Monday, June 23, 2008

4 Week Hiatus

I'm sorry for the break in my work.  I was on vacation for four weeks in a place without internet access.  I will continue writing posts starting tomorrow.  For now you guys can think about the two slanted Bill Beane trades, the chain reaction of the Sabathia, Harden trades and the odd pickup of Randy Wolf by the Astros.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Changes for the Better

The third week of the season started the firing season. Wayne Krivsky was fired as the GM of the Reds after a tremendously disappointing start to the 2008 season and replaced by Walt Jocketty. The trigger happy Reds owner had his best friend waiting in the wings and therefore looked for any excuse at all to fire Mr. Krivsky. This has been the worst move made so far this firing season but there's probably much more to come. Here's a list of GM's and Managers that have lost their jobs and others that might lose their jobs quite soon.

General Managers
1. Wayne Krivsky-Hadn’t been given a fair chance, can be read in full detail here
2. Bill Bavasi-One of the worst GM’s in baseball. This move was great for the game of baseball

Potential Goners
1. Omar Minaya-if the Mets continue to underperform he’ll be shown the door as well
2. Ned Colleti-Another moron, might be finished as a GM.....for life
3. Jim Bowden-The Nats need a guy like Josh Byrnes(D-Backs GM) to push them over the top
4. JP Ricciardi-Has done a solid to average job running the Jays but that doesn't cut it when your playing in same division as the Yankees and Red Sox

1. John McLaren-A fiery manager that lived and died with his team
2. Willie Randolph-Bittersweet. He wasn't the greatest but he wasn't horrible
3. John Gibbons-A horrible manager, should've been fired before the season

Potential Goners
1. Dave Trembley-Should be fired, I don't know if he will be

So that's the rundown. Any questions can be left in the comments section. There are a lot of horrible GM's in baseball mainly because owners are so stubborn that they don't let GM's do their jobs and build for the long run and instead make them go out and sign top free agents and it's basically impossible nowadays to win like that.

The Effects of Physics in Baseball

Last Monday my friends and I went to play basketball at the park. It was extremely humid outside. It made me into a horrible shooter. When playing in Efrat I can always hit the outside shot but Monday in New York I couldn’t hit any. I was so embarrassed that I couldn't hit any shots, until I realized that I was probably effected by the humidity. Being used to playing in the cool, windy and on the elevated hills of Efrat I guess made me suffer even more from the humidity.

Humidity weighs you down and the sun tires you out. In Israel the sun is very strong and in New York the humidity is ridiculous. I wonder if the Rockies have a hard time adjusting to New York weather also. Humidity weighs down your body and other objects and also messes with your vision. This could effect a baseball game very much. In a humid place the ball will drop faster because the ball will be denser. It will also make your arm tire faster because your arm is heavier and denser. All this together is a big deal and you can now understand why I played poorly while playing basketball in New York.

The Colorado Rockies have the ballpark most favorable to hitters in the MLB. Because of their high altitude the ball travels faster, drops sharper, travels further, flattens and unwinds. This means it’s harder to field, there are less foul balls(more balls in play), more homeruns and curveballs are basically ineffective at Coors Field. A ball hit 400 feet at Sea Level would travel 430 feet in Coors Field. This works the other way around in New Orleans since they are below Sea Level(everyone probably already knows that). The place with the highest altitude in North America is Mexico City and a ball hit 400 feet at Sea Level would travel 450 feet in Mexico City.

Why is any of this relevant to humidity? Because in 2005 the Colorado Rockies decided to experiment by putting all their baseballs in a humidor to make them more dense and therefore lessen the effects of Colorado’s high altitude. This works because, like I said above humidity weighs objects down so it would make sense for the Rockies to try this. Since 2006 the Rockies homerun totals are still favorable but have decreased heavily. I’m not sure about its other effects but Coors Field is still very much a hitter’s park.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Managers Fired

Willie Randolph requires his own post but in recent news John McLaren, (ex)manager of the Mariners, was fired. This proves that the Mariners are cleaning house. Hopefully they won't go for old fogies this time around, instead opting for GM 2.0(Theo Epstein started it). There is no correct way of judging a manager's influence/performance so I'll just follow the saying of "a manager is only as good as his record" as the main decider. Also because I have rarely seen the Mariners play in the last year therefore I don't know if McLaren was a good or bad tactition. The one thing I do know is that he is a very fiery manager, you can understand this once you know he was Lou Piniella's bench coach for many years. According to his record, last year he did a fine job with the Mariners and this year they're the worst team in the league. What changes have they made? They traded their farm system for Erik Bedard and signed a mediocre pitcher in Carlos Silva to a 4 year $48 million dollar contract.

So, what happened? It's called luck. JJ Putz was the best closer in baseball last year according to WXRL(Win Expectancy above Replacement Level) by more than .6 wins. Also, Miguel Batista had a career year last year at the age of 36. The Mariners are just all old and washed up. I hate to say I told you so Last year the Mariners were only a fluke and therefore they should just tear it all up and restart with Adam Jones(whoops he was traded for Erik Bedard). I'll be seeing(scouting) the Mariners this Tuesday night so I'll then give you guys my personal report.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Breaking News: Bill Bavasi's Fired

Thank God. Bill was one of those GM's where anyone could've done a better job than he did. When the high points of a GM's career are signing a 37 year old to a 3 year deal(Raul Ibanez) and trading 5 great prospects for a pretty good pitcher with great stuff(Erik Bedard) that so far hasn't played well for the Mariners isn't a good sign. He wasn't great at drafting but wasn't amazing. He drafted Brandon Morrow at 5 overall in 2006 and has also drafted Adam Jones, Jeff Clement and Wladimir Balentein in various drafts. Hopefully the new GM will know what to do and trade off all of Bavasi's bad acquisitions.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

All for One and ONE FOR ALL

If you look at recent seasons the best teams haven’t always been the ones to make the playoffs. Last year the Mets didn’t make it, the year before the White Sox had 90 wins and didn’t make it to the playoffs even after winning the World Series the previous season. The Red Sox also didn't make the playoffs in 2006. How is it possible for an excellent or even the best team in the league, in the Mets case not make the playoffs? A recent study has shown that team's chances are heavily decreased when they have even one Replacement Level Player(a freely available AAA player or the 25th man on a roster) in their starting lineup. Every starting player on a playoff team should at least have a WARP(Wins Above Replacement Player) of 3.

Lets take a closer look. Last year the Mets received a WARP of under 3 from second base, until Luis Castillo was acquired to solidify the position. They also received a WARP below 3 from Shawn Green in RF. That's not one but two everyday positions that lacked consistency(this is why I'm nervous for this year, RF,LF,1B,2B are all lacking). The White Sox had their catcher A.J. Pierzynski at 3.3 WARP, second basemen Tad Iguchi at 3.2 WARP, shortstop Juan Uribe at 2.6 WARP, leftfielder Scott Podsednik had a .8(no I didn't make a mistake), and I don't exactly remember who split time with Brian Anderson in CF, but all the other possible options were replacement level and Anderson had a WARP of 2.5 again, disappointing. That's FIVE guys that probably shouldn't have been in the starting lineup and were. Yo would think the '06 Red Sox would be more like the current Red Sox but they're not. Mark Loretta was horrible posting a 1.9 WARP while playing full time. CF was also not to good but only because Coco Crisp missed a good 2 months of the season and his replacements(Gabe Kapler, Adam Stern) are prototypical replacement level players.

As you can see not all playoff teams have the perfect guy at every position but the teams with more than one non ideal player starting have a very slim chance of making the playoffs and having success in the playoffs.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Importance of Depth

In Baseball Prospectus' new book, It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over, the first chapter talks about the importance of having one great player on a mediocre team to having a few good players. They raise two questions:
"1. How much impact does the presence of one great player have on a team's chances[to make the playoffs/win WS]?
2. How much impact does the presence of one great player have on a team's chances if he's head-and-shoulders above all his other teammates?"

The answer to the first question is that most great teams had at least one GREAT player, meaning that a playoff team with no outstanding player is basically a fluke. The answer to question number two is that a great player helps his team immensely but the more talent the team has the better it does overall. They show this through correlating a team's best player's WARP(Wins above Replacement Player, accounts for all facets of the game) to winning percentage and a team's second best, third best, etc. to winning percentage. This shows that a great third or fourth or even fifth best player is more important than a team's best player over the course of a season because baseball is a team sport so the better the supporting cast the better the team is. The correlation between a team's number one player's WARP and winning percentage is .49(it works that 0 means no correlation and 1 means total correlation), but the correlation between the team's fifth best player's WARP and winning percentage is .69 a significantly higher number.

This shows that the lower down you go on a team's depth chart the more important the player is to your team's success(winning percentage). The Red Sox '07 championship team is paradigmatic of this principal. They had Coco Crisp, an average CF, on the bench through the playoffs and now, during this season. If you look at the Red Sox they have no holes whatsoever. Kevin Youkilis is better than most teams second best player and he's their seventh best player(before him are Ramirez, Ortiz, Beckett, Dice-K, Papelbon and JD Drew) and that's just ridiculous. A great player or two might be able to carry you for a month or so but having a great core of players can lead you through the season successfully and maybe even all the way to the promise land like the '07(and '08) Red Sox.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Predicting Postseason Outcomes

Baseball is made up of athletes, retired athletes, brains, mathematicians and wealthy men. Baseball always has many things going on at the same time. Whether it's the pitcher receiving signals from the catcher, catching and throwing the ball, making contact or adjusting on defense something is always going on. Like when you see Carlos Beltran getting ready to swing and then he rips the ball right to Chipper Jones, you didn't know that Larry(Chipper's real name) moved into that position a second earlier because you were to focused on Beltran. Baseball is a one on one battle(pitcher hitter) but also a team sport because if Larry wouldn't have shifted over before the at-bat Beltran's hit would've been a double. What I'm trying to say is that there is so much going on on the baseball diamond at the same time that the human eye can't possibly see it all. In order to go 162-0 you would need to succeed in every battle.

Baseball has so many facets that you can't account for the likes of injuries, playing conditions, comfort, the clubhouse spirit and of course luck. Most of luck are the things that I mentioned but there are other elements in luck that always vary. I believe Carlos Beltran is the least lucky hitter because every time I watch him play(I watch a lot of games) he hits the ball hard but just right at the fielders therefore producing a low average but a high LD%(Line Drive Rate).

You cannot predict what's going to happen in the postseason simply because there are so many procedures happening at once that it's impossible a certain team will succeed in all of them. This is luck. There's so much of everything in baseball that anything can happen. There are just to many events. The playoffs have so much tension and pressure and are shorter series'(which all add to the "luck level") that really anything could happen. In the postseason there's no room for error, so if Larry wouldn't have moved over before that at-bat in a playoff game, no one would fault Larry or even realize what could've happened rather everyone would just be happy or sad that Beltran hit a line drive double down the third base line.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How to Judge a Ballplayer

Judging a baseball player is an extremely hard task. This is the reason for why baseball teams call getting two out of fifty draft picks to the major leagues a good draft. So what do you look for in a ballplayer? Everyone has a different opinion. For example Billy Beane looks for college hitters with high OB and SLG percentages. John Schuerholz(that's how they spelled it on the Braves website) likes drafting young and big projectable arms that happen to be from the south, this is how he produced Smoltz, Glavine and others. Some Gm's have more of a tendency to take college players and some GM's like more projectable high school players.

The truth is currently there is no correct method, both are pretty much a tossup because even if your team takes only high school players, out of all 50 players you drafted there's a huge chance that one will make it to the MLB if only because draftees come in bulk. What would I look for in a player? I would look for a few things. A mixture of scouting and sabermetrics. Basically you don't want to draft a player with bad mechanics because it's very hard to improve with bad mechanics and it could make a player more injury prone. You actually want to draft players with perfect mechanics and therefore it'll be much easier for them to reach a high level of play. Just look at Albert Pujols, he didn't go in the first round because he could only hit and he had a good, but not great eye. Instead the guy with the perfect swinging mechanics and the perfect baseball mentality dropped all the way to the 9th round, where he was a steal and is now proving the scouts and statisticians wrong. The scouts because they wanted to find the next Alex Rodriguez and statisticians because they failed to look beyond the box scores on this one.

By scouting, not to judge talent but to evaluate mechanics is the right way to scout because you aways need someone's input on a player they have seen and not only judge by thea guy's numbers. Another thing is that you have to make sure the player is mentally able to play in the major leagues, i.e. Lenny Dykstra, and not turn out like Billy Beane who didn't know how to fail and that ruined his career. Therefore I would test player's mental stability, test them physically, i.e. examine eyesight, strength, bat speed and reflexes along with statistical studies and scouting assessments. Wouldn't you want a player that bats the exact same way as Manny Ramirez o Ken Griffey Jr.? With the idea that I'm proposing, scouts main task would be to gauge a players swinging/running/pitching/fielding mechanics because you will then be able to find the player with, lets say Mark McGuire's swing, and then of course you'd draft him. By weighing all sides: scouting, stats and testing you'll be able to find the best players available and therefore build a terrific core of players for the future, which is now a necessity given baseball's current state.

Therefore it doesn't matter whether you draft high school or college players as long as you get good results and have a system that works. Like this chart, that explains what happens when you have a system that works.(I took it from the internet)

As long as you have a solid system that works you'll succeed more than not(in this case hopefully 5-10 per draft instead of 2). This is needed in baseball since the draft is such a crapshoot nowadays.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

On The Rise: Oakland Athletics

The Oakland A's are one of the best run teams in the MLB, thanks to Billy Beane and his talented staff. Never underestimate Billy Beane and the A's because they'll always be in the playoff race no matter what. This is because Billy Beane lets his players peak and then trades them off for younger, better parts and he also has a sense for picking up young talented players that have been tossed aside by another major league team and turning them into stars. The former process is cyclical. It started with Jason Giambi, Jason Isringhausen and Johnny Damon as they all left for greener pastures. Then came Miguel Tejada and he also left via free agency. Then Billy Beane realized that he could get even more for his players than just 2 draft picks. As a result of this he traded Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder for a boatload of prospects and let Barry Zito go to the Giants in the offseason. Now dealing away the third generation of his players in Nick Swisher and Danny Haren he's bringing back a bounty of minor league talent.

The A's have a great young catcher who plays great defense and gets on base(the classic Bill Beane player) named Kurt Suzuki and he bats leadoff. they also have a great infield with Daric Barton, a slugging 1B acquired in the Mark Mulder deal, and at 2B is Mark Ellis the impending free agent who does everything right. At 3B is Jack Hannahan a great defender who has replaced Eric Chavez, and just knows how to get on base. Billy Beane picked Hannahan up for nothing last summer in a trade with the Tigers. At short is Bobby Crosby who has finally started showing why he was such a highly touted prospect. Their outfield is stocked with young talented players like Travis Buck, Ryan Sweeney and the best of them Carlos Gonzalez. All these guys know how to hit and are good fielders. Of course there are those veteran guys Billy Beane picked up on this team as well, Emil Brown and Mike Sweeney and they're doing okay(besides the fact that Sweeney's on the DL). At DH is their slugger Jack Cust who's walking a staggering 15.2% of the time he's up.

Thanks to the Swisher and Haren trade the A's rotation is full, with seconds coming very soon. I believe their two aces Joe Blanton and Rich Harden will be dealt by the start of next season leaving them with only, 8 other candidates for their starting rotation(which happens to be only 5 guys). They have the aforementioned Blanton and Harden along with Justin Duchscherer who has reemerged after missing a couple of years do to arm injuries. This guy has a bevy of pitches in his arsenal, pitching a 2-Seam, 4-Seam and a cutting fastball along with a Changeup, a Curveball and a Slider. They also have Greg Smith and Dana Eveland two of the six players received in the Haren trade who round out the rotation this year. They also have a great bullpen with veterans Alan Embree and Keith Foulke along with Huston Street and Kiko Calero, yet another byproduct of the Mulder trade. They also have two starters down their in Dallas Braden and Chad Gaudin a fantastic waiver wire pickup.

The Oakland A's restocked their farm system this offseason in the midst of rebuilding and acquired some good young talent. They acquired outfielder Aaron Cunningham, first basemen Chris Carter and pitchers Gio Gonzalez, Fautino De Los Santos and Brett Anderson along with Ryan Sweeney, Carlos Gonzalez, Dana Eveland and Greg Smith in attempt to strengthen their already strong farm system. The A's have tons of low level prospects along with the recent draft that added Jemile Weeks, their future second basemen and others. They now have one of the top 5 systems in the MLB. Good luck playing them in 2010.

The Amateur Draft (Rule 4)

Last Thursday-Friday was this years first year player draft(that's what Bud Selig calls it). When the Rays selected Tim Beckham(a SS from High School) Bud Selig said "with the first selection in the first round of the 2008 first year player draft, the Tampa Bay Rays select Tim Beckham a SS from some high school(I don't remember the high school) in Georgia". After he said this, I thought to myself why he calls it the first year player draft when most of the guys drafted have been drafted before. I don't know the answer to this but I thought this was very interesting and if anyone knows why feel free to drop me a line.

Anyways this years draft was a unique draft because money conscious teams didn't pass up expensive players like in previous years, instead they drafted the best player available or the best player to fit their team needs. This is what made this years draft a very good one. The art of the baseball draft is to pick the best player available because all these players are still pretty far away from the major leagues. There are some specific cases where you can draft a player at a position of need in the majors instead of the best player available, like if you have a lot of needs in the majors or if you draft a guy that's practically big league ready. The big issue in the draft is whether to draft high school players or college players. I think it depends on the situation because if you have a team like the Rays filled with young talent at the big league level you can afford to take someone with tons of upside that is far away from fulfilling his potential and develop him while keeping him in the minors for 4-5 years and then letting him excel at the big league level. But if you're in a situation like the Mets where you need bats quickly, you draft college bats, guys that you can rush through the system and have in the big leagues in a year or two.

Both of these teams had good drafts but I believe the Royals had an outstanding draft, maybe even the best. My favorite player in this years draft went 115 overall to the Royals, a kid by the name of Tim Melville. This kid is a 19 year old stud out of high school and is a power right hander standing at 6"5, 210. He's got great stuff on the mound and could be an ace. Needs to work on his changeup, but has a terrific knucklecurve and a fastball with cutting action at 92-95 MPH. I think this guy will pan out and will give Dayton Moore his own Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Avery with Grienke, Hochevar, Melville, Bannister and Soria. Baseball Executives are getting smarter so look for more and more players from the draft to make it to the pros. The '05 draft started this trend, now with almost all of the players taken in the first round are doing well in the majors(Ryan Zimmerman, Justin Upton, Ryan Braun, Jay Bruce) or are highly touted prospects(Cameron Maybin, Colby Rasmus, Andrew McCutchen). Baseball is realizing that free agency isn't bearing any fruit and therefore the draft is probably the best way to improve their teams.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

When Building an Organization...

The parts of the game I believe should be focused on the most are: The Rule 4 and 5 drafts, waiver claims, player development and international scouting. As I wrote here  , free agency is becoming less and less important because players are aging faster now. If you build your team like the D-Backs or the Brewers are you won't have to make any free agent signings and only make a few trades. If you build your team like Kevin Towers in San Diego you only make waiver moves and smart trades(Scott Hairston, Adrian Gonzalez). This is why in my mind Omar Minaya, Ned Colletti(LA) and Jim Hendry(CHI) are bad GMs. They don't develop any homegrown talent and they practically only sign old, expensive veterans who aren't so good to play for their teams.

The Rule 4 draft is extremely hard to predict and that is the reason why many teams go with college players instead of high school players. College player's numbers are closer to what their number will be like in the pros than high school player's numbers because college baseball is at a higher level and college players are closer to filling their "potential". High school players only have a lot of "potential" because they are far away from their peeks so if you go see a player in high school and he is a great athlete you'll think to yourself, this guy reminds me of Jimmy Rollins, and you'll draft him but in 7 years from now you might find that this player can't hit at all and then you'll have to cut him and wonder why you didn't draft Kevin Youkilis(just kidding). This is what makes the amateur draft very hard to asses.

The Rule 5 draft is made up of all eligible players who aren't on their team's 40-man roster. If a player is picked he must stay on their major league team for a whole season or be returned to his previous team. There are a lot of diamonds in the rough in the rule 5 draft and in waivers. There are some GM's with a knack for finding these kind of undervalued young players. Johan Santana, Dan Uggla and Fernando Vina are just some names of players that were undervalued and therefore drafted in the rule 5 draft. Scott Podsednik was claimed on waivers by the Brewers the year he was great and all the Padres relievers were also waiver claims.

Now comes the hardest part, developing young talent. No team in baseball has prospered in this field yet. Most prospects are drafted high or 16 year olds from Latin America, not a lot are developed while in the organization. What is the best way to develop players? It is not known, but I have an idea. You have to surround all your players with good teachers and influencers to produce the perfect product. You also need overseers to make sure everything is going as expected on every level of the Minor Leagues. These two things along with terrific managers will boost players development immensely.

International scouting and player development are very expensive but once teams stop spending on bad free agents and the prices of players in the amateur draft go down they'll become more affordable. International scouting can produce tons of prospects and MLB players, just look at the Mets with Jose Reyes, Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez and much more coming. These players have a lot of "potential" because they're only 16, so what I would do is acquire your "potential" guys through international scouting while taking the safer bet in the amateur draft with college players.

Breaking News: Jason Botts Traded

I was doing my daily reading this morning when I came across a paragraph on Jason Botts being traded. Jason Botts was traded to the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan, a top team their. It's not known what the Rangers have gotten back but my guess is cash. This is extremely sad because this guy can hit 40 homers a season in the MLB, but was just never given a chance.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Brave at Heart

Tom Glavine made his major league debut August 17, 1987. And in his first season and a half he wasn't too good posting a 4.76 ERA over 245 2/3 IP. The start of a new decade brought good results to Glavine and a new contract. In the '90's he was a Gold Glover, a Cy Young award winner and he started the ALL-STAR game a few times. In 2003 Tom Glavine signed a 3 year $35 million dollar contract with the Mets. Why sign a 37 year old to a 3 year deal? I don't know.

The year before the Mets signed him, he had a 2.96 ERA in 224 2/3 IP. Glavine's first year with the Mets, he had a 4.52 ERA in 183 1/3 IP. That's the difference between Roger Clemens in his prime and Jason Marquis. How do you explain someone having their worst season since their 2nd pro season? Easy, the two teams trying to sign Tommy were the Phillies and the Mets. After 5 mediocre years with the Mets, Mr. Glavine returned to the Braves.....with answers.

I believe the Braves used Tom Glavine as a spy, to go to New York, make some money and then return to the Braves with answers. The Brave didn't care if it was the Mets or the Phillies he signed with as long as one of them wouldn't be able to compete with them. Every important game that Tom Galvine has pitched in the past two years for the Mets, he's blown. Not everyone remembers but Tom Glavine pitched against jeff Weaver in game 3 of the NLCS and Glavine faltered(along with Guillermo Mota) to cost the Mets the game and of course the series which went to 7 games. Last year he let up the most runs in a game in his career twice. Once against the Tigers in the summer and then again on the last day of the season he had to let up 7 runs in 1/3 of an inning.

I truly believe that Tom Glavine was never really on the Mets and only came to help out his buddy's down in Atlanta. Once Glavine put on that Braves jersey this offseason it felt as if he had never left the Braves. And that's the way it should be.