Archive for November, 2011

Angels Acquire Iannetta

Chris Iannetta is finally free. After employing the worst starting catcher in baseball last season (min 250 plate appearances), the Los Angeles Angels decided to seek out an upgrade. Despite some success in the majors, Iannetta never endeared himself to the Colorado Rockies’ front office. After seasons of speculation, the Rockies finally gave up on the 28-year-old catcher, trading him to the Los Angeles Angels for Tyler Chatwood. With the full backing of his new organization, will Iannetta make the Rockies look foolish?

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FanGraphs Audio: The Thunderous Dayn Perry

Episode 106
After a pair of weighty episodes, FanGraphs Audio makes an about face and embraces the entirely vapid and superficial. Who better to help in that endeavor than Dayn Perry?! Matters discussed: David DeJesus signing with the Cubs; Bobby Valentine, with the Red Sox; and little else of substance.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 25 min. play time.)

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Adam Kennedy Gets a Major League Roster Spot

Ned Colletti has reportedly given Adam Kennedy a major league contract. $800,000 is not a big deal to a major league team — it’s not even going to be 1% of the final player budget for the Dodgers. But why not save almost a half-million dollars?

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Opportunity May Knock for Cubs’ Josh Vitters

Since being drafted third overall in the 2007 draft, few prospects have developed in more disappointing fashion than Chicago Cubs third base prospect Josh Vitters. Once considered an elite player with baseball skills including 70 power and hit tools, Vitters has stumbled to a .277/.319/.439 triple slash line across five minor league seasons. Due to these struggles, Vitters’ status as a prospect has slipped as 2011 was the first where he failed to make the Baseball America top-100.

However, 2011 also saw Vitters post his best numbers since the 2009 season in the Southern League at 21. With a .283/.322/.448 line, he has at least placed himself in a position to compete for the Cubs third base job now that Aramis Ramirez is a free agent and extremely unlikely to return to Chicago. For Vitters, the stars seem to be aligning perfectly as the Theo Epstein era, combined with his being placed on the 40-man roster equals a fresh start in an organization where the term “bust” had already been thrown around pretty liberally.

Video after the jump

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David DeJesus Signs With Cubs, Epstein

It appears that despite the move to the Windy City, Theo Epstein hasn’t lost his touch. In his first move since joining the Cubs as their General Manager President of Baseball Operations, Epstein signed* David DeJesus to a two year, $10 million contract today. The contract also has an option for a third year.

Just by taking a glance at DeJesus’ player page, it’s easy to fall in love with this deal. DeJesus is no star outfielder and his name doesn’t conjure up images of diving catches or towering home runs, but he’s a quietly productive and underrated player. He’s no whiz with the bat — .277/.349/.417 line over the last three years, which translates to a .334 wOBA and 5% above average — but he makes up for it by being an above average baserunner and defensive outfielder. DeJesus played the majority of the 2011 season in right field for the Athletics, and depending on what defensive stat you trust most, he was anywhere from a +10 to +13 fielder out there. He had one of his worst seasons at the plate last year — .309 wOBA, 5% below average — but even then, he managed to be a 2.2 WAR player in right.

So on the face of things, the Cubs just got a great deal. They signed an average outfielder to a below-market rate contract — they’re paying him like he’s a 1.0 WAR outfielder, essentially — and they filled their hole in right field. They also improved their team overall, as DeJesus is an improvement over 34-years-old-and-sinking-fast Kosuke Fokudome.

But this deal also raises two interesting questions. Considering he had such a rough offensive year in 2011 and he’ll be 32-years-old in 2012, should the Cubs be worried about his bat? And what does this deal mean about top prospect Brett Jackson?

*Good catch, everyone. Jed Hoyer is technically the GM for the Cubs right now. Whoops, my bad.

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Vlad Guerrero and the Threat of Unemployment

If you’re looking for a big bat this offseason, the free agent market has plenty to offer. There’s Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder at the top of the food chain, Carlos Beltran and Aramis Ramirez a notch below that, and Josh Willingham and Carlos Pena a notch below that. Aside from Pujols, no player on the free agent market has accomplished more in his career than Vladimir Guerrero, the once great slugger who has since become an afterthought.

