Matheny’s Financial Woes Could Cause Problems for the Cardinals

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Mike Matheny and his current financial troubles are an example in wondering what athletes are thinking when they choose to invest money or buy “stuff” in an effort to “diversify” or “make their money work for them.”

The Cardinals manager’s issues came to light over the past few days as a court ruling went against him, potentially wiping out his entire net worth. According to this piece on StLToday.com, Matheny’s goal of making a post-career living in real estate fell flat to the tune of owing $4.4 million and not having the cash or assets to pay it off. We saw Curt Schilling go through a larger-scale nightmare last year and it’s still ongoing as he’s selling his bloody sock among other memorabilia.

The reasoning behind people making unwise financial decisions that could compromise them for years if not for the rest of their lives is presented as preparing for the future. They can happen to anyone and are not a reason to ridicule. Matheny gave a viable explanation with the following (from the above-linked post):

Matheny’s interest in real estate started before he joined the Cardinals in 2000 to be their catcher.

He had been released by Milwaukee and, then, quickly thereafter, Toronto. He was 29.

“I stunk, and saw a bad trend happening in my career,” he said.

Matheny, however, nursed a long interest in real estate, and he started taking correspondence courses while playing ball. “Guys used to give me grief. I was doing homework while we were on the flights.

“I had four kids at the time, and I knew I hadn’t really done enough in the game to just sit back and do nothing,” he said.

Fair enough. He was finding other avenues to earn a living. But the same logic that stated that he needed to take real estate courses and find a post-baseball career should have said to him that the house he built with the amenities listed in the piece were unnecessary. The house had:

  • 17 rooms
  • Indoor batting cage
  • Home theater
  • Pool with a water slide and a private lake with a floating golf green in the middle

Most of the money he made in baseball was earned in the last five years of his career. With the Cardinals, he surpassed $1 million in salary for the first time in 2002 when he made $2.5 million. Over the next two seasons—his final years with the Cardinals—he made $7.25 million.

Matheny signed a 3-year, $10 million contract with the Giants after the 2004 season. He retired after the second of the three years due to post-concussion syndrome and his 2007 salary isn’t listed on his Baseball-Reference page, but because his career ended due to injury and he retired, presumably he got paid for the final year. His career earnings are probably higher than the listed amount of $18.729 million to the tune of another $4.65 million.

That would make over $23 million.

Also, a Major League player has ancillary income from their road per diem—AKA meal money. Clubs aren’t checking to see what players spend it on; they could go to McDonald’s for breakfast and lunch and pocket the leftover cash; plus they’re fed from an elaborate post-game spread after each game, leaving dinner a luxury and not a necessity.

They receive post-season shares, which Matheny got in 2001, 2004 and 2005; there are rights fees for images and other lesser-known streams of money coming in. Usually, the amount of money is negligible in comparison to their salaries, but for younger players or journeymen as Matheny was before he got to the Cardinals, it’s not.

In short, if a player wants to be frugal and save what will eventually come to a lot of money, he can do it.

And here’s a little known fact about MLB pensions clipped from BusinessInsider.com:

MLB players must play 43 days in the majors to earn a minimum $34,000 annual pension plan.  Just one day in the majors gets them lifetime healthcare coverage.  After 10 years in the big leagues, benefits grow to $100,000 annually.

Matheny spent 13 years in the big leagues.

So here’s the question I have to ask of Matheny and Schilling and any other player who blew a massive amount of money on business schemes: How much is enough? Could he not live on the amount of money he made in his career and the $100,000 per year he receives as a pension with free healthcare and the cachet that comes from living in St. Louis and having been a former Cardinals’ player? From the juice that the words, “I played in the big leagues,” have everywhere?

This isn’t simply a personal issue for Matheny. The Cardinals knew about this when they hired him as a surprise choice to replace Tony LaRussa. The players’ comments regarding this coming out were supportive, but that’s not guaranteed to last if the team starts playing poorly.

Matheny had on-field success in 2012, reaching game 7 of the NLCS before being eliminated. By standard assessment, he did a good job because the team won. But in reality, Matheny was functioning with LaRussa’s players; with the freedom of diminished expectations after the departure of the future Hall of Fame manager LaRussa; the best pitching coach of this generation, Dave Duncan; and the best hitter in baseball, Albert Pujols. His rookie strategic gaffes were expected and understandable for a first time manager at any level and could easily be glossed over by the bottom line fact that the team won and came within a game from a second straight pennant.

