Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pitcher Up! and Other Thoughts

I wrote to Chris Jaffe yesterday about my blog post responding to his piece and he replied promptly. I won't post the email here but he basically said that park factors matter a whole lot more than he had anticipated. For example, the Green Monster at Fenway screws up the system due to its immense height; hitting a ball more than 10 feet over it or a wall's length beyond it is pretty damn difficult. I'm sure others are working on figuring in park factors for those numbers. I'm too lazy to do it myself at the moment but once I hear more, I'll post it here. In any case, Chris Jaffe is a great guy so please, continue to read his stuff at the Hardball Times.

Now, in other musings:

Apparently, Ned Yost is thinking about batting Jason Kendall 9th and putting the pitcher in the 8 hole. Now, Kendall had an OPS of .610 in 2007. Yup, that number is not a typo. To put this monumental suckage in perspective, Dontrelle Willis has a career OPS of .639 and Carlos Zambrano has a career OPS of .580. While I would prefer for Yost to bat Kendall 34th in the lineup, that isn't possible, at least not in this universe (but maybe in this one, if we're lucky). If Kendall does continue to get on-base closer to his career clip of .375 and not the horrid .301 that he posted last year, this move makes a lot of sense especially if Braun hits 2nd. Tony la Russa hit his pitcher 8th last year with some moderate success and the writers of "The Book" seem to agree that this could produce an extra couple runs a year. So all in all it's a fine gambit that will probably seem odd to purists but will continue to put a smile on the face of theorists around the globe. Whether or not Joe Maddon will try out his new kryptonite strategy against Big Papi and A-Rod remains to be seen.
But lost in all of this theory is the fact that Jason Kendall is a horrible ballplayer. In what world is he worth $4.25 million guaranteed with another $1 million incentives? He's worse than Neifi Perez since Perez was paid "only" $2.5 million last year to be absolutely horrible. On a side note, did you know that Perez has made nearly $21 million during his career to post a lifetime OPS+ of 64? So having Kendall hit anywhere is a loss for the Brewers, those 2 runs be damned. I am sick of teams throwing money at veteran players who have only proven that they suck. Give the kids a chance and if they fail, at least you're only out a bit of money as opposed to the millions that Kendall, Perez, and their ilk soak up. Plus, who knows when you'll hit pay dirt?

Now, on to veterans who deserve jobs, or fliers at least. I must admit that I am surprised that Barry Bonds does not have a job. No matter what drama he brings, the guy can flat out hit. For example, if the Mariners added Bonds to their lineup, they would have a legitimate chance to challenge the Angels. Plus, Bonds wouldn't be a significant downgrade defensively over Raul "The Statue" Ibanez if at all and he would be a HUGE (and I mean HUGE) upgrade offensively over Jose "Why Do I Have a Job" Vidro. That said, I'd still take Adam Jones back and start preparing for the future. But then again, maybe the M's will defy logic and statistics and somehow rip the division away from the Angels. Though if they do, I'll shave my head. Promise.

The situation for David Wells is more difficult. I have to admit that I am fond of Boomer if only because he actually got a case of gout (beat that, Bartolo Colon!). Regardless, I think that he should at least get a minor league deal as extra insurance for a team with a young rotation, much like Bartolo Colon received. No matter what his physical shape, Wells throws strikes. Sure, he gets hit much harder now than he did before but he's a great clubhouse guy who knows a ton about pitching. There are plenty of teams out of contention who could use a guy to soak up some innings to keep inning counts down for young arms and options/service time unused for replacement starters when the inevitable injury bug hits. Plus, he'd cost a whole hell of a lot less than Jason Kendall and might even provide more value. And as a final benefit, he could even lead these guys in a pinch.

That's it for tonight. More about manatees tomorrow.


Mooch said...

on jason kendall---yes he is a fairly awful hitter at this point in his career, but NEVER underestimate the value of a veteran catcher. The catching position is the one position that is so 'scarce' in fantasy because it is devoid of decent hitters. Why? Because REAL baseball teams understand the importance of a catcher who can handle the pitching staff. Any hitting is a bonus. Doug Mirabelli is an extreme example of this but serves so nonetheless. The Posadas of the world are few and far between---excellent offensive catcher + fantastic game-caller + solid defensive catcher. I don't know enough about Kendall to tell you how he handles a pitching staff. And a veteran catcher who can handle a pitching staff is extremely valuable for two extra reasons beyond calling a good game: helping young pitchers make the transition to the big leagues AND helping young catchers understand the nuances to catching in the big leagues. Think of this kind of a catcher like a Greg Maddux+ as he helps not just younger players at his own position but can help his battery mates too.

sanstodo said...

Jason Kendall is not a good defensive catcher. And anyway, my point isn't that Kendall shouldn't have a job, it's that he shouldn't be paid $4.25 million with $1 million in incentives. You can find defensively minded catchers off the scrap heap for $2 million or less; just look at all the other teams who do. But Kendall is being paid a premium because he once was a decent offense player and above average defense player ONCE UPON A TIME. He is no longer that player nor will he ever be that player ever again.

The comparison to Maddux doesn't work because Maddux is still an effective pitcher. You get value beyond his intangibles, you get consistent, even performance and lots of innings. Kendall literally gives you no value beyond his intangibles. If the Brewers are forced to trade off Fielder before free agency due to the ripple effect of Howard's decision, you can point to Jason Kendall and say "He cost the team the extra $3 million we might have been able to keep Fielder for 1 more year." And if it comes down to that, $3 million or less, two years from now when Fielder might be making $15 million, then this seemingly small overpayment is going to cost them BIG TIME.

Mooch said...

the maddux comparison isn't spot on, i agree, but it is fairly useful still. Maddux is no longer dominating. He was dominating ONCE UPON A TIME (stolen!). Pitching in the silly confines of PETCO still only netted him a 4.14 ERA and he was paid $10 million. That's what the current market has become for 200 inning 4+ ERA pitchers.

It is very possible that the Kendall deal is the same idea---the overpaying for a certain reliable skill. I am not saying Kendall is a good DEFENSIVE catcher, but that he is possibly both a good mentor for both young catchers AND pitchers AND that he can call a good game. The market maybe at the point where this is the kind of contract that exists for this kind of catcher. Brad Ausmus (who is 5 years older than Kendall) made $3.9 million in 2006 and $4 million in 2007 and is regarded as a great caller of games but a pretty horrible hitting catcher.

The $1million in performance bonus should not factor in as the only way he will reach it is if he performs at a level where they WANT him to be catching over 110 games. And if you want to point fingers at poor contracts, Tony Graffanino at $3.25million and Jeff Supan for $8million this year and then $12.5 million EACH YEAR for the next 2 years.

Personally I don't like it either, but I also don't like what happened with the SP market the past few years (see Suppan, Jeff?). As you and some espn.com writers have blogged about, that is possibly about to change so if the same issue arises for catchers and IS an issue it maybe addressed soon as well.