Given that the White Sox appear to have been historically terrible in terms of center field defense this year, I suppose that the Griffey acquisition makes sense, even allowing for his demand to return to center. I’m kind of glad, though, that I didn’t take time out of my precious DC visit to go and see the Nationals and my beloved Reds last night, although I suppose that attending while wearing my Griffey t-shirt (which bears Griffey’s 2005 number, to boot) would have had some anachronistic value. In any case, dumping any of Griffey’s salary for anyone who might contribute in any way to a future Cincinnati playoff team is a good move for the Reds…
Whoa–this would be something if it happens. My initial impulse was to say that this is making Boston’s season look all the more 2005ish, but it’s not that bad. It helps the Red Sox in the future because Ramirez was pretty clearly gone after this year anyway, and when you factor in defense Bay’s probably not actually much worse. A lot depends on Bay’s defense, which his hard to read; his numbers are all over the place. If he does the job in the field, it could work out well even this year.
It’s also an interesting move by Florida, who seem to be doubling down: having an good offensive team with poor defense, they’ve added…a world-class hitting butcher. Their lineup becomes pretty fierce, although Manny playing a left field of that size is pretty frightening.
Detroit media outlets reporting Yankees have acquired Ivan Rodriguez. No word on what the Tigers got.
While obviously not close to the player he was in his prime, IRod is an exactly average AL hitter at this point, which makes him a better than average hitter for a catcher. Even though his defensive skills have deteriorated quite a bit from their once unparalleled height, he’s still a much better gloveman than Posada.
Hopefully Dave Dombrowski pried away a couple of good prospects, and this isn’t a salary dump (doesn’t seem likely as he’s a free agent at the end of the season).
BTW Rodriguez is only about 90 games away from the all-time MLB record for games caught.
Update: Sweet Jebus, apparently it’s a straight-up deal for Kyle Farnsworth. I’m a big fan of Dombrowski but if that’s accurate that’s ridiculous.
Further update: Just remembered that if anybody signs him as a free agent after this season the team that loses him gets two compensatory draft picks between the first and second round. So it looks like Detroit traded two months of IRod for Kyle Farnsworth and a couple of late first/early second round picks. I know Farnsworth has been decent this year but come on . . .
He would be Todd Jones, i.e., he would
(1) Inexplicably be handed a series of very important high-paying jobs; where he would
(2) Suck at them; yet
(3) Continue to get promoted; thereby destroying
Actually the Todd Jones Situation (and wouldn’t that be a good name for a band?) is even less defensible than the Bush presidency. At least Bush doesn’t have an ERA or a K/BB ratio.
[Edit: I now see there are implied references to the topic of How Much Todd Jones Sucks in the Pirate Booty thread, where it’s conceded he’s not an “elite” (LOL!!!!) reliever. The guy has had one good season in the last eight years! He has an adjusted ERA of 84! He’s not even an average relief pitcher let alone an average closer! He’s being paid $7 million this season by a team with a $133 million payroll! Alright doctor I’ll stop now]
While picking up something at the hardware store today, I heard a talk radio guy complain that the Pirates were driving too hard a bargain on players who rightfully belong to the Yankees, boo-hoo. But when you’ve recently benefited from trades that seem to be crackpot talk radio caller proposals, why no expect to add useful parts without losing anything significant? So, right on cue, following Pat Gillick generously donating OBP machine Bobby Abreu and the late Cory Lidle to the Yanks two years ago in exchange for a 2-for-1 McDLT coupon, the Pirates gave the Yankees decent RH outfielder Xavier Nady and outstanding LH reliever Damaso Marte. In exchange, the only quality prospect they received is someone (admittedly only 19) who can’t hit AA pitching and already has wrist and hamstring problems. But he’s toolsy so he may learn to hit someday. Ehh. Moreover, they took this highly underwhelming package several days before the deadline despite several contending teams in the market for outfield and bullpen help. I’m tempted to say that nothing has changed in Pittsburgh, although in fairness if Littlefield was still there they would have received Pavano, Igawa, and the rights to Dave LaPoint instead of two of the prospects.
I’m tempted at this point to bet Howard a donation to the anti-Prop 8 campaign that the Yankees win the division outright. Not because the Sox didn’t hit tonight per se — two excellent pitchers combined with Foster’s Alice-in-Wonderland strike zone will do that — but because Ramirez may be hurt and Ortiz doesn’t look anywhere near 100%. With the bottom of the order having become a vast wasteland and the leadoff hitter looking almost equally atrocious, they can’t afford to have both of these guys out or in significantly subpar form, especially with Drew bound to cool off. Maybe Manny will be Manny tomorrow and Papi will shake off the rust more quickly than his performance tonight would indicate, but it wouldn’t be very surprising for the Yankees to outplay them by 3 games the rest of the way, especially with Cashman having addressed their weakness against lefthanders while giving up nothing they’ll miss.
