Mar 022015

It occurred to me that perhaps the Yankees’ error bars are so wide is somewhat due to where they are on the win curve: in the middle, just short of contention (83 projected wins). This is roughly where the Royals were a year ago, and of course the Yankees EXPECT to win, and PLAN to win, at least theoretically. So of course, if they had no real upside, they wouldn’t be where they are. The Mets, on the other hand, are coming out of a period of self-inflicted awfulness, and don’t really expect to win, so they might not really be working on a large 2014 upside. In order to explore this notion, today I will try to look at the upside/downside of the other team projected for exactly 83 wins, the Tampa Bay Rays. Of course, they get to 83 wins in a very different manner (I think ARod, Tex and CC between them exceed the Rays payroll) but they DO plan to contend – they have been contenders now for a while. They are coming off a downish year, but overall their low-cost strategy is not a “be mediocre and break through every once in a while” but rather “trade stars when they get expensive but get quality prospects in return, and compete with cost-controlled assets year after year”. How well they will be able to do this continuously is a matter of debate, and depends on whether or not they really are smarter than everyone else (evidence so far suggests yes, but the GM architect of their success is now with the Dodgers). Anyway, here goes.

The Rays fell to earth with a thud in 2014, winning only 77 games and finishing fourth in the AL East. They won at least 90 games each of the previous 4 seasons, though, so you can’t just consider them a bad team, and FG is obviously projecting some bounce back, even though they made no moves to improve the team this offseason. The Rays were 2 games over .500 at 4-2 and 7-5, lost 4 straight to 7-9 and were never over .500 again. They were at 23-28 after 51 games, in 4th place but only 6 games behind, on May 25, but beginning on Memorial Day they ended their season prematurely with a 10-game losing streak, followed by a single win and 4 more losses. Losing 14 of 15 put them at 24-42, deeply (15 games) in last and with no hope of recovery. They went 53-43 the rest of the way, a pace which would have netted them 89 wins and a wild card berth had they sustained it all season. Of course, they traded David Price to the Tigers in July essentially announcing that they were (rightly) punting the season. At the time of the trade they were 51-53, having gone 27-11 for a month and a half (a 115 win pace!) but while only 7 back were still in 4th place and the trade was made. They were under .500 the rest of the way.

Here is what they look like going into 2015 (All WAR given is fWAR unless otherwise noted, FG means FanGraphs):

Catcher – Rene Rivera is a 31-year-old catcher, acquired from San Diego in the 3-team Wil Myers trade. Rivera has been around FOREVER, breaking in with Seattle in 2004 at 20 years old for 3 AB. In 2005 as a September callup he got 50 PA and batted .396/.408/..521 in those games. This earned him a starting berth for 2006 (at age 22) and he was pretty awful: .152/.184/.253 (!) before the Mariners gave up after 106 PA. He returned to the minors for FIVE YEARS when in 2011 the Twins gave him a 114 PA trial in which he was actually WORSE (.144/.211/.202 in a better park for hitters). In 2013, now 29, he played in 23 games for the Padres (OPS 596) but they liked his defense enough to live with the bat, and gave him 329 PA in 2014. His defense WAS excellent and hitting (.252/.319/.432) surprisingly good, and this amounted to 3.0 WAR bringing his career total up to 2.5 (!). The Rays had some experience with a catcher who was great behind the plate, a super framer, and a zero with the bat, since in 2014 Jose Molina got 237 PA of .178/.230/.187 for them. His ISO (SLG – AVG) of .009 is the worst I have ever seen, by a LOT – only two of his 40 hits were for extra bases, both doubles. Rivera is projected at 400+ PA of .228/.280/.354 which would be a big step up (to dreadful) and 2.0 WAR. He has NO upside, but a 2 WAR downside in my opinion.

First Base – A “resurgent” James Loney played 158 games for the 2013 Rays, did reasonably well (2.7 WAR) despite not hitting like a first baseman (.299/.348/.430) with mediocre defense (he had a good glove rep but never had good numbers) so after paying him $2M for that season, they signed him for 3/$21M. Ugh. He posted a .290/.336/.380 line and his defense was poor, resulting in 0.5 WAR in 155 games. FG expects some rebound, to 1.2 WAR. I suppose there is upside there (he could get 2.5 WAR again) but he is 30 and the 2013 2.7 was a career high. He has 9.6 career WAR in 4700+ PA, so his rate per 600 is about the 1.2 they give him, and players don’t normally break out at 30 after so much history. His upside is probably 2, and his downside is less than zero. And he is signed for next year, too.

Second Base – Nick Franklin was acquired in the David Price trade. He broke into the majors in 2013 with Seattle, where in 412 PA his .225/.303/.382 line plus below-average defense plus the second-base position adjustment earned him 0.5 WAR. Back in the minors in 2014, he came up briefly with the Mariners, and in September with the Rays, and between them got 90 PA of .160/.222/.247 with average fielding (in a VERY small sample) good for -0.2 WAR. He turned 24 today (!) so he likely has some upside, hard to say how much. He did hit some in the minors, and has a decent fielding rep, and on that basis FG projects him for 1.3 WAR. I think his chance of 2.5 WAR is less than his chance of 0.0 WAR, so I think that this error bar is tight, too.

Shortstop – The Rays signed Asdrubal Cabrera at 1/$7.5 to play shortstop for them, their big free agent move. He is 29, and has 4000+ PA over 7 seasons, all with the Indians (until a late season trade last year to the Nats). His career ,268/.330/.409 is OK for a ordinary-fielding middle infielder, and he has 14.6 career WAR over those 7 seasons, 2.1 per. His 2014 was 1.7 and his 2013 was 0.5, with both offense and defense in decline. FG has him projected at 1.6 WAR in 455 PA. He may exceed the playing time projection, but that won’t help the WAR because his backups produce at about the same rate that he does. I don’t see much upside here, at all, as his three seasons of 2.8 WAR or more were all based on his BAT, with wOBA in the .350 range, and he has been at .308 for a couple of years now. And his downside is the 0.5 of just a year ago.

Third Base – Here you have the great, great Evan Longoria. In seven seasons with Tampa Bay, he has two above 7, two 6-7, one in the 5s, one in the 3s and 1 in the 2s (in WAR). The 3.4 was last year, but 6.8 the year before. He is still only 29, and the projection of 4.8 seems pretty reasonable, and he could obviously exceed that (e.g. he projects at 630 PA, but he hit 700 last year, so an 11% increase would make 5.4) but not by too much – FG expects a full bounce back. His downside, unless he gets hurt, is probably last year’s 3.4. He is the gold standard – you pretty much get what you get.

Left Field – The Rays unloaded Matt Joyce and FG doesn’t know what to do with his replacement. FG has Steven Souza (26 year old rookie acquired from Washington) at 280 PA in left and 175 in right, Kevin Kiermaier at 420 in right and 105 in center, Desmond Jennings at 525 in center and 105 in left, with others getting 100-200 PA each at a variety of outfield spots. I consider Souza to be the leftfielder, and combining the PT I get 1.6 WAR in 455 PA. He obviously has upside, as a rookie, as well as downside, but 26-year-old rookies essentially never post 5 WAR – he is limited by the fact that he hasn’t come up earlier.

Center Field – Jennings is good, and projects for 2.8 WAR. He has been 3.2-3.3 for 3 straight years, so that should be the projection, and I suppose 4 is an upside. Barring injury (and there is no history) there is no real downside. A solid major league regular.

Right Field – See comment on left field. I am going to consider Kiermaier the regular, 2.3 WAR per FG. He earned 3.8 WAR last year in 364 PA, so the projection of 2.3 in 525 is pretty pessimistic. He is 25 and I see lots of upside: he can hit, he hits for some power (10 HR 16 2B and 8 (!) 3B), and plays a fine right field. The Rays traded Wil Myers to play this guy, and I like his upside, which could be 5-6 WAR.

DH – Jon Jaso, I guess, along with the miscellaneous outfielders not given slots above. Jaso is 31, started with the Rays, bounced around and was reacquired this offseason. Despite his age is ML service time is only 5 years, so he got $3M in an arbitration settlement. His career wOBA of .339 was exactly duplicated last year, and the 0.7 WAR projection reflects the lack of defensive value. No upside or downside to speak of.

Well, that worked! Here is a team projected for the same wins as NY (though fewer batting WAR) but with MUCH lower error bars. I don’t think any reasonable projection of this team would have the batters more than 3-4 wins above their projections – a few could have better years, of course, but SOMEONE will be hurt and SOMEONE will stink. While this is clearly true of the Yankees (and all teams) there are so many MORE unknowns with NY that there is a much better chance that multiple good things will happen to offset fewer bad things. The Rays downside is a bit larger, perhaps 5-6 fewer wins from the hitters.

Rotation

Alex Cobb – He is 27, and projects to 2.8 WAR. He earned 2.7 last year, 2.4 in 2013, and 2.0 in 2012, so what you see is what you get, I guess. He was on the DL in 2012 and 2013, but not for long, so he is a typical, solid, ML pitcher, not an ace but a good guy to have. Small upside and downside.

Chris Archer – He is 26, and projects to 2.0 WAR. He earned 3.1 last year, his first full season, but only 1.2 in 23 starts in 2013. He has more upside than Cobb, but is less proven.

Jake Odorizzi – He is 25, and projects to 0.9 WAR. He was a rookie last year and earned 2.0, with 9.32 K/9 and 3.16 BB/9 so it looks like all upside to me. A breakout candidate.

Matt Moore – He is 26, and was hurt all year (2 starts) last season (no minor league appearances). In 2013 as a 24-year-old he earned 1.8 WAR in 27 starts, and in 2012 he earned 2.5 in 31 starts. His career ERA is better than his FIP, which in turn is better than his xFIP, which explains the 0.8 projection. If healthy, I expect his upside to be more like 2.5, and of course a downside of zero loses only 0.8 WAR.

Drew Smyly – now 26, he started 7 times for Tampa Bay in 2014 after being acquired from the Tigers in the David Price trade. His 3 ML seasons are 1.8, 1.9, 2.3 so the trend is good, and no DL stints to date. The projection of 1.8 is probably reasonable, but he seems a good candidate to be over rather than under.

The rotation is young, but not super young. They have upside, but not super upside. I see more potential here than in the batters, perhaps as much as 5-6 wins, but probably more like 3-4. And, of course, pitchers get hurt, and there is not too much depth, unless (as so often is the case) the Rays have a hidden Alex Cobb or David Price biding time in AA to fool us all.

Bullpen

Surprisingly, the Rays big signing was free agent Grant Balfour, a career reliever (2/$12). He MUST have more upside than downside, because FG projects him at 0.0 WAR! He was productive for Tampa yesteryear (2008-2010) but has one total year in his career over 1.5, so the upside isn’t that high. Jake McGee projects as the star of the bullpen at 1.6 after posting 2.6 last year, but he is injured and his future is murky. The Rays total bullpen only projects to  2.6, and somehow you feel they will be better than that. The upside can’t be large, though, unless they uncover hidden resources – there is no David Robertson here, by my eye test.

Summary

Clearly the Rays can exceed their projection (as can any team) but it is a bit harder to see where the wins come from. If the batters contribute 3-4, the rotation 3-4 and the bullpen chips in a win, it still only gets them to 89-90 and marginal contention, and ALL of these elements doing so well is unlikely. The Rays project to an 83 win team, and it is hard for me to see why. But I do think they will come in within a tight band of 77-85 wins, while the Yankees band looks more like 70-95.

 

Mar 012015

I feel I need to do at least one more team, so that I know whether or not the Yankee error bar is actually wider than normal, or not. My “analysis” suggested that if things broke plausibly right for the Yankees, they might win 100 games, and if they broke plausibly wrong they might win only 75. I think that 93 wins is not at all out of reach, even though they are projected for 83 – not that I am PREDICTING 93 wins, but that they have wide error bars. Given that Mike is the one who tried to pull me back into analysis (for which I am gratified and motivated) I thought I would use the Mets as the target of this analysis.

After being a pretty good team in the mid-2000s (88-97 wins from 2006 to 2008) they now have losing seasons 6 times in a row. They finished second in a weak division last year, with a 79-83 record.

FanGraphs (hereafter called FG) projects the Mets for 78 wins. Again I will go position by position using the FG depth chart and projection for the Mets. All references to WAR are fWAR unless otherwise noted.

Catcher – D’Arnoud broke in with the Mets as a 24-year-old in 2013, and was replacement level for 112 PA. Their regular catcher in 2014, he compiled 1.6 WAR in 413 PA, with most of his value his defense and the fact that he is a catcher (his offensive numbers: .242/.302/.416). He was 7th in the Rookie of the Year voting. But he hit in the minors (parts of 3 AAA seasons yielded a .344/.411/.633 line) and Steamer likes him a lot, with FG projecting 512 PA and 2.9 WAR. Obviously he has some upside, as a 26-year-old sophomore would be expected to have, but most of that upside is already in the projection. He could be a 4 WAR player with a breakout year, but he could also suffer a sophomore slump and drop below 1 WAR. I think the breakout is more likely, but I also think it more likely that he’ll post 2 WAR than 4.

First Base – Duda played full-time there last year, accumulating 3.0 WAR, the Mets second-best position player. He will be 29, so he is still in his prime years. But the season was completely out of context with his prior ML seasons, the best of which was 0.8 WAR in 314 PA. So which is it, a player finding himself relatively late in his career, and now being a solid ML regular, or an aging AAAA player getting a full-time job and playing over his head for a season? FG thinks the latter, projecting him for more playing time and half the WAR (1.6 in 630 PA) but Mets fans are obviously hoping for the former. His error bar is probably equally upside/downside, as his upside is 3 and his downside 0. I suspect that they have him pegged about right, and maybe high. He slugged .481, for example, while his AAA slugging was below .400. Go figure.

Second Base – what do we do with Murphy? He also had a solid year in 2014 (2.8 WAR in 642 PA) but that is the third time in four years he reached that level with one off-year in 2012. He rates as a below-average fielder but at a tough position, so why does FG hate him? They project 1.5 WAR in 525 PA but he has had 612-697 PA each of the past three years, as well as the WAR totals previously cited. He is 30 this year, so decline is not inevitable. I like him to be back in the 3 WAR range a lot more than I like Duda, and I think a collapse below 2 is unlikely. But he is what he is, so no 4-5 WAR year is at all likely.

Shortstop – the Mets are apparently going with Wilmer Flores and Reuben Tejada, 23 and 25 respectively. Tejada was the regular last year, with 1.2 WAR in 419 PA, ALL in defense and position adjustment, as he didn’t really hit at all (wOBA .292). Flores was better with 1.3 WAR in 274 PA but the same: his fielding is superior (and position adjustment the same of course) but he also hit the same, wOBA of .291. FG has them flipped this year, but not even achieving the 2.5 WAR between them that they did last year, projecting only 1.9. HERE I think the upside is higher – both players are very young, with the new regular the younger. Flores crushed the ball in AAA (.321/.360/.543 in over 700 PA) so I think he is going to hit. And he is a fine fielder, though the fielding numbers are too small to have stabilized yet. I like him better than the Yankees’ Gregorious, and his upside is high. I like Tejada less, but he is young and has upside, too. I don’t expect it, but the Mets COULD get 5 WAR from shortstop, if all breaks well for them.

Third Base – and then there is Wright. He played a full season (596 PA) and compiled only 1.9 WAR, so you might conclude that age caught up with him (he was 31). But Mets fans and I don’t see it that way: he had a injury, chose to play through it, was better than anything else they had, and is now fully recovered. FG projects him for 3.5 WAR, but I think 5 is more likely than 2, and he could return to the 6-7 level of 2012-2013. More upside than downside.

Left Field – I like Granderson, rooted for him as a Yankees, and was glad (for him, not necessarily for the Mets) that he got the big contract, but he is done. He earned 1.0 WAR last year, FG has him at 1.1 and his upside is pretty limited. No longer a good outfielder, being moved to left field, hurt by the shift and playing in a park that saps his HR power, he has almost no upside, and limited downside. He is what he is, an aging slugger who is paid too much to bench or cut, but doesn’t play well enough to really contribute. Sad, really.

Center Field – Juan Legares is the diadem in the Mets tiara. Their best position player in 2014 at 3.8 WAR, he is young (26), a fine defender (Gold Glove in 2014) and a solid (.310 wOBA) if unspectacular hitter. So why does FG project him for 2.5 WAR? Partially because they don’t trust players who have the majority of their value in defense. But he had 2.5 WAR in 2013 (on even better defense). I like him a lot, though: he jumped to MLB basically from AA, with only 92 PA in AAA (and he CRUSHED there, at .356/.391/.552 for what it’s worth) and I think the upside is real. 2015 could be the year he hits like an average MLB player, which would put him in the 5 WAR range.

Right Field – Cuddyer is a place-holder, like Granderson a Met mistake. He projects to 0.8 WAR. Obviously there is not much downside, but unless there is a Legares hiding in the system who is going to come up and post 2 WAR in 300 PA, I don’t see an upside, either. The backups are worthless, and Cuddyer will play every day unless hurt.

Overall, this team could win 5-6 games more than projected on the offense alone. The downside is actually less, 3-4 games.

Rotation

Harvey – obviously the biggest error bar on the team. Harvey was amazing, then hurt, then surgical, and now hopefully fully back. FG has him at 153 IP which I get, but doubt: he will do 180 or 60. If he does 180 (70%) he will hit 5 WAR. If he does 60 he will be at 1 WAR. I therefore project him at 3.8 as a baseline, as opposed to 2.8 by FG. His upside is large, but of course his downside is zero.

Colon – wasn’t he supposed to be done about 5 years ago? He led the Mets in wins and IP  a year ago at age 41, and was worth 2.1 WAR. FG has him at 0.8, and his upside and downside are both about 0.8.

Niese – he made 30 starts last year and was slightly above league average (102 ERA+) good for 1.6 WAR, but FG has him projected at 0.9 even though he is only 28. Not sure why, but at 0.9 there is obviously little downside but there must be some upside. His past five seasons were 1.6, 2.4, 2.1, 1.5, 1.6 so I really don’t get this projection.

Wheeler – just coming into his own at 25 I like Wheeler a lot. In his first full MLB season he made every start, threw 180 innings, was only slightly below league average (98 ERA+), struck out more than a batter an inning and posted 1.8 WAR. FG regresses him to the mean, projecting 1.4 WAR, but I think his upside is great – this could be the year he gets his walk rate down (young pitchers do learn, you know) and becomes an all-star with a 4 WAR season.

deGrom – the Mets best starter a year ago, deGrom earned 3.0 WAR while posting a 2.69 ERA fully supported by a 2.67 FIP in 22 starts. He will be 28 this year, and FG projects him for 1.5 WAR, probably due in part to regression and partly due in part to playing time. His upside is a near ace, as his 9+ K/9 and <3 BB/9 bode well for him.

The rotation could reasonably exceed their projections by 5 WAR, or fall short by even more (pitching being what it is). Dillon Gee is in the wings, but I no longer think he is going to find his way; I used to think of him as a future star, but sadly no more.

Bullpen

There is no downside to the bullpen, as FG projects the entire staff at a total of 0.3 WAR. While there is obviously upside, this bunch doesn’t excite me, and most of them have injury histories. If the 2014 Mets bullpen was not the worst in the majors, it had to be close, and the 2015 bullpen looks just as bad. The good news is this: bullpens are somewhat fixable. IF the Mets turn in an upside campaign, if Harvey and Wright return to form, Legares and D’Arnaud are for real, and some of Niese, deGrom and Wheeler step up, so that the Mets are contending in July it will not cost the ranch to reach out and trade for a couple of more capable relievers to turn a 0.3 bullpen into a 2.3 bullpen.

I see the Mets reasonable upside as about 10 games, putting them in the 88 win range, which would I think compete for a wild card. I see their downside as less, though I suppose it is not zero probability that the pitching collapses altogether, but since their projection is 78 wins, a 6-game downside would put them at 90 losses.

My conclusion regarding the comparison with the Yankees is that I was right: the Yankee error bars are very wide. My conclusion with regards to the Mets is this: there is reason for hope. The Mets, by and large, are a young team. Young teams can break your heart, but they can also explode. The starting pitching is potentially there, there are several breakout candidates among the position players, and the veteran leadership (David Wright) is also there. It is too bad to have two aging anchors in the corner outfield positions, and the bullpen is a disaster, but a team that is mediocre at every position has no chance, but a team with upside at many positions and black holes at others can improve rapidly, through breakouts and trades/callus.

