December 31, 2002

Rocket and Starbury



The Yankees signed Roger Clemens to a 1 year deal worth about $10 million bucks yesterday.

Right now it looks as though the Yanks will be going with some sort of a 100-man rotation with Clemens, Pettitte, Contreras, Weaver, Mussina, Wells, Hitchcock, Hernandez, Guidry, Hunter, Ford, Gomez, Stottlemyre and Ruffing.

I am not sure how their rotation will shake out, but I assume someone will be traded and Sterling Hitchcock may simply get released.

As for Clemens in particular, I think New York did well to re-sign him.

Roger Clemens is already 40 years old and you can never really expect a pitcher in their 40s to be successful, but if anyone can do it, it is Roger Clemens.

When I evaluate pitchers, there are 4 things that I look:

1) Strike outs

2) Walks

3) Homers allowed

4) Innings pitched

Because of Voros McCracken's great work on the subject, we know that pitchers have very little control over anything besides how many they strike out, how many they walk and how many homers they give up.

That is to say that most everything else is determined by the defense behind the pitcher.

Another thing we know is that strike outs are a great indicator for sustained success.

Bill James wrote about this many years ago.

Basically, the lower a guy's K rate is, the less chance of a long and successful career he has.

There are obviously quite a few exceptions, but is still a very accurate general rule.

And finally, innings pitched may be the most important stat of all, simply because all the Ks and walks and homers don't do any good if the pitcher can't pitch.

All that said, let's take a look at Clemen's #s in those 4 areas recently:

Year      IP     K/9     W/9     HR/9

1999 188 7.8 4.3 0.96
2000 204 8.3 3.7 1.15
2001 220 8.7 2.9 0.78
2002 180 9.6 3.2 0.90

Believe it or not, as Clemens gets older, he is actually increasing his strike out numbers.

And that is the #1 reason why I think Clemens can be a successful pitcher for several more seasons.

The one area where Clemens is vulnerable is home runs.

Early in his career he rarely gave up homers, but as he has aged they have flown out of ballparks more frequently.

Other than that, I don't see any signs of him letting up performance wise.

But, everything rests on whether or not he can stay healthy.

I don't think counting on him for 220+ innings again is a good idea, but I think Clemens will be able to pitch 180-200 and as long as he can keep striking out 8-9 guys a game, he will be a very good pitcher.

His strike out rate is even more important because of the quality of the Yankee defense, which quite simply is not very good.

I won't get into this again, but the Yankees are below average defensively at a lot of positions and they don't convert balls in play into outs all that well.

The more guys Clemens can strike out will mean less balls put into play that the fielders are responsible for turning into outs and that's a good thing for Clemens and the Yankees.

I think Rocket can be a very good pitcher for a couple more years - at least.

Even at 40, I would be more willing to bet on him being successful in 3 years than I would Tom Glavine, but it all depends on how many Ks he can rack up.

In non-baseball news...

As you all know, I try to stick strictly to baseball on this website, but sometimes I can't help myself.



Last night the Minnesota Timberwolves played the Phoenix Suns.

The Suns' point guard is Stephon Marbury, who was originally a Wolves draft pick and formed a 1-2 punch with Kevin Garnett that appeared headed toward Stockton/Malone type heights.

The Wolves won last night and, after the game, Marbury (who shot 6-17 and committed 5 turnovers) had some things to say in regard to Kevin Garnett, a former high school draft pick, and Amare Stoudemire, who Phoenix drafted out of high school this season and who was awesome in last night's game.

Here is an excerpt from the AP strory:

After the game Marbury was asked to compare the 20-year-old Stoudemire to Garnett at the same age.

"It's not even close," Marbury said. "He doesn't even compare to Amare. Two different people. It's like Michael Jordan and Mario Elie."

When Marbury's comments were played back for Garnett, the Wolves star said: "This is Steph being jealous. I'm still on his mind. He used the young fellow to come at me."

"You all know this. From New Jersey. From him leaving here, which was a great situation, and him never recouping from that. . . . What is this going to gain? He want some more air time on ESPN or something?"

Marbury and Garnett were close as teammates during Marbury's first two seasons in Minnesota, but grew apart. Marbury demanded a trade from the Wolves in 1999 and has had a chilly relationship with Garnett ever since.

"I won tonight," Garnett said. "Since he left, I've been in the playoffs. [Stuff] speaks for itself. I guess he wants to be me."

"He's got three kids, a wife, a family, bills, all sorts of things. But I'm still on his mind, like a girl," Garnett said.

For whatever reason, Stephon Marbury has a knack for being able to get me upset anytime he feels like it.

There is not a doubt in my mind that Stephon Marbury is supremely jealous of Kevin Garnett.

Marbury is a kid from New York who was the bigshot basketball prodigy his whole life.

He and Garnett formed a friendship when they were both in high school and eventually they became teammates with the Timberwolves.

Marbury is a phenomenal talent and he and Garnett brought the Wolves to the playoffs for the first time in their history and it looked as though they were headed towards many years together and many playoff runs.

Then Garnett got his gigantic contract and suddenly things weren't so good.

On the outside Marbury talked about wanting to "get paid" just like Garnett did.

But on the inside, I believe he was simply jealous of Garnett and it had very little to do with money.

Just like Stephon, Kevin had always been the bigshot basketball prodigy, but he has been just a little bit bigger at every step of the way.

They are the same age, but consider:

While Marbury was going to Georgia Tech, Garnett was in the NBA.

When Marbury finally made the NBA, he was joining the Timberwolves, which was already Garnett's team.

Garnett got the big contract first (mostly because he was in the NBA first and eligible for a new contract before Stephon) and made the All-Star game first.

Garnett was simply a bigger star than Marbury - he had a better "story," he was a better interview and he was much more likeable as a person.

And Stephon Marbury became completely overwhelmed with jealousy for the man that considered him a great friend.

Marbury then tore apart the entire franchise by forcing a trade to the East coast.

He once again talked about getting paid and talked about "going home" to New York.

The Wolves searched for the best possible deal and ended up trading Stephon to New Jersey in a 3-way deal with the Bucks.

They received Terrell Brandon and the #6 pick in the draft.

It was a fairly reasonable deal, as they ended up choosing Wally Szczerbiak with the pick and he has turned into a very good player.

But Stephon Marbury was more than a very good player - he was a special player that was the perfect compliment for Kevin Garnett.

Garnett is the solid, all-around player that plays defense and rebounds and score 20 a game.

Marbury is the flashy point guard with brass balls and a knack for taking - and making - the last second shot.

Marbury's time in New Jersey lasted a little over 2 seasons before the Nets got sick of him and dealt him to the Suns - for Jason Kidd no less.

I admire Stephon Marbury's abilities immensely, but there are few people in this world that I feel such hatred towards.

His actions are despicable and they ruined an entire franchise and a pretty good friendship.

So, the following goes out to Stephon Marbury:

You will never be as good as Kevin Garnett.

Kevin starts in the All-Star game every single season and you are lucky to get chosen for the last man on the bench.

When your careers are over, Kevin will be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and the people of Minnesota will remember his greatness forever.

People in Minnesota and New Jersey and Phoenix and wherever else you end up will talk about you not as a player, but as a jerk with a lot of talent.

And more importantly than anything on the court, Kevin Garnett is a class-act, one of the most liked and admired athletes in sports today.

You are a guy that has trouble with teammates and coaches, forces trades, ends friendships and generally acts like an a-hole.

Good luck in Phoenix Stephon and I really do hope that Amare Stoudemire turns out better than Kevin Garnett.

I am a fan of basketball and I would love to see Stoudemire became a superstar.

Plus, maybe then you might have a chance at winning something one day.

Stoudemire could develop into your very own Kevin Garnett and then you would have what you already had 5 years ago.

Okay, rant over.

I always try to examine why Marbury riles me up so much every single time and I am not 100% sure.

I think it is two major things:

1) I believe Kevin Garnett is a great player and an even better person.

Everything I have ever seen from Kevin indicates that he is simply a great guy and I respect and admire him greatly on and off the court.

2) Being a Wolves fan and Minnesota resident, I believe Marbury robbed me of many years of championship-caliber basketball.

Not only did he remove himself, the star point guard that gelled perfectly with Garnett, from the team, but he was also behind Tom Gugliotta leaving as a free agent.

It was general thought that part of Gugliotta's exit was caused by his dislike for Marbury.

Gugliotta has gone through some injuries and is no longer a star player, but while he was with the Wolves he was great and the perfect #3 option behind KG and Steph.

Ironically, Gugliotta signed with Phoenix when he left the Wolves and a little bit later, Mr. Marbury got traded to Phoenix, so Steph and Googs have been teammates for several years now.

