Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Trade Review: Carlos Beltran

The San Francisco Giants acquired Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets in exchange for Zack Wheeler.  

The Giants' offense is the worst in the National League by wRC+ (83) and Beltran was the best hitter available.  The Giants' outfielders have combined for a 101 wRC+ on the season.  Beltran's wRC+ this year is 152, so he's an obvious improvement.

I'm not sure what current outfielder is going to lose the most playing time.  Beltran used to play CF but those days appear to be past him.  All of his games in '11 have been in RF and most defensive metrics rate him as an average fielder there.  That means he's unlikely to displace Torres and Rowand in CF.  That leaves Schierholz, Ross, and Burrell.  All are hitting similarly on the season:
Ross: .342, .404, 108
Schierholz: .326, .438, 109
Burrell: .342, .419, 113

Schierholz has a reputation as a good defensive player.  His career UZR/150 is 12.
Burrell has a reputation as a poor defensive player.  His career UZR/150 is -6.6.
Ross has a reputation as an average defensive player.  His career UZR/150 is -1.1

Nice when it works out like that.

Those number don't quite hold up for this season, as Schierholz has a -2 UZR, Ross has a -17 UZR and Burrell has a -13 UZR.  But, larger samples are more reliable.

What's likely is that Beltran will continue in RF while Schierholz and Ross/Burrell platoon in LF.  Using that assumption Beltran will provide the Giants with about 2.2 WAR (assuming he continues performing at his current pace).  The other 3 Giants OFers were on pace to provide an additional 1.2 WAR over the rest of the season.

Using that, the trade looks to give the Giants 1 additional win over the season.  Since Beltran is a free agent after the season that is his total value to the team.

The Giants have a 3.5 game lead on the Diamondbacks and coolstandings gives them a 68% chance of winning their division.  Adding another win only increases these odds.

But, this trade wasn't really made for this regular season.  While the Giants' offense has been the worst in the NL, their pitching has been the best (behind the Philadelphia Phillies).  This trade was made with the playoffs in mind.  Instead of hoping for Ssory Doc style heroics, Giants GM Brian Sabean, is trying to force the action by adding to the Giants lineup.

What's a run at back-to-back World Championships worth?

Zack Wheeler.

Wheeler was regarded as the Giants' #1 or #2 prospect with Brandon Belt being the other.  Wheeler was the 6th pick in the 2009 draft.  His minor league career has been brief but intriguing.  In 146.6 innings he has a 3.99 ERA (3.99 in 2010 and also 2011) 5.2 BB/9 (13%) and 10.2 K/9 (26%).   His stuff is loved by the scouts but the control hasn't been where you'd want it to be from a top prospect.

All pitching prospects are dicey propositions.  Especially those who are 20 years old, pitching in A-ball and having control issues.

Still, the Mets did good to wrest him away from the Giants.  Beltran had little value to the Mets the rest of the way.  The Giants felt they had to take a chance to put themselves in position to win another WS.  With Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner they could afford to move another young pitcher.  The Mets are taking a chance with a high-upside pitcher.  They were able to increase his value as he was the best player available and could pit teams against each other in the bidding.

Wheeler was a steep price to pay for 2 months of Beltran but it was an aggressive move.  The Mets maximized their return.  No guarantees that this deal works out for either team, but neither team can really be faulted for making it.  

Ervin Santana: An Odd, Yet, Not So Odd, No-No

Back in May Francisco Liriano threw an odd no-hitter.  

Today, it was Ervin Santana's turn.

Santana's no-hitter looks a lot more like Verlander's than Liriano's, yet, it was still a bit odd in that the Angels gave up a run.  The first-inning run was unearned and scored on an error, stolen base, sac fly, and wild pitch.

Using batted ball FIP, we can see that Verlander was expected to give up about 1.4 runs based on the balls hit against him while Liriano was expected to give up closer to 4 and a half runs.

How about Santana.  Santana pitched 9 innings (obviously), facing 29 batters, he walked 1 while striking out 10.  Of his 104 pitches, 74 were strikes (71%).  He induced 13 ground balls, 3 flies and 0 line drives.  Plugging those numbers in gives us an expected run total of 0.29.  

Santana was obviously in control.  

The major league average BABIP on ground balls is about .140.  Santana gave up 13 grounders so we'd expect 1.82 (.140*13) hits.  There were none of course; thanks to good defensive plays like this one from Howie Kendrick.   

Of the three no-hitters this season, Santana's looks like the most well-pitched.  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Trade Review: Jonny Gomes

The Washington Nationals have acquired Johnny Gomes from the Cincinnati Reds.  In return, the Reds receive Bill Rhinehart and Chris Manno.

This move doesn't make much sense from the Nationals' perspective.  Gomes isn't what you would call a talented baseball player.  His best season was worth 2.7 fWAR, and that was 6 seasons ago.  In the 6 and 2/3 seasons since then he's been worth a total of 1.6 fWAR.  He has some power and can bash lefties, but the Nationals aren't in contention this season and Gomes is a free agent after the season.

Gomes [I]may[/I] be a type B free agent after the season.  If (1) that is so, and if (2) the Nationals offer him arbitration, and if (3) he accepts, and if (4) another team signs him to a major league contract, the Nationals would receive a supplemental draft pick in the 2012 draft.  The Nationals could feel that the value of that pick exceeds the value of the players given up but that's at least 4 'if's' connected to a maybe.  

