Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Brent Lillebridge, Yankee Slayer

*Brent Lillibridge as a Brave in 2008.  In 2011 he's a Yankee killing Chicago White Sox.

Brent Lillibridge isn't a great player.  In parts of 4 major league seasons he has been worth -1.4 WAR.  He doesn't hit particularly well, he doesn't field particularly well...wait!

Check out what Lillibridge did to the Yankees with the Yankees trailing by one in the bottom of the ninth with 1 out and runners at 1st and 2nd with A-Rod at the plate. 

Pretty good play huh.

Now look at what Lillibridge did to the Yankees one batter later with 2 outs and runners at 1st and 2nd with Cano at the plate.


2012 Dodger Roster Early Preview PART 2: PART 1 (the lineup)

A while ago I looked at how different the 2012 Dodger roster might look as compared to the 2011 version (Damn!  Can you believe it is already 2011???).

The Dodgers only have 4 players (Juan Uribe, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly and Matt Guerrier) under contract for next season.  This doesn't include unproven players under team control ( Kenley Jansen & Jerry Sands) or arbitration eligible players (Kershaw, Kemp & Ethier).

I feel like engaging in a little bit of rosterbation and taking a look at some things that the Dodgers could do for next season.

Well, I'm stumped.  And I'm not going to mention that unmentionable thing.

Right now the Dodgers have Rod Barajas, Dioner Navarro, AJ Ellis and (nominally) Hector Giminez at catcher.  None of these guys looks like the long (or short) term answer for LA.

I'd be surprised to see Giminez last the season with the Dodgers, he's scheduled for a knee surgery and is already a never was.  We'll count him out.

Barajas is the starter this season.  Barajas is 35 this year and can't have too many more years left to squat.  He's an ok player, a fringe starter/back up.  In 3158 career plate appearances Barajas has a'mass'ed 8 WAR.  That comes out to about 1.1 WAR per 450 trips to the plate.  That figures to get less as he gets older.

Dioner Navarro hasn't played yet this season for LA and was (along with Russ Martin) once the Dodgers' Catcher of the Future.  He went to Tampa and flamed out after one good (BABIP fueled) year in 2008.  He is/was talented.  I would like to see him get some playing time this year as there is a (small) chance that he has something left in the tank at only 27 years old.

AJ Ellis is interesting.  At 30 years old he is a minor league veteran.  As of writing this, Ellis has 62 major league games under his belt.  In those 62 games Ellis has 'hit' .257/.346/.294 (Batting Average/On Base Percentage/Slugging).  This continues his minor league trend of getting on base via the walk while hitting for no power.  In 1871 minor league at bats Ellis had a line of .277/.398/.375.

So far Ellis has been able to get on base.  His plate discipline looks pretty good.  In his limited major league at bats he has been better than average at not swinging at pitches out of the zone and making contact when swinging.  I'd like to see the Dodgers give Ellis some playing time to see if he can continue to produce this way or if pitchers will start challenging him and quit issuing him walks since he's unlikely to knock too many extra base hits.

There isn't much available in the way of catching on the free agent market and trades are nearly impossible to speculate on.

I'll certainly take Ellis as my backup next season and give him plenty of opportunity to play and win the starting job if Navarro doesn't work out or another catcher doesn't come available.

We aren't really planning to compete next year and if we are going to compete, we'll have to take some risks and have them payoff.  Getting a couple of WAR out of Ellis at the major league minimum would qualify as a payoff.

James Loney has to go.   From 2008 - 2010 Loney has the lowest wOBA of any first baseman.  Albert Pujols' wOBA over that period-.442, Adam LaRoche-.351, Jorge Cantu-.333, Ty Wigginton-.331, James Loney-.327

That's right, James Loney is the worst hitting first baseman in baseball.

But hitting isn't everything.  How about defense?  Loney is right in the middle of the pack, costing the Dodgers 4 runs over the last 3 years.

In terms of total production (aka WAR), not impressive.

I would try desperately to trade Loney this season or off-season.  Loney is making $4.75 million this year in his 2nd year of arbitration.  To keep Loney next year would cost the Dodgers between $5 and $7 million and a roster spot.  I don't need anything back in terms of talent.  Just take his salary or I am non-tendering him next off season.

I would sign Andre Either to a one-year deal worth about $12-15 million to play first base.  Andre is in his 3rd year of arbitration eligibility and has received the following salaries: $5.5 million, $9.25 million.  He's likely to earn roughly that same amount in arbitration.

Andre is a consistent offensive player as his yearly wOBA shows.

However Ethier plays poor outfield defense.  Ethier has a career -33 UZR.  That means he has cost his team 33 runs by his poor defensive play.   Most of those runs (32) have come since he moved to RF, as he was only -1 as a left fielder.

The worst first baseman in the league cost their teams less than 10 runs a year according to UZR. These are players like Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard.

Ryan Howard is actually about the same player that we would expect Ethier to be.  Last year Howard and Ethier posted identical .367 wOBAs while Howard was worth -13 runs in the field.  In so doing, Howard was worth 2.0 WAR.  It follows that we would expect Ethier to be worth roughly 2 WAR as well.  Ethier was worth 2.1 WAR last year as a RFer, though in fewer PA's than Howard due to an inury.  Moving to first would decrease Ethier's value a bit (as more offense is expected of a 1st baseman than a right fielder) but the Dodgers would replace Loney's below average production.

Albert Pujols is a free agent after the season.  If he makes it to free agency then I'm throwing some money his way to try and bring baseball's best player to Hollywood.  LA needs some stars and there aren't many bigger than Albert.  With a team that will almost certainly have new owners, what bigger splash would there be than to sign Albert?

Ned C signed Juan Uribe to a 3-year $21 million deal last year to, presumably, play second base.  The contract might have been a little bit too high but Uribe is certainly a useful player.  He looks to be a capable defender at all 3 infield positions.  He has a terrible OBP (.300 on the nose) but hits for some power (career .175 ISO).  All together, he's been worth 6 total WAR over the last 2 seasons.

Injuries to Furcal and Blake have forced the Dodgers to use Uribe at 3B and SS opening up some playing time at 2B.  I had hoped that that playing time would go to Ivan DeJesus jr.  DeJesus was a one of LA's top prospects before tearing up his leg in 2009.   Prior to his injury DeJesus was a shortstop who posted high OBP's.

In 2010 DeJesus came back as a second baseman with an average OBP.  DeJesus had mixed reports defensively as a SS so a move to 2B might have been necessary regardless of his injury.  But prior to his injury he drew walks about 12% of the time, upon returning, he only walked 6% of the time while maintaining most of the rest of his offensive game.  I have no idea what about a leg injury would cause a player to walk that much less.  That said, I'd like to see DeJesus get a chance to play in the bigs.

I'm giving DeJesus the chance to be LA's starting second baseman in 2012.  Juan Uribe will be my SS and there are always some Jamey Carroll's and Aaron Miles' to backup.

I like Casey Blake.  A lot of people were calling for his head after a quite poor 2010 but I wasn't one of them.  Blake certainly stepped back after his solid 2009 but that was too be expected.
Blake's Yearly WAR:
2007: 2.3
2008: 2.6
2009: 4.6
2010: 2.8
When looked at like that 2010 doesn't seem bad at all does it?  There was certainly a change in his offense
2007: .336
2008: .347
2009: .354
2010: .317

That's real and undeniable.
Blake's power was AWOL:
SLG 2007-2000=.180
SLG 2010=.159

Strikeouts were up:
K% 2007-2009=22.3%
K% 2010=27.1%

Groundballs were up while flyballs were down
GB/FB 2007-2009=.99
GB/FB 2010=1.16

He couldn't hit right-handed pitching
.295 wOBA vs .330 career vs R
.386 wOBA vs .360 career vs L

He didn't have a good year with the bat.  However, UZR/150 has loved him since coming to LA
2007 w/Cleveland = -5.1
2008 w/Cleveland = -12.4
2008 w/LA = 7.8
2009 w/LA = 13.1
2010 w/LA = 7.7
Why?  I have no idea.  Defensive metrics aren't as reliable as offensive metrics, but 2.5 years of data starts to have some validity.  Blake has gotten better defensively since coming to LA.

At 37 the chance of decline is quite real.  Blake is hit the ball with much less authority last year, and stuck out a lot more.  But Blake is only getting paid $5.25 million this year; about what a 1 WAR player would make.  Blake almost tripled that WAR last year.  The Dodgers have a team option on Blake for next year for $6 million dollars.  Unless Blake falls even farther this season I'd pick up the option.  Blake would have to be much worse to be worth less than $6 million, the Dodgers don't have any minor league third basemen ready to play next year, and the free agent third basemen (Aramis Ramirez & Mark DeRosa) have their own issues.

I've already said that Juan Uribe is my starting SS in 2012.  But that's not the big story here.  The big story at SS is the scrawny 5'11" 150 lb Dee Gordon.  Gordon is highly rated in most Dodger prospect lists and was rated #26 in Baseball America's Top 100 list for 2011.  Gordon's best asset, by far, is his speed.  Gordon stole 73 and 53 bases the last two seasons as well as hit 12 and 10 triples.  On defense he gets rave reviews for his quickness and range.

Unfortunately, that's where the consensus superlatives end.

There isn't a lot more to Gordon's game than his speed.  He's ok, not great, at limiting strikeouts (16%).  He doesn't really draw walks (6.5%).  He doesn't have much power (.385 SLG%) and he makes a lot of errors (101 over the last 3+ seasons).

The hope is that he can channel his athleticism to improve his defense and cut down on the errors.  The hope is that major league pitchers won't overpower the skinny kid since he's not a threat to hit the ball out of the park.  By the middle of 2012 we should have a chance to see Gordon in action (full time-I think LA will give him a look this year.  Hopefully not till September though) in the big leagues.

Once Gordon is called up Uribe can usurp Casey Blake at 3B or move back to second if DeJesus isn't cutting it.

Didn't take LA long to realize that LF was a mess this season.  The platoon between Jay Gibbons and Marcus Thames never hasn't yet materialized.  Gibbons has been on the DL all season because he can't see and Thames has been on the bench a lot because he can't move in LF and he can't hit right-handers (the former being a bigger problem than the later).

