Saturday, February 28, 2009

Anybody Want a Cheap but Terrible Pitcher?

The Philadelphia Phillies finally gave up on Adam Eaton on Friday and released the pitcher even though it will mean they are on the hook for his $9 million this year. This means that anyone can pick him up for the $400,000 league minimum.

The Eaton signing was one of the worst in recent years. The Phillies signed Eaton as a free agent and gave him a three year contract worth $24 million. For their hard earned cash, the Phillies got a pitcher who went 14-18 with an abominable 6.10 ERA over the last two seasons.
In frustration, the Phillies sent him to the minor leagues last year and he couldn't even get minor leaguers out. Down there, he was 0-7 with an ERA over 7!

It's hard to understand why the Phillies would have signed him in the first place for that kind of money. He had just finished an injury riddled year (which can be said about most Eaton years as he has never thrown 200 innings in a season despite being a starter) with Texas and compiled 5.12 ERA with 102 base runners in 68 innings of work. You give a guy like that a three year contract at 24 mil? Dumb.

Oh well, give the team credit for taking the hard way out and eating the contract instead of burdening their team for another season faced with Adam's curse.

The Week's Transaction Wire

This was a week for the one year contract as dozens of players signed. Most of these guys are not arbitration eligible and under team control during the early part of a young career. To be sure, a couple of older guys made it in there too. Here is a quick run through:

- The Phillies are Eaton a lot of money by dumping Adam, but felt they had no choice in releasing the beleaguered pitcher.

- The Padres used Friday to become the assembly line of all transaction situations as they signed 29 players in one day. Among them:
  • Seung Baek went Cha ching!
  • They asked Mark to give it another Worrell.
  • They told Wade to sign on the LeBlanc line.
  • They asked Jose to carry the Lobaton for another year.
  • They gave Cabrera an A for Everth.
  • They gave Luis enough to buy a Durango.
  • They are not expecting Ivan Nova to flame out.
  • Drew Macias said gracias.
  • Denker said Danka.
  • They signed Hampson Justin case they need him.
  • And Will is almost old enough to be Veneble.
- On other teams, the Brewers gave Manny a contract that was on Parra with the one that Chase Wright got.

- The Brewers infield is not so Inbarren after they signed Hernan.

- The Rangers had a big day on Wednesday as they signed ten players. Among them:
  • They hope Warner has a Madrigal season.
  • They told Taylor that they never promised him a Teagarden, so he took what he could get.
  • German Duran Duran won't be Hungry Like a Wolf after signing his contract.
  • And oh my Josh! Hamilton only got a one year contract!?
- Over in Atlanta, Anderson was relieved that the Braves wanted him and that his career was not yet Garreted.

- The Tigers and Freddy did the Dolsi Doh after agreeing on a contract.

- Two guys are trying to hide their Ohio heritage as Dana Eveland and Brent Clevlen both signed this week.

- Scott Stapp will be happy that Joe Crede signed with the Twins.

- A new contract with Oakland got Kurt Suzuki's motor running.

- Donovan will be happy to note that Texas signed their Eric Hurley Gurly man. And when reporters are looking for the pitcher after a tough outing, the team trainer will point to the whirlpool room and sing: "Hurley Gurly inside..."

- Oakland got some insurance by signing Gio Gonzalez and the pitcher will be happy too because now he won't have to ride the computer bus.

Well, there you have it--another week's worth of transaction action found only here at the FanDome.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Vida Blue Was Cool

The other day in the FanDome, there was a comment to a Fan post concerning Dontrelle Willis about Willis being this generation's Vida Blue. While the Fan can understand the comparison, and though Willis is loved here in this place, Vida Blue was electric and he was cool. There is no comparison.

Vida Rochelle Blue Jr. of Louisiana was drafted out of high school by the Oakland A's in the second round of the 1967 draft. While Charlie Finley, the eccentric owner of the A's, was famous for making up nicknames for his players for marketing purposes ("Catfish" Hunter, "Blue Moon" Odom and "Mudcat" Grant being three examples). No such moniker was needed for Blue. His name was cool all by itself.

Add the high leg kick and a 100 MPH fastball and a lefty to boot, and you had one very cool and very hot pitcher. He pitched briefly with the A's as a nineteen year old and was knocked around a bit. Then he came up in September in 1970 and one-hit the Royals and ten days later, no-hit the Twins. Not a bad start!

He was so good in 1971 that he became the youngest player to win the MVP award and the Cy Young award. He started 39 games that year as young as he was and finished 24 of them. He threw eight shut outs. He struck out 301 batters in 312 innings. He went 24-8 with a 1.82 ERA. His WHIP that year was 0.92! But he wasn't done. He still had to pitch in the post season and unfortunately for the A's, they ran into a buzz saw in the Championship Series with Baltimore.

At that time, Blue's fastball was rivaled only by Nolan Ryan. Pete Rose said he threw the hardest of anyone he ever faced. But throwing 312 innings as a 21 year old plus the post season wasn't the best thing in the world for Blue. He struggled through the next year and though he won twenty games two more times and 17, 18 and 18 in other seasons, he was never again the same pitcher he was in 1971. He did throw 143 complete games in his career and had 37 shutouts.

Still, he won 206 games in his career, two more as an All Star pitcher and went 17-10 in post season games. He later got caught up in the cocaine scandals of the 1970s, which hurt his reputation. But he got through that and was later known for his generosity with young children and rebuilt his life.

1971 was a thrill ride for all of us that got a chance to peak into it once in a while. Unfortunately, that was before the days of ESPN and daily highlights. But you just had to follow along in the papers and in the Sporting News and you just knew he was real and Vida Blue was cool.

Red Sox Still the Team to Beat

Rob Neyer's blog today revealed Ken Rosenthal and Brian Cashman's take on the Rays chances in 2009. While the Yankees have certainly improved their pitching staff and the Rays have great young players and good pitching and defense, the Red Sox are still the team to beat.

Let's face it, the Red Sox got smarter faster than any team in baseball. The Oakland A's under Billy Beane had a good start on valuing contracts, but his teams didn't quite get there. The Red Sox hired Bill James for crying out loud. They outsmarted everyone else. They had the knack of getting the right pieces at the right time. The Schilling acquisition was brilliant at the time. Mike Lowell worked out really well. David Ortiz was stolen from the Twins.

The Red Sox have become the super power in baseball and out flanked and out foxed the Yankees. They have won two World Series in five years. They have great pitching and more on the way. They have a chemistry that works really well for them. They have the right manager and they have marketed the team better than anyone. As much as "Red Sox Nation" has become as hated in the country as the Yankees, it was a stroke of genius. That's what this team seems to have, a genius in concept and in practice. Is it really fair that New England has that same genius in two different sports?

Before 2004, the Red Sox were the little guys that couldn't. You could have all the Pedro Martinez swagger you wanted, but they couldn't figure out a way around the Yankees. Now the roles have reversed. The Yankees can't out think their rivals so they still have to out spend them. The Yankees are Phil Mickelson and the Red Sox are Tiger Woods. Mickelson has man boobs and the Yankees have men that are boobs.

Yes, the Rays won the division last year and the American League Pennant. That was a wonderful and beautiful story. They caught the Red Sox a little banged up and still in a post-Manny daze. But all it will take is a few Big Papi homers and a couple of those 2-0 wins and the swagger will be where it has been for five years now.

Maybe the Cubs still haven't won a World Series because they didn't have a rivalry like the Yankees/Red Sox. The Red Sox knocked on the door so many times and failed, they had to get smart and they did. It doesn't yet appear that the Cubs have gotten much smarter. Just better. But it hasn't been enough. The Yankees are still paying for years of not being smart.

The Rays will be really good. The Yankees will be really good. But the Red Sox are still the ones to beat.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Reds Make Statement in First Exhibition Game

The Reds made a pretty impressive opening statement in their first exhibition game yesterday. They threw their three best young arms out there in the first game. The results were very good indeed:

  • Volquez: 3 2 0 0 1 3 0
  • Cueto: 3 0 0 0 1 3 0
  • Bailey: 1 0 0 0 0 2 0

Now that's a pretty good opening salvo! Of course, it's just an exhibition game against the current American League Champions. But that had to make folks in Cincinnati feel pretty optimistic.

American League Managers - Who Will Get Fired?

