Saturday, March 22, 2014

Francoeur and Loe cuts are costly

Jeff Francoeur and Kameron Loe were released today by their respective teams. Apparently Loe requested the release since he was not going to make the team. The loss of jobs for these two players run deeper than just not having a job for 2014. Both players have nine years of service time and need one more year to qualify for the ten year pension of $100,000 annually.
The pension can be explained here.
The tenth year of MLB service is an important milestone and might be a further insight into the comeback attempts of Jason Bartlett and Matt Treanor. Neither played in the Majors in 2013 and both have nine years of MLB service.
The last few years of players whose careers ended after nine seasons:

Friday, March 21, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Saturday: March 22, 2014

And so it begins...and then ends...and then will begin again in a week. Ah! You have got to love this playing overseas as a false season starter for a tease. Someday, Opening Day will actually mean opening day and it will be one day and all teams will be playing...a day game! And it will be a national holiday.
For those of you new to this space, during the regular season and then the post season, I pick the winners of each game played. No, this is not an odds feature or a gambling feature. This is one guy trying to see how he will do picking games over the course of a season. This will be the fifth season...or is it sixth? Who knows, I lose track.
What I do know is that I have not missed a day or a game in three and a half years. Call me the Cal Ripken of game picking. Or maybe the Rip Van Winkle. I have been doing this site so long I am like a graybeard or something.
Anyway, enough chatter. There are two games to pick. Both involve the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks who open a crazy two-game set in Australia and with the time difference, they occur in the same day here on the East Coast. One starts at four o'clock in the morning and the next at ten o'clock in the evening.
The picks:
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball tasked with being the prize of the USA in a foreign land. That won't get screwed up. Wade Miley is not exactly in that same class. Miley has had a very good spring though.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: If my picks turn out correctly, that's a heck of a long plane ride back for the D-backs. That said, wouldn't you take Hyun-jin Ryu over Trevor Cahill? Unlike Miley, Cahill has not had a good spring at all, though his K/BB looks great.
The first two picks of the season! It's too bad it will take a week to report how well I did.

The White Sox should just go young

The Chicago White Sox lost 99 games last year and according to most projections, will not be very good this year either. Most projections I have seen have them coming in with about 88 losses this season. That being the case, it seems to me that the White Sox best course of action at this point is to go young, stay young and build the next good White Sox team. But...they won't.
Why? Because teams and managers get hung up on veterans. Experienced players are more trusted and are more of a known entity. Managers like Robin Ventura, a former player, would naturally side with regulars from the past. Ventura himself hung on for years after his best days were gone and that becomes part of the fabric of how things work.
The thing is, you can lose with the veterans or you can lose with the youth. Either way, you lose. So you have to go deeper than that and determine the benefits of either. Let's weigh them out.
Losing with veterans: Fans are familiar with the players and have some contextual feelings of rooting for the familiar. Is this going to make enough fans happy to reverse recent attendance losses? Not really. Keep young players in the minors long enough to delay their clocks and maintain their rights longer. Does this really work?
What if the latest research is right in that a ball player's peak isn't 28 like previously believed, but rather 24? Aren't you risking leaving some of the player's best time in the minors by delaying them?
I suppose you could also add that young players cannot get discouraged by failing in their early years in the Majors. Do you buy that? I don't.
Losing with youth: The young learn in the Majors and with live game experiences. They get used to playing together as a unit and build in unity and develop into a unit that can learn how to win together.
If you go with young, you need some veterans around to help, right? Sure. One or two maybe. Teaching young players how to handled themselves in the big leagues does help. But do you need a bunch of also-rans who cannot win for you to teach that? I don't think so.
All that said, if I ran the White Sox, this is what I would do. First, I would ditch or try to trade Adam Dunn and Jeff Keppinger. Both players provide little or no value and in both cases, hold up roster spots for the young guys. Dunn has hit 75 homers combined over the last two seasons. Great. But he has been worth 0.9 rWAR in that time. Big deal.

Dunn became moot with the signing of Jose Abreu. How many lumbering 1B/DH types do you need on one team? He is also in the last year of his contract. Jettison him to Seattle or just dump him. What difference does it make?
Jeff Keppinger is signed through 2015. Egads! That was a bad signing. Keppinger has not had an on-base percentage over .300 in two of his last three seasons. He was worth -2.0 rWAR last year. His shoulder is toast and it shows this spring. He will not an cannot help the White Sox. Why hold back a roster spot for that? Cut your losses and DFA him.
Trade Alexei Ramirez. Ramirez is still a decent player. He was the eighth best shortstop in baseball last season. There is value in that. But again, the White Sox are not going to win. Ramirez is 31 and at a peak in value for other teams desperate for a shortstop. The Tigers come to mind. Trade him for something that can help down the road.
If I ran the White Sox, Matt Davidson would platoon with Conor Gillaspie and rotate in the DH position with Paul Konerko (who needs to play and be celebrated in this his last season). Install Marcus Semien at short and see if he is your guy and if not, then move on to Tim Anderson in 2015 if Semien doesn't cut it.
In the outfield, put Jordan DanksAdam Eaton in left and center respectively and rotate De Aza and Avisail Garcia. Trade Dayan Viciedo to the Mariners or somewhere.
I thought it very discouraging to see the team send down left-handed starter, Eric Surcamp. He misses bats and he does not walk people. No, his two cups of coffee with the Giants did not work out well, but the guy can win in the Majors. Does anyone really think John Danks is going to turn it around any time soon? I don't. Surcamp is 25-years-old. Another stint in the minors is unnecessary.
The depth charts do list Erik Johnson as part of the rotation. That is good at least. It is definitely time to see what he can do.
The White Sox are not going anywhere either way. So why not go young and get these guys Major League experience, let them grow together and build something that can make the White Sox relevant two or three years from now? And for the fan experiences, it sure seems better than watching Adam Dunn and Jeff Keppinger grow old.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Rival Roundup - The Yankees against the AL East