So the Dodgers called up prospect Jerry Sands.  I wrote a bit about Sands here.   Since then he hasn't exactly set the world on fire.  He's hitting just .133/.233/.269 but he has been able to walk (10%) and is seeing a lot of pitches (5.07 per PA).  He's been having some problems swinging out of the strike zone (34%) and making contact (15.6% swings and misses) but that's in only 30 trips to the plate.

I think LA called him up too soon, but he's the left fielder now and is unless he shows that he can't be.

Like left field, center field has one of LA's top prospects about ready to step in.  That prospect is Trayvon Robinson.

Trayvon doesn't always get highly ranked in prospect lists because he doesn't have any one skill that really stands out other than his speed (85 combined steals the last 2 seasons).  He looks to be a good defensive center fielder, though is arm is a question.  He has some power, though it'll probably be doubles (or triples) power in the big leagues.  He's shown good walk rates (14% in AA last year) but strikes out too much (around 28%).

Center fielders aren't typically sluggers.  In fact, the average center fielder hit almost exactly at the league average last season.  CFers hit .261/.326/.405 while the league average hitter hit .257/.325/.403.

Trayvon's career minor league triple slash stats are: .284/.357/.420 and .293/.399/.438 in a little over a season in AA.

Those numbers don't project to be quite at the level of an average major league hitter, but if he has plus range in center he can certainly still be a major league starter.  The strikeout rate is also a concern, as this article goes into detail about.

Since Trayvon isn't ready, and isn't a guarantee the Dodgers are going to need somebody else who can play center field.  I would be in favor of bringing Tony Gwynn jr back.  Gwynn jr is an excellent defender in CF.  He has a career URZ/150 of 16.1 as a center fielder.

His bat is another story, of course.  Gwynn jr's career wOBA is .293-well below average.  He does some things well though.  He walks about 10% of the time (8.5% is average) and strikes out only 17% of the tie (20% is average).  So he draws walks and puts the ball in play.  He, just doesn't put the ball in play hard.  Gwynn jr's career ISO and SLG% are just .073 and .319.

Even with his offensive deficiencies Gwynn jr has a been a 2+ WAR player  when playing everyday.  He signed with LA for $675,000 a year after putting up 2 WAR for the Padres.   He was coming off of a down year where he hit just .204/.304/.287 but that was with a .236 BABIP.  Gwynn is a better hitter than that.  Still, his defense is undervalued so he should be able to be paid less than the value he'll give.  He can start in CF for me for a season while we see what Robinson has to offer.

With Robinson, hopefully, manning CF for the foreseeable future, Matt Kemp needs a new home.  And that home is...

Matt Kemp has been the Dodger center fielder since 2008.  He has a career .290/.341/.479 line which is much better than what the average center fielder has put up.  Unfortunately, his defense doesn't play as well in CF.  Kemp's career UZR/150 in CF is -12.  Kemp has played 1200+ innings in RF and has a UZR/150 of -5.9.  He also has a very good arm, which should play well in RF.

Moving to RF will decrease Kemp's relative offensive value as the average RFer hit .270/.342/.442.  Kemp still comes out ahead though.  Kemp's career wOBA is .353 and that includes a terrible 2010.  If we say that Kemp is a true .350 wOBA hitter (I think he's higher and the early part of this season seems to agree) and a -6 defender in RF, then he's about a 3.5 WAR player playing full time in RF.

Kemp is in his second year of arbitration and earning about $7 million.  He's eligible for arbitration again in 2012.  If I'm in charge I'm signing Kemp to a long-term contract.  Using the same parameters I have used to analyze the contracts for Ryan Braun, Adrian Gonzalez and Clay Buchholz I get the approximate value that Kemp expects to add to the team to be $98 million over 5 years or $129 million over 7 years.  I'm not going to pay Kemp that since LA is assuming all of the risk.  I'm going to take 10% off and try and get Kemp to sign a deal around 5 years and $88 million.  If his season continues as monstrously as it has began we may have to adjust those numbers up.

That leaves us with the following players under contract and the following batting order:

I'm not going to go through and find all the bench players.  That's too dependent on who signs and doesn't sign, who get's non-tendered, who you can pick in the Rule V draft, etc...

I will say that the Dodgers haven't had much on the bench in the way of bats the last few seasons.  I'd like to add a couple guys who can pinch hit late in the game and be a threat to hit one out.

Look for another post in the near future about what I'd do with the pitching staff.

*Contract data from Cot's.
*Stats from FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dodger Pitchers Oh So Close

On Wednesday Dodgers' minor leaguer Jon Ely had this line through 6 and 2/3 innings of a double-header-shortened AAA game:
6 2/3 innings, 0 hits, 0 runs, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts.

He ended the game with this line:
7 innings, 1 hit, 0 runs, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts.

Ely was one out away from a (shortened) no-hitter.

On Thursday Dodgers' ace Clayton Kershaw had this line through 8 and 2/3 innings of a game against the Braves:
8 2/3 innings, 2 hits, 1 run, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts.

