Friday, November 21, 2003
A little help from my friends (More on Bobby Kielty)
What would you do if I sang out of tune?
--- Joe Cocker, With A Little Help From My Friends(Yeah, I know, The Beatles wrote the song and sang it, but I like the Cocker version better. So sue me!)
Yesterday I talked about Bobby Kielty being traded from Toronto to Oakland for Ted Lilly. In discussing Kielty's performances over the last two years, I broke down some of his hitting numbers, including his "splits" against lefties and righties. Kielty, a switch-hitter, did well against left-handed pitching in both 2002 and 2003 and did well against right-handed pitching in 2002, but he struggled mightily against righties in 2003.
Here's a little more of what I said:
Kielty's minor league "splits" are not widely available, so it's tough to say whether he struggled from the left-side in years past. It seems like it would have been very tough for him to hit as well as he did consistently throughout his minor league career if he was struggling that much against right-handed pitching, however.Well, thanks to a little help from my friends, and more specifically from a reader named Matthew Namee (who just happens to be the great Bill James' assistant), I now have Kielty's minor league splits for 2000 and 2001.
"I will try not to sing out of key..."
vs RHP vs LHPI said yesterday that I thought "his right-handed swing (against left-handed pitching) is a lot more consistent, a lot more natural, a lot more powerful." So, I guess I'm not surprised that his batting averages and slugging percentages were higher as a right-handed hitter in 2000 and 2001. At the same time, he was certainly still a very good hitter as a lefty, thanks in large part to a much better walk-rate than he had as a righty.
Instead of using simple OPS (on-base % + slugging %), I prefer to use OBP*1.7 + SLG, because it more correctly weighs on-base percentage. The only problem with using OBP*1.7 + SLG is that you end up with some big number that is tough to learn anything from.
For instance, let's say you've got a guy who hit .300/.400/.500 one year. You take his .400 OBP and multiply it by 1.7 and get .680. Then you add his .500 slugging percentage and you get 1.180. But really, if you asked how good someone hit in 2003 and you were told they had a 1.180 total for OBP*1.7 + SLG, would you know right away if that were good or bad? I know I wouldn't.
What I like to do is take that number and then divide it by four. That way, you get another number which looks an awful lot like a batting average. In this case, by dividing 1.180 by 4 you would get .295. It's not perfect, obviously, but at least you can get a feel that a guy checking in at .295 is a good hitter.
Just in case you got lost in all that babbling, here is the "formula":
((OBP*1.7) + SLG) / 4
Now, the only thing we need is a name for this stat. I tried to think of something really clever, but nothing came to me. So, for now at least, let's just call it the "Aaron's Baseball Blog Number." Or the "ABB#" for short. If you have a good suggestion for a better name, feel free to email me with it.
Anyway, here are Kielty's year-by-year numbers against righties, using the Aaron's Baseball Blog Number:
ABB#When you look at those numbers, which include two minor league seasons and two major league seasons, I think it's pretty clear that Kielty has a good chance to be much better against righties in the future than he was this season. He put up good numbers against righties in Double-A and Triple-A and he did very well against them in his rookie major league season.
Now, let's take a look at how he did against lefties:
In case you're wondering, American League hitters as a whole had an ABB# of .249 against right-handed pitching and an ABB# of .246 against left-handed pitching.
With that in mind, Kielty has been very good in each of the last four seasons against lefties and very good in three of the last four years against righties, with that one ugly .217 from this season ruining an otherwise beautiful set of numbers.
Kielty's hitting against right-handed pitching this year was horrible (.216/.318/.328) and it certainly calls into question his ability to be an everyday corner outfielder in the major leagues. At the same time, he has always done well against lefties and his past performances against righties prior to this year were very good as well.
Many people have looked at Kielty's abysmal numbers against righties this year and written him off as nothing more than a platoon-player. I think that's a possibility, but I also think it's foolish to ignore his success against righties in the past.
I still think Bobby Kielty will be very good everyday corner outfielder.
In other news...
The Seattle Mariners signed free agent outfielder Raul Ibanez to a three-year deal earlier this week, providing us all with this off-season's first truly horrible signing.
Oh, let me count the ways...
First of all, they gave Ibanez three years and $13.25 million. Don't get me wrong, Raul Ibanez is a solid player. In fact, I said some nice things about him earlier this month, when I discussed this year's free agent outfielders:
"Raul Ibanez is an interesting player, because when he came to the Royals in 2001 he was 29 years old and a career .241/.295/.383 hitter. Over the next three years with Kansas City, he got 1,384 at bats and hit .291/.347/.492. My first reaction was that some of that comes from hitting in a very good hitter's park, but Ibanez hit .283/.345/.483 on the road during that span.Okay, so you've got a LF/RF/1B who hits righties well and probably shouldn't be starting against lefties. Is that a player worth signing? Definitely. Is it a player worth giving a three-year deal for over $4 million a year? Um...no!
Beyond simply giving Ibanez too much money for too many years, the Mariners also made the mistake of signing him too early. By inking Ibanez before the deadline to offer players arbitration, they essentially just handed the Royals their first-round pick in next year's draft.
Had they waited, I think it's very possible that the Royals wouldn't have even offered Ibanez arbitration, which would mean they wouldn't have been given compensation by the team that signed him. But the Mariners acted quickly and now, in addition to paying Ibanez too much for too many years, they have to give Kansas City their first-round pick next year for the right to do so.
To make things even worse, had the Mariners waited a little while, the amount of corner outfielders on the free agent market would have been significantly increased, as teams started declining arbitration for players. In a few weeks there are going to be a dozen free agent outfielders available who can do the job just as well as Ibanez, and the Mariners could probably have signed two and maybe even three of them for the money they are going to be paying Ibanez in each of the next three seasons.
That's all for this week, thanks for stopping by.
If you missed any of the entries from earlier in the week, here they are:
Monday: Pierzynski to the Giants
Tuesday: MVP! MVP! MVP!
Wednesday: Superman, again
Thursday: Bobby on the move, again
Also, for you Twins fans, I highly recommend you read "Dissecting Terry Ryan" by Will Young over at BaseballPrimer.com.
Just click on the following:
Dissecting Terry Ryan (by Will Young)
I have been devoting all of my baseball writing to AaronGleeman.com and haven't written anything for Baseball Primer in quite a while, so it's great to see another Twins fan doing good work over there.
See ya Monday.
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Thursday, November 20, 2003
Bobby on the move, againAnchored by an incredible and ever-growing group of young, front-line starting pitchers, and aided by an excellent pitcher's ballpark and a good defense, the Oakland A's have been one of the best teams in the American League at preventing runs over the last five seasons.
Runs Allowed:I think it is pretty obvious that, no matter how much you hear about the A's employing sabermetric principles by valuing on-base percentages and power and not using the running-game, the biggest key to Oakland's success over the last several years is their ability to prevent runs as well as any team in baseball.
Of course, how much of the credit for that run preventing ability should go to the pitchers, the defense and the ballpark is highly debatable. What I do know for sure is that Oakland's defense, long talked about as a big weakness, has been one of the best in all of baseball at turning balls in play into outs over the last two seasons.
In 2002, they converted 71.9% of balls in play into outs, ranking third in the AL. This year, they turned 72.6% of the balls in play into outs, ranking second in the AL and second in all of baseball. I do think their ballpark, with its spacious foul territory and generous dimensions, lends itself to fielders being able to convert balls in play into outs easier than most parks, but the A's defense has been impressive regardless of that.
One of the biggest reasons for Oakland's improved defense is a fairly obvious shift in organizational philosophy. A few years ago, the A's were known as a slugging team with a lineup full a guys who looked perfect for a softball league. Matt Stairs, John Jaha, Jason Giambi, Olmedo Saenz, Ben Grieve, Jeremy Giambi. Not a single good glove among them, but they could all hit.
Somewhere along the line though, things changed drastically. The softball sluggers started leaving, some big-time pitchers started arriving, and the A's shifted their focus to more well-rounded players. In some cases, they even brought in guys who could be called "defensive specialists."
After starting Terrence Long in center field for the majority of the past three seasons, the A's finally decided that Long's defense was no longer acceptable. After playing all 162 games in center field in 2002, Long didn't play a single inning there in 2003.
The A's brought in Chris Singleton, who doesn't hit much, but who is widely regarded as a very good defensive centerfielder. Singleton logged 737.1 innings in center this year, while hitting just .245/.301/.340. At the same time, the A's shifted Long to left field and then later to right field, where his defensive skills were much better suited. They also played Eric Byrnes, a solid defensive outfielder, in both center and left field on a semi-everyday basis.
The result of this new outfield alignment, completely without guys like Stairs or Giambi or Grieve, had a big impact on Oakland's defense. At the same time, it effected their offense quite a bit too. The A's ranked 9th in the AL in runs scored this year and the production they got from their outfield was particularly bad.
Using OPS (on-base % + slugging %) as the measurement (I don't like to use OPS much, but it comes in handy in this sort of situation), here is how the A's outfielders ranked among the 14 AL teams last year:
OPS RankThat's just awful.
Eric Byrnes started the season extremely hot and then went into an incredibly long tailspin, but his overall offensive production for the year was fairly good. He hit .263/.333/.459 in 460 plate appearances. The A's also got decent offense from Billy McMillon, who hit .268/.354/.458 in 175 plate appearances.
Other than that, it was pretty ugly. Terrence Long somehow managed to accumulate 522 plate appearances while hitting .245/.293/.385 as a corner outfielder. Jermaine Dye, who hasn't been the same player since breaking his leg in the post-season a couple years ago, hit an absolutely horrendous .172/.261/.253 in 65 games. As mentioned earlier, Singleton hit .245/.301/.340 in 341 plate appearances. Adam Piatt hit just .240/.280/.460 in 107 plate appearances and was let go. Even Ron Gant hit just .146/.182/.220 in 17 games before he was let go.
The A's acquired Jose Guillen from the Reds at mid-season and he hit just .265/.311/.459, which was sadly actually a huge improvement over the production they had been getting in right field.
Overall, Oakland's outfield just couldn't hit last year. Sure, they played good defense and that helped the A's win a lot of games, but I think Billy Beane, Paul DePodesta and company made it a priority to improve their outfield offense this off-season.
They made a couple of moves on Tuesday that should go a long way towards that goal. Well, actually they made one move and one other that isn't quite official as of this writing. The A's and Padres have agreed to a deal that will send Terrence Long and Ramon Hernandez to San Diego for Mark Kotsay. According to ESPN.com, the deal is official, but the A's want to check on Kotsay's health (he had back problems last year) before they pull the trigger.
Assuming that deal goes through, the A's have just acquired a starting centerfielder who is solid on both offense and defense. Kotsay isn't a great player, by any means, and there are some health concerns, but he is the type of guy who allows them to maintain their focus on pitching and defense while simultaneously improving the offense quite a bit.
Ramon Hernandez had a very good year for the A's and it's tough to give up a 27-year old catcher coming off a breakout-year. That said, the types of players the A's are now apparently targeting are a little tougher to find and a little more expensive to acquire than born-DHs like the guys the A's featured a few years ago.
I think a Hernandez for Kotsay swap is pretty fair. They are both 27 years old and they have both shown the ability to be assets on offense and defense. I don't think either of them are going to become superstars, but they should both be solid second-tier players at their position. Unloading Terrence Long and his contract on the Padres breaks the tie, in my opinion. It's an interesting trade, in that it is fairly even for both sides and also involves both teams dealing away players from a position where they seem to not have a whole bunch of other options.
Kotsay leaves center field open for San Diego, and the early things I have read seem to suggest that they may consider playing Brian Giles there full-time in 2004. That would likely mean a Ryan Klesko/Brian Giles/Xavier Nady outfield, which will probably give Jake Peavy nightmares for the rest of his life.
For the A's, they get rid of a guy who has been their starting catcher for the last four years. Hernandez has been a workhorse, playing 143, 136, 136 and 140 games in that span. Their best internal option to replace him right now seems to be Adam Melhuse, a minor league veteran who had a nice year in limited playing time as Hernandez's backup. Either Beane is extremely confident in Melhuse or he's got something else up his sleeve. I would guess the latter.
Assuming Kotsay is healthy, he should be a massive upgrade offensively over the guys who manned center field for the A's this year. And there shouldn't be much of a defensive drop-off, if any. With center field taken care of, the A's then turned their attention to the corner outfield and made a second deal, one that is actually official.
Oakland sent Ted Lilly to the Blue Jays for Bobby Kielty and a Player to be Named Later (PTBNL) or cash. All indications are that the "or cash" portion of the deal is for very little money, which leads me to believe the potential PTBNL is no one particularly significant.
If that is the case, it is essentially Ted Lilly for Bobby Kielty. Now, those of you who are long-time readers of this website know how much I love Bobby Kielty. I've written about him numerous times and I became pretty distraught when he was traded from Minnesota to Toronto this year. At the same time, I've also made it very clear on numerous occasions that I think Billy Beane is one of the top General Managers in baseball.
Those two facts, taken together, would probably lead you to believe that I think Beane committed highway robbery in this deal. Or, as Beane himself has been known to say, that he just made a "F---ing A Trade." You would think that, but you'd be wrong.
I actually think this deal works out well for both teams and, if anything, I would say the Blue Jays got the slightly better end of the deal (depending largely on who the PTBNL turns out to be, of course). It is really a classic case of teams dealing from strength to acquire something to help their main area of weakness.
The A's have a starting rotation that will almost certainly feature a front-four of Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Rich Harden next season. They also have a few interesting minor league options, including Justin Duchschrerer, whom I think can be a very successful major league pitcher. To them, Ted Lilly was nothing more than a #5 starter. And, as I already discussed, Oakland's offense, and particularly their outfield offense, was very sub par in 2003.
At the same time, the Blue Jays are definitely not hurting for hitters and they have plenty of good corner outfield options, both at the major league level and in the minors. Their pitching-staff, and particularly their starting rotation beyond Roy Halladay, is severely lacking however.
So, you've got one team with plenty of pitching that needs hitting and another team with plenty of hitting that needs pitching. Throw in the fact that the two GMs, Beane and J.P. Ricciardi, have worked together in the past and have a very good relationship, and it is basically a match made in sabermetric-heaven ("Where everyone walks and nobody runs").
After a very impressive rookie season in 2002, when he hit .291/.405/.484 in 348 plate appearances, Bobby Kielty's stock dropped quite a bit this season. He got off to a very hot start, hitting .324/.425/.588 in April, and then went into a prolonged slump, finishing the first-half at .252/.370/.420. He was then dealt to Toronto, where he hit just .164/.325/.284 in August, before ending the year with a decent September (.268/.337/.423).
Overall, here are how his numbers from his first two major league seasons compare:
Year PA AVG OBP SLG AB/HR AB/2B PA/BB PA/SOKielty's overall numbers fell, across-the-board. His batting average and on-base percentage both fell 47 points and his slugging percentage dropped 84 points.
Looking a little deeper, you can see that Kielty walked and struck out at essentially the same rate in both years. In addition to that, his doubles-rate actually improved slightly in 2003. The two things that hurt him were that his home run-rate dropped significantly and he hit a whole lot less singles.
Kielty's overall extra-base hit-rate dropped 5.7%, while his singles-rate dropped 10.4%. Obviously any time someone loses that much total production from one year to the next it is troublesome, but the fact that singles are the biggest area of the drop-off is relatively good news.
One other interesting thing about Kielty's decline this season is that he struggled mightily against right-handed pitching, after doing very well against them in 2002.
vs RHPKielty's always present ability to draw walks stayed...well, always present. At the same time, his batting average fell off a cliff and took all of his power with it.
Making things even more interesting is that Kielty did better against left-handed pitching in 2003 than he did in 2002.
vs LHPMy observation from having watched Kielty, who is a switch-hitter, is that his right-handed swing (against left-handed pitching) is a lot more consistent, a lot more natural, a lot more powerful. His left-handed swing was very good in 2002, but it never looked to me to have been as easy or as natural. It got sort of long and loopy at times and I noticed that a lot more while he was struggling this past season. I also remember reading a few things near the end of the year where the Blue Jays were talking about trying to fix a problem with Kielty's left-handed swing.
As a switch-hitter, the determining factor for whether or not Kielty is going to be a good, everyday player is how he hits left-handed, simply because he is going to face far more right-handed pitchers than left-handed pitchers. What you think of Kielty's future is probably determined by which set of numbers against right-handers you trust the most.
I would definitely trust his 2003 numbers the most, not only because they are the most recent, but also because they are a slightly larger sample-size. At the same time, his good numbers against righties in 2002 weren't put up in 50 at bats, they were over the course of a full-season of playing on a semi-everyday basis. He had over 230 plate appearances batting left-handed in 2002.
In addition to that, Kielty's minor league "splits" are not widely available, so it's tough to say whether he struggled from the left-side in years past. It seems like it would have been very tough for him to hit as well as he did consistently throughout his minor league career if he was struggling that much against right-handed pitching, however.
If Kielty ever finds a way to combine what he did against righties in 2002 with what he did against lefties in 2003, he will be one of the best hitters in the league. If he continues to struggle against righties like he did this year, he is no longer more than a platoon-player. I think it is obvious by the fact that the A's gave up a pretty good pitcher for him that they believe, at the least, Kielty's future lies somewhere in-between those two options. I'm a little less sure of that than I was this time last year, but I still agree with them, and I think Oakland's outfield is going to be significantly improved in 2004.
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Superman, againI have been (rightly) accused of being a pessimist many times. Sometimes by people who know me personally and lots of times by people who read this website. The nice thing about being a pessimist is that occasionally you are pleasantly surprised. The last two days have been good examples of that.
As I have said in this space previously, I feel Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds were the Most Valuable Players of their leagues this season. At the same time, I also had a strong feeling that the voters probably wouldn't actually give them the awards. As I discussed in yesterday's entry, I was wrong about Rodriguez and the AL voters, and yesterday afternoon I learned that I was also wrong about Bonds and the NL voters.
I often give the people responsible for voting for these awards quite a bit of criticism and usually deservedly so. This year, however, I think they have actually done a pretty good job picking the winners.
Of the six guys I chose as my winners for MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year, three of them (Bonds, Rodriguez and Angel Berroa) actually won. Two other winners (Eric Gagne and Roy Halladay), while not guys I would have voted for, were perfectly reasonable selections in my opinion. Basically, I think the voters only completely screwed up one of the six awards this year (Brandon Webb!). Of course, whether or not you think "only" completely screwing up one out of six awards is a good thing is debatable, I guess.
As I did with the AL voting yesterday, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the complete NL results and see what information can be taken from them...
- While the NL had 34 players who appeared on at least one ballot, compared to 27 in the AL, the voting at the top was far less splintered, despite there being six more total voters in the NL. No player in the AL got more than six first-place votes and a total of 10 guys got at least one first-place vote. In the NL, just three guys got first-place votes.
- Barry Bonds has now won six MVP awards, including three in a row. He received 30 of 32 first-place votes in 2001, all 32 first-place votes in 2002 and 28 of 32 this season.
- Amazingly, someone other than Bonds and Albert Pujols managed to get a first-place vote. I honestly thought it was impossible, but Gary Sheffield was #1 on one of the 32 ballots. I'd like to hear an explanation for that, just for the hell of it. Interestingly, Sheffield's first-place vote came from a writer from the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
- Pujols finished second in the voting for the second straight year. It is just the 10th time in baseball history someone has done that. If Bonds wasn't in the picture, he would be the back-to-back MVP at age 23 and he'd probably also have two MVPs if he had been playing in the AL this whole time.
By the way, does anyone remember who finished third in last year's NL MVP voting, behind Bonds and Pujols? I had to look it up, because I definitely didn't remember. In fact, I think you could have given me a dozen guesses and I wouldn't have even thought of the guy. Go ahead, think it over. Think you know? Click here to find out how wrong you are.
- Players in either the AL or NL West divisions have now won 14 of the last 16 MVP awards, including eight in a row in the AL and four in a row in the NL.
- Of the 34 total players who received a vote, seven of them are from the Florida Marlins. Juan Pierre, who hit just .305/.361/.373 (with 65 stolen bases) on the year and ranked seventh among NL center fielders in "Runs Above Replacement Position," was 10th in the balloting and got a fifth-place vote on one ballot.
Other Marlins receiving votes: Mike Lowell, Ivan Rodriguez, Luis Castillo, Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis and Derrek Lee. In case you're wondering, Cabrera played in a grand-total of 87 games this year. I was under the impression that all ballots had to be mailed in prior to the start of the post-season, but I'm starting to doubt that now.
- In the AL, pitchers accounted for just four of the 27 vote-getters (15%). In the NL, there were seven pitchers out of 34 total vote-getters (21%).
