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Dec 12, 2010

That Angel NOT in the Oufield: Assessing the Halos' Options


In the wake of the failure to sign Carl Crawford, the Angels seem to be reeling about what to do next. Some consider them to go hard after Lee; others consider them to go after Beltre. The Halos want to make a move, but it is unclear about what exactly they will do in the rapidly depleting market of top free agents. Here is a list of some possibilities.

Halos Making a Push for Lee:
I find this one to be highly unrealistic. While the Angels could make Lee a priority and would probably have a decent chance of signing in terms of dollars, the Halos' front office does not hide their reluctance to sign players, especially pitchers, to long-term deals. They even hesitated to go to seven years in their offer to Crawford, who is considered a great athlete at 29 years of age. So I don’t see anyway at all that the Angels would offer Lee, a 32 year old pitcher, a contract of at least six years, especially when it seems as if it would take a deal of at least seven years to sign the southpaw.

Currently the Angels already have one of the better rotations in baseball consisting of co-aces Jered Weaver and Dan Haren. Although Haren has never been considered an ace by some standards, he has gotten Cy Young votes and is a three time all star. His 2010 campaign was his worst since 2006, and once he was traded to the Angels, he posted a 2.91 ERA in two solid months in the rotation. The Angels also have a strong three and four in Ervin Santana and Joel Pineiro. Lefty Scott Kazmir, who was one of the worst pitchers in the majors last year, is currently bring monitored closely in an offseason workout plan, and is expected to bounce back well and find his ace potential that he had with the Rays only a few years ago.

So my conclusion on this matter is that the Angels’ interest in Lee is simply due diligence because he is the best remaining free agent. They don’t need him, but I don’t think any team would say that they do not want him. He makes any team better.

Angels Push for Adrian Beltre
This is the more likely scenario. The Angels desperately need offense. They were expecting that upgrade to come in the form of Carl Crawford, as he would have been the perfect fit with his five tool abilities, however I won’t dwell on that too much because simply it didn’t happen. One position of extreme weakness last season was at the hot corner. Beltre is a talented third baseman that had an excellent year last year. I could see the Angels putting their all-in attitude towards Beltre. The only hitch on this scenario is Arte Moreno’s distaste for Scott Boras and the way he deals with teams. After the Angels failed to land Mark Teixeira in 2008, Moreno has adamantly avoided the agent and any player he represents. This is evidenced by the Angels' reluctance to sign Rafael Soriano. Instead they opted for two lefties in Hasinori Takahashi. and Scott Downs. Recent comments would suggest they will cease to pursue anymore relief pitcher. So the question is this: does the Angels' desire to improve on their worst record in seven seasons outweigh their feelings toward Scott Boras? We will see in the days and weeks ahead.

Signing a DH
If they miss out on the last few top tier free agents, the Angels can go bargain shopping like they did after the 2008 season where they signed Bobby Abreu. While it is possible that they take a look at Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, Hideki Matsui and Manny Ramirez types of players, the Angels seem to be content with the wealth of aging players that they have. The team seems to desire their youthful presence again, as can be seen in their decision to push Torii Hunter over to right for the speedy Peter Bourjos. So signing a permanent DH would leave a difficult spot of having an overcrowded outfield with Bobby Abreu already beginning to fill the DH role with Torii in right. So I highly doubt this will happen.

Acquisition by Trade
With Adrian Gonzalez also off the market as of last week, a huge and unlikely trade target was taken away from the Angels. There are still plenty of viable options, such as Prince Fielder. The Angels have the depth at certain positions (such and the outfield and catcher) to try and get a deal done for a major offensive piece. But I do not think a deal would happen during the off season, and is more likely to happen as a midseason deal, which Tony Reagins has made his signature over the past few seasons. This would allow for the team to determine where it's needs are while also allowing for pieces such as Rivera, Napoli or Aybar to regain their value after less than stellar 2010 statistics.

These are some of the likely scenarios I see for the Halos in the offseason. Let me know what you think as there will likely be a part two to this article.

Dec 5, 2010

Crawford, Lee and Werth...Oh My!

Anyone reading this is well aware that the biggest free agent names on the market are Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth. By now you have heard that the Yankees are the favorites to land Lee, the Angels the favorites to land Crawford and the Red Sox the favorites to land Jayson Werth.

But what if things did not go as expected? What could the baseball world look like by opening day? I will throw out an out of the box idea. An entire chain reaction starts as a result of Cliff Lee signing neither with the Yankees or the Ranger.