He ended the game with this line:
8 2/3 innings, 5 hits, 3 runs, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts

After giving up this bloop of a hit on a decent pitch that jammed Ross.

Kershaw was one out away from a complete game victory.

We won both games but each one could have been a little bit more special.

Ryan Braun: Contract Analysis

The Milwaukee Brewers agreed with Ryan Braun on a 5 year $105 million extension.

Braun is somewhat of an underrated, or possibly unknown since he plays in Milwaukee, player.  According to FanGraphs, Braun is:
9th in wRC+
11th in wOBA
4th in slugging
10th in ISO
10th in home runs (if you're into stats like that)
since coming up in 2007.

The offense is excellent, but defense...

Braun was a disaster at 3B in his rookie season.  Posting a UZR of -27 while making 26, wait.  Really?  26 errors.

Braun is no gold glover in LF but is much closer to being adequate with a career UZR of -7 there.

Braun is 26th in total WAR over the last 4 seasons and would be higher if not for the poor defensive showing his rookie season.

Braun's seasonal WAR
2007: 2.8
2008: 4.6
2009: 4.9
2010: 4.2

The stats I posted above show that Braun is a slugger but he is a pretty complete hitter otherwise.  He walks close to 8 percent of the time, about average, while striking out about 20% of the time-and has been improving that area of his game steadily.

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Braun looks like a pretty safe offensive force going forward.

Braun signed an 8 year $45 million extension in May of 2008, his 2nd year.  That contract bought out all of Braun's arbitration years and 2 free agent years.

The new contract technically overwrites the old contract, though the dollar amounts for the years 2011-2015 are the same (some monies might be deferred).

The original contract was an excellent one.  Assuming 5% salary inflation, $5 million per WAR and Braun as a 4.5 WAR player through his age 30 season, the original contract would have provided the Brewers with $53 million in savings (discluding the $10 million signing bonus).

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Using the same assumptions, the new contract has the Brewers overpaying by about $9 million (call it even if you add in the signing bonus).  Usually teams take discounts on long-term contracts to insure against risk of injury, decline, world-wide financial crisis, etc.

So I'm not really sure why the Brewers made this deal now.  They already had Braun locked in for the next 4 seasons and they are paying him what can reasonably be expected to be his market value for the 5 seasons after that.  They could have waited until the previous deal expired and likely signed Braun to a similar contract with less risk if Braun fails to perform or is injured.

Braun IS just 27 this year.  Perhaps the Brewers feel that he will over perform the 4.5 WAR estimate.  If Braun is a 5 WAR player the contract would save the Brewers $10 million over the second half of the contract.

Perhaps the Brewers feel that 5% inflation is too low.  At 7% they would save $3 million and at 10% they would save $23 million.

The Brewers must see something that I don't for this extension to make a lot of sense.

*Stats from FanGraphs
*Contract data from Cot's

Other Contract Reviews:
Adrian Gonzalez
Clay Buchholz

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Debut Review: Jerry Sands

The LA Dodgers called up OF/1B prospect Jerry Sands today.  Count me in with those who believe that it is too early and a panic move by the Dodgers who are seeing that the Marcony Thynn jr thing isn't really working out in LF.

The Dodgers have scored 52 runs in 16 games which (starts to look up the ranking, gets lazy) isn't very good at all.

Dodger left fielders are 16 for 64 on the season with 2 walks, 10 strike outs, and 2 RBI.  They have a triple slash line (batting average, on base percentage, slugging) of .250/.273/.344.

Meanwhile, Jerry Sands was lighting up AAA with a .400/.422/.875 line.   That's 45 trips to the plate with 5 home runs, 17 RBI, 3 walks and 3 strikeouts.

Sands was a 757th (25th round) pick by the Dodgers in 2008 out of Catawba College.  His first year in rookie ball was unimpressive.  He hit .205/.346/.438 while striking out 43 times in 185 plate appearances (29%).   Sands got 185 more times at bat in rookie ball.  This time he hit .350/.427/.687 with only 28 strikeouts (17%).  He was moved to A ball where he ended the season hitting .260/.361/.510 while striking out 30% of the time.  He started out 2009 in A ball again and, like his second go round in rookie ball, he showed vast improvement, hitting .333/.432/.646 while cutting his strikeouts to 25%.  He was called up to AA where he hit .270/.360/.529.  In 2010 combined sands hit .301/.395/.586 with 35 home runs to put himself on the radar for 2011.  In Sands' total minor league career (so far) he's hit .294/.390/.584 while striking out 21% of the time.

Sands has shown the ability to hit for power and draw walks in the minor leagues.  The strikeout rate is high, but not unacceptable for a power hitter.  One concern is that Sands has always been a bit old for his level.  Sands was 20/21 in rookie ball and 21/22 in A ball.  I was looking forward to this year as a 23 year old in AAA to see how he fared against more age appropriate competition.

Now, we'll see how he does against grizzled major league vets like Tim Hudson of the Braves.