The most interesting part of this trade is that the Reds have called up Yonder Alonso to replace Gomes on the Roster.

I was hoping that the Dodgers would acquire Alonso to replace James Loney at first base.  Yonder Alonso (is an awesome name) has shown the ability to draw walks while avoiding strikeouts and hitting for some power during his minor league career.  He has a career .364/.478 line in 854 AAA plate appearances.   That translates to something like a .310/.400 line in the major leagues.  Over the last 3 plus seasons Loney is hitting .335/.396.  Alonso would likely give equivalent production for 1/10th the cost.  

Gomes had started 51 of Cincinnati's 102 games in LF.  Fred Lewis and Chris Heisey had been getting more playing time recently though.  Alonso won't be displacing Joey Votto from first base any time soon (save for injury) so it remains to be seen how the Reds employ Alonso.  

A quick note on the two guys the Nats traded away:
Bill Rhinehart is a 26 year old OF/1B who has never shown much ability to hit until this season.
Chris Manno is a 22 year old left-hander who strikes out 40% of the 19 year olds he faces in A-ball.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Jamie Garcia: Contract Analysis

The St. Louis Cardinals signed pitcher Jamie Garcia to a 4-year $27.5 million contract.

*wikipedia commons

Garcia has been excellent in his first two seasons in the bigs.  He's a combined 23-12 with a 3.06 ERA in 57 games (48 starts) covering 296 and 2/3 innings.  But those stats aren't nearly enough to tell the story.

In 2010 Garcia struck out 7.3 batters per 9 innings; 3% better than the league average of 7.1 per 9.  He walked 3.5 batters per 9 innings; 6% worse than the league average of 3.3 per 9.

So for in 2011 Garcia has struck out 7.7 batters per 9 innings; 10% better than the league average of 7 per 9.  He has walked 2.5 per 9 innings; 19% better than the league average of 3.1 per 9.

While his strike outs and walks are around the league average his real strength is in his ability to generate ground balls.  In 2010 he got ground balls 25% more often than the league average (55% to 44%) and in 2011 he his getting ground balls 23% more often than the league average (54% to 44%).

Ground balls, of course, have the advantage of being extremely difficult to hit for home runs.  Garcia gives up .6 home runs per 9 innings; only 2/3rds as often as the league average.

This adds up to a very good pitcher.

Garcia's 2010 FIP was 3.41; 12% better than the league average.  In 2011 he's been even better.  His 2.98 FIP is 19% better than the league.

Garcia's tERA, which is becoming my favorite stat for pitchers because of its use of batted ball trajectory, was 3.63 in 2010 and has dropped to 3.06 in 2011.

So, what's he worth?

In 2010 he was paid $400,000.  In 2011 he'll be paid $437,000.  According to FanGraphs he provided $12.6 million in 2010 and $11.5 million thus far in 2011.  Obviously, he was worth a bit more than he was getting paid, but we aren't worried about the past, we want to know how this contract looks going forward.

Garica is on pace for about 4 WAR this season.  As a young pitcher who is likely to be improving we'll begin by assuming that he will pick up 4.5 WAR in 2012 and become a 5 WAR pitcher after that.  Also assuming the cost of a win at $5 million with 5% salary inflation we get the following chart.

*Click to make bigger

I'm not sure of the actual details of Garcia's contract other than it has 4 years guaranteed at $27.5 million.  There are also two additional team option years-which I've chosen to ignore for now (though I would guess that they are in the $15 to $20 million range).  It's important to remember that 2012-2014 are Garcia's arbitration eligible years.  As such, I have discounted the WAR$ column by 60% in 2012, 40% in 2013 and 20% in 2014.

Our assumptions have Garcia producing 19.5 WAR worth almost $80 million over the guaranteed part of the contract with the Cardinals only paying him $27.5 million-great deal for the Cardinals, right?  Well, yes.  But remember they are now assuming all of the risk.  If Garcia is injured tomorrow and never throws another pitch or comes down with Steve Blass-itis they are on the hook for all $27 million.

This deal is pretty similar to two contacts the Red Sox agreed to with two of their young pitchers, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. I looked at those contracts here.

All of the above deals look like good deals for the teams and guaranteeing your first $30 million isn't bad  for the player either.

Other Contracts Reviewed:
Ryan Braun
Adrian Gonzalez (& Mark Teixeira and Ryan Howard)

Stats from: Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs

Albuquerquian Kyle Weiland joins the major leagues

Former Eldorado High School pitcher, and native Albuquerquian, Kyle Weiland has joined the Major Leagues and the Boston Red Sox.

His first game with Boston wasn't perfect, but it was interesting.  Kyle game up 6 runs and 8 hits in 4 innings while walking 2 and striking out 2 (video of his first major league K).  In the 5th inning he was ejected for hitting Vladamir Gurrero with a pitch.

He might not stay in Boston long this season, but congratulations are in order.

Kyle Weiland on Baseball-Reference
Kyle Weiland on Wikipedia

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Yakety Sax: New York Yankees (6/19/11)

This Yakety Sax moment brought to you by the left side of the New York Yankees infield.


And listen: