Who is really the best baseball team in the majors? I honestly don't know but I try to figure that out by using basic and advanced statistics. I live for talking about baseball, it's my biggest drive in my life and I will jump on the opportunity to talk baseball with anyone, even with people who I don't really like. For me, Baseball is a piece of art that sits in my mind all day, ready to be painted on at any point of the day.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Derrek Lee going to Baltimore

Veteran First baseman Derrek Lee has agreed to go to the American League for the first time in his career when he signed a 1-year deal with the rebuilding Baltimore Orioles pending a physical. Dollars have not come out to the public just yet but it seems to be worth about $8-$11 million. The Orioles have been in contact with Lee for most of the off season but had been mainly linked to other first baseman Adam LaRoche and the Nationals had seemed to be the favorites to snag Lee until recently when the two team switched interests at basically the same time and thus Lee is now with Baltimore. Which means that the Nationals are likely to land LaRoche.

Lee had a down year (by his standards) in 2010 and after a slow start, he was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Atlanta Braves (while the two teams were in the middle of the a series!)on August 18 for three minor league pitchers: right handers Robinson Lopez and Tyrelle Harris and left-hander Jeffrey Lorick.

In 475 PA with Chicago, Lee had a line of .251/.335/.416 with 16 homers and in 151 PA in Atlanta, his line was .287/.384/.465 but only hit 3 home runs. His ISO was .168, still above average, but in 2010, it was .273. His plate discipline stats look average all the way down the line for his career except his O-Contact% which was 60.5% in 2009 and 65.6% in 2010. So even though his BABIP (.306 in 2010) shows that he was not getting unlucky, his O-Contact% suggests that he was indeed getting unlucky and ended up beating balls into the ground. But also his strike-out rate was up from 2009 (20.5%) and in 2010 it was 24.5%. He saw 4.24 P/PA which is outstanding but that is out of line compared to previous seasons: 2009: 3.95; 2008: 3.95; 2007: 4.02.

So consider this: he struck out more often then usual but in the process, he swung at pitches out of the zone more often and thus fouling them off which means that he saw more pitches in any given plate appearances then in previous years. Espn.com tells us that when he gets behind in the count, he does poorly and he got behind in the count quite often in 2010 mainly because of the amount pitches that he fouled off.

Keep in mind that he had a sore back later in the season and so that could be why he only had 3 homers with Atlanta. The wrist that he had surgery on in 2006 is a non-issue when he proved that it was healed when he smashed 35 home runs in 2009.

I think that is going to be an adjustment period for him since he is moving to the AL East, let alone, it's the first time that he will be playing in the American League. But at least he doesn't have to face the Phillies pitching.

Expect somewhere around a .265-.280/.355/.425 line with around 25 home runs. But his impact will not be that big being that he's only in Baltimore for a year. Lee is basically done with his prime but still a lot left in the tank. He is 35 years old and will turning 36 in September.

OTHER SIGNINGS: In another notable signing, the Boston Red Sox re-signed reliever Hideki Okajima to a 1-year deal. He is 35 years of age.

(Statistics in courtesy of: espn.com, fangraphs.com and baseball-reference.com)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Conversation: The (almost) Revamped Oakland Athletics

Yes, my favorite team is the New York Yankees but I am dithyrambic about the Oakland Athletics. I love to watch them play because of the way that their team is formed. I also love Oakland GM Billy Beane and how he runs the team (I read Moneyball by Michael Lewis...amazing book). I'm so interested in how they are an up and coming team being led by their first baseman who can't really hit home runs (Daric Barton) but he makes the pitcher work like crazy (4.40 P/PA) and has a sky-high OBP (.393 in 2010) and therefore holds a 4.9 WAR. For Comparisons, Derrek Lee, who about an average offensive year, had 19 home runs (Barton: 10), a .168 ISO (Barton: .131), and a better slugging percentage at .428 (Barton: .405), yet Lee had just a 2.0 WAR. This teaches us two things:

1.) That conventional stats don't tell us shit about how much a baseball player is worth (which is a blog post for another time and please excuse my bad language).

2.) It Also teaches us that Billy Beane is extremely smart and that is why he traded for Barton when he was still in the Cardinals organization.

It is also why he went out and brought in three players that can make an impact on the offensive side this year after winning 81 games (and losing 81 games). Their offense was poor last year...very poor. They were near the bottom in a lot of offensive categories and did not really get on base very much despite efforts of the great Daric Barton. The Oakland pitching, on the other hand, was just amazing. The bullpen was great especially with closer Andrew Baily shutting the door and the rotation was hard to beat and is now ranked in the top 5 (and even top 3) starting rotations in baseball by the majority of baseball fans. That's the reason that they won 81 games but the reason that lost 81 games was the offense...or lack there of. So as I mentioned before, Billy made moves.

He traded for David Dejesus, pulling him off the rebuilding Royals, who plays good defense (4.3 UZR/150), runs the bases well, gets on base (.384 OBP) and sees a good amount of pitches (3.96 P/PA). Keep in mind that he was injured last year and missed some time. One thing that worries me about Dejesus is his OBP/ BA differential. He hit .318 and, as mentioned before, a .384 OBP, a 66 point difference. If he has a down year and hits around .270, then all the sudden he has around an average .330 OBP and knowing how Billy Beane plays the game, Dejesus would probably be benched. But I don't expect a down year at all from him. There isn't anything that says he's set up for a down year and he already had one in 2009. (NOTE: stats from 2010.)

The second player that the Athletics acquired was the powerful Josh Willingham. Willingham was added in a trade with the Washington Nationals in exchange for Henry Rodriguez and Corey Brown, two young players who do not have a future as impact players. In a year in which he missed about the last month and a half of the season, had a great season. In 370 at-bats, he smashed 16 home runs which is good for around 25 in a full season, maybe even about 27, and that's above average. Looking a little deeper at his stats, he had an outstanding .389 OBP and an above average .459 SLG. He had an above average and even great walk rate at 14.9% and a solid .196 ISO. And according to the stat wRC (Runs created), he created 72.5 runs which is, again, above average. But arguably his best stat is his O-Swing% which was 18.9%, the Major League average in 2010 was 29.3%. So he does not swing at pitches out of the zone and Billy Beane loves that kind of plate discipline. Hence why Willingham is playing for Oakland. (NOTE: stats from 2010)

Hideki Matsui is another nice addition (through the free-agent market) and will provide some more pop along with Willingham. Though he does not have as much power anymore and is 36 years old, he can still get on base well and can around 20 home runs (21 dingers in 2010). He also sees a very nice amount of pitches with 4.06 last year. He will likely be the teams DH because he does not run very well any more from two knee surgeries and the age of 36. He is signed to a one-year deal and will be turning 37 in June.

These three players are going to bring a lot more of a kick-in-the-butt offence. The A's just need one more bat to really contend with the Rangers (and possibly the Angels). And that bats name is Adrian Beltre. The Athletics have recently claimed that they are out of the race for Beltre and as mentioned in a previous post, he's probably gonna go to the Angels, but the A's could use him. If not for his offense, then for his defense.

The Athletics have a decent offense at this point, which is better then last year, but really still need another solid bat but I think that they could definitely win about 85-90 games. A decent offense and an amazing, young pitching staff in a non-overwhelming devision is a very good thing. Good job Billy.

(Statistics in courtesy of: espn.com and fangraphs.com )

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Brandon Webb signs with the Texas Rangers

I would like to apologize for not writing this yesterday but I was stuck in New York for the day and did not have access to internet.


Earlier yesterday morning, former Arizona Diamondbacks ace and 2006 Cy Young award winner Brandon Webb snagged a 1-year, $8 million with the reigning American League Champion Texas Rangers. Webb will be added to an already fortifiable starting rotation that consists of Tommy Hunter, Colby Lewis, CJ Wilson, and Scott Feldman (whose looking to earn his spot in the rotation again). They lost Cliff Lee to the Phillies so they needed to make a move to counter the loss. They could have gone after Carl Pavano, but just like everyone else, the Rangers do not think that the 35 year old can pitch as dominant as he did in 2010.

Here's the big catch with Brandon Webb, he had surgery on August 3rd, 2009. But since then, he has had shoulder problems that have been acting up and has thrown a total of 4.1 innings since his surgery. The Diamondbacks had a club option going into the 2010 season that would pay Webb $8.5 million or they could have paid $2 million for a buyout but opted to stick with Webb. Obviously that was a unlucky decision.

In the past six years, Webb has recorded an 87-62 record with a great 3.27 earned run average. In his career, he has averaged 3.60 pitches thrown in an opponent plate appearance so he knows how to keep his pitch count down. He has a 1.89 career G/F ratio so although he does not strike a crazy amount of batters out (career 7.26 K/9), he just gets them to ground out with his deadly sinker.

It seems that it is safe to bet that he will turn a great comeback year so expect somewhere around 3.80-4.15 ERA. His velocity will be way down and it's hard to guess at this point how his sinker will end up. I guess we'll find out when the season starts. Webb is 31 and will be turning 32 on May 9th. He should be a good veteran to have in the rotation. Expect manager Ron Washington to limit his innings this year. I think he should get in about 130-150 innings of work in 2011.

(Statistics in courtesy of: espn.com)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Conversation: An Overpaid Carlos Pena (with all due respect)?

I am Jewish but merry Christmas to everyone anyways!

Carlos Pena got an early Christmas present, and it was a big one too: a 1-year, $10 million contract from the Chicago Cubs after an atrocious season in which he batted just .196. Sounds like St. Nick should have given him some coal, right? Well clearly Carlos got some eleemosynary assistance.

After a career year in 2007 in which he posted a solid .282 average and 46 home runs and 121 RBI, his batting average had been dropping consistently every year by a significant amount and to be honest, there wasn't much surprise that he hit this poorly. At least in my mind.

Carlos Pena was one of the big reasons for The Tampa Bay Ray's historic franchise turnaround. He has a lot raw power and contains an uncanny ability to separate his batting average and his OBP. He hit .196 but held a .325 OBP. A 126 point difference? That is amazing, and to say amazing might just be an understatement. For his career, he is a .241 hitter but has a .351 OBP. So if he can hit around .230, his OBP will do the rest of the job. His ISO was below his career line in 2010 as well as his SECA. A .211 ISO is still above average and his .399 SECA remains sickeningly awesome. But his ISO was 38 points lower and his SECA was 96 points lower then his 2009 campaign. Obviously this is all slightly alarming but his 14.9% walk rate is good and his .222 BABIP shows that got unlucky with his hits in 2010. Fangraphs.com says that he had a 26.6% O-Swing% which is worse than his career 21.6%, which is a pretty big difference.

By the end of May in the 2010 season, Carlos Pena got used to hanging his head at the end of at bats

But here's something else to think about, his O-Contact% was 51.6% even though his career O-Swing% is 43%. But when you look at his Z-Contact%, it was 79%, which was right around his career average. All of this says something very simple about Pena's hitting performance in 2010, he swung at pitches that were out of the zone and hit hard ground balls that were conveniently ended up in fielders mitts.

So essentially, if he isn't as anxious at the plate in 2011, he should experience a rise in batting average to around .230, which is exactly where he needs it. From there, his OBP will rise back up to a .340-.360 range.

All in all, the Chicago Cubs have made a good choice to bring in Pena and it seems that $10 million is the right price for him. A new uniform and a fresh start for Carlos will be very good for him. Don't forget that he is not only moving out of the American League Eastern Division, but he's going to the National League where players tend to do well when they switch leagues. Example: Raul Ibanez's red hot start to the 2009 season with the Phillies.

There is one more thing that could have caused such a bad season for Pena. His hitting mechanics were very off. He did not "squish the bug" on his left foot when swinging. This is something that kids are taught in little league. When one does not "squish the bug", it makes it incredibly hard for them to catch up to fastballs and just as hard to reach out of the zone to hit breaking balls. Thus meaning that the only pitch he/she is able to catch up to is the change-up. Recall that Pena had 16 home runs at the all-star break and 23 after July which would make it safe to say at that point in the season, he might hit about 35 long balls. Well my point is that pitchers could have figured out how to pitch to him and stopped throwing him change-ups. Instead, pitchers threw breaking balls and pumped fastballs right by him and therefore creating a prolonged slump to end the season. Keep in mind that this could be very wrong and the "squishing the bug" thing might not have any effect on his hitting at all but it's just a guess.

Try to expect a .230/.345/.435 line with about 30-35 home runs. Carlos Pena is 32 years old and will be turning 33 in May. The raw power is there, he just needs to get his actual hitting ability back on track.

(Statistics in courtesy of: espn.com and fangraphs.com)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Conversation: The Florida Marlins in the National League East

About a week ago, the Florida Marlins signed future star-pitcher Ricky Nolasco to a 3-year extension worth $26.5 million. This pretty much means that they are ready to go forward into the future to take that next step up and become a legitimate contender, maybe by winning 90 games or more instead of the usual .500 winning percentage. Maybe even compete with the Phillies, though they probably will not beat them since the Phillies pitching is just too good. But now the Marlins have a great pitching staff of their own with the signing of Javier Vasquez and now that Josh Johnson is healthy, after missing the last month of the season, the Marlins are indeed ready to move foward. Look at this rotation and tell me that it isn't good (you would be crazy to think anything less of it):

1. Josh Johnson, 26 years old
2. Javier Vasquez, 34
3. Ricky Nolasco,28
4. Chris Volstad, 24
5. Anibal Sanchez, 26

My point is that all of these pitchers, with the exception of Vasquez, are young and have loads and loads of potential. They brought in Vasquez to groom all of them. And with this great pithing staff, they also have a solid offense which is led by Hanley Ramirez. But they also have young players with bright futures: Gabi Sanchez at firstbase, powerful Mike Stanton in rightfield and Logan Morrison in left (keep in mind that Morrison hit 20 doubles in 244 at-bats in 2010 which turns into about 50 doubles in 600, so he has potential for power even though he had just 2 home runs in 2010). They brought in Omar Infante to tighten up defensively and we also know that he can hit very well. They signed John Buck to do the catching who had a career year in 2010 and will likely do well in the National League, that is, when he's not hitting against the Phillies.

But one thing that bugs me is the Dan Uggla trade. Dan Uggla was traded to the Atlanta Braves. Yes, I think it made perfect sense to move him being that he and the Marlins were not able to agree on a contract extention. The thing that annoys me is this: Now that they have traded Uggla (to a division rival!!), does this mean that they are starting to re-bulid? Or is it just a trade to get him out of Florida and bring in some fresh names? It seems like it was just to get Uggla out of Florida since they only got Infante and lefty-reliever Mike Dunn. The Marlins tried to negociate a 4-year, $41 million contract with the powerful secondbaseman before being moved to the Braves. He wanted to get out and so the Marlins followed suit but they got barely anything for him. They didn't get any prospects for him. That is the part that bugs me. Because they didn't get enough talent for what he was worth so it makes me think that they are facing the fact that they can't make the playoffs. Or maybe Floida GM Michael Hill had a brain fart.

If they were able to keep Uggla, they would probably win about 90 games or more. But now, they will probably win 85 games but since Uggla is still in the NL East, Florida might win 83 games, but wait theres more. Since the Phillies are so good, Florida is now about an 80 win team, again.

Uggla, last year, hit 33 home runs and had 105 RBI and 100 runs scored with a line of .287/.369/.508 in what his arguably his best season. He has a good career ground ball to fly ball ratio: .63. His career SECA is .350 and his ISO is .224. He also makes pitchers work like no other, in his career, he sees 4.04 pitches per plate appearance and in 2010, he saw 4.20 P/PA.

The Braves are going to have a fun season in 2011...O wait a second, the Phillies are the beasts of the east.

(Statistics in courtesy of: espn.com and fangraphs.com)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Adrian Beltre Situation

Coming off his arguably second best season of his career (only behind his absurd 2004 season), Adrian Beltre finds himself to be one of the last premier free agents left on the market. The 12 year veteran third baseman is looking for a 6 year contract with intentions for $85-90 million. He is 31 years old and arguably still in his prime and shut everyone's mouth after an injury riddled 2009 season, his last one with the Seattle Mariners. In 2010, he was with the Boston Red Sox and was brought in to play defense because he is, statistically, the third best third-baseman in baseball with a career 125 UZR. But he busted out with 28 home runs and 102 RBI with a fantastic slash line: .321/.365/.553.

Most of his advanced statistics looked to be around his average for his career except his Isolated Power (ISO). His ISO this year was .233 whereas his career ISO is .187 which can be a tad alarming to teams (as well as fantasy owners) for the upcoming season. The main cause for the sudden ISO out burst is the fact that he hit 49 doubles this year, a career high. The fact that his ISO was so much higher than his career average, especially after an injury-year and near the end of his prime suggests that he won't put up those numbers again.

And that brings up another red-flag. The difference between his On Base Percentage and batting average is a slim 44 points which means that if and when his batting average drops down back to his career average (.275) then likely his OBP is going to come back down (.328). Keep in mind that his Average and OBP are going to recede because of the ISO out burst (which will also recede back to his career average). If you are wondering what Isolated Power is, click here

Both of his career numbers are generally average for an everyday Major League player but the fact that his On base and Batting average differential is just 44 points means that when his average falls, so will his on base percentage, as I stated before, thus meaning that he won't be any where nearly as valuable as he was in 2010.

Just a month ago, there were said to be around 12 teams that Beltre could end up playing for. Those teams included the Red Sox, Athletics, Orioles, Blue Jays, Giants, Indians and the Angels.

Now, the Anaheim Angels seem to be pretty much the only team pursuing Beltre. The Angels offered him a 5-year, $70 million deal which I think is plenty. Let's face it, he's gonna be in an Angels uniform this year, it's a good match: the Angels are coming off a down year and could use a spark, they also need to replace Chone Figgins who left Anaheim for the division rival Seattle Mariners just a year ago. Beltre is looking for a multi-year deal and has expressed interest in playing for the Angels.

My prediction? He'll be playing third-base in Anaheim on a 5 year, $86 million deal. His first year should look something like 20-25 home runs with around a .265 average, but that could be completely wrong and depending on how the first year goes could decide how the next few years go for him.

Some recent notable signings consist of Rich Harden with his first team, The Oakland Athletics for one-year, $1.5 million; Blue Jays signed Corey Patterson to a minor league deal; Nationals have offiaclly anounced the one-year deal with Rick Ankeil for $1.5 million; and the Red SOx have signed Bobby Jenks for 2 years and $12 million.

(Statistics in courtesy of: espn.com, fangraphs.com, baseballthinkfactory.org, baseballprospectus.com and mlbtraderumors.com)

Monday, December 20, 2010

What happens to Joakim Soria?

Now that Zack Greinke is on the Millwaukee Brewers, whose the next Kansas City Royal player to leave town? The Royals have already traded outfielder David Dejesus to the Oakland Athletics and, obviously, Greinke to the Brewers, so it's only fair to think that the dominant closer Joakim Soria will be moved next. And if so, then where?

Recent posts on Twitter and mlbtraderumors.com say that that Royals are not going to move Soria which might suggest that they might change him to a starter, which I HIGHLY doubt that they would do. But now, in my personal power rankings, based on specific statistics, the Royals have moved down from a sub-par 23rd to an even more sub-par 28th, only on top of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Pittsburgh Pirates all because they moved Greinke and outfielder David Dejesus along with Mark Teahan last off season.

So after telling you this, you might think "what point do the Royals have in keeping Soria if they're so bad?" Well consider this, he's 26 years old and 27 in May. He has shown a great deal of consistency through his first four years in the big leagues and unbelievable stats. In fact his stats are better so far then Mariano Rivera's were in his first four seasons. So with so much talent in his arm and still at a young age, the Royals don't need to trade him since they just got three top flight prospects who should be in the majors in about 2 or 3 years, and add hitting machine Billy Butler, believe it or not, the Royals look to be in OK shape for the future. And who knows, maybe Wilson Betemit's surprise year was no fluke.

Look, I'm gonna go ahead and agree with what all these sources are saying, Soria is not going to be traded. I do not think that the Royals would want to trade such young talent who could seem to be the next Mariano. Unless a team can come up with an offer that includes an outfielder, starting pitchers and relief pitcher and possibly a third baseman prospects, (and good prospects too), Soria isn't getting traded.

BUT in the very small chance that he does get moved, I think it would be to the Oakland Athletics, Arizona Diamondbacks, St. Louis Cardinals, Baltimore Orioles, if any of those teams have the prospects that the Royals would be asking for.

If you want to take a look at Joakim Soria's stats so far, click here

And if you would like to look at Mariano Rivera's stats to compare them to Soria's, click here

RECENT ADDITIONAL FREE-AGENT SIGNINGS INCLUDE: Guillermo Mota to the San Fransisco Giants on a minor league deal with spring training invite, money and years have not been released to the public yet; The New York Yankees have signed Luis Vizcaino to a minor league deal worth about 750k; Atlanta Braves have signed Yohan Flande to a minor league deal with spring training invite; Cleavland Indians have inked Austin Kearns to a one-year deal with $1.3 million plus incentives, Indians also signed Travis Buck to a minor league deal; Chicago White Sox have signed Jesse Crain to a three-year, $13 million deal; Lastly, the Pirates have signed 28 year old Josh Fields to a minor league deal.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Zack Greinke to the Milwaukee Brewers

When I woke up this morning, I was compelled to look at Twitter and mlbtraderumors.com to see if the Hot-Stove had acted up during the night, and more specifically, to see if Zack Greinke had been traded (to what I hoped would be the New York Yankees-my favorite team). Well sure enough, Zack Greinke was indeed traded...but not to the Yankees.

Earlier this morning, the Milwaukee Brewers and Kansas City Royals agreed on a trade that would send 2009 Cy Young award winner from the Royals to the Brewers. In return, the Royals received four highly touted prospects, one of which has a full season of major league experienced under his belt. The players sent to Kansas City were Outfielder Lorenzo Cain, shortstop Alcides Escobar and pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress. Cain is rated number 7 out top 10 Brewers prospects, Jeremy Jeffress is rated number 3 and Jake Odorizzi is rated the number 1 prospect in Milwaukee's organization.

Not only that, but shortstop Alcides Escobar is a young and promising player and although his basic offensive stats do not show that he is very capable of staying in the lineup (.238/.288/.326 line with just 4 homers in 507 AB), his ground ball to fly ball ratio is relatively good for that of a young, skinny, not-known-for-his-bat, shortstop (202 GB and 239 FB) which says that he can develop some better hitting as he gets older. Keep in mind that he's only 24. If your asking yourself why he's in the lineup, it's because his UZR (a defensive stat) is pretty good, 3.5. (Check out fangraphs.com for more information on UZR)

Zack Greinke, the 2009 Cy Young award winner, posted a 4.17 Earned Run Average this year. That's OK but in his Cy Young campaign, he had an astounding 2.16 ERA, so there should be some cause for concern. But he's 27, entering his prime and is now playing for a team that might actually contend late in the season. He said it himself that he was tired of losing that he needed a spark so a trade was good for him, and it has been expected for a while now.

Check out Greinke's year-by-year stats by clicking here

You can see that his stats have dropped off and take a better look at his 2009 and 2010 stats:

2009: 2.16 ERA, 16-8, 242 SO, 1.07 WHIP
2010: 4.17 ERA, 10-14, 181 SO, 1.25 WHIP

But again, he's 27 and wearing a new uniform on a team that has a chance to contend. The Brewers now have a solid rotation with Greinke, Yovani Gallardo and Shawn Marcum and they also have Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder anchoring the offense and not to mention the power full Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks and Casey McGehee.

The FINAL DEAL: Royals get outfielder Lorenzo Cain, shortstop Alcides Escobar and pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress. Brewers get Zack Greinke, shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, and $2 million to pay for Betancourt's salary. Greinke will be earning a little more than $7 million.

My opinion is that this a fantastic trade for both sides and also Greinke himself. Though I do think that the Brewers gave up a lot of talent but the Royals needed it. Expect somewhere around a 3.50-3.10 ERA range from Greinke this year with about the same strikeouts
and even possibly around 200. He'll also get over 200 innings and will probably gather more than 15 wins but I don't think the Brewers will beat the Cardinals and Reds because they don't have a good enough bullpen and their offense, even with Braun and Fielder, is just not good enough to beat the Reds and Albert Pujos/Matt Holiday. Expect a third place finish from the Brewers this year, but hey, I'm sure Mr. Greinke is happy with anything but last place.

(Statistics in courtesy of: http://www.espn.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com and http://www.fangraphs.com)