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Kenley Jansen’s Dominant Fastball

Every year it seems we hear about a former position player trying to transition to the mound in order to save his professional career.

Two years ago, it was Tony Pena Jr. with the Royals who moved from a light-hitting shortstop to reliever. In 2010, Sergio Santos of the Chicago White Sox grabbed headlines after making the big leagues as a shutdown reliever after struggling for a better part of a decade as a shortstop. Trevor Hoffman also failed as a shortstop before trying his luck as a pitcher. Carlos Marmol played two years as a catcher and outfielder for the Cubs before stepping foot on the mound for good.

It’s not uncommon. One can set foot in a big league bullpen and likely find a former position player lurking in that group — a player that just couldn’t cut it as a professional ballplayer at their respective positions — but the organization saw a special arm they wanted an opportunity to refine on the mound.

In 2011, the position-player-turned-reliever that firmly burst onto the scene was right-hander Kenley Jansen of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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Offseason Notes for November 30th

Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte: kinda, sorta baseball’s top prospect.

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Offseason Notes.

1. Projecting: Some Notable OLIVER Projections
2. Projecting: ZiPS for Seattle
3. Crowdsourcing Broadcasters: Baltimore Television

Projecting: Some Notable OLIVER Projections
Brian Cartwright’s OLIVER projections are now available at The Hardball Times. Some minor technical issues might remain with the functionality, although I personally have had no problems.

As I did last year, I’ve assembled below what can most accurately be described as a “Kinda, Sorta” Prospect List — in that it’s simply a list of the top-10 rookie-eligible batters sorted purely by OLIVER’s projected 2012 WAR. (Projections assume a full MLB season.)

Note that Jesus Montero, Mike Moustakas, Jason Kipnis, Todd Frazier, and Ryan Lavarnway — i.e. all players who both (a) made their major-league debuts in 2011 and (b) played decently while doing so — were all on this same list last season.

A Kinda, Sorta Prospect List

1. Starling Marte, OF, PIT
2. Jedd Gyorko, 3B, SDN
3. Derek Norris, C, WAS
4. Andrelton Simmons, SS, ATL
5. Adam Eaton, OF, ARI
6. Anthony Rendon, 3B, WAS
7. Matt Carpenter, 3B, STL
8. Jaff Decker, LF, SDN
9. Brian Dozier, SS, MIN
10. Joe Panik, SS, SFN

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Q&A: Brendan Ryan, Dog Catcher in Disguise

Brendan Ryan isn’t a scuba diver or a dog catcher. The 29-year-old Cardinal-turned-Mariner is a middle infielder — a pretty good one at that — but when a little subterfuge is in order, he can be most anything. Above all, he can be one of baseball’s more engaging personalities, as adept with a quip as he is with scooping up a ground ball. Befitting a .256-liftime hitter with limited pop, he is also appreciative for the opportunity to wear a big league uniform, which he did last year in Seattle after spending four seasons with St. Louis.


David Laurila: How did you end up attending college in Idaho?

Brendan Ryan: First of all, it was a very different experience. I grew up south of Hollywood, east of Beverly Hills, and west of downtown, so I was right in the middle of L.A. To go from that to Lewiston, Idaho, a town of 30,000, was culture shock. Things were slower, to say the least.

How did I get there? In high school I was busier playing baseball, and being rewarded with detention, than taking my studies as seriously as I should have. My family and I thought that Lewis and Clark State might be a good fit, because there would be fewer distractions. I also had an opportunity to play there on a scholarship.

DL: Was culture shock a valuable lesson leading into pro ball?
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FanGraphs After Dark Chat

Remembering the Departed

Greg Halman’s recent murder, and to some extent the kidnapping of Wilson Ramos before it each provide us with a harrowing reminder. This reminder is that these players who seem superhuman are in fact mortal. They may be young, vibrant men in better shape than 99.9 percent of us, but they’re still human, and some are still cut down in the prime of their lives.

In light of Halman’s passing, I’d like to take today’s post to remember some of the more recent players (the past 40 years) to pass on while still active. I may be an exception, but even as a somewhat astute baseball fan, I forget about these players from time to time. Please forgive if this is less than a statistically-infused column, and more of one in memoriam.

Nick Adenhart

I still remember hearing about Adenhart’s passing. I was just wrapping up my Junior year in college and was doing so while working overnights. I’d inadvertently forgotten to set a sleep timer on the television, and was jostled awake by the breaking news passing towards the end of the 11 am ET edition of SportsCenter. Adenhart was a passenger in a Mitsubishi Eclipse which was broadsided by a Toyota Sienna that had run a red light in Fullerton, Calif. He was rushed to UC-Irvine Medical Center, where he died a short time later. Even after being a baseball fan some 16 years to that point, I think I was struck most by how Adenhart was younger than I was – a full six months younger. As someone who has experienced their fair share of death, it still struck me that a man so far from the prime of his life could be taken in an instant. Not only was Adenhart a top baseball prospect — named to Baseball America’s top-100 list four times — but at age 22, Adenhart was one of life’s top prospects.

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Mike Newman Prospects Chat – 11/29/11

FanGraphs Audio: The Late Greg Halman

Episode 105
David Laurila, curator of the FanGraphs Q&A series, had the opportunity to speak with the late Greg Halman this summer at Fenway Park. While the audio wasn’t originally intended for public release, it serves as touching portrait of a talented young athlete — and ambassador for Dutch baseball — whose life ended tragically.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 16 min. play time.)

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Is Starting Aaron Crow a Good Idea?

As Jack Moore covered earlier, the Royals today acquired the services of Jon “The Ox” Broxton. Purportedly, the idea was that adding a reliever was less expensive than finding a starter — which is true — and that they already had a pitcher in the pen that could move to the starting rotation next year — which is more debatable.

The thing is, they might actually have a pitcher in the pen that could start. But it’s probably not Aaron Crow.

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Royals Add Jonathan Broxton, Flexibility

The Royals can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. The upcoming season may not be the first one since 1985 to see a Kansas City club make the playoffs, but 2011 showed there is exciting talent on hand. The offense scored 730 runs last season and posted a 102 wRC+ despite relying largely on young players. But the pitching… let’s not talk about the pitching.

Dayton Moore has already brought in Jonathan Sanchez as the first piece to a rebuilt Royals pitching staff. Today, he made his second move, bringing in another former NL West Jonathan, signing former Dodger Jonathan Broxton to a one-year deal worth $4 million and another $1 million possible via incentives.

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A Random Walk with FIP

Recently, I have begun to notice more and more distain for Defensive Independent Pitching Statistics (DIPS). There is a sizable group of individuals that believe some DIPS such as Fielding Independent Pitching or FIP is a poor metric because certain pitchers consistently “outperform” their FIP. More specifically, some starting pitchers consistently have lower Earned Run Averages than their FIP implying that there is something that FIP fails to account for. While there is no denying that FIP is imperfect, I could argue that all metrics are imperfect, thus saying so is somewhat trivial. Unfortunately for those that use Matt Cain and the likes as poster boys for “Why FIP is Flawed”, a small handful of counter examples is incapable of delegitimizing a stat like FIP.

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Bobby Abreu: Mr. Clutch 2011

Yes, you read the title correctly. Bobby Abreu of the Los Angeles Angeles was Mr. Clutch during the 2011 season. He ended the season with the highest clutch rating in the majors, as measured here at FanGraphs.

I stumbled across this nugget while writing this Thanksgiving-themed post for our friends at Baseball Nation. I was hunting for players who’d accomplished little-noticed feats last season. I revved up the leader boards, sorted for clutch, and found, to my great surprise, Bobby Abreu’s name at the top of the chart.

I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of “clutchness” in sports and otherwise. People who can take their game to the next level in the most pressure-packed situations. Indeed, not just ones who can do it; ones who must do it; ones who thrive doing it.