Basically, Marbury took basketball greatness away from me as a fan and away from the basketball player I most admire, Kevin Garnett.

And if this whole rant sounds really bitter, it's because it is.

For whatever reason, I hate Stephon Marbury and if someday he should suffer a career-ending injury of some sort, I wouldn't exactly feel really bad about it.

Finally, Stephon - Kevin will always be a better player than you and a better human being than you.

There is nothing you can do about that, it's just the way it is.

You can compare him to Mario Elie or do whatever you feel like you need to do, but you will always remain jealous of another man, a man that considered you a friend, and you will always been just a little bit less than Kevin Garnett.

And on that cheerful note, HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

Don't do anything I wouldn't do tonight!

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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December 29, 2002

Decisions, decisions

Anyone that reads this blog on a semi-regular basis knows that I dream of being a General Manager some day.

I think about what my organizational strategy would be, what my office would look like and what all the trade negotiations would sound like.

And I think about it way too often.

No one has given me a job GMing yet, so I do the next best thing, I play Diamond-Mind baseball in a "keeper league" with a bunch of other GM wannabes.

Prior to this year I had only played "roto" fantasy baseball, which is basically drafting a brand new team each year and adding up their accumulated stats to figure out the winner of the league.

It was fun, but I really didn't love it.

I got "recruited" to join a Diamond-Mind league and since I had heard so much good stuff about it and since I was looking for a new fantasy baseball game to play, I said yes.

So, I took over an abandoned team and set about building it into a contender.

Before I tell you all the details, let me give you a few of the facts first...

Diamond-Mind is a simulation game.

The easiest way to explain it is that you can use the previous season's performances to replay the season.

For example, my league just finished playing our 2002 season, using everyone's real life 2001 stats.

Our next season will use the stats from the recently completed 2002 season.

The simulation is extraordinarily detailed and it includes in-depth defensive ratings for each player, lefty and righty hitting and pitching splits, ballpark factors and just about anything else you could possibly want and probably a lot more.

You actually play out all the games, pitch-by-pitch (if you want to), with lineups and pitching rotations, bullpen usage patterns and managerial tendencies.

The league works like this...

There are 24 teams, split into 2 leagues.

Each team has a $400 salary cap and a roster that can be filled with up to 50 players.

During each off-season, there is a "auction" for all of the new players (the ones that made their major league debut the previous year).

Also during the off-season, each player on everyone's roster sees his salary go up 15%.

If a guy is $30 one year, he costs $34 the next.

You can cut players at any time, at which point they are put into the off-season auction with all of the players that debuted that year.

Anyway, I took over this team that had finished in last place the year before and had been abandoned by its owner.

The roster wasn't very appealing overall, but it had 2 players that were worth building around: Jim Thome and Freddy Garcia.

I decided that I would scrap the entire team, except for those 2 guys, and try to build for 2003.

I didn't care what I did in my first year and I sort of thought of it like an expansion team taking its lumps.

In the off-season auction, I bid on "prospects" that hadn't done much in 2001 (the year we would be using for my first season) but that I hoped would have good 2002 seasons and be ready to help me in my second year (and beyond).

I bid $32 on Josh Beckett.

$50 for Adam Dunn.

$16 for Michael Cuddyer.

$20 on Carlos Pena.

$22 for Juan Uribe.

$15 for Nick Neugebauer.

$11 for Nate Cornejo.

$14 for Kurt Ainsworth.

And I also traded for Nick Johnson, who cost $25.

Basically, the majority of my $400 salary cap was being spent on guys that couldn't help me at all in my first year.

A couple of really funny things happened on the way to me building for 2003.

First of all, almost none of the "prospects" I picked to build around had very good seasons.

Josh Beckett was pretty good, but he was injured a lot and only pitched about 100 innings.

Adam Dunn was very good, but he wasn't the God-of-walks-and-homers that I imagined he would be.

Juan Uribe flat out sucked.

Michael Cuddyer only got about one-fifth of a season with the Twins and he didn't do all that well.

Carlos Pena and Nick Johnson had decent rookie years.

Nate Cornejo and Nick Neugebauer both stunk.

And Kurt Ainsworth pitched very well...in Triple-A.

So there I was, trying to build for 2003 (which would use the 2002 stats) with young players and none of them really were having good seasons.

Then the second funny thing happened: I made the playoffs!

I am not really sure how it happened, although I suspect it had to do with 3 major things: Jim Thome, Freddy Garcia and a really bad division.

No one else in my division finished over .500, which allowed me to win it with only 85 wins or so.

Jim Thome had a monster year, which made sense because his 2001 was very good in real life.

And Freddy Garcia had an even better year, which made sense because he was also awesome in 2001 in real life.

I ended up winning my opening round series, before losing 4-1 to the best team in the league in the American League Championship Series.

So, instead of scrapping 2002 and building for the future, I won the Division in 2002 and had almost nothing to build around for the future.

Along with all of my "prospects" not having good years, Freddy Garcia really struggled in 2002. His ERA went up over a run and he served up almost twice as many homers as he did in 2001. So, while "Chief" was the best pitcher in the AL for me this season, he wasn't going to be such an ace next year.

The one constant in all of this is Jim Thome.

He was good in real life in 2001, good for me in 2002 and great in real life in 2002.

One thing is for sure, Jim Thome will be on my team for my league's 2003 season and he'll be hitting cleanup while costing me $57.

So, other than Thome playing 1B everyday and taking up about 15% of my payroll, what does the rest of my team look like for 2003?

Keep in mind, "2003" is really the replay of the 2002 season, which just ended.

Luckily, I made some pretty good waiver wire pickups during the regular season and got a few guys that had very nice 2002 seasons.

I claimed Tony Fiore, Andy Fox, Mark Bellhorn, Joey Eischen, Quinton McCracken and Mike Koplove - all for only $1.

They will all cost me only $3 each for next year (I know I said all players go up 15%, but those making only $1 go up to $3).

Fiore will serve as my long relief/spot start man out of the bullpen.

Andy Fox will be my full-time shortstop against right handed pitching.

Bellhorn will be my everyday second baseman and will probably hit right in front of Thome in the batting order.

McCracken will be good for about 400 at bats as a "utility outfielder" spending time at all 3 spots and hitting leadoff a lot.

And Eischen and Koplove will be setup men for me.

Strangely, it seems that my shrewd $1 pickups off of the scrap heap during the season turned out a heck of a lot better than my expensive prospects that I bid on during the off-season.

Anyway...

I also made a pretty good trade early in the year, acquiring A.J. Burnett.

Burnett was awesome in 2002 before he got injured.

He managed to come back from the injury and pitch a few more innings, putting him over the 200 inning mark for the year.

He'll take over for Freddy Garcia as my #1 starter next year at the very reasonable price of $17.

That is pretty much it for the good news.

Thome was good, Burnett was good and I made a few quality pickups for $1 that will help me next year for $3.

Other than that, everything was a mess.

And now I have a very tough decision to make.

I can either:

A) Choose to keep guys like Beckett and Ainsworth and Cuddyer and Pena and Johnson, etc. on my roster and continue to build around them while giving them all 15% pay increases on top of their already substantial salaries.

or

B) Cut bait on all of my "prospects" and look to build the roster around Thome, Burnett and the cheap guys in hopes of seriously competing this upcoming season.

I am really having a tough time making a decision.

I really believe Josh Beckett will be a stud, but can I afford to pay him $37 for a season that he only pitched 100 innings in?

I love Adam Dunn and I think he will be an absolute superstar very soon, but can I afford to have him take up $58 dollars worth of my payroll for a year in which he only hit 26 homers and slugged only .454?

Michael Cuddyer is the real deal and I am hoping he will be the cleanup hitter for my hometown Twins for the next decade or so, but can I afford to waste $19 of my payroll on his 112 at bats?

I think you get the point.

I like most of the guys I spent the big bucks on last off-season and, despite their struggles or lack of Major League playing time in 2002, I would still like to build around them.

At the same time, I don't know if I can keep them on the team and devote such a huge chunk of the payroll to them and still hope to compete this upcoming year, which I feel obligated to do with Jim Thome on my roster.

Which is why I am turning to you, my loyal readers and fellow baseball nuts, for help with my decision making.

I urge you to take a few minutes to look over my roster (which I will put below) and decide what you think the best option would be and then send me an email about it.

I honestly am not leaning one way or another, so your help will mean a lot to me.