In Sands' first major league at bat he had runner James Loney at first base.  Hudson started him with a 92MPH sinker which Sands fouled off.  Hudson followed that up with another 92MPH sinker, this one low and inside, which Sands again fouled off.  Sands down 0 - 2 in the count.  Hudson threw a 85MPH cutter way outside which Sands took for ball 1.  Hudson came back with another sinker, this one pretty much down the middle, which Sands took the opposite way for a double.   Last season all hitters combined to hit .170/.199/.251 after starting the count 0-2.

In his second at bat, Sands came up with runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out.  Hudson came with a splitter low and away which got away from McCann and moved Loney to 2nd base.  Hudson came back with a sinker in nearly the same location as the one Sands hit in his first at bat.  Sands struck this one well and flied out to deep right allowing Juan Uribe to score from 3rd.

In his third trip, Sands came up with 1 out and nobody on.  Sands got ahead in the count 3-1 before fouling off a sinker low and in and a slider away.  He then struck out on a slider low and outside.

In his fourth and final time up, Sands faced Braves reliver Jairo Asencio who started him off with a changeup high and inside for ball 1.  The next pitch was a fastball down the middle that Sands fouled off.  Sands watched a curveball low and away for a ball before fouling off a changeup that caught a lot of plate.  Sands swung through a pretty nasty changeup at the knees for strike 3.

It's hard to make much out of 4 at bats, but Sands drove the ball against a pretty good pitcher in Tim Hudson though both balls were hit to RF.  In his second two at bats he fouled off a few hittable pitches before striking out.  He didn't chase many pitches out of the zone; only a good slider by Hudson.

Certainly not a bad debut for Mr. Sands, man.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Adrian Gonzalez: Contract Analysis


The Boston Red Sox and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez finally came to a contract extension agreement.  The deal is reported to be worth 7 years and $154 million.  That's 154 followed by one million 0's.  No, actually it isn't.  But it is a lot of money.

I recently looked at the Sox' extension with Clay Buchholz and I'm going to take a similar look here.

Gonzalez has shown a pretty steady climb during his formative years with the Padres.

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Doesn't get much more consistent than that.  How this leveling off is going to go is anyone's guess but if we take a standard aging model and give Gonzo two more seasons of steady production before a half WAR decline once he reaches age 31 (in 2013) and we assume the same $5 million per WAR and 5% inflation as we did with Buchholz, we'll get the following chart.

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The Actual Salary for 2011 includes Gonzo's $5.5 million salary for the year plus the $6 million signing bonus.

Under these parameters Gonzo would provide the Red Sox with 33.5 WAR over the life of the contract. The market value of the WAR would be $194.3 million with the Red Sox paying only $159.5 million.  The $35 million Projected Savings represents the risk that the Red Sox take on.  If Gonzo's shoulder falls apart tomorrow they are still on the hook for almost $160 million.  From here, it looks like a pretty fair deal for both sides.

There is still the issue of the market.  What is the going rate for slugging first basemen?  With Buchholz we could look at his teammate Jon Lester's deal.  With Gonzalez we will look to the Red Sox' mortal enemy, the New York Yankees.

Prior to the 2009 season the Yankees signed their version of Gonzalez, Mark Teixeira, to an 8 year $180 million contract.  Teixeira was 29 in the season following his contract.  Teixeira and Gonzalez are pretty similar players as the following graph shows.

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The only real difference in their total production is that during Teixeira's age 23 season he played a full season and put up 2 WAR while at age 23 Gonzalez only played 46 games.  At age 24 Teixeira and Gonzo both played full seasons.  Teixeira put up 4.5 WAR and Gonzalez 3.9 WAR.  They've been pretty equal ever since.

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A couple of things to note.  First, the $/WAR rate in 2009 was lower-about $4.5 million.  Second, the actual $/WAR in 2010 dropped to $4 million instead of increasing 5%.  Teixeira was coming off a 7+WAR season in 2008 when he signed the deal.

Gonzalez' deal looks to be a bit better than Teixeira's.  The Yankees are over paying $5 million compared to the Red Sox saving $35 million.

One other thing to remember though, the Red Sox traded for Gonzalez (giving up prospects) while the Yankees signed Teix as a free agent (surrendering 2 draft picks).  The 'cost' of the prospects could be subtracted from the Red Sox' side of the ledger (but not added to Gonzalez' side, certainly).  And the Yankees are made out of money.

Given that, the two deals look pretty equal.

One deal that doesn't look equal is the Ryan Howard deal.

In February of 2009 the Phillies and Howard agreed to a 3-year $54 million deal that covered Howard's 2nd and 3rd arbitration years and first year of free agency.  Then, one year later, the Philles gave Howard another deal worth $125 million over 5 years.  Let's look at that deal.

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*Note: The Phillies have a $25 million option for 2017 with a $10 million buyout.  The graph assumes the Phillies decline the option.

It looks a lot different.  Using the same parameters as the Teixeira deal (the deals were signed the same year) we get the Phillies coming out almost $40 million in the red.  There are a few reasons for this.

First, Howard isn't as good as Teixeira and Gonzalez.

You can see that Howard's graph is nowhere near Teixeira's and is getting farther apart over time.  He's closer to Gonzalez', but only because of a monster year at age 26.  The gap widens every other year.

