Friday, February 03, 2012

Roy Oswalt and Market Determination Revisited

Yesterday in this space, this author wrote that Roy Oswalt had earned the right to limit his market choices and to stick to his price in negotiations as a free agent. The piece was a counterpoint to another writer who stated that Oswalt "had too big a head" and can move along from the St. Louis Cardinals' feeding trough. The point was also made that Oswalt is well worth what he is asking for his services. This other writer wasn't very happy about yesterday's post and chose to rebut it by reprinting this writer's entire post and interspersing comments throughout. That's kind of rude, but at least the writer provided a link back to here. Thanks for the page views, sir.

Disagreement is fine. Enlightenment only comes from open dialogue, which is why the Freedom of Speech is so important to us as a people. Your host here certainly doesn't believe he knows all the answers. Somebody once said that wisdom begins with the knowledge that there is more unknown than known. So the name calling directed here as "noninformed ," is not overly troublesome. Without resorting to a flame war, which is way too unseemly in polite society, this author does want to make a few points in response.

The key issue is market determination. That other writer feels that Oswalt has run into a problem where the market considers his value lower than Oswalt does. That would be true enough if Oswalt had allowed a complete and open market for his services to develop and could still not find a job. Oswalt's true "problem" is that he has limited his market choices to a few teams that do not care to pay Oswalt what he wants. If Oswalt was available to any team on the market, someone surely would have given him the money is is asking.

Roy Oswalt doesn't want to pitch in Seattle or Detroit or a host of other different cities. He has narrowed his choices to just a few teams he would consider. That's not a true market determination problem. That's a personal market limitation choice that has led to a problem. This other writer also states that Oswalt's performance value (which last year stood at $11.1 million, Oswalt's lowest) doesn't matter. It's the market that matters. But performance value does matter. That's why the Phillies chose not to offer Oswalt arbitration. Arbitration would have given Oswalt the money. That's what arbitration does.

Okay, you might say that the Phillies just proved the market determination point. It only proves it as far as the Phillies were concerned. They had cheaper options in Vance Worley, etc., and have a huge and unwieldy payroll they have to worry about. Other teams may not have those options or problems. Let's look at the Cardinals as an example. On the Cardinals, only two of their pitchers' performances were more valuable than Roy Oswalt's last season: Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia. Jake Westbrook was paid $8 million and was far less valuable a pitcher. Kyle Lohse made $11.8 million and was far less valuable. On paper, Adam Wainwright is more valuable than Roy Oswalt. But let's see what happens as he returns from Tommy John surgery.

Could Roy Oswalt be a benefit to the Cardinals? Certainly. Will they choose to pay Oswalt $10 million for a season. Maybe not. We'll see. This other writer made a point that the Cardinals can't afford $10 million for 139 innings. The Cardinals are still $20 million below last year's payroll and that's with the addition of Furcal and Beltran and a bump in salary to Berkman and Garcia. With the cash from their World Series title, the savings from Pujols and La Russa, the team may well choose to incur more profit this season as is their right. But they could certainly afford Oswalt.

Roy Oswalt has made the personal choice to limit his market. That choice may lead to less income (or no income) than he wants. Any personal choice comes with inherent risks. Frankly, any team that wants to compete should sign the guy. Pitchers with his skill aren't rampant in the game. Feel free to disagree. Oswalt's problem isn't that he has a big head. He absolutely knows his value. He has simply chosen fewer teams to pay him market value rather than allowing the full marketplace to bid on his services. Time will tell if his choice costs him in the end.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

BBA Linkfest - Generally Tried and True

Hey! It is Thursday again and that means another romp around the General Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. Since last week's installment of our weekly links, northern Maine has received more than a foot and a half inches of snow. But, heck, we are into February, the month that players report to Florida and Arizona and we can dream of spring. The worst of the winter is over (It is over in some places). If it is still cold where you live, pour a cup of coffee, sit in a warm place and click these fantastic links. Who doesn't love to read about baseball! We'll start with two of our newest members to the Alliance.

The Pop Fly Boys cover all sports but here is a great example of what we can expect from their baseball writers as they consider the Cardinals' place in the new NL Central. Welcome to the Alliance!

Another new entry is Aaron's Tasty Baseball Blog. The site features fun polls and some very good writing. Check out this weekly baseball review. Welcome to the Alliance!

Another great new entry is Niktig's Baseball Blog. Welcome to the Alliance! Check out this post on some bargain free agents still on the market.

In the pure joy department, here's a report from Grubby Glove from the A's Fan Fest held this past week. The smile says it all.