I forgot to mention this, but commenter Howard and I once again have a $50 donation to Planned Parenthood riding on whether the Yankees make the playoffs. Harvey Araton’s highly unconvincing comparisons to 1965 notwithstanding, I would definitely make the bet again in a second. Especially with Posada looking out for the year, I don’t think it’s quite the lock it was at this time last year, but I still think it’s much better than 50/50. In particular, with the collapse of the Indians the competition is a lot weaker. The West is a write-off: with over-their-heads pitching and a pathetic offense, the A’s (as Beane correctly saw) have as little chance to make the postseason as a team in their position could have, especially after their meek surrender in the Bronx. (Speaking of pathetic offenses, is the jig finally up on J.P. Riccardi?) The Tigers might outscore the Yankees going forward, but with their pitching I can’t pick them to be 4 games better the rest of the way. The Twins have two players who could start for the Yankees and have allowed more runs. And while I would still pick the Red Sox, one can’t rule out the possibility of the Yankees winning the division outright.
This leaves us with Tampa. I’ll be rooting hard for them, not only to beat the Yankees but because they remind me of my beloved early-90s Expos. But I think they’ll be good but not quite good enough. The historical hurdle is formidable: indeed, I think they would be the most unlikely miracle team ever. The only other miracle team with 95 Pythagorean losses the previous year is the ’91 Braves, and the Rays face tougher competition and don’t have a Hall of Fame manager in their first year. (The ’69 Mets and ’61 Reds did have a manager who wasn’t new and had no previous credentials, so it’s not impossible, just something working against them.) If their young starters hold up under the strain, Percival stays healthy, and Wheeler, Howell and Balfour all keep pitching brilliantly, they’ll win…but myself I wouldn’t bet on that. Not impossible, but significantly less than 50/50.
Whether they make the playoffs this year or not, though, they’ve still had an amazing season. And like the ’91 Braves, I think the key lesson is that when you have a team with talented young pitching, putting a real defense behind them is absolutely crucial.
Nicholas Carr asks Is Google Making Us Stupid?” (I started reading this but got bored so I don’t know the answer).
I do know that Google is the single greatest invention of the human mind since that thing Peter Frampton used to make his guitar sound like a robot voice, mainly because it allows one to find the answer to questions such as “was Jimmy Gobble’s ten runs given up in a single inning last night a major league record?” in 20 seconds flat.
Early on during those 20 seconds I suspected the answer might involve one of those deals where a position player pitches an inning in a game that has gotten out of hand, so I take it as some sort of cosmic joke that the record is held by a regular pitcher who washed out of the majors then came back five years later as an outfielder at the age of 31 and hit .349 in seven seasons (fourth-highest average of all time in 3000 or more plate appearances, per baseball-reference).
Although C. Moore’s Sluggy McSlugs managed a hard charge towards the end of the first half of the season, they were unable to stave off the inevitable victory of the Lexington Bearded Ducks. The Ducks, considered nigh unbeatable by most analysts, delivered a 175 point victory over the McSlugs and other, lesser competition. The pointless formality of the second half of the season will begin on Thursday. The final first half standings:
|1||Lexington Bearded Ducks, R. Farley||4700|
|2||Sluggy McSlugs, C. Moore||4525|
|3||The Rev. Josh Fields, A. Katz||4374|
|4||Headless Thompson Gunners, S. Hickey||4325|
|5||kodos423, k. crockett||4274|
|6||JacobyRules, P. Smith||4231|
|7||KY Colonels, R. Payne||4198|
|8||Austin Electric Chairs, E. Loomis||4080|
|9||Wild Loose Comma, C. S||4015|
|10||Axis of Evel Knievel, D. Noon||4012|
|11||Theibault Moor Orioles, J. Theibault||3924|
|12||Lungless Wonders, E. Udall||3907|
|13||MutiliatedLittleLady, K. Houghton||3823|
|14||Sprained Mitochondria, P. McLeod||3783|
|15||Heavily Armed Tourists, M. Haxby||3712|
|16||Warning Track Power, P. Wu||3681|
|17||Drunken Warthogs, S. Ehrlich||3601|
|18||Robertson, E. Robertson||3593|
|19||Wobblies, M. Christman||3543|
|20||Lee Ho Fuk’s, P. Richardson||3529|
|21||The 14th Century, M Dugas||3316|
|22||Anderson, f. Anderson||3184|
|23||Wengler1, W. Engler||3115|
95 games into the season, the deep and wide flaws of the organization known as the Seattle Mariners baseball club have been cruelly exposed to the world. At 37-58, they are the worst team in the American League by a fair margin. (On the senior circuit, only the Nationals are currently worse, the Mariners surely have a decent chance of catching them). This is made all the more pathetic by their payroll in excess of one hundred million dollars.
So many obvious and stupid mistakes have been made by this organization that to attempt to catalog them would simply be too depressing. One stands out for me, though: Jose Vidro. For many superficial baseball analysts, the trade with which we acquired Vidro turned out reasonably well for the Mariners. The prospects they traded haven’t amounted to much of anything, and Vidro hit .314 for them last year. The flaw in this reasoning is that he was still among the worst DH’s in the American League, because he didn’t hit for any power. A closer look at his 2007 season reveals that his high batting average was in large part the product of Vidro’s unusually high infield single rate. Now, if you’re Ichiro, infield singles are part of your skill set. Anyone who thinks Vidro’s infield single rate is the product of his baseball skills clearly has not seen him play in several years. Feed me a large steak dinner and pour a pitcher of beer down my throat, spin me around a few times, and I could still beat Jose Vidro in a footrace without any diffiulty at all. His infield hit rate was clearly a fluke, and if you return it to league average, his 2007 falls below replacement level.
So 2007 contained plenty of evidence that Vidro was quite likely to be done as a useful player. Vidro’s performance in 2008 has given us all the confirmation we could ever need. His on base percentage sits at 261; his slugging percentage at 310. How bad is this? We’ve got a truckload of advanced meta-statistics in baseball these days, and I don’t have the mathematical chops to have strong opinions about most of them, so I’ll choose one at random (others would paint a similar picture). MLVr is an expression of marginal lineup value. The number expresses how many runs would be added (or subtracted) if you shifted from a lineup of 9 perfectly average players to a lineup of 8 perfectly average players and the player in question. The very best in the league (Chipper Jones, Berkman, Pujols) are adding over half a run per game.
There are 199 players in baseball with 250+ plate appearances so far this season. Of these, only five are inept enough offensively to have MLVrs below -.250. Vidro is, of course, one of these five (another is Kenji Johjima, who was just given a three year, 24 million dollar extension by the Mariners, even though their best prospect plays his position). The other four, of course, play difficult defensive positions (CF, 2B, C). To make matters more baffling, Vidro continues to hit cleanup. And, he’s got a vesting option for 9 million dollars in 2009 if he gets enough plate appearances.
Let’s review: One of the worst hitters in baseball is a declining, immobile, weak-groundout hitting machine who plays DH. He continues to not only play most of the time–he’s starting and hitting cleanup.
Is there any precedence for this? The glorious baseball-reference.com allows me to find out. In the history of the DH, there are 160 player-seasons that were full time enough to qualify for the batting title, and where at least 70% of playing time came as DH. Here’s the list. As you might expect, only 10% of these seasons were below average, because these people are paid to hit, and nothing else. The below average seasons are mostly from good to great players (Hank Aaron, Edgar Martinez, Alvin Davis, Eddie Murray, Reggie Jackson, Paul Molitor, Greg Vaughn, Dave Parker), the sort of player one could reasonably hope would turn it around. If Vidro continues this pace, he will join this list as the very worst DH ever, by a wide and significant margin. Yet he plays, hits 4th, and marches toward a vesting option that further hamstrings whatever fool takes the GM position with even more pointless payroll giveaways.
Some high comedy: placeholder manager Jim Riggleman seems to be making some justificatory argument about “protection” for Raul Ibanez. This might make sense if he also had a secret plan to replace every other team’s scouting report on Vidro with the 2000 version (and if protection was an actual phenomenon). Apparently they think other teams evaluate players based on how good they were five years ago, too. They’re willing to cut bait on other hitters who are clearly done (Sexson, Wilkerson) but who aren’t as done as Vidro.
I was at Shea yesterday, which was great except for Pedro leaving the game early (although he was pitching 1-hit shutout ball with no stuff.) Between that and Alou unsurprisingly out for the year, it makes me a little sad (and makes me feel old) as the number of still-active players from the definitive team of my baseball fan existence continues to shrink. You have to think this is it for Alou, and the careers of Better Than Koufax Martinez and Floyd aren’t exactly looking robust right now.
Anyway, with the Expos playing Cinderallas and marginal prospects on the corners but back in contention, I guess this brings up the Barry Bonds question. At his subscription site, Bill James has made an extensive case against a team signing him in most circumstances:
Look, I like Barry Bonds. I don’t have to deal with him, but I was always on his side, and I still am. I don’t think he belongs in jail; I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame. Ten years ago, he was playing by the rules as they were enforced ten years ago. It seems self-righteous to me to say now that he was cheating.
But. . .it’s over.
The argument is primarily baseball related: basically, that once a player 1)starts getting hurt, and 2)produces value solely by hitting homers and drawing walks the chances of a complete collapse in his value have to be considered very high. (Perhaps this could be called the Jack Clark effect? Although I still wish he had showed up to the ’93 Expos…)
Is this right? It’s certainly plausible. I think there’s a tendency to rely to much on the Ruth analogy, although the 1935 Braves are certainly a powerful example (pretty good team signs still-high-OPS Ruth, Ruth collapses, team literally posts worse record than 1962 Mets.) Still, one can say something similar about Aaron and Mays, and the comparable players you can’t say that about (Williams, Mantle) retired without pressing the issue. None of those players peaked in their late 30s, but it’s reasonable between that and the circus he would create (especially when he didn’t go through spring training) you would want to pass. In the context of New York, I can understand if the Mets would prefer to make a play for Ibanez or Rivera or Bay. Still, if I’m the Devil Rays, and look at my athletic, good pitching-and-defense team notably lacking in the power core your main wildcard rivals have…I’d be pretty inclined to take the risk. Tom Tango summarized the discussion and disagrees with James.