Yesterday at the FanDome we went through the list of National League Managers and rated the probability of whether they would survive the year. Each year sees its share of managers who bite the dust when teams play less than at expected results. Here is the list in alphabetical order in the American League (of teams) along with PECOTA projections and the Fan's less than scientific results:

Dave Trembley - Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles are like the Texas Rangers of the Eastern Division. They can rake pretty well, but Jeremy Guthrie is pretty good, but who else is there that can pitch? PECOTA agrees. The system predicts a five game improvement in the Win column, but that still means 88 Losses. PECOTA predicts the Orioles to score 5.14 runs a game, but opponents are predicted to score 5.72 runs a game. Not a good thing there. Despite all that, McPhail, the Orioles' GM is starting to turn the franchise around and he knows it will take time. That said, Trembley will be okay as long as he doesn't lose the players.
Likely to finish season - 95%

Terry Francona - Boston Red Sox
Francona has developed into an icon much like Joe Torre and Bobby Cox. He has the fans' trust and the players'. There probably isn't a manager in baseball (this side of Bobby Cox) that is safer than Francona. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have one of baseball's strongest teams either.
Likely to finish season - 100%

Ozzie Guillen - Chicago White Sox
Brash and sassy, Guillen says what's on his mind and says it often. His GM has his back, but you have to wonder how far. Despite an old team and despite what seemed to be smoke and mirrors, Guillen brought his team in first place last year after a couple of less stellar years. PECOTA sees that as a one hit wonder however and predicts the team will lose 89 games in 2009. Will Guillen lose a cork if his team plays that poorly? Will he say the wrong thing at the wrong time? Will it play as well for a losing club as it does for a winning one? We'll see.
Likely to finish season - 80%

Eric Wedge - Cleveland Indians
Wedge enters his seventh season as manager for the Indians. He seems to have the reputation as one of the sharper managers out there. Despite injuries last year, the team finished strong and ended up at the .500 mark after a very poor start. It might have been a better managing job than when he won Manager of the Year in 2007 when his team finished in first. PECOTA is picking the Indians to finish first in a volatile division and the Fan agrees.
Likely to finish season - 100%

Jim Leyland - Detroit Tigers
Much like Tony La Russa's situation in St. Louis, this managerial seat seems a little slippery. The Tigers were predicted to win their division last year and flopped miserably. But the team still has some talent. But there seems to be too many holes as well. PECOTA predicts a four Win improvement, but that still means 84 losses. Leyland has brought his teams to first place three times and to a World Series. But he also has eight seasons where his teams have finished fifth or worse. Will the Tigers' management support Leyland if that high price team tanks again? Hmmm...
Likely to finish season - 70%

Trey Hillman - Kansas City Royals
The Royals showed flashes of life last year and finished with less than 90 losses for the first time in a while. PECOTA shows only a one Win improvement this year though. The team just doesn't seem to have enough offense. But the Royals like their manager and his job seems safe enough. But anything is fair game if the team opens up with an egg its first month or so.
Likely to finish season - 90%

Mike Scioscia - California Angels
Considered one of the smartest managers in baseball, Scioscia has brought his team to four first place finishes in the last five years. But the fans are getting restless as they continue to lose in the division series. The team won 100 games last year. The Fan isn't sure how. Well, he is. They were 24th in baseball in hitter VORP, but fourth overall in pitcher VORP. Pitching is still the key to success. Though this manager seems safe enough, if the team starts badly and say is in second place in August, the fans might scream loud enough to be heard here.
Likely to finish season - 90%

Ron Gardenhire - Minnesota Twins
It seems sure that Gardenhire isn't going anywhere any time soon. The Twins prefer stability and Gardenhire enters his eighth year after following Tom Kelly's long reign. The Twins made a run last year and fell one playoff game short. This despite losing one of the best pitchers in baseball. The one strange thing here is that the Twins have always stressed defense and yet fell to 19th overall in defensive efficiency last year. PECOTA predicts an eight game regression this year, but even if that happens, Gardenhire will be there at the end of the year.
Likely to finish season - 100%

Joe Girardi - New York Yankees
Whoa! Can't imagine the pressure to win that must be on Girardi. The Yankees have done all they could to give him a great team (on paper at least). If his team tanks, he'll be in a heap of trouble. PECOTA predicts them to win the wildcard behind Boston. For Girardi's sake, that better be right.
Likely to finish season - 80%

Bob Geren - Oakland Athletics
The Fan thinks the Angels are there for the taking and Oakland, if they can get some solid pitching and all those high walk, big power guys produce and not break down, they have a shot. The team addressed its biggest need as they were dead last in hitter's VORP last year. They spent some money to get some boppers, but if they come out of the gate stillborn, Geren will pay.
Likely to finish season - 80%

