Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I Don't Feel Your Pain

Nick Markakis is the latest young player to complain about his salary. While Markakis isn't openly complaining like Hamels or Papelbon, he has expressed his discontent. And I have to say to each of these young players: SHUT UP.

Yes, you're ungodly talented and hard working. Yes, you all are being paid less some of your contemporaries. But get some goddamn perspective and get it fast.

The league minimum is $390,000 a year. Markakis will make $455,000 this year. Papelbon made $425,000 last year. Hamels will make $500,000 this year. They can hardly call poverty. Furthermore, they'll all poised to make tens of millions of dollars in the upcoming years.

I know that baseball operates in a bubble and has not seen a significant negative impact from America's economic woes. But these guys are making hundreds of thousands of dollars in their early twenties and are practically assured of being multi-millionaires by the time they're 30. They are the privileged few acting the part of spoiled brats.

I understand feeling undervalued at work and disrespected by one's bosses. But complaining to the media about making more than 95% of the working population is classless and downright insulting. Seriously guys, a little humility would go a long way. Lots of young people in the US are struggling just to find jobs. Be happy that you're pretty much ensured enough money to do anything you want for the rest of your natural lives and leave the complaining Jane routine at home because I and pretty much anyone else I know would kill to be in your shoes.

That, and we'd keep our goddamn mouths shut.

Monday, March 3, 2008

ADP: Useful or Useless?

In one of my fantasy leagues, one manager posted how many "reaches" each team had according to Yahoo's draft ADP (Average Draft Position). There was a large variance among teams (I was tied for lowest with one) and opinions on the usefulness of ADPs. One manager, who won our league last year, thinks that they are useless. His argument essentially boils down to the fact that the average Yahoo drafter isn't that bright and you should get the players you want when you want them and screw everyone else. Also, you win leagues by going against the grain and doing something that puts you in a position to win even if it means taking a chance on an unknown quantity.

I generally agree but with caveats. I aim for maximum value for every pick. For example, even if I think that Stephen Drew will outperform Jhonny Peralta this year, I will pick someone other than Stephen Drew until either draft situations force me to take him early (such as a huge run on SS that leaves fewer higher ADP players left than there are teams without SS between me and my next pick) or it is only a round before the ADP and another team needs a SS. The team in question took Stephen Drew in Round 11 with pick 146. His normal ADP is 210.

I think this is a reach because there were only two teams left who needed SS, by his calculations. One took J.J. Hardy and the other took Khalil Greene about 4 rounds later. Hardy is, by the vast majority of players, the higher ranked SS. I like Drew more than Hardy but not 4 rounds more; you're simply giving up the possibility of taking a higher ranked player now and grabbing Drew for better value later. While I understand the idea of locking up players you absolutely, desperately must have, I think it was highly unlikely that anyone else would have taken Drew during the next couple rounds. And I don't see Drew as one of those players anyway.

That said, this player values players very differently than I do. For example, I like Snell, Burnett, and Hudson better than Lilly. He does not. He likes Joakim Soria more than Trevor Hoffman. Again, I disagree. The results of the season will tell but I definitely think that he could have grabbed a better pitcher and waited for Drew for a round at least. It's an incremental upgrade, sure, but it's by these inches that leagues are won or lost.

Brewin' Up a Storm

Prince Fielder is not happy. This could be bad things down the line, particularly since Prince is represented by Scott Boras. As mentioned in Jason Kendall discussion, the Brewers have a few good, young players whom they have failed to sign to any long-term deals (Fielder, Braun, and Hart). Now, Braun and Hart just finished their first full years so they're not an immediate concern. However, Fielder is up for arbitration after this year. Ryan Howard just made $10 million in arbitration this season. Do you see where this is going?

The Kendall contract was only about $1.25-2.25 million above market in my opinion. A little of that could go a long way in keeping Fielder, Braun, and Hart happy in the coming years. But that's not nearly as much as Fielder is going to command in arbitration, let alone Braun and Hart. So let's take a closer look at the Brewers' payroll to see if they have any hope of keeping these guys around.

Overall, the Brewers are middle of the pack with a payroll between $73 and $77 million (using a few different projections as a range). The notable contracts include Ben Sheets for $11 million, Eric Gagne for $10 million, Jeff Suppan for $8 million, Mike Cameron for $5 million, David Riske for $4 million, and Bill Hall for $4.8 million. Now, Sheets is reasonable provided that he stays healthy; they also signed him a few years ago so there's not much to be done about his contract now. Mike Cameron is a good deal since he significantly upgrades their defense and pushes Bill hall to 3rd and Braun to left (once he's not suspended, of course). Bill Hall could bounce back and make his number reasonable. My real beef is with Eric Gagne, Jeff Suppan, and David Riske's contracts (and of course, the ubiquitous Kendall).

The most obviously bad contract is Eric Gagne. He's fresh off a Jekyll and Hyde season, he's 32, and he's recently had arm trouble. During his time with Texas, he had 16 saves, a 2.16 ERA, and an OPS against of .546. After his trade to Boston to become a setup man for Papelbon, he had a 6.75 ERA and an OPS against of .856. So which is the real Eric Gagne?

It's hard to tell, really. He only threw 2 innings the year before so he might just have been gassed. Plus, he seemed able to pitch in a hitter's park in Arlington. He still has the intimidating mound presence and good stuff. Then again, his stuff, while still good, has significantly declined since his years with the Dodgers. His fastball, while still in the low-mid 90's, is still straight and not a strikeout pitch. With a smaller differential between it and his change-up and curveball, hitters are more apt to foul them off instead of flailing at the air. You can see it if you watch him pitch; hitters foul off more pitchers instead of swinging and missing. Plus, his control has slipped; even with the Rangers, his K/BB was only 2.42. During his peak years, he was posting K/BB above 5.00. That clearly points to declining skills and stuff.

Plus, some scouts have commented that he lacks the drive to get himself in great condition. Even at his best, he was never a paragon of fitness. Now that injuries and age have taken their toll a bit, he has to get himself into better shape. At 32, he's on the downside of his career particularly if he stays pudgy. He's being paid as if he's an elite closer when, clearly, he is not. Can he justify the $10 million he'll be paid this year? Maybe but I doubt it. Plus, the Brewers already have Derrick Turnbow. Sure, some of his outings are horrendous but he has a stellar strikeout rate, his OPS against last year as .581, and if his control improves even marginally, he might end up being better than Gagne.

Now think about what that $10 million could mean. That would mean another $10 million to invest for Fielder, Braun, and Hart. Combined with the Kendall signing, that could be another $12.25 million to put toward the young core of their team. Another million a year over three or four years for Fielder could mean the difference between locking him up through his first year or two of free agency or having to let him go once he can hit the free market. The fact that the Brewers are unilaterally renewing their contracts bodes badly for the Brewers' long-term prospects of making those deals. Now you see why bad contracts to veterans can make it hard for mid-market teams to keep their young talent.

More on this later because I have to actually work today.