Monthly Archives: June 2012

More Dumb Stuff In The Boston Media Hyping Bobby V

In this bit by boston.com’s Chad Finn, there’s one my my favorite blocks of text I’ve read since Gravity’s Rainbow. 

Loved Bobby V.’s comment to my colleague Nick Cafardo when he was informed that a scout said Angels phenom Mike Trout reminds him of Valentine as a young player. “As a matter of fact, he’s the only player I’ve ever thought was a similar player.’’ While some might take that as another foray into the depths of Bobby V’s ego, consider this: As a 20-year-old shortstop in Triple A in 1970, Valentine hit .340 with a .910 OPS, had 14 homers, 16 triples and 39 doubles, and stole 29 bases. Those stats suggest a similar skill-set, don’t they?

I love that Cafardo is mentioned in stupid stuff about Bobby V in the Boston media even when Cafardo isn’t the Boston media buffoon writing the stupid stuff about Bobby V.

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The Two-Plus Season Slide Of Albert Pujols, And Why Everyone Should Have Seen It

Albert Pujols is no longer Major League Baseball’s best player. He hasn’t been since the start of 2010, or 26.5 months.

Using Wins Above Replacement, in order, Joey Votto, Jose Bautista, Ryan Braun, Josh Hamilton, Robinson Cano, Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Beltre, Evan Longoria, Troy Tulowitzki and Matt Holliday have been more valuable, per FanGraphs. By Weighted On Base Average (wOBA), in order, Votto, Bautista, Cabrera, Hamilton, Braun, Carlos Gonzalez, Paul Konerko, David Ortiz, Tulowitzki, Holliday, and Prince Fielder have out-hit Pujols, making him the 12th-best hitter of the last 2+ years.

Pujols is in steady decline that is steeper than the typical decline of an average player, steeper than the decline of a star player who logs at least 10 years and 5000 plate appearances, and steeper than the typical Hall Of Famer.

The decline might seem slight–hey, he’s still been the 12th-best hitter and 11th-best all-around player in the game the last 2+ seasons. But being 12th best after a decade in which Pujols was mostly at a level unparalleled by any other player in any single season let alone in a stretch of seasons is a big drop. From 2001-2009, Pujols had almost exactly the same number of plate appearances as Alex Rodriguez. Pujols’ posted 11.2% more WAR than Rodriguez, with an 18-point wOBA advantage over the game’s second-best player in that span. The next-best player in that span was Carlos Beltran, whose wOBA was 55 points beneath Pujols, and who produced about two-thirds as much value as Pujols.

Because of his decline, Pujols isn’t even the best player on his team. That distinction belongs to Mike Trout, who’s not old enough to drink a beer, but is a prodigiously talented hitter and an elite defender at a premium defensive position. And because upside and improvement and breakout potential are almost universally the province of youth, Albert Pujols is remarkably unlikely to ever be better than/as good as Mike Trout at any point in the future, since Mike Trout is likely to get better every season for the next six years, while Albert Pujols is likely to get worse every season from now until the end of time.

That stinks for Angels brass, since they’re paying Pujols a lot of money to get worse and worse at a very fast pace. Arte Moreno won’t just pay Pujols for 9.5 more years of underperformance on the field. He’s going to pay Pujols for 10 years after he retires to be a marketing piece for a team whose fans will not want to be associated with a player whose contract and lack of justifying said contract will likely come to represent an albatross around the ankles of ‘their’ team.

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The “Yeah, But” of Box-Office-Draw When Rationalizing Star Players’ Salaries

The only players to receive a nine-figure salary and actually earn it on the field were Alex Rodriguez, in the deal he signed with the Rangers and finished with the Yankees, and Albert Pujols, in the deal he completed last year with the St. Louis Cardinals. One might present a series of “yeah, but”s to justify other big-money deals issued to players past their prime, but it’s all empty rationalization. My favorite “yeah, but” is the one that attempts to reason why a star player earns his salary by bringing fans into the stadium.

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Chris Carpenter’s Injury And The Rockies Collection Of Bums

It’s June 23, 2012. Chris Carpenter might be back from his injury soon. If you’re wondering why Chris Carpenter had another injury, here’s a cartoon I made in Paint almost a year ago today:

Carpenter pitched 273.1 innings last year, including the playoffs but not Spring Training. Carpenter has a history of pitching-arm injuries. At the time of that cartoon (June 29, 2011) Carpenter had worked consecutive outings with pitch counts of 118, 92, 124, 124, 132. Sometimes 1 and 1 and 1 and 1 and 1 and 1 = 6.

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Dumb Boston Sportswriter Says Bobby V Rulez, Other AL East Managers Not So Much

This trainwreck is 10 days old, and I’m speechless that it got past me this long. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe ranks the top 10 managers in baseball as:

1. Don Mattingly

2. Robin Ventura

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Colby Rasmus Takes A Big Step Forward

Since Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell moved Colby Rasmus to the second spot in the batting order on June 5, the young centerfielder (entering Monday night’s game) has a triple-slash line of 352/364/648. That’s an impressive mark, but those numbers are, on their own, absolutely meaningless except as a nice topic of conversation a la “Hey Colby Rasmus has been hitting well the last couple weeks.”

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Roger Clemens : Pitching Baseballs :: Bill Clinton : Presidenting The Country

Bill Clinton was the last great US President and will likely remain so for a while. People can quibble with certain aspects of his tenure. He should have been more proactive in intervening in a few different foreign conflicts. He signed the Gramm-Leach-Billey Act, leading to greater deregulation of banks. For the most part, though, he was a tremendous steward and leader of the country, and one who most everyone, conservative and liberal, can look back on and remember well.

Roger Clemens was the last great right-handed pitcher and will likely remain so for a while. Greg Maddux was great but not overpowering like Clemens. Pedro Martinez was utterly brilliant for seven years and at his peak possibly a bit better than Clemens was in his. But Roger Clemens dominated like Martinez with the longevity of Maddux. People will quibble with his legacy, cite the Piazza incidents, or argue that his career after age 35 represented a slowdown and was buoyed by a move to the National League. For the most part, though, he was a tremendous pitcher with overpowering stuff and a workhorse at the same time, and someone who most everyone, old-fashioned and SABR-slanted, can look back on and remember well.

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Jorge Soler’s Open Market Value Is Mostly Opportunity Cost

Bids should now be in to the representatives for Cuban free agent Jorge Soler. Buster Olney at ESPN reports the Cubs, Dodgers, Yankees, and Braves as being the four most interested parties. Rumor has it, the final price for Soler will come somewhere in the $25-35 million range.

In the strictest sense of answering the question “Is Jorge Soler worth 25 million dollars?” we need to wait and see. Soler is only 20 years old and unlike recent Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes, Soler will require some time, perhaps as much as a few years, in the minor leagues before he is ready for the level of competition he will face at the Major League level. In a decade or so, we can sit back and have the discussion of whether or not the eventual winning bidder was in fact a “winner” in the bidding, or if they bought a lemon.

In another sense, though, we can answer a few theoretical questions about the value of a top-flight prospect. To be clear, Soler is that top-flight young player. Were he inserted into a numerical ranking of top prospects today, he’d likely land somewhere in the 30s, possibly higher and almost certainly not lower. Soler is a prototypical right-fielder with a muscular, athletic 6’3″ 200-pound frame, and a bat that scouts say is lightning fast and possessing of plus-plus power. Baseball America has said that if Soler had been in the 2011 draft (one of the most talent-rich drafts in history if not the most so), Soler might have gone as high as number five overall.

We know the value of a top-5 pick in the 2011 draft, and it’s a healthy chunk of money. Of the top 6 picks, only  number-three pick Trevor Bauer signed a bonus less than $6.25 million. Bubba Starling–compared by many to Soler–went number five and signed for $7.5 million. Both are outfielders with big raw toolsheds full of skills, and only 3.5 months (Starling is younger) separates them in age. The value of signing Soler, then, were he draft-eligible, would have been in 2011 somewhere in the $6.25-$7.5 million range. That’s the bonus a team would have to have paid to have signed him in the top seven last year.  This year, the average slot value for picks 1-5 was just over $5 million. So I’ll draw a baseline of $5 million, and assume that’s about the cost that, were there a draft today, and were Jorge Soler in that draft, a team would have to pay Soler via draft bonus to retain his services.

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You Could Have Robots Run Instant Replay In Baseball. Or You Could Treat Umpires Like Everyone Else.

Most of us work for a living, and if you read this I’m 99% certain you’re in that crowd, whether you’re a 99-percenter from the Occupy crowd or the 1% they purport to oppose. We rely on work and the income it provides, whether we love our job and and practice daily our passion, or we trudge away at a job we deplore.

Similarly, we all make decisions at work. Even an otherwise unemployable semi-automaton walking the streets of Chicago slapping parking tickets on cars often is empowered to make a decision now and again.

Ultimately, the decisions we make in the jobs we need define our professional future and financial well-being. A waiter who cannot manage time or orders will collect smaller tips and potentially get fired. A self-employed realtor who is lazy will not earn. A graphic designer who makes the wrong creative choices will not climb the career ladder. Well-funded organized anarchists (a hilarious oxymoron) who throw bottles at Chicago police will get hit with a stick and arrested. Brett Lawrie will sit out a couple games.

It’s not reasonable to expect perfect or correct decisions all of the time from anyone in any profession. Those in a profession that requires constant decisions and judgement should be the people from whom we least expect perfection.

So. Baseball umpires.

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