But how long is the player support going to last? How long will the mistakes be taken as learning on the job when Matheny has to actually do something other than stand in the corner of the dugout, look managerial and let the players play?

If the team is struggling, will his financial missteps be referenced as sapping his concentration and commitment to the team? Knowing how players are, if a pitcher is unhappy with being pulled from a game, will he turn around and whisper to his teammates, “Maybe if I pay off his debts, he’ll leave me in.” Will there be resentment from Matheny himself at the lofty salaries the players, who are essentially his underlings, are making? Will he roll his eyes and think about a hitter batting .220 and being paid $5 million? It’s a human reaction that can set the charges to blow the place up.

The Cardinals are transitioning from LaRussa’s team to something else. They won’t function on cruise control forever and it’s when Matheny has to manage that his evolution will be clearer. He might learn on the job, but he might get swallowed up by its magnitude and what has to be done post-LaRussa/Duncan/Pujols—things he might not be capable of doing.

Matheny’s own statement that it was the money he owed which spurred his return to baseball is also a potential issue. Whether it was what he intended or not, it sounds as if he’s implying that he’s doing the Cardinals a favor by managing the team and if his real estate goals didn’t go bust, he’d have left baseball in the rear view mirror on his way to becoming a real estate titan.

There are a number of ways for this to go and a lot of the “if then, then that” can lead to a dark place for the Cardinals. It might wind up amounting to a personal financial situation that’s being handled legally, but ends up permeating the job he’s trying to do now, festering negatively, and turning in a direction that few will be willing to openly discuss, but is there nonetheless and isn’t going to go away.

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Chase Headley Is More Valuable Than…

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Chase Headley is an affordable and versatile switch hitter. He can run, has some power and plays good defense whether it’s at third base or the outfield. He can probably play first base relatively well. He’s not a free agent until after the 2014 season so any team that has him will have him for the foreseeable future at a very reasonable price.

He’s a nice player. He’s a pretty good player.

But this posting on MLB Trade Rumors implies, based on Fangraphs’ version of Wins Above Replacement (WAR), that he’s something more than a pretty good player. It says specifically that Headley is the 13th most valuable position player in baseball.

This exemplifies a problem with WAR. It gives information that may or may not be accurate, relevant or in the proper context.

Does value equal worth?

In other words, it may be accurate that Headley is that good in this framework, but is it true? Is it fair?

Based on fWAR, yes Headley was the 13th “most valuable” player in baseball. (He’s dropped since the posting.)

But salary aside, would you rather have Headley instead of some of the players currently behind him in the list? Headley instead of Carlos Beltran? Instead of Brett Lawrie? Mark Trumbo? Jose Bautista? Joe Mauer?

Headley might hit for more power if he was in a friendlier home park, but don’t expect him to suddenly morph from what he is—10-12 homers a year—into Asdrubal Cabrera and have a wondrous jump in power to 25 homers.

Looking at other Padres’ players who’ve gone on to play in fairer parks—Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Mike Cameron—their power numbers have been the same or worse.

When in PetCo Park, the pitchers are aware of how difficult it is to hit a home run; that Headley hits a lot of balls up the middle which make it harder for him to hit home runs. They’re more likely to feed him pitches they wouldn’t if he were playing in a smaller park.

The dimensions of the park are static; the pitching strategy is variable.

Not unlike the oft-repeated and woefully inaccurate lament that if X player wasn’t caught stealing prior to Y player’s home run they would’ve had 2 runs rather than 1, it’s not taking into account that the entire pitching sequence would’ve been different and might’ve yielded an entirely different result.

It’s indicative of a lack of in-the-trenches knowledge to take fWAR—or any stat for that matter—at face value. Similar to those who said they’d stay away from Yu Darvish or Aroldis Chapman because of prior failures with Japanese and Cuban free agents; or the concept that because a tall catcher like Mauer has never made it as a star player then he’s not going to be a star player; or the Moneyball farce that college pitchers are a better option than high school pitchers, it’s a false “proof” based on floating principles that remove experience and baseball sense from the decisionmaking process.

Stats are important but not the final word. If you take seriously the idea that Headley is the 13th most valuable position player in baseball and judge him on that, quite bluntly, you don’t know anything about baseball and need to learn before putting your opinion out there as final. And if you knowingly twist the facts, that makes it worse because instead of full disclosure—statistical and otherwise—in spite of the possibility of them watering down your argument, you’re spiritually altering them to “prove” a nonexistent point. That’s not honesty. It’s agenda-driven and self-interested at the expense of the truth.

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The Difference Between Ron Santo and Jim Rice is…?

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Ron Santo‘s and Jim Rice‘s numbers are almost identical, so are the stat people who loathe Rice going crazy with their objective analysis over Santo’s Hall of Fame induction as they did when Rice was on the cusp, excluded and eventually voted in?

Or are they feeling sympathy for Santo’s illnesses, health problems and death and justifying Rice’s longtime battle to garner support because he was a jerk to reporters and finding statistical reasons to keep him out?

Let’s take a look at the tale of the tape:

Rice:

G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB Awards
60 223 223 57 9 5 5 .256 .256 .408 .664 91 WPT · NYPL
130 563 491 80 143 20 13 17 87 58 108 .291 .373 .489 .861 240 WHV · FLOR
129 463 460 7 148 27 4 31 10 3 7 .322 .326 .600 .926 276 BRI,PAW · EL,IL
117 470 430 69 145 21 4 25 93 38 84 .337 .391 .579 .971 249 PAW · IL
24 75 67 6 18 2 1 1 13 4 12 .269 .307 .373 .680 89 25
144 613 564 92 174 29 4 22 102 36 122 .309 .350 .491 .841 127 277 MVP-3,RoY-2
153 624 581 75 164 25 8 25 85 28 123 .282 .315 .482 .797 120 280
160 710 644 104 206 29 15 39 114 53 120 .320 .376 .593 .969 147 382 AS,MVP-4
163 746 677 121 213 25 15 46 139 58 126 .315 .370 .600 .970 157 406 AS,MVP-1
158 688 619 117 201 39 6 39 130 57 97 .325 .381 .596 .977 154 369 AS,MVP-5
124 542 504 81 148 22 6 24 86 30 87 .294 .336 .504 .840 122 254 AS
108 495 451 51 128 18 1 17 62 34 76 .284 .333 .441 .775 116 199
145 638 573 86 177 24 5 24 97 55 98 .309 .375 .494 .868 130 283 MVP-19
155 689 626 90 191 34 1 39 126 52 102 .305 .361 .550 .911 141 344 AS,MVP-4,SS
159 708 657 98 184 25 7 28 122 44 102 .280 .323 .467 .791 112 307 AS,MVP-13,SS
140 608 546 85 159 20 3 27 103 51 75 .291 .349 .487 .836 123 266 AS
157 693 618 98 200 39 2 20 110 62 78 .324 .384 .490 .874 136 303 AS,MVP-3
108 459 404 66 112 14 0 13 62 45 77 .277 .357 .408 .766 101 165
135 542 485 57 128 18 3 15 72 48 89 .264 .330 .406 .736 102 197
56 228 209 22 49 10 2 3 28 13 39 .234 .276 .344 .621 70 72
2089 9058 8225 1249 2452 373 79 382 1451 670 1423 .298 .352 .502 .854 128 4129
162 702 638 97 190 29 6 30 113 52 110 .298 .352 .502 .854 128 320
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/6/2011.

Santo:

G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB Awards
136 573 505 82 165 35 3 11 87 56 54 .327 .390 .473 .863 239 SAN · TL
71 305 272 40 73 16 1 7 32 33 21 .268 .348 .412 .759 112 HSN · AA
95 382 347 44 87 24 2 9 44 31 44 .251 .311 .409 .720 96 142 RoY-4
154 655 578 84 164 32 6 23 83 73 77 .284 .362 .479 .842 121 277
162 679 604 44 137 20 4 17 83 65 94 .227 .302 .358 .659 74 216
162 687 630 79 187 29 6 25 99 42 92 .297 .339 .481 .820 128 303 AS,MVP-8
161 686 592 94 185 33 13 30 114 86 96 .313 .398 .564 .962 164 334 AS,MVP-8,GG
164 704 608 88 173 30 4 33 101 88 109 .285 .378 .510 .888 146 310 AS,MVP-18,GG
155 672 561 93 175 21 8 30 94 95 78 .312 .412 .538 .950 161 302 AS,MVP-12,GG
161 697 586 107 176 23 4 31 98 96 103 .300 .395 .512 .906 153 300 MVP-4,GG
162 682 577 86 142 17 3 26 98 96 106 .246 .354 .421 .775 126 243 AS,MVP-24,GG
160 687 575 97 166 18 4 29 123 96 97 .289 .384 .485 .869 131 279 AS,MVP-5
154 655 555 83 148 30 4 26 114 92 108 .267 .369 .476 .844 115 264
154 642 555 77 148 22 1 21 88 79 95 .267 .354 .423 .778 109 235 AS
133 547 464 68 140 25 5 17 74 69 75 .302 .391 .487 .878 139 226 AS
149 604 536 65 143 29 2 20 77 63 97 .267 .348 .440 .788 112 236 AS
117 417 375 29 83 12 1 5 41 37 72 .221 .293 .299 .591 69 112
2243 9396 8143 1138 2254 365 67 342 1331 1108 1343 .277 .362 .464 .826 125 3779
162 679 588 82 163 26 5 25 96 80 97 .277 .362 .464 .826 125 273
2126 8979 7768 1109 2171 353 66 337 1290 1071 1271 .279 .366 .472 .838 127 3667
117 417 375 29 83 12 1 5 41 37 72 .221 .293 .299 .591 69 112
2126 8979 7768 1109 2171 353 66 337 1290 1071 1271 .279 .366 .472 .838 127 3667
117 417 375 29 83 12 1 5 41 37 72 .221 .293 .299 .591 69 112
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/6/2011.

Home and road splits? (One of the proffered reasons to exclude Rice.):

Rice:

Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB IBB BAbip tOPS+
Home 1048 1036 4507 4075 681 1304 207 44 208 802 348 691 .320 .374 .546 .920 2223 50 .340 115
Away 1041 1023 4551 4150 568 1148 166 35 174 649 322 732 .277 .330 .459 .789 1906 27 .296 85
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/6/2011.

Santo:

Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip tOPS+
Home 1136 1127 4724 4075 659 1208 194 39 216 743 577 646 .296 .383 .522 .905 2128 .305 118
Away 1107 1083 4673 4069 479 1046 171 28 126 588 531 697 .257 .342 .406 .747 1651 .279 82
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/6/2011.

If you’d like to start referencing defense, Rice was dealing with the Green Monster for which nuance and understanding quirks are more important than standard metrics; Santo was a Gold Glove winning third baseman whose defensive metrics were okay, but not close to Brooks Robinson, Graig Nettles or even Adrian Beltre.

Both men saw their careers end early, Rice at age 36 after 16 seasons; Santo at age 34 after 15 seasons. Both of their careers ended abruptly without a massive decline. They were good, then they weren’t; then they were done.

Santo made it in via the Veterans Committee so the writers who sought to keep him out on their ballots did so, but he’s in now and he’s in with Rice who made it through the conventional vote.

But if Rice—with six top 5 MVP finishes—was so fervently excluded based on supposed numbers, why wasn’t Santo? Where’s the anger?

Where’s the objectivity?

Does it really exist?

Both men should be in the Hall of Fame because both men belong in the Hall of Fame.

Those who seek to keep either/or out have to show consistency and not pay attention to such irrelevant issues as illness or perception because they shouldn’t matter one way or the other.

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Verlander’s MVP Chances, Hurricanes And Hackery

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A confluence of events are bringing back a controversy from 12 years ago as the borderline incoherent ramblings of a writer with a partisan agenda and flimsy excuses should again be brought to light.

Justin Verlander‘s candidacy for Most Valuable Player in the American League is discussed in today’s New York Times by Baseball-Reference‘s Neil Paine.

Naturally the arguments will pop up as to whether a pitcher should be considered for the MVP. This debate is generally based on them having their own award (the Cy Young Award); and that advanced metrics dictate that a pitcher’s contribution—no matter how good—doesn’t have the affect on team fortunes that an everyday player’s does. These awards are subjective and voted on by the baseball writers. There are some who know what they’re talking about; some who don’t; some shills for the home team; some simply looking for attention; and some who do what’s right rather than what would be palatable based on team and employer allegiances. Anecdotal evidence doesn’t imply guilt or innocence in a particular vote and there are no rules to dictate who should win various awards. It’s a judgment call.

I look at the MVP as a multiple-pronged decision.

Was the player (pitcher or not) the best in the league that particular year?

Would his club have been in their current position with or without him?

Who are his competitors?

Paine says that Verlander probably won’t win the award—and he’s right; one thing he fails to mention when talking about pitchers who’ve won and been snubbed is how one or two individuals can make a mockery of the process by injecting factional disputes or self-imposed “rules” into their thought process.

In 1999 George A. King III left Pedro Martinez off his ballot entirely.

Martinez’s numbers that season speak for themselves. Martinez went 23-4; struck out 313 in 213 innings; had a 2.07 ERA to go along with the advanced stats Paine mentions. He finished second in the voting to Ivan Rodriguez of the Rangers and should’ve been the MVP in addition to his CYA; but that’s irrelevant compared to King’s response to the rightful criticisms levied upon him.

In this NY Post retort, King discusses a life and death experience surviving a hurricane while he was on vacation as the controversy was taking place. Whether this is a maudlin attempt at sympathy or to provide “perspective” for life out of baseball’s context is unknown. I have no patience for this in a baseball-related discussion because it’s generally disguised as social commentary and a learning tool when in reality it’s a clumsy and self-serving attempt to sound philosophical. Adding his pet and children into his tale of survival is all the more ridiculous.

The most glaring parts of King’s response—in a baseball sense—are also the most inexplicable and unbelievable.

King’s argument that Martinez’s exclusion from his ballot was that he was convinced—EUREKA!!!—the year before that pitchers should not win the MVP.

However, after listening to respected baseball people at last year’s Winter Meetings grouse about giving $105 million to a pitcher (Kevin Brown) who would work in about 25 percent of the Dodgers’ games, I adopted the philosophy that pitchers — especially starters — could never be included in the MVP race.

Furthermore, pitchers have their own award, the Cy Young, something position players aren’t eligible for. Martinez, the AL Cy Young winner, appeared in 29 games this year for the Red Sox. That’s 18 percent of Boston’s games. For all of Martinez’ brilliance, shortstop Nomar Garciaparra was more valuable to the Red Sox. So, too, was manager Jimy Williams, the AL Manager of the Year.

Jimy Williams?

More important than Pedro Martinez?

Then King takes swipes at other writers who ripped him by calling them a “pathetic group of hacks”.

Presumably this group included Hall of Famer Bill Madden, who eloquently discussed the absurdity in this NY Daily News piece; and Buster Olney, then a writer for the NY Times, said it made all writers look dumb.

Leaving Martinez off the ballot is one thing—it was obviously done with the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry in mind and that Martinez was public enemy number 1, 2, and 3 for the Yankees in those days; but to compound it by insulting the intelligence of anyone who can see reality with this kind of whiny, “what does it all mean” junk while simultaneously ignoring the initial point by attacking “hacks” who disagreed with him and said so was, at best, contradictory; at worst, it was pathetic. If King came out and said, “you really think I was gonna vote for Pedro Martinez as MVP after all the stuff he’s pulled against the Yankees?”, it would’ve been unprofessional as well, but at least it would’ve been honest.

I don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of the season; I might even agree if Verlander is bypassed for the award; Adrian Gonzalez, Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Bautista, and Michael Young all have cases to win; but Verlander deserves to be in the conversation and everyone should adhere to the rule that there is no rule for MVP eligibility and be truthful without self-indulgent qualifiers.

One thing I was unaware of is that King works hard and plays harder. I suppose that’s important as well. But it might alter my decision to call him a Yankees apologist who had a vendetta against Pedro Martinez when he cast his 1999 MVP ballot and left him off intentionally. Was there a rule against voting for then-Red Sox manager Jimy Williams as MVP? I don’t know.

I haven’t decided where I’m going with this as of yet and my excuse could have something due to the rampaging Hurricane Irene heading for New York.

I’ll let you know.

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The Inevitable End Of Mariano Rivera?!?

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Of course it’s ridiculous.

After the career he’s had of unprecedented reliability—especially when it’s mattered most—Mariano Rivera has about eight years worth of capital built up to slump for a week or more.

So he’s allowed homers in consecutive appearances; he blew a game against the Red Sox on Sunday and the Angels on Tuesday and almost another one today.

And?

Does that justify the likes of Mike Francesa pulling the word “statistics” without any actual numbers to suggest that Rivera’s “slowing down”?

It sounded as if Francesa was saying to check out Rivera’s stats without, y’konw, looking at them himself or realizing that it’s no longer a nuisance of endless research to find such things.

If you truly look at Rivera’s advanced stats and compare his overall production he’s been around equal or better than his career averages in the meaningful categories.

