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Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Friday, December 17, 2004

News links 

Buster Olney of ESPN's Productive Outs infamy analyzes the major deals of the off season ... sort of. I must have missed his analysis of the Lieber and Lofton deals, because I refuse to believe the Lee-Podsednik trade was bigger than Lieber or Lofton.

SI's Tom Verducci annoints the winners and losers over at SI.com.

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Now we've got a battle... 

The NL East: blockbuster trades, massive contracts, abortive stadium deals … the NL East is in the news in a big way this week.

The Braves … I tip my hat to our friends down in Atlanta: getting Hudson, moving Smoltz back into the rotation … I think these guys upgraded their starting rotation, just when I thought they were going to suffer a downgrade with Russ Ortiz and Jared Wright leaving. The Braves will have to replace Drew’s bat, but their pitching staff is better now than it was last year.

Hudson: 3.64 FIP ERA; 2.58 G/F ratio; 4.9 K/9; 16 Win Shares (6 WSAA)
Smoltz: 2.75 FIP ERA; 1.41 G/F ratio; 9.4 K/9; 12 Win Shares (4WSAA)*
* in relief

Ortiz: 4.83 FIP ERA; 1.11 G/F/ ratio; 6.3 K/9; 11Win Shares (1 WSAA)
Wright: 3.31 FIP ERA; 1.30 G/F ratio; 7.7 K/9; 13 Win Shares (4 WSAA)

Smoltz’s numbers are a little off because he came out of the bullpen, but he’ll pitch at least as well as Jared Wright did. Meanwhile, Hudson is a massive upgrade on Russ Ortiz.

How good is Hudson going to be? Scary good. Hudson is just 29, entering his prime as a pitcher and I think he’ll be a great one: 20+ wins, sub-3.00 ERA good. His ERA spiked slightly in 2004, but Hudson had a sub-3.00 ERA playing in the American league in 2003 and 2002. That’s why I think Hudson’s going to be great in Atlanta, pitching in a pitcher’s park like Turner Field, playing with a decent defense behind him, and no longer having to face off with a DH.

Hudson is stingy with surrendering home runs and has a terrific strikeout-to-walk ratio:

HRs per 9 Innings / K-to-BB ratio
1999: 0.5 / 2.13
2000: 1.1 / 2.06
2001: 0.8 / 2.55
2002: 0.7 / 2.45
2003: 0.6 / 2.66
2004: 0.4 / 2.34

Will Hudson stay in Atlanta (he’s a free agent after the 2005 season)? I’d assume so. He’s from Alabama, so there is the hometown connection and the opportunity to play with a winning team. I think Phillies fans should get used to seeing Hudson plenty of times in the future. I expect him to win the 2005 NL Cy Young.

The Mess … er, Mets … One of the joys of being a Phillies fan is watching the Mets stumble and bumble their way to sub - .500 baseball despite being part of the New York market, despite having a consistently large payroll. The Phillies might be a dozen games out of first, but we usually accomplish that feat with a lot less money than our friends in Queens have. Over the years we’ve seen the late 1980s Mets-dynasty-in-the-making collapse, their post-2002 spending binge hangover and the waste of Mike Piazza squatting behind the plate. Schadenfraude is an emotion we have all felt … Back in the early 1960s reporters wanted to cover the horrible Mets because the Yankees made baseball too boring, too predictable, while the Mets were fun to watch in their mediocrity. Today there is nothing fun about the Mets annual free agent spending spree. The Mets are a train wreck. These guys are going to be bad, and they will be spectacular doing it … I am saying all of this in reference to the Mets decision to offer Pedro a four-year deal worth $53 million (as well as their deal with Kris Benson). When I heard of the deal on ESPNews yesterday I was shocked. And people think the Phillies over-paid for Lieber?

Pedro is a great pitcher, circa 1999 & 2000. I think the wear and tear on his arm is showing: last year his ERA jumped from 2.26 and 2.22 in ’02 & ’03 to 3.90 in 2004.

Look at how much Pedro’s WHIP and BAA spiked last year, compared to the rest of his career:

WHIP / BAA
1999: 0.92 / .205
2000: 0.74 / .167
2001: 0.93 / .199
2002: 0.92 / .198
2003: 1.04 / .215
2004: 1.17 / .238

Pedro allowed 26 home runs last year, up from 7 in 2003. I think these are ominous stats for Pedro. He’s losing his control, little by little. Wait until his gives up a 450-foot home run to Thome at Citizens and watch his control unravel. I can’t see how this contract won’t come back to bite New York, especially in 2007 and 2008. If they signed Pedro to win now, I think this gamble will come back and hurt them: they just don’t have the horses to challenge in 2005.

The Mets other big acquisition this offseason was getting Kris Benson signed. This is a pitcher with a career 4.28 ERA, .266 BAA and a 1.40 WHIP, all with an NL team. What in the heck were they thinking? I haven’t a clue. Benson is average. He’s a fourth starter at best … For the Mets sake I hope they sign Carlos Delgado, although with Beltre off to Seattle and Shawn Green on his way to Arizona, I think that the Dodgers will make an aggressive push now to sign Delgado.

The Nats. What a mess. Even when baseball tries to end the sad saga of the Expos, they can’t make it happen. Baseball in Washington D.C. looks fairly doomed (I can’t see the D.C. City Council put a deal into place by December 31), which is a shame. I can’t imagine another year or two of the pathetic sight of a few hundred fans cheering in a deserted stadium for a team bereft of talent. Let’s hope MLB makes D.C. baseball work, or ships the Nats out to a new, untapped market like San Antonio or Portland.

Or heck, even Las Vegas. Just get them out of Montreal.

Meanwhile the Phillies and Marlins have been quiet. Neither team is a contender in the Carlos Beltran sweepsteaks. Neither team have made significant changes to their makeup. The Marlins added Al Leiter. The Phillies added Jon Lieber and Kenny Lofton. Those are the moves of teams confident of their prospects for 2005 … or teams that have exhausted their checkbooks. At any rate this last week has been an interesting one. I don’t think any of us expected the Mets and Braves to upgrade as they have, so there is the very real possibility of a tight, four-team race for the NL East title in 2005. I had personally thought this was boiling down to a race between the Marlins and Phillies, but things are different. That was then. This is now.

(7) comments

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Wings of a Butterfly... 

In the chess game of the 2004-2005 baseball offseason a significant move that will effect the Phillies was made yesterday when the Cardinals Edgar Renteria signed a massive deal with the Boston Red Sox to be their shortstop. Remember the butterfly conversation in Jurassic Park? Even an act as seemingly insignificant as a butterfly flapping his wings in Beijing results in rain in New York instead of sunshine. The Red Sox move will have repercussions for the Phillies:

With Renteria signing with the Red Sox and Tony Womack going to the Yankees, St. Louis’ middle infield needs help. Here is what the Cards are losing:

Renteria: .248 GPA / .114 ISO / .327 OBP / 17 Win Shares (-1 WSAA)
Womack: .255 GPA / .078 ISO / .349 OBP / 18 Win Shares (2 WSAA)

Tony LaRussa, the Cards skipper, is known to like one player on the Phillies 2004 roster: Placido Polanco, who just so happens is able to play second base and short. Polanco, as it happens, swings a better bat too:

Polanco: .260 GPA / .143 ISO / .345 OBP / 17 Win Shares (2 WSAA)

Defensively:

Zone Rating / Fielding Win Shares per 1,000 innings:
Womack: .825 ZR / 4.0 FWS 1,000
Renteria: .855 ZR / 3.7 FWS 1,000
Polanco: .816 ZR / 6.1 FWS 1,000

With the Phillies committed to making Chase Utley their every day second baseman for 2005, it doesn’t seem likely that management will fight him leaving for St. Louis, and the Cardinals need major help with their middle infield. I can’t see this taking more than a week or two to get ironed out. His signing with the Cards is, in my judgment, a matter of time. The ripple effect continues ...

Goodbye, Placido.

(39) comments

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Reversal of fortune... 

As I said the other day about the decline of the Atlanta Braves, the Phillies don't have to improve, so much as they need to maintain their current level of talent while the Braves sink into a .500 baseball team. Today, I clicked onto The Hardball Times and saw that the Braves have apparently leapfrogged the Dodgers to become the front-runners in the Tim Hudson sweepsteaks.

I read that and felt a lump grow in my throat. So far in the last thirty-six hours the Mets have added Pedro Martinez (probably a bad long-term deal, but he could be dynamite in 2005), and now the Braves are threatening to add a pitcher who might be a future multiple Cy Young Award winner. If the Braves add Hudson, I fear that they might extend their dominance over the NL East yet another year. Or two. Or three. So here's an idea...

Why not deal Ryan Howard, a surplus pitcher (Myers, Wolf, whomever) and Marlon Byrd to the A's for Hudson?

According to the Daily News' Paul Hagen, Howard wants the Phillies to deal him so he can play (seeing how they got that Thome guy ahead of him) for some team now as opposed to later. If Howard wants out, and the Phillies have no room for him on the roster for 2005, why not deal him for the one thing this team needs: a stud pitcher? It makes sense. Howard is a crown jewel of a prospect, a slugger-in-the-making, just the kind of guy the A's need to add some pop to the middle of their lineup. Byrd might benefit from the change in scenery.

Hudson would be an incredible pickup for this team: a 2.58 groundball-to-flyball pitcher, Hudson could thrive at Citizen's Bank Ballpark. Better still, he's just 29. He could be the Phillies ace for the next six or seven years.

I'd dearly love to see the Phillies jump into the Hudson sweepsteaks, but the team has shown little interest until now. I don't believe that the Phillies anagement can stand put with their moves for Lidle, Lieber and Lofton when a division foe threatens to upgrade itself as the Braves have, or as the Mets already have. I like the Phillies rotation, but can Ed Wade & Co. really tell the fans that the Phillies have a better staff than one featuring Tim Hudson and Mike Hampton? Than the Marlins Leiter, Burnett & Beckett? Than Glavine & Pedro in Queens? I think not. We've seen the Yankees and Red Sox go to extraordinary lengths to outmaneuver one another. It is time for the Phillies management to realize that they cannot stand pat when the enemy is in action.

The Phillies won't win the NL East with the fourth-best rotation in the division. I know the Braves are losing a lot of talent, but the Phillies haven't upgraded that much, and getting Hudson would even out the Braves pitching losses (and then some). If the Braves get Hudson, I think all bets are off. The Braves streak of division titles (NL West: 1991-1993; NL East: 1995-2004) will run to fourteen, and the Phillies abortive attempt at building a contender will come to an end.

Do something.

(3) comments

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Creating Runs, revisited... 

Back a few months ago I wrote about how teams that stole bases didn’t have much success on offense. “Creating runs” by stealing bases is a favored cliché of the establishment, but as the book Moneyball showed, the A’s eskewed the strategy because teams that “created runs” ended up destroying opportunities by wasting baserunners and outs. I had the observation confirmed in late June after I watched the Phillies blow an opportunity to score some runs against the Red Sox when they sent Placido Polanco to steal second with Abreu at the plate. Polanco was caught and the Phillies wasted an out and an opportunity when Abreu promptly got on base with a double.

I revisited my conclusions. I ranked each team by it’s number of steals, and then I put down each team’s GPA (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 and rank next to it.

Attempted Steals / GPA / (GPA Rank)
1. Milwaukee: 178 / .241 (14)
2. St. Louis: 158 / .270 (2)
3. Montreal: 147 / .238 (15)
4. Los Angeles: 143 / .255 (9)
5. New York Mets: 139 / .245 (13)
6. Florida: 130 / .250 (11)
7. Philadelphia: 127 / .266 (4)
8. Houston: 119 / .263 (6)
9. Atlanta: 118 / .263 (5)
10. Pittsburgh: 103 / .245 (12)
11. Cincinnati: 102 / .253 (10)
12. Chicago: 94 / .262 (7)
13. Arizona: 85 / .238 (16)
14. Colorado: 77 / .269 (3)
15. San Diego: 77 / .257 (8)
16. San Francisco: 66 / .270 (1)

A few observations:

The top five teams in attempts were 2nd, 9th, 13th, 14th, and 15th in Gross Productive Average on 2004. The bottom five teams were 1st, 3rd, 7th, 8th, and 16th. Not as convincing as I hoped it would be. Certainly the Mets, Brewers and Expos helped my argument, but the numbers weren’t as dramatic as I thought (although, if you throw out the Diamondbacks, my numbers look better).

-I wonder about the National League’s “pitcher factor”: I think it is easier for a team to be a Moneyball team in the AL than in the NL due to the DH. You can put a slower, defensively challenged player in the DH slot in the AL (e.g., David Ortiz), but in the NL you have to deal with the pitcher, the black hole in the #9 slot in your lineup. Teams tend to steal and sac bunt thanks to the spectre of their pitcher flailing away at pitches in the dirt. A quick look at the numbers gives me a little ammo: the A’s attempted just 69 steals and played pretty well on offense. The Red Sox attempted just 98 steals and had the best offense in the AL.

I'll see if I can revisit this topic in the future...

(28) comments

Monday, December 13, 2004

Random Musings... 

I’m working on a few subject posts, so today I’m treating everyone to a few random thoughts swirling around in my head … Before I go any further, I want to thank A Fistfull of Hughs and Willets Point, two new blogs devoted to the Cubs and Mets respectively, for linking to A Citizen's Blog. Check them out as soon as you get a chance. I'll update my blogroll today.

Back to baseball ... Tim Hudson's status is the big issue at the Winter Meetings I see. I tend to think that the A’s will deal Tim Hudson to the Dodgers soon, deal Zito mid-season (Orioles?) and lock up a long-term deal with Mark Mulder for a lot less than they’d have to pay Hudson. The Big Three haven’t been what they used to be:

Hudson: 3.64 FIP ERA; 2.58 g/f; 16 Win Shares (6 WSAA)
Mulder: 4.75 FIP ERA; 2.02 g/f; 15 Win Shares (3 WSAA)
Zito: 4.73 FIP ERA; 0.84 g/f; 12 Win Shares (1 WSAA)

Glossary:
FIP: Fielding Independent Pitching ERA
G/F: Groundball / Flyball ratio
WSAA: Win Shares Above Average

Hudson is still a super-star and he should fetch the A’s high-value. While that goundball-to-flyball ratio has Phillies fans drooling, I suspect he’ll end up in LA pitching for the Dodgers … I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think that Paul DePodesta is building a jauggernaut in the City ‘o Angels. If the Dodgers sign Adrian Beltre or Carlos Beltran, I think they will return in 2005 as the favorites in the NL West and my pick to win the NL. DePodesta has the right strategy and like Theo Epstein he’s got the cash to compete. The Dodgers are going to be good in 2005. 100 Wins good. This is a team that could be dominant for years to come … Marlon Byrd is apparently on the choping block and the Phillies are looking to deal him straight up for the Brewers Scott Podsednik. Color me unimpressed: Podsednik spent years in the minors, had a decent season in 2003, and looked awful last year:

Podsednik: .231 GPA / .313 OBP / .364 SLG
Byrd: .209 GPA / .287 OBP / .321 SLG

Plus, do the Phillies need another reserve centerfielder? The Phillies can do better than that … Kevin Millwood is apparently headed to St. Louis or Atlanta for the very reasonable price of $3 million a year. Let’s hope its St. Louis, because I think that he’ll have a good season next year: Millwood’s FIP ERA was 3.83, much lower than Wolf, Padilla, Myers or Milton. Millwood didn’t give up many home runs (0.9 hr/9innings), and generally was the victim of substandard defense (.673 DER, .027 below the team average). I don’t want the Phillies to see him four or five times next year.

Charlie Manuel says that Lofton will be hitting second, after Jimmy Rollins. Here is the Phillies projected 2005 lineup:

SS Rollins: .264 GPA / .166 ISO
CF Lofton: .260 GPA / .120 ISO
LF Abreu: .321 GPA / .242 ISO
1B Thome: .316 GPA / .307 ISO
RF Burrell: .272 GPA / .199 ISO
3B Bell: .271 GPA / .167 ISO
2B Utley: .250 GPA / .202 ISO
C Lieberthal: .262 GPA / .176 ISO
Pitcher

David Wells is a Red Sox: isn’t that hilarious, given Wells well-documented obsession with Babe Ruth and his history with the Yankees? Who wouldn’t want to see Wells start Game Seven of the 2005 ALCS against the Yankees in the Bronx? Who wouldn’t pay $10,000 a ticket to be there for that? … According to The Hardball Times, the Mets are trying to acquire Manny Ramirez. Snort. Kris Benson, Manny … the Mets sure know how to build a stable team, don’t they? … Speaking of THT: Aaron Gleeman and Studes have nice articles analyzing the current free agent deals. Read ‘em. …

-Non-baseball odds ‘n ends … I came close with my prediction for this weekend’s Eagles-Redskins game (24-14; actual score: 17-14). I’m slightly surprised at how many Eagles games I’ve been able to see this year: I’ve seen eight or nine games, which is rare for me since live in Pittsburgh. I suppose I have the Eagles three NFC championship games and the acquisition of T.O. to thank for the increased exposure … It is great that they are 12-1, but I wasn’t overly impressed by yesterday’s performance. McNabb was o.k., and the Eagles looked really penned in by the Redskins defense: T.O. had just six catches for 46 yards, and Westbrook had just 59 yards rushing. This was one of their worst performances of the season, a cut above the Pittsburgh game and a little worse than the Ravens game … So if the Eagles beat the Cowboys next Sunday, or if the Falcons lose to the Carolina Panthers on satuday night, the Eagles clinch homefield throughout the playoffs. Sweet … During last night’s game my wife turned to me and said: “What are the chances of an Eagles-Steelers Super Bowl?” I waved my hands: “So-so … the Steelers would have to get past the Patriots and Colts first.” She replied: “If they did, I bet you’d love throwing a Super Bowl party for that…” I just smiled. Yes I would … Speaking of the Steelers, I still think that the Patriots will win homefield advantage: with games against the two worst teams in the NFL (Miami and the 49ers, combined record: 4-22), the Pats will almost certainly go 15-1 this season, and I think the Steelers will lose one game. They have a tougher record with the Ravens, Giants and Bills coming up … I’m stunned that there are three 12-1 teams in the NFL. In this age of parity and free agency, to see four teams (I’m including the Colts in the ranks of the elite) so throughly dominate the rest of the competition is stunning stuff. Good management counts for something, and the Eagles, Pats, Steelers and Colts got it. That is what separates them from the Vikings of the NFL … I still stand by my prediction that the Eagles will go 14-2: at a minimum, they’ll win one of the last three games of the season and set a new franchise record for wins with 13. I’d dearly love to see them go 15-1, but that may not be feasible, particularly if the Falcons lose to the Panthers. Why play McNabb, TO, Westbrook, Kearse and the rest of the D-line if they’ve got the conference title?

-I got started on an interesting book yesterday. I began reading Richard Ben Cramer’s Joe DiMaggio. Cramer is a spectacular writer. He wrote the best book I’ve ever read: What It Takes (which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992), a biography of six 1988 Presidential candidates (Gary Hart, Dick Gephardt, Joe Biden, Mike Dukakis, George Bush* & Bob Dole). Cramer also wrote the best piece I’ve ever read in Sports Illustrated: a 1995 profile of Cal Ripken, Jr. that I liked reading so much I cut it out of the magazine and have saved it for all of those years.

* (Our current President makes a short cameo in an early chapter where he’s berating someone. Cramer decribes him as the family “hot-head”.)

I’ve covered the first part of Joe DiMaggio, which deals with his life in San Francisco until he signed with the Yankees before the 1936 season. I’m not sure how to describe Cramer’s writing style. It is different, unique, it’s … amazing to read. You want to turn the next page. You don’t want to quit reading. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book.

-My wife & I watched a little of VH1’s America’s Next Top Model marathon. (Neither of us are proud to admit that...) Truly, intelligence is a handicap in the fashion world. We were watching the episode where the girls went to Tokyo and my wife made a joke about the girls calling people “Tokyosians”. Literally, two minutes later one of the girls actually said that these didn’t know or understand the “Tokyosian”. I'm not making that up.

I suppose sometimes pretty boxes are empty inside.

-Desperate Housewives was good: nice plot twist at the end with Carlos going to jail instead of Gabrielle. I enjoy the show a lot and not just for all of the hot, sweaty nakedness, which is what the media focuses on. It’s a soapy show, definitely, but the writers have also hit upon a universal theme that everyone can relate too: the harried life of suburbanites, the compromises people make and the difficulties of making your way through life when things are much more complicated and difficult than they ever were before. The show is clever, well-written, has characters everyone can relate to (aside from trophy wife Gabrielle) and it keeps you guessing each week.

Tomorrow look for some “regular” content.

(45) comments

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Little Leaguers 

Who would have thought that the two biggest trades so far in the post-season would have involved the Pittsburgh Pirates? Their Lawton-Rhodes deal was essentially an extension of the Kendall deal, so now we can properly evaluate the trade. Here is what the Pirates gave up:

Kendall: .276 GPA / .399 OBP / .390 SLG / 25 Win Shares (7 WSAA) / 4.21 P/PA

And what the Pirates get:

Lawton: .273 GPA / .366 OBP / .421 SLG / 15 Win Shares (-1 WSAA) / 3.68 P/PA
Redman: 5.29 FIP ERA / 4.8 k/9 / 3.2 bb/9 / 9 Win Shares (-1 WSAA)

I’m not impressed. Here’s why:

As I’ve said, Redman is so-so. He was, statistically, the A’s weakest pitcher in 2004. He’ll be a capable starter for the Pirates in 2004, but he’s not going to be a stud pitcher for them. However, I reserved judgment on the deal because the Pirates seemed likely to deal Rhodes, which they did, to the Indians for Lawton.

In theory, Lawton replaces Kendall’s bat in the Pirates lineup. In reality, he does not. His OBP is in the ballpark, but he just isn’t the OBP machine Kendall was. Kendall was patient at the plate: 4.21 pitches per plate appearance. Lawton isn't a patient hitter: his 3.68 is worse than the AL average.

But my biggest problem though is with Lawton’s defense. The Pirates were the worst team in the NL defensively in 2004. Sixteenth of sixteen. Their outfield collectively was sixteenth (.826, .001 better than Colorado). They’ve often seemed like little leaguers in the field.

What they are giving up behind the plate in Kendall is a talented catcher: 6.8 Fielding Win Shares, third amongst NL catchers. Kendall is an ace behind the plate as well as at it. He really is a complete player.

Defensively, Lawton is a massive downgrade: his .798 ZR in 2004 was worse than any other AL left fielder, aside from Manny Ramirez (.750). Yes, only Manny- the defensive black hole of Calcutta -was worse than Lawton in left. The Pirates got a .823 from their left fielders in 2004, fifteenth best in the NL, which suggests to me that the Pirates have, theoretically, downgraded one of the worst defenses in baseball.

I’ve defended the Pirates management in the past. Because I live in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh they are one the other teams I follow on a regular basis (along with the A’s). I can honestly say that this is one of the worst decisions I’ve seen the team make. Awful, truly awful. They’ve gotten the salary dump they’ve wanted, but they’ve gotten little talent in return. Lawton, whom I’m sure they think will replace Kendall at the top of their order, isn’t going to cut it. How can they convince Pirates fans that they are serious about winning when they make deals like this?

(48) comments

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