Also, Howard's deal covered 2 of his arbitration years.  Remember that in the second two years of arbitration players generally get 60 and 80 percent of their market value.

The Phillies will most likely regret this deal...well...now...but will really regret in when the the deal starts NEXT YEAR.

*Stats from FanGraphs
*Contract data from Cot's and BleacherReport 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Phillies' Rotation 11 Games In

There was a little bit of talk about the Phillies' rotation heading into this season.

After 10 games the results have been a bit disappointing.  The starters are:

5 - 3 5.04 ERA, 55.1 innings, 63 hits, 4 HR, 11 walks, 56 strikeouts.

That ERA is 24th in the league.  Not what Phillies phans were expecting.  It's only 10 games so there's no reason to throw in the towel yet.  Especially if we look a little bit closer at how the Phillies' starters are pitching.

ERA is a terrible way to judge a pitcher, let's look at some other stats.

Philles starters have struck out the most batters per nine innings in the majors; striking out batters 30% more often than the league average.
They have walked the least batter per nine innings in the majors; walking batters at only 55% of the league average.
They, obviously, have the best strikeout to walk ratio in the majors; 138% better than the league average.
Their FIP is the best in the league at 73% of the league average.

The Phillies' starters are dominating in most of the things that usually make pitchers successful.

The only thing that they are lagging in, and they are really lagging, is in BABIP.  The Phillies' starters have the 2nd worst BABIP in the league; 22% worse than the league average.

It is unlikely, to the point of near impossibility, that this will continue.

You can see that Lee, Hamels, and Blanton's BABIPs are impossibly higher than their career BABIPs while Halladay's is right in line and Oswalt's is much lower.

Based on the batted ball rates (GB, FB, LD, IFFB) and typical BABIPs on those batted balls (.240, .140, .740, .40) we'd expect the Phillies' starters to have a total BABIP of .311.  That'd rank them much closer to the middle of the pack and would take away a lot of those runs that have been given up.

R2C2 is going to be fine.

Plus, it's not like the bad BABIPs are killing the 7 - 3 Phillies in the standings.

Chase Utley's knee is still the biggest reason that Phillies fans have to worry.

H/T to Grandstander

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Clay Buchholz: Contract Analysis

The Boston Red Sox signed the guy in the picture above to a $30 million extension today.  That guy is Clay Buchholz.

I wrote about Buchholz' superb 2010 and projection for 2011 here.

I wrote that Buchholz isn't really as good a pitcher as his 2010 made him look due to some BABIP and LOB% luck.

So, did Buchholz get lucky with this extension or did he earn it?

One thing to look at is his partner in crime, Jon Lester.  Lester signed a similar deal after his breakout 2008 season.

Let's compare:
Buchholz 2010: 17-7, 2.33 ERA, 28 starts, 173.2 innings
Lester 2008: 16-6 3.21 ERA, 33 starts, 210.1 innings

At first glance, those would appear to be similar seasons.  Excellent win-loss records.  Buchholz a lower ERA, but Lester with a lot more innings.

Let's look at those seasons less superficially though:
Buchholz 2010: 6.22 K/9, 3.46 BB/9, 50.8% Ground Balls, 3.61 FIP, 84 FIP-, 3.7 WAR
Lester 2008: 6.50 K/9, 2.20 BB/9, 47.5% Ground Ball, 3.64 FIP, 81 FIP-, 5.1 WAR

So, they are coming off of two pretty similar seasons.  They are also at similar points in their careers.  In March 2009 (When Lester signed his extension), Lester had 350+ innings and 59 career starts (and one victory over leukemia).  Buchholz came into 2011 with 360+ innings and 62 career starts.

Lester's deal was structured like:
Y1 (2010) 3.75 million
Y2 5.75 million
Y3 7.625 million
Y4 11.625 million
Y5 13 million team option (250 K buyout)

Buchholz' deal will be something like:
Y1 (2012) 3.5 million
Y2 5.5 million
Y3 7.7 million
Y4 12 million
Y5 13 million team option
Y6 13.5 million team option

Again, quite similar.  The guaranteed money is basically identical (not factoring for inflation) while the Red Sox get an extra option year on Buchholz' deal.

The reaction to Lester's deal was very favorable at the time of the extension.  As it should have been as the extension has basically turned into gold.

Lester 2006-2008: 59 starts, 354 innings, 6.65 K/9, 3.55 BB/9, 4.13 FIP, 91 FIP-, 6.9 WAR
Lester 2009-2010: 64 starts, 411 innings, 9.85 K/9, 3.22 BB/9, 3.14 FIP, 71 FIP-, 11.9 WAR

According to FanGraphs' WAR to Dollar Conversion, Lester has been worth $50.9 million since signing the contract, while earning only $4.75 million.  Not a bad investment.  Lester could...bow out now...and the Red Sox would have had a net positive for the deal.  Everything that he added since the first couple of months of the 2010 season is gravy.

But this is about Clay Buchholz, who is not Jon Lester.

Buchholz entered the 2011 season with 2 years and 59 days of service time, according to Cot's (which means it is probably accurate).  If Buchholz manages a full season in 2011 then he would be eligible for arbitration following the 2011 season.  In their first year of arbitration players generally receive about 40% of their market value.  This is followed by 60% in the second year and 80% in the third year.

If we project Buchholz more pessimistically than what Lester achieved, and say that Buchholz remains about a 4 WAR pitcher until he turns 30 then decreases by half a win after that and we assume a $/WAR of $5 million this year with 5% inflation, then we get the following chart.

*Click to make bigger

Given those parameters, Buchholz would provide 22.5 WAR worth a total of $107 million, while being paid only $55.2 million-a bit more than half of that.  So, Buchholz really only has to generate around 11 WAR to earn the contract.

This is where the option years come in.  The Red Sox guaranteed only $30 million to Buchholz.  If, Buchholz is only putting up 2 WAR seasons between 2012 and 2015 then he will have provided the Red Sox with about $32 million in value, while being paid $30 million.  The Red Sox would then decline the options, and still would have broken even on the contract.  Barring injury, it is very difficult to imagine Buchholz not being at least a 2 WAR pitcher.

Of course, there is the possibility that Buchholz gets injured tomorrow and never pitches for the Red Sox again.  In that case the Red Sox lose out on $30 million.

So the Red Sox are gambling at most $30 million on the the more likely possibility to come out $50 million ahead.  Smart move.

Not bad for Buchholz to put $30 mils in the bank either.

Now, go outside and sling some baseballs through that old tire you have set up in the backyard. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fili's GOD for April 6th 2011: Tampa Rays vs LA Angels of Anaheim

Today's Game Of the Day is the Tampa Rays vs the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  

The Tampa Rays burst into prominence in 2008 when they exorcised the word 'Devil' from their name and won the AL East with 31 more wins than they had the previous season. 

This year Tampa is off to a poor (0 - 4) start and what better way to get off of the schneid than by returning to their devilish roots and starting Hellboy himself, Jeremy Hellickson.  And they are, you know, playing the Angles.


Hellickson is one of a seemingly infinite number of top prospects in the Rays' system.  In 580 career minor league innings, Hellboy has a 2.71 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 9.8 K/9.  

Hellickson displayed the same dominance in 36 major league innings last year.  3.47 ERA, 1.98 BB/9 and 8.17 K/9.  

Hellickson doesn't have the amazing fastball featured by many top prospects.  His fastball clocked in at about 92 MPH last season.  His devastating pitch is his changeup.  Hellickson through the changeup about 29% of the time last season, one of the highest rates in the league.  In contrast he threw his fastball only 53% of the time, one of the lower rates in the league.  

In the small sample, Hellickson's change saved 2.96 runs per 100 pitches.  If he had that rate for a full season he would have had the 3rd most effective changeup in the majors last year.  Behind only Felix Hernandez and Shawn Marcum.

Hellickson also throws a curve (17%, -.94 runs saved per 100) and a pitch labeled as a cutter, though that may be just noise since it was only thrown 1% of the time.

Hellickson shows good stuff with a 73% contact rate (88% league average) and 13% whiff rate (9% league average).  

Hellickson had some trouble with lefties last year (5.63 FIP vs L, 2.22 FIP vs R).  That's a very small sample though and it shouldn't be expected to continue so dramatically since changeups are usually effective against opposite handed hitters.  The Angels don't have much in the way of left-handed bats (sorry Bobby Abreu and switch-hitting Maicer Izturis). 

Whether or not Hellickson dominates tonight, expect him to have a good season and career.  

Hellickson isn't the only player going tonight.

The Angels' Dan Haren is an outstanding pitcher as well.  Haren had a down year last year; 3.91 ERA and 3.71 FIP compared to 3.23 and 3.12 over the last 2 years.  

Johnny Damon will be DHing (with good reason).


Hellickson was pretty awesome.  He struck out 5 in the first 2 innings, and 10 of the 25 batters that he faced while walking only 2.  He did give up a jack to Alberto Callaspo.

Brooks Baseball says Hellickson:
threw 99 pitches
38 fastballs, 24 for strikes, 2 swinging strikes at an average of 89.5 MPH
30 changeups, 19 for strikes, 8 swinging strikes
26 curveballs, 20 for strikes, 9 swinging strikes
5 cutters, 1 for a strike

Excellent mixing of his pitches.  Excellent strike rates and excellent swinging strike rates.

Hellboy didn't disappoint even though Tampa drops to 0 - 5.

There was another amazing game.

I only got to see Jeff Francis deal to a couple of hitters while taking a quick break from shingling my Grandfather's house.  I missed a doozy of an ending.

The biggest play, in terms of WPA, was Carlos Quinten's double with the Sox down 1 with 2 outs in the top of the ninth facing Royal's closer Joakim Soria with 2 strikes.

When the at bat started, the Royals had an 83% chance of winning.  After Quinten's hit, the [i]Sox[/i] had an 83% chance of winning.  Talk about turning the game in your favor.

The entire ninth inning was insane.  When the inning started the Royals were up 6 - 3.  They had a 96.5% chance of winning.
AJ Pierzynski grounded out.  98.5% chance of Royals winning
Morel grounded out.  99.6% chance of Royals winning
Pierre single. 98.8%
Beckham walk. 96.6%
Rios single scores Pierre (6-4). 92%
Konerko single scores Beckham (6-5). 83.4%
Quentin double scores Beckham and Lillibridge (6-7). 17.4%
Ramirez flies out. 20.8%

Gordon strikes out.  11.7%
Butler singles. 21.6%
Dyson steals 2nd. 28.7%
Ka'aihue double scores Dyson. (7-7) Royals now have a 70.2% chance of winning.
Francoeur walks. 71.1%
Escobar grounds into a fielder's choice. 64%
Pena grouns out. 50%

That is absolute madness.  The Royals went from 99.6% chance of winning to a 88.3% chance of losing to a 71% chance of winning to even odds-in one inning.

Baseball is awesome.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Debut Review: Alexi Ogando and Michael Pineda

Two interesting pitchers made their debuts as major league starters today.

The Texas Rangers' Alexi Ogando

and the Seattle Mariners' Michael Pineda.

Ogando pitched in relief for the Rangers last year while Pineda is one of the Mariners top prospects.

I said this earlier today:
An interesting game today that, unfortunately, I'll be too busy to either watch or keep tabs on:
Seattle at Texas. While Texas is really good and Seattle, likely isn't, both teams will start pitchers making their first career starts. 
Alexi Ogando starts for Texas while Michael Pineda goes for the Mariners. 
One specific thing to watch will be how both pitchers fair against left-handed hitters. As is the case with most young pitchers, both have explosive fastballs and questionable secondary offerings. Those 'secondary offerings' are change-ups in both cases. 
Ogando used his change up only 5% of the time last season as a reliever. It rated as a basically average pitch according to FanGraphs' pitch type values. Alexi Ogando » Statistics » Pitching | FanGraphs BaseballOgando dominated right-handed batters to the tune of 10.4K/9, 2.2BB/9 and a 2.07 FIPLeft-handed hitters were a different story: 4.15K/9, 6.23BB/9 and a 5.23 FIP.The raw numbers:vs L: 58 batters faced, 11 hits, 9 walks, 6 K'svs R: 113 batters faced, 20 hits, 7 walks, 33 K'sOgando will have to face a few lefties today including: Ichiro, Jack Cust, Milton Bradley, Ryan Langerhans or Michael Saunders, Justin Smoak, Chone Figgins, and Adam Kennedy.
Pineda will have to face a few lefties as well: Josh Hamilton, Mitch Moreland, Julio Borbon, and David Murphy.
How their off-speed pitches are working will go a long way to determining how successful they are against these lineups.
So, how'd they do?

Ogando pitched 6 innings giving up 2 hits, 2 walks and striking out 4.  He held Seattle scoreless.
Pineda pitched 6 innings giving up 5 hits, 1 walk and striking out 4.  He gave up 3 runs.

They both pitched pretty well.  My main concern was how they would fare against left-handed batters.

Ogando allowed 4 base runners, all of them left-handed.  However, most of Seattle's lineup was left-handed, so it's not surprising that he'd give up some hits to lefties.
Single to Bradley, BB to Cust, 2B to Kennedy, BB to Bradley

Pineda allowed 5 base runners, 3 of them left-handed.
Pineda: 3B to Moreland, 2B to Moreland, 1B to Kinsler-R, 2B to Hamilton, 2B to Young-R
Righties were were 2 - 17 with a walk and 3 strikeouts.
Lefties were 3 - 7 with 2 doubles and a triple.  Moreland isn't a great hitter but a lot of guys have given up doubles (or more) to Hamilton.

This isn't enough data to confirm that either pitcher will struggle with lefties, but let's take a look at how they approached them.

First Ogando,
According to Brooks Baseball, Ogando threw 78 pitches: 49 fastballs (63%), 28 sliders (36%), and a single change-up (1%).   According to FanGraphs, last year Ogando threw fastballs 64% of the time, sliders 31% of the time, and change-ups 5% of the time.  Interesting that he pitched almost exactly the same as a starter as he did out of the pen.  That's one way to eliminate concerns over his change-up; don't throw it.

It appears that the change-up that Ogando threw was the first pitch to Chone Figgins in Figgins' at bat in the 6th inning.  It was a ball clocked at 84 MPH.  He followed that up with a 93 MPH fastball for a strike, a 83 MPH slider for a ball, and another fastball that was grounded back to Ogando.

Ogando's fastball averaged 94 MPH with a high of 96 MPH.  Last season his fastball averaged 96.3 MPH.  A two MPH drop is reasonable when going from the bullpen to the rotation.  Ogando's slider averaged 79.5 tonight compared to 81.9 last season.

As for Pineda,
Brooks Baseball shows Pineda throwing 73 pitches in his 6 innings.  46 of them were fastballs and the other 27 were sliders.  Pineda completely avoided throwing any off speed pitches.

Pineda's fastball averaged 93.9 MPH while maxing out at 97.7.  His slider came in at 83.3 MPH on average.

It appears that both teams shared the concerns about their young pitchers' tertiary offerings, and didn't have them throw them.  Today, their stuff was good enough that they could get away with it.  At some point both guys will have to expand their repertoire to continue to have success as starters.