Here is my roster, along with what each player would cost if I decide to keep them for next season (keep in mind, the salary cap is $400):

Hitters

Adam Dunn $58

Jim Thome $57

Nick Johnson $29

Juan Uribe $26

Carlos Pena $23

Michael Cuddyer $19

Ramon Hernandez $15

Lee Stevens $12

Michael Tucker $9

Gary Matthews Jr. $5

Gary Bennett $5

Travis Fryman $4

Mark Bellhorn $3

Andy Fox $3

Jose Vizcaino $3

Eric Owens $3

Quinton McCracken $3

Olmedo Saenz $3

Luis Alicea $3

John Valentin $3

Tom Goodwin $3

Keith Lockhart $3

Pitchers

Freddy Garcia $38

Josh Beckett $37

Nick Neugebauer $18

Kurt Ainsworth $17

A.J. Burnett $17

Shawn Estes $15

Tim Redding $13

Nate Cornejo $13

Rick White $5

Felix Heredia $4

Ryan Rupe $3

Tony Fiore $3

Scott Eyre $3

Mike Fetters $3

Mike Koplove $3

Joey Eischen $3

Travis Harper $3

Chad Paronto $3

There are some very obvious decisions to be made.

Guys like Keith Lockhart, Luis Alicea and Lee Stevens aren't worth spots on a roster, especially for $3, $3 and $12 bucks, so they will definitely be cut.

At the same time, guys like Jim Thome, A.J. Burnett, Mark Bellhorn and Tony Fiore are definitely worth their salaries for next year and will certainly be kept on the roster.

Who else do I keep?

Who else do I cut?

Should I stay with the prospects and devote a huge amount of the payroll to them next season, in the hopes of continuing to build around them?

Or should I scrap that plan, cut or trade everyone that won't help me a lot for next year and work on building a contender around Thome, Burnett and the bargains?

I need your help!

The future of the Minnesota Gophers of the Three Run Homer League rests on your capable shoulders (and emails).

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

December 28, 2002

Rey Rey

Not too much going on in Major League Baseball right now, perhaps because of the holiday season and all that.

You guys know me, I can talk endlessly about even the smallest, most insignificant news.

So I will...



The Mets signed Rey Sanchez to a 1 year deal.

It only took them about 5 years, but the Mets finally realized that you don't need to pay $5 mill a year for a good defensive shortstop that can't hit.

Rey Sanchez replaces Rey Ordonez as New York's shortstop and he will easily outproduce Ordonez, offensively and defensively, for a fraction of the price.

Rey Sanchez spent last year as Boston's second baseman after serving as a full-time shortstop with Kansas City and Atlanta the previous 3 years.

Sanchez is a phenomenal defensive player with great hands and outstanding range.

Injuries limited him to only 107 games last season with Boston, but Baseball Prospectus rates him as 12 runs above the "average" second baseman and 32 runs better than a "replacement level" second baseman defensively.

Those are some very good numbers for a guy that played only 107 games, but his numbers at shortstop the previous 3 years are even more impressive.

Year     FRAR     FRAA

1999 58 28
2000 51 21
2001 72 43

"FRAR" stands for Fielding Runs Above Replacement and "FRAA" stands for Fielding Runs Above Average.

Basically, a "replacement level" player is someone that is pretty crappy, thus easily found, and an "average" player is just that, average.

There are a lot of problems with defensive stats and I am far less confident in using them as evidence of a player's worth than I am with offensive stats, but they are still very useful and extremely intriguing.

In a given year, Rey Sanchez is about 60-70 runs better than a replacement level shortstop on defense and about 25-40 runs better than the average shortstop.

His hitting is very sub par, but let's switch things around and see how it effects how we view Rey Sanchez...

Let's say that instead of being 40 runs better than the average shortstop on defense, he was 40 runs better on offense.

And let's say that instead of being sub par with the bat, he was sub par with the glove.

There is no doubt that a shortstop that is +40 on offense and -10 on defense is considered a heck of a lot better than Rey Sanchez.

Like I said, defensive stats have a lot of problems and they are far from being as reliable as offensive metrics, but they still have a lot of value.

Baseball Prospectus also lists a stat called "Wins Above Replacement Position" which basically calculates how many wins a player is worth to a team over a readily available player at his position, after taking into account both offense and defense.

While Sanchez was a full-time SS from 1999-2001 he was worth 6.6, 4.6 and 7.3 "WARP."

Last year, because he was injured and didn't play shortstop, he was "only" worth 3.8 "WARP."

Those numbers are more impressive than you might think.

From 2000-2002, Derek Jeter was worth 6.3, 7.2 and 5.9 WARP.