The Hall of Very Good reports on something wonderful the Brewers did for their fans. No, they didn't give Prince Fielder all the peanuts he wanted, but the team does care about its fans. Nice work, HOVG.

Theo over at Hot Corner Harbor has a great post about some multi-team Hall of Fame players coming up in the future. Great read.

The Fan loves it when Left Field makes lists and checks them twice. Here's a great post on Jorge Posada.

The Fan thinks the Major League A**holes have their tongues firmly in cheek as they compare Prince Fielder's signing to Adam Dunn.

Over at MLB Dirt, Andrew Martin has another great prospect interview. How does he DO that? It's terrific as always. And since the Fan is always tooting other's horns, check out his entry over at that site too. In the first person, even.

Two of the most popular minor league pitchers on Twitter are Michael Schlact and The Garfoose. Schlact proves why he is so popular with a guest blog over at MLB Reports. The post is getting a lot of buzz and deservedly so.

In probably the coolest post of the week, check out this game clip of Jose Bautista doing what he does best over at Old Time Family Baseball. The Fan could watch this on an endless loop for hours.

Over at The Platoon Advantage, TCM has an unhealthy relationship. It is doubted that he is alone in this particular malady. And if you have a Baseball Prospectus subscription (which you should), check out Jason's latest piece on being a spy at the A's Fan Fest.

Our friend over at The Sports Banter has been busy in real life, so he apologizes. But at least he whets our appetite for some topics to come. Can't wait!

Sully thinks we should keep an eye on the Pirates as a sleeper in 2012. Seriously? Well that would be cool. Check it out at Sully Baseball.

Steve Randel has a great report on the Caribbean Baseball Classic. Need a fix for current baseball? Follow this Through the Fence Baseball story.

When a General Chapter site promotes a downloadable book from our Cardinals Chapter, we simply have to promote that, right? Here it is from 85% Sports. Hey you Cardinal folks, if you want that great thing printed, give this Fan a holler.

Ryan Sendek over at Analysis Around the Horn let's us know what he's working on. Don't worry, Ryan, you're worth the wait.

The Ball Caps Blog lends its support to a friend who wants to be a part of MLB's Fan Cave. This Fan would do that in a heartbeat if he was still young and single.

Our friend at the former Baseball Hall of Fame has re-branded the site as Baseball Unrated. The first post at the new place is a great read on what the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot will look like.

Continuing the 2013 HOF theme, Baseballism nods Mike Piazza and anoints him as golden. Quite agree here.

Aaron over at Blogging From the Bleachers is getting excited about the baseball season and whets his appetite with his fantasy baseball selections. Great fun to read.

Over at Call to the Pen, Blaine Blontz reports on the minor league deal Carlos Guillen signed with the Seattle Mariners. It's a long shot, but if he's healthy...

Over at Che Palle! Mario Salvini celebrates Nolan Ryan's birthday. This Fan would never tire of celebrating that pitcher! The Fan wonders if Salvini has heard about the Garfoose heading to play in Italy? The Garfoose is coming, the Garfoose is coming!

Folks, Curley Bender is a terrific writer. And his Crum-Bum Beat has become a must read. Check out this offbeat post about two famous traders.

If TheNaturalMevs of Diamond Hoggers writes about Peter Gammons and Jason Heyward, this Fan is so there.

For Baseball Junkies continues their terrific series on All-Decade teams. This one features the 2000's NL version.

The Baseball Index reports and gives their take on the Cody Ross signing with the Boston Red Sox. Ross could be useful.

And finally, Griffin Phelps has a terrific interview with Trevor Bauer, who seems like a kid we can all root for. Check out the post among all the great writing over at the Golden Sombrero.

And to steal a little of Bill Ivie's shameless self-promotion, it's super cool to announce that your favorite Fan has become a featured writer over at It's About the Money, Stupid. This is a terrific honor for your guy as IIATMS is one of the country's most popular baseball sites. Check out the first post there. And thanks as always for your support of this site and all of our terrific General Chapter sites.

Oswalt Could Earn $10 Million in His Sleep

Americans are so fickle when it comes to labor. The citizens here talk about labor getting its due and fairness and all that. But as soon as the garbage trucks stop running, those same folks want the mayor to arrest all the waste management people. The same goes for baseball players. Most Americans would agree that baseball before the Marvin Miller days was unfair to players. Now, when those negotiated rights have been earned and a free agent tries to take advantage of those rights, he is scorned. The negative press that Roy Oswalt is receiving these days is a case in point.

