Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cincinnati Reds' Off Season Snooze-Fest

After winning the National League Central Division in 2010, the Cincinnati Reds were never a factor in 2011. Pitching woes crippled the team and they could never muster a winning streak. They were below .500 in the first half, below .500 in the second half, below .500 in one-run games and woeful in interleague play. Teams in their division have been active this off season. The Cardinals and Brewers are both expected to lose their big first basemen but have made other moves to stay relevant. The Cubs hired all new leadership. The Pirates have been active. The Reds? The Reds have not had a transaction since October. What gives?

The Cincinnati Reds have one of the most respected general managers in Walt Jocketty.  In this piece, it appears Jocketty has been actively seeking to make deals and says he is frustrated that nothing has happened. There most often trade bait dangled (at least according to rumors) has been Yonder Alonso. But Alonso seems to be a very good young player, so why trade him? In fact, the Reds appear to be in good shape offensively. The loss of one half of their catching duo, Ramon Hernandez, should be more than adequately replaced by good looking young catcher, Devin Mesoraco. Jay Bruce hit 32 homers last year which gives them another weapon (albeit an inconsistent one) and Drew Stubbs showed some flashes of goodness (when he wasn't striking out, which happened an alarming 205 times).

Yes, with Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Stubbs, Bruce and Alonso, the Reds should have no trouble scoring runs. Plus they have a good looking young shortstop in Zack Cozart (whose name would be a Scrabble bonanza if you could use proper nouns). The offense looks fine. But what of the pitching? Dontrelle Willis is off to the Phillies, which is probably a good thing for the Reds. But when Mike Leake was their most consistent starter, that is a problem (no offense to Leake who has become quite solid). Johnny Cueto was terrific but again missed thirteen starts. His former phenom partner, Edinson Volquez, had a horrific season last year. But even worse was Bronson Arroyo who frankly hit bottom last year and became a batting practice pitcher. Homer Bailey was somewhat meh. Travis Wood doesn't appear likely to an effective major league starter and does anybody really think that Aroldis Chapman will work out as a starter?

And then you have the bullpen. Last year's closer is gone since the Reds declined to pick up Francisco Cordero. So who is going to close? Nick Masset can be a very good reliever but he was over-exposed last season and cracked in the second half. Jose Arredondo has a big arm, but was inconsistent. And Logan Ondrusek and Bill Bray are useful if not spectacular.

Sam LeCure had some success and that was hopeful, but a lot of the Reds' 2012 season will depend on if Cueto can stay healthy, Volquez can find the magic, Leake can continue to improve and if two other starters can find a way to get people out. Behind them, a bullpen needs to be cobbled together. If the Reds don't pitch better in 2012 than they did in 2011, it will be another lost season.

Fans of the Reds have to be restless. How could they not be when absolutely nothing has happened this off season? This writer hopes for their sake that the team doesn't trade Alonso. But again, Jocketty is a terrific general manager and there is still some time to make some things happen. But it sure has been a snooze fest so far this off season in Cincinnati.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Dark Clouds Shroud the Mets

Have you seen that drug commercial for those who suffer from depression? You know the one with the animated woman who has this little dark cloud that follows her everywhere? The Mets are that lady these days and there isn't a prescription big enough to handle the cloud the Mets are dealing with. Ever since the Wilpons became entangled in the fallout from Bernie Madoff, things have changed in New York and judging from this eye-opening article from Fangraphs', Alex Remington, their financial woes appear to be deepening. It's pretty sad stuff.

This Fan's history is wrapped up a bit in the Mets. The Fan's father was a Mets fan. So was his father's father. Their descendant did not follow in those footsteps and instead fell in love with that other New York team. But even so,  the very first ballgame this Fan ever watched on television was a Mets game and the first ever foray to a major league ballpark was Shea Stadium with Dad. While the Mets have never been a top five favorite in this observer's echelon of teams, there is a heft of fifty years of interest in what goes on with the Mets.

And that history has had some fine moments. The Miracle Mets of the late 1960s, the 1986 team, the Bobby Valentine Mets at the end of the millennium and the mid-2000s team that with a different bounce or two could have been great. To see the Mets now reduced to doom and gloom is not a happy circumstance. It's not a good thing that a fan base had to lose their favorite player because there was no money to pay him. At least not through these eyes.

What's painful is that you cannot talk about the Mets for their team on the field. There is always the financial mess that makes the news. Bud Selig has not tried to "fix" the Mets like he did with the Rangers and now with the Dodgers. Whether that is because of his close ties with the Wilpons or because the Wilpons were heretofore good baseball owners is not for this writer to sort out. For a fan, you want to talk about what's on the field and not other stuff that takes away from pure baseball entertainment.

It's also sad that there are positive things to talk about. Sandy Alderson and his team are very bright leaders with proven track records. They take over from a regime that like it or not, ran the Mets into the ground. That Alderson plugs away with the fiscal restraints without quitting is admirable in and of itself. Players like Jason Bay and David Wright should benefit from the reduced dimensions of Citi Field that Alderson has instigated. Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy and Josh Thole are all promising young players. If Ike Davis can come back, that would be another. Andres Torres is an upgrade in center field.

The Mets likely have little shot at winning this coming season despite some good young talent just mentioned. Their rotation is weak and there is little talent in the upper levels of their minor league system. Alderson was left with dry bones there. Johan Santana may or may not come back and even if he does, there is no way they will ever recoup the value of his contract. Improvements to the bullpen are somewhat looked at with skepticism. Jon Rauch did not have a good year in Toronto. Can he and other acquisitions shore up a bullpen that was third from last in the majors last year? Not completely.

There is also the problem of the Mets' defense. They were fifth from the bottom in defensive efficiency last season and also made the fifth most errors in baseball. A healthy Ike Davis would help as a good fielding first baseman is worth far more than given credit. But you still have Jason Bay in left, David Wright at third and a second base situation that will not prove defensively capable no matter who wins that job.

The problem for Alderson is that he can't dip into the minors for help and he can't spend any money. So any holes on the team (rotation, bench depth, etc.) will have to come from fliers on non-tendered and fringe players on the market who will agree to play for less money. It is hoped that Alderson will resist the temptation to trade Jonathan Niese. Most people do not realize that he out-pitched Gio Gonzalez last season if you believe in Fielding Independent Pitching statistics (FIP). A good left-handed pitcher like him is very useful against teams like the Braves and the Phillies. He is a possible star in the making and right now, he's cheap.

There are a lot of players fans in New York can rally around. The Mets were surprisingly effective for large parts of last season and even without Jose Reyes, can be fun to watch this season. The problem for Mets fans is that this dark cloud follows the team around and as long as that cloud is the big New York Mets story, much of the fun of being a fan of that team is removed. Let's hope that things improve for the New York Mets and that such an important team in the biggest market on earth can again join the healthy status it used to enjoy.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

BBA Link Fest - General Thoughts

With ten days left until Christmas, the General Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance have filled the Web with ornaments of good writing. Okay, that was lame, eh? Ah well. These writers aren't lame, that's for sure. As we do here every Thursday morning, what follows is general goodness from our chapter. Please support these folks with a click and a comment. To be sure, it will brighten the day of the writer as well as the reader. Here we go!

We're going to start with some great new additions to the chapter just this week.

The general chapter now has a third overseas writer. This one is in France. MajorBaseball.Fr tells us why Carlo Beltran is a perfect fit in St. Louis.

Stevo-sama has been a big supporter of the Fan and so it is a happy circumstance for him to join the BBA in our chapter. His The Baseball Enthusiast will be a great addition. Heck, he even provides us with this cool scoresheet.

Another great addition has the unusual name of Crum-Bum Beat. The site features two writers and a real passion for our favorite game. Check out this post on Matt Moore's new contract.

Welcome folks! And now for the best of the rest on our roster:

To be sure, Russ Blatt's open letter to the New York Mets would be signed by a whole bunch of Mets fans. Check it out over at 85% Sports.

This Fan wouldn't want to go head to head in fantasy baseball with Ryan Sendek. Check out why over at Analysis Around The Horn.

Sooze over at Babes Love Baseball gives us her thoughts on the Aramis Ramirez signing.

The Ball Caps Blog has its baseball universe all disrupted this week. Check out why.

Over at Baseballism, a great piece is offered on the vilification of Ryan Braun. Well done.

Call to the Pen is always one of our most active sites. With so much to choose from, the Fan particularly enjoyed this history of the BBWAA and the MVP.

Our Italian writer, Mario Salvini, covers a local awards gala and one of the quotes was astounding. Che Palle!