- Unlike in the AL, there weren't really any incredibly weird votes in upper parts of the ballot in the NL. In addition to stuff like Shannon Stewart and David Ortiz each getting multiple first-place votes, the AL also had Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada getting voted first and had Derek Jeter getting onto a total of two ballots while receiving a second-place vote.
Meanwhile, the weirdest thing atop the NL is probably either Sheffield getting that one first-place vote or Pierre getting that one fifth-place vote.
- There were a few weird votes in the bottom part of the NL ballot though...
Mark Grudzielanek, who missed 41 games this year and hit .314/.366/.416 when he did play, was voted 8th on one ballot, the only vote he got. Grudzielanek's teammate, Kerry Wood, who had a 3.20 ERA in 211 innings, didn't find his was onto any ballots.
Edgar Renteria, my #5 selection in the NL, finished 15th in the actual voting, appeared on only seven of the 32 ballots, and got just one top-8 vote. Meanwhile, Jeff Bagwell finished one spot ahead of him.
First, consider the following numbers:
G AVG OBP SLG RBINext, consider the fact that Bagwell plays in a great hitter's park, while Renteria plays in a pitcher's park. Renteria's "Equivalent Average" (which adjusts for ballparks) was .309, compared to Bagwell's .297.
Finally, consider the fact that Edgar Renteria plays shortstop, and plays it very well, while Jeff Bagwell is a first baseman.
The fact that they are back-to-back on a ballot, with Bagwell first, is incredible. It's almost as mind-boggling as Renteria finishing 15th.
- Renteria isn't the only St. Louis player who got shafted. Scott Rolen is a Gold Glove third baseman who hit .286/.382/.528 with 28 homers, 49 doubles and 104 RBIs this year. He ranked #1 among all MLB third basemen in Runs Above Replacement Position this season and his total of 57.5 RARP ranked him eighth among all NL hitters. Rolen ranked 10th among all NL players in Win Shares. I voted him as my #8 pick for NL MVP.
34 players got at least one vote for NL MVP. Scott Rolen was not one of them.
- Finally, some fun Superman facts...
* Bonds has now won six NL MVPs (1990, 1992, 1993, 2001, 2002, 2003). He has also finished second twice (1991, 2000) and in the top-5 on three other occasions (1994, 1996, 1997).
* Since 1990, Bonds has not finished in the top-10 of the MVP voting just two times - 1995 and 1999.
In 1995, he hit .294/.431/.577 with 33 homers, 104 RBIs and 109 runs. He led the NL in on-base percentage and OPS (on-base % + slugging %), finished second in adjusted OPS+ and fifth in slugging percentage.
In 1999, he hit .262/.389/.617 with 34 homers, but played in just 102 games.
* For his career, Bonds has led his league in adjusted OPS+ eight times - four straight years from 1990-1993 and four straight years from 2000-2003. In the six seasons in-between, he finished 3rd, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 2nd and then was injured in 1999.
* Bonds has led the league in on-base percentage seven times, slugging percentage six times and walks nine times. He is the active career leader in on-base percentage, total bases, home runs, runs batted in, adjusted OPS+, extra-base hits and, of course, balls hit into a body of water directly outside of a ballpark.
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
MVP! MVP! MVP!Well, it finally happened. Alex Rodriguez won the American League Most Valuable Player award yesterday, getting the award he has deserved multiple times in the past for the very first time.
The funny thing is that Alex Rodriguez's 2003 season was no better than any number of his other years and is probably worse than most of them. But the stars were aligned this year, for whatever reason, and I believe Rodriguez was clearly the MVP of the league.
I think the thing that ultimately led to ARod winning the AL MVP is that the voting was incredibly splintered. In recent years, the different criteria for an "MVP" has become so unique for each voter that defined lines are always changing and are occasionally never even present. Some guys vote for who they think was the best player in the league. Some guys vote for the best player on a playoff team. Some guys vote for the guy with the most RBIs. Some guys vote for the guy who provided the most "spark" or "heart" or "leadership" or "chemistry." Some guys vote for a combination of the best guy and the best story. And other guys seemingly put a dozen names into a hat and just pick one.
All of that adds up to a whole bunch of voters with a whole bunch of different ideas on who deserves an award. This year, that lead to a situation where 10 different players got a first-place vote.
To me, the very idea that 10 different players had at least one voter who thought they were the "MVP" of the AL this year is pretty scary. It tells me that the voters have come up with so many crazy ideas for what an MVP is that none of them can even agree on one correct form of idiocy. They just all go off into their own worlds of stupidity. In this case, that led to the Most Valuable Player actually winning the award, so I am perfectly happy to embrace the idiocy of the voters. Just this once, of course.
In all, 27 different players got at least one vote. Here are the official rankings:
1) Alex Rodriguez (6 first-place votes)To be honest, I was prepared for yet another year where Rodriguez got shafted. I was going to talk about how much he deserved the award, about how much more valuable to his team he has was than various other players, and other such things. But then the voters went ahead and surprised me, which means I have nothing to complain about today. Or so you'd think.
There are so many incredible bits of information contained in the American League's final voting breakdown that I feel compelled to share some of them with you...
- There were more voters who felt either Shannon Stewart or David Ortiz was the MVP of the AL this season (7) than voters who felt the same about Alex Rodriguez (6).
- Someone gave Jason Giambi a first-place vote. No other voter had him in the top-3 and only two of the 28 voters even had him in the top-5.
- Carlos Lee and Magglio Ordonez both play a corner outfield spot for the Chicago White Sox. Here are their numbers this year:
G AVG OBP SLG EqA EqR RARPCarlos Lee hit two more home runs than Magglio Ordonez and drove in 14 more runs.
Meanwhile, Ordonez made 27 fewer outs, got on base 31 more times and totaled 20 more bases. He had a batting average 26 points higher, an on-base percentage 49 points higher and a slugging percentage 47 points higher. He created 17 more "Equivalent Runs" and was 24 "Runs Above Replacement Position" better.
And, of course, Ordonez and Lee finished tied in the voting.
- One voter apparently thought it was still 2002 and gave Miguel Tejada a first-place vote. It was a bad idea then and it's utterly ridiculous now. Tejada's batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage dropped by 30, 18 and 36 points from last year and he finished 18th among AL position players in "Value Over Replacement Position" and 26th among all AL players.
- Compare the following two seasons from one player:
G AVG OBP SLG HR SBBeyond playing in 156 games both years, the player also played for the same team in both seasons and also played the same position defensively. In one of those two years he finished third in the AL MVP voting. In the other season, he finished 21st.
Don't worry, I don't get it either.
- Just a few days ago, Roy Halladay was awarded the AL Cy Young by a very large margin. He received 26 of the 28 first-place votes and had more total "points" (136) than the rest of the field put together (116).
Yet, Halladay was not on a single AL MVP ballot and four pitchers - Keith Foulke, Esteban Loaiza, Pedro Martinez and Mariano Rivera - were. Foulke, who finished seventh in the Cy Young voting, actually got a top-10 MVP-vote on eight different ballots, including a third-place vote on one. His highest finish on a Cy Young ballot was also third, and he also got just one of those.
- Alex Rodriguez, for whom many think not making the playoffs is a huge mark against him in the MVP balloting, received a total of six first-place votes and five second-place votes.
A total of six first-place votes and eight second-place votes were given to Toronto's Carlos Delgado and Vernon Wells, who, like Rodriguez, missed the post-season.
- Amazingly, the best player in the league was actually included on all 28 ballots. He was, however, given a sixth, seventh and ninth-place vote. One wonders what logic someone uses to determine that Alex Rodriguez was the ninth most valuable player in the AL this year.
I can understand the basis of the faulty logic that makes someone vote Rodriguez second or third or even that makes them leave him off the ballot completely. But ninth?!
- Derek Jeter, who missed 27% of the season (43 games) with an injury, received a second-place vote on one ballot. He got just one other top-10 vote combined on the other 27 ballots.
I am reasonably certain that Tim McCarver does not have a vote. Or at least I was.
- Here is the team-by-team breakdown of the 27 players who found their way onto at least one ballot:
Boston 6Despite finishing behind the Twins in the AL Central, the White Sox out-MVP'd Minnesota 4-1. In fact, despite missing the post-season and having just the sixth-best record in the AL, the White Sox had more MVP vote-getters than everyone except the Red Sox and Yankees.
The only teams without at least one person mentioned on a ballot? Detroit, Cleveland and Baltimore.
- I know I have talked about this plenty before, but it bears repeating. Three voters gave a first-place vote to a player who played in just 136 games and totaled just 73 RBIs and 90 runs scored. The player, who hit .307/.364/.459, played a position, left field, where the average major leaguer hit .279/.353/.468.
- The American League West division, which has just four teams, has now won eight consecutive AL MVP awards. Three by Rangers, two each by A's and Mariners, and zero by Angels.
- And finally, because it made me laugh out loud, here is a post from Baseball Primer about the MVP ballots, courtesy of someone named "stasis":
I managed to snag a copy of Tim McCarver's ballot...
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Monday, November 17, 2003
Pierzynski to the GiantsTo San Francisco:
- A.J. Pierzynski
- Joe Nathan
- Boof Bonser
- Francisco Liriano
First of all, let's talk about A.J. Pierzynski. He turns 27 in December and already has three full seasons under his belt as a starting catcher in the big leagues.
G AVG OBP SLGPierzynski has some major faults as a player. He is deathly afraid of taking a walk, has very little power, despite being 6'3" and 220 pounds, and isn't particularly outstanding defensively. On the other hand, he is a .301 career hitter who has improved offensively each year and he is incredibly durable.
Here are Pierzynski's "Value Over Replacement Position" totals over the last three years, along with where he ranked among MLB catchers:
Year VORP RankI don't think there is any doubt that he is a legitimate top-10 major league catcher. And, as I said, he is still just 27 years old, and his price-tag (likely about $3 million next year) is still extremely reasonable and will be for several more seasons.
Another positive thing with Pierzynski is that his hitting against lefties has gone from absolutely horrendous to pretty good in the span of just a few years.
vs LHPHe went from hitting zero extra-base hits in 60 at bats against lefties in 2001 to hitting 14, including four homers, in 135 at bats against lefties this year. He actually showed more "raw" power against lefties last year than he did against righties, and was much more able to pull the ball down the right field line with authority against lefties.
In just about any other organization, Pierzynski would be locked in as the starting catcher for the rest of this decade. He's good, he's relatively cheap, he's showing offensive improvement, and he's just now entering his prime years. The Twins are in the unique position of having a much younger, much cheaper and potentially better catcher in the organization.
Pierzynski's departure opens the door for uber-prospect Joe Mauer, the #1 pick in the 2001 draft, to skip Triple-A altogether and become Minnesota's primary catcher next season. Whether or not Mauer is ready to play at a high-level in the major leagues is debatable (I think he would benefit by some time in AAA), but at some point in the very near future Mauer was going to become Minnesota's starting catcher, so Pierzynski was not long for the team, regardless of what happened this off-season.
Because of that, trading Pierzynski now seems like a very reasonable thing to do. His value has probably never been higher, the Twins have Mauer potentially ready to take over, and they also have Matthew LeCroy available to share catching-duties if need be. In fact, I think Mauer (a left-handed hitter) and LeCroy (a right-handed hitter) would make a very nice platoon for next year. And, by getting rid of Pierzynski now, the Twins give themselves a little bit of breathing room with what is currently a very tight budget.
Basically, I have zero problem with trading Pierzynski and, although I would rather have seen him traded next off-season (or maybe even at mid-season), trading someone a little too early is a whole lot better than trading someone a little too late. The big question, obviously, is did the Twins get enough value from the Giants in return for him?
It is pretty clear from this trade that the Twins feel as though their biggest "need" area is pitching. I would argue that the middle-infield "situation" should be addressed before anything else, but pitching is definitely high up on my list too. And, while you'll probably hear and read that the Twins got "three young pitchers" from the Giants in exchange for Pierzynski, the reality is that they got two young pitchers and a 29 year old.
Let's talk about the young guys first...
The bigger (and more interesting) name of the two prospects the Twins got is Boof Bonser, a 22-year old right-handed starter. Prior to this season, I rated Bonser as my #44 overall prospect in baseball and had the following to say about him:
First of all, "Boof" is not Bonser's given name. Wanna take a guess as to what it is?Bonser spent this past season pitching primarily for Double-A Norwich. Here are his numbers there:
GS IP ERA SO/9 BB/9 HR/9 OAVGCertainly not horrible numbers, but a very disappointing year for Bonser. He also made four starts for Triple-A Fresno, throwing a total of 23 innings with a 3.13 ERA and a 28/8 strikeout/walk ratio. For the year, he had a 3.87 ERA and struck out a total of 131 batters in 158 innings, or 7.46 per nine.
His strikeout-rates from the last three years:
SO/9That's not a very encouraging trend, particularly when you add in some concerns about lost velocity and a sub par walk-rate that hasn't improved at all.
I still think Bonser is a good pitching prospect, although I definitely don't think he is among the top-50 in all of baseball at this point. I had been hearing rumors that the Twins were shopping Pierzynski for some young pitching for the past month or so and I was hoping they'd be able to snatch a young pitcher who was a step above Bonser's level as a prospect.
Of course, in addition to Bonser, they also got a second prospect, Francisco Liriano, who is much lesser-known than Bonser, but possibly just as intriguing.
Liriano was signed by the Giants out of the Dominican Republic in 2000, at the age of 16. The numbers from his first two pro seasons look very nice:
AGE IP ERA SO/9 BB/9Extremely young, good strikeout-rates, good ERAs, and his walk-rates weren't even that bad. Unfortunately, Liriano was limited to a total of just 9 innings in 2003 because of shoulder problems.
Liriano is obviously a long way from the majors and has a serious health concern (he also had some shoulder problems in 2002), but adding a 20-year old power-arm to the organization is never a bad idea. It would surprise me if Liriano made it to the major leagues as a starting pitcher, but I think he's got a shot at becoming a dominant left-handed reliever, although even that is way down the line.
Along with the two prospects, the Twins also got 29-year old right-hander Joe Nathan. Nathan came up with the Giants in 1999, as a 24 year old, and pitched pretty well, going 7-4 with a 4.18 ERA in 19 games, including 14 starts. He made 15 more starts for them the next year, posting a 5.21 ERA in 93.1 innings.
Nathan underwent shoulder surgery right after the 2000 season and spent most of the next two years trying to make a comeback in the minor leagues. He pitched horribly in Double-A (6.93 ERA in 62.1 IP) and Triple-A (7.77 ERA in 46.1 IP) in 2001 and then only slightly less horribly at Triple-A in 2002 (5.60 ERA in 146.1 IP).
Despite a rough couple of minor league seasons and some injury concerns, Nathan started 2003 with San Francisco, pitching out of their bullpen. After going 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 16.2 March/April innings, Nathan was gradually given a larger role in the bullpen. He struggled mightily in May and June, but then bounced back with a great final three months. He finished the year having thrown 79 innings in 78 games, with an ERA of 2.96 ERA. Nathan also went 12-4, all out of the bullpen, leading the NL in reliever wins, for whatever that's worth.
Joe Nathan is hard to get a handle on as a player going forward, simply because you can't really look at his performances during the last few years and learn anything from them. If you look at 2001 or 2002, you see a horrible pitcher who was obviously not fully recovered from a major shoulder surgery. Even going back to his 2000 performance is a little iffy, simply because he needed the surgery immediately after the season, so the shoulder may have been bothering him for some time. All you can really look at is what he did in 2003, which was pretty impressive:
G IP ERA SO/9 BB/9 HR/9 OAVGThose are dominant numbers. He struck out more than a better per inning and held opponents to a combined .186/.275/.299 (AVG/OBP/SLG). According to Baseball Prospectus' reliever rankings, Nathan was the 12th-best reliever in the National League this year.
Still, there are three main issues with Nathan that concern me. First and foremost is obviously the injury issue. The way he pitched this year suggests that he is back and better than ever, but he's still got a serious shoulder injury in the past and that always scares me. Beyond that, his walk-rate last year was pretty high (33 BBs in 79 IP) and he gave up quite a few home runs, despite pitching in a very tough ballpark to hit homers in.
In fact, Nathan's home/road splits are not all that promising for Twins fans:
IP ERA HR/9Besides having an ERA about twice as high on the road compared to at home, Nathan served up five homers in 38.1 innings on the road, compared to just two in 40.2 innings in Pac Bell.
But really, when a guy goes 12-4 with a 2.96 ERA and strikes out more than a batter per inning in his first season back from a serious injury, I think voicing concerns about walk-rates and homer-rates are probably picking nits just a little bit. Nathan should be able to step in as Minnesota's right-handed setup-man or possibly even as their closer. Another option would be to try him in the starting rotation, but I would be very surprised if the Twins chose to do that.
My guess is that he'll be asked to fill the right-handed setup role Latroy Hawkins has filled for the past several years. Hawkins is a free agent, along with Eddie Guardado, and the Twins bullpen in a serious state of flux right now. Adding Nathan to the mix gives them a power right-hander to fill Hawkins' spot for about 1/10th the price, and their numbers from last year are fairly similar:
IP ERA SO/9 BB/9 HR/9 OAVGNathan racked up a few more strikeouts and held opponents to a lower batting average, while Hawkins had much better control and did way better keeping the ball in the ballpark. I am a huge Latroy Hawkins backer, as I have said on this blog before, and I would certainly rather have him than Joe Nathan. But when you consider their ages (Hawkins is two years older) and their salaries, I think the Twins have done well here filling a position with similar talent for a much lower price.
Of course, that assumes the addition of Nathan means the end of Latroy Hawkins' time in Minnesota. If that is the case, it will be sad to see him go. Hawkins started his career as an absolutely horrendous starting pitcher, but the Twins stuck with him and he has turned himself into one of the most dependable and dominant relievers in all of baseball. I have often called Hawkins "The Machine" for his ability to pump 95 MPH fastball after 95 MPH fastball at hitters. It has been fun watching his transformation into a great pitcher and I have no doubt that he will be a great pickup for whichever team is lucky enough to sign him this off-season.
Minnesota GM Terry Ryan might have other ideas, however. I am hearing some rumors that Ryan is still working on a couple other deals, which would shed some more salary and might possibly allow the Twins to re-sign Hawkins or Guardado, and maybe both. Shannon Stewart returning is also not out of the question.
Eric Milton and Jacque Jones are the two names I hear in the most rumors. Milton is set to make $9 million next year, so getting his salary off the books would create a huge amount of flexibility for the Twins. I like Milton and I'd be sad to see him go, but he's certainly not worth $9 million dollars next year, especially not to a team with a $56 million-dollar payroll and an extremely tight budget. With Jacque Jones, I suspect it is a question of a) how much Stewart is willing to sign for and b) whether Terry Ryan prefers Jones or Stewart as his left fielder for the next few years.
I have a feeling this Pierzynski-trade is just the start of what is going to be a pretty busy off-season for the Twins. Terry Ryan did a good job rebuilding this team with young players a few years ago and many of those guys are now major league veterans who are due for fairly big raises in the near future. At the same time, the Twins have a very limited budget, as well as a very strong minor league system with many major league-ready players available to step in at low salaries.
Ryan has already dealt Pierzynski to shed salary, acquire some pitching and clear a spot for Joe Mauer, who is the future of this team behind the plate. I'm not sure what's next, but unless Carl Pohlad decides to suddenly open up the wallet some more, the Twins still have some important decisions to make this off-season. Fortunately, they have the luxury of having guys like Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Michael Restovich, Grant Balfour, J.D. Durbin, Lew Ford, Jason Bartlett and Jesse Crain ready (or nearly ready) and waiting for a chance.
In other words, I think it is time for the Twins to go from a young and cheap team to an even younger and even cheaper team. It may not be the best plan, particularly for the short-term, but such is life in the world of the small-markets.
Ultimately, I don't think there is really any way for the Pierzynski-trade to be viewed as a bad one. At worst, they lost one good year from Pierzynski, who was almost certainly a goner after next year anyway. I would be willing to bet just about anything that Joe Mauer will not be better than Pierzynski offensively next year, but I still think Mauer will be a productive major league catcher. And in exchange for that drop-off, the Twins got three valuable pitchers and saved a couple million bucks.
Of course, there is a big difference between not being a "bad" trade and being a "good" one. I think whether or not this deal ends up being a good one hinges on either Bonser or Liriano becoming a solid major league pitcher. As for the odds of that? Who knows. It's tough playing Miss Cleo with pitching prospects, especially ones with declining K-rates and shoulder problems.
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****