Friday, November 30, 2007


Prior to today, I thought the Mets had been having a decent offseason. They hadn't made a big splash, but they had said goodbye to their two worst everyday players, Paul Lo Duca and Shawn Green, making room for better, younger players. The starting rotation would be the same as the one that started 2007 except that Tom Glavine would be replaced by Pedro Martinez, quite a swap if Pedro stays healthy. The 2008 Mets weren't going to be a great team, but they were going to be good. And if they could have added a good starting pitcher, who knows?

They made a trade today, giving up one of their talented young players, but they didn't get that starting pitcher. Lastings Milledge was sent to the Washington Nationals in exchange for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider. The best thing I can say about this trade is that it's not the worst the Mets have made in the last three and a half years.

Ryan Church has hit .271/.348/.462 in 997 at bats over four years in his major league career. In 2007 he hit .272/.349/.464 in 144 games, slightly better than Milledge's .272/.341/.446 in 59 games. And Church was playing in a tougher hitting environment at RFK Stadium. So he may very well be a better hitter than Milledge right now. Church is also said to be the better defender of the two, but Milledge hadn't had much of a chance to adjust to playing right field in the majors after playing center for the majority of his minor league career. Most importantly, Church is twenty-nine years old, so he's about as good as he's going to get, whereas Milledge will turn twenty-three in April and is still improving. I am far from certain that Church will be a better hitter than Milledge in 2008, let alone four or five years down the line. If these two players had been traded for each other straight up it would be perplexing from the Mets' perspective.

The addition of Schneider doesn't make it any easier to understand. The thirty-one year old catcher hit .235/.326/.336 in 129 games this year and has a .252/.323/.377 line for his eight year career. He's an even worse hitter than Paul Lo Duca, though he is younger and better defensively. That defense is apparently what spelled the end of Ramon Castro's days as the Mets' primary catcher. It was a fun couple of weeks, but now Schneider will play every day, making outs as prolifically as his predecessor.

To consider this a good trade for the Mets, one has to believe that Milledge isn't going to get any better than he already is, that Castro can't be counted on to be more than a backup and that Schneider's defense will significantly improve the team. I don't believe any of these things and thus I'm quite upset. Lastings Milledge has a chance to be a star, but he never got that chance with the Mets. Yes, injuries cost him some opportunities in 2007, but even when he was healthy Willie Randolph and Omar Minaya always seemed to be looking for ways to give his at bats to a mediocre veteran with a reputation for being a "gamer." That the Mets would give him up in this trade, not notably improving the team in the short term, still lacking the starting pitcher they covet and likely hurting team in the long term, shows how little the team really thought of him.

This is probably the biggest trade the Mets will make this season as they can't really afford to part with any more young outfielders in search of a pitcher. They should sign Livan Hernandez any day now to fill out this 2004 Expos reunion tour. At least we'll get to see Milledge nineteen times a year. Maybe he'll have a nice battle or two with Scott Kazmir in an All-Star Game someday. I just hope Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez get good and quickly. I'd really like to get more than Ryan Church and Brian Schneider back when Omar trades them.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Myers Conundrum

The debate continues about whether Brett Myers should stay in the pen or be moved into the Phillies rotation. It’s a tough question that whichever way the Phillies go with it they will be seconded guessed. One of the main arguments for moving Myers back to the rotation is that it will be easier to find another decent reliever than another decent starter. I keep reading/hearing this kind of sentiment, but I don’t see it out there on the market.

In my opinion, what separates the good relievers from the great ones is constancy. There are plenty of relievers, closers or not, that are great one year and not so great the next. It seems pretty rare to find a reliever /closer that is good to great every year. I think this year’s market only had Rivera as a year in year out great relief pitcher.

I’m not saying that Myers as a closer is the answer for sure, but I think he has the potential to be one of those years in year out guys, based on his numbers being fairly contestant year to year as a starter. Still, he has to first get the opportunity and then do something with it. I’m 90% sure Myers will be in the bullpen later in his career, so why not keep him there now? In the case of a desperate situation, the Phillies seem to have a lot more starting help in the minors anyway.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Okay, now get rid of Schoeneweis

It has been a whirlwind few days for the New York Mets. Or at least as whirlwind as you can get when you're not losing anyone better than Tom Glavine circa 2008 or getting anyone better than Luis Castillo. Regardless, things have happened.

First of all, Glavine returned to the Braves. This leaves the Mets with a hole to fill in their starting rotation, but it also leaves them with two first round draft picks in 2008, including the eighteenth pick that once belonged to Atlanta. This seems like a pretty good swap to me.

Even at forty-two, Glavine is likely to be durable. He'll go out every five days and likely give the Braves around 200 innings. The Mets could use a pitcher like that, given some of the question marks surrounding their rotation. But even putting aside Glavine's statements that he was either going back to Atlanta or retiring, I don't think he was likely to have been one of the top three or four starters on the 2008 Mets.

In 2007 he posted an ERA of 4.55 which was around league average and the third worst in a full season in his career. He struck out just 3.99 batters per nine innings, his worst rate since 1988 and a significant drop from the 6.21 he posted in 2006. Watching him struggle through September, in which he gave up 21 runs in 31 innings on 38 hits and nine walks, it looked to me like the consistent, reliable Tom Glavine of the past few years might be gone for good. His 2007 was actually quite similar to his first year with the Mets in 2003--4.52 ERA, 4.03 K/9--from which he did bounce back nicely. But I wouldn't want to bet too heavily on him rebounding again at forty-two. The Mets definitely need to find another starter somewhere, but I'd rather Omar Minaya be motivated to put together a big trade for someone good than feel like the job was done because he had Tom Glavine under contract.

Monday brought another transaction that will probably work out all right for the Mets. Luis Castillo signed a four-year deal for $25 million. I don't know that the Mets needed to make this deal, with Damion Easley and Ruben Gotay already on the roster. And I definitely worry about what shape Castillo's knees and his OBP will be in when he's thirty-five in 2011. But I do think he will be useful for at least a couple of years and $25 million over four years isn't a bad deal in a market where David Eckstein allegedly wants around $36 million over the same time period to provide roughly the same production.

Easley and Gotay might have together equaled or exceeded Castillo's offensive production. They very likely would have at least provided more power. But Easley just turned thirty-eight last week while Gotay is just a twenty-four year old who looked good in under two hundred at bats. Easley could break down (again) or Gotay's 2007 could turn out to be a fluke. Gotay's .295/.351/.421 line is solid, but it's also rather dependent on a batting average higher than anything he'd put up in the minors since he was eighteen. I also think he's pretty clearly a defensive downgrade from Castillo, even if Castillo is also pretty clearly not the defender he once was. Hopefully Gotay will get regular playing time as Castillo's backup and one of Willie Randolph's first pinch hitting options so that we can see if he really is as good as he looked at times in 2007. The Castillo deal pretty much guarantees Gotay will never be the Mets' starter, but he could turn into a very useful bench player or trading chip.

On Tuesday we were reminded that one need not be useful to be traded. The Mets sent Guillermo Mota to the Milwaukee Brewers and in exchange they received a package headlined by Not Having Guillermo Mota Anymore. The deal was made all the sweeter by the addition of Not Bringing Back Paul Lo Duca, personified by the Mets' new catcher, Johnny Estrada, who will likely split time with Ramon Castro. Estrada had a pretty Lo Ducan year with the bat in 2007 at .278/.296/.403, but he is four years younger than ol' Paulie. Estrada was also playing with a torn medial meniscus in his left knee and a bone spur in his right elbow. Both of these have been taken care of surgically since the season ended, so perhaps he will come back in 2008 more closely resembling the guy who hit .302/.328/.444 in 2006 and .314/.378/.450 in 2004. Even if he doesn't, the Mets won't need to offer him a multi-year deal to find out like they would with Lo Duca or Yorvit Torrealba. Estrada is arbitration-eligible, so if things don't work out, the Mets can be rid of him after the season.

Like the theoretical Torrealba deal before them, these moves don't greatly improve this team. But the Mets have now filled out their everyday eight while leaving all potential trade bait intact. Moises Alou, Carlos Beltran, Lastings Milledge, David Wright, Jose Reyes, Luis Castillo, Carlos Delgado and either Ramon Castro or Johnny Estrada should form a formidable lineup. Pedro Martinez, Orlando Hernandez, Oliver Perez and John Maine could use some help. The Kyle Lohses and Carlos Silvas of the world aren't going to cut it. Mike Pelfrey or Philip Humber might be able to help someday, but I don't think either of them has proven he'll be a reliable starter in 2008. Now is the time for Omar to make a big splash with a trade. Hopefully he can get the Mets a good starter without leaving them short a right fielder.

Breaking Down the NL MVP

First let me start with this, Jimmy Rollins is my favorite player in all of baseball. I would love for him to win the MVP today, but in all honesty Matt Holliday should win the award. Here’s some of the evidence.

Holiday - 1.012, 3rd in NL
Rollins - .875, 23rd in NL and 5th amongst the Phillies (behind Utley, Howard, Burrell & Rowand)

Runs Created
Holliday – 142.2, 1st in NL
Rollins – 133.4, 5th in NL

Runs created per 27 outs
Holliday – 8.51, 4th in NL
Rollins – 6.83, 19th in NL

Secondary Average
Holliday – .377, 15th in NL
Rollins - .352, 17th in NL

Holliday – 75.0, 4th in NL
Rollins – 66.1, 9th in NL

Win Shares
Holliday – 30, tied for 3rd
Rollins – 28, tied for 6th (along with Utley!)

Close and Late
Holliday - .295 / .373 / .562 /
OPS - .935, RC -18, RC27 -5.77
Rollins – .255 / .318 / .490 /
OPS - .808, RC – 16.2, RC27 – 5.61

Runners in Scoring Position 2 Outs
Holliday - .319 / .430 / .528 /
OPS- .958, RC – 16.9, RC27 9.32
Rollins – .239 / .302 / .534 /
OPS - .836, RC – 15.5, RC27, 6.14

I think the two most striking of these has to be the 1.68 Runs Created per 27outs difference, and the win shares since WS takes into account defense.
Speaking of defense, Holliday led all NL left fielders in Zone Rating with .913, he was second in Fielding Percentage with .990 and was 5th in range factor with 1.97, which pretty much debunks anyone who says he is a poor fielder at his position.
Rollins was 6th amongst NL short stops in Zone Rating with .824, was 3rd in Fielding Percentage with .985, and was 6th in Range Factor with 4.41.

Holliday was probably the best defensive left fielder in the NL last year, maybe Eric Burns had him beat but he’s the only one that could contend there. Rollins was maybe the 3rd or 4th best defensive short stop in the NL behind Troy Tulowitzki, Omar Vizquel and maybe Khalil Greene. Short is the tougher position to play, but I don’t think it makes up for the offensive impact that Holliday had this season.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Good enough

The Mets are apparently about to sign a couple of catchers. According to various reports, Yorvit Torrealba will sign a three-year deal to be the starter and Ramon Castro will sign up for two years as his backup, though Castro is expected to start more often than he did in 2007. This is hardly ideal, but I'll take it.

The appeal of Torrealba eludes me. He's a career .251/.313/.391 hitter who's never played more than 113 games in a season and only once played more than 76. At this stage, he's basically a younger, slightly worse Paul Lo Duca with the bat and his defense doesn't seem to add much value. His much praised game-calling ability sounds about as likely to win games as Lo Duca's "clubhouse presence." I don't see how this adds up to a starting catcher.

It does make it a little easier to believe that Castro really will get more playing time that he has in the past. The idea that Willie Randolph would execute a strategy more complicated that naming one guy the starter and playing him five days a week doesn't jibe with his entire history as Mets manager. He's not shown much inclination to get creative when filling out the lineup card. And while Castro hasn't really proven he can hold up for a full season, he is clearly the superior hitter of these two. But perhaps if the inferior catcher isn't a fiery clubhouse leader from Brooklyn, Willie will have him take a seat a bit more often. These moves probably won't constitute a huge upgrade for the position, but if Castro plays about eighty games and Torrealba hits around his career averages, Mets catchers should be more productive in 2008 than they were in 2007. And if they're not, at least we won't have to hear how they're valuable anyway because of their intangibles and grit and whatnot.

In closing, I'd like to comment briefly on the big baseball-related legal story of the day. This has been a long time coming and I am glad to see the law-breaker in question finally held responsible for his actions. He's made a mockery of the laws of our nation for too long. Shame on you, Derek Jeter.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wheeling and dealing

Dave Dombrowski continues to make solid moves for the Tigers, in my opinion. Today, he got OF Jacque Jones from the Cubs for utilityman Omar Infante and signed closer Todd Jones to a one-year deal.

Jacque Jones will play left for the Tigers and gives them a solid left-handed bat in the lineup. He struggled at times with the Cubs in 2007 as Chicago tried to figure out what to do with its outfield. But Jones batted .349/.377/.532 in 27 games in August and .342/.376/.430 in 24 games in September. Overall he was .285/.335/.400. He should see the majority of time in left, but righty powerman Marcus Thames will also get ABs.

Infante was expendable with Ryan Raburn figuring to fill the utility role. You can't complain when you pick up a regular for a sub. Plus, the Cubs are sending $2 million to Detroit to offset Jones' $5 million due in 2008.

The Tigers gave Todd Jones a one-year, $7 million deal. Jones might not be the ideal closer, but with Joel Zumaya out for at least half the season, getting Jones back was a good move. It's probably better to bring back a guy you know and are comfortable with rather than find a newcomer.

Now, we'll see what Dombrowski does to finish filling the rotation. Kenny Rogers is going to entertain offers, so there's no guarantee he'll be back.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

An easy catch

This has the potential to be a rather boring offseason. Collapse or no, the Mets are a good team without many obvious holes. At the moment they could use a catcher, a second baseman and a starting pitcher. But the weak free agent class and the paucity of tradeable commodities in the Mets' system makes it unlikely any of these spots will be addressed in headline-grabbing fashion. But even the smallest of moves could have a significant impact on the 2008 pennant race. Today I'm going to take a look behind the plate.

I would have called catcher an easy decision a few months ago. Ramon Castro was the best choice to catch for the Mets in 2007 and would have been the same in 2008. But the arthritic back that landed him on the disabled list in August is enough to dampen even my enthusiasm. Perhaps his back will be fine by the time he and the pitchers report to Port St. Lucie in February, but it does make me a little nervous. Castro in a back brace could still outhit Paul Lo Duca and I hope to see Ramon return and Paul disappear forever. But if the Mets bring back Castro as the starter, it is important that they find a halfway decent backup in case he goes down again or just needs a day off slightly more often than the average catcher. Neither Mike DiFelice nor Sandy Alomar Jr. qualifies as such.

The landscape of free agent backstops is quite barren beyond Castro and Jorge Posada, who isn't coming to the Mets for anything short of way too much money over too many years. But two names pique my interest. The first is Michael Barrett, recently of the San Diego Padres, who was an excellent offensive catcher for the Cubs from 2004-2006 before falling off a cliff this year to the tune of .244/.281/.372. Those numbers are awful. Sub-Lo Duca. But just two years ago he hit .307/.368/.517 and he's only 31. I think he's worth a shot as a backup to see if he's really done as a hitter or if last year was just a fluke.

The other catcher that interests me is Rod Barajas. The thirty-two year old was never the offensive force that Barrett was and his career .288 OBP is atrocious. But he does smack the occasional extra-base hit and posted a higher OPS+ than Lo Duca in two of the last three years. That's not the sort of endorsement likely to be inscribed on a plaque in Cooperstown, but we're not looking for a starter here. He could provide a decent bat for a backup. If something happened to the starter and he had to play every day, things could get ugly. But the same could be said of most teams that aren't the 2007 Mets. Signing Rod Barajas won't punch the Mets' ticket to October, but he'd be of more use than the Yorvit Torrealbas of the world.

The most important thing is for the Mets to say goodbye to Paul Lo Duca--his fire, his leadership, his temper tantrums, his teenaged paramours and his ground balls to second base--and embrace Ramon Castro as their catcher. A team can put together a good offense without getting much pop from behind the plate, as the 2007 Mets proved. But having an above average bat at the position would be especially helpful for a team with some uncertainty at traditional offensive positions like first base and right field. Catcher is the easiest spot on the diamond for the Mets to upgrade this offseason. Hopefully they take advantage of the opportunity.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Steady as he goes

I was looking at the list of free agents on and clicked on Joe Kennedy's stats. This caught my eye:

Last year, in 39 games, Kennedy gave up a .282 BAA and had a 4.80 ERA. In his career, which is 222 games, Kennedy has given up a .281 BAA and has a 4.79 ERA.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bourn free

The Phillies’ trade with Houston to acquire Brad Lidge was a good move, I think. Basically, it seems the Phils understand they’ve got a small window here to win a World Series and are moving all in.

First, Philly gave up an over-rated CF prospect in Michael Bourn, at least in my opinion, and a workhorse reliever of modest ability in Geoff Geary. Philly also sent minor league 3B Mike Costanzo to Houston; from what I’ve read, Costanzo is being described as a Russell Branyan-type player. The Phillies also got utility man Eric Bruntlett.

Lidge’s arrival means Brett Myers returns to the rotation. I don’t agree with this move because I think Myers could be an outstanding closer, but I understand the rationale. Hopefully, a change of scenery will benefit Lidge, who can be either great or not-so-good. Certainly, when you consider what Philly gave up, it’s worth the risk because Lidge has a huge upside and will only be 31 next season.

As for Bourn, I think he is most likely a Nook Logan-type. When I looked at both players’ first years of semi-regular MLB activity, this is what I found:

Logan – age 24.
Plate appearances – 152. BA/OBP/SLG – .278/.340/.346.
BA/BIP – .336.

Bourn – age 24.
Plate appearances – 133. BA/OBP/SLG – .277/.349/.379.
BA/BIP – .330.

Those similarities might mean nothing, of course, but I thought they were interesting.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Feliz soluciĆ³n

The Phillies will have to wait on this one, but if they're truly interested in getting a 3B, there is, in my opinion, only one real option -- Pedro Feliz. He generally produced .250-20-80 in SF and I'm betting those numbers improve in the Zen. He also can flash the leather.

Feliz wants a multi-year deal and made $5 million last season. I wonder if he would take something like 3 years at $14-16 million. That seems fair. SF can negotiate exclusively until Nov. 12, and is interested in re-signing him. If the Phils cannot get Feliz, I would sit tight and spend the money on pitching and OF.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Phil-ing needs

I think the Phillies should make a play for SP Jason Jennings. At least find out what it would take to bring him to Philly. Jennings was awful for Houston despite posting career bests for strikeouts/9IP and walks/9IP.

Jennings, who missed time with tendinitis and appeared in only 19 games, made $5.5 million in 2007.

Prior to this year, Jennings was a very good groundball pitcher. This year, he wasn't. Entering 2007, he typically was a 1.50 gb/fb ratio and never gave up more flyballs than groundballs -- until this year when he had a 0.80 gb/fb ratio. The question is why? Arm trouble? Mechanics? If it's the latter, then he might be a good investment at a cheap price. Houston's defense didn't do him any favors, either.

It's worth looking into.

Zoom doom

Joel Zumaya is going to miss a good portion of the 2008 season, the Tigers announced today. Last year, it was a video game that did him in. This time, it was the California wildfires. This is becoming a disturbing trend.