Good luck, Mike!

 

Feb 282015

As suggested yesterday, I am going to try to quantify the Yankees’ projection. Remember, FanGraphs projects them at 83-79, which seems about right, perhaps even a little high (many so-called pundits are predicting their first losing season since the early nineties). They are in a very competitive division, their strength is a pitching staff that is full of question marks, and their roster contains a large number of over-paid, under-performing veterans. After winning 95+ games for years (from 1997-2012 they missed 94 wins only twice) they were suddenly 85 and 84 in missing the postseason back-to-back, and in fact in both of those seasons they over-performed their peripherals, allowing more runs than they scored in both years.

To get an idea of their upside and downside, let’s look at the FanGraphs projection position-by-position and see if we can learn anything. All WAR values given are fWAR unless otherwise indicated.

Catcher: Brian McCann was a major disappointment in 2014, producing only 2.3 WAR after being their #1 free agent target in the offseason. FG is projecting him for a modest recovery to 3.0. While this seems reasonable, it is also reasonable to expect that his upside is larger than his downside: he is more likely to produce 5 WAR than 1. After a year of getting used to Yankee Stadium, he might well bounce back with a better batting eye and more HRs.

First Base: Mark Teixeira has been beset by injuries, and is clearly not the player he was. He has not had a full season since 2011 and if he isn’t THE ML player most hurt by the recent phenomenon of defensive shifts, he has to be right up there. Still, a reversion to the 2011 levels is not really asking that much (.250/.240/.500) and he is starting the season purportedly fully healthy for the first time in several years. FG projects him for 1.2 WAR and sees his backups as essentially replacement level.

Second Base: Steven Drew was arguably the very worst ML player in 2014 (he managed -1.3 WAR in NY in only 155 PA) and the Yankees signed him for $5M to play second base. FG projects a bounce-back to 0.8 WAR in 420 PA, but it must be remembered that just the previous year he was very good in Boston, one of the reasons for the Red Sox surprise World Series run. I actually am quite disappointed that the organization didn’t commit to Rob Refsnyder, and FG agrees: Refsnyder projects to 0.6 WAR in 175 PA, Drew to 0.8 in 420. The downside at second base is not really that large: if Drew performs like 2014, he will just be cut ($5M be damned) and Refsnyder will play. He will not be awful. On the other hand, the upside is large, and twin: Drew could return to form, as NY obviously expects, and put up 3-4 WAR, OR Drew could suck, Refsnyder could play every day, and HE could be quite good.

Shortstop: the Yankees went out of their way to trade for the young Didi Gregorious, and FG doesn’t like him much, as well as projecting that he will split playing time with the awful Brendan Ryan. Since the theoretical downside is 0 (by definition, you can find replacement level players) and the projection is only 1, you have to go with the upside here. The Yankees THINK Gregorious is going to be good, and they HOPE he will learn to hit lefties (he hasn’t, at all, in his professional career) and even a modest projection (say he keeps his rate as FG has but plays every day) would put him at 2.0 WAR. 2.5 or 3.0 is more like what the Yankees are expecting/hoping for.

Third Base: I like the signing of Chase Headley, who I always considered a good player at San Diego, who played VERY well for NY in his brief time (2.8 WAR in 224 PA) and who projects to be their best player (3.8 WAR). Here, though, I think the downside is bigger than the upside. Headley is pretty unlikely to outperform this projection by much: he has only one season in his career over 4.4 (his 2014 number) and that season (2012) stands out like a sore thumb in his record (7.2 WAR). On the other hand, 30-year-old players DO sometimes collapse, and sometimes get injured. If 39-year-old Alex Rodriguez sees real playing time at third, it could get really ugly. there must be a 20% chance that the third base projection of 3.9 becomes 0.5 or some such.

Left Field: Gardiner is, in my opinion, great and underrated. FG sees him as a solid performer (2.9 WAR in 595 PA) but he has had better seasons (discounting the injury season of 2012, his WAR numbers read 1.1, 2.3, 6.0, 4.9, 3.2, 3.2 for his career. It is not clear to me why FG thinks 595 PA, as his last two seasons were 665 and 651, and Steamer projects 3.2 WAR (they scaled that back due to the PT estimate). His upside is to return to the player he was a few years ago – he is just as fast, has not lost his fielding ability, so he just has to get the batting eye back – and he could again be a 5 WAR player. Hid downside is probably only injury: he does what he does pretty much every year, unless hurt.

Center Field: Along with McCann, Ellsbury was the Yankees’ big FA signing a year ago, and also a disappointment, even though he was their best player! Such is the price to play in NY. FG has him essentially duplicating his 2014 season, and again that is reasonable. And like Headley, the downside is greater than the upside: while he COULD return to a dominating 5-6 WAR player, he is more likely to struggle (due to nagging injuries for example) and he has proven fragile in the past.

Right Field: No. Well, actually, the Yankees will be required to put SOMEONE out there. FG suggests half of the PT will go to Chris Young, who was wonderful for NY in 79 PA (a full 1.0 WAR) but in fact awful for NY (the Mets) where he was below replacement in almost 300 PA before being cut by a team with nothing to play for. He had a couple of 4 WAR seasons for the D-backs (2010-2011) but back-to-back 0.4 WAR seasons and his salary ($2.5M) suggest that no one thinks he will do much. The other half is the aging Carlos Beltran, a signing mistake a year ago (-0.5 WAR in 450 PA) who was hurt and couldn’t play right field for most of the year. He USED to be great, but no more, and the FG projection of 1.7 WAR between all the right fielders seems a bit generous to me. There is, essentially, NO real upside (OK, the ghost of Carlos Beltran could put up 5.0 WAR, but the chance is pretty slim) and despite the low projection, the two candidates splitting time there were BOTH below replacement last year, so you do the math.

DH – Here FG outdoes itself: ARod gets half the PT at below replacement, with others getting minor amounts of PA to no effect. The Yankees project to have the worst DHs in the game. Obviously there is very little downside, but the upside is huge: ARod could hit, Beltran could be happier at DH, or the Yankees could bring up some kid and get more production.

Can you see what I meant when I said yesterday that the Yankees have very wide error bars? It is hardly out of the realm of possibility that Gregorious, Drew/Refsnyder, McCann, Teixeira and ARod all play better than their modest projections, and that this lineup generates 4-6 more wins than FG/Steamer suggest. It is also possible (but less likely in my opinion) that Headley, Ellsbury and McCann are overrated or get hurt, and that the other low projections stay low, costing this lineup 4-6 wins. Wide error bars, and we haven’t even GOTTEN to the pitching!

Starters:

Tanaka – This is the Yankees presumed ace: he is 26, he threw amazingly well last year, posting 3.2 WAR in only 20 starts. FG predicts 3.4 WAR in 188 innings and I think that projection is SILLY. The WAR may be fine, but in my opinion one of the following will be his result: 1) he will be the same dominant pitcher, and pitch 188 innings. (35%) In this case, his WAR will be about 7, 2) He will break down, and need the surgery he refused this year, pitching say 80 innings of decreasing effectiveness (25%). In this case, his WAR will be about 2.0. 3) He will indeed pitch 188 innings but league will figure him out (15%). In this case his WAR will be about 2.5. 4) He will break down in spring training and have the surgery, missing the season. (25%) in this case his WAR will be 0.0. This works out to 3.2 WAR. What do you know?

Sabathia – OK, maybe this is the Yankees ace. He also projects to 188 IP and 2.4 WAR. He was essentially worthless in 2014 (0.1 WAR in 46 IP) and has lost most of his fastball. He is reportedly healthy and heavy, but in fact historically he pitched better heavy. Will his knees hold up? Can he regain his fastball? No and no. What COULD happen is that he could make the transition from power pitcher to finesse pitcher. He has always had good control (his xFIP last year was 3.11) and good secondary pitches. CAN he win with a 90-91 fastball? Yes, of course. WILL he? Perhaps not. I put the chances like this: 1) He struggles to regain form, his knees give out, and he is done (20%) 0.0 WAR. 2) He continues to pitch like a power pitcher (in 2014 he still had more than 9 K/9) with decreasing effectiveness, but holds up mostly (40%) 1.0 WAR in 150 IP 3) He makes the transition to finesse pitcher, taking strain off his knees and arm, and is effective (30%) 3.0 WAR in 200 IP. Something in between (10%) 2.4 WAR in 188 IP (FG projection). This totals to 1.9 WAR so I have his downside as larger than his upside. I don’t see a return to a 5-6 WAR pitcher as having any chance at all. I’d love to be wrong, as Sabathia is one of my favorite Yankees

Pineda – To date the Yankees have won the blockbuster trade that brought Pineda, though by attrition: none of the players have done what they were expected to do, but Pineda has been a little less of a zero than the others. This year, Hector Noesi may change that calculus, though not for the Mariners. Anyway, HE could be the Yankees ace – he has the stuff and flashed it last year. He made only 13 starts and struck out only 7/9 but he didn’t walk anyone (o.83/9) and managed 2.2 WAR in those 13 starts. If you just project that to 30 starts that makes him an ace (5.0 WAR) but FG has him at 2.1 in 169 IP. I am more optimistic: if he gets 169 IP I expect 4-5 WAR. I even think it about 50% that he gets there. I think it 25% that he gets 100 IP and 2.5 WAR, and 25% that he gets 0.0 WAR. So I have him at about 3.5, with the upside more likely than the downside.

Eovaldi – who knows what to make of him? FG hates him (1.0 WAR) despite 3.0 last year. The Fan projection loves him (2.8 WAR). I think he has a live arm, is young, but I don’t know how coachable. Only 25, he could be the steal of the offseason. I don’t really know how to lay out the odds, but clearly there isn’t much downside, as he only projects to 1.0 WAR. Duplicating last year would make it 3.0, and there is growth upside for a 25-year-old pitcher with great stuff and ML experience. Could be the surprise of the season.

Nova – talk about mysteries. Coming off TJ surgery, FG has him at 113 IP which seems a stretch. On the other hand, they don’t see him pitching well, which is NOT a stretch. On the other other hand, he is young and has pitched well in the past. At 1.1 WAR there is no real downside, but there could be considerable upside.

Others – Capuano has been good in the past, though bad the past couple of years. He will take the fifth spot till Nova is back (May?) and then will take Sabathia’s spot while on the DL, and Pineda’s, and Tanaka’s. If he stays healthy, he could get 30 starts (!!). FG has him at 0.6 WAR in 75 IP, roughly the same rate as Nova, so if he really got 200 IP he would be about a 1.5 WAR pitcher. FG has Adam Warren strictly in relief, but I think he will be the seventh starter, and predict he starts 10 games. He is young and decent. Chase Whitley was OK last year.

Relief

When a relief pitcher, non-closer, is the 2nd highest pitching WAR on the team, this is usually NOT A good sign! Dellin Betances was amazing (3.2 WAR) and is likely to close for NY this season. FG likes Andrew Miller (FA signing) better, but has the two at 3.2 WAR between. This is a reasonable regression to the mean, but both are nasty, and could have a Royals-like 1-2 punch in the bullpen. Of course one or both could get hurt, but otherwise there is certainly more upside than downside here.

NOW you can see what I mean about error bars. The Yankee bullpen seems solid, but the rotation is full of question marks. Tanaka has a good chance to be an ace, and a large chance to be a zero. Sabathia has been great but could be done. Pineda has only had one season in which he didn’t break down. Nova is coming off surgery. Capuano’s best days are behind him. Eovaldi is a mystery. Warren may not even start. This group could be dominant (+10 wins) or absent (-8 wins). Who knows? And on these arms, in large part, rests the Yankees chances.

Oddly, I think the projection is reasonable, but highly unlikely. IF things go decently, this team will win 90+ games. If they go south, they will win about 75. It is most unlikely, in my non-expert opinion, that they will be in the 81-85 range again. Finally, of course, these are the Yankees. IF they seem headed for 75 wins, they may blow up the team. If they seem headed for 83, though, they will spend some money, and mortgage the future, to try to bring in help. Last season they brought in Prado, Headley, McCarthy, Young and other lesser lights. Why expect 2015 to be different?

But the bottom line is this: after several seasons of NO fun at all, THIS team looks fun! It will be fascinating (though likely painful) to see how this rotation does, to see if the kids (Gregorius, Refsnyder) can really plan, to watch Betances blow away hitters. I can hardly wait!

Feb 272015

I used to do projected standings, analysis of comings and goings, etc. But now EVERYONE does that, and they have whole staffs to crunch the numbers, and I don’t have much extra to offer, so I don’t think I’ll do that this year. Instead, I am going to start by posting FanGraphs version of the standings. Their methodology, which is good but beyond my meager abilities, is to have their staff project depth charts and then playing time, based on the roster, the age of the players, their current injury status and injury history, etc. They then average the projections of several systems (at least Steamer and Zips, probably others) to get a rough WAR/100PA or some such, to get a projected WAR. They then add up the WAR for all teams, and determine the “base WAR” to get the average to be 81 wins. The results are what you would expect (excellent) but with the usual regression to the mean: they KNOW there will be 95 win teams, but they NEVER project one. Anyway, it is a great starting point, so here you go:

AL East
Boston 88-74
Toronto 84-78
New York 83-79
Tampa Bay 83-79
Baltimore 79-83

AL Central
Cleveland 85-77
Detroit 84-78
Kansas City 80-82
Chicago 78-84
Minnesota 75-87

AL West
Seattle 89-73
LA of Anaheim 84-78
Oakland 84-78
Houston 78-84
Texas 77-85

NL East
Washington 91-71
Miami 81-81
New York 78-84
Atlanta 71-91
Philadelphia 69-93

NL Central
St. Louis 86-76
Pittsburgh 85-77
Chicago 84-78
Milwaukee 77-85
Cincinnati 75-87

NL West
Los Angeles 90-72
San Francisco 82-80
San Diego 80-82
Colorado 77-85
Arizona 74-92

There are some interesting things in these projections: the AL East has 4 teams projected for winning records, and the only team NOT so projected won 96 games last year, and has beaten its projection for 4-5 years in a row. The NL East has ONE team projected for a winning record: they own the BEST MLB projection AND the two WORST MLB projections. And the Cubs project to within 2 of the division lead, and a wild-card berth (both wild cards project to come from the Central). In the how the mighty have fallen department, it wasn’t too long ago that Atlanta and Philly were the only contenders in the NL East, and the Reds were the Cardinals competition in the NL Central. And what happened to the Rangers (my unfortunate pick to win the West last year) and the Brewers (who led the central for a long time last year)?

What these standing lack (and I can’t supply them) are error bars, or even better win ranges. If a team projects for 86 wins (Cardinals) they could be in one of several positions: they could have a low ceiling (90% that they won’t top 89 wins) or a low floor (90% that they will top 82 wins) which I think is the case here (no analysis, just gut feel). But they could have a very high ceiling, because they have a lot of rookies or bounce-back potential (they don’t, in this case) and could have a 25% chance to win 93 games, or a huge floor (counting on guys who had big years last year (again, not so much in this case) and could be 20% to lose 85 games.

The team that appears, to me, on a superficial look to have the largest error bars is my own New York Yankees. They project to win 83 games, just where they have been the past two years (85 in 2013, 84 in 2014) BUT those teams got there by outperforming their stats – if you did the same calculation by adding the WAR and normalizing to 81 wins, the Yankees in 2014 come in at 78-84 – a huge 6-game spread. I am thinking about how to quantify these error bars, and my do a post on the Yankees and uncertainty, but for now, let me say that I think there is a 20% chance that they win 92 games, a 25% chance that they win the division, a 40% chance that they have a losing record, and a 10% chance that they are the worst team in baseball, or maybe second worse if the Phillies manage to unload the rest of their high-priced but still quality players (Hamels, Lee, Utley). Could be fun.

Talk to you soon! Those that are still hanging in there, better times ahead, I hope.

I'm Back, I Hope!

Posted by Baseball Bob at 07:47
Feb 272015

The most recent post was a plea from Mike that I come back. I am touched. I have been traveling, and my life has changed a bit, but the change should result in MORE posts, now fewer. Basically, my wife is in England for 6 months (5 more) and I am back from a recent visit there. We here in New England are buried under feet of snow (over 6 feet have fallen, 3-4 still on the ground, piles 12-15!) and so I am alone, happy to be at home, and ready for baseball!

Meanwhile, by tomorrow all players will have reported, and spring training will be officially in full swing. First mlb.tv games are (I think) late next week, and off we go!

Mike asked for a list of the best players in the game, as most of the big names have faded, at least a little. Here is my own quick list, though I am SURE I have missed a bunch of really good ones:

Mike Trout, Angels
Andrew McCutcheon, Pirates
Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
Alex Gordon, Royals
Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays (traded from A’s ???)

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Madison Bumgarner, Giants
Cory Kluber, Indians
Felix Hernandez, Mariners
David Price, Tigers (traded from Rays ???)

Of course the trade of Price made sense – he was getting expensive, the Rays are a very low-budget team, and this is what they do (they traded Shields, they traded Beckett, etc.) but the trade of Donaldson made no sense to me: he is NOT old, and was NOT expensive, but he WAS great. Maybe, of course, they know something I don’t know.

Anyway, I hope to get back into a rhythm of posting several times a day. Good to be back.

Baseball Bob

Where's Baseball Bob

Posted by MikeG at 17:33
Feb 232015

January 26th has come and gone and the comments have been removed, so I am making a post pleading Baseball Bob to return to his post.  We miss you!

After you have settled back in here with some great posts, could you please reach out to Mets management.  I would love to see us pick up a shortstop, a corner outfielder, and a first baseman.  I’m thinking they could do some crowd funding to finance these moves.

The Nationals once again appear to have the best team on paper, but I am sure they will find a way to disappoint.

It would be awesome to see a list of the best players in both leagues, as the landscape has changed considerably.  Prince Albert, Mauer, Braun, Wright, Hamilton, Prince Fielder, Votto, Tulowitzki, etc appear doomed.  It would be nice to predict 2015 MVPs and Cy Youngs.  On that note, can we please stop giving pitchers the MVP.  You are not the most valuable it you can be perfect and only account for 20% of the wins and pitchers have their own award.

Bring on Bob!!

Padres Offseason

Posted by Baseball Bob at 13:54
Jan 142015

Setup

The San Diego Padres won 75 games in 2014, in a division which included the World Champion Giants and the new spending leading Dodgers. There was little evidence of a contending team, as they were 10 games behind by game 50 (and never got closer than that the rest of the way). They were 4th in the division for half a season, then third for the second half. They should apparently be building for the future, and made some “headway” by trading long-time third baseman Chase Headley to the Yankees in midseason, getting cheaper, younger and worse. Actually, they played better in the second half, going 41-40 over their final 81 games.

But they had a shocking offseason, in which they turned over most of their roster (they remind you of playing 2K4, a video game in which we often take a new team and trade ALL of its players the first year. They are clearly trying to win NOW, which is not what you would have expected, and so makes them an intriguing target for analysis.

Lineup

Of the 8 players who Baseball-Reference lists as the Padres regulars in 2014, only two had an OPS+ over 100: Catcher Rene Rivera (117) and left fielder Seth Smith (135). The only other acceptable major league hitters were first baseman Yonder Alonso (97) and third baseman Chase Headley (90). Somewhat notable was utility man Yasmani Grandal (112 in 128 PA) off the bench. Of these five “acceptable” hitters from 2014, only Alonso I still on the roster!

The Padres acquired Justin Upton from the Braves to play left field, Wil Myers from the Rays to man center, and Matt Kemp from the Dodgers to play right. Wil Middlebrooks (from the Red Sox) and Yangervis Solarte (from the Yankees) will share third base, Alexi Amarista (25 years old, 148 PAs in 2014 with OPS+ 76) will be at short, Jedd Gyorko (25 years old, OPS+ 79 in 2014) will return at second base, and Alonso will man first. Derek Norris (A’s) will catch, backed up by Tim Federowicz (Dodgers). So the Padres replaced their entire outfield, their third baseman and catcher, while banking on two light-hitting young middle infielders, and a bounce-back season from their still-in-his-prime first baseman.

Steamer projects that this isn’t going to work, at all. The Padres project to rank 25th of the 30 MLB teams in position player WAR, hardly the stuff championships are made of. Part of the reason for this is defense: amazingly, the ONLY Padre projected starter who Steamer has as an above average defender is holdover first baseman Alonso. ALL of the others project to be below average, and this includes the young DP combination who should be good in the field because 1) they are young and 2) they can’t really hit. Matt Kemp is a pretty terrible outfielder (so bad that he was replaced for a while by perennial statue Andre Ethier in center!) and Wil Myers was an average corner outfielder who will be stretched in center.

suffice it to say that unless the Padres really know a LOT that we don’t, their roster turnover did not, in fact, bring them a championship caliber lineup. And, of course, the canyon that they call a home park will not help the numbers. That lineup could in fact be really ugly in statistical terms, especially using traditional metrics. They didn’t score enough last year, and they won’t sore enough this year, either.

Starters

Seven pitchers started at least 11 games for the Padres in 2014, of which three (Kennedy, Ross and Stults) did not miss a start all year, accounting between them for 96 of the 162 games. The Padres ballpark helps pitchers, so the ERAs look more impressive than they really were, but ERA+ shows three above average: Cashner (131 in 19 starts), Ross (119 in 31) and Hahn (109 in 12), with Odrisamer Despaigne (what a great name!) exactly average (100 in 16). The others are Kennedy (92 in 33), Stults (78 in 32), and Erlin (67 in 11).

The Padres didn’t turn over their rotation like their lineup, as their current projected starters are (according to Steamer): Kennedy (188 IP) Cashner (169), Ross (162), Despaigne (139) and their two “big” free agent signings: Brandon Morrow (113) and Josh Johnson (89). Erlin is still there (and still young, only 24) but this is an uninspiring bunch to say the least.

While the Padres seem done on the position player front, I suppose they could finish their “all in” offseason by offering way too much money to Shields or Shertzer, or emptying what is left of the farm for Cole Hamels. If they do not, however, their pitchers will have apparently decent ERAs while actually not being very good.

Bullpen

The Padres 2014 bullpen, even after park adjustments, was pretty good. Huston Street was actually fantastic (ERA+ 310 but only pitched 33 innings), and Thayer (143 in 65) and Quackenbush (135 in 65) were very solid. Remember, though, that 135 (35% above league average, park adjusted) is not at all off the charts: most relievers are above average, while most starters are below in this metric). Street is gone, and steamer is unkind to the rest of the Padres pen, big-time: Juaquin Benoit projects for 1.0 fWAR, and the rest of the pen projects to -01 COMBINED! Steamer sees the Padres as essentially having a replacement-level bullpen, somewhat masked by the ballpark.

Overall Steamer has the Padres pitching as ALSO ranking 25th of 30 teams, at 8.0 WAR. Ugh.

My take

I agree with Steamer that their pitching is no good – they really need BOTH Shields and Shertzer in order to compete in the NL West, and that might not do it.

I also agree that the defense will be atrocious, and so the bWAR of the pitchers will suffer (fWAR, more fielding independent, will hold up better).

But I think they may well surprise us in run production. Matt Kemp should be a DH, but he CAN hit. Justin Upton and Wil Myers can both hit, too, and I think Alonso will do better. And I suspect that the Padres are not so foolish as to spend all that money on the outfield, if the young middle infielders can neither field nor hit: I DO think they might know more than we do about this.

finally, I suspect that they hope to not be quite done, and that they expect to upgrade their pitching over the next few weeks. It has been an interesting offseason in San Diego, and a story worth watching in 2015.

What's Next?

Posted by Baseball Bob at 12:35
Jan 142015

Hi friends. Not as long as the last gap, but still long enough that only truly patient readers are still with me. And this is not going to change immediately: I am in Utah, and going on to California on Friday. But on January 24 my wife leaves for England (for 6 months!) and I will have more time on my hands, and I DO expect to spend some of that time once more recording my thoughts about baseball.

And where I hope to start is to examine a few of the teams which either interest me (Yankees, Dodgers, Phillies) or which have had intriguing offseasons (Padres, White Sox, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Cubs) and write about where they are, and what might be next for them. Do they have more to do? The Yankees, for example, seem (for better or worse) to have a settled roster of position players, but lots of question marks in the pitching, so what’s next for them might well be the acquisition of another starter and a couple of relievers. Or a hot Cuban prospect.

Anyway, don’t look for much until January 26, but if you are so inclined you might check back then, as there may be much more regular posts starting around that time.

And thanks, in advance, to those few that have stuck with me through a season of very little activity. I DO believe that 2015 will be a LOT more active on the baseball Bob front!

Wow

Posted by Baseball Bob at 16:10
Dec 112014

The title of this post applies to two very separate things: how long it’s been since I last posted, and what the Dodgers have done in the past few days.

First, my absence. No real excuses: the season got depressing, and then I got busy, and then baseball was over, and then I got busier, and then I had surgery – none of that really kept me from posting. I am actually SHOCKED to see that it has been since mid-August since I was on this site! Wow, indeed. I don’t promise to do better, but I HAVE thought a lot about baseball, and have followed it closely, I just didn’t get around to writing about it. in fact, the reason I was so surprised is that I formulated several posts over this time, and I hadn’t actually realized that I didn’t post ANY of them.

The actual topic, though, is the Dodgers. A couple of years ago, the new owners of the Dodgers gave Ned Coletti a blank check, and he did (sort of) turn them into instant contenders, by spending a true boatload of money. What he actually did, of course, was marginally upgrade the Dodgers while (among other things) rebooting the Red Sox from worst to first to a World Series championship, and set an all-time record for bloated contracts on a single team, eclipsing about ten Yankees teams.

Now, however, Coletti is gone, replaced by Andrew Friedman from the Rays, and what (apparently) you get is the savvy of the Rays with the money of the Dodgers – bad news indeed for the rest of baseball! Friedman will undoubtedly make mistakes (see: Billy Beane) but he has the money to eat those mistakes, and he SEEMS to have his head on very straight indeed.

Let’s consider a few things which have happened just in the past few days:

Trade with Padres – The Dodgers sent Matt Kemp and backup catcher Tim Federowicz (plus $31M) to the Padres for catcher Yasmani Grandahl, and pitchers Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin.

Trade with Phillies – The Dodgers acquired shortstop Jimmy Rollins (and cash IN) for two as yet unnamed minor leaguers.

Trade with Marlins – The Dodgers sent 2B/SS Dee Gordon to Florida, along with infielder Matt Rojas, pitcher Dan Haren (and $12.5M) to acquire four players/prospects: Andrew Heaney, Enrique Hernandez, Austin Barnes, and Chris Hatcher.

Trade with Angels- The Dodgers sent Andrew Heaney (just acquired from Florida) to Anaheim for 2B Howie Kendrick.

Free Agent: The Dodgers signed starter Brandon McCarthy for 4 years and $48M.

In case you can’t follow all this at home, the Dodgers got rid of one of their outfield glut (Kemp) and in the process shed about $70M of future money. They acquired one year of a solid ML shortstop (Rollins) and one year of an excellent ML second baseman (Kendrick) plus, of course, a year of exclusive negotiating rights to both, if they care (prediction: they won’t try to negotiate with Rollins, but they will try and likely succeed with the much younger Kendrick). The tandem of Rollins/Kendrick will provide as much offense from the middle infield as last year’s tandem of Henley Ramirez/Dee Gordon, while providing MUCH better defense. And since Kershaw, Greinke and McCarthy are all among the highest ground-ball producers in baseball, that will make these pitchers that much better (scary thought: Kershaw will be BETTER???).

Grandahl has a reputation as a defense-first catcher, and might well be on the ML roster as well.

And in the process of all this, they ACQUIRED more and better prospects than they dealt!

They are likely not yet done. They still would like to play an outfield of Puig, Van Slyke and Pedersen, which leaves them Crawford and Ethier extra (the two most expensive bench players in the game today??). There is little interest in either one, and both are owed boatloads of money (but not as much as Kemp was). Kemp, of course, is a much better player, which is why the Dodgers managed to get something for him without paying most of his salary.

There have been excellent analyses of these trades for those who are interest. I will just say this:

I get why the Phillies did what they did, and they are likely to dump some or all of Hamels, Utley, Papelbon, Ruiz and Howard (if possible) to truly begin a rebuild. They saved a little money, opened up a spot for a youngster to see what he can do, and signaled their intentions to the world.

I kind of get why the Angels did what they did: they traded a cost-controlled year of an excellent second baseman for six years of a top-50 prospect. It made them worse, but was probably a value-for-value trade. I guess they think they are good enough to win despite this short-term downgrade?

I don’t AT ALL get what the Marlins were thinking: Gordon is not that good, is coming off a career year and likely to regress, and Heaney (that same top-50 prospect) might be as good as Gordon right now, and with a bigger upside. AND they threw in 3 other prospects, none of which are truly fillers. AND Haren has publicly stated that he will retire rather than play anywhere but LA (Dodgers or Angels). Perhaps the deal is that if Haren retires, the Marlins get to keep the money sent to pay his salary. (NOTE: Wouldn’t it be a kick if the Marlins traded Haren back to the Angles for Heaney, keeping the money? THEN the trade makes some sense: Gordon for 3 prospects and $12.5M – a classic Marlins trade!).

And even less do I understand the Padres: Matt Kemp can play, and I love him. He isn’t worth, at least at this moment, the $100M+ still owed to him, and possibly not even the $70M or so SD is on the hook for. AND if he IS worth it, it would only be for a team in win-now mode: he will in all probability be good in 2015, and perhaps 2016, and then become an anchor in 2017-2019 (yes, he is signed for FIVE more years), so a team like the Yankees might see him as a costly but worthwhile acquisition. But the Padres? They project, at this moment, to win about 73 games, and Kemp might move that (optimistically) up to 76 or 77. This is worth it how? By the time, if ever, that they turn things around and begin to contend, he will be IN THE WAY. PLUS he is a bad outfielder – shouldn’t he be on an AL team that at least could hide him at DH? If Ortiz were hurt or done, he would be a perfect fit in Fenway Park.

But WOW! in just a few days the Dodgers shed millions in payroll, got clearly better, AND acquired a number of useful prospects, as well as solidifying an already rock-solid rotation. And, likely, they are not yet done!

Four games

Posted by Baseball Bob at 21:12
Aug 142014

What a difference a few games can make!

Last Friday night the Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians: they built up a 10-2 lead, and the bullpen gave some of it back, but they won 10-6. This followed them taking 3 of 4 from the Tigers (and leading David Price 3-1 in the one that got away!), and put them 7 games over .500, 5 back in the divisional race, and in the lead for the second wild-card spot by 1/2 game. They had 2 more games with the mediocre Indians, and then they were to head to Baltimore for a 3-game showdown with the 1st place Orioles. Michael Pineda was rehabbing so well at triple-A that it was determined to skip his last rehab start and let him face the Orioles on Wednesday. Carlos Beltran was (finally!) rounding into form at the plate, and the 20% playoff chance ESPN was willing to admit seemed low. Optimism reigned supreme.

Yes, there were clouds. The team hadn’t scored much against Detroit (11 runs in 4 games) but they faced the 3 most recent AL Cy Young award winners (Scherzer, Price, Verlander) so that is understandable. Until they beat the Tiger’s bullpen 5-1 they had played 16 (!) consecutive games decided by 1 or 2 runs, a franchise record and only 2 off the longest streak of all-time. And they were leading THAT game 2-1 until they got 3 largely-undeserved runs in the 8th inning due to sloppy Tiger defense (is there any other kind?). Chris Capuano (!!) had pitched 6 scoreless innings, Esmil Rogers (!!!!) had thrown 5 against the Indians, Brandon McCarthy was unbeaten in 4 starts.

But a funny thing happened on the march to the postseason. Cleveland shut them out on Saturday, and would have again on Sunday except Ellsbury hit a HR in the bottom of the 9th to lose by 1-4 instead. By the way, the Yankees are currently on a 2500+ game streak (!!) of not being shut out in consecutive games, just over 15 seasons worth – the longest such streak in the history of the major leagues. Odd, that, considering that this year’s team AND last year’s have long stretches of not scoring much at all.

Then the Orioles POUNDED them on Monday, gave them Tuesday off for rain, and hooked up again last night. Pineda did indeed start and was brilliant, retiring the first 12 Orioles in order. The Yankees got a 2-run HR from Francisco Cervelli (one of the few Yankees hitting at the moment) and they took a 2-1 lead into the 8th, when the Orioles scored 3 times to ice the game. The Yankees playoff odds went from 20% to 7% in four games (the Orioles won all four, and of course the Royals and Mariners were winning as well. The 20% seemed low at the time, but now the 7% seems high.

Meanwhile, the Royals have won 12 of 14 and taken over first place in the Central. Who knows if they will hang in there (they did this last year, too, if you recall) but they sure LOOK like they and the Tigers will both be playing in October.

I want to point out, just for the record, that I predicted before the season that the Orioles and Royals would be division winners. Lest I get TOO cocky, though, I also predicted the Rangers who have the worst record in baseball, and will be the first team mathematically eliminated (their max win total is 89, and to get there they would have to win 42 straight games). And the Royals are hardly a lock at this point, though they are playing pretty well.

The Yankees at the deadline seriously revamped their roster, picking up Brandon McCarthy, Chris Capuano and Esmil Rogers, Chase Headley, Steven Drew, and Martin Prado. They immediately put the first three in the rotation, and began playing the last three every day. And, surprise (!), the guys that weren’t hitting for San Diego, Boston and Arizona aren’t hitting for the Yankees, either. The starters have been surprisingly good, so far, but it is hard to believe that a rotation of Kuroda, McCarthy, Capuano, Shane Greene and Rogers is a playoff-caliber rotation. Kuroda has collapsed in the second half of both of the last two years, Greene is a rookie who was not in the Yankee’s top 30 prospects at the start of the season, and the others are essentially rejects from other teams (Rogers was released by the Blue Jays TWICE just this season! Capuano was released by the last-place Red Sox and McCarthy was 1-10 in San Diego).

My team is toast. They should really have been considered such months ago.

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