career of success and choices in front of him.
But time after time, he made poor decisions, all the way through the 2013 season, and through his response Saturday to his year-long suspension.
He'll walk away from the game with a lot of money, for sure, but he is now persona non grata in MLB, perhaps forever more. He seems destined for a post-MLB career of anger, like his boyhood idol Jose Canseco, and like Canseco, his only forums could be Twitter, wrestling matches or independent league games.
He could be headed for same ignominy that Shoeless Joe Jackson lived out, dramatized at the end of "Eight Men Out."
Because of Alex Rodriguez's choices, the first paragraph of his obituary -- his legacy -- will be built around the most notorious drug suspension in the history of baseball.
• As Rodriguez and his lawyers continue to make statements, it's worth washing them through this prism: As he speaks, is he under oath? Because any person can say anything to a radio host or Katie Couric or a sportswriter without serious ramification.
The legal jeopardy would begin for A-Rod -- as it did for Roger Clemens and Bonds -- when an oath for telling the truth must be sworn, and until that happens, there's really no reason to take seriously anything A-Rod or his lawyers say.
Here are the details of the "60 Minutes" piece. There are more details about A-Rod's drug regimen.
Bosch told Scott Pelley he received death threats.
Courts have been reluctant to step into situations like this, writes Lester Munson.
A-Rod's legal strategy has pitfalls, writes Tom Harvey.
The MLB Players Association ripped MLB for the "60 Minutes" interviews, and MLB fired back.
The MLBPA's release reminds me of Orioles players running onto the field to side with Armando Benitez after Benitez drilled Tino Martinez in 1998: They don't really want to do it, but they've got to do it for show. Rodriguez isn't exactly a figure around which to rally at this point, after he apparently cheated his union brethren repeatedly.
A-Rod needs to quit playing the victim, writes Gil Le Breton.
Meanwhile: The Yankees are collecting infield options.
A-Rod lectured kids about the evils of PEDs at a time when he was taking them.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The contracts of Rafael Furcal and Casey McGehee are flush with incentives.
2. Dayton Moore has a perfect record in salary arbitration, writes Pete Grathoff.
3. Masahiro Tanaka makes more sense for the Red Sox than you think.
• Ryne Sandberg offers help for the Phillies, writes Bob Brookover.
• Duke Welker will be among those trying to win a job with the Pirates in spring training.
• The Cardinals should be even better in 2014, writes Bernie Miklasz.
• The Cardinals have expanded their broadcast schedule.
• Clayton Kershaw is trying to leave his mark on and off the field, Gerry Fraley writes.
• Bill Center asks: Is a playoff run possible for the Padres?
• The Rays' payroll is coming into focus.
• The Red Sox seek new ways to spend big money, writes John Tomase.
• Here are five storylines to watch in the Orioles' minicamp.
• The Jays' winter tour began without hype.
• Nick Castellanos and others are getting prep work at a development program. The Tigers have some young players who have a chance.
It was sometime in the middle months of last season that the Los Angeles Dodgers dangled the idea of what would essentially be a lifetime deal in front of Clayton Kershaw -- a whopper contract for something in the range of $300 million. At that time, Kershaw, pitching in the middle of a season with high stakes for the Dodgers, deferred the conversation.
So here we are in early January, and it could be that, as with the Don Mattingly talks, Kershaw and the Dodgers will soon finish dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s and close the deal they started discussing a long time ago.
But Kershaw is now just 10 months from free agency, and for many players and agents, getting this close would almost certainly mean testing the open market. If there is, in fact, an impasse in the Dodgers-Kershaw negotiations -- if, in fact, he wants to explore his options -- this will shape Los Angeles’ aggressiveness in its pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka.
By now, the ambition of the Dodgers’ ownership is apparent: They want to rule the baseball world. They want to win as many championships as possible. They want the best and most marketable team as possible, and they’re willing to pay top dollar for it.
Given that context, they really can’t afford to sit around and hope that Kershaw re-signs. If Kershaw leaves, they’ll need somebody really good to replace him, to team in their rotation with Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, and there aren’t many pitchers of Tanaka’s ability who will become available between now and the start of the 2015 season. The Dodgers could trade for David Price, meeting the Rays’ steep demands for prospects and giving Price a whopper contract. They could hope that Max Scherzer leaves the Tigers next fall and hits the market.
But for the Dodgers to achieve their goal of global domination, they need to lock up a rotation anchor in the months ahead, whether it’s Kershaw or Tanaka or Price or Scherzer.
I don’t really know Kershaw, but I have spent some time around him and walked away with this strong first impression: He cares less about money than the vast majority of people I’ve known in the game. He’s a smart person who has a strong sense of himself, what he wants in his life, and I don’t think he’ll ever define himself by the dollar figures on his paychecks.
Kershaw has already made about $20 million playing baseball and will nearly double that with his salary for 2014. My guess is that if you told Clayton and Ellen Kershaw this was all the money he would have in their lifetimes, they would be far more than OK with that.
If money was a force that drove the pitcher, he would’ve probably finished the deal with the Dodgers last summer; he would’ve rushed to grab a pen, because the offer was staggering, more than $100 million more than any contract signed by any pitcher.
So what’s he looking for with this next big career decision? He’ll likely get a record-setting deal no matter where he signs. Does he want to pitch for the Rangers, in the area where he grew up? Or will he ultimately sign with the Dodgers -- and certainly the delay must be something of a surprise to the leaders of that franchise, who are not accustomed to being told no.
But the Dodgers’ sense of where these talks are may define their willingness to invest in Tanaka.
Around the league
• Speaking of the Rangers: For planning purposes, the team is saying that Derek Holland will miss the first half of the season after injuring his knee. Sometimes players will have cleanup surgeries that require about four to six weeks of recovery time, and clearly Holland’s injury was more serious than that.
• Richard Durrett wonders: Should the Rangers go all-in on Tanaka?
• Jon Daniels says he isn’t going for a big-ticket item, as Gerry Fraley writes.
The Rangers have already sacrificed their No. 1 pick to sign Shin-Soo Choo, so the notion of giving up a subsequent pick for someone like Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez won’t be a roadblock. But Santana and Jimenez are said to be asking for big dollars, so perhaps Daniels will look at the group of pitchers that includes Bronson Arroyo, Jason Hammel, Paul Maholm, etc.
• Justin Masterson and the Indians are set to talk about a multiyear deal.
• Ben Cherington indicated Friday on the radio that the Red Sox will probably continue to talk with David Ortiz during the season about his next deal. Ortiz is 38 years old and has reached the age when he’ll be evaluated year to year, presumably. If he hits well again in 2014, he’ll get a deal for 2015, and so on. Boston’s front office has worked to maintain flexibility with its payroll, so it would seem very unlikely that the Red Sox would dive into a multiyear deal at a player closing in on his 40th birthday.
The Red Sox-Ortiz relationship is a lot like that between the Yankees and Mariano Rivera at the end of the closer’s career: The team has high respect for the player, values the player, and because of past success and personal history, pays the player more than any other team would to play a position that doesn’t typically pay well on baseball’s landscape.
• The Mariners are likely to stay in-house in hiring their next president, writes Greg Johns.
• I kept hearing from folks around baseball how weary they were of the Hall of Fame debate, the skirmishing that goes on between those who vote for PED-linked players and those who don’t. (Count me in this, certainly.)
I agree. It’s been a long week of talking about stuff other than baseball, and so this morning, it was worth having a refresher on all the good things in the game.
Such as: The best throw I’ve ever seen in person, by Vladimir Guerrero.
How about this from Dave Parker.
Here’s the best throw I saw last year. Although you could make a case for this Yasiel Puig work of art.
How about arguably the best catch by an outfielder in 2013.
Or was a catch by an outfielder the year before that even better?
Or how about the best defensive play of 2013?
Here’s the best throw in the infield last year.
How about the splitter thrown by a Hall of Famer -- a revolutionary weapon at the time.
OK ... that’s better.
• The White Sox are in hot pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti had an interesting thought about Tanaka.
• Don’t expect him to be a Jay, writes Bob Elliott.
I still think the Jays will wind up with Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana, given that the Blue Jays’ first-round pick is protected. I've heard that some corners of the organization favor Jimenez.
• John Gibbons sees Brandon Morrow as crucial to the Jays’ 2014 success. Totally agree.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Nationals worked out a deal with Stephen Strasburg.
2. The Yankees signed Matt Thornton, formally, and designated Vernon Wells for assignment.
3. The O’s re-signed Alexi Casilla.
4. The Red Sox haven’t spoken with Stephen Drew’s agent in awhile, Ben Cherington says.
5. The Royals avoided arbitration with catcher Brett Hayes.
6. There are more signs that the Astros are going to look to move to Arizona for spring training.
• A daunting task for the Braves is to get Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton back on track, writes David O’Brien.
• Adam Lind will be working with yet another hitting coach.
• The Astros’ staff will meet to discuss their draft picks.
• Ron Washington is going into the last year of his contract.
I've thought more about an argument that Bob Costas presented the other day about the steroid era Hall of Fame candidates. The key word of his thesis -- embraced by others employed by MLB Network and Major League Baseball -- was "authentic." What he outlined, in so many words, is a search for "authenticity."
The argument could be made, he said, that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were already Hall of Famers before they started using performance-enhancing drugs -- which, he seemed to be suggesting, made them more authentic than others. Some achievements and some players, he seemed to suggest, were authentic, while others lacked authenticity.
It's an interesting ideal for which to aim, and the beauty of it is you really can move the line anywhere you want.
Is there authenticity in the numbers of Babe Ruth, who played at a time when the sport was segregated? Is there authenticity in anything that happened before 1947? Are Hank Aaron's numbers more authentic than those of Ruth? Are Barry Bonds' numbers more authentic than those of Aaron and Ruth, because the game is more globalized, with the greater number of international participants providing a larger pool of talent?
What about the war years, when rosters were depleted because stars like Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Willie Mays were in the military? Are those years authentic? When Williams was out of baseball to serve in Korea, were the numbers of the American League pitchers less authentic?
How about the '60s, when the pitching was so dominant, so overwhelming, that the powers that be decided to lower the mound. Is Bob Gibson's 1.12 ERA in 1968 authentic? Is there authenticity in Sandy Koufax's feats?
What about the performances of the stars of the dead ball era -- Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson and many others? Because they played at a time when the baseballs used essentially turned into shot puts during the course of the action, are those numbers authentic?
What about the records produced with a 162-game season? Are they less authentic than the numbers generated in a 154-game season? (It seems longtime commissioner Ford Frick went down this road when he attached an asterisk to Roger Maris' 61 homers in 1961, because apparently in his eyes, Maris' single-season home run record was less authentic than Ruth's home run record.)
Are the World Series titles won since the advent of the divisional era in 1969 less authentic, because it could be argued that winning a league of eight or 10 teams over the course of the regular season is a much more difficult task? Or are the titles won in the wild-card era more authentic, because teams have had to go through two or three or even four rounds of playoffs?
Testing for amphetamines started in 2006, and a lot of players and executives strongly believe that the offensive numbers have declined because most players haven't been able to use speed in the way that a high percentage of players did for a period of about half a century. So do the numbers generated since amphetamine testing began lack authenticity? Or is it the numbers produced with greenies that lack authenticity? (Keep in mind: Some current Hall of Famers have acknowledged using amphetamines.)
It's all very complicated.
There's probably an easier way to determine authenticity than by trying to assess mental demerits: You open the record book; click on Baseball-Reference.com. Everything in there is authentic, because it happened. It's all real; you can look up the box scores, for when Ruth mashed his 60th home run in 1927, when Maris hit No. 61 in '61.
You can look up the 1919 World Series, with the 12 errors by the White Sox notated, or Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, or the amazing twists in the 2001 World Series. It's all there. It all happened -- the good, the bad, the ugly.
Now, if a fan wants to assign more credence to something Ruth accomplished when he was in the live ball era, or less credence because he played at a time of segregation, that's up to him or her. If the fan wants to give more credence to something accomplished in the years saturated merely by amphetamines than in the time filled with amphetamines and steroids, well, that's the fan's prerogative. If the fan respects Gibson more than Clemens, hey, that's up to the fan.
But unless Major League Baseball steps in and wipes the history from the books -- in the way the Olympics have, in the case of Ben Johnson and others -- it's folly to question the authenticity of what happened in 1903, or 1927, or 1961, or 1998, or 2013.
It's like arguing that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are less authentic than Abraham Lincoln because Washington and Jefferson were slave owners, or that Lincoln was less authentic than Theodore Roosevelt because Lincoln once proposed the creation of a colony of African-Americans outside of the United States. Each is on Mt. Rushmore for what he accomplished in the context of his times.
Baseball's history is authentic, and whether we love all of it or only some of it, or hate some of it, it happened, on the ever-changing landscape of circumstances.
• Meanwhile, the 2014 Hall of Fame inductees were on tour, with Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas taking center stage in New York. Glavine wishes Mets fans would move past his 2007 start. Bob Klapisch asks: If Greg Maddux can't get 100 percent, then who can?
• The decision of the Baseball Writers' Association to immediately strip ESPN's Dan Le Batard of his Hall of Fame vote was inevitable, but what it accomplished, mostly, was to turn him into a Twitter martyr and folk hero.
It might've been more effective to ignore Le Batard's actions, just as the BBWAA has ignored those who cast votes for the likes of Jacque Jones and Armando Benitez. Dan's agreement with Deadspin has drawn a lot of attention, but the actual impact is negligible; there already was ongoing discussion about Hall of Fame rule changes that would've taken place regardless of Dan's ballot, and the Deadspin ballot wasn't really that much different than any other ballot. Dan, himself, has said that he doesn't think he would've submitted the ballot if the Deadspin readers produced something ridiculous.
It was worth it, Dan said.
• Justin Verlander had core surgery, as Tom Gage writes, and is scheduled to be ready for the start of the season.
After he was drafted by the Tigers, Verlander found a home in Lakeland, Fla., near the Tigers' spring training facility, and at this time every year, he has diligently created the platform for each of his seasons with his conditioning -- the weight work he does with his legs, in particular. That timeline is assured of being affected this year, so it will be interesting to watch the adjustments he makes because of what he can't do this January.
• A-Rod will get a really big check in five days, regardless of whether he's suspended. And an announcement could come any day now.
A-Rod is likely to challenge the arbitrator's ruling if he gets a long suspension, but the history of those sort of challenges is not good, writes Tom Harvey.
• The bidding focus is on Masahiro Tanaka. The Tanaka decision could set off Red Sox dominoes.
Tanaka wants to reduce concerns via the physical exam he took.
• Tony La Russa would like to work for the Mariners.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Jamey Carroll signed a minor league deal with the Nationals, and so did Mike Fontenot, as Adam Kilgore writes.
2. Dayton Moore dismissed the idea of a third-base platoon, writes Pete Grathoff.
3. The Rays worked out a deal with Jayson Nix.
4. The Rangers announced some lower ticket prices.
• It's time for the Phillies to start spending some of their money, writes Bob Brookover.
• Kolten Wong is preparing diligently for the upcoming season.
Yasiel Puig is using a driver.
• Andrew Miller is putting his best foot forward.
• The Twins released their list of spring training invitees.
• The Astros have been forced to delay some promotions.
Last year, the Cincinnati Reds won 90 games and qualified as a wild-card entry into the postseason, where they were bounced by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Two years ago, the Reds won the National League Central, finishing with the second-best record in the majors, but were eliminated in the NLDS. This is a team that has recently been quite good and has been on the cusp of a World Series run. By nearly any definition of the word, the Reds have been contenders.
And yet, this offseason, the Reds have basically just sat on the sideline. Shin-Soo Choo left to sign with the Texas Rangers for more money than the Reds could afford, but the team has yet to acquire anyone who could replace him in the outfield or batting order. Bronson Arroyo, another free agent, also seems unlikely to return, based on recent comments made by GM Walt Jocketty. With Choo and Arroyo departing, the team will be down two valuable contributors from its 2013 roster.
The Reds' biggest offseason acquisition to date is utility infielder Skip Schumaker, who has been below replacement level in nearly 1,500 plate appearances over the past four years. Their only other free-agent acquisition, Brayan Pena, was brought in to replace Ryan Hanigan as the team's backup catcher, as Hanigan was shipped out to Tampa Bay. In other words, besides adjusting their bench, the Reds have done basically nothing this winter, despite having the roster of a contender with a few real weaknesses.
But the offseason isn't over, and the Reds still have 2½ months until Opening Day. There are moves that could still be made that would restock their roster and put them back in position to keep up with the Cardinals and Pirates again. Let's take a look at a few moves that could salvage Cincinnati's offseason.
Sign a cheap veteran starting pitcher
While the Reds have wisely decided not to meet Arroyo's request for a multiyear deal as he heads toward his 40th birthday, the team could use another starting pitcher. Yes, youngster Tony Cingrani might be able to step in and give the team a good performance in Arroyo's stead, but every contending team should plan on using more than five starters during the season. With Cingrani in the rotation on Opening Day, the Reds would have a real depth problem.
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Paul Maholm wouldn't be expensive and would give Cincy needed rotation depth.
With young arms like Cingrani and Mike Leake and a big health question mark in Johnny Cueto, acquiring a starter to replace Arroyo should be seen as a necessity, not a luxury.
Adding a cheap but effective veteran like Jerome Williams, Paul Maholm or even Freddy Garcia (if they're really pinching pennies) could give the Reds some needed rotation depth without requiring any long-term commitment or significant dollars. It would allow the team to keep Cingrani's innings down early in the season then have him join the rotation in the second half of the year, in a similar way to how the Cardinals used Michael Wacha last year.
Delaying Cingrani's rotation turn would also allow him to serve as the fill-in for when a starter inevitably gets hurt, and a reduced workload early in the season should allow him to be able to pitch in October if the Reds get back to the playoffs.
Call the Royals about their outfield logjam
When Kansas City acquired Norichika Aoki from the Brewers, it gave the Royals two solid fourth outfielders in Jarrod Dyson and Justin Maxwell, and they won't have enough playing time for both. Neither player is a household name and both profile better as part-time players than every-day regulars, but that's exactly what the Reds need: a part-time contributor who can act as a cushion in case top prospect Billy Hamilton proves not quite ready for prime time.
Dyson is a similar player to Hamilton, providing almost all of his value through speed and defense, so he could act as a redundancy in case Hamilton needs more Triple-A time, giving the Reds a chance to still have a rangy fly-catcher in center field. Maxwell would be more of a complement to Hamilton's skill set, as his power would let the Reds go with a little more offense on days that they expected their starters to keep the ball on the ground -- like, say, when Leake is pitching.
Either option would be useful, and the Royals asking price for an extra outfielder shouldn't be too terribly high.
Sign Homer Bailey to a long-term contract
Most of the conversation about Bailey has been about using him as a possible trade chip, but the Reds should instead look to keep him in Cincinnati as a rotation anchor. The jump in his velocity and strikeout rate suggest that last year's performance was no fluke, and Bailey should be viewed as one of the better pitchers in the National League.
When you see the bidding war taking place over Masahiro Tanaka, who doesn't project to be significantly better than Bailey in 2014, it doesn't make sense for the Reds to let Bailey get to free agency, as another strong season probably puts him in line for a contract similar to what Zack Greinke got from the Dodgers.
The Reds should take the money that they are not giving to Choo and Arroyo this year and use it to keep Bailey around for the long term, ensuring that they won't have another big piece walk away in free agency next year. Even if it costs $100 million over six or seven years, re-signing Bailey will keep the team's competitive hopes alive and show the fan base that it's not just sitting on the new television revenue that each team received this winter.
Alex Rodriguez sued Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association on Monday as part of an effort to overturn his suspension. That suspension became effective on Saturday when arbitrator Frederic Horowitz issued a decision on Rodriguez’s appeal and reduced the slugger’s penalty from 211 games to the entirety of the 2014 season — 162 regular season games and any postseason games the Yankees might play.
Click here to read Rodriguez’s complaint and arbitrator’s 33-page written decision, which is attached as Exhibit A to the complaint.
The allegations in Rodriguez’s complaint echo the ones he’s made throughout the Biogenesis investigation: that MLB engaged in egregious conduct in an effort to prove that Rodriguez used PEDs; that MLB breached the confidentiality provisions of the collective bargaining agreement and joint drug agreement on numerous occasions, by selectively leaking damaging information; and that MLB unfairly targeted him for harsher punishment. For the first time, Rodriguez also alleged that the Players Association acted contrary to his interests during the investigation and appeal proceeding and that, together with the way the arbitrator handled the appeal, deprived him of due process.
Interestingly, Rodriguez did not ask the court for either a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction to keep the suspension from going into effect. His attorneys had stated publicly over the weekend that they planned to ask for such relief from the court. Without such a request, his lawsuit will slowly wind its way through the courts before it reaches what is likely to be an unsuccessful conclusion. As I’ve explained before, and as discussed here, federal courts are loathe to interfere with decisions that result from a collectively-bargained arbitration proceedings.
As a result, the arbitrator’s decision likely means that Rodriguez will sit out the 2014 season. It also means that the decision will set a precedent for how the CBA and JDA are interpreted and applied. Given the breadth of the arbitrator’s decision, that’s a troubling prospect for the Players Association and the players it represents.
For months, we’ve been speculating about the legal basis for Rodriguez’s 211-game suspension in light of the 50-100-lifetime punishment scheme in the JDA. Before Bug Selig handed down the suspension on August 5, there were rumors that he was considering banning Rodriguez for life under the “best interests” clause of the CBA. In several posts, I parsed the language of the CBA and the JDA in an effort to devine the Commissioner’s thinking. Those posts can be found here, here, and here. I returned to the issues again on Saturday, after news spread that the arbitrator had reduced the suspension from 211 games to 162 plus the postseason in 2014.
As a reminder, Section 7.A of the JDA states:
A player who tests positive for a Performance Enhancing Substance, or otherwise violates the Program through the possession or use of a Performance Enhancing Substance, will be subject to the discipline set forth below. (emphasis mine) 1. First violation: 50-game suspension; 2. Second violation: 100-game suspension; 3. Third violation: Permanent suspension from Major League and Minor League Baseball.
Michael Weiner, who was at the time the MLBPA executive director (and has since passed away), suggested last July that suspensions for “non-analytical positives” —i.e., suspensions based on evidence other than a positive drug test — were not limited to the 50-100-lifetime regime.
Section 7.G.2 of the JDA, entitled “Other Violations,” states in subsection (2):
A Player may be subject to disciplinary action for just cause by the Commissioner for any Player violation of Section 2 above not referenced in Section 7.A. through Section 7.F. above.
Section 2 is the provision that outlines all of the Prohibited Substances (Drugs of Abuse, Performance Enhancing Substances, and Stimulants) and details what players are permitted to do and not do with these substances. The first sentence of Section 2 reads:
All Players shall be prohibited from using, possessing, selling, facilitating the sale of, distributing and/or facilitating the distribution of any Drug of Abuse, Performance Enhancing Substance and/or Stimulant (collectively referred to as “Prohibited Substances).
Now we know that Selig suspended Rodriguez under Section 7.G.2 of the JDA, and thus sidestepped the 50-100-lifetime regime. The arbitrator’s decision included a copy of Selig’s letter to Rodriguez. An excerpt:
The key phrase in Selig’s letter is his charge that Rodriguez engaged in “intentional, continuous, and prolonged use and possession of multiple forms of Performance Enhancing Substances, including but not limited to Testosterone, Human Growth Hormone, and IGF-1″ during the 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons. In other words, this was much more than single positive test, according to Selig, and therefore outside Section 7.A.
Selig also invoked the CBA’s “best interests” clause:
But Selig wasn’t done:
In other words, it appears that the Players Association backed off Michael Weiner’s statements in July that the 50-100-lifetime regime in Section 7.A didn’t apply. On that score, Selig threatened that application of Section 7.A. would result in a lifetime ban, as there was ample evidence that Rodriguez had used PEDs at least three times.
Following the two-week hearing, the arbitrator found that MLB had proved by clear and convincing evidence that Rodriguez had intentionally and purposefully used at least three different PEDs over the course of three seasons. He credited the testimony of Tony Bosch which was, according to the arbitrator, corroborated by documents maintained by Bosch and text messages between Bosch and Rodriguez. He recognized that Bosch had initially denied any involvement with PEDs and that his change in testimony came after MLB agreed to pay his legal fees and provide security, but found those factors didn’t under cut Bosch’s testimony under oath.
The arbitrator also rejected claims by Rodriguez that his 11 negative drug tests countered against Bosch’s testimony. Rodriguez argued that if he had taken the PEDs in the quantity and frequency testified to by Bosch, he would have tested positive for PEDs at least once. Not so, said the arbitrator. “As advanced as MLB’s program has become, no drug testing program will catch every player,” he wrote. There’s no shortage of irony that MLB’s case against Rodriguez was strengthened by the holes in its own testing program.
Beyond the PEDs, the arbitrator found that Rodriguez did impede MLB’s investigation by inducing Bosch to lie about his involvement with Rodriguez and PEDs, and by attempting to obtain a false affidavit from Bosch. MLB’s claims that Rodriguez purchased Biogenesis documents in order to destroy them were brushed aside by the arbitrator because “while troubling, they would not affect the ultimate determination regarding the appropriate penalty in this matter.” It’s an interesting view, to be sure. From where I sit, buying stolen documents and destroying them shows a much more egregious effort to impede an investigation than asking others to deny the allegations.
Overall, MLB prevailed on nearly every factual issue before the arbitrator. Even so, the question remained: on this evidence, what was the appropriate penalty under the CBA and JDA. And here’s where things get dicey.
From the arbitrator’s decision:
Wait a second. The Players Association argued that the maximum penalty was 50 games as a first violation, but that Section 7.G.2 provided the “governing framework”? And that Section 7.A. — which does contain the 50-100-lifetime penalty scheme — doesn’t apply when there has been “continuous use or possession of multiple substances”? Frankly, that doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it makes me wonder if the Players Association didn’t clearly articulate its view of the governing agreements or the arbitrator misconstrued the union’s position.
Moreover, the arbitrator’s interpretation of Section 7.A. omits a key portion of the language. He points to the first part of the section that talks about a player “who tests positive for a Performance Enhancing Substance” (his emphasis) and concludes that the section couldn’t apply to a situation involving evidence of multiples uses of a PED. But he completely ignores the second part of the section: a player who otherwise violates the Program through the possession or use of a Performance Enhancing Substance will be subject to the 50-100-lifetime regime (my emphasis). What does that language mean if it doesn’t apply to players found to have used or possessed PEDs absent a positive drug test?
We then get the arbitrator’s pivotal holding:
Even though Section 7.A. doesn’t apply, it provides guidance to how Section 7.G.2 should be interpreted. And in previous decisions, baseball’s arbitrators have held that “separate uses are subject to separate discipline,” so even if Section 7.A. did control, it would require separate discipline for Rodriguez’s distinct uses of three different banned substances. That’s pretty close — if not exactly — what Selig threatened to Rodriguez back in August: if you persist that Section 7.A. applies, you are subject to a lifetime ban for three separate uses of three separate PEDs.
The arbitrator doesn’t reach that issue but, instead, holds that even if the progressive nature of 50-100-lifetime scheme doesn’t apply to justify a lifetime ban, there is ample support for finding three violations each subject to the 50-game penalty, and that equals 150 games, before you even get to the obstruction charge. In other words, 50-game suspensions can be stacked one on top of the other when MLB has evidence that a player used one or more PEDs on multiple occasions.
Think about that. When a player tests positive for a PED, and it’s the first violation, he is suspended for 50 games. But how many players use a PED only one time and that just happens to be when he is tested? Isn’t is more likely that a player who tests positive for PEDs had used on multiple occasions over an extended period of time?
And yet the arbitrator’s decision grants MLB broad powers to discipline players much more harshly when the league’s own testing program fails and the league develops independent evidence of use.
Whatever you think of Alex Rodriguez, Tony Bosch, and the entire Biogenesis mess, it’s hard to accept such an absurd legal result.
Despite not having a 1st round pick again in 2013 due to signing Kyle Lohse, Milwaukee keeps adding players I was fond of as amateurs. The bad news is that the Brewers still remain one of the weakest farm systems in the game. The cupboard isn’t as bare as it looked the last couple of years. I think the overall level of tools and raw talent has noticeably increased. In particular I think Milwaukee did a good job this year in scooping up a couple players who dropped in the Draft in Devin Williams and Tucker Neuhaus. Both those players were high school draftees, as was the team’s top pick in 2012 – Washington State prep catcher Clint Coulter. Yet one thing that struck me about this org. is how many of their top prospects are from “off the beaten path” kind of backgrounds. Three of the most exciting players in this system are Victor Roache, Mitch Haniger and John Hellweg. Roache came from Georgia Southern University. Haniger was taken from Cal Poly while Hellweg went to junior college in Florida. Sure, some of their top players came from traditional big schools and that’s to be expected. Jimmy Nelson played for the Alabama Crimson Tide and a few years back Milwaukee took two college pitchers in the first – Texas’s Taylor Jungmann and Georgia Tech lefty Jed Bradley. As someone who watches a whole lot of amateur and college baseball my curiosity was piqued: How often do 1st rounders come from smaller schools? Also, how often do these players succeed?
Framing the Question
As I didn’t wish to make this a 7 month long project, I limited the scope of players I looked at to 1st and 1st supplemental round picks from 1993 to present. That’s the post-Strike Era in baseball which starts the ramp up in offense to the steroid years. I think it’s a good a dividing line as any, and it seems like teams really started to act more like big corporations since then. Since the Strike a lot of the anachronisms around the game have been cleaned up a little, revenue exploded and a lot of modern conventions in the game came into being. I’m always tempted to do these projects looking at top prospect lists from the past instead of 1st round picks… but I find prospect lists a little too subjective and self serving for this type of work. I think it’s preferable to take a snapshot of 1st rounders and see where talent evaluators pegged the players as they entered the professional ranks. Teams have to put their money where their mouth is when they pay a 1st rounder. Prospect lists tend to value different things. In the end no method is perfect, but this takes some subjectivity out of the process and makes my life a little easier doing the research.
So what constitutes “off the beaten path” for colleges? Clearly something like Georgia Southern would qualify even though it has produced a fair share of baseball talent recently. But what about a program like New Mexico? For a dividing line I chose the so-called “power conferences.” Today that means the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big Twelve and Pac-12. In the past that also meant the Big East and I’ve adjusted for changing memberships over the years. This obviously has some flaws as a process, but I don’t know that there’s a better way for me to do it. There are certainly traditional power baseball programs outside of those conferences that fall through the cracks here. Conversely, the Big Ten isn’t typically a great baseball conference – Heck, Wisconsin quite shamefully doesn’t even have a scholarship/varsity baseball team. Those schools always have a certain allure, though. Their tradition, campuses, other athletics and name recognition are big draws. Even the worst power conference baseball schools tend to have some quality draft prospects every year. There’s also a big difference in public perception of the power conference schools (perhaps revolving around big time college football) and that does make a difference to recruits.
So let’s take a look at the 1st round draft picks from 1993 to present, divided into power and non-power conferences:
How often do 1st rounders come from big schools? Smaller schools? Out of 461 total players 314 came from “power conference” schools, compared to 147 from other schools. That’s more than a 2:1 ratio in favor of the power conf. schools – 68%.
What was the success rate of prospects from big conference programs vs. smaller conference programs? 143 out of 314 power conference draftees have posted a positive career WAR (45%). 63 out of 148 non-power conference draftees have done the same (42%). These figures are still in flux since those groups contain draftees from recent years who will in all probability head on to successful major league careers. Since I didn’t want to get too subjective with who to include and who to exclude I left everyone in. It hurts both groups equally, so it doesn’t change anything other than depressing their general success rate.
The power conference players have combined for 1322.6 WAR while the other school players have only been worth 524.6 Wins. BUT among players who made the majors that averages out to 6.39 per player for the power conf. guys and a similar 6.32 Win average for guys from other schools.
One striking difference between the two group is the abundance of pitchers in the group from other schools. The top 10 power conference players by career fWAR are all position players. Of the top 25 from that group only 6 are pitchers. Looking at the non-power school group we find only 7 position players in their top 25. One hypothesis I’d propose for this is that with pitchers being inherently unpredictable we are more likely to see arms pop up into elite draft status than we are position players. Late blooming pitchers suddenly throwing 95 are more likely get consideration in the 1st rather than a late blooming position player who has one good offensive season under his belt. We also know high school pitchers are typically the worst bet for 1st round draft picks – and this further speaks to how hard to project and how unpredictable high school pitching can be (for college coaches and recruiters, too).
We know that it is more difficult to reach the Hall of Fame coming out of college than it is coming out of high school. This is in some part likely due to the increased chances of reaching the majors at an earlier age and thus greater opportunity to compile more stats. It probably also speaks to teams identifying the players with special tools early and not letting them get to college. Since the Draft era began only 10 of 34 Hall of Fame player inductees came from four year schools. The rest were high school players – with Kirby Puckett an exception, coming from Triton Junior College in Chicago. I ignored Deacon White and Ron Santo as well, since the Veterans Committee put them in and they preceded the Draft era. Nonetheless, Santo signed out of high school. White, on the other hand, learned the game from a Union Solider returning from the Civil War and I’m not sure what his formal education consisted of. These are the college draftee Hall of Famers in the Draft Era:
Tom Seaver (Southern California)
Reggie Jackson (Arizona State)
Mike Schmidt (Ohio)
Dave Winfield (Minnesota)
Paul Molitor (Minnesota)
Ozzie Smith (Cal Poly)
Tony Gwynn (San Diego State)
Andrew Dawson (Florida A&M)
Barry Larkin (Michigan)
Frank Thomas (Auburn)
You hopefully noticed that this group breaks into 6 players from power conference schools and 4 from other schools (Note that Schmidt went to the University of Ohio – NOT Ohio State).
Looking at potential Hall of Famers in the two groups above it looks like each list features strong candidates. The power conf. schools have Todd Helton and perhaps Berkman, Utley and Nomar maybe getting some consideration. The non-power conf. group is headlined by Verlander and Longoria. That’s a heck of a 1-2 punch.
How the 2014 Draft is Shaping Up
There’s a long way to go until the 2014 Draft. Players will fall and rise and scouts will be out hitting the fields, learning more every day about potential draftees. Still, having followed most of the top amateurs for a while, we can start to see the general shape of the Draft. How does 2014 look in terms of power conference ratio of college players?
The two two arms are both college pitchers and it’s one from each group. North Carolina State southpaw Carlos Rodon is the consensus top talent. East Carolina right-hander Jeff Hoffman did much on the Cape to close the gap. Rodon’s teammate Trae Turner, Vandy RHP Tyler Beede, Indiana OF Kyle Schwarber, LSU RHP Aaron Nola and UVA OF Derek Fisher headline the power conference group. Smaller conference programs are again well represented though. Hartford LHP Sean Newcomb is a potential top 10 pick. Others are San Francisco OF and Royals farm hand Kyle Zimmer’s brother Bradley, Kennesaw State catching phenom Max Pentecost and power arms Michael Cederoth (San Diego State) and Kyle Freeland (Evansville).
Talent does seem to come from all different places in the baseball world and that’s part of what makes the Draft and following pro and amateur prospects so very interesting. You can see great players in virtually every corner of the country. I’d recommend you check your local college schedules and see what great players and teams are coming to visit. It’s a great and cheap way to see some pretty exciting talent before it hits the big stage… or before it hits the small stage (the minors) too, I guess.
I’m leaving you with video of Brewers outfielder Victor Roache playing in the Cape Cod League a few years ago. He was a very fun player to watch and you can see his strength and bat speed on display here. Watch how deep he lets the ball travel in the footage from Fenway/the Cape Cod League All Star Game.
Milwaukee’s system has a few intriguing names but lacks both impact talent and depth. The organization has had a lot of bad luck with high draft picks in recent years but found value in later rounds.
#1 Tyrone Taylor | 60/A_ (OF)
Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA
19 549 133 33 8 35 63 19 .274 .338 .400 .341
The Year in Review: Just 19 years old, Taylor held his own during his first taste of full-season ball. However, his numbers would have been fairly pedestrian without his results from the month of June when he generated almost a third of his hits for the year (42) and hit .438 with a 1.159 OPS.
The Scouting Report: Taylor’s athleticism stands out and his above-average speed helps him both on the base paths and in the center field where he projects to develop into a plus defender. He should see his stolen base totals increase as he polishes his base running skills and some of his doubles should turn into home runs as he learns to create more loft. Taylor has a chance to hit for a solid average because he makes solid contact but he needs to use the whole field on a more consistent basis.
The Year Ahead: Taylor will move up to High-A ball in 2014 and will likely spend the whole season there unless he makes significant headway with his development. He continues to flash impressive tools but still has a lot of wrinkles to iron out.
The Career Outlook: If Taylor reaches his full potential, the athletic outfielder could be an impact up-the-middle talent for the Brewers, especially once he learns to generate more over-the-fence power and becomes more consistent.
#2 Jimmy Nelson | 60/MLB (P)
Age IP K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP xFIP RA9-WAR WAR
24 10.0 7.20 4.50 41.7 % 0.90 2.95 3.77 0.4 0.1
The Year in Review: Nelson opened the 2013 season in Double-A and produced a solid strikeout rate to go along with a high ground-ball-out rate. Moved up to Triple-A, his control fell apart and his walk rate rose dramatically from 1.96 to 5.40 BB/9. On the plus side, he continued to strike out batters and induce the worm-burners at a high rate. He finished the year with four big league appearances.
The Scouting Report: The right-hander is a big, strong pitcher capable of pitching tons of innings. He has an above-average fastball with good downward movement and a slider that flashes plus potential at times. His changeup still needs further refinement but it may never be more than a fringe-average offering.
The Year Ahead: Nelson will battle two other young pitchers — Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburg — for a spot in the bottom of the Brewers’ big league rotation this spring. More likely than not, though, he’ll open the year back in Triple-A and look to be the first pitcher recalled in the event of an injury or poor performance by another hurler.
The Career Outlook: Nelson should settle into the middle of the Brewers rotation and provide a plethora of innings while keeping his infielders busy.
#3 Victor Roache | 60/A- (DH/OF)
Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA
21 516 114 14 22 46 137 6 .248 .322 .440 .347
The Year in Review: Roache had a slow start to the 2013 season but salvaged his year with a strong second half. Fifteen of his 22 home runs came in July and August. He flashed his above-average power but not on a consistent basis. It’s possible that the improvements in the latter half of the year came as a result of his wrist finally bouncing back from a significant injury suffered in February of 2012.
The Scouting Report: The young hitter is all about power but his game has been slowed by injury. He sells out for power, doesn’t handle off-speed stuff well and strikes out a ton. He’s also too aggressive for his own good and needs to wait for better pitches to drive. Defensively, he can handle left field but may eventually end up at first base.
The Year Ahead: Roache’s 2013 season was by no means an overwhelming success but his pedigree and age will ensure he’s pushed up to High-A ball to open the 2014 season. He’ll need to make more contact if he’s going to have any level of success once he reaches Double-A, and beyond.
The Career Outlook: Unless he continues to make adjustments, Roache’s approach is going to lend itself to low batting averages, low on-base percentages and high strikeout rates. The power is really going to have to be something special if he’s going to be an impact player at the big league level.
#4 Johnny Hellweg | 55/MLB (P)
Age IP K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP xFIP RA9-WAR WAR
24 30.2 2.64 7.63 55.2 % 6.75 7.06 6.81 -1.1 -0.7
The Year in Review: Hellweg spent much of 2013 in Triple-A where he was durable and relatively hard to hit but he struggled to find the strike zone with 81 walks in 125.2 innings. He didn’t strike out many batters but he induced a lot of ground-ball outs. Despite the command issues, Hellweg earned a promotion to the big leagues and walked 26 batters with just nine strikeouts in 30.2 innings.
The Scouting Report: Hellweg utilizes his height well and uses it to create a solid downward plane on his offerings, which lends itself to high ground-ball rates. He doesn’t command his mid-to-upper-90s fastball well enough to cause a lot of swings and misses on the offering and his secondary stuff still needs a fair bit of work, although his breaking ball has a chance to be an average or better offering. Hellweg’s lack of command and control are huge red flags at this point in his development.
The Year Ahead: Hellweg’s lack of command and control all but ensures that he’ll earn another trip back to Triple-A to open 2013. There is enough upper level pitching depth within the Brewers system to allow the tall righty to spend most of the year working out his issues in the minors.
The Career Outlook: Originally a reliever, the 25-year-old’s future probably lies back in the bullpen. He just doesn’t have enough consistency with finding the plate, or the secondary stuff, to be expected to work five or six innings game — and age is not on his side.
#5 Mitch Haniger | 55/A+ (OF)
Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA
22 656 153 44 15 68 110 10 .267 .349 .440 .362
The Year in Review: The 38th overall selection of the 2012 draft, Haniger open the ’13 season in Low-A ball and dominated with a .909 OPS. After 41 games he earned a promotion to High-A ball where his numbers dipped to a .720 OPS in 88 contests. The young outfielder recovered his footing with solid results and a better power stroke in the Arizona Fall League.
The Scouting Report: Haniger has raw power but he’s just starting to tap into it and he’ll need to do so since he’s projected to spend the majority of his time in the corner outfield — although he could certainly back up in center. The young hitter’s hitting has been inconsistent but his on-base percentage gets a boost from his (usually) patient approach. He’s ultimate ceiling will depend on how much future power he develops.
The Year Ahead: The good results from the AFL should ensure Haniger opens the 2014 season in Double-A. The downside the Brewers’ increasing depth in outfield prospects is that Ryan Braun is signed through 2018 while Carlos Gomez is locked up through 2016. The only weak spot appears to be fan favorite Khris Davis in left.
The Career Outlook: To be an impact player in Milwaukee, Haniger is going to have to start putting more balls over the fence because he’s likely going to end up in a corner outfield spot.
#6 Taylor Jungmann | 50/AA (P)
Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP
23 29 29 146.2 126 11 5.46 4.91 4.60 4.82
The Year in Review: A highly-touted college pitcher, Jungmann has not found as much success in pro ball. His 2013 season was spent in Double-A where his control evaporated and he walked 73 batters in 139.1 innings. On the plus side, he continued to be durable and induced a lot of ground-ball outs. He headed off to the Arizona Fall League after the regular season ended but he made just three starts with dreadful results.
The Scouting Report: The tall right-hander’s stuff isn’t as crisp as it was in college and his control took a big step backward in 2013. He’s going to have to command his fastball better if he’s going to get ahead in the count more consistently, which should lead to more strikeouts — although he’s predominantly a pitch-to-contact/ground-ball pitcher. His secondary stuff also needs more work although the breaking ball is starting to show some signs of improvement.
The Year Ahead: Jungmann could end up back in Double-A depending on how many veteran Triple-A arms Milwaukee brings in for depth purposes. He should, at some point, reach the upper level of the minors but he may not see the Majors until 2015.
The Career Outlook: At this point, the hurler looks like an innings-eating No. 4 starter capable of inducing an onslaught of ground balls but few swing and misses. But he’s going to have to find the strike zone on a more consistent basis to reach even that projection.
#7 David Goforth | 55/AA (P)
Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP
24 46 18 137.0 110 7 7.16 3.28 3.22 3.50
The Year in Review: Goforth split the 2013 between High-A ball and Double-A. He also opened the year as a starter but finished the season in the bullpen. He continued pitching out of the ‘pen during his post-season trip to the Arizona Fall League where he struck out 15 batters in 12.0 innings.
The Scouting Report: The right-hander’s ticket to the Majors is his mid-to-upper-90s heat. He also features a cutter, curveball and changeup but none of the offerings currently project as plus pitches. Goforth generates solid ground-ball rates and has been durable despite his modest frame.
The Year Ahead: A strong spring could help push Goforth to Triple-A to open the 2014 season. If he continues to add polish to his game — and indeed sticks in the bullpen — he could see time in the Majors in the second half.
The Career Outlook: After making 28 starts in 2012, it looks like Goforth’s future is in the bullpen. He has the skill to develop into a high-leverage reliever and could be a future closer if he has a reliable secondary offering to go with his heater.
#8 Clint Coulter | 55/A- (C/DH)
Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA
19 282 61 14 7 20 60 3 .244 .314 .400 .330
The Year in Review: It was a rough year for Coulter. Originally assigned to Low-A ball, he struggled and was reassigned to rookie ball where his OPS jumped from .643 to 1.026, albeit in just 17 games. He was then pushed up to advance-rookie ball where he once again struggled (.573 OPS).
The Scouting Report: Coulter possesses impressive raw power but his overall hitting approach needs work, as witnessed by his rough 2013 season. He needs to do a better job of waiting for his pitch, remaining patient and not getting pull happy. His defence needs work, especially his receiving and game calling, but he has a strong arm that allows him to compensate for inconsistent foot work.
The Year Ahead: Coulter should be given another shot at full-season ball to open the 2014 season. He faces the tough task of kickstarting his offence while also focusing on improving his defence behind the plate.
The Career Outlook: If his bat picks up, Coulter has a chance to be an offensive-minded backstop. If he doesn’t hit as well as expected, though, his future is murky given his lack of above-average defensive tools.
#9 Devin Williams | 50/R (P)
Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP
18 13 6 34.2 28 0 10.13 5.71 3.38 3.20
The Year in Review: The Brewers’ first pick of the 2013 amateur draft (in the second round), Williams enjoyed his first taste of professional baseball. Pitching in the rookie Arizona League he struck out 39 batters and did not allow a home run in 34.2 innings of work.
The Scouting Report: A raw high school pick, Williams is athletic and projectable with a three-pitch mix that includes a fastball that tops out in the low 90s, a breaking ball and a changeup. His delivery is currently inconsistent but his athleticism should allow him to solve those issues fairly quickly with the aid of professional coaching.
The Year Ahead: Williams showed enough in his debut to be in consideration for a fast-track development plan and promotion to full-season ball in 2014. Because his command and control need work, the right-hander will likely spend the full season at the Low-A ball level.
The Career Outlook: The Missouri native has a low way to go in his development but he has a shot at becoming a mid-rotation starter for the Brewers.
#10 Orlando Arcia | 50/A- (SS)
Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA
18 486 111 14 4 35 40 20 .251 .314 .333 .303
The Year in Review: A defensive whiz, Arcia didn’t exactly embarrass himself in the Midwest League in 2013 but he’ll need to step it up offensively if he’s going to avoid becoming a backup. He nabbed 20 bases but was caught nine times. He struggled mightily against southpaws with a .460 OPS.
The Scouting Report: As alluded to above, the young Venezuelan is all about the defense. He has above-average range, a strong arm and good actions. However, Arcia needs to get stronger. The 19-year-old shortstop also has to become more selective at the plate to both increase his on-base percentage and provide him with better pitches to drive. The ankle injury that caused him to miss all of 2012 has caused him to lose a step in the speed department.
The Year Ahead: Arcia should move up to High-A ball in 2014 but he’ll likely spend the full season there while focusing on his conditioning and make adjustments to his approach at the plate.
The Career Outlook: As it stands, Arcia looks like a future second-division starter or backup. If he gets strong and more dynamic at the plate (at least to the point where he can be replacement level with the stick), his glove will help him earn a regular gig.
The Next Five:
11. Tucker Neuhaus: The Brewers’ second round draft pick last year, Neuhaus had a modest start to his pro career but he projects to develop into a solid player on the left side of the field. He didn’t hit a home run in his debut but the Florida native has a solid frame and projects to add significant power as he matures as a hitter.
12. Nick Delmonico: Delmonico’s development has moved as swiftly as expected and he was traded from Baltimore to Milwaukee in the middle of last season. He shows flashes of above-average power potential but he struggles with his consistency and has limited defensive value. Delmonico has experience playing first, second and third base but his future likely lies at first base.
13. Jed Bradley: A former first rounder, Bradley’s career has been a disappointment to date due in part to decreased velocity and his 2013 was shortened by a shoulder injury. If he can beat the injury bug, the southpaw may end up in the bullpen or the back end of a starting rotation.
14. Damien Magnifico: The hard-throwing Magnifico may make a respectable reliever one day but the Brewers have slowed down his development by trying to stretch him out as a starter. If he can improve both his command and his control, while also polishing his breaking ball, the right-hander could ride his triple-digit fastball to big league success.
15. Hunter Morris: First base was a weak spot in Milwaukee in 2013 but Morris’ struggles in the minors kept him from receiving a big league tryout. A more selective approach might help him find better pitches to hit. If he can’t make more consistent contact, Morris might top out as a bat off the bench.
I was having a conversation with a friend the other day about athletes in other sports who might hypothetically be able to make a decent transition into baseball. It’s something I think everyone’s thought of at least a few times before, and the first thing that came to my mind was that hockey goalies could and would make for good backstops, since they’re highly skilled at keeping things moving quickly from getting right past them. I know, for example, Dan Wilson used to be a goalie, so it’s not a surprise he was also a good defensive catcher when it came to blocking low pitches. It requires pretty obviously the same kind of skill.
Yet, while it’s clearly important for a catcher in the majors to be able to block challenging pitches, it’s also true that, in the majors, there isn’t a lot of spread in skill. Which means there isn’t a lot to be gained by being particularly excellent at preventing pitches from flying by. Last year, by our measures, the A’s were baseball’s worst pitch-blocking team, and it cost them 5.5 runs. The Cardinals were baseball’s best pitch-blocking team, and it gained them 6.4 runs. From worst to best, it’s a spread of about a win, which makes it maybe an unjustifiable thing to be concerned about one way or another.
But pitch-blocking can also have other, indirect effects. Most obviously, it can have an effect on the pitches actually selected to be thrown in the first place. A particularly capable blocker might end up getting thrown more balls in the dirt than a lesser-effective blocker. Not only might the catcher call for more such pitches; the pitchers might throw more such pitches, having a greater amount of confidence in the catcher to block them if need be. Basically, the better a catcher is at blocking, the greater the number of pitch options in all situations. In theory. Because the risk of extra bases is reduced.
To be honest, these are all just words around a sortable table, which is following shortly. I got curious about pitches in the dirt, and I got further curious about pitches in the dirt with a runner on third, since that’s when a wild pitch or passed ball is the most costly. It’s not that tricky a thing to look up — PITCHf/x lets us know when a pitch was a ball in the dirt, and it lets us know when a pitch was swung on, missed, and blocked. Armed with that knowledge, I dug into the 2013 data, postseason included for the corresponding teams. Invaluable help was provided by Baseball Savant.
I wasn’t looking for anything in particular — I just wanted to see what the numbers would say. So, you’ll see a table, broken down by team. The first set of columns shows the rate of pitches in the dirt in 2013 overall, and the number of standard deviations above or below the mean. The second set shows the same data for pitches thrown with a runner on third. The third set shows the same data for pitches thrown not with a runner on third. The final column simply shows the difference between the latter two z-scores. In other words, it shows the teams who threw relatively more and relatively fewer balls in the dirt with a runner on third.
It’ll be easier to say more after the table, so here’s the table.
Team Rate, overall z, overall Rate, 3rd z, 3rd Rate, other z, other z Diff
Angels 3.1% 0.9 7.4% 0.9 2.6% 0.7 0.2
Astros 3.3% 1.3 7.2% 0.8 2.8% 1.2 -0.4
Athletics 2.1% -1.4 5.4% -0.8 1.8% -1.4 0.6
Blue Jays 2.7% 0.0 6.5% 0.2 2.3% -0.1 0.3
Braves 2.1% -1.5 5.5% -0.7 1.8% -1.6 0.9
Brewers 3.1% 0.8 7.6% 1.1 2.6% 0.6 0.6
Cardinals 3.0% 0.5 6.5% 0.2 2.6% 0.6 -0.5
Cubs 3.3% 1.2 8.1% 1.5 2.7% 0.9 0.6
Diamondbacks 3.2% 0.9 7.0% 0.6 2.8% 1.0 -0.4
Dodgers 2.9% 0.4 5.6% -0.6 2.7% 0.8 -1.4
Giants 2.4% -0.9 5.1% -1.0 2.0% -0.9 -0.2
Indians 2.3% -1.1 4.8% -1.3 2.0% -1.0 -0.3
Mariners 3.1% 0.9 7.0% 0.6 2.7% 0.8 -0.2
Marlins 2.4% -0.8 6.2% -0.1 2.0% -0.9 0.9
Mets 2.3% -1.1 5.6% -0.6 1.9% -1.2 0.5
Nationals 2.7% -0.2 7.0% 0.6 2.3% -0.3 0.9
Orioles 2.0% -1.7 4.8% -1.3 1.7% -1.7 0.4
Padres 2.7% -0.2 6.2% -0.1 2.3% -0.3 0.3
Phillies 2.7% -0.2 5.2% -1.0 2.3% -0.1 -0.9
Pirates 3.8% 2.3 8.5% 1.9 3.2% 2.2 -0.3
Rangers 2.7% -0.1 5.5% -0.7 2.5% 0.2 -0.9
Rays 2.6% -0.4 5.8% -0.5 2.3% -0.2 -0.2
Red Sox 2.6% -0.4 6.0% -0.2 2.2% -0.5 0.2
Reds 2.3% -1.0 4.5% -1.6 2.1% -0.7 -1.0
Rockies 3.0% 0.5 6.5% 0.1 2.6% 0.5 -0.4
Royals 3.5% 1.6 9.4% 2.7 2.9% 1.3 1.3
Tigers 2.8% 0.0 5.9% -0.4 2.4% 0.2 -0.5
Twins 2.3% -0.9 5.4% -0.8 2.0% -1.0 0.2
White Sox 2.6% -0.3 6.9% 0.5 2.2% -0.5 1.0
Yankees 3.2% 1.0 5.9% -0.4 3.0% 1.5 -1.9
Nobody threw a greater rate of pitches in the dirt than the Pirates. Nobody threw a lesser rate of pitches in the dirt than the Orioles, at just about half the Pirates’ rate. The Orioles and Pirates were separated by four standard deviations, with the league average being about 2.8%.
Interestingly, you’d think the rate might be lower with a man on third, since teams don’t want to give up runs with passed balls and wild pitches. Broadcasts often talk about how, with a runner on third, the ball in the dirt might be off the table. Yet, league-wide last year, 6.3% of pitches with a runner on third were thrown in the dirt. Meanwhile, just 2.4% of pitches not with a runner on third were thrown in the dirt. This might well call for deeper research, but based just on this, teams are willing to risk the ball getting away for the sake of maybe getting more whiffs or grounders. Teams, generally, aren’t worried that the catcher behind the plate won’t be able to stop a low pitch if he knows that it’s coming.
I wondered about teams with different approaches with runners on third. I should say right here that I’ve attempted no corrections or adjustments for pitcher identities. I also didn’t break anything down by individual catcher. But, with runners on third, the Royals threw the greatest rate of dirtballs, and the Reds brought up the rear. In other situations, the Pirates and the Orioles were the leaders and laggards, respectively.
With runners on third, the Royals’ rate was 2.7 standard deviations above the mean. With runners not on third, they came in around 1.3 above, and the difference here of about 1.3 was the greatest in baseball. Implied is that Salvador Perez trusted himself, and Royals pitchers trusted Salvador Perez, even with a runner 90 feet away. At the other end, the Yankees were 0.4 standard deviations below with runners on third, and 1.5 standard deviations above with runners not on third. The difference here of about -1.9 was the lowest in baseball, so either pitchers didn’t trust the catchers, the catchers didn’t want to deal with the chance, this is small-sample-size noise, or a correction is needed to take the pitchers into account. The Yankees still threw twice as many balls in the dirt with runners on third as with runners not on third, but everything has to be considered within the league context.
There’s basically no relationship between the z Diff — the last column in the table — and our pitch-blocking metric. There’s only a very weak relationship between overall ball-in-dirt rate and our pitch-blocking metric. The Pirates were second in baseball in wild pitches, and first in rate of balls in the dirt. The Orioles were 29th in baseball in wild pitches, and last in rate of balls in the dirt. The Cardinals were 30th in baseball in wild pitches while throwing a greater-than-average rate of pitches in the dirt, which speaks to the skill of Yadier Molina. Yet the Cardinals were also relatively more cautious about balls in the dirt with a runner on third. The A’s went the opposite way, even though their catchers were sort of the anti-Molina, on the whole. We can’t tell from this whether it’s better to be more aggressive or more careful with a runner 90 feet away. We can tell that teams pick up their dirtball rates overall even when there’s a runner threatening to score. This might be the opposite of one’s expectation.
As usual, I’m left with plenty of questions and only hints of some answers. That’s the kind of thing that happens when you dive into statistics without a hypothesis to test. This was more exploring for the sake of exploration, and I might choose to run some further exploration down the road. If nothing else, we know that teams as a whole aren’t that afraid of a runner on third, or at least they aren’t that afraid of a wild pitch in the same situation. Better, it seems to have been decided, to keep all the pitches on the table, and maybe make the batter pay for over-aggressiveness. Because at the end of the day, if you’re catching in the majors, you’re probably damned handy with heaters and breaking balls low. Even if you’re Wilin Rosario.
In a sense, the pitching market is still at a standstill. Masahiro Tanaka has little reason to sign before his deadline, and other pitchers have little reason to sign before Tanaka does, so for about another week and a half, we could be dealing with a whole lot of nothing. And it’s not just free-agent pitchers. There could be renewed runs at David Price and Jeff Samardzija, but only after Tanaka goes. And free-agent position players might wait for financial clarity as well. The short-term result of all this is that we’re not seeing changes in the 2014 projected standings, because teams aren’t making moves. But something did happen to shake things up right before the weekend.
That something is that Derek Holland hurt himself on his own staircase. It sounds too absurd to take real seriously, but the fact of the matter is that Holland needed knee surgery and he’s projected to be out until midseason. To hear Holland talk, he’s determined to beat those projections back to the field, but medical timetables aren’t made up out of thin air. Holland is going to be out for a significant amount of time. Holland is good, and his replacement will be worse. The Rangers are in a fragile position, and this is a bigger deal than it might seem like.
Holland, last year, was an excellent pitcher who made every start. To the Rangers, he was worth something between four and five wins. Before he got hurt, it would’ve been wise to project him to be worth something between three and four wins. I know this bypasses the details and gets right to the heart of it, but all the details are unnecessary. There would’ve been no reason to think Holland was due to get way better or way worse. There would’ve been good reason to assume a bit of regression, in performance and playing time. I don’t need to explain these things to you — around these parts, this is the fundamental approach.
Now, figure Holland’s out for half the year. That’s something in the neighborhood of 90-100 innings, innings that could now go to guys like Nick Tepesch, Colby Lewis, and Michael Kirkman. That’s not a disaster, but it is a downgrade, because it basically has to be. Those arms aren’t thought to be replacement-level, but it’s easy to envision a loss of about a win or so. That’s on mathematical average, and in reality the season plays out just once, but decisions have to be made based on mathematical averages. Everything — everything — is about the odds.
The Rangers play in a competitive division, and both the Angels and the A’s project to be strong teams in the season to come. The Mariners project to be worse, but they should be at least okay, and they’re probably not done upgrading. Additionally, the American League has its various Wild Card contenders behind the Red Sox and Tigers. It’s going to be difficult to sneak into the postseason, but the Rangers clearly have a quality team.
The new Wild Card rules have existed for two seasons. On average, the Wild Card teams have won 90.5 games, so let’s just knock that down to 90. Let’s set 90 wins as the goal. The Rangers project to be good, and while there’s little sense in identifying a specific number, let’s say the Rangers project for something in the high 80s. Now let’s dock them a win, on account of the Holland injury. Let’s not worry about any issues Holland might have trying to return to full strength and effectiveness. Let’s look at a graph, charting approximate 90+ win odds against a team’s true-talent level.
You’ll recognize this as the win-curve line of thought. The probabilities are approximate, and they ignore the realities of a team’s specific competition, but any given truth will seldom stray far from this. And what’s most important here isn’t the curve itself. Rather, it’s the slope of the curve as the true-talent win total increases.
When you have a really good team, adding a win or losing a win doesn’t change very much about the outlook. If you subtract a win from a team with a true-talent 100-62 record, its odds of winning at least 90 games drop just 1.8 percentage points. When you have a bad team or even a mediocre team, the same idea applies in reverse. Things get volatile when you’re dealing with a team that looks better than .500, but isn’t amazing. A team like the 2014 Texas Rangers.
Between the mid-80s and the mid-90s, a win is worth about 5-6 percentage points. So if you figure the Holland injury costs the Rangers a win on average, that drops their chances of winning at least 90 games by about 5-6 percentage points. And if you’re a bigger Holland fan than that, it doesn’t take much more to get into the double digits. By now this should probably be a familiar argument, because we spend a lot of time talking about the win curve and playoff probabilities, but the Rangers have been hurt because Holland has been hurt. They’re facing lower odds of winning the AL West, and they’re facing lower odds of winning one of the AL Wild Cards. It’s obviously not crippling, but if the offseason is about shifting or fortifying the odds as much as possible, you can think of this as effectively taking a lot of the punch out of the Shin-Soo Choo acquisition. Choo moved the needle forward, by some percentage points. Holland falling on the stairs has moved that needle back, not all of the way, but a significant chunk of the way.
Another way to look at this: while Masahiro Tanaka could be anywhere from great to lousy to hurt, an ordinary projection calls him good, and shy of elite. In other words, an ordinary projection values Tanaka right around the same level where it values Derek Holland. If signing Tanaka would be a splash for the Rangers, this is sort of a half-splash in the opposite direction. Instead of signing Tanaka and leaving fewer innings for the depth guys, the Rangers now have to give more innings to the depth guys, and you never want to have to lean on those.
Which means there ought to be a greater sense of urgency for the Rangers to add, to at least try to offset this to some extent. Jon Daniels has said the Rangers are comfortable with their internal options, but there was also word over the weekend the team is making progress toward signing Jerome Williams. Williams, since returning, has been good for just a 115 FIP- as a starter, but he’s also posted a 101 xFIP-, so it’s not a leap to suggest he could be of some use. What he isn’t is Derek Holland, but he could at least help the Rangers avoid giving too many innings to a mess.
But Holland’s quality is probably irreplaceable, if the Rangers are indeed around their budget limits. Very simply, losing Holland for a few months is bad for the Rangers. Very critically, they’re in a volatile spot, so the injury hurts them particularly hard. The American League just got that much more wide open.
Alex Rodriguez has been suspended for the entirety of the 2014 season. You already know this, and if you haven’t yet, go read Wendy Thurm’s breakdown of the arbiter’s ruling for more information on the judgment itself. I’m not all that interested in talking about Rodriguez that much more, personally, as this is a story that has been so thoroughly covered that there just isn’t that much more to say.
However, I think that the precedent of the season long suspension, and the near unanimous agreement that we’re going to see significantly increased suspension lengths for failed PED tests in the next CBA, creates an issue that Major League Baseball is going to have to contend with eventually. As we’ve seen in the A-Rod case, the relationship between the team and the player has essentially disintegrated, as the interests of the Yankees were clearly aligned with the interests of Major League Baseball; both wanted Rodriguez suspended for as long as possible.
By virtue of the suspension, the Yankees have just received a $25 million rebate, which could allow them to get under the $189 million luxury tax threshold and lead to significant long term savings from the resetting of the tax brackets. After years of benefiting from Rodriguez’s on-field performance while he was presumably using PEDs, the Yankees are now benefiting from the fact that Rodriguez is being punished for using PEDs. And that is essentially the definition of a moral hazard.
A moral hazard is defined as a situation where one party making a decision is incentivized to take on undue risk because the cost of that risk will be paid by another party. It is a term most often used in the insurance industry, but the Yankees benefiting from Rodriguez’s suspension might be one of the best popular culture examples of the theory in recent history.
Because, as this suspension shows, the incentives are now almost entirely aligned for teams to (secretly, of course) provide aging overpriced players with access to as many PEDs as they want to take. If the player takes them and performs at a higher level, then the team directly benefits from the player’s PED use. If the player gets caught using PEDs, then the player is suspended without pay, and his contract is removed from the team’s books for the length of the suspension. The incentives created by Rodriguez’s suspension mean that, ethical principles aside, the Phillies should begin shipping Ryan Howard a daily crate full of steroids.
Right now, there is no system in place to punish the employers of PED users in any way, other than the possibility that they might lose a player in the midst of a pennant run if he fails a test during the season. Of course, even when that happens, as it did with Melky Cabrera and the Giants or Nelson Cruz and the Rangers, the team generally has the ability to make a trade that offsets the loss of the suspended player. The costs to a team of employing a PED user are just not very high, and now that MLB has a precedent for season long suspensions, the potential benefits to a team have increased if a player on an albatross contract starts using PEDs to try and delay their decline. The incentives are now strongly aligned for teams to want their overpaid former stars to start juicing.
If MLB gets an upwards adjustment in suspension length for failed drug tests in the next CBA, these incentives will only get stronger. Even if you don’t think that a team would go as far as to actually provide a player with PEDs, they wouldn’t even have to be directly involved in the acquisition process to potentially benefit. Once a player’s contract becomes an anchor on a team’s payroll, the organization would be similarly incentivized to leak information to the league about a player they have suspicions about, which could lead to an increase in the number of “random” tests a player is subject to, and an increased chance of that player being suspended and the team receiving a large rebate on the contract they signed.
This is all hypothetical, of course, but we don’t have to look too far to find instances of MLB teams exploiting bad incentive structures to their own gain. Even in the Masahiro Tanaka story, the league is concerned that teams might operate outside the agreed parameters of negotiations in order to funnel more money to Rakuten in order to land Tanaka’s rights, and the abuses of the international free agent signing system have been well documented by Ben Badler and others. It is simply poor policy to expect these organizations to act against their own best interests, and right now, it is in the best interests of the teams to have their unproductive expensive players use as many illegal substances as possible.
There are a few things MLB could do to reduce this moral hazard, though none are perfect solutions.
1. Require the team to continue to pay the contracted price for a suspended player, though in lieu of paying the salary to the player, the payments would then be evenly disbursed to their competitors within the same division. These payments would also continue to count against the luxury tax.
2. A team that has a player on its active 25 man roster that is suspended for using PEDs forfeits both their first round draft choice in the next amateur draft and the draft pool allocation that goes along with that pick. If a team’s first round selection falls between #20 and #30, then they also lose their second round pick, and the pool allocation for both of those selections.
3. A team that has a player suspended for PED use in the last year of his contract is forbidden from using the qualifying offer for that player and any other free agents it has in the upcoming free agent class, thus raising the cost of re-signing their own free agents, even the ones who didn’t get suspended.
The first rule would be the most fun, I think. Can you imagine the Red Sox being able to finance the acquisition of another player to upgrade their roster with money they received from the Yankees that would have otherwise been paid to Alex Rodriguez? Sending money to your direct rivals to help them beat you would be a pretty bitter pill to swallow, and the lack of financial relief from having your overpaid veteran get suspended would remove most of the poor incentives that are currently in place.
The second and third penalties may cross the line and push things into an area that could create unfair markets for players who might be incorrectly suspected of PED usage, and I’m not saying I necessarily support their adoption, at least not without the player’s association getting significant requests of their own baked into the next CBA. However, the first modification would only really have an effect on a team when a highly paid player is suspended, and wouldn’t do much to deter teams from wanting to employ low cost PED users, so perhaps an additional rule like #2 or #3 would balance things out a bit.
We’re almost certainly going to see big changes in the next CBA when it comes to the penalties for players caught using PEDs. Given the Rodriguez suspension and these changes, perhaps it is time for MLB to start thinking about penalties for their employers as well.
I’ve always been fascinated with how teams and players react to advance scouting reports. I love to read up on how players incorporate the reports into their game plan and how managers use the information to inform their decisions. But it’s an aspect of baseball that is difficult to access for an outsider. Generally speaking, we don’t know what scouts are saying about any player. We can look at the data and do a little amateur scouting in order to make a guess, but we don’t know.
What I wondered was if by looking at the data, we could find some examples where it appeared that a scouting report was dead wrong. Since sample size issues make it a necessity, I had to look for players that every team scouted incorrectly. One of the things contained in an advance scouting report is how aggressively an opposing hitter should be attacked, so the first place I went looking was plate discipline data to see if any hitters were pitched more or less aggressively than the data suggests was wise. To my surprise, I found somebody immediately – Carlos Gomez.
Last season, Gomez saw first pitch strikes nearly 69 percent of the time, which was the highest rate among qualified batters. League average was a 60 percent first pitch strike rate. This isn’t a new trend for Gomez – over his career he has seen first pitch strikes a full two-thirds of the time. Interestingly, the hitter with the second highest frequency of first pitch strikes last season was Starling Marte. Readers familiar with Gomez and Marte will know that they have a similar profile at the plate and share many physical tools.
There are two obvious reasons why all pitchers would attack a specific hitter more frequently than average. Hitters like Juan Pierre or Placido Polanco are notoriously difficult to strike out, yet they have very little power. It’s easiest for pitchers to attack those hitters and let the BABIP gods decide the outcome. The other scenario is with hitters who simply never swing at first pitches, like vintage Bobby Abreu. A slightly less obvious third reason is that pitchers may want to get ahead on leadoff hitters or with the bases empty in general.
Yet those three scenarios don’t explain why Gomez is seeing a lot of first pitch strikes. He has more than his share of strikeouts and has exhibited good power since 2011 – more than enough time for scouting reports to adjust to his power breakout. For his career, Gomez has swung at the first pitch over 40 percent of the time, which is rather aggressive. The aggression is more apparent if we limit ourselves to 2013, when he swung 54.1 percent of the time in empty counts. The league average rate for first pitch swings is just 27 percent (h/t Jeff Zimmerman). The Brewers didn’t use Gomez as a leadoff hitter either, he generally batted between third and sixth in the order last season.
With Marte, the story is slightly different since he actually was a leadoff hitter. Still, his power and strikeout rates were similar to Gomez’s. He swung at first pitches about 22 percent of the time, which was certainly more reserved than Gomez but also wasn’t unusually patient. For example, Abreu offered at just 8.8 percent of first pitches since 2007 (I used BrooksBaseball.net to gather this data and it only goes back to 2007).
Gomez also destroyed first pitches last season with a .402 batting average and .738 slugging percentage (.336 ISO). He was only very slightly worse than that in 2011 and 2012. Usually I would shrug away this sort of data due to sample size, confounding variables, and other statistical noise, but with Gomez I’m inclined to take the data at face value. He seems to really like first pitches. And given his recent increase in first pitch swings, I suspect he’s consciously aware that pitchers are attacking the zone early.
Which brings me to the obvious question – why is this being allowed to happen?
In trying to answer that question, I decided to do some research. I drafted a list of all outfielder seasons that qualified for the batting title since 2007. I included walk rate, strikeout rate, ISO, speed score, and first pitch strike rate. I then filtered for seasons with a walk rate less than eight percent, strikeout rate above 20 percent, and ISO above .160. I then manually removed players with a speed score below 5, which gave me this 14 player list sorted by first pitch strike rate:
Season Name Team BB% K% ISO Spd F-Strike%
2013 Carlos Gomez Brewers 6.30% 24.70% 0.222 8.1 68.60%
2013 Starling Marte Pirates 4.40% 24.40% 0.161 8.7 68.40%
2012 B.J. Upton Rays 7.10% 26.70% 0.208 6.2 65.40%
2011 Peter Bourjos Angels 5.80% 22.50% 0.167 7.4 62.90%
2007 Chris Young Diamondbacks 6.90% 22.60% 0.23 6.3 61.90%
2008 Matt Kemp Dodgers 7.00% 23.30% 0.168 6.6 61.50%
2007 Alfonso Soriano Cubs 5.00% 21.10% 0.261 6.2 61.40%
2010 Carlos Gonzalez Rockies 6.30% 21.20% 0.262 7.2 59.10%
2012 Michael Saunders Mariners 7.80% 23.90% 0.185 6.2 58.40%
2010 Matt Kemp Dodgers 7.90% 25.40% 0.201 5.5 58.40%
2009 Matt Kemp Dodgers 7.80% 20.80% 0.193 7 57.10%
2008 Cody Ross Marlins 6.50% 22.90% 0.228 5.2 56.70%
2013 Will Venable Padres 5.60% 22.90% 0.216 7.3 56.10%
2007 Curtis Granderson Tigers 7.70% 20.90% 0.25 8.5 55.50%
What I had hoped to find was a systemic bias against speedy outfielders with surprising power. Since Gomez and Marte were similar players and saw a lot of empty count strikes, perhaps this happened with other comparable players. Unfortunately, B.J. Upton‘s 2012 season was the only other example on my list and he’s only seen a slightly above average rate of first pitch strikes over his career.
I then repeated the exercise with all hitters, which added Ian Desmond to the list. His 2012 and 2013 seasons featured well above average first pitch strike rates, and his overall profile at the plate is quite similar to Gomez and Marte. I also tried removing the walk rate filter, but that didn’t add any hitters.
So in the end, I found three batters with a similar body type and offensive profile who have seen strikes on 0-0 well above normal rates. Like Gomez, Marte and Desmond are both very good against first pitches (1.209 and .892 OPS respectively). And Desmond shared Gomez’s aggression, he swung at the first pitch over 50 percent of the time last season.
In the end, I could not find enough evidence to definitively state that there is a specific bias against this type of player. It’s an interesting coincidence that three of the players who see the most first pitch strikes are all a little over six feet tall, weigh about 200 pounds, play a challenging defensive position, and show a lot more power and whiff rate than other players of their body type. Other players on the list of those with the most first pitch strikes include Alexei Ramirez, Alcides Escobar, and Gerardo Parra. They have similar body types but lack power. Perhaps scouts are wrongly including Gomez, Marte, and Desmond into this bucket.
Short of a stunning revelation about scouting bias, I am comfortable in recommending that major league pitchers be just a little bit less aggressive against Gomez in empty counts. He’s taking pitchers to the cleaners with a very aggressive approach of his own, which might be something that can be exploited. Pitchers may want to extend that same caution to Marte and Desmond.
Sounds like a Kershaw deal will be finished by Friday.
Kershaw and Dodgers closing in on deal
January, 15, 2014
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
Pitcher Clayton Kershaw was one of the 146 players who filed for arbitration on Tuesday, but few observers believe that his case won't be settled before the process runs its course. The Los Angeles Dodgers haven't had a case actually reach arbitration since 2007.
In fact, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that a resolution is very close and that the two sides "could agree to a record-breaking deal this week." Rosenthal suggests that the agreement could include an opt-out clause after five years, which "would allow Kershaw to hit the open market at 30 and perhaps secure an even bigger deal."
Here's what ESPN.com's Buster Olney had to say about Kershaw in October, when the Dodgers originally floated the idea of a "lifetime deal" believed to be worth in the range of $300 million. "Kershaw's potential contract is expected to be the largest ever for a pitcher. Earlier this year, Felix Hernandez agreed to a seven-year, $175 million contract with the Mariners, and Justin Verlander agreed to an extension that results in the Detroit Tigers paying him $180 million for the 2013-19 seasons. CC Sabathia signed a seven-year, $161 million deal with the Yankees after the 2008 season.
"The aggressive effort to sign Kershaw, who could be eligible for free agency after the 2014 season, keeps with the style of Dodgers' ownership since a group headlined by Mark Walter, Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson purchased the team for a record $2 billion before the 2012 season."