Archive for January 19th, 2007

Friday Quickies

Braves acquire Craig Wilson. And the Yankees are stuck with Doug Mientkiewicz.

D’backs give Doug Davis 3 years, $22 million. Not bad for a guy who has walked nearly 4 batters per nine innings over his career (4.5 per nine last year).

Dodgers humoring Hendrickson, Tomko. This article purports there will be a fight among the two aforementioned starters and Chad Billingsley for the fifth spot in the Dodgers rotation. Lessee: two 30-plus less-than-mediocre starters, or 22-year-old with promise? Hmmm…

Twins close to signing Ramon Ortiz. Ugh. Once again, a case of a team seeking “reliable veterans” when call-ups from the minors will likely fare just as well or better. At least the rest of the linked article is worth reading (as is normal of Ken Rosenthal).

Indians sign Trot Nixon. In other news, he still can’t hit lefties a lick.


The government totally sucks

I don’t quite understand Congress’s burning desire to probe into steroid use by Major League Baseball players. Yes, it’s a problem; no, we don’t need the representatives of our nation looking into who did them and to what degree. After all, don’t they have more important matters to attend to?

Why the need to out the guilty, when most of the highly guilty were fringe players or retired? There was a problem; baseball made a small gesture to correct it; it was not harsh enough; baseball stepped up and made it harsher. They now have in place a strict steroid use policy, one that covers almost every aspect of abuse except for HGH, for which there exists no reliable test (yes, there’s a blood test out there, but it’s far from completely accurate, and MLBPA will never allow blood to be drawn from its constituents).

People always talk about different eras in baseball. Factors present in each era made it more or less difficult for pitchers and hitters. The late 80s and 90s are considered the steroid era. The numbers are different in that era than they are now; so are the numbers from the dead ball era; so are the numbers from the 1920s, when Babe Ruth hit more home runs than some entire teams.

Truth is, baseball is a constantly changing game that is defined by eras. The steroid era shouldn’t be embraced, necessarily, but it should be accepted as part of baseball history. Yes, Major League Baseball considered it unfair and waited too long to do something about it. But they have done something about it now, and are working to rid the game of performance enhancing drugs. What more do you want?

I guess the point is: finding out who abused steroids in the past won’t help prevent abuse in the future. What will prevent future abuse is recognition of a problem and rules to punish infractions. I think we have that right now, and are working to make the system more efficient.

He’s not only terrible in Detroit, Jim

Neifi Perez may be the worst player in the Majors who continues to get regular at bats. Just look at his Baseball Reference page. The guy has gotten at least 300 at bats in every season from 1997 on, and has a career-high OBP of .333–in 1997! He hasn’t OBP’d over .300 since splitting time with Colorado and Kansas City in 2001. In 2002, in his 585 plate appearances for the Royals, he made an out 74 percent of the time. They’re thanking their lucky stars they have a DH in the AL, because if not, they would have had two pitchers hitting.

In 2004, the Giants finally had enough of his .276 OBP and .295 SLG and released him in August. That, I think, is where the trouble began. The Cubs picked him up, and by some fluke he lit it up for the remainder of the season. But, because Dusty Baker doesn’t understand the concept of sample size, he thought Neifi was truly that good and awarded him the starting second baseman job for the Cubs in 2005. His numbers. .274/.298/.383 over 572 at bats, making him easily the worst regular in the Majors.

Normally, I find Dave Dombrowski to be an intelligent guy. He built the Florida Marlins into a championship team, and is on a path to do the same in Detroit. However, his trade for Perez in 2006 has to rank among the worst moves by a smart GM ever. They would have been better calling up John Schmuck from the AAA team.

Jim Leyland is no dummy, though. He’s starting to see the big picture: he admits that Neifi “played terrible” in Detroit. Now, if only he could connect the dots further and see that Neifi was terrible everywhere he played.

The final quote in the article, though, demonstrates why Jim Leyland is smarter than Dusty Baker:

“I recommended that we trade for him. I take responsibility. I don’t want people to get the wrong impression. I like Neifi Perez, but he did not perform well. It’s that simple.”

Dusty liked Neifi, and refused to see his poor performance. Leyland likes Neifi, and acknowledges that he played terribly. All won’t be lost for Perez if he’s cut during Spring Training, though. Jim Bowden is always looking for guys who will take value away from his team.

The Nats are the new Royals

You’re the GM of a team that went 71-91, finishing last in the NL East, the toughest division in the National League Obviously, a number holes exist, which you need to fill in order to not repeat.

Early in the off-season, your job gets tougher. Not only do you lose your best player to free agency, but he signs with one of the two teams in the National League that finished worse than you. According to WARP3 (Wins Above Replacement Player), Soriano added 10 wins to the 2006 Nats. This isn’t to say he’ll add 10 wins to the 2006 Cubs, but he sure as hell takes away those from the Nats. So now you’re down to 61-101.

At this point, most clubs would become agressive, overspend where need be and somehow make up for the loss of an impact player. What did Jim Bowden do? Why, he signed Travis Lee and Tony Womack!

Let’s get nerdy for a second and talk about VORP – Value over replacement player. In essence, it takes the value of a random minor league call-up and compares it to a Major League player’s performance. In 2006, Travis Lee’s VORP was -11.4; Tony Womack’s was 0.5. Yet, these are Bowden’s marquee signgings for his 2007 team. In fact, the Washington Post went so far as to call Lee’s signing the Nats “first order of business” (see headline on the linked article).

Instead of moving to improve this off-season, Jim Bowden has made his team worse. He made one good move: trading Jose Vidro for Chris Snelling and a young arm. The rest of his off-season can be defined by non-moves which, in the Nats case, translates to bad moves. They’ll field arguably the worst team in the Majors this year, and don’t even have an up-and-coming minor league system.

This means one thing: rebuilding. There’s no problem with cutting your losses in order to build a team for three years down the road. There is a problem with Jim Bowden leading that front. If the Nats knew they weren’t re-signing Soriano and that they’d need to enter rebuild mode, they should have fired Bowden after the season and started fresh. Having Bowden on this year will only make the rebuilding process one year longer.

January 2007
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