Don Wakamatsu - Seattle Mariners
Wakamatsu is a total unknown and there is no telling how it will go for him in Seattle. He inherits a bad clubhouse situation that hopefully Griffey can help fix. But nothing is expected of Seattle this year after losing 101 games last year. PECOTA predicts them to improve by 11 games to only lose 90, but that doesn't seem likely. In either case, Wakamatsu won't have any pressure on him with a bad perception already on the team.
Likely to finish season - 95%

Joe Maddon - Tampa Bay Rays
Maddon is golden this year after a surprising first place finish last year. He seemed unflappable and brought a young team through the fire, through the Yankees and then the Red Sox. Quite a feat for a manager who lost 101 games just three years ago. PECOTA predicts a little slippage and a third place finish, but the Rays will be competitive and fun to watch.
Likely to finish season - 100%

Ron Washington - Texas Rangers
This one seems to be the manager most likely to get fired. The Rangers improved by four games last year in the Win column, but the main problem still exists - pitching. Based on pitching (and the fact they lost Milton Bradley), PECOTA predicts the Rangers will slip to last place this year. While it doesn't seem that the Rangers could be worse than Seattle, if PECOTA pulls a Nostradamus here, Washington will not survive.
Likely to finish season - 50%

Cito Gaston - Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays aren't as talented as the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox. But if anyone can nurse his pitching staff to overcome limitations in offense, it's Gaston, one of the most underrated managers in MLB history. After replacing John ("Yeah, it was a lie") Gibbons, Gaston took the team to a 51-37 finish last year after an eleven (why??) year absence. The man won two back to back World Series in 1992 and 1993 and his team finished in first three years in a row. It's about time somebody brought him back and it seems right that it was Toronto. The Blue Jays could surprise, but even if the don't, he's good for the year.
Likely to finish season - 100%

There you have it. Ron Washington and Jim Leyland seem the most vulnerable with Joe Girardi playing with fire in New York. Now we will just have to wait and see what happens.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dontrelle Willis: On the Way Back?

Dontrelle Willis has been one of the most likable players in Major League Baseball. That fact made it painful for fans to watch his decline in 2007 and the utter loss of 2008 after a trade sent him to the Tigers. A story today at gives hope that he can be a meaningful pitcher again in the majors.

The thing that attracted fans to Willis was the enjoyment he seemed to have playing baseball. With his hat slightly askew and his high leg kick, he always had an enormous smile on his face. He seemed to be great with the kids and other than his one run in with the law for driving under the influence, he was a very good ambassador for baseball.

And he had some success with the Marlins as well. He won 22 games in 2005 two years after a very successful rookie campaign. Plus, as an added bonus, he was a pretty good hitting pitcher as well and hit 8 homers over the years with the Marlins to go along with a .234 average. But cracks started showing in 2007.

In 2007 he lost 15 of his 25 decisions and his ERA ballooned to 5.17. His walks were way up, his strikeouts down and he gave up 29 homers. The Marlins, sensing trouble, traded away one of their most popular players to Detroit. It was there that disaster struck.

Willis apparently had knee problems, but he couldn't throw a strike to save himself. He only managed to get into eight games and he walked 35 batters in only 25 innings. The Tigers shut him down and the season was lost.

The story, though, gives hope that Willis can make it back and be successful again in the majors. Amazingly, Willis is only 27 years old. It seems like he has already been around for a long time, but he is young and if he can physically and mentally make it back, it would be great for all fans of baseball.

National League Managers - A List and Who's Vulnerable

The 2009 season lies before us (this blog is inspired by Obama oratory skills) as a blank canvas ready for the grand splashing of paint. Like some overpaid and overemphasized modern painter or the preschooler who does the same kind of work in exactly the same way, there will be a randomness of events that fill the season with some unexpected turns and twists which even the most gifted mathematician cannot predict, that will splash colors on this blank canvas which won't be completed until the final out of the World Series (top THAT sentence, Mr. President!). Along the way, some of these unexpected (and expected) events could spell the end of a major league manager's current tenure (or two or three). Here is a complete National League list and a non-mathematical gut judgement on who will make it to the end of the season and who won't.

Bob Melvin - Arizona Diamondbacks
Melvin is in his fifth year of managing the Diamondbacks. After an amazing run in 2007, the Diamondbacks opened a big lead in 2008 only to fall back hard to finish 82-80 last year.
PECOTA predicts a first place finish with 92 wins. It seems a lot will have to go right to get to that win total. If the team finishes ten wins less than that prediction, Melvin could be vulnerable. Finishes the year - 95%

Bobby Cox - Atlanta Braves
Cox, now sixty-eight, is an institution in Atlanta and one of the most beloved of all managers. Though the Braves are retooling, Cox won't be going anywhere. The Braves struggled to a 90 loss season last year. PECOTA predicts a third place finish with 87 Wins. That seems high and 82 Wins would seem to be where this team ends up in a strong division.
Finishes the year - 100%

Lou Piniella - Chicago Cubs
Piniella has won two straight Central Division titles but lost both division series. They are the strongest team in a pretty flat division, so a third title seems like a good bet. The Cubs won 97 games last year and PECOTA gives them 96 this year and a ten game cushion over the Brewers. That win total totally depends on starting pitching which seems to be their biggest question mark. If the Cubs fall behind any other team in the division, the new owners of the Cubs could get testy.
Finishes the year - 99%

Dusty Baker - Cincinnati Reds
This one is interesting. Baker brought a weak team to 74 Wins last year which seemed higher than expected. The team has placed much of its future in its young arms of which Baker has a serious history of abusing (Kerry Wood comes to mind). PECOTA predicts the team will improve five Wins to 79 this year. If the team starts off much worse and the young pitchers struggle, Baker could be on the chopping block.
Finishes the year - 65%

Clint Hurdle - Colorado Rockies
The Rockies regressed last year after making the World Series the year before after a fantastic run at the end. Much was expected and the team lost 88 games last year. Hurdle seems to know this is a do or die year and PECOTA isn't promising with only a two game improvement predicted. If the Rockies fall behind early in the division, Hurdle could find himself out after seven up and down years.
Finishes the year - 50%

Fredi Gonzalez - Florida Marlins
Every year we hear the same thing: The Marlins have the scariest young talent. While they do have some great young arms, a lot has to go right (on a pretty low budget) to make this all work. Gonzalez, in his second year with the team last year improved the teams Win totals by 13 games to 84 Wins. PECOTA predicts a big regression this coming year and predicts the team will lose 91 games and come in last place. While it's hard to think this team is going to finish behind the Nationals (what's up with that??), they need much to go right to play with the Phillies and the Mets. A bad start could leave Fredi vulnerable.
Finishes the year - 90%

Cecil Cooper - Houston Astros
The Astros looked dead at the beginning of last year and had a strong finish to end with 84 Wins, a 17 Win improvement on 2007. PECOTA predicts that will disintegrate this year due to pitching and only predicts the team to win 66 games. Not a good thing for Cooper. If things get real ugly there early, Cooper could be in trouble. If they hang in there a while, he'll finish the year.
Finishes the year - 75%

Joe Torre - Los Angeles Dodgers
Much is expected in the land of Blue this year after a first place finish last year, Torre's first with the club. A lot of what happens will be in the hands (or not) of Manny Ramirez. PECOTA, probably basing a projection without Manny(?) has them at 87 Wins in 2009 and well behind the Diamondbacks. This is the year's biggest question mark. Either way, Torre will finish the year.
Finishes the year - 100%

Ken Macha - Milwaukee Brewers

Macha hasn't been given a golden ticket here. The Brewers overcame some turmoil and rode the arms of Ben Sheets and C. C. Sabathia to the wild card last year with 90 victories. Macha won 93 games as a manager of the A's a few years back but was still let go after whispers of some serious club house conflict among his players. Sheets and Sabathia are gone and PECOTA only predicts 86 Wins for the team in 2009. The team can hit but will they pitch enough to compete? It seems unlikely. If the team falls back early and Macha loses the team, it won't be pretty.

Finishes the year - 50%

Jerry Manuel - New York Mets

There is a lot of pressure on Manual to produce a winner this year. The team has a new stadium and a high priced closer and set up man to close the gap on what has gone wrong the last two years. PECOTA expects them to win the division with 91 Wins. Anything less will be deemed unacceptable. But his hopes are pinned on Pelfrey, Maine and Oliver Perez, which seems a bit scary to the Fan. Any kind of bad start and there will be troubled waters here.

Finishes the year - 90%

Charlie Manuel - Philadelphia Phillies

Manual is certainly riding high with two first place finishes and a World Series title to his resume the last two years. Manual won't be going anywhere despite how the unpredictable team goes. PECOTA only gives them 89 Wins this year. Either way, Manual is one of the biggest locks to keep his job.

Finishes the year - 100%

John Russell - Pittsburgh Pirates

Nothing is expected of the Pirates this year and PECOTA lists the 2009 projection at 98 Losses, or four more than last year. There isn't any reason to think the team will be any better than that. Russell is the guy this team wanted to help them rebuild and it is doubtful that he will be going anywhere.

Finishes the year - 98%

Tony LaRussa - St. Louis Cardinals

LaRussa has taken a hit on his power base in the last couple of years and he is being forced to play younger players and yet keep the team competitive. He always seems to find a way to do that, but if the Cardinals start badly and stay bad, this situation could get explosive. This is definitely one to watch.

Finishes the year - 85%

Bud Black - San Diego Padres

Black has some serious problems with a team that is not suited for competing any time soon. The team lost 25 games more last year than the year before and though PECOTA predicts a ten game improvement this year, it seems unlikely. The question is whether or not the new owners of the team will have patience with Black or clean house out there.

Finishes the year - 40%

Bruce Bochy - San Francisco Giants

Everyone predicted the Giants would lose 100 games last year but they only lost 90, so that is an accomplishment of sorts for Bochy. An interesting story popped up today where Omar Vizquel rapped his former manager for a lack of aggressiveness as a manager. Interesting. Anyway, the PECOTA projections list the Giants for a five game improvement this coming year. But they have an extremely talented trio of starting pitchers who, if they catch fire, could make this a surprising team this year in an unstable division. It seems somewhat unfathomable, but then so did the Rays seem that way last year.

Finishes the year - 100%

Manny Acta - Washington Nationals

Woe is the Nationals who lost 102 games last year. Amazingly, PECOTA gives them 80 Wins this year. Whuh? The team seems in total disarray, with a general manager under siege, scouts under scrutiny and a whole lot of frayed ends. When Zimmerman is considered its best player, that's a scary thought. If the team opens stagnant, it could be the final Acta for Manny.

Finishes the year - 50%

We'll run through the American League tomorrow. Apologies for the funky formatting of this post. Blogger seems to get funky when you save a post as a draft. Will attempt to fix it after a save.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Fan Welcomes a New Follower

A shout out and a welcome goes out to Billy the Kid, a new blogger and baseball fan. You can find his blog here.

The Kid has two things going for him. First, he loves baseball and secondly, he has a great name! The Fan used to be a "Billy" before he turned forty and decided "William" was more age appropriate. Besides, it sounds better when women say, "Willyum."

Good luck, Billy, and have fun. The Fan will be following along.

Odalis Perez is an Idiot

Perhaps you have seen this story today concerning Odalis Perez? It appears that Perez signed a minor league contract with the Nationals, the team he pitched for last year. It then appears that he decided he didn't like that deal and wanted to renegotiate. Umm, Odalis, it doesn't work like that. To make his point, Perez decided not to report to the Nationals. The Nationals said, "Yeah, whatever," and released him.

Perez has made $32 million in his career for basically one good year out of ten. And all he had to do was show up in camp and make the team and he was good for $870,000 for 2008. That isn't chump change to those of us struggling in this economy. And he would have made the team because he is a lefty and lefties have to be just about dead not to be wanted in major league baseball.

How else would you explain him hanging on this long despite these glorious ERAs the past three years: 6.20, 5.57 and 4.34? He has given up 680 base runners in his last 423 innings of work. In the ERA+ statistic, where 100 is average, he has a career number of 95. Only three times in his career was he over 100 and one of them was last year when the number was 101. So he was a league average pitcher last year.

And with that wonderful track record, he's going to try to call the shots? The Nationals certainly haven't had a lot of fun the last few weeks. First you have a supposed phenom who duped the team about his age and name. Then you have Bowden under investigation for the South American problem which is finally coming to light again. And now this.

No matter their recent troubles, the Nationals did the right thing in letting Perez go. If he wants to throw away that kind of money, let him. He wasn't very good anyway. Perez will be lucky if he hasn't thrown away the rest of his career.

Finally Some Chemistry That Won't Trouble Yankees

For any kid or anyone who remembers what it was like to be a kid, the words, "Field Trip," will always conjure up positive feelings. That's certainly what Joe Girardi must have been looking for when he took an unusual step today by closing down his training facility and taking his players and coaches on an outing to a local pool hall.

After a troublesome period with A-Rod and other issues, the Yankees decided to take a little detour on the road to playing shape by putting everyone on a bus and having a team building exercise. The Fan spent many years managing a customer service center for a software company and always found team building exercises to be beneficial.

Let's face it, work is work and the need to succeed is very powerful and stressful. We weren't playing for millions, but we were competing with other companies for our customer's dollars and it was always good once in a while to break up that stress with something that is fun and unexpected. While this happens often in the corporate world, the linked article mentioned that the players all said they had never experienced anything like it.

That speaks highly of Girardi and his creativity in building a team out of high end superstars bought by free agency and young players making major league minimum. While team unity is probably overrated in sports, it certainly does make it easier to pull hard for one another and work together for a common goal. That's something that has been missing over the past several years.

In fact, it was one of the sub-themes in Torre's book, "The Yankee Years." The World Series run featured players who worked hard toward a common goal of winning and the difference between that and the odd collection of older free agents the team collected after the World Series years affected that common goal.

You have to commend Girardi for taking this unusual step for his team. It won't make it any easier to beat Boston or Tampa Bay, but it will make it easier for the team to have fun together and work together along the way.

Heck, if Girardi wants to give the Fan a call, there are several tricks up this old manager's sleeve he can borrow. There is pajama day, funky hat day, mismatched clothes day, balloons filled with prizes, breakfast cereal day and many more. You go, Joe. Good job.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Spring Training is Just a Dream

To anyone living in the northern part of this great country, where winter still holds an iron grip, Spring Training is but a dream. It is no more real than watching Phil "Man Boobs" Mickelson luck out over Steve Stricker (thanks to Stricker's yak on the last hole) on green grass and in shirt sleeves.

We just had ten inches of snow on Wednesday. Sixteen more inches of the stuff is expected tonight and tomorrow. The snow is piled up in the yard up to the bottom branches of the trees and the constant wind-blown snow across the landscape, like millions of writhing snakes, completes the picture of the frozen tundra that is the Fan's reality.

One thing the Fan is absolutely sure of: Al Gore has never been to northern Maine. Because if he had made the trip here, he never would have made that documentary. All things spring and green and warm seem a million miles away.

Is it any wonder that the Fan has always longed to make a pilgrimage to Florida this time of year to see this annual rite of spring? It's not about the intimate setting of seeing MLB players closer up than you can see them at their usual home parks. It's about being some place warm in February and March and not here. Well, once upon a time it was the desire to see Spring Training and watch the newest rookies and see first hand what veterans look poised to have a big year. But now, when the Fan has spent a half century of frigid winters and nights that begin at 4:00 P.M., it's only about being warm and wearing shorts and sandals.

The Fan's Mom doesn't get it. Making the weekly Sunday call, she told the Fan that she had to get a blanket out this week because she was cold. Mom lives in North Palm Beach, Florida. What is it, Mom? About 72 or something? Such a pity that.

There are some good things about living in a place like this. For most of the year, it's way too cold for crooks to be lurking around waiting for an opening to rob you. It's too cold for lots of people to want to live here, leading to a less congested lifestyle. It's cold enough to see Moose on a regular basis and those lovable but ugly and yet graceful creatures are one of the coolest sights on earth (unless you hit one with your car).

The Fan used to snowshoe. What's that? You know. You've seen them in Bugs Bunny cartoons. Those tennis racket thingys you wear on you feet? Yeah, them. The Fan used to enjoy making fresh tracks through the wilderness. But two creaky knees make that too painful to think about. Or maybe the Fan just got lazy along the way. Hard to say which is more the reality. Probably the latter.

Anyway, the thought of Spring Training, while exciting because it means that real baseball will soon be on the way, also seems like a cruel joke. Yes, some of you are starting to get an inkling of spring. Some of you will soon see lilies and other wonderful signs of life. But us poor slobs in the frozen tundra have nothing to look forward to but another month an a half of hard winter. Egads, that's depressing.

If the Fan liked fishing (besides the love of eating fish), he could always do what hundreds of red necks around here do and go ice fishing. But the thought of sitting in a small homemade shack on the ice in the middle of a lake, watching a stick and a string leading down through a ten inch hole in the ice, doesn't seem like a whole lot of fun. But most of the folks that do that around here just use it as an excuse to chug a six pack and forget all about Obama's stimulus package that seems as remote to us as spring does. Plus, the builder of the Fan's house died in one of those shacks when it caught fire while he was passed out on the lake. Yup, true story.

So, the Fan will continue to read all the favorite baseball sites and see all those stories about young men playing the great game of baseball on green grass and with short sleeves. All the while, the Fan will sigh and grumble about another darn snowstorm and having to take the dog out when bitter winds are whipping across his pink cheeks.

{{grrrr}} Spring Training. Uh huh. Sure.

Speaking of young men, here is a quiz: Who was the youngest player in the majors last year? If you guessed Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, you win the Manny Batting Helmet Award. Eww! Kershaw was born in 1988. It won't be long before the first player born in the 1990s arrives on the scene. Now isn't THAT depressing!? The last player that was the Fan's age in the majors was Paul Molitor and he retired ten years ago.

Okay. Whine over. Have a good Spring Training day.

Jose Reyes Versus Hanley Ramirez

Two of the best young shortstops in the National League also happen to play in the National League East: Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins and Jose Reyes of the Mets. Both were born in 1983 in the Dominican Republic. Both have batted leadoff for most of their careers. Which one is better? Let's look at the numbers for the last three years and a future projection:

Batting Average:
Hanley Ramirez - .308
Jose Reyes - .292

On Base Percentage:
Hanley Ramirez - .379
Jose Reyes - .355

Hanley Ramirez - .906
Jose Reyes - .816

Hanley Ramirez - 135
Jose Reyes - 112

Runs Created/ BtRuns:
Hanley Ramirez - 497/58.6
Jose Reyes - 513/30.3

Stolen Bases - Stolen Base Percentage:
Hanley Ramirez - 137 77%
Jose Reyes - 198 79%

Fielding Percentage/League Average Fielding Percentage:
Hanley Ramirez - .964/.974
Jose Reyes - .976/.974

Range Factor/League Average Range Factor:
Hanley Ramirez - 4.21/3.98
Jose Reyes - 3.97/3.98

Win Shares - total last three years:
Hanley Ramirez - 86
Jose Reyes - 82

Hanley Ramirez - 23.7 (total)
Jose Reyes - 18.1

Projected WARP Total Next Seven Years:
Hanley Ramirez - 44.8
Jose Reyes - 37.0

All statistics from,,

While the Fan would be pleased to have either shortstop on his team for years to come, it seems very easy to see that Hanley Ramirez is the more valuable player.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Not a Big Fan of the Crede Signing

Some players just seem to play a long time despite the fact that they aren't very good. Juan Pierre comes to mind as does the Hairston brothers. Joe Crede fits in that category and today, it was announced that the Twins had signed the third baseman for $2.5 million plus incentives.

The only statistics that favor Crede over his career is a slightly higher slugging percentage than league average and slightly better defense. He is deemed as a power bat, but despite some middle of the road power years, he isn't that special. Add that to the fact that he has a creaky back and we all know what that can do to a career (just ask Mattingly).

Baseball Prospectus lists Crede's value at $3.05 million, so $2.5 million seems like a good deal, but say he gets 500 at bats and maxes his deal to $7 million (the Fan hates incentives based on At Bats), then Crede will be overpaid by more than double what he is worth.

According to Crede's stat sheet, the man has compiled a lifetime On Base Percentage of .306 with the league average over those same nine seasons as .340. That's a pretty low grade in what has become an important statistic. And his OPS+, where 100 is average, Crede's lifetime number is 93, or below average. So how is it that he always seems desirable to teams like the White Sox and the Twins? The bottom line seems to be that he can hit a homer occasionally.

And the other up side the Twins might look at is Crede's defense which has been higher than league average. Defense is important to the Twins and always has been. But on the short side, Crede made 20 errors in just 97 games at third last year. Ugh.

The Twins might regret this deal come September, but that's why they play the game because you never know. But if Crede plays to his averages, he won't be what the Twins need.