I just concluded a four-part series over at It's About the Money, Stupid that compared the current Yankees to their four rivals in the American League East.

The first part covered the Baltimore Orioles. Questions answered were:

The second part covered the Tampa Bay Rays. Questions considered:

The third segment covered the Toronto Blue Jays. Thing to ponder included:

The last segment, of course, covered the Boston Red Sox. Observations about:

It was a fun series, and I hope you check out all the four parts of the series.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Joey Votto + walks = problem?

Twitter is a great place to gauge how fans really feel about baseball, their teams and their players. Sure, much of it is irrational. But being a fan is never really about rationality, right? Many of the strong feelings of fans on Twitter surprise me. One of those is the total hate many Reds fans feel about Joey Votto walking. Here are a couple of examples:
Perhaps the fans are egged on by the broadcasters:
I have a really hard time getting what the problem is here. The thinking behind it is that Votto does not drive in enough runs because he walks too much. The thinking must also mean that if Votto would swing more often, he would hit more for power and thus provide more offense.
Are those valid thought processes? First, let's talk about what we know. Votto's walks are part of an evolutionary process during his career. He has swung at less and less pitches out of the strike zone as his career has progressed: 2010 - 30.3%, 2011 - 25.6%, 2012 - 21.1% and 2013 - 21.0%.
2013 was the first time in Votto's career that he played all 162 games of the season. That dispelled some of the nonsense about his durability from the games he missed the season before that. Despite the extra games, his slugging percentage fell under .500 for the first time in his career.
But he also walked an incredible 135 times to push his on-base percentage to .435 and left him with the same wRC+ as his career average. In other words, he had what was an average offensive year (for him). His 6.4 rWAR / 6.2 fWAR stacked up very well with what he did in 2011, the last time he played a full season and the season before that.
In other words, he was just as valuable a player as 2010 and 2011, but many of his fan base, and (apparently) his team's announcers thought he was more of a hindrance to the Reds winning. I am not sure I follow.
The clutch thing might be part of the problem. I am not yet convinced the whole clutch thing is more than a coincidence. But there was a problem for Votto here in 2013. According to, Votto's clutch score (-2.38) was the first time in the last four years was in negative territory. And his WPA or win probability added was 3.77 which is much lower than the figures over six where he was for the previous three seasons.
He did have less success in high leverage situations in 2013 where he was murder in 2011 and 2012. In 2011, Votto's OPS in high leverage situations was an incredible 1.221. In 2012, it was even more incredible at 1.299. But he became just above mere mortal in 2013 with an OPS of .856 in high leverage situations.
So, there is evidence that Votto did not do as well in the clutch and in high leverage situations as he has done in the past. His critics point to the walks. His critics say that he would rather walk than drive in the run.
But what if luck was also involved? Back in 2011 and 2012 when those high leverage situations went incredibly well, his BABIP during those situations were .360 and .457. His BABIP in those situations in 2013 was .299. That could be due to bad luck, less quality of contact or better positioning from defenses (or a combination of all three).
There is another statistic created by Bill James and others called Runs Created. The statistic measures a player's total contribution to a team's run total. Votto's total of 133 was fourth in the Majors and was higher than Goldschmidt, Cano, Choo, Carpenter and McCutchen. So you cannot convince me that he had a bad year.
Oh, by the way, that Runs Created total of 133 was one more than he had in 2011 and only eleven less than he put together for 2010 when he led the Majors.
Joey Votto was on base an incredible 316 times in 2013. Trout was his closest competitor in that category at 309. The 316 times on base was the highest total since 2004 (Bonds).
If that is a disappointing season, then I am sure that there are a whole lot of other fan bases that would love to take him off of the Cincinnati fans' hands. If a guy gets on base 316 times and only has 73 runs batted in and only 101 runs scored, then I would look more at his teammates for blame than him.
Joey Votto is one of the truly elite offensive players in the game. Perhaps his contract makes people expect more. His play was worth $30.8 million in 2013 as a first baseman (which garners no positional love) versus his $17.5 million salary. And people are complaining? I don't get it. I don't get it at all.