Archive for January, 2014

Bruce Chen and the Power of the Home Run

Bruce Chen has had a pretty weird career. He was a top prospect with the Braves, got to the Majors at 21, and had his first excellent season at age-23. And then he fell apart and became the definition of a replacement level pitcher. From 2000 to 2003, he played for the Braves, Phillies, Mets, Expos, Reds, Astros, and Red Sox. He changed teams at least once in each of those four years, and was officially a journeyman by the time he was 26.

A decade later, he just re-signed with the Royals for another $4.25 million in guaranteed money, with an option that could actually keep him around through the end of his age-37 season. This wasn’t a particularly easy outcome to see coming, given how mediocre he was for most of his career, but his late career revival is almost something of a reminder about just how much of a pitcher’s performance is driven by home run rates.

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The Rays, the A’s, and Seeing What Might Not Be There

Here are a couple things that we know:

  • The Rays and the A’s are lower-budget baseball teams
  • The Rays and the A’s have good ideas of what they’re doing

I suppose we can’t really prove the second one, but to the extent that results can serve as indicators, it’s hard to argue with how successful the teams have been despite their considerable financial disadvantages. Both front offices are thought of as intelligent, forward-thinking, analytical, and efficient, and they’re efficient out of necessity, because neither team can afford to flush money down the toilet. They need to try to get the most out of every dollar they spend.

Here’s another thing that we know: over the offseason, the Rays and the A’s have poured some millions into building up their bullpens. Relievers are often thought of as being lousy investments, and it seems easy enough to cobble a bullpen together on the cheap, so when the Rays and the A’s invest in late-inning vets, it gets attention. The temptation is to believe they’re exploiting some kind of inefficiency. The temptation is to believe we’ve been wrong about relievers for a while. Basically, the temptation is to believe that they’re on to something. And, you know, maybe that’s true. Maybe they’ve figured something out. Or maybe people are just looking for patterns in the sand. Maybe there’s nothing weird going on at all.

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The Pros and Cons of Pulling the Baseball

The advantages of pulling the baseball have been an increasingly popular analytical topic in the fairly recent past – wildly productive slash lines on pulled batted balls, especially those hit in the air, can be readily trotted out for almost any hitter. Is it really that simple? Should hitters just stride to the plate and look to pull for distance at all costs, and then expect to enjoy the riches that ensue? Doing so, upon further review, appears to have some unintended consequences. Read the rest of this entry »

Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 1/30/14

Eno Sarris: Will be here shortly!

Eno Sarris: Lyrics of the day, might be easy for some, but very many bonus points if you get the version I’m listening to

You tell me this town ain’t got no heart. Well, well, well, you can never tell.
The sunny side of the street is dark. Well, well, well, you can never tell.

Comment From Chris
What tier in Firestone Walker in?

Eno Sarris: One, of course, I made the rules up for the Fantasy Beer League.

Comment From Justin

Eno Sarris: Yes?

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Steamer Projects: Philadelphia Phillies Prospects

Earlier today, polite and Canadian and polite Marc Hulet published his 2014 organizational prospect list for the Philadelphia Phillies.

It goes without saying that, in composing such a list, Hulet has considered the overall future value those prospects might be expected to provide either to the Phillies or whatever other organizations to which they might someday belong.

What this brief post concerns isn’t overall future value, at all, but rather such value as the prospects from Hulet’s list might provide were they to play, more or less, a full major-league season in 2014.

Other prospect projections: Arizona / Baltimore / Chicago AL / Chicago NL / Colorado / Houston / Kansas City / Los Angeles AL / Miami / Milwaukee / Minnesota / New York NL / San Diego / San Francisco / Seattle / Tampa Bay / Toronto.

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Q&A: Jesse Biddle, Philadelphia Phillies Pitching Prospect

Jesse Biddle is better than the 5-14 record and 5.3 BB/9 he logged last season with Double-A Reading. A lot better. As a matter of fact, the 22-year-old lefthander is on the verge of breaking into the Philadelphia Phillies starting rotation.

Biddle battled health issues in 2013. Diagnosed with whooping cough in April, he doggedly took the mound at less than full strength the entire season. In August, he toed the rubber with a case of plantar fasciitis.

A first-round pick in 2011 out of Germantown Friends School in suburban Philadelphia, Biddle has one of the best curveballs in minor league baseball. He also has a surprising role model. His stuff is that of a power pitcher, but Biddle is a big believer in the ways of Jamie Moyer. Read the rest of this entry »

2014 Top 10 Prospects: Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies system starts off nicely but drops off rapidly after the third slot. Serious injuries have taken a huge bite out of the rankings for players such as shortstop Roman Quinn, catcher Tommy Joseph, as well as pitchers Shane Watson and Adam Morgan. Read the rest of this entry »

Effectively Wild Episode 375: Peter Angelos and the Orioles’ Fearsome Physicals

Ben and Sam talk to Jack Moore about the history of Orioles physicals and Peter Angelos’ time with the team.

The Myth of the Royals and 2014

To me, it isn’t fair to evaluate trades in retrospect. While there can be significance there, it’ll be out-shouted by all the random noise, and you can only ever make a decision based upon the information that you have at the time. But we can still look at trades in retrospect, just to see how they worked out, and of course there’s some insight in exploring the deal that swapped James Shields and another for Wil Myers and others. Plenty was written here about the trade at the time. Shields was worth 4.5 WAR last year, and he projects for 4 WAR this year. Myers was worth 2.4 WAR last year in a partial season, and he projects for 3 WAR this year. Shields is expensive and in his contract season. Myers is cheap and under control forever. This was basically the problem all along, even ignoring all the other parts, which can’t be ignored.

I don’t think opinions of the trade have changed. Those who supported the Royals going for it still applaud the boldness. Those who criticized the Royals going for it still believe it was a poorly-timed mistake. The move was controversial enough that people have dug in to their positions, and those minds are all made up. I’m definitely still on the critical side, myself. I thought it was too short-term of a move for a team that wasn’t ready. But a lot of people have taken this one step further. There’s a common belief that, by making the trade, the Royals gave themselves a two-year window, before losing Shields to free agency. The first year is gone. So there’s one year left of the window, but really, there’s not. The truth is a lot less black and a lot less white.

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The Rising Price and Length of Free Agent Contracts

The 2013-2014 free agent season isn’t over yet. Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, A.J. Burnett, Stephen Drew, Kendrys Morales, Nelson Cruz, and Bronson Arroyo are still on the market and in most cases are looking for multi-year contracts. Between just those seven, I’d imagine MLB teams will probably commit somewhere between $250 and $300 million, and when they do, they’re going to push total spending on free agent contracts handed out this winter over $2 billion.

I’m not breaking any news here, but the rapid increase in free agent contracts over the last five years is still pretty staggering. Just for fun, I pulled all the data for Major League contracts signed for each of the last five years from ESPN’s free agent tracker, and dumped the data into a spreadsheet. Here are some total numbers for each of the last five free agent classes.

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