Wednesday, February 02, 2005


By popular concensus, here's your 2005 RoY front runner:

Dallas McPherson 2004
AA .321/.404/.660 (.347 GPA), 51.2 XBH%, 1:2.2 BB:K
AAA 313/.370/.680 (.337 GPA), 58.0 XBH%, 1:4.1 BB:K
MLB .225/.279/.475 (.244 GPA), 44.4 XBH%, 1:5.6 BB:K

Dallas McPherson 2005
PETCO .272/.351/.496 (.282 GPA), 42.0 XBH%, 1:2.7 BB:K
ZiPS .275/.341/.513 (.282 GPA), 42.3 XBH%, 1:3.3 BB:K

Better or worse than you expected? Bare in mind that McPherson's seemingly monster performances in AA-AAA only translate into a .265MjEqA, and it's easy to believe those projections are even a tad optimistic. But compare that to another highly touted rookie's debut performance:

.239/.319/.426 (.250 GPA), 43.8 XBH%, 1:2.4 BB:K

Any guesses? No, it's not Rob Deer's rookie season. It's the 2004 AL RoY, Bobby Crosby. By the way, here's what PETCO projected for the Pacific Coast League MVP in '04 (I can't find ZiPS):

.254/.323/.421 (.250), 37.8 XHB%, 1:2.3 BB:K

Yowza, that's eerie. Score one more for PETCO.

But here's where it gets really interesting. Granted this is completely unscientific, but if you adjust Crosby's PETCO projection so that it more closely matches with his actual results (more raw power, more patience, less average) and apply that to McPherson, you get something awfully close to this:

.232/.336/.494 (.275 GPA), 49.1 XBH%, 1:2.5 BB:K

That's Rob Deer's first full season in 1986. Deer was two years older than Crosby in '04, and a year older than McPherson will be in '05, and he also already had a half-season of MLB experience under his belt. But frankly those numbers conform more closely to what my gut instincts tell me about what the shape of McPherson's 2005 season will look like.

I know there's a lot of hype out there that McPherson will somehow take his game to the next level and follow in the footsteps of the other three-true-outcomes giant, Adam Dunn. I have one word for that: ridiculous. Dunn is only a year older than McPherson, and already has 115 more home runs. Besides, Dunn's final stint in the minors (at the age of 21), is exponentially better than anything McPherson has ever done:

Adam Dunn 2001
AA .343/.449/.664 (.368 GPA), 43.8 XBH%, 1:1.3 BB:K
AAA .329/.443/.676 (.368 GPA), 47.8 XBH%, 1:1.3 BB:K

And after some struggles, Dunn is finally putting it together in the majors:

Adam Dunn 2004
.266/.388 /.569 (.317 GPA), 53.0 XBH%, 1:1.8 BB:K

Look at McPherson's PETCO, look at Dunn's season last year, and ask yourself: do you really think McPherson's age 24 season will be anywhere near as good as Dunn's?

Adam Dunn may have set the new strikeout record, but it's clear he's not overly exerting himself to sustain that .300 IsoPwr. His patience has remained intact. And at 24 years old he's still got plenty of time to keep making adjustments.

McPherson, on the other hand, seems to have compromised his patience as he's advanced through the levels in order to achieve this Dunnian power-spike. He looks like a different hitter than last year:

Dallas McPherson 2003
A .308/.404/.606 (.333 GPA), 32.6 XBH%, 1:1.9 BB:K
AA .314/.426/.569 (.333 GPA), 46.9 XBH%, 1:1.3 BB:K

Take those numbers in AA with a grain of salt, because they came in just 102 AB. But I think it suggests that if he can integrate the power with the patience McPherson's upside might be along the lines of Travis Hafner, who at 27 is only now becoming a formidable MLB hitter:

Travis Hafner 2004
.311/.410/.583 (.330 GPA), 48.0 XBH%, 1:1.6 BB:K

Given where he's headed, however, it's going to take a lot of adjustments for McPherson to reach that plateau.

I don't expect McPherson's RoY chances to be pinned onto whether he can maintain a batting average north of .250. (It certainly didn't hurt Crosby.) I'm not even sure being "the next Rob Deer" (or even the next Travis Hafner) makes McPherson one of the top ten prospects going into the 2005 season. But he'll be an asset to the Angels, and a better value than Glaus. And clearly we should be thankful in terms of how much baseball perception has changed in the past twenty years that the kind of season that once made you a laughing stock can now win you the RoY.

Oh, and John Sickels' final ever Down on the Farm is up and he lists his Top 20 Prospects, divided into 10 hitters and 10 pitchers. Given McPherson's the #8 hitter, and the top three pitchers are Hernandez, Miller, and Francis, it seems likely McPherson also falls just shy of Sickels' top ten.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


You'd think I'd have a soft spot in my heart for the GM whose team drafted Roy Halladay and Vernon Wells under his watch. You'd be wrong.

There were many reasons to be dissatisfied with Gord Ash's reign of terror as Blue Jays GM, but just because Ash repeatedly did the wrong thing doesn't mean the Jays would be much further ahead today if he didn't.

Let me explain.

By at the end of 1998, two years after signing a three-year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, Roger Clemens decided he'd had his fill of all the complementary maple syrup he could eat and let it be known that he'd now prefer if Koby, Kory, Kacy, and Kody grew up Yankees fans.

Back in 1996, the conventional wisdom was that the Red Sox ace was washed up—or at least would be very soon. But a mediocre 10-13 win-loss record that year obscured a 3.63 ERA and he was still striking out over a batter per inning. Despite a career that easily put him as one of the five best Red Sox players of all time, GM Dan Duquette gambled that a 33 year-old pitcher was no longer worth the risk, and Roger was cut loose to find his fortune elsewhere. (Red Sox fans, take note: Pedro Martinez just turned 33 in October.)

This is where Gord Ash enters the picture, who improbably convinced the free agent Clemens to become the highest paid pitcher ever and join the struggling Toronto Blue Jays.

Clemens responded with his best year ever, and maybe the single greatest pitching performance since Ruth changed the way the game was played:

264.0 IP, 2.08 ERA, 2.22 RA, 204 H, 9 HR, 68 BB, 292 K.

If you're of a sabermetric bent, you might be interested to know that Baseball Prospectus translates that into a whopping 14.9 Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP3), ahead of Koufax in '66, Gibson in '68, Seaver in '71, Gooden in '85, and Maddux in '94 and '95. (Give 'em a handshake and a canned ham all, but this point I'm really only still considering arguments from the Pedro Martinez's 14.0 WARP3 over 50 fewer innings back in '00.)

His second year with the Jays was also a good one:

234.7 IP, 2.65 ERA, 2.99 RA, 169 H, 11 HR, 88 BB, 271 K, 11.5 WARP3

Now with back-to-back Cy Young awards, the 35 year-old had reestablished himself as the best pitcher in the game. (Well, maybe except for that upstart from Montreal traded early in the year to Boston.) Unfortunately, the rest of Ash's roster construction left much to be desired, and Jays continued to struggle.

And so mistaking his job as Jays GM is to improve the Yankees, Ash traded the disgruntled Clemens to New York for Homer Bush, Graeme Lloyd, and the return of David Wells in early '99.

I said it then, and I'll say it now: that was one crap-ass deal.

Like Raul Mondesi (28 yrs old, .815 OPS) for Shawn Green (26 yrs old, .972 OPS) the following year, it was a signature Ash deal: Save a little money in exchange for an inferior collection of talent that had already proven itself as inferior at the major league level. What the hell is the point? It's not a win-now deal (because nobody could possibly believe that any combination of Boomer, Loogy Lloyd, and slaptastic Bush could be more valuable than Clemens), and it's not a win-later deal (the youngest player sent to Toronto was 26). It's not even a salary dump (the Jays merely freed up the 2 1/4 million dollars they needed to keep overpaying Alex Gonzalez).

Lets look at this rationally. For a retooling club, what's fair value in exchange for an ace starter?:

Jeremy Reed, Miguel Olivo, Michael Morse for Freddy Garcia (and Ben Davis)

Dan Meyer, Juan Cruz, Charles Taylor for Tim Hudson

Kiko Calero, Dan Haren, Daric Barton for Mark Mulder

Considering Mulder still has two years left on his contract, it might be overly naive to suggest Clemens could have netted Ash two prime "A" prospects from the Yankees. But in today's market it seems straightforward: one prospect, one young major-leaguer with unfulfilled potential, and one guy who seems destined to be a back-up player.

So let's try to retroactively negotiate a deal for Ash. I'll try not to be too outrageous. After all, it's not like the Yanks were going to trade Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera. But they did have some good cheap talent, and the Jays were offering the best available starter in baseball.

We'll keep Homer Bush, who, despite being a starter for the hapless Jays, pretty much fills the back-up bill. What can I say? The Jays needed a 2B.

I think Ramiro Mendoza would have been a good choice for the "unfulfilled" potential guy. After a lot of hype, he finally had a good year in '98, tossing 130 innings with an ERA around 3.50, but he was still splitting duties in both the rotation and the 'pen. Given his age and minor league track record there was evidence to suggest he had the makings of a solid starter for a team that was willing to show some patience. Think Miguel Batista… or at least Miguel Batista before he came to Toronto.

For our prospect, remember when I said the Jays needed a new 2B? Well, after suffering through another year of Ed Sprague at the hot corner, they really, really needed a new 3B. The most obvious candidate to complete the deal would be 3B prospect Mike Lowell, but that would have required Ash to be quicker on the draw: the Yankees had already traded him to the Marlins two weeks before they completed the Clemens deal. Still, it's hard not to get sucked in by the tought: imagine waking up today, Blue Jay fans, knowing Lowell was only just hitting free agency and the past two seasons of Eric Hinske were all just some horrible nightmare.

Of course back in '99, assuming you were really set on getting an MLB-ready prospect, you probably wouldn't lose too much sleep over losing Lowell if it meant nabbing Ricky Ledee instead. Both 24 at the time, Ledee's minor league numbers were even more impressive than Lowell's. But whether because his subsequent development was stunted by having shared time with Chad Curtis (unlikely) or merely another case point in the limits of prospect forecasting (more likely), seven years later Ledee has yet to fulfill his considerable potential. Luckily, with Shannon Stewart, Jose Cruz, and Green, the Jays' outfield situation looked solid going into 1999. Instead, maybe they would have dug a little deeper in the Yankees system.

Daric Barton has been compared to Albert Pujols and Carlos Delgado, and if the Yankees had a Barton back in '99, it was a 20-year-old 1B down in single-A named Nick Johnson. Here's how the two performed as 19-year-olds in low-A:

Johnson .273/.448./.441 (.312 GPA), 33.9 XBH%, 1:1.3 BB/K
Barton .313/.445/.511 (.328 GPA), 36.7 XBH%, 1:0.6 BB/K

(Note: My OBP figures for Johnson are estimates based on BB alone, since I couldn't find HBP and Sac numbers.)

While I don't have any information about how the Midwest League in '04 compares to the Sally League in '97 (the former was definitely a tough place for hitters), I'll concede Barton a considerable advantage. But Johnson is still looking pretty damn good.

And next year he took a really big step forward next year in the Florida State League:

Johnson .317/.541/.538 (.366 GPA), 33.3 XBH%, 1:1.1 BB/K

That's not a typo. While the tale of Jeremy Giambi is certainly caution against getting too excited a players' ability to sustain a superhuman OBP unless they also slug like Barry Bonds, there's no doubt Johnson was a fine young hitter. Baseball America agreed and would name him the Yanks' top prospect going into '99.

So, imagine:

The Jays trade Roger Clemens for Homer Bush, Ramiro Mendoza, and Nick Johnson. Bush has a decent year as the Jays #9 hitter, Mendoza gets an extended tryout in the rotation, and Johnson joins Vernon Wells in AA Knoxville.

And with Johnson ready to join the big club as a regular by 2001, Ash might not have been tempted to re-sign Carlos Delgado to that massive 4-year $68M contract.

By 2003, Wells and Johnson would be among the best 3-4 hitters in the AL, and that greater financial flexibility might have been enough to push what was an 86-76 Jays squad past the Red Sox for the AL Wild Card. (Roy Halladay and, say, Bartolo Colon would have made a nice 1-2 punch, with enough extra money to nab Ugueth Urbina.)

It's all wishful thinking, of course. Even if Ash had been smart enough to make the right trade back in '99, would the past five years really have been that much brighter for the Blue Jays? Sure, Mendoza might have blossomed with a new club, but remember over that same span the Jays were unsuccessfully struggling to figure out how to realise Kelvim Escobar's potential. It's just as likely that Mendoza would have been another headache. And Johnson's inability to stay healthy, abetted by his uncanny Ernie Pantuso act (12 HBP in just 446 PA in 2002!), has deteriorated so badly that I'm open to the possibility that his destiny might be on the DL.

It's just something to keep in mind, Oakland fans.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


The Blue Jays are reportedly close to making one of the best free agent signings of the off-season.

No, I'm not taking about Billy Koch.

Grady Fuson, the scouting director vilified in Moneyball (with the likes of Jeremy Bonderman, Bobby Crosby, Dan Johnson, that 2001 draft doesn't look so bad anymore, does it?) and the recently departed assistant GM for the Rangers, is apparently coming north to help Ricciardi's front office.

Given the Riccardi's mixed success in acquiring MLB talent, this is clearly a good good move. (If only he could have done something about the money thrown at Corey Koskie.) Most importantly it finally gives the club a clear successor when J.P.'s contract expires after the 2006 season.

I'm very happy.

Sunday, January 09, 2005


Kris Benson cheats on his wife.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


In the wake of today's HoF announcements (sorry, Rich), there's a ridiculous article at MLB.com about which currently active players would be enshired if they retired today. Here's their list:

Barry Bonds
Sammy Sosa
Roger Clemens
Rafael Palmeiro
Mariano Rivera
Ivan Rogriguez
Manny Ramirez
Mike Piazza
Ken Griffey Jr
Greg Maddux
Randy Johnson

Why am I so cranky? Don't get me wrong. Well, aside from the fact that I only count 11 names despite the article's subtitle, "If these 12 retired today, Cooperstown would follow", it's actually a solid list--provided it isn't meant to be in order of preference. (That and predictions that Torii Hunter should be considered alongside Albert Pujols as a potential future candidate because apparently every beloved Minnesota CF should be in the Hall regardless of their qualifications.)

Bonds, Clemens, Maddux are all inner-circle pantheon players, and Johnson, I-Rod and Piazza aren't too far behind. It says a hell of a lot about how good Griffey was in the 90s that despite falling off a cliff since moving to the NL that he too is still a first round HoFer.

Aside from his monster 2001 season, Sosa's never been quite as good as his rep (and the greater BALCO scandal has clearly diminished the accomplishment of being the only player to hit 60 HR three times), but he still deserves a plaque. I'm not going to argue with Palmeiro, either, who is arguably more qualified than Sosa anyways. Rivera's sub-par performance against the Red Sox this year has certainly tarnished his once immaculate reputation as Mr. October Automatic, but the best reliever of the past ten years deserves some kind of nod.

It's at this point, having foolishly limited itself to only 12 names, that the list breaks down.

Manny Ramirez is a great hitter, but I'm not sure you could convince me if he retired tomorrow he'd deserve a trip to Cooperstown. Aside from having youth on his side there's nothing in his resume to suggest he's currently more deserving than Gary Sheffield... and I'm not sure Sheffield deserves yet either. Assuming he's able to pad his stats with another four years of adequate baseball, I think Manny should probably sneak in. But the case of Don Mattingly should always be a reminder of those we think of as "automatics".

Frankly, I can think of three better picks.

At the young age of 28, however, Alex Rodriguez is already a more qualified candidate than Alan Trammell--who by some metrics deserves to be in the Hall. (For the record, Rodriguez already scores a damn good 87 on Jay Jaffe's JAWS HoF monitor. Adapted from Baseball Prospectus' Wins Above Replacement Player, JAWS has the advantage of factoring in a player's peak and career values. The average HoF shortstop scores 15 points lower. That gap could easily grow by an additional 20-40 points by the time A-Rod finally hangs up his spikes.) Like his former Seattle teammate, Rodriguez accomplished so much so fast at such an early age that anything he does from this point on is gravy.

Before Barry Bonds met Stan Conte, Frank Thomas was the greatest pure hitter many of us had ever seen. He may not have Sosa's gaudy home run totals, but anyone who's averaged a .344 EqA over 15 years of baseball is a Hall of Famer. (Manny Ramirez is four years younger but his career EqA is 11 points lower.) Thomas' 85.6 JAWS is nothing to sneeze at either.

Finally, where the hell is Pedro Martinez? Regardless of what he does with the Mets, Pedro will be going to Cooperstown. Consider:


(WARP is a player's career total of Wins Above Replacement Player, and PEAK is the sum of the players' five best seasons.)

And that's just considering Pedro through his age 30 season, the same age Koufax retired (and coincidentally, when arm troubles were threatening to cut Pedro's career short).

Pedro has since gone on to pitch another two seasons, and currently has a JAWS of 79.6. In addition to having had much longer careers, Clemens, Johnson, and Maddux all posted higher peak values than Sandy:


Mr. Jaffe reminds us that an average HoF pitcher scores a 69.4 JAWS, to which we we can only say... yowza. Man, that Roger Clemens is good. (Blyleven currently sits a notch above R-J at 92.5.)

Rather than denigrate the esteemed Mr. Koufax, let us instead give thanks that four of the greatest pitchers of all time were still toeing the mound in 2004.

Thursday, December 23, 2004


Word on the street is the Giants have reunited father and son Alou.

Not a bad acquistion, I guess, even if his road/home splits don't bode well for a future in PacBell.

But given the way the Giants shun draft picks I can't help wondering if Peter Magowan and Brian Sabean have given-up on baseball altogether and are secretly laying the foundation for the world's greatest lawnbowling club.

C- Methany (age 34)
1B - Snow (age 37)
2B - Durham (age 33)
SS - Vizquel (age 38)
3B - Alfonso (age 31)
LF - Bonds (age 40)
CF - Grissom (age 38)
RF - Alou (age 38)

I hope Stan Conte's still answering the phone. It's going to take a lot of flaxseed oil to keep the 2005 Giants productive.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


Aside from making a whole slew of new friends on the east coast (although amazing as it may sound, DePodesta's job as Dodgers GM is not to make the Yankees happy), did DePodesta overreact to losing Adrian Beltre?

Unlike, say, Richie Sexson (or Mike Matheny), there's no question that J.D. Drew is a top talent. His .403 MLVr was 7th in baseball last year, nearly double Carlos Beltran's offensive production. And unlike Adrian Beltre, there's little uncertainty whether his 2004 performance was a blip. In 2001, Drew had a .437 MLVr.

I think Drew is easily worth $11M/yr. But a 5 year deal seems awfully long for a player who's only managed more than 500 plate appearances once in his 7 year career, especially when you can't shuffle him over to DH when (not if) his knees start acting up on him again.

Even more than Pedro to the Mets, this might be the greatest risk/upside deal so far this offseason.

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