From 2000-2002, Omar Vizquel was worth 5.7, 3.9, 6.2 WARP.

For the sake of furthering this discussion towards some sort of a point, let's toss out Sanchez's 2002 because he was injured and wasn't allowed to play his "best" position defensively when healthy.

Here are Sanchez's last 3 years as a shortstop, along with Jeter and Vizquel's 2000-2002:

Player          WARP1     WARP2     WARP3     TOTAL

Jeter 6.3 7.2 5.9 19.4
Sanchez 6.6 4.6 7.3 18.5
Vizquel 5.7 3.9 6.2 15.8

I am certainly not going to sit here and say that Rey Sanchez is a better player than Derek Jeter.

However, I think that defensive contributions are vastly under-examined and players like Rey Sanchez (legitimately awesome defensive players at key positions) are worth a whole lot more than most people think they are.

Bill James once said that much of what we see as "pitching" is actually "defense" and the more I read about Voros McCracken's work on Defense Independent Pitching Stats and the more I read about the value of defense, the more I start to believe it.

Defensive superstars like Rey Sanchez are extremely underrated simply because their contributions come largely on defense, which is an area that is really tough to measure accurately.

But, runs are runs, whether they are added with a player's bat or subtracted with a player's glove.

Rey Sanchez is a great signing by the Mets and he will be everything they incorrectly thought Rey Ordonez was - for about 10% of the cost.

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

December 27, 2002

Very Offensive

Remember when the Yankees said they were going to cut payroll this off-season?
So much that, huh?

In the past week (or so) they signed the best baseball player in Japan and the best pitcher in Cuba, each to multi-year deals worth $7 and $8 million per year.

I am neither a Yankee fan or a Yankee hater.
I often watch their games on DirecTV because they are a very good team with a lot of good players and I enjoy most of their announcing team.

All that said, I must admit that the way they spend bothers me occasionally.
I should re-state that: It isn't really the way they spend, but the way they spend more than other teams.
I read on ESPN.com that their 2003 payroll will most likely be somewhere around $150 million, depending on whether or not they can unload a big contract or two on another team.
The Minnesota Twins, my team, will likely have a payroll around $45 million this year.

Now, quite obviously, there are other teams like Boston or Texas or Los Angeles or whomever, that also spend a ton of money every year.
The difference is that while those teams are spending around $100 mill a year, the Yankees are at $150 million!
When you are spending 300% more than a lot of teams and almost 50% more than the teams with the next biggest payrolls, that's a big deal.

I guess, more than anything else, it is jealously.
Obviously I am jealous of all their success, but who wouldn't be.
Really though, I am jealous that they can sign big name free agents whenever they want.
I am jealous that my team is never even involved in the discussions for guys like Matsui and Contreras, while it is almost predetermined that they will end up in New York.

Looking at their lineup for 2003, there is also a lot to be jealous of...

Pos     Player       '02 EqA    AVG EqA      +/-
C Posada .300 .246 +.054
1B Giambi .351 .287 +.064
2B Soriano .304 .259 +.045
SS Jeter .296 .256 +.040
3B Ventura .295 .264 +.031
LF Matsui .335 .283 +.052
CF Williams .324 .270 +.054
RF Rivera .265 .283 -.018
DH Johnson .268 .270 -.002

A couple of notes here...

"'02 EqA" is simply the player's Equivalent Average from last season.
"AVG EqA" is the average EqA of all players at their position last season.
"+/-" is how much better or worse the Yankee player was than the league average at their position.

I put Hideki Matsui's EqA as basically the average of his last 3 years in Japan, translated to the Major Leagues.

Juan Rivera may or may not start in right field, I really have no idea because the Yankees currently also have Raul Mondesi and Rondell White on the (massive) payroll.
I just took a guess that he will start there and I used his EqA from the minor leagues last season, translated to the Major Leagues.

Most good lineups have several places where they are significantly better than league average, several places where they are slightly above average, some average and one or two below average.

Using last year's stats, the Yankees have 7 spots where they are significantly above average, 1 spot almost exactly average and 1 spot significantly below average.
That is pretty amazing, but it gets even better when you consider which two spots they are near or below average at.

2002 was Nick Johnson's rookie year and he definitely was not great and struggled a lot at times.
That said, he was basically a league average DH and he is young and very talented and extremely likely to improve quite a bit in 2003.

Right field is the only place where the Yankees appear to have any problems at all.
I don't think that Rivera, White or Mondesi are good bets to have EqAs of .280+, so they may just have to settle for being slightly below average at one position.

The Yankees scored 897 runs last season, which was the most in Major League Baseball by almost 40 runs.

They appear to be significantly improved in left field, where Hideki Matsui will be a very good hitter for them and a whole lot better than the combined .238/.282/.366 they got from their left fielders (mostly White and Shane Spencer) last year. It wouldn't surprise me if Matsui was 50 or 60 runs better than the New York left fielders of 2002.

I also think Nick Johnson will be much improved in 2003 and (assuming they don't trade him) he should be worth at least another 10-20 runs in 2003.

Jason Giambi, Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada - all of those guys should collectively be about the same in 2003.

My gut tells me that Alfonso Soriano will decline a little bit from his magnificent 2002 season, but I could definitely be wrong - after all, I didn't think someone could walk 25 times and have a season like he had.

Robin Ventura also seems like a likely decline to me, just because he had his best season since 1999 and he is 35 years old.

Okay, let's do some very simple estimations....

Let's say Giambi, Posada, Jeter and Williams play about the same as they did last year.
And let's say Soriano and Ventura each decline by 10 runs.
We'll say Juan Rivera starts in RF and hits at about the same level as the Yankee right fielders did last year, which was .260/.331/.416 and might even be a low projection for Rivera.
And finally, let's say Matsui is worth 50 runs more than their left fielders were last year and Johnson improves by 10 runs.

Add all that up and it comes out to a gain of about 40 runs over last season, which would put them at about 940 runs scored in 2003.
And I think that is a conservative estimate.

If a team scores 940 runs in a season and they don't play in Coors Field or have the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' pitching staff, they are going to make the playoffs.

But we knew that already, didn't we?
And I guess that is why I am starting to not like the Yankees.

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

December 24, 2002

Best of...

Ho ho ho...ah, heck, you know the rest.

Since none of you guys are working today, I figured I wouldn't either.

So, instead of a new column, I present to you...

The best of Aaron's Baseball Blog, 2002 (or at least half of 2002, since this website wasn't created until August):

A.J. Burnett and Jeff Torborg (August 1st - the first post in the history of Aaron's Baseball Blog!)

You're full of (expletive)! (August 2nd)

Erstad's new deal (August 3rd)

The Devil (August 4th)

Pedro (August 5th)

Moose (August 7th)

Woody (August 8th)

Somewhere there is a village missing its idiot (August 9th)

600 (August 9th)

More idiocy over at ESPN.com (August 10th)

Diary of a Madman (August 11th)

The numbers don't lie (August 15th)

Getting the call (August 16th)

I hate to say I told you so... (August 19th)

Johan (August 22nd)

Revisiting the Lawton/Reed trade (August 26th)

My day at the Dome (August 29th)

Halleluja! (August 30th)

A's still streaking (September 2nd)

Those damn lefties (September 9th)

Those damn lefties (Part 2) (September 10th)

Announcers (September 13th)

If a record is broken and no one notices, did it really happen? (September 16th)

Mystery Man (September 24th)

Jim F-ing Thome (aka The Twin Killer) (September 25th)

And now the moment you've all been waiting for... (September 30th)

Fear the monkey (October 4th)

When The Dome is a rockin... (October 5th)

TWINS WIN! (October 6th)

Playoff Preview and Prediction (Round 2: Angels vs. Twins) (October 7th)

1-0 (October 8th)

Nok Hockey, Steaks and a 2-1 ballgame (October 12th)

The big-boned woman has sung (October 13th)

Any press is good press (October 14th)

That's Torii with Two Eyes (October 15th)

World Series Preview and Prediction (October 19th)

All Hail The Rally Monkey (October 28th)

And the award goes to... (October 31st)

The Big Unit (November 6th)

Guess who (November 9th)

"Circle Me Bert!" (Guest Column) (November 13th)

What? This is a baseball blog? (November 15th)

Oh how I love transactions (November 16th)

The Worst Doctor in the World (November 19th)

Mr. General Manager (November 22nd)

Tracing my "Stathead" roots (November 25th)

The future (December 2nd)

The trade winds, they are a blowin... (December 5th)

The Class of 2003 (December 9th)

Free at last (December 16th)

Godzilla (December 20th)

Oh my (December 21st)

And there you go.

The best I have to offer for the last 5 months or so.

Now you're all caught up.

Enjoy the holidays!

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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