Tuesday, November 25, 2008

2008 AL Central in Review

Chicago White Sox
W-L: 89-74 (1st in AL Central)
pW-pL: 89-74
Payroll: $121,189,332 (4th in AL)
R/G: 4.98 (5th in AL)
ERA: 4.11 (6th in AL)
DER: .686 (8th in AL)
Team MVPs: Carlos Quentin, John Danks, Jermaine Dye, Mark Buehrle, Jim Thome
A Drag on the Payroll: Jose Contreras (4.54 ERA, 70 K in 121 IP)
What Went Right:

Monday, November 17, 2008

2008 AL East in Review

Baltimore Orioles
W-L: 68-93 (Last in AL East)
pW-pL: 73-88
Payroll: $67,196,246 (10th in AL)
R/G: 4.86 (8th in AL)
ERA: 5.15 (13th in AL)
DER: .687 (7th in AL)
Team MVPs: Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, Aubrey Huff
A Drag on the Payroll: Ramon Hernandez (257/308/406, $7.5 MM), Jay Payton (243/291/346, $5 MM), Danys Baez (Did Not Pitch, $4.5 MM), Jamie Walker (6.87 ERA, 38 IP, $4.5 MM)
What Went Right: The Erik Bedard trade worked out pretty well. Adam Jones is still looking quite raw as an athlete, but even still, you know the Mariners would like that one back. Both Aubrey Huff (304/360/552) and Melvin Mora (285/342/483) experienced strong bounceback seasons in their 30's. There hasn't been a complete turnaround, but there's enough happiness here to sustain some legitimate optimism.

Preseason picks revisited


New York Mets (97-65) 95-99 win range
Philadelphia Phillies* (91-71) 89-93 win range
Atlanta Braves (84-78) 82-86 win range
Washington Nationals (73-89) 71-75 win range
Florida Marlins (65-97) 63-67 win range
* -- denotes Wild Card

And here's what really happened (and how much I was off):

Philadelphia Phillies (92-70) +1 wins
New York Mets (89-73) -8 wins
Florida Marlins (84-77) +19 wins
Atlanta Braves (72-90) -12 wins
Washington Nationals (59-102) -14 wins

This was not one of my better predictions.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Trade activity

  • The White Sox traded Nick Swisher and prospect Kaneoka Texeira to the Yankees for Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez. The Yankees get a Plan B first baseman in Swisher, and if they sign Teixeira, they give someone who gives them more flexibility in the outfield. Swisher should bounce back from a poor season in Chicago and hit like a league-average first baseman.
    The question here is what this does for the White Sox, who are presumably trying to win in 2009. Unless they just don't like Swisher's aftershave, it's hard to see what they gain here. Betemit can play third base, but that's not saying much. He's not the kind of guy you target to fill a hole. I think they just gave up on Swisher too soon.
    This helps the Yankees, since they now have a legitimate backup plan if they can't sign Mark Teixiera. They need Teixeira, of course, and if they get him, Swisher becomes a useful outfielder. It may also enable them to bench or trade whomever becomes the odd man out.
  • The Cubs sent relief prospect Jose Ceda to Florida for Marlins "closer" Kevin Gregg.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The 4th Annual Whiz Kid Awards

American League MVP: Cliff Lee
This was the toughest one of all to determine. There are a half-dozen good candidates for AL MVP, but I decided to choose Lee. Although there's a Wild Card in the group that I had some trouble dealing with.
First of all, let's list the top players in the league and see who we can eliminate:
Sizemore: 268/375/502 , 62.7 VORP
Alex Rodriguez: 302/392/573, 65.6 VORP
Joe Mauer: 328/413/451, 55.5 VORP
Dustin Pedroia: 326/376/493, 62.3 VORP
Justin Morneau: 300/374/499, 45.5 VORP
Kevin Youkilis: 312/390/569, 55.8 VORP
Josh Hamilton: 304/371/530, 57.1 VORP

Cliff Lee: 22-3, 2.54 ERA, 223.1 IP, 34:170 BB:K ratio, 75.0 VORP
Francisco Rodriguez: 2-3, 2.24 ERA, 62 SV, 7 BS, 68.1 IP, 34:77 BB:K ratio, 22.3 VORP

Well, we can scratch K-Rod off the list right away. He's about the fifth-best closer in the AL, so he's not winning any awards this year. I think that Lee was the best pitcher in the AL (see below for that debate), so he's the only one we'll consider.
As for the hitters, remember that VORP doesn't take into account defensive ability. Once you admit that, I think you have to eliminate the first basemen (Morneau and Youkilis). Both were very good, but not really any better than the guys playing much more difficult defensive positions. Youkilis gets a good bonus for his glove, but he takes a hit for only managing 538 ABs (compared to 623 for Morneau and 653 for Pedroia).
Josh Hamilton's numbers look a bit better than Sizemore's until you consider the difference in home ballparks and Sizemore's better defensive skills. So Hamilton's out. As for Joe Mauer, he was quite good, but not demonstrably better than his competitors, even considering his defense. Since his playing time was limited (536 ABs) we have to get rid of him as well.
Unfortunately, the same goes for A-Rod. On a per-at bat basis, A-Rod was the best hitter in the league. But he only managed 575 PAs (AB + BB), against 732 for Sizemore and 703 for Pedroia. That's about 3 weeks worth of PAs, which is a sizeable chunk. Given that detriment, I think that A-Rod's superior play can't be called the best in the league.
As for Sizemore and Pedroia, Sizemore has the better overall numbers (if just barely), although Pedroia comes close when you consider defense. It's a very close call, and I wouldn't blame anyone who voted for Pedroia, but I'm going for Grady Sizemore.
So I'm left with just Sizemore .vs. Lee in my MVP discussion. Lee has a clear edge in VORP, but does that best reflect the differences between hitters and pitchers? I think it does. Lee was just better than any of the hitters in 2008. There was no hitter that had a really strong, MVP-level campaign. This helps explain why there are so many MVP candidates; no one had that really hot, MVP-caliber year. And when that happens, the spot opens up for a dominant pitcher, and Lee was, luckily for him, dominant enough.

And what about that wild card I alluded to earlier? It's this guy:
Mark Teixeira: 308/410/552, 66.5 VORP

Teixeira would be, if he'd spent the whole season in the AL, the league's top player. You could really argue then about whether he was better than Lee, and that would cause me a major headache. But it's a moot point, really. The award is the AL MVP award, and most of Teixeira's time came in the NL. Even if we were to combine his stats for the two leagues, we'd have to take into account that the NL is an inferior league with easier competition.
So although my vote goes for Cliff Lee, I have to say that only a technicality prevents me from considering Teixeira.
  1. Cliff Lee, Indians
  2. Grady Sizemore, Indians
  3. Dustin Pedroia, Boston
  4. Roy Halladay, Toronto
  5. Alex Rodriguez, New York
  6. Joe Mauer, Minnesota
  7. Jon Lester, Boston
  8. Justin Morneau, Minnesota
  9. Kevin Youkilis, Boston
  10. Nick Markakis, Baltimore
(Honorable Mention: Milton Bradley, Josh Hamilton, Carlos Quentin, Curtis Granderson, Ervin Santana, John Danks, Daisuke Matsuzaka)
National League MVP: Albert Pujols

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Color me surprised. The Rockies have agreed (in principle) to trade star outfielder Matt Holliday to the Oakland A's for Huston Street, Greg Smith, and outfield prospect Carlos Gonzalez.
The biggest shock, to me, is that the A's are in the market at all. After trading away Dan Haren and Joe Blanton last year, it seemed pretty clear that they were aiming to rebuild in 2009. What has changed since then to make them think they can contend in 2009? As far as I can tell, nothing. The A's had the worst offense in the AL last year. With Holliday, whoopee, they can move up to 10th or 11th. Now everyone's talking about them getting even better, perhaps going after a free agent or two.
I'm skeptical.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Trade Speculation

The trade market looks to be particulary active this offseason. So let's take a look at some of the players most often mentioned in trade talk. I'd also like to mention the relative wisdom of trading away, or trading for, these players, based on what they're expected to bring in return.

Jake Peavy
Key Suitors: Braves, Cubs, Dodgers

"Word" is that the Braves are the leading candidates in the Peavy trade talks. Atlanta GM Frank Wren had gone on record as saying that the Braves didn't have the prospects to give up in such a deal, but he has apparently changed his mind. The trade talks are deeply involved, according to Padres GM Kevin Towers, although he hasn't gone on record as naming a front-runner.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

2008 NL West in Review

Arizona Diamondbacks

W-L: 82-80 (2nd in NL West)
pW-pL: 82-80
Payroll: $66,202,712 (13th in NL)
R/G: 4.44 (10th in NL)
ERA: 3.99 (5th in NL)
DER: .685 (T-12th in NL)
Team MVPs: Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, Stephen Drew
A Drag on the Payroll: Eric Byrnes (209/272/369, 52 G, $6 MM)
What Went Right: