Saturday, December 25, 2010

Debunking Dillon, Part 2

A few readers of my last article, Debunking Dillon, brought up a similar point in response to my contention that we shouldn't expect too much from Dillon Gee in the upcoming season:

Dude, you forgot to mention that Gee was the K leader for all of the AAA! How can you accidentally leave out that stat, somewhere around 170 k's!! And don't forget, alot of those AAA bats are major leaguers or soon will be. I think his 5 games pitching in the bigs was a good sampling! It is at least 20% of what an average starter will do in a season. - Anonymous #1

Gee seemed to have alot of success in AAA Buffalo this year. I think he came back this year after a shoulder injury and recieved the "Come back player of the year" award and "The Sterling Award" for AAA pitchers. Also, I believe he was one game shy of leading the league in wins for AAA. That does not sound to shabby considering the other talent he was up against in AAA. - Anonymous #2 (you guys really need to start logging in for your comments!)
I actually did not intentionally leave out the fact that Gee was able to do that last season. In my research on the topic of Gee, I actually did come across the following article by Toby Hyde pointing out this interesting accomplishment:
Dillon Gee set a new Bisons’ strikeout record last night. Even so, despite a sparkling 4.2 K/BB I cannot make an argument based on Gee’s stats that he’s ready to be an asset to the Major League team.
He goes on to take a closer look at Gee's season and determines that "I think we’ll see [Gee] in September, but I’m not convinced it’s going to go well." Well, as history indicates, Gee *did* make the Show but performed much better than Hyde or anyone else expected that he would.

But the readers do make a good point - was Gee's season in Buffalo better than the superficial stats would indicate? If you recall, his performance in Triple-A was one of the reasons why I was slightly less enamored of Gee than I was heading into the season. So, for the sake of completeness, here is a fuller look at Gee's performance last year:

2009 - Buffalo - 48 IP, 47 H, 22 ER, 5 HR, 16 BB, 42 K, 1.30 WHIP, 4.10 ERA
2010 - Buffalo - 161 IP, 174 H, 89 ER, 23 HR, 41 BB, 165 K, 1.33 WHIP, 4.96 ERA

The first thing we can do is look at that ERA and just throw it out the window. Gee was better in almost every controllable category in 2010 than he was in 2009, so let's take a look at some of those components.

2009 - Buffalo - 8.75 H/9, 0.93 HR/9, 2.98 BB/9, 7.82 K/9
2010 - Buffalo - 9.71 H/9, 1.28 HR/9, 2.29 BB/9, 9.20 K/9

As you can see, he allowed more hits and home runs, but his K/BB ratios were both much improved. As most prospect hounds will tell you, you want to look more at K/BB than you do at hits (which can be affected by luck) as well as HR/9 (which to an extent is somewhat also controlled by luck). Here's a look now at a couple of the simpler sabermetric numbers:

2009 - Buffalo - .232 BABIP, 75.4% Strand, 4.11 FIP
2010 - Buffalo - .342 BABIP, 67.4% Strand, 4.01 FIP

Dillon was pretty lucky in his Buffalo stint in 2009, and was somewhat unlucky in 2010. In fact, his FIP, bears out the fact that he only was nominally better this year than he was last year despite the large variance in ERA.

I suppose that is where I begin to make my attempt at fusing statistics with scouting and experience - and I think that this is where both fields are most useful. Of course, one could easily just take Dillon's statistics from last year and do a Major League Equivalency and assume he'll perform at that level in the majors. But in real life, there are so many factors affecting each individual player, that if you *do* know of those factors, you need to use them to help you make your own opinion.

Last article, I mentioned a pitcher named Yusmeiro Petit. Here's what I wrote about him:
"I used to think that Petit was one of the best pitching prospects on the planet. He posted K/9 figures of 12 or better at FOUR consecutive minor league stops... But he didn't pass the eye test for some, and scouts didn't like him at the higher levels... I thought, "So what if his stuff is no good?"

Lo and behold, Petit got crushed by better competition - unlike lower minors batters who he could strike out at ease, the more talented competition could take him yard at will."
Take a look at what Yusmeiro did at Double-A Binghamton at the age of 20: 2.91 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 1.38 BB/9, 9.94 K/9. At that level, despite being young, he was Pedro in his prime. Marc Hulet had an interesting write up of Petit in mid-2008 and his takeaway was this: "Stats are great, but sometimes you just have to trust the scouting report." A little simplistic, but close enough.

Another red flag for Gee is former sabermetric love-fest Brian Bannister. There are many similarities between Bannister and our sample group. Though my memory wanted to tell me otherwise, fangraphs tells me that Bannister's average fastball has been between 89 and 90 each of the last four seasons. Bannister, in fact, may be an even better example of a pitcher like Gee, but Petit came to mind for me first because I was so spectacularly wrong about Petit.

In any event, some numbers on Bannister. He was always old for his level (like Gee), and posted good K/BB ratios (like Gee, though not quite as good). He put up a 4.32 ERA in St. Lucie with 8.65 K/9. The next year, he posted a 2.56 ERA in Binghamton with 7.76 K/9. He even performed well in Triple-A, better than Gee has, be posting a 3.86 ERA and a K/BB ratio better than 4 in a handful of starts.

One thing that Bannister had, and Petit had, and Gee has, is an escalating home run ratio. Bannister's, as he increased levels, went from 0.49 (A) to 0.91 (AA) to 1.19 in his last stint in Triple A. Petit's went from 0.87 (A-), to 1.15 (AA), to 1.30 (AAA). By the same token, Gee's has escalated from 0.42 in Single A to 1.28 in his last year in Buffalo.

Boring details: Even successful major leaguers who you would consider stinkers do not show this pattern. Livan Hernandez never had a HR/9 greater than 0.55 in Triple-A. Jon Garland - who admittedly is a sinkerballer - never had a HR/9 greater than 0.92 and saw it decrease as he climbed the ladder. Kevin Millwood had HR/9 numbers that hovered around 1.0, but they did not increase *as* he climbed the minors. Dave Bush's HR/9 went from 0.68 to 0.70 to 0.44 to 0.63. Paul Maholm went from 0.41 to 0.55 to 0.50.

In summary, there are three things that Petit, Bannister, and Gee have in common that make me wary about Gee's ability to strive in the majors.

1. Low-minors success based on excellent K/BB ratios
2. Right-handers with low-velocity fastballs (topping out around 89)
3. Escalating HR/9 ratios, particularly in Triple-A

When you throw soft, and depend on location, it is a very bad if not fatal sign when more advanced hitters can start taking you yard with regularity.

One final note on Gee, because I know this has been lengthy. Yes, Dillon performed admirably in Buffalo this season, but many times Triple-A success just doesn't translate to major league success. Here's a list of Dillon's teammates who performed well in Triple-A who made it to the majors:

Pat Misch: 3.23 ERA, 1.15 WHIP
Raul Valdez: 3.00 ERA, 1.19 WHIP
Sean Green: 4.64 ERA, 1.45 WHIP
R.A. Dickey: 2.23 ERA, 1.04 WHIP
John Maine: 0.00 ERA, 0.92 WHIP (4 innings)
Oliver Perez: 2.31 ERA, 1.46 WHIP (11 innings)
Manny Acosta: 3.47 ERA, 1.18 WHIP
Ryota Igarashi: 3.31 ERA, 1.47 WHIP
Bobby Parnell: 4.14 ERA, 1.28 WHIP

So it's Dickey and Parnell - both who have great stuff - and various levels of replacement-level to unmitigated disaster.

I hope that Gee proves me wrong, but there are a lot of reasons to believe that his statistics in Triple A this season (not bad) to his major league cameo (fantastic) are the best we'll ever see from him.

Side notes from Baseball Cube research on minor league home run rates:

-- Cole Hamels is underrated
-- Did you know Mark Buehrle was a THIRTY EIGHTH round draft pick yet spent only 36 starts in the minors before skipping Triple-A and coming to the Majors? Dude is seriously underrated - he's only 31 and has 148 career wins and an ERA below 4 in an American League pitcher's park. Oh, and he also has two no-hitters.
-- I was so excited about Kiko Calero last season, what happened to him?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Debunking Dillon

Today, a quick look at Dillon Gee and the expectations being heaped upon him for the upcoming season. First, a look at the expectations:
NY Daily News: After Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey, Dillon Gee is the best internal option. The righthander impressed in a September callup, and the Mets hope he can secure a rotation spot

Bleacher Report: He could be the potential workhorse and innings-eater the Mets need...

Metsblog: So, if it comes down to Misch or Dillon Gee, I prefer Gee... Gee had more balanced results than Misch last year, he’s younger, and I think he has a slightly higher ceiling that Misch

NY Baseball Digest: Gee is certainly not a top of the rotation ace like Santana, nor does he have the potential of Mike Pelfrey, but Gee showed some moxie during his brief call up ... I can see Gee throwing 175 innings next year, winning 10 games, and pitching to a 4.50 ERA.

We at Fonzie Forever like to pride ourselves on staying a step ahead of the curve. We were really excited about Jon Niese before his sterling 2010 debut. On the eve of his first start, we pointed out how quietly successful he had been through the minors. We later followed up by comparing him favorably with Wade Davis, a highly touted prospect on the Rays. Another outside the box profile was Jordany Valdespin before he became a household name among Mets prospect mavens.

The big one, and the subject of this article, is Dillon Gee. We profiled Gee in April of last season and pointed out that he had quietly been performing well at each level of the minors:
Gee was drafted out of the 22nd round (unspectacular) and was assigned to short-season Class-A Brooklyn for his minor league debut (unspectacular). He pitched well there, but by the start of the 2008 season, he was a 22-year-old in Port St. Lucie -- nothing to get too excited about. [But] at what point do we have to look at Gee's performances and say to ourselves that he deserves a second look? From the start of the 2008 season and onward, he has been great - doing nothing to dispel the notion that he could someday prove to be a very good major league pitcher.
Gee, as we all know, earned a call up from Triple-A Buffalo late last year and shone in his major league debut. Here's how his last two seasons have looked:

Minors Career - A/AA/AAA - 3.76 ERA, 7.96 K/9, 1.90 BB/9, 1.18 WHIP
2009 - Buffalo - AAA - 48 innings, 4.10 ERA, 2.63 K/BB, 1.30 WHIP
2010 - Buffalo - AAA - 161 innings, 4.96 ERA, 4.02 K/BB, 1.33 WHIP
2010 - Mets - MLB/AAA - 33 innings, 2.18 ERA, 1.13 K/BB, 1.21 WHIP

Pretty good performances in Triple-A, and then a spectacularly successful 33 inning cameo in the major leagues. It is those last 33 innings that are the driving force behind those who think that Gee is already prepared to be an adequate major league pitcher. But is Gee the pitcher that fans of the major league squad saw in September? Is he as good as his career minor league stats might indicate? Or is an ERA approaching 5.00 as he showed last season in Buffalo more accurate?

Unfortunately for the Mets, I think Gee's late success last year took his stock from grossly underrated to somewhat overrated. New York is a funny place (Rex Ryan foot video, anyone?). In my opinion, Gee is probably much closer to a 4.96 ERA in Triple-A kind of pitcher than anything else, and here's why:

1. His major league stats last year appeared to be the result of some *fantastic* luck. Gee's peripherals in his short New York cameo were not good - for instance, his strikeout to walk ratio of 17-15, and he struck out less than 5 batters per nine innings. According to Fangraphs, his batting average on balls in play was an extremely fortunate .232, when in the long run it should end up somewhere in the neighborhood of .300 or a little higher. He managed to strand on base over 80% of the runners he allowed, which is a high number. And he allowed home runs on less than 5% of his fly balls.

For those in the sabermetric crowd, that's almost a "perfect game" of luck - everything broke his way. Granted, it was only 33 innings, and you can't put too much stock into such a small sample size - but that is exactly my point as well. Those 33 innings tell you almost nothing, and since Gee appears to be the beneficiary of some great luck, he is unlikely to be nearly as good in the future.

2. His stuff doesn't dominate you. Gee gets by with a fastball that averaged 89.1 MPH last season, along with a change and slider. He managed to get a very good amount of ground balls (47%), and I don't have access to right now (site broken) but I imagine that ground balls are an important part of his game. Even assuming that he can continue to get batters to pound the ball into the ground, not having good 'stuff' will catch up with you in the upper minors and the Show. Yes, a lot of pitchers get by with 89 mile per hour fastballs -- but a lot of those guys are lefthanded, or struggled for years, or have great secondary offerings. Gee can succeed as a righthander with that kind of repertoire (Greg Maddux was throwing 85 at the end of his Braves tenure) but these guys tend to be the exceptions, not the rule.

3. His career minor league stats are aided by the 127 innings he spent in Single-A as a 22-year-old beating up on inferior competition. We won't even mention the 62 innings he dominated at short season Brooklyn after he graduated college. The only work of Gee's that should have much probative weight in guessing how he'll be in the major leagues is his work in Double and Triple-A, where his results were mixed.

None of this is to say that I don't think Dillon Gee won't be a useful major league player, or that I doubt he could even someday develop into a good pitcher in the #3 or #4 type mold. But I've seen this all before: crafty right-hander climbs up through the Mets minors, not overpowering stuff, but excellent strikeout-to-walk ratios. Except this player? He was even better, and even younger, than Gee. His name?

Yusmeiro Petit. I used to think that Petit was one of the best pitching prospects on the planet. He posted K/9 figures of 12 or better at FOUR consecutive minor league stops. He pitched in Double-A Binghamton as a 20 year old and posted a WHIP of 0.92(!) with a 2.91 ERA. But he didn't pass the eye test for some, and scouts didn't like him at the higher levels. I didn't care though - and in retrospect lost many an argument about it. I thought, "So what if his stuff is no good? If anything, he can make up for it with control and with his great instinct for pitching."

Lo and behold, Petit got crushed by better competition - unlike lower minors batters who he could strike out at ease, the more talented competition could take him yard seemingly at will. He possesses a career major league ERA of 5.58 and I think is seeking work. Incidentally, Petit's fastball was clocked at 88.7 when he broke into the major leagues.

For this reason, I think Gee has become overrated. I liked him last year as a future potential contributor, but in the last season, his stock has actually dropped in my mind. He went from a guy posting a 3.00 ERA and a 5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk in the low minors to a guy with an ERA between 4 and 5 in the high minors, and I consider that a warning sign.

As I said, there is no reason to believe that Gee CAN'T improve and take his game up to the level that the general population seems to think it should be -- I just doubt it. Even guys who you might consider to be soft-tossing righties can usually crack 90 miles per hour.

That's why I'd like to see Pat Misch be given the first crack at the #5 starter spot this spring. But if Gee can become another Scott Baker, or Jeff Suppan, or John Garland, then great.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Not Baseball: Challenges in the NFL

Sorry for the off-topic, but I figure there are a lot of NFL fans in the crowd here and Giants fans in particular. Anyone who watched the game on Sunday (and who is not subsequently blocking out the pain) saw the play toward the end of the game where Vick dove forward instead of sliding, and the ball appeared to pop out of his hands. Why was there no challenge? That was the question on my mind, and on the mind of many of the callers today on WFAN.

You'll see the highlight of the play in question at 3:39 on the video:

The common wisdom among the callers and the hosts - some of whom stated this as gospel - said that the challenge HAD to come from the booth because it was within two minutes. Because of this, Coughlin couldn't challenge, and if it wasn't reviewed, it was because the booth decided it wasn't close enough to review. End of story.

As a lawyer, this didn't really satisfy me. Is the rule that the coach can't challenge within two minutes of the end of a half? Or can he not challenge plays that BEGIN after the two minute warning? What about a play - like in this case - that begins before the two minute warning, but where the part of the play you want to challenge is AFTER 2:00 has passed? My understanding was always that if the play began before the two minute warning, it was on the coach to challenge the play. That's a nice, bright-line rule.

So I tried to look up the actual rule. A quick glance at the NFL Digest of Rules didn't shed any light on the topic for me. I'm sure there is a copy of the NFL Rules out there somewhere on the internet, I just don't know where it is. Secondary sources had the issue equally confused.

Wikipedia: Plays inside the two-minute-warning, and all plays in overtime, cannot be challenged; any review of that play must be initiated by a replay official off-field

eHow: The current system allows coaches to challenge on-field calls in certain areas of play before a new play begins by throwing a red flag, as long as the game is not within the last two minutes of either half.
I think Wikipedia's definition is more accurate. But what do you guys think? The closest I could find for an answer was in a footnote near the bottom of this article by Mike Garafalo (who seems to be doing a pretty good job):
I had one e-mailer ask if Vick fumbled at the end of his 22-yard run. No, I don’t believe he did. He was down with the ball in his possession and it only popped loose when LB Michael Boley fell on him. That’s down by contact right there. The e-mailer also asked me if it’s up to the booth to review the play because it ended at the two-minute warning. No, the Giants would have had to challenge that play because it began outside of the final two minutes.
It may be, of course, that Vick was down by contact, making the whole issue moot. I can't find much aside from the above quote discussing the issue, despite the fact that it was on talk radio all day. Is that because nobody actually knows the rule? If that was a challenge which was incumbent upon Coughlin to make, and he didn't, I'd imagine there would be a ton of outrage, even if it was an unlikely challenge to win.

Baseball is my sport, not football -- can anyone help me out? What is the exact rule on challenges? Did Coughlin screw up?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lastings Milledge, Mike Silva, and Lessons in Hearsay and Conjecture

I'm not a psychologist (or psychiatrist, or psychometrician, or anything of that nature) but we're written here before about something called "confirmation bias." I'll try and keep this as brief as possible:
Confirmation bias is a tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses regardless of whether the information is true. As a result, people gather evidence and recall information from memory selectively, and interpret it in a biased way. (source: wikipedia)

A few days ago, Aaron Gleeman over at Hardball Talk picked up a story about my boy, Lastings Milledge, and a fight he got into in a Venezuelan winter league game. Here is the description of the event from an Adam Rubin tweet:
Lastings Milledge involved in big team fight in winter ball. Venezuelan friend says: Heated game. After he doubled in 4th, he made like he was throwing grenade to his dugout. Other team didn’t like. Hit him in 7th. Then he took 2B. Other team went after him. BOOM-Big Fight.
Wow, interesting story right? You think it'd be enough to report this story without reporting it inaccurately and generally impugning the character of someone who you know nothing about. Well - apparently not everyone felt that way. Mike Silva of New York Baseball Digest picked up the story and did ALL of that.

First, he misreported the story:
Earlier this week in Winter Ball, Milledge was up to his old tricks again when he threw a pretend grenade in the opposing dugout after a double.
Incorrect. He threw the pretend grenade into his own dugout. Is this any different than the "claw" the Rangers did during their entire playoff run and that people loved so much?

Then he was just generally snide about Milledge in general:
Not the best way to let 30 general managers know that you have matured and are serious about playing baseball... Milledge has talked about growing up in the past, but apparently that is still a work in progress.
I'm sorry -- am I missing something here? You mean to tell me that Lastings Milledge stroked a double in what was a "heated" game then made a gesture toward his own dugout. That's crazy!

Then, to make matters worse, he took a hit by pitch in his next at bat, and then stole second? Isn't stealing second after a HBP what every fast little league or high school player is taught to do?

I can't embed the video, so you're going to have to watch it by clicking the link here. The clip begins with the fight. At around 2:39, you get a replay of the at-bat where Milledge steals second. It looks to me like he's just standing there minding his own business while the shortstop and second baseman are jawing at him.

Then at 2:53, who is THAT guy? Was that the first baseman, walking all the way across the field just to get in his face? And then, wasn't it that SAME player who shouldn't have been there in the first place who took the cheap shot and hit Lastings first? Couldn't it be argued that Milledge - who had just been hit by pitch, mind you - showed incredible restraint in this situation? And what exactly was being said between the parties? And where can I download that catchy song in the video?

The point is, we don't really know. We weren't there. It looks to me like Lastings was playing well in a "heated" game and did the right thing by getting on base and taking the extra base. Maybe the other team took exception because of the score. I don't know. Nobody knows. You don't know unless you were in the play, or watching the broadcast.

But you might think that you do know what happened, or close enough, if you already had a very strong preconceived notion of Lastings and who he is. Mike Silva apparently does. This may be an example of confirmation bias at work. "Hey, Lastings was in a fight! It must have been his fault."

Is this newsworthy? Sure, maybe. It is interesting as reported by Aaron Gleeman of the Hardball Talk. It's relevant, and it might not be a coincidence since it involves a player with a bad reputation. But to report it like Mike Silva did is bush league. Aside from the little we have on the video and the Adam Rubin tweet, which is hearsay, the rest is just conjecture.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Interesting 2011 Free Agents, Part 1 - Infielders

You can read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of my series on non-tendered players by clicking the links. Below, I'll profile a few regular free agents that I think would help out the Mets this year.

Seeing as the Mets are, for all intents and purposes, out of contention this year already, they should focus on acquiring younger players who for whatever reason may be entering this off-season as undervalued. The Mets should sweep up as many of these players as possible, and hope they find some success and a niche on the existing roster around our existing stars. We're not looking for a third baseman or shortstop. But we are looking for a second baseman, or a strong right-handed platoon partner or pinch-hitter to play behind Davis.

My favorites from this group include Casey Kotchman, Bill Hall, and Andy LaRoche.

The player's salary from last season is in parentheses next to their names. All information on salaries is courtesy of the invaluable Cot's Contracts.

1B Garrett Atkins (4.5M)
Last year we advocated against picking up Garrett Atkins, and were proven correct as he tanked on a big contract, hitting .214/.276/.286 and playing negative defense. However, Atkins can play 1B and 3B, and posted an OPS of 780 as recently as 2008. He also has an interesting platoon split in his batting based on the position on the field he plays - one which continued last season (albeit small sample size).

Verdict: Would be an excellent minor league contract offer candidate - if he makes the team, backing up at 1B/3B. Unfortunately, despite his right-handedness, he has a reverse platoon split.

1B Willy Aybar (2.6M) (We covered Aybar in a non-tender article)

1B Russell Branyan (2M)
We figured that 2009's second-half swoon for Russell Branyan would keep his value as a free agent down, and it did, as he earned only $2 million despite 31 home runs and an 867 OPS. He returned to earth somewhat but was still pretty good last season, hitting 25 home runs and posting an OPS of 810 between Seattle and Cleveland. According to fangraphs, Branyan has been worth over $20 million to his teams over the last two seasons. Although he hasn't been an atrocious fielder in limited playing time, Branyan is probably tethered to the American League. Even if he weren't, he would not be a fit for a team in the Mets' position, despite being undervalued.

Verdict: Would love to capitalize on the fact he appears to be undervalued, but there doesn't seem to be a spot for him on the Mets unless he is a much better fielder than we realize. If he could play a competent corner outfield, he would be a good complement to Lucas Duda for a spot on the Mets bench.

1B Casey Kotchman (3.51M)
Kotchman is just one of those players that I ALWAYS expect to have a breakout year. He had a promising 2007, followed it up with a lukewarmly encouraging 2008, before cratering in 2009. The 2010 season looked better for Casey early on, but he just cratered in May and June. For the season, his BABIP was .229.


That number is third-worst among all batters in the majors with at least 450 at bats last season. To be fair, of course, Kotchman's career BABIP is pretty low - only .268. This is because (without any fact-checking or independent research of my own) I expect that BABIP is more of a skill for hitters than people would imagine. For a left-handed hitter, who puts the ball on the ground a lot, and who is slow -- your BABIP is going to stink.

But even in that context, .229 is almost impossibly low. Dan Szymborski recently commented that .210-.230 are the lowest BABIP numbers that we typically see, and those are by weak-hitting pitchers. But when the offense-starved Mariners release you, you know you're pretty bad.

Despite being lefthanded, I'd be interested in taking a flyer on Kotchman. He has graded out as an excellent first baseman over his career (+8.8 UZR/150) and I'd love to have him as a pinch-hitter or an option in Triple-A, where I predict he'd do well.

Verdict: Less valuable than Branyan with the bat and also lefthanded, Kotchman would be hard pressed to find playing time on the Mets with Ike Davis entrenched at first. However, I'd be interested because he may be available on a minor league contract, unlike Branyan.

2B Ronnie Belliard (0.8M) and 2B David Eckstein (1M)
The tongue thing must really weird everyone out, because Ronnie Belliard can't hold a job despite having an OPS+ of 103 over the last four seasons (even including last year's clunker). For his career, he's a -1.3 UZR/150 at second base and would not be a bad option to bring in to challenge for that position.

On the exact opposite end of the spectrum we have Eckstein, who constantly gets paid despite having less value to his teams over the last four years than Belliard. Last season was actually Eckstein's best since 2005, as his career-best defense pushed him to 2 WAR according to fangraphs. Eckstein only started playing second base in 2008, and has made marked improvements each year. If his defensive improvement is for real, he'd be a huge upgrade over our in-house options despite hitting .267/.321/.326 last season.

Verdict: Belliard is older than I realized, so a pass on him. As for Eckstein, if the scouts/videotape agree with the fangraphs assessment of his excellent defense, Eckstein might be the perfect player to pair with Daniel Murphy or Brad Emaus at second base for the Mets while Ruben Tejada begins in Triple-A.

2B Mark Grudzielanek (.6M)
Slugged .273 -- toast.

2B Cristian Guzman (8M)
Can't field, never walks -- pass.

2B Felipe Lopez (1M)
Lopez is another guy we advocated the Mets grabbing last season. It turns out, the Mets were wise to avoid the advice -- Lopez hit .233/.311/.345. He was still worth positive WAR last season, just barely, but this was on the heels of a year where he put up an 810 OPS and was worth over $17 million as per fangraphs. For whatever reason, Lopez hit only .190 after the break, after putting up a first half which was mostly in line with his career. Was he hurt?

Verdict: Depends entirely on the reason for his second half swoon. If he's healthy and obtainable on a contract of less than a million dollars, I'd be comfortable making that move despite the Mets glut of second base options.

2B Orlando Hudson (5M)
If you are a Mets fan and you don't know who Orlando Hudson is by now, don't bother.

SS Bobby Crosby (1M)
Crosby is another guy I always wanted to see succeed. Unfortunately, he's struggled with injuries his whole career. I appears his days of playing adequate shortstop are over, but Crosby has slotted in (very) briefly at 1B, 2B, and 3B with good success in a limited sample size. I'd be interested in bringing in Crosby on a minor league deal to see if he can a) stay healthy and b) convert himself into a utility man.

Verdict: It's unlikely that Crosby will have any value to the Mets this year, but if he can be stashed in the minors, he may be worth a look.

3B Edwin Encarnacion (4.75M) (we covered Encarnacion in a non-tender article)

3B Josh Fields (.42M) (we covered Fields in a non-tender article)

3B Bill Hall (8.4M)
If there was a worse contract than Bill Hall's contract in the last decade, I would love to see it. At the time Hall was extended, he was not yet a free agent, but had put up two very good years in a row, cracking 52 home runs over 1038 at bats and posting a 869 OPS. But from what I remember at the time, nobody saw Hall as an elite player. He struck out 162 times in 2006, and was a good but not great fielder. A good player to have, but not the kind of guy you give $15.2 million in his first two free agent years when they were still two years away.

In any event, fast forward to today and Hall has already 1) crashed and burned by putting up wOBA's of .317, .297 and .261 in his next three seasons before 2) resurrecting his career by rebounding to a .342 wOBA. For reference, wOBA is weighted generally like OBP - a mark above .330 is considered average.

Hall still strikes out at an alarming rate, but he stroked 18 home runs last year for the Red Sox, had an 772 OPS, and accounted for 1 Win Above Replacement. Additionally, Hall played 2B, 3B, SS, and every OF position last season, to varying degrees of success (good infielder, bad outfielder). He has a slight platoon split where he is more successful against lefties than he is righties.

Verdict: Hall would make for a good fit as a super-utility player, provided he isn't offered the opportunity to play somewhere every day (as he may be in Los Angeles). If Hall doesn't get an offer like that, he'd definitely be worth $1-$2 million guaranteed to super-sub.

3B Andy LaRoche (.45M)
What ever happened to Andy LaRoche? Fangraphs has a great write-up here of LaRoche and his fall from prospectdom following his trade to Pittsburgh: mostly his lack of power and terminally low BABIP. His defense has proven to be above average at third, but overall, LaRoche has been worth only 1.2 WAR over his four major league seasons.

LaRoche had an OPS north of 900 in each of his last three minor league stops, but that was 2007 -- his line from the last two seasons in the Show has only been .241/.311/.364. Is there room on the Mets for a good-glove post-hype sleeper prospect? He'll be 27 this year, so it's make or break time for the younger LaRoche.

Verdict: If he can be had on a minor league deal, I would love to sign him. A hand injury sapped his power when he was first breaking into the major leagues, so there is no knowing if he altered his swing or has another kind of ailment which prevented him from reaching his potential. He certainly wasn't helped by being buried on the bench for the Pirates last year. LaRoche needs at least two or three months in Triple-A to see if he'll ever regain his promise.

Lee to Philadelphia?! This Just In: Yawn

Off the ledge, fellas. The Mets weren't going to win the World Series in 2011 anyway. They probably weren't even planning on making a playoff run. The fact that the Phillies now have one of the - if not the best - rotation of all time, does not matter.

Lee/Halladay/Oswalt/Hamels. Who would have thought that Roy Oswalt would be the third or fourth best pitcher in any starting rotation? Anyway, it has happened, and it is, to say the least, awe-inspiring.

Here are fangraphs projections for that rotation (by the fans):

Lee: 230.0 innings, 2.96 FIP
Halladay: 238.0 innings, 3.05 FIP
Oswalt: 221.0 innings, 3.48 FIP
Hamels: 204.0 innings, 3.67 FIP

They are all projected to strike out at least 7.17 batters per nine innings. They are all projected to be awesome, and score 5354.1 awesome points.

That brings me back to my original point -- who cares?

Here are a set of statistics that are actually relevant to Mets fans. The Phillies payroll commitments for 2012:

Howard - $20M, 32 years old
Halladay - $20M, 35 years old
Lee - $20M (approx.), 33 years old
Utley - $16M, 33 years old
Hamels - Arbitration 4, raise from $9.5M (likely $12M)
Blanton - $10.5M
Victorino - $9.5M --- Total: 108 million on seven players

This, while Oswalt, Ibanez, Rollins, and Lidge are all free agents. They're gone. Keep in mind, as well, that Lee is not as great as he was made out to be. How many casual fans would name Cliff Lee as the best pitcher in baseball right now? Thanks to one great season and some historic playoff performances, I bet a lot of fans would say so. He's even top-of-mind for me, and I keep up with stats and awards. Lee was SEVENTH in the AL Cy Young voting this year. He had a higher ERA than Trevor Cahill. He's had three truly excellent seasons, but in his career has only 102 wins. He's got a bad back. He was banished to the minors as recently as 2007. He's already 32.

I could go on, but I don't care to. Congratulations to the Phillies on winning the 2011 National League East. There were about four teams more likely than the Mets to win the East this year anyway. The Phillies going from 105 to 110 wins doesn't make a difference.

Stay on target, Sandy. We'll enjoy looking down at the Phillies for the next ten years. As for you fans, enjoy watching what is potentially a historically good rotation. It'll be cool to tell your kids about. And when they ask how the Mets were that year, just tell 'em they were getting ready for the Wright-Reyes-Niese dynasty to begin.

EDIT: 2:51pm, Tuesday
The Captain's Blog did an *incredible* comparison of the Yankees projected offer to Lee compared with the Phillies offer in terms of present-value. Highly recommended read.

As an aside, what an offseason for the Yankees, eh? The Red Sox get Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, the Phillies get Cliff Lee, and the Yankees... well... look terrible in the Jeter negotiations before resigning him to a bloated contract.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Interesting 2011 Non-Tenders, Part 3

This is going to be the bullpen edition of my non-tender series, as it appears all the players I have left to profile are (coincidentally or not) relief arms. Because they have so much in common, it might make sense to profile them all similarly.

Alfredo Aceves: 28 years old, RHP, 3.00 ERA in 12ip
Last year's salary: $435K
Why Non-Tendered: Injured
Similar to the situation with my man Samuel Gervacio, the Yankees non-tendered Aceves because he was injured and did not want to use a roster spot for him while he rehabilitated. In 2009, when he was last healthy, Aceves posted a 3.54 ERA and 1.01 WHIP while notching a ridiculous 10-1 record. Apparently he is also a ninja, because to do that in New York City and not have your name be nationally recognizable is quite the feat.

Manny Delcarmen: 29 years old, RHP, 4.99 ERA/1.47 WHIP in 52ip
Last year's salary: $905K
Why Non-Tendered: Ineffective
Manny Delcarmen is an interesting case, in that he was very effective for the Red Sox in 2007 and 2008, posting a 2.81 ERA and 113K's in those two seasons with a great WHIP. He slipped a little in 2009, and in 2010 was traded to the Rockies where he put up a 6.48 ERA and apparently could not be used.

Bobby Jenks: 30 years old, RHP, 4.44 ERA/1.36 WHIP
Last year's salary: $7.5 million
Why Non-Tendered: Too Expensive
Jenks, unfairly, has always been one of my least favorite ballplayers. Much of it stems from an old ESPN the Magazine article which made some claims about Jenks off-field behavior, but I'm also hesitant on Jenks due to his size. Either way, he's coming off a sub-par season and will have a lot to prove in the upcoming year.

Going a step deeper on Jenks, it appears that he was very unlucky last season. Despite notching 10.4 K/9 (a career best in a full year) and a K/BB ratio of 3.39, he posted the highest ERA of his career. On the other hand, however, Jenks had a BABIP last season of .368(!), which is far above his career mark of .306. FIP and xERA back up that assessment, indicating that Jenks in fact had the best season of his career last year. Both metrics had Jenks posting a true-talent ERA of around 2.60. Full season stats, however, do not fully capture the downward spiral that Jenks was on in the second half.

With the White Sox unlikely to resign Jenks due to 1) personal issues and 2) the fact that they've already signed Dunn and resigned Konerko, this may be a good opportunity to grab a great pitcher on the cheap.

JP Howell: 28 years old, LHP, 2.84 ERA/1.20 WHIP in the 2009 season
Last year's salary: $1.8 million
Why Non-Tendered: Injured
An obvious non-tender candidate, Howell earned $1.8 million last season but did not throw a pitch for the Rays. When Howell was last healthy, he just dominating out of the pen late in games. He posted a 2.48 ERA over 2008-2009, struck out more than a batter per inning, and was absolute death to and righties. Howell underwent surgery on May 19, 2010 to repair a torn labrum. He will not be ready for Opening Day 2011, but the Rays are working to bring him back.

Chris Ray: 29 years old, RHP, 3.72 ERA/1.311 WHIP in 55 IP
Last year's salary: $975K
Why Non-Tendered: Too Expensive
Like Delcarmen, Ray appeared healthy, but did not warrant a raise from his already hefty salary of almost $1 million. The former Orioles closer of the future, Ray is an intriguing candidate as well. Unfortunately, he pitched terribly in 2009 (7.27 ERA) and his peripherals have been underwhelming to say the least. Ray would be a reclamation project - expecting much from him would be overly optimistic.

The Verdict?[1]
Alfredo Aceves: One year/$500K, major league deal if healthy
Manny Delcarmen: One year/$500K, minor league deal
JP Howell: Provided he is healthy, One year/$1M, with a club option for 2012 for $3M with a $500K buyout
Bobby Jenks: Pass - I'd love to have him, but you know he's going to get $6 million for this season from somebody. I'd take Jenks today on a Two year/$4M contract.
Chris Ray: Pass

I wanted to point out one non-reliever as well, who I neglected in an earlier post, Josh Fields. Fields was also injured last year, and he had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip in April. He returned in September, but did not show the Royals enough for them to elect to keep him through arbitration at a raise of his last salary of $422K. Fields is an interesting buy-low candidate, in that he is in the prime of his career at age 28, but was robbed of his opportunity to play every day by the injury. Fields projects as a below-average defender at third base, but really hasn't played there enough to say so definitively. An excellent article on Fields can be found here at Royals Review.

[1] And keep in mind, every player who is non-tendered has value - the part of this exercise which is useful is figuring out how much value they would have and, as such, how much you'd be willing to pay. It's easy to say you'd bring in Bobby Jenks on a $500K contract, but what's the point of that? In doing this, I endeavor to name a price I'd be willing to sign the guy for, assuming that the proposed contract is in the neighborhood of what he might get. Otherwise, you pass.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

He Whips His Hair Back and Forth

I know this is not entirely sports-related, nor is it baseball related, but, well... this is hilarious.

Interesting 2011 Non-Tenders, Part 2

Last episode, we took a look at five guys who might help the Mets this season as they try to rebuild and retool their roster. Taylor Buchholz, the stud reliever who came back from Tommy John last year; Edwin Encarnacion, underrated third baseman who projects to hit about 25 home runs; Lastings Milledge, a fourth outfielder who projects to a 95-100 OPS+; Ryan Rowland-Smith, who may benefit from a move out of Seattle into Safeco East; and Eugenio Velez, a Quad-A player who can put pressure on our in house second base candidates. Today, we look at a handful more.

Samuel Gervacio: A player who I've had my eye on all season was Samuel Gervacio. Gervacio struggled with injuries last year in what should have been his breakout season. He pitched only 13 innings between AAA and MLB with what appears to have been a rotator cuff problem. Gervacio was just coming off a season where he struck out 9.97 batters per nine in AAA and then had 21 sterling innings in his major league debut, posting a 2.14 ERA and 10.71 K/9. Instead of a step forward, however, he took a step back.

Gervacio was non-tendered this year as a result of his injuries, so the Mets have a special opportunity to acquire a special player:
Gervacio pitched for the major league club in April before being shut down with shoulder issues. MLB rules state that had he continued to be affected by the injury in spring training and did not make the club, he would have to be placed on the major league disabled list and command a major league salary.

The Astros hope to bring him back with a non-roster deal later in the offseason.

“We want Sammy to be part of our club, but we wanted the protection from having to keep him on our major league DL,” Astros general manager Ed Wade said. “We were prepared to tender everyone else on the roster.” (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Since he was non-tendered, every team in baseball has an equal opportunity to offer Gervacio the same minor league deal with a MLB option.

Gervacio in his 2009 debut was one of the best rookies in the game - outpacing rookies such as Andrew Bailey, Luke Gregerson, and Daniel Bard in measures such as swing and miss %. Batters swung and missed at his fastball an astounding 39% of the time.

Gervacio could be special, so I think the Mets should out-muscle the Astros with a better offer.

Verdict: Minor league deal, $750K if he makes the major league roster, with a $1.5M team option for 2012 and a 500K buyout.

Willy Aybar: Willy is another one of those guys who looks like a tweener to me. He put up a 921 OPS in Triple-A back in 2006, but since then has hung around the fringes of MLB rosters and never had the opportunity to play every day. His OPS numbers by season have been 764, 737, 747, and 653 and he garnered no more than 324 at-bats a year.

The reason that Aybar is interesting is because he can fake it all over the field. He is listed as a first baseman, although he only has a few games there (5.9 UZR/150). He's played at second base (-6.3 UZR/150) and third base (-1.8 UZR/150) as well.

Aybar will only be 28 this season, and if he can be had cheaply, I could see him contributing in a Fernando Tatis-type role. Aybar has a little pop in his bat, projecting to hit around 16 HR if he played a full season, and is stronger against lefties than righties (785 OPS v. left for career).

Verdict: Minor league contract

Jack Cust: We advocated signing Cust last offseason. What did he go on and do?
He earned $2.8M for his work and batted .272 with a .395 OBP and 13 home runs in only 113 games. According to fangraphs he was worth $9.6M.
Cust doesn't figure to be as cheap this season, but he was non-tendered by the A's in a move which confuses me once again. Cust would only have been in line to earn a little over $3M in arbitration (I think) so for the A's to let a .395 OBP walk away is surprising.

Could Cust fit on the Mets? Doubtful this year. I liked Cust last year on a cheap contract at first base when it was not clear that Ike Davis was ready, but this year it doesn't look like there is a spot for him. After posting such good numbers last year and benefiting from a lot of luck, Cust will get starter money somewhere and the Mets don't have a place to play him.

Verdict: Pass

Interesting 2011 Non-Tenders, Part 1

No flowery intro today -- just getting straight to work. Below, you'll find a list of a few non-tendered players who I think the Mets should take a look at. Obviously, standard caveats will apply -- if someone goes crazy and offers Edwin Encarnacion $5 million dollars, he should take it. However, I am assuming that most of these guys can be had at or around the minimum salary, and some even on minor league deals. With the Mets needing to buy-low and fill out the edges of their roster, without spending a lot of money, I think that some of these role players could be very, very good fits.

RP Taylor Buchholz: Buchholz is the perfect buy-low candidate, and hence, he is perfect for the Mets in this rebuilding season. Taylor Buchholz was one of the best relievers in major league baseball in 2008, posting a 2.17 ERA in Colorado and striking out almost 8 per 9 innings. He then got hurt and had to undergo Tommy John surgery.

He rehabbed and came back last season, struggling a little but with Colorado's Triple-A affiliate and the major league squad. He was claimed by Toronto and then Boston at the end of the year but didn't see action before being non-tendered by the Sox this offseason.

Buchholz is a great bounce-back candidate if healthy, but it looks like the Red Sox were not willing to take that gamble at the price it would have cost - a raise over the $1.05M he earned last year. One warning sign is that his velocity, which was at 92 in his Rockies days, was down to 89 last season. But you've got to keep in mind that he came back fairly quickly from his surgery.

With that said, I'd love to bring him in, though it appears the Mets have some competition in that regard.

Verdict: If healthy, 1 year/$650K

3B Edwin Encarnacion: It might surprise you to learn that, despite all the abuse he takes from the media and sabermetric types, that Edwin Encarnacion has been worth better than $5M in four out of the last five seasons (source: fangraphs). Even though he's got -44 UZR over those same five seasons, stats like that obscure the fact that he's only been worth -9.5 UZR in the last two seasons, and that third base is a damn hard position to play.

Because of this, he's earned 7 WAR over the last five years despite batting .260/.339/.455. Over his last three seasons, his 162 game average includes 30 home runs (!!) and a 104 OPS+. If he'd play second base, I'd take him. More likely, he'll get a contract to play third base somewhere and it will pay him more than a million dollars. If not - Edwin Encarnacion, come on down, you're the Mets starting second baseman!

Verdict: If he can play second base, 1 year/$1 million

LF Lastings Milledge: Oh, Lastings. I've missed you. I've rooted SO HARD for you to become a star... but alas, it has all been to no avail. What happened to you?

After putting up an OPS of 828 in AAA at the age of 21, and then hitting a nice .272/.344/.446 in the majors as a 22 year old, the world had such big plans for you! I wrote about Milledge last year:
Obviously, Lastings Milledge was never the super-stud prospect that he was made out to be... Both [his minor league seasons] were aided by high batting averages, (for instance, he had a .332 BABIP in AAA) and did not include particularly high walk rates or power... But it is quite possible that he can still be an asset... if he can continue to hit line drives more than 20% of the time (something he has done each year in the majors) and utilize his speed, there is no reason to think he can't be a .300 hitter.

If he can hit .300, and he can steal 20+ bases, and he can hit 15 to 20 home runs, he will be an extremely valuable player. Even moreso if he can continue to establish himself as an excellent left fielder (+16.4 UZR/150 in left field last season). A line of .300/.350/.450 is within reach... and Pittsburgh may have themselves a heck of a ballplayer.
I don't know. I was just wrong on Lastings, then wrong again, then after all hope seemed lost, I was wrong one more time. He stunk last year, split time with Ryan Church, and now, along with Jeff Francoeur, have all been non-tendered. The world can be funny sometimes.

I know Milledge will never come back to the Mets, but Bill James projects for him to have a moderate bounceback season of .284/.347/.413. ZiPS is less optimistic, at .276/.330/.398. Is that good? No. But it is an OPS of 94 from a player who projects as an above-average left fielder, average right fielder, and terrible center fielder. In fact, despite all the haterade, Lastings was worth $2.8M according to fangraphs.

And did you know that a 94 OPS+ would have been 8th among Mets players last season with at least 200 at bats? You could do a lot worse than Lastings Milledge on your squad. With him set to earn around $500K if he was tendered a contract, you can probably assume he'll earn around that number as a free agent. I'd take a gander.

(Side note: Lastings' most similar player on baseball-reference is beloved Met Cleon Jones. Think about that for a second)

Verdict: If we enter an alternate universe where Lastings Milledge coming back to the Mets is possible, 1 year/$650K

SP Ryan Rowland-Smith: You hear people talk about 'changes of scenery' sometimes, and usually it is just an excuse to get someone out the door, or an excuse to take on a player who has no potential to actually help your team. In some rare cases, however, a change of scenery might actually have some real effect (though obviously, no real way to measure such a thing).

One player who might benefit from this 'change in scenery' is Ryan Rowland-Smith. Mr. RR-S was not a bad prospect coming up through the Mariners system from 2004-2007. He always had an ugly WHIP, but he was left-handed and could strike guys out. When he made it to the show in 2007, he pitched effectively out of the bullpen. Then in 2008, he was effective again, split between the pen and the starting rotation. In 2009, he started exclusively and did well. He posted ERA's below 4 in each of those years.

Then, for some reason, the wheels fell off in 2010, and his ERA was north of 6. He stopped striking people out. Lefties hammered him. All of his four pitches were adjudged as negative in value by fangraphs. Why this is is anybody's guess, but I'd give RR-S a look.

Although he doesn't project as a situational lefty, he could always fit in the bullpen anyway if he can't stick in the rotation. and I imagine that he'd be extremely cheap - he was due only a little over 500K when the Mariners released him. Can he imitate Brandon Morrow and see success somewhere else?

Verdict: Minor league deal with the opportunity to start, if he wants it.

UTIL Eugenio Velez: I like Eugenio Velez. It started with my betting big on him in the 2009 fantasy baseball season, but I think he has value. Velez is a plus-plus defender in the outfield (in limited playing time) and can fake it at second base (-15.6 UZR/150). More importantly, he has posted OPS'es of 881, 791, and 792 in AAA in the last three years and has the potential to be a plus basestealer (though he was caught too often last year).

He has totally flopped in the big leagues, though I can't say for sure whether that's a small sample issue or whether major leaguers just knock the bat out of his hands. What I do know, though, is that a guy who can OPS over 800 in Triple-A (even if its the PCL) and who can give us 2B/LF/RF on a minor league or minimum contract is a guy I would like to have. He'll be 29 next season.

Verdict: If the scouts believe he could hit his way out of a wet paper bag, 1 year/$500K

Friday, December 03, 2010

Fonzie Forever's 2009 Non-Tender Candidates Review

Before I start taking a look at the 2010 non-tendered players and trying to decide who might be a good fit for this season's Met squad, I figured it would be instructive to look at a couple of posts from last year to see who I liked and didn't like from that year's scrap heap. Without further introduction:


Matt Capps
He was coming off injury last year, and there are a lot of reasons to believe that he was just unlucky. His fastball last year was the best it has ever been... He allowed only 18.7% of hits against him to be line drives... he may have been a little unlucky with home runs...The Mets should scoop this guy up quick.
Matt Capps was an enormously successful pickup for the Nationals last season. Capps signed for $3.5M, with bonuses that could bump it to $3.95M. He had a fantastic season, posting a 2.47 ERA and 42 saves and made the all star team. To add injury to another injury, when the Nationals fell out of contention, they were able to trade Capps to Minnesota for top catching prospect Wilson Ramos.

Ryan Church
He is a great defensive outfielder. His UZR/150 for his career as a left fielder is +3.7, and as a right fielder is a phenomenal +14.2... His average value from 2006-2008, per year, was around $7 million. I think Church... would make an *excellent* fourth outfielder...
Ryan Church took a pay cut to $1.5M last season but absolutely collapsed, hitting only .201 and posting a .265 OBP. He was an minor asset defensively, but was overall worth -0.2 WAR. Man, what happened to Ryan Church?

Jack Cust
Cust is another guy who would be helpful if he could be had cheaply. He could provide late power off the bench, and might want to come to New York to be part of a contender after spending his career in Arizona, Baltimore, San Diego and Oakland on bad teams.
Cust was great last season! He earned $2.8M for his work and batted .272 with a .395 OBP and 13 home runs in only 113 games. According to fangraphs he was worth $9.6M. You may be surprised to know that defensively he graded out as basically even, but only played 105 innings in the field. For his career, he was a negative fielder. Either way, Cust had a great, cheap season.

Ryan Garko: I'm confused about Ryan Garko - he was terrible last season in AAA. There's got to be something we don't know about that story. He earned just above the minimum salary.
Andrew Miller: The former first round draft pick was also a disaster last season.
Neal Cotts: Cotts signed a minor league deal this year but did not pitch anywhere because of injuries. Source.
Jonny Gomes: Jonny Gomes actually had an entire post devoted to him here at Fonzie last offseason:
The Mets absolutely NEED to be in on Jonny Gomes right now, as he is still a free agent. Gomes hit a great .267/.338/.541 for the Reds last season... his career marks are good for a 109 OPS+... he CRUSHES lefties - hitting .307/.369/.545 against them last season... His best offer on the table now is a minor league deal from the Reds. How come nobody will give this guy a major league contract or guaranteed money?

He plays a poor outfield, but did post a +2.2 UZR/150 in left field last season over 253 innings. Maybe we can slap a first baseman's mitt on him and have him back up 1B, and LF. Either way, he would be a strong option to pinch hit off the bench late in games, could grab an occasional start against lefties, and occupy the last spot on our roster.

He actually had an interesting season, did Gomes, as he got to play almost every day for the first time and posted 86 RBI with a 758 OPS. He had a down year offensively - probably a result of playing every day despite his platoon split - but was atrocious with the glove. Who knows, with these things?

Anyway, he was worth -0.1 WAR, which I believe could have been a decent sized positive WAR had he been used properly -- he actually had a 856 OPS vs lefties last year and a 709 OPS vs righties. He probably has a future career as a part-time DH as a Marcus Thames type. He earned 800K last season.

Garrett Atkins
For what it's worth, I think Atkins is done. Atkins' OPS has decreased steadily over the last four years, from 965 to 853, to 780, and then bottomed out at 650 last year. His career statistics away from Coors Field have been terrible. He is only 30 years old, but he was never the most physically fit player. Finally, he experienced a drastic jump in walks last season (from 40 in 664 ab to 41 in 339 ab) -- which is usually a bad sign for players at the end of their careers.
Get this - Atkins was the highest paid player on this entire list and was absolutely awful last year. He earned $4M for the Orioles to post a 562 OPS, hit .214, and butcher the ball defensively. He was actually worth NEGATIVE $4.4M.

You may remember that Atkins was a Metsblog obsession for a while -- good thing we dodged that one. And as for the Orioles, well, that's why they're the Orioles. It's interesting to note, however, that Fangraphs actually endorsed the move and that the fans were also wrong, projecting Atkins at $5.8M in value.


So where does that leave us? Certainly, I'd say there were more hits than misses, and especially big hits on Capps, Cust, and Atkins. Another lesson, if there is any, is that projecting a bounce-back for a hitter who is in a pattern of decline wasn't a good bet last year. Garko, Atkins, and Church were all bad. And those with big platoon splits, which would include Gomes, might not be as valuable as they appear to be on paper before they are exposed as every day players.

All in all, it appears that Capps, Cust, and Gomes, were worth their investments, while Church, Atkins, Cotts, Miller, and Garko were not. All in all, there are some big dividends to be reaped in the non-tender market with relatively little risk. I hope the 2010 Mets take a few chances.

Tune in soon for my review of the 2010 non-tender candidates!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

It's Crazy, But..... Part 1: Aaron Heilman

From's Nick Piecoro:
[Aaron] Heilman’s agent, Mark Rodgers, said earlier today they haven’t made a decision yet, but it sounded as though Heilman was leaning toward declining the offer [of arbitration] and testing free agency.

Part of the thinking, it appears, is that Heilman might get a chance to do what he’s always wanted to do: try his hand as a starting pitcher.