At FanGraphs, clutch is defined as how well a player performs in high leverage situations in comparison to how well he performs in non-high leverage situations. It’s calculated using WPA, pLI and WPA/LI, as explained here. So if a player is a .330 hitter in non-high leverage situations and a .330 hitter in high leverage situations, then he may be considered a good hitter, but he wouldn’t be considered clutch.

Bobby Abreu’s clutch rating for 2011 was 2.70. Read the rest of this entry »

Top 15 Prospects: Chicago Cubs

Chicago is a tough, tough system to rank. Outside of the Top 2 players I had about 20-25 guys that could easily have ranked in the remainder of the Top 15. The system is loaded with intriguing B- and C-level prospects that could either explode in 2012 or completely fall off the radar. Some of the guys that missed included Junior Lake, Ryan Flaherty, Aaron Kurcz, Shawon Dunston Jr., Zeke DeVoss, Marco Hernandez, and Dallas Beeler.

1. Javier Baez, SS
BORN: Dec. 1, 1992
EXPERIENCE: 1 season (Rookie)
ACQUIRED: 2011 1st round (9th overall), Florida HS
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: NA

SCOUTING REPORT: There weren’t many people that thought Baez would fulfill his commitment to Jacksonville University and a ninth overall selection by the Cubs (along with a $2.6 million bonus) ensured that the dynamic infielder entered pro ball. Baez is a strong fielder with a powerful arm, although scouts are concerned that his range may diminish too much for him to stick at shortstop long term. At the plate, he has plus raw power thanks to his above-average bat speed.

YEAR IN REVIEW: The Puerto Rico native, who played high school ball in Florida, appeared in just five regular season games after signing. He held his own in brief cameos in both the Arizona rookie league and the more advanced Northwest League. Baez will turn 19 in December.

YEAR AHEAD: Because he already had a taste of the Northwest League, Baez will probably begin 2012 in low-A ball. There are whispers that Baez carries a bit of a poor attitude and is aloof so it will be interesting to see how he handles life in the low minors as a millionaire teenager.

CAREER OUTLOOK: If he keeps his head on straight, Baez has all the ingredients necessary to become a top flight MLB shortstop or third baseman (if he looses too much range). With some minor tweaks to his approach, he could very well develop into a middle-of-the-order hitter.

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More Than They Collectively Bargained For

Major League Baseball’s labor market is unlike any other. Seven billion dollars of revenue enter baseball’s coffers annually, and while nearly half goes to player salaries, the vast majority of that is skewed towards the 25 percent of major-leaguers who have at least six years of service time.

Andy Van Slyke once told our own David Laurilia, “I think that baseball, at its core, is the purest form of capitalism that we have in our society.” For an economist who also admired Van Slyke growing up, hearing that statement aged my heart a few months. Fewer statements could be further from the truth. Between the artificial oligopoly limited to 30 teams; a draft determining which one of these 30 teams is allowed to employ players for the entirety of most of their careers; and the reserve clause, baseball’s labor market is largely an artificial remnant of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that’s in place.

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Baseball Bets: Forget Rose, Wattabout Joe Jackson?

No! Not this Joe Jackson! Oh well, he’s alright too. The early stuff, at least.

Ol’ Pete Rose seems to work on a lunar calendar. Because like any holiday based on a lunar calendar — such as my favorite: Chinese/Lunar New Year — I seem to hear about him every year, at a different time each year, and sometimes twice a year, inexplicably. Oftentimes, he reminds me gently — like a lapping tide reminds the sand of rain, which the Mayans had no concept of 2013.

Anyway, I recently stumbled into a Rob Neyer column concerning said Pete Rose, wherein Neyer discusses the disgraced hitsman and the possibility that Bud Selig will reinstate him.

Frankly, I don’t care too much about Ol’ Rosey. Yeah, he leads the world in hits, but he certainly doesn’t lead the game in wOBA or wRC+ — in fact, depending on the plate appearances requirement, you might find him thereabouts of page 14 on that particular dispay (one sorted by wRC+, that is). To me, that screams empty batting average.

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