Take this guy's point of view for example. According to this writer in question, Oswalt has a "fat head." Well, gosh. Oswalt must be a villain then. Excuse him for pitching for eleven years and earning the right to pick and choose where he will play and how much he wants to get paid. At least this writer in question admits that Roy Oswalt is worth the $10 million he is supposedly asking, "if he is healthy." The reality is that Roy Oswalt is worth $10 million even if he isn't healthy. Yeah, Oswalt only pitched 139 innings last season. But even so, those innings were worth $11.1 million.

The reality also is that whatever team ends up wanting to sign him will have a full opportunity to back off of any deal if Oswalt can't pass a physical. And don't worry. Nobody is going to plunk down that many clams without having their doctors go over Oswalt's back thoroughly. 

So what makes Oswalt a villain? He wants to pitch not too far from where his family lives. Do you blame him? For six months, a baseball player spends half of his time away from home. That's a lot of time away from those you love, is it not? Oswalt would like to pitch for a contender. Wouldn't you? Baseball players are competitors. They want to compete at the highest level. Oswalt spent a lot of years in Houston playing for the Astros that weren't a heck of a lot of fun. Losing isn't fun no matter how much money you make.

Perhaps the biggest reason to call Oswalt a villain or a fat head is that he wants to be paid what he is worth. Who can blame him? The guy has won 159 games with a career FIP of 3.35. His career has been worth $170 million and he's made $91 million. Well, yeah, that's a lot of money and nobody is pitying him nor should be. But it's not like Oswalt is asking for a multi-year contract which he would be worth oodles of money. He's reportingly seeking a one year deal. No doubt part of that strategy is to rebuild some value for the next go round. 

One of Oswalt's closest comps at his age is Mike Mussina. Mussina won 88 games after reaching the age of 34, Oswalt's 2012 age. When you know how to pitch, you know how to pitch, plain and simple. The bottom line here is that even if Oswalt can only give his new club 139 more innings, he'll be worth what he's asking. He's earned the right to make the deal that pays him what he's worth and play where he wants to play. Find another mule to kick already.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Does Cozart Rhyme With Mozart?

After winning the National League Central in 2010, the Cincinnati Reds laid an egg in 2011. While stalwarts, Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Scott Rolen and Jay Bruce provide some continuity to the 2010 team, much of the Reds' hopes in 2012 fall on new acquisitions like Matt Latos and Ryan Madson and youngsters like Zack Cozart and Devin Mesoraco. Mesoraco has some cushion as Ryan Hanigan is a very reliable catcher. Zack Cozart, on the other hand, is counted on to seal the defense at short. It's a scary proposition. Will Cozart rhyme with Mozart this season, or will he be more Vanilla Ice?

Looking at Cozart's numbers is confusing. His stats in the minors before 2011 were pedestrian. Then suddenly he is putting balls in play all over the field and hit over .300 in Louisville and again in 38 exciting plate appearances for the big club before blowing out his non-throwing elbow in August. He had Tommy John surgery on that elbow that same month and is said to be good to go in the spring. Still, you have to wonder considering the Reds just obtained Wilson Valdez from the Phillies. Perhaps the Reds are a bit worried too.

With such a small major league sample size, can anything be said about Cozart's brief exposure to the majors? He was brilliant in the field. According to the stats, he converted every chance at shortstop into an out. That's impressive. But again, it doesn't really match his minor league history. Another concern was that in his eleven games, he never took a walk. He only walked a little over six percent of the time in the minors, so are we looking at another Yuniesky Betancourt? Time will tell.

A lot rides on Cozart's shoulders (and elbows, it seems). Shortstop is a premium position that remains without many real stars around the majors. When Clint Barmes is a good option for teams, there isn't a whole lot of talent out there. Defense is certainly the biggest key of the position and it appears that Cozart can be very good. But that's only half the battle. You also have to be able to at least hit somewhere near league average. Projections for Cozart are already all over the place for 2012. Bill James has him at, .256/.306/.404 while others have him hitting as high as .283 with an on-base percentage at .330. The latter will work. The former will be a drag.

Can we see anything else from Cozart's minuscule sample size? It's hard not to like his only four percent swinging strike percentage. Cozart makes contact. He hit ground balls twice more often than he hit the ball in the air. That's a bit troublesome combined with his only nine percent line drive rate. Again, this is all with so little samples to go by that they might all be moot points. Perhaps we just have to give the guy 500 plate appearances and see what happens.

Cozart had some power in the minors but that disappeared last year. If he hits the ball in the air, twenty percent of such contact results in a homer. That's impressive. But he doesn't hit the ball in the air often enough. The thing that is just hard to get over is that 2011 seems so much different than all of his previous performances. Is that the new Zack Cozart? Is this the player we have now? Or is the pre-2011 guy the real one? Again, we'll have to wait and see.

Fortunately, the Reds do have some fallback plans. The aforementioned Valdez is capable and if all else fails, there is always the solid glove of Paul Janish (who likely is the odd man out here). The Reds aren't much different than any team this time of year. A lot will have to go right for them to regain their 2010 mojo as a contender in 2012. If Zack Cozart can prove he is the Reds' shortstop answer for years to come in the 2012 season, that would be a huge aid to their cause.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Rangers' Infield - Three Beemers and a Dodge

These new Texas Rangers have been an amazing story the past two years. Most baseball fans through the years remember how the Rangers were always a one-dimensional team. They could always pound the ball, but they could never pitch. From 1997 through 2008 (a twelve year stretch), the Rangers gave up an average of 883 runs per game. In seven of those seasons, the pitching staff gave up more runs than the batters plated. Obviously, that's not a winning formula. The last two seasons, the Rangers have allowed only 687 and 677 runs while scoring 787 and 855 runs respectively. That's as good a reason as any for two straight World Series appearances in a row. But as we all should now know, defense plays a key role in preventing runs and few teams do it better than the Rangers. A big part of that defense is the infield, which boasts three Beemers and a Dodge.

Perhaps it is unfair to pick on Dodge. From their television commercials, they are trying hard to change their brand/quality image. The Yugo has all but disappeared, so that analogy is too obscure. But anyway, you get the idea. The Rangers boast three sparkling defenders and then there is first base. Adrian Beltre at third? One of the best ever. Elvis Andrus? The reason Michael Young is a DH. Ian Kinsler? One of the most underrated, all around players in the game. And then there is the first base gaggle of Mitch Moreland, Mike Napoli (when he isn't catching) and Michael Young. The Rangers are one cog away from a beautiful wheel.

Elvis Andrus hasn't developed as expected as a hitter, but his defense more than justifies his existence. It is not mere coincidence that the Rangers started pitching better once he became the shortstop. He was the fifth (or sixth depending on which site you believe) best fielding shortstop in baseball last season. No offense to Michael Young, but once Elvis took over, the difference was night and day.

Ian Kinsler was the third best fielding second baseman in baseball last season. He wasn't rated as highly in 2010, but injuries can explain a lot of that story. But his defense in 2011 was even better than his stellar defensive season of 2009. We can safely state that if Kinsler is healthy, then he's one of the best at his position in baseball.

We all know about Adrian Beltre. The guy is a flat out magician over at third base. Despite ups and downs with his health, Beltre (according to Fangraphs) has been 152.8 runs better than average for his career. If he can continue his pace, he won't catch Brooks Robinson in that category, but he will finish a solid second. He is the best fielding third baseman of his generation.

And then you get to first base. Mitch Moreland got the bulk of the time there. He played first for 99 games and spent another 34 games in right field (due to injuries to Nelson Cruz). gives Moreland a -1 runs lost below average, which isn't terrible. Fangraphs has him at league average for his 99 games at first. Mike Napoli played 35 games at first. B-R has him 2 runs better than average, Fangraphs at -1.5. Michael Young played 36 games at first and B-R gives him -2 runs below average and Fangraphs, -2.1. The obvious statement is that first base fielding at first base does not match the high rent district found elsewhere around the diamond.

Despite endless Google searches, "scoop" data could not be found for an individual seasons like 2011. Tango Tiger and others have done superb studies on such data for a large number of years. Basically, these studies show how many errors are saved by first basemen. But suspicions are at least aroused by the fact that Ian Kinsler made only two throwing errors in all of 2009 and none in 2010 and yet that figure jumped to six in 2011. It's possible that he air-balled all six of those throws and without the data, who knows. But let's call it suspicious.

The bottom line here is that the Rangers are one positional fielder away from having the best infield in baseball. It's a shame that Justin Smoak needed to be traded away to obtain Cliff Lee. Smoak has all the makings of a good fielding first baseman (though his numbers there went south some in 2011). While Prince Fielder may have made the Rangers' line up invincible, he wouldn't have helped in the field. So at least that's a positive. But with Mitch Moreland penciled in as the starting first baseman and Young and Napoli continuing to take their turns over there, the Rangers' infield will continue to contain three Beemers and a Dodge...or a Kia...or..oh you get the idea.