Our hearts go out to Matt Whitener whose aptly titled post mourns the passing of Albert Pujols over at Cheap.Seats.Please.

TheNaturalMevs over at Diamond Hoggers gives us a first look at many people's favorite video game.

Our German entry, Dugout 24, gives us perhaps the best Pujols heading this Fan has seen thus far.

After a flurry of free agent signings, For Baseball Junkies wonders what's next. So do we!

The Baseball Index gives us some excellent analysis on the recent moves by the Boston Red Sox.

The Ryan Braun situation woke Kenn Olson of Going Yard fame out of his self-imposed nap!

Griffin Phelps of The Golden Sombrero provided this Fan's favorite read of the week this week. A must read.

Hmm...After just saying that, this Fan then went and read this excellent post over at Grubby Glove. Torn now!

The Hall of Very Good thinks Derek Jeter is a rock star. You'll remember this piece for quite a while.

Theo of Hot Corner Harbor participated in epic "50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame" project and gives us his choices and explanations here. Great stuff.

You know, baseball writers are not one-dimensional people. Keith Law cooks. Rob Neyer does movie reviews. And our own Left Field not only loves baseball, but if you want to know about beer and many other things, you have to check him out!

Major League A-Holes has a touching tribute and goodbye to Mark Buehrle. We baseball fans are a passionate bunch.

We have another excellent scorecard entry, this one from the brilliant mind and author of Michael Holloway's Baseball Blog.

The always interesting MLB Dirt got even better with the addition of Andrew Martin to the team. Here is his first entry and it is BIG!

One of the hardest parts of this job each week is picking the best of the bonanza of offerings over at MLB Reports. Being a sucker for young players, let's go this week with an interview of Jaff Decker.

Old Time Family Baseball laments where the new baseball labor agreement is taking us. Superb.

Bill over at The Platoon Advantage gives us a fun to read explanation of why teams back-load contracts. It all makes perfect sense despite this Fan's stupid comment.

Rational Pastime is all about baseball. But for one week, J-Doug delves into the Tim Tebow phenomenon. Great read even if it isn't baseball.

Replacement Level Baseball Blog is going through a mock draft for 2012 and takes us along for the joy ride. Terrific.

Of course, our weekly link post is never complete without The Sports Banter's Monday Mullet.  It's one of life's most guilty pleasures.

Sully over at Sully Baseball salutes Jed Lowrie after the Red Sox announced his trade to the Astros. This writer roots for Jed too.

Through the Fence Baseball fills us in on a very bad accident suffered by a prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays organization. Keep this guy in your prayers and help if you can please.

Mike Cardano of the X-Log gives us an excellent rundown of baseball's new rules in the new labor agreement.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cuddyer and Willingham Are the Same

How would you choose between Josh Willingham and Michael Cuddyer? They are the same age (born a month apart) and have accumulated the same amount of career fWAR. They both are a bit of a drag in the field and both are a bit lead-butted on the bases. Both are six feet and two inches tall. Both weigh within five pounds of each other. In fact, they could be the same exact guy if you didn't know any better.

If you look at the WarGraph below (thanks as always to Fangraphs), you see similar careers:

Willingham's WAR accumulation has been more consistent and smooth. Cuddyer was hurt in 2008 and then played considerable chunks of time (to disastrous fielding results) at first base in 2009 and 2010. Before 2008, it appeared that Cuddyer was the better player. But since 2008, Willingham has made up ground. Willingham has a slightly higher slugging and on base percentage while Cuddyer has a higher batting average. 

All this observer is trying to say is that replacing Cuddyer with Willingham is pretty much a wash. You don't improve the overall Twins team if you look at it one way or you replace Cuddyer's production that would have been lost if you look at it another.

Harder to measure (or even talk about) are the intangibles. Cuddyer is a career Twin and therefore immersed in that culture. Willingham has been exposed to multiple cultures. Cuddyer is said to be a great clubhouse guy (whatever that means). Never heard those same kinds of comments about Willingham. Cuddyer has played on playoff teams. Willingham has mostly played for bad teams. Do you give Cuddyer an edge there?

When all is said and done, it seems that your view of what the Twins might do depends on if you are glass half full or half empty kind of person. Willingham replaces Cuddyer's production quite well. And yet replacing one for the other really doesn't improve your ball club. It just makes it similar.

There is one major difference so far unspoken. Willingham (to this point) has been much cheaper to employ than Cuddyer. 

Triptoe Through the Transactions

The MLB transaction wire is always a fun place in the off season. Professional writers and bloggers expend tons of keystrokes navigating through the tender and not so tendered facts you'll find there. This site used to do a weekly review of said snippets from the wire but it's been an awfully long time. In fact, such a review hasn't happened since Christina Karhl did her reviews for Baseball Prospectus. That is a long time ago. The one difference between her reviews and this site's were that hers were worth reading. Ours? Well...let's not call them hard-core journalism.

So to prove once again that you can never go home again, here are the Fan's review of the past week's transactions:

  • The Diamondbacks hope that an Albaladejo can keep the doctor away...oh. Arizona signed the former Yankee and Japanese pitcher.
  • With eleven Shoppach days until Christmas, the Red Sox signed catcher Kelly.
  • Dallas Braden is 0-3 lifetime against National League teams. Will that make him another Dallas that can't beat the Giants? Anyway, Oakland signed him.
  • Cody couldn't have gotten a king's Ransom when he signed with the Diamondbacks. Not with a -0.8 career rWAR he couldn't have..
  • Two players have upHill climbs as both Rich and Koyie were non-tendered.
  • With all the games that Hernandez has caught in his life, the Rockies hope his legs aren't like Ramon noodles since they just signed him.
  • Will must have been dejected when he was rejected by the Tigers. Hey, at least that Rhymes.
  • The only games Aaron ever pitched were lopsided scores that had turned into Laffeys. No wonder he was non-tendered.
  • Really wish the Yankees had signed Aaron Rowand instead of the Marlins. That way, you could have Rowand and Martin and everyone would laugh.
  • The mighty Casey (or not) won't bat for the Brewers anymore. They traded him to the Pirates. Rival GMs looked at the Pirates and went teeheemcgeheehee.
  • The Mets had heard the stories about a porn room in their clubhouse so they hired a Hefner. Jeremy that is.
  • The Yankees performed a Colinoscopy as Curtis was outrighted to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Any city that has two punctuation in its name needs a change.
  • As long as a pitcher is left-handed, it's hard for his career to be Garretted. Just ask Olson who signed with the Mets.
  • The Phillies had no heart for Ben Francisco and no golden sun will shine for him. The Blue Jays play in a dome.
  • The Keppinger Report said his stock is down. Jeff was non-tendered.
  • Since the Padres non-tendered Hermida, he should go to the Rockies. Isn't that what they use on those baseballs there?
  • Chris's last name is New York Italian for, "The north of you," Denorfia. The Padres signed him.
  • Cortes was not a conquistador in Seattle. The only thing he defeated was himself. The Mariners non-tendered him.
  • The Sonnanstine Chapel was closed in St. Pete. The Rays non-tendered him. But they did get a pitcher with a built in excuse for BABIP right in his name...Badenhop.
  • In a rare event, Fabio was asked to take his shirt off. Not that Fabio! Fabio Castillo who the Rangers non-tendered.
  • Can hear Tao of Stieb now asking, "Who he?" after the Blue Jays signed Jim Hoey.
  • Washington wanted a clean Slaten, so they non-tendered Doug.
  • The Oakland A's are so desperate that they looked for a bovine that could swim. So they got themselves a Cowgill.
  • And no, Bianchi wasn't one of Mick Jagger's wives. He's an infielder that the Cubs got on waivers from the Royals.
  • And now that the Tigers have Collin Balester, they should trade him to the A's because a Cowgill will need something to eat.
  • And the Braves should send their Rule V draft selection, Robert Fish, to the A's to teach that Cowgill how to swim.
  • And finally, shouldn't the Cardinals have drafted Matthew in the Rule V draft instead of the Nationals? After all, he is a Buschmann.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The List of Non-Tendered

December 12 is one of those interesting deadlines as teams around Major League Baseball had to decide whether or not to tender contracts to some veteran players. Players that are non-tendered are free to sign a deal anywhere else and can be useful at times for filling out rosters. What doesn't work for some team may work for another. Catchers, infielders and relief pitchers are usually the casualties. Non-tendering a player doesn't necessarily mean that that player will not play again for the same team. A restructured contract offer (read: lower priced) can be offered to that player if a team still finds the player useful. But usually, a non-tender means that player is finished with that team.

Let's look at the list of these players that were non-tendered yesterday and see what we have. There may be a nugget or two in the bunch that can help the right team:

Player - former team

  • Micah Owings - Diamondbacks: Owings has long been a favorite of this site, but in reality is nothing but a league replacement pitcher at best and a home run machine and high WHIP guy at his worst. His walk rate did come down last year. But let's face it, Owings is at most useful as a combo long relief/pinch hitter who can mop up innings in blowouts. Some National League team may find that useful.
  • Joe Saunders - Diamondbacks: The suspect here is that the Diamondbacks had some interest in Saunders but couldn't agree on a contract.  Some team will find interest in Saunders because he has proven he can throw 200 innings year after year and has a .570 winning percentage doing so. But the reality is that he gives up far too many homers, has always had a high WHIP, doesn't strike anyone out and his only distinguishing feature is that he's left-handed. Even so, some team will take a flyer on him.
  • Brooks Conrad - Braves: This one is kind of sad. Conrad had some big moments with the Braves. He's got a little pop in his bat but doesn't hit for average. And he's 31 years old. If teams need a back up second baseman and third baseman, he could be useful. He can't play short, so that makes him less useful as a true utility player.
  • Peter Moylan - Braves: Moylan should draw some interest. He was a semi-expensive bullpen option for the Braves who had many cheaper options. Moylan was also hurt most of 2011. But his career 2.60 ERA (3.66 FIP) in 255+ innings of MLB work make him interesting for a team in need of bullpen help. He walks too many batters but he's hard to square up with a traditionally low line drive rate. Worth a look for somebody.
  • Luke Scott - Orioles: A dangerous bat from the left side when healthy, some team will give him an invite as a DH/1B type. His hard core/right-wing personality might turn a lot of teams off though. Only real value comes as a DH.
  • Willie Eyre - Orioles: Eyre has been a fringe major league player for quite a while and has spent more time in the minors than in the majors. He's 32 now and might catch on for somebody really hurting in the bullpen. But Eyre could be about done when it comes to interest.
  • Rich Hill - Red Sox: Despite his history, Hill will be wanted somewhere. He's left handed and has shown flashes of being dominant. But let's face it, you can't keep this guy healthy and he isn't worth the risk. A minor league sign and Spring Training invite would be as high as it should go.
  • Koyie Hill - Cubs: Hill is a lousy on-base guy with below average results on defense behind the plate who has trouble throwing base runners out. In other words, he's your typical MLB back up catcher. Yuck.
  • Cole Garner - Rockies: Garner has only had a cup of coffee in the majors after a long minor league career. He has some pretty good minor league numbers but is too old to be a prospect. He could be useful to someone weak in the outfield. A Spring Training invite couldn't hurt.
  • Ryan Spilborghs - Rockies: Has had two negative seasons after several positive ones. If you can't hit when your home park is Coors Field and your fielding stumbles at the same time, you aren't employable.
  • Will Rhymes - Tigers: Rhymes had a useful bat in 2010 which made up for his less than useful second base glove. But he fell on really hard times last year at the plate and might have buried himself. Worth a Spring Training invite, but limited to second base means limit in value.
  • Aaron Laffey - Royals: Everyone covets left-handed pitching, but Laffey has not been overly effective in his career against lefties who still have an OPS of .718 against him. He doesn't strike out anyone and has no velocity. Forgettaboutit.
  • Hong-Chih Kuo - Dodgers: Here's an effective lefty who strikes out a lot of left-handed batters when he's healthy. But he's never, ever healthy. Invite at your own risk.
  • Clay Hensley - According to Michael Jong who covers the Marlins, it now appears that Hensley's strikeout rate in 2010 was a fluke. His velocity is down to 85 MPH on a good day. He has to be hiding an injury. Pass.
  • Jose Mijares - Twins: Another lefty reliever who tanked last year as his walk rate spiked and his K/9 plummeted. His velocity was down two MPH last year too. But he's only 26. Someone might bite.
  • Michael Baxter - Mets: A minor league filler type. Pass.
  • Ronnie Paulino - Mets: One of the better options as a back up catcher. Has never had a negative value, which is rare for the breed. He could help somebody. His defense fell down a bit in 2011. Useful.
  • Jason Jaramillo - Pirates: At 28, he's one of the younger back up catching options around. Hasn't showed the plate discipline in the majors that he showed in the minors. Not a bad defender. Could be a better option than some as a back up.
  • Pedro Ciriaco - Pirates: No plate discipline. Minor league player at best.
  • Jeremy Hermida - Padres: Was useful at one time. But no longer. Probably done.
  • Jeff Keppinger - Giants: No power, no range as an infielder. At 31, his options will be limited. He hit well for Houston a couple of years ago so perhaps someone will give him a shot.
  • Eli Whiteside - Giants: A terrible offensive player, he had some value as a defensive catcher. But he is getting progressively worse at throwing base steal attempts out. There are better options out there. Much better options.
  • Daniel Cortes - Mariners: Big time arm as he throws 95 MPH. But he's immature and seems prone to be his worst enemy. Once projected as the Mariners' closer, now he's unemployed. His arm will attract somebody. He's only 25.
  • Chris Gimenez - Mariners: Gimenez has good plate discipline when given a chance but hasn't hit in the majors. He can catch and play the outfield and is a fair defender. Could be a sleeper for somebody.
  • Ryan Theriot - Cardinals: As stated here many times, he was a major tactical blunder by the Cardinals that nearly derailed their season last year. But someone will pick him up as a back up infielder. Highly overrated in usefulness.
  • Andrew Sonnanstine - Bay Rays: Toast. No velocity, no nothing left. Some feel he was mistreated by the Rays. But, he's done. Toast.
  • Fabio Castillo - Rangers: Minor league arm. Young. Someone might see some promise. But other than his happy name, not much going on here.

There's your list. Not much going on here, eh? Might be a few nuggets that can be useful. But on the whole, a big bunch of fringe major leaguers.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Game Changed on Fielder with Braun Bombshell

Let's assume that Ryan Braun is going to miss fifty games in 2012. That, folks, is not a judgement on his presumed innocence or guilt. The statement is merely based on the likelihood that Braun will beat the test result to avoid the downtime. Based on Braun's 7.7 fWAR last season, if you lose a third of that production, you are losing two and a half wins. Prince Fielder was worth another 5.2 wins. Can the Brewers absorb seven and a half to perhaps eight wins of loss in 2012? Not in this Fan's estimation, they can't.

The fact that Fielder hasn't signed anywhere yet could indicate a softer market for the first baseman than his agent, Scott Boras, anticipated. Or perhaps Boras and Fielder are being obstinate in what they are asking for. In either case, the fact that Fielder isn't signed means that the Brewers can still be in the game for getting him back. What if after looking around, Fielder doesn't see many situations better than what he had in Milwaukee? Could Milwaukee up their offer a little bit to get a deal done? Without being privy to those kinds of conversations, any answer this writer could give would be pure speculation.

There is another concern for this observer. According to the Brewers' Pythagorean win-loss record last year, they performed six games above their run differential. What that means is that the Brewers won six more games than their run differential should have allowed. The Brewers won 97 games last season. Take away those six wins and you are down to a 91-win team. Lose another seven games between Fielder and Braun's suspension and you could be looking at an 84-win team.

Of course the flaw in that argument is that whoever replaces Braun for those fifty games and Fielder for 160 games should provide some value to make up some of the difference. Yeah? But who? Say the Brewers sign Carlos Pena. Pena's highest fWAR in the last three years has been three. Last year, Pena was worth a little more than two and a half wins above replacement. It is likely that he could duplicate that kind of season. But those wins only replaces what you lose for Braun and you still haven't made up for Fielder's loss. And Pena's contribution at most brings you back to 87 wins. 87 wins is not going to win the NL Central.

What other options are there? Matt Gamel? Gamel has put up some nice numbers in the minors. But nothing he's done in the majors leads to a conclusion that it translates. Sure, other players could up their game and add wins. Heck, any shortstop other than Yuniesky could add two wins to the team's bottom line. But Reyes is already off the board and the likelihood of signing Rollins is remote and/or questionable. Can or should you count on other team members to up their game?

And it's not like the Brewers are going to sign an outfielder worth anything in the current market or should when so many dollars are tied up with Braun already. So, this writer can't see any scenario that a player can be much more than replacement level for fifty games while holding down Braun's spot in the field.

The Brewers have done a magnificent job of building their brand over the past several years. The supposedly mid-level market had drawn over three million fans the past two seasons. Like it or not and fair or not, the Braun situation already damages the brand to some degree. Add the hit of losing Prince Fielder and now the brand is leaking. Markets are volatile. Just ask Coca-Cola. All the work that has been done in the past few years can be undone in a matter of months.

This writer realizes that the reality for the Brewers might not be the same as the reality for the Angels or the Rangers. There might not be the lucrative television and media deals available to them that those teams can rely on. But with three million seats filled per season, they can't be crying poverty can they?

The Braun snafu changes things. Prince Fielder becomes a little more important than perhaps he was a week ago. The Brewers should take that into consideration and perhaps swallow a bit of discomfort to sign the big fellow. It would be terrific for their brand and in light of the Pujols' defection, would be good for baseball. And from a Fan's perspective, Braun's current troubles or not, it would be cool to see the tandem of Braun and Fielder in the middle of that line up for years to come.

**Update** The Brewers signed Aramis Ramirez today and traded away Casey McGehee. They also signed  Alex Gonzalez. So everything changes and pretty much makes this entire post moot. Ramirez is worth so much more than McGehee and Gonzalez is a big upgrade on Betancourt. That evens things up quite a lot. The only continued reservation is Gamel at first.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Ryan Braun News is Sad

This writer is not going to write a long post on the news that Ryan Braun has tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. It is preferred to see how the process works out and where the story goes. But the news is sad for baseball and sad for Milwaukee Brewers fans coming off one of their most exciting seasons. It is now possible that the Brewers will lose both of their sluggers to start the 2012 season.

MLB has been on a roll too. All the news was big and exciting. Interest is again peaking in the sport. This news is certainly a bummer and a buzz kill. As many writers have already said, a person is innocent until proven guilty and we'll have to see where this story goes. But in the meantime, most fans will presume Braun guilty until he is proven guilty. That's the way life works.

And sometimes life just sucks.

Update **  As Ken Rosenthal just mentioned on Twitter, Braun has tested positive for a banned substance, not a PED. But it's all semantics in the end, isn't it?

Octavio Dotel - Have Arm Will Travel

Before the gas prices made it prohibitive, RVing was a major retirement goal for people in this country. Every neighborhood had at least one of the mobile fortresses parked in someone's yard. A popular method the merry travelers employed to tell the world where they had been was to put stickers on the back of the RV. These stickers could be states or they could be from major tourist destinations. If Octavio Dotel actually pitches for the Tigers in 2012, he should have those stickers all over his right arm.

The stories that Octavio Dotel has broken a record for franchises played for are premature. Dotel needs to actually pitch for the Tigers before he can make a claim to break the record he shares with Mike Morgan, Matt Stairs and Ron Villone at twelve franchises. It took Stairs and Morgan nineteen and twenty-one years respectively to reach their franchise record. Dotel is more like Villone who only pitched for fourteen years to reach his twelve teams. Dotel has only played for thirteen years, which makes his share of the record somewhat unique. With Dotel being 38 years old, you figure his time is running out. But at least he has a World Series share and ring coming for joining the Cardinals at the end of 2011.

So where has Dotel been? He was signed by the Mets as a twenty year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 1993. It took him six long years to reach the majors with the Mets in 1999. All told, Dotel has pitched for thirteen minor league clubs to go along with his thirteen (IF he pitches for the Tigers) major league clubs. That will be twenty-six teams all told! So back to our time-line: Dotel debuted for the Mets in 1999 on June 24. He pitched nineteen starts for Bobby Valentine that season including fourteen starts. He went 8-3. He also made two short, rather unsuccessful appearances in the Mets' two post season series that season. He wore number 29.

After that season, the Mets traded Dotel along with Kyle Kessel and Roger Cedeno to the Astros for Mike Hampton and Derek Bell. Bell and Hampton helped the Mets to get to the World Series in 2000. Meanwhile, Dotel did a little bit of everything for the 90-loss Astros. Dotel started 16 games that season and made 34 other relief appearances. He even saved sixteen games. But his statistics weren't pretty beyond his high strikeout rate. He wore number 41.

Dotel's Houston experience was the most secure of his career. He would pitch three more full seasons with the Astros and they were terrific seasons. He was able to switch back to uniform number 29 and made four more starts in 2001. They were the last four starts of his career. The Astros relied upon him heavily and he pitched over a hundred innings in 2001, ninety-seven in 2002 and eighty-seven in 2003. The Astros made the playoffs in 2001 and again Dotel was ineffective.

After starting the season with the Astros in 2004 as their closer, he was dealt as part of a three-team swap on June 24. Dotel ended up with the Athletics as their closer. Part of that deal was for the Royals to send Carlos Beltran to the Astros. And it was the year that Beltran became the talk of the nation with his post season exploits that season. So Dotel is in some ways responsible for the financial windfall and notoriety of Beltran the rest of his career. Between the Astros and Athletics, Dotel saved 36 games, the highest of his career. He had to switch to uniform number 28 that season with Oakland.

After six seasons of overwork, Dotel broke down for the Athletics in 2005. He got his uniform number of 29 back but he only pitched 15 times all season. He became a free agent at the end of that season for the first time and signed with the Yankees to start the 2006 season. He got his number 29, but he started off the season terribly. He only pitched ten innings with the Yankees and Dotel gave up twelve runs and the same number of base runners than he had on his back. Things got ugly as you can imagine in New York and Dotel spent most of the rest of that season rehabbing.

After two basically lost seasons, Dotel was a free agent again after 2006 and he signed with the Royals. He was assigned uniform number 28. Dotel still wasn't right physically to start the 2007 season and he only got into thirty-three games that whole season. Twenty-four of them were with the Royals and he accumulated eleven saves before he was traded to the Atlanta Braves on the trade deadline of July 31 for Kyle Davies. He had to switch to uniform number 26 with the Braves.

So yes, Royals fans, it was Dotel that foisted upon you one of the worst starting pitchers ever in Kyle Davies. Dotel has been the Royals' bane. He cost them Carlos Beltran, one of their best ever players, and brought them Kyle Davies, one of the worst ever. Ouch.

Dotel only pitched for the Braves nine times and was a free agent again after the 2007 season. He was signed by the Chicago White Sox and Dotel played for two full seasons for the White Sox and Ozzie Guillen. It was in Chicago that he rebuilt his reputation and his career. He made 134 set up appearances in Ozzie's bullpen and had a combined thirty-seven holds. He wore number 26 for the White Sox and that team made it to the playoffs in 2008 but lost to Tampa in the ALDS. Dotel pitched four times in that series and had a 13.50 ERA.

After that playoff loss, Dotel became a free agent again. He signed with the Pirates who made Dotel their 2010 closer. He saved 21 games for the Pirates in 25 attempts but since that team was going nowhere, they traded him at the trade deadline to the Dodgers for Andrew Lambo and James McDonald. McDonald showed a lot of promise for the Pirates in 2011, so the Pirates seemed for fare much better than the Royals did.

Dotel made nineteen appearances with the Dodgers as one of their set up guys but they too traded him that season to the Rockies who were trying to make a late push to the playoffs in 2010. Dotel did not help the Rockies as he made eight rocky (pun intended) outings there. Dotel wore number 29 in Pittsburgh, 26 in Los Angeles and 35 for the Rockies.

Dotel became a free agent again after the 2010 season and signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. He got his number 29 back and was somewhat effective for the Blue Jays for most of his time there. But the trade deadline loomed again and the Blue Jays pulled the trigger in a huge eight player swap that helped propel the Cardinals to the World Series. With uniform number 28 on the Cardinals, Dotel was terrific for the Cardinals down the stretch and through the first two playoff series. He fared less well in the World Series, but got his ring. Despite hopes from some Cardinal fans that he would re-up with them in 2012, Dotel--again a free agent--signed with the Tigers instead.

So that's the history of the wanderings of Octavio Dotel. His career has produced 34 starts, 661 relief appearances, 108 saves, 116 holds, a 3.74 career ERA and a 3.79 career FIP. He's always found a way to strike batters out and has a 10.9 K/9 ratio for his career. He's a fly ball pitcher that has given up too many homers in his career, too many walks (except for the Cardinals down the stretch - Dave Duncan strikes again). But other than the homers, batters have had trouble squaring up the ball against Dotel (18.1 line drive percentage).

Dotel has had a decent career as a relief pitcher which has earned him $34 million for his career. And if he makes it to the Tigers opening day roster, he'll break a record for his travels. He's had a fascinating career...that is if you like RVing.