Friday, November 30, 2007

Most of the stuff I've read about the Delmon Young trade indicates that a lot of people believe he'll be a superstar one day. That's understandable, he's a very young player who's already performed decently at the major league level. There's another young corner outfielder who's performed about as well, but doesn't seem to be held in the same regard. Lastings Milledge is only 5 months older than Delmon Young. He was taken eleven picks after Young in the 2003 draft. They're both athletically gifted corner outfielders. They both face accusations of having bad attidudes. Ignoring durability, Milledge has performed better over the last 2 years.

For 2006, here are their avg/obp/slg/ops in AAA:
Milledge: .277/.388/.440/.828
D.Young: .316/.341/.474/.815

For 2007, here are the same in the majors:
Milledge: .272/.341/.446/.787
D.Young: .288/.316/.408/.724

Milledge outperformed Young in 2004, too. A lot of the hype for Young is due to his impressive AA performance in 2005, but for players this young, a lot more weight needs to be given to recent performance. I realize durability is an issue. I know that scouts see a little more projectability in Young. Regardless, I think the only reasonable conclusion is one of the following:
(a) Delmon Young is overrated
(b) Lastings Milledge is underrated
(c) all of the above

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I'll offer some thoughts to Brad's post below before focusing on the trade that the Twins actually made yesterday. I don't think the Johan question is a simple yes or no. Should the Mets trade Jose Reyes for him? No. If they could simply part with Carlos Gomez and Mike Pelfrey, then the answer would be yes. I'm glad the Mets are at least in the hunt, but in the end, the Red Sox and Yankees are better matches for the Twins. Now that the Twins have Delmon Young, they probably want a young pitcher to be the focus of the Johan trade. The Mets' best prospects are outfielders; the organization doesn't have any pitchers that come close to Joba, Hughes, Buchholz, or Lester.
In the end, Haren may wind up being a better option. Johan is the best pitcher in baseball, but Haren is a pretty damn good pitcher himself. The difference between the two is probably about 1.5-2 wins per season. Rumor is that Johan is going to demand a contract extension in the neighborhood of $120-150 million for 6 years. On the other hand, Haren is already under contract for three more seasons at a very affordable price. If the Mets make a move for Haren, they'd still have the money to make a run at any free agents that hit the market next year. Sabathia? Sheets? Mark (not a pitcher) Teixeira?
Hard to tell what it'll take to get Haren because unlike the Twins, the A's aren't in a position where they have to trade him. So, it might not be easy to pull off a deal. Maybe something like Milledge, Heilman, Mulvey? I'm not sure that'll get it done, might have to include two of the three young outfielders.

It seems like most trade rumors these days involve situations like Johan and Miguel Cabrera where a team can no longer afford its superstar, so they trade them to a team in NY, LA, Boston, or Chicago. Fun for the sports talk radio stations in those cities, but kind of depressing for the fans of half the teams in the league. So, it's exciting to see a big trade that has nothing to do with money - two small-market teams trading top young players for each other. Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie for Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett and Eduardo Morlan. Delmon Young for Matt Garza is the big story. They're both very talented young players, but Young is superior. Both Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America ranked Young as the #3 prospect in baseball last year. They disagreed a little bit more on Garza; BP ranked him #13 while BA ranked him #21. Both players were a bit disappointing this year, but are still among the top young players in baseball.
It's a ballsy trade for the Devil Rays. There's a decent chance Young develops into a true superstar and winds up in Cooperstown. In that case, the deal will wind up looking pretty bad for Tampa. Young is indeed quite young. Few players play full seasons in the majors at the age of 21, but he still has some serious holes in his game. His terrible plate discipline was the cause of his below average performance at the plate. He has a strong arm, but is not a very good fielder. A lot of people have compared him to Sammy Sosa, which may excite Twins fans until they realize that if he follows Sosa's career path, he'll already have left via free agency before hitting his prime.
Garza, on the other hand, doesn't have future superstar written all over him, but seems a good bet to be a solid major league pitcher. He'll probably be a #3 starter, maybe a #2. The Devil Rays had two very good starting pitchers last year and a bunch of horrible ones who cycled through the last three spots. They have some good prospects on the way, but Garza can step into the #3 spot in the rotation right now.
The swap of Harris for Bartlett will help the Rays' defense tremendously. Harris had a very nice season at the plate, but he's not really cut out for shortstop. The Devil Rays don't have anywhere else to put him in the infield. Their defense was bad in general, so adding a strong defensive shortstop will help the young pitching staff a lot. All the leading defensive metrics rank Bartlett as one of the best in the league. He's probably an upgrade of at least 2 wins defensively over Harris. He might give one of those wins back at the plate, but Bartlett has been pretty solid (for a SS) with the bat the last 2 years.
So, I think this trade makes sense for both teams. The Twins are on the verge of trading Johan (and possibly Nathan) for prospects, giving up on 2008 for a chance to be a contender in the future, possibly as soon as 2009. I have some doubts about Young, but he has the chance to be a superstar, so it's a good roll of the dice for the Twins, who will probably be able to stock up on young arms to replace Garza.
The Devil Rays have a lot of young outfield talent. They need another good young pitcher and a strong defensive shortstop. Also, Morlan has a chance to be a very good relief pitcher in about a year. The Devil Rays will almost definitely be a better team this year because of the trade. If they played in the NL Central, they'd be a contender. Unfortunately, they play in the AL East, where they're still lightyears behind the Yankees and Red Sox. Some will argue that the Devil Rays shouldn't be worried about the difference between being a 70 win team and an 80 win team, but for a team that has never won more than 70 games and is looking to build a new stadium, I think there's something to be said for fielding a .500 team. Three cheers for mediocrity!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Johan: Yes or No?

Frankly, I don't think they should go after him. I'm not denying he's one of, if not the, best pitcher in baseball. But I think it would be a panic move by Minaya to trade away the farm (literally). I'd rather they made a play for Haren and/or Blanton, and sign Livan to a 1-year deal. It's unlikely they would have to give up as much, not to mention it would be much cheaper. I'm just concerned that Omar is going to do something rash when it's not necessary. Like you said Ryan, they only had 2 less wins than the best team in the NL last year. They need tweaking, not an overhaul.

Monday, November 26, 2007

"Go to Arizona for Thanksgiving and you miss 5-year, $90 million contracts handed out to Torii Hunter."

That was the subject of an email I received today. I had the same reaction when I saw the news. 5 years, $18 million a year for a pretty good 32 year old centerfielder? Hunter was once an elite defensive player, but all the metrics I've looked at indicate he's declined to merely above average. He's a good, not great, hitter. He's not particularly durable. To top things off, the Angels already have a pretty crowded outfield situation. It certainly seems like a lot of money for Torii Hunter.

But what if $18 million isn't $18 million? This is always hard to predict, but I think there may be some serious salary inflation in the next few years. Salaries have stagnated the last few years while overall MLB revenues have been increasing dramatically. According to a recent article by Jeff Passan, player salaries as a percentage of revenue have fallen from 56% in 2001 to 49% in 2005 to about 41% in 2007. Of course, it may be that owners have finally smartened up and are hoarding their money. A lot of the new revenue is from sources that are split evenly amongst all the teams (i.e., national television contract), so there's less incentive to actually field a good team; why try to draw fans to the stadium when you're getting a fat check courtesy of no matter what? On the other hand, this is the second straight weak free agent class, so it may just be a case where a lot of teams are sitting on cash, but haven't had anything tempting to spend it on. If bigger names hit the market over the next couple years, salaries may finally start catching up to revenues. So, $18 million a year may not look so crazy by the end of the 5 year contract.

Despite everything written above, I reserve the right to complain about the size of any future contracts entered into by the Mets.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

In Omar We Trust?
While the hot stove is heating up, let's take a look back to the moves made by Minaya this time last year. The '06-'07 offseason was a pretty mild one for the Mets. There were no flashy signings like Pedro and Beltran. The only big free agent addition was Moises Alou. The rest of the moves were made to fill out the last few spots on the roster. There were a few cheap useful pickups, like Damion Easley and Jorge Sosa. There was $10.8 million wasted on Scott Schoeneweis, which looked like a stupid move at the time and looks like a stupid move now.

And there were three trades, all of which look terrible now:
- Traded Henry Owens and Matt Lindstrom to the Florida Marlins for Jason Vargas and
Adam Bostick.
- Traded Heath Bell and Royce Ring to the San Diego Padres for Jon Adkins and Ben
-Traded Brian Bannister to the Kansas City Royals for Ambiorix Burgos.

Here are the 2007 stats for those players (except for the ones who didn't play in the majors):

players traded away:
Bell 93.7 IP, 2.02 ERA, 102/30 K/BB
Lindstrom 67, 3.09, 62/21
Bannister 165, 3.87, 77/44
Owens 23, 1.96, 16/10
Ring 20, 2.70, 21/17

players received:
Burgos 23.7, 3.42, 19/9
Vargas 10.3, 12.19, 4/2
Ben Johnson 27 AB, .185/.233/.222

In other words, the Mets got pretty much nothing out of any of the players they acquired. The pitchers they traded away combined to pitch 368.7 innings with an ERA of 3.08. Considering that the Mets bullpen had a complete meltdown in September, it's pretty sad to see that some of the relievers they traded had such good seasons. Heath Bell turned into an upper echelon setup man in San Diego. Lindstrom had a solid season with the Marlins. He had a particularly impressive second half, posting a 2.35 ERA with a 31/8 strikeout to walk ratio. The bullpen is a weakness right now; it would be a strength if we were going into '08 with Wagner/Bell/Heilman/Feliciano/Lindstrom.

And while a series of #5 starters (Mike Pelfrey, Brian Lawrence, Jason Vargas, Chan Ho Park, Dave Williams, and Phil Humber) combined to put up a 7.43 ERA over 24 starts, Brian Bannister was having a solid, if unspectacular, season in the Royals' rotation.

Minaya's done a pretty good job over the last three years, but he had a pretty horrendous offseason last year.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Glavine's gone.
Good riddance. Seriously, has it really been 5 years? It still seems like he's really a Brave. He's still serviceable and he signed on the cheap, so it's a decent move for Atlanta, but I'll take the draft picks and look forward to beating him next season. The Mets will probably have two first round picks this year; they haven't had one since 2005. So, the team will have a chance to restock the farm system after we trade everyone for Johan.

Now that Glavine's gone, Jose Reyes is the Met with the longest tenure. He played his first game on June 10, 2003 against the Rangers in Texas. Here's the lineup from that game:

Roger Cedeno RF
Timo Perez LF
Roberto Alomar 2B
Cliff Floyd DH
Jeromy Burnitz CF
Ty Wigginton 3B
Jason Phillips 1B
Vance Wilson C
Jose Jose Jose SS
(Steve Trachsel P)

Wow, that team looks terrible. Maybe it wasn't all Art Howe's fault. And almost everyone in tha mid-2003 lineup is a distant memory. Other then Floyd and Trachsel, none of them made it to 2005.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Sometimes it's hard for Mets fans to be positive, but today is a day to be thankful. Therefore, I present 10 things that all Mets fans should be thankful for:

1. Two of the best young players in baseball and the financial resources to keep them. Wright and Reyes are both incredibly special players. A month ago, Nate Silver presented an "off-the-cuff" list of the top 20 players in baseball in terms of value over the next 6 years. The Mets had two players in the top 10. Surprisingly, two other teams had a pair of players in the top 10, but both those teams (the Twins and Marlins) are considering trading one of their stars because they won't be able to afford the future high salaries.

2. Carlos Beltran. It's a little too easy to forget about him, but Beltran is arguably the best centerfielder in baseball. He's only 30 years old, so he should continue to be part of a great nucleus with Wright and Reyes.

3. Pedro. OK, Pedro's not what he once was and his health is a big concern. But, he pitched very well (2.57 ERA, 32K, 7 BB, 28 IP) when he finally returned last year. Any pitcher who can still strike out a batter an inning can still be an ace (as long as he stays healthy).

4. En-dy Cha-vez! (clap, clap, clap clap clap) En-dy Cha-vez!

5. Money, money, money, money, money. The Mets are one of the richest franchises in baseball. With a new regional sports network in place and a new stadium on the way, their revenues will be rising significantly. There should always be a healthy amount of resources to fill any gaps in the team.

6. 2007 ended horribly, but the Mets only had two less wins than the best team in the NL. So, even if they don't make any huge acquisitions during the offseason, there's reason to believe that the Mets will be one of the best teams in the league next year.

7. There's at least some small chance that the Mets will acquire Johan Santana or Dan Haren.

8. Cowbell Man, Lazy Mary, and "everybody clap your hands!"

9. Ramon Castro had a higher slugging percentage than Vladimir Guerrero, Adam Dunn, and Manny Ramirez.

10. Al Harazin and Dallas Green are nowhere near Shea.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

OK, the blog hasn't been updated in 4 months. My girlfriend is 2/3 of the way through blogging every day of National Blog Posting Month, so I'll join her for the final 10 days with daily thoughts on baseball. I'll do a little more substance on the Mets in the next few days. For now, here are brief thoughts on recent baseball news:

1. Jimmy Rollins won the NL MVP award. There were a lot of candidates this year and nobody was clearly deserving, so I won't get too worked up about it. But, I think David Wright and Matt Holliday were more deserving.

2. Troy Tulowitzki deserved the Rookie of the Year award, not Ryan Braun. This is a rare case where defense completely made up for Bruan's 15-20 run advantage (according to RARP and VORP) on offense. Tulowitzki was probably the best defensive shortstop in the NL this year and Braun was the worst defensive third baseman. According to both the Fielding Bible's system and PMR, the difference between the two players was 76-78 plays (vs. league average at their respective positions). So, if you fully believe in either of those stats, that's about a 60 run(!) difference on defense. I'll also note that most visual observers agree that Tulo is exceptional and Braun is horrible and that Braun's manager usually removes him for a defensive replacement.

3. Everyone else (A-Rod, Peavy, Sabathia, Pedroia) clearly deserved their awards.

4. Angels traded O.C. for Garland. Interesting trade; one slightly overrated veteran on the last year of his contract for another. I think the White Sox would've been better off trading Garland for some young talent that they could build around, but I guess Kenny Williams (incorrectly) thinks the team can win in 2008. It's a little harder to evaluate the trade from the Angels' perspective until we see what other moves they make. They have a lot of young infield talent, so I guess it's time to give someone new a shot.

5. After the recent success of Saito and Okajima, it seems like a lot of teams are looking at Japanese relief pitchers this offseason. The Indians are the first to make a move, signing Masahide Kobayashi to a 2 year contract. PECOTA projects him to eat a lot of hot dogs.