Cliff Lee Signs With Detroit Tigers
Okay so I do see the Tigers as a possible dark horse iin the Cliff Lee talks. The Tigers shed a massive amount of salary after the 2010 season and currently only have $83.5 mil committed for 2011. This is far below the $134 mil payroll that they had in 2010. Many believe they are interested in Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford, but perhaps they would be better off bringing in a mid-tier outfielder and landing the lefty ace.

This would likely start a chain reaction for the Yankees and Rangers. The Yankees would pursue Crawford vigorously and the Rangers would likely set their immediate sights on Grienke. Suddenly the Tigers would look like a very good World Series caliber team with Victor Martinez protecting Miguel Cabrera and Verlander and Lee baffling opposing hitters.

Carl Crawford Signs With Yankees
After Cliff Lee dawns his new Tigers jersey, the Yankees look to improve elsewhere by signing the next best free agent on the market, Carl Crawford. Their ability to offer large sums of money along with many guaranteed years allows them to beat out the Angels and Red Sox in this race. The signing of Crawford leads to the departure of Nick Swisher who land the Yankees a decent package of prospects as a result of his great 2010 season.

The Angels and Red Sox begin to panic as they watch numerous free agents fall off the table.

Angels Sign Jayson Werth
Despite showing little interest in the free agent early in the off season, the Angels sign Jayson Werth as a result of having nowhere else to turn. Although they would have preferred Crawford, Werth's combination of power and defense still entices them. With Crawford and Lee being off the table, Scott Boras starts a bidding war between the Red Sox and Angels. Backed by the deep pockets of owner Arte Moreno, the Angels land Werth leaving the Red Sox without any major free agent signings.

This doesn't leave the Red Sox down however. With no major free agents left on the table, they work out a deal that gets them Adrian Beltre back and Adrian Gonzolez even without an extension. They then continue to make a trade that improves them at shortstop.

As you can see, there is no easy way to predict free agent destinations. We may have our favorites to land certain free agents but in the end surprises can happen. It even becomes interesting to see the chain reactions that happen when particular teams don't get the man they wanted.

Keep paying attention to the free agent market. Its sure to get good with the Winter Meetings right around the corner.

EDIT:
Wow! Literally within minutes of posting this Jayson Werth signed a massive deal with the Nationals. Didn't see that coming.

Oct 27, 2010

Bloggers Wanted!

We are looking for a few new bloggers here at The OC Baseball Council.

If you are interested please contact us at:    ocbaseballcouncil@yahoo.com

Please Include:
  1. A brief description of yourself such as why you want to write for this blog, what your favorite team is and where you are from.
  2. A writing sample about baseball.
If we choose to invite you into the Council...we will contact you with more information.

Thanks! 

Oct 11, 2010

Which One Is Really Better?

No doubt that if you've been watching postseason games between the Giants and Braves you have heard the chants surrounding both of their young stars. Perhaps you've heard Giants fans chanting "Posey's Better" when Jason Heyward came up to bat in San Francisco or "Heyward's Better" when Buster Posey came to bat in Atlanta.

The question regarding which one is truly better, is one that is often debated when two or more baseball fans come together. It will likely be the type of debate that voters will need to settle in order to decide the 2010 National League Rookie of the Year.

Although I have absolutely no say into the matter, I have come upon a decision as to who I think deserves to win the Rookie of the Year award in the National League. That player is....well you will have to keep reading in order to find out.

On his debut on April 4th, Jason Heyward immediately made his presence felt by hitting a home run and driving in 4 rbis. He continued to produce, smashing 6 homers and driving in 19 runs in the first month of his career. The rest of the season was up and down for Heyward but not outside the normal struggles that rookies often encounter in their first year. Despite these few struggles, Heyward finished the season with very good numbers.
  • Jason Heyward
    • 18 Homers
    • 72 Runs Batted In
    • 83 Runs
    • .277 Batting Average
    • .393 On Base Percentage
May 29th was the 2010 debut for Heyward's Rookie of the Year rival Buster Posey. On that day Posey had a very productive game by going 3 for 4 and driving in 3 runs. Over the next month, Posey would only hit 1 homer and drive in 6 RBIs. He didn't let that bother him one bit as he bounced back to hit 7 homers and drive in 24 RBIs during the month of July. Much like Heyward, Posey too finished the season with very good statistics.
  • Buster Posey
    • 18 Homers
    • 67 Runs Batted In
    • 58 Runs
    • .305 Batting Average
    • .357 On Base Percentage
With approximately two months less work in the Major Leagues we could easily state that Posey would win if looking at the type of statistics listed above. But before we can hand Posey the title we need to look a bit deeper.

A factor that many like to look into is home ballpark. As anyone knows AT&T Park has never been a hitters park and as a result Buster Posey statistically hits much better on the road. Jason Heyward on the other hand has extremely similar statistics at home and on the road. Seeing as neither player gets a big advantage from their ballpark, we cannot say that their stats are padded by their ballpark.

One area that I often look at is how many quality pitchers that the batter has been paired up against in the season. I have always felt that by eliminating overall bad pitchers, we can see which player has been an overall better hitter. The stats look as followed:
  • Jason Heyward
    • Faced 15 starters with ERA of 3.70 or below*
    • 86 Total At Bats
    • .244 Total Batting Average
    • 6 Total RBIs
    • 1 Total Home Run
    • 17 Base On Balls
  • Buster Posey
    • Faced 12 starters with ERA of 3.70 or below*
    • 71 Total At Bats
    • .296 Total Batting Average
    • 11 Total RBIs
    • 3 Total Home Runs
    • 7 Base On Balls   
*Minimum of 3 at-bats against a starter with 15+ starts

As you can see, while Jason Heyward showed better patience, Buster Posey seemed to be a better overall hitter.The fact that he managed to bat near .300 against the better National League pitchers is amazing.

So by now you probably know who I am choosing as my 2010 NL Rookie of the Year.

For me it has to be the Baby Faced Assassin.

Buster Posey.

Winning Isn't Everything

With “the year of the pitcher” winding down, we close the books on some of the best pitching performances in recent memory. With, two (really three) perfect games and four no-hitters if you include Roy Halladay’s playoff masterpiece, and a new record set for near no-hitters in which a hit was not given up until the seventh inning or later. The 2010 season also saw a record number of pitchers (17) have an ERA under three at the all-star break. 

With all the exciting pitching going on, the races for the Cy Young are completely open. The biggest debate being in the American League, and in deciding whether or not a pitcher with only a 13-12 record on the year deserves to win the award. Felix Hernandez leads virtually every pitching category with a 2.27 ERA (first in MLB), 232 SO (second in MLB), 1.06 WHIP (second in AL), 249.2 IP (first in AL), and 6 CG (third in AL). In other words, almost no pitcher has been as dominant as King Felix this year. However, some, because of his low win total, are discrediting his season. But how important are wins in rating a pitcher?

Major League Baseball is changing. No longer do pitchers go out and throw 120 to 150 pitches in a game on a regular basis. All teams use a five-man rotation which limits the number of starts in a season for a pitcher. On top of all that, the economics of today’s game make teams wearier of leaving starters in over a certain number of innings, so as not to risk injury. If CC Sabathia blows out his arm, that’s quite a big investment lost by the Yankees. Even King Felix missed out on the strikeouts title because he was not allowed to take the mound for the last game of the season due to workload concerns.

So where does this leave the value of the wins column with a pitcher? The category cannot and will not go away. Too much importance has been placed on wins throughout the modern era. But the voters for the Cy Young need to begin to look at the other categories weighted against other factors on a pitcher’s season resume. Last year the voters took a step in the right direction by voting both Zack Greinke and Tim Lincecum the 2009 Cy Young winners with only 16 and 15 wins each, respectively. But this year will be the true test. Will the value of a pitcher be punished because of an increasingly outdated statistic. Will CC win it with a league leading 21 wins or will Felix win it with his dominance in nearly every other category? Only the voters can decide.

Maybe neither of them will win and someone else will claim it. There are many others worthy of votes.

Jered Weaver is one such pitcher who is deserving of some votes. Much like Felix Hernandez, Weaver suffered in the wins category as a result of having no run support and a sketchy bullpen to follow him. Weaver left six games with the lead, each resulting in a no-decision and he ended up with a disappointing thirteen wins. With more wins he may have been a frontrunner for the Cy Young with a major league leading 233 strikeouts, and finishing in the top 5 in the AL in WHIP and ERA. With a low number of wins however, its extremely unlikely that he will even finish in the top 5 in voting.

Wins will never be erased from the face of baseball as it should not, but what needs to happen is the category needs to take a backseat to categories that accurately depict how good a pitcher really is. Unfortunately for many pitchers however, it may be a long while before players and fans see such a thing happen.

Oct 6, 2010

Which Spider Will Spin This Webb?


Brandon Webb will be facing a busy offseason this winter, or will he? It is still unclear as to how teams will value his Webb’s worth. The 2006 Cy Young Award winner has pitched only four innings over the course of the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Webb underwent shoulder surgery and has faced several setbacks in trying to return to the hill. It was believed last year that he would be a possible starter for opening day, but he pushed maybe a little too hard during spring training and didn’t throw a pitch in 2010. The Diamondbacks took a huge risk in picking up his option worth about $8.5 million to retain him, when he didn’t even throw. So that raises the question as to what type of value Brand Webb has on the free agent market this winter. 

According to MLBTradeRumors, Brandon Webb will not be signing cheap this offseason. He is looking for the type of deal that the A’s gave to Ben Sheets last winter that was worth about $10 million. Sheets and Webb are very similar in that they both, in my opinion at least, are high risk, high reward types of players. Sheets didn’t exactly turn out as planned for the A’s as he ended up being hurt during a large part of the season. Webb is in the same position, but is he really able to ask for such a high base salary. 

The reality of today’s baseball landscape is that teams are in trying to save money. Spending upwards of $10 million is not in the cards for a lot of teams anymore excluding the exceptions of a few select clubs. Webb may be seeking huge contract, but I think he may end up accepting an incentives-laden deal with a base salary of about $4-5 million. Then the signing club would be able to minimize the risk while maximizing the reward. For example a 150+ innings pitch incentive that increases his money. Apart from his first season in 2003, and the seasons since the injury, he has never dipped below 200 innings, but expecting that much out of him is unfair, because he has to work up to it. So I think both the bidding clubs and Webb’s camp may face a compromise. 

But it will certainly be interesting to see which club’s will take the risk of signing the former ace.

Oct 4, 2010

Whats Next For The Mets?


With the recent news of Omar Minaya leaving the post of the New York Mets' general manager, there is a great amount of anticipation as to who will claim the position and how will they transform the franchise. Perhaps they operate on the same ideas and goals that Minaya did or maybe they have a fire sale and reboot the team.

In this post I am not going to speculate as to who might or might not claim the job. Those type of decisions are extremely hard to determine especially with all the internal options that the Mets might have in their offices. Instead, I am going to simply speculate as to how the team might work now that Omar Minaya is no longer the general manager.

With a vacancy left open following the 2004 season, Minaya returned to his position as Mets GM and has been there since. Immediately upon returning Minaya made two big acquisitions in Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez. A year later he added Carlos Delgado and Billy Wagner as well as many more players. With these big names, the Mets won the NL East in 2006 with 97 wins. In 2008, he added Johan Santana and then Francisco Rodriguez in 2009. Minaya's tenure also saw the emergence of stars David Wright and Jose Reyes.

Now, at the end of 2010, the Mets find themselves in a disappointing third place in the NL East and searching for a new general manager. When they do, I believe changes may come very quickly.

Since Minaya took the reigns in 2004, the Mets payroll has increased a substantial amount from approximately $96 mil to $126 mil.

Even with that $126 million dollar payroll, the Mets only had one player (David Wright) with more than 20 homers, one player (Wright) with over 100 RBIs and one player (Wright) with a slugging percentage of over .450. That is before even mentioning the catastrophe in Oliver Perez who pitched a whopping 46.1 innings and posted a 6.80 ERA this season. Such an extreme payroll gives the Mets absolutely no room to improve in its problem areas.

The large contracts of many of their players mixed with the under performance of nearly all of their players could cause the new Mets GM to look to deal some of its highly coveted pieces. I could imagine a situation where the Mets would begin to shop players like Jose Reyes, Johan Santana, Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran. All of these contracts are very pricey and the Mets would likely have to eat some of the mney in order to move these players.

The justification for these players would be that the Mets could receive some good pitching talent and young players. Guys like Santana and Reyes would likely fetch some top prospects while Rodriguez and Beltran could land the them some decent prospects with high upsides.

One shocking deal could involve moving David Wright. Although extremely unlikely, Wright would be well sought after and could land some major prospects. Interested teams could include the Angels, Red Sox, Yankees, Braves, Cardinals, White Sox, Rangers and A's.

In order for the Mets to make it back to the top, they must find a way to shed some of the lengthy and expensive contracts. By doing this they open up some flexibility to grow, regroup and possibly contend in the near future. If they do not, they will be stuck with a team of aging veterans.

While Omar Minaya believed in the team he built, another general manager may not be so optimistic.

My advice to the future GM:

Sell and Rebuild.