I’ll leave the stats to others and the posterior talk to Francesa.

What I’ll say is this, Rivera has been so consistent and reliable that he’s perceived as indestructible; a Superman; an automatic.

He’s none of those things.

Almost, but not quite.

He’s a human being who’s doing a very difficult job against the best talent in the world; he’s 41-years-old; and the image of his greatness has been exacerbated by the rampant unreliability inherent with just about every other team’s closer and that he’s been brilliant when the money is on the line in the post-season.

We can debate forever the “fireman” job description of today in comparison to what closers of yesteryear had to do. Had Rivera been asked to do what Goose Gossage, Rollie Fingers and Bruce Sutter did by pitching as early as the 6th inning, there would be a fair side-by-side basis to say who was the “best”.

But you can’t quantify it. You can examine opposition, ballparks and advanced statistics and extrapolate; but the durability questions, number of innings pitched and how hard they had to work will never be accurately judged.

In this era, Rivera is the best.

He’s had a few bad games this week and will be fine in spite of Francesa’s imagination for affect and the Yankees fans’ feigning of stunned disbelief that their Sandman is mortal—as if they didn’t already know.

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MLB Lightning Strikes 8.4.2011

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The trading deadline was not the finish line.

Soxfinger is about to press the button.

Amid all the threats from White Sox GM Kenny Williams (AKA the James Bond villain known as Soxfinger) that he was going to blow up his roster for underperformance, there wasn’t much of a chance of him doing it while the team was at or near .500 and within 3 or so games of first place.

Now, after the trading deadline, the White Sox have lost every game they’ve played and looked awful doing it.

Their veterans are putting out the aura that they’ve relaxed with the passing of that arbitrary date of July 31st.

In case they hadn’t noticed, most of them have contracts which will allow them to get through waivers. The others who’ll be claimed—Mark Buehrle, Carlos Quentin, Matt Thornton—had probably better prepare themselves to be moved.

Soxfinger might even do something drastic with Gordon Beckham.

They’re 6 1/2 games out of first now and have lost 5 straight.

Williams is going to blow it up. Soon.

Red Sox evaluation validation.

With the news that the Red Sox made an aggressive and substantial offer for Ubaldo Jimenez, his value was validated.

Whether that’s accurate or not remains to be seen and judged. The Red Sox have made mistakes in their evaluations, especially with pitchers. But the Red Sox have such industry-wide respect for intelligent analysis that the perception will mute the worries about his performance over the past calendar year. It was so with Jose Bautista when the Red Sox tried to pry him from the Blue Jays and it’s the same with Jimenez now.

THIS IS WHAT YOU BOUGHT!!!

Perhaps if I alter my familiar rant regarding A.J. Burnett—“THIS IS WHAT YOU BOUGHT!!!”—and added statistics to prove the point of “THIS IS WHAT YOU BOUGHT!!!” people will start to get it through their thick skulls that THIS IS WHAT YOU BOUGHT!!!.

Here are Burnett’s career numbers and averages.

Year W L W-L% ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP ERA+
1995 2 3 .400 4.28 9 8 33.2 27 16 16 2 23 0 26 2 4 7
1996 4 0 1.000 3.88 12 12 58.0 31 26 25 0 54 0 68 7 3 16
1997 3 2 .600 4.39 12 11 55.1 36 34 27 3 43 0 63 8 0 12
1998 10 4 .714 1.97 20 20 119.0 74 27 26 3 45 0 186 8 2 6
1999 6 12 .333 5.52 26 23 120.2 132 91 74 15 71 0 121 5 2 16
1999 4 2 .667 3.48 7 7 41.1 37 23 16 3 25 2 33 0 0 0 126
2000 0 0 2.19 3 3 12.1 4 3 3 0 9 0 12 0 2 2
2000 3 7 .300 4.79 13 13 82.2 80 46 44 8 44 3 57 2 0 2 92
2001 0 0 1.93 2 2 9.1 4 2 2 0 4 0 10 0 0 0
2001 11 12 .478 4.05 27 27 173.1 145 82 78 20 83 3 128 7 1 7 105
2002 12 9 .571 3.30 31 29 204.1 153 84 75 12 90 5 203 9 0 14 122
2003 0 2 .000 4.70 4 4 23.0 18 13 12 2 18 2 21 2 0 2 91
2004 0 0 4.91 2 2 7.1 9 5 4 1 4 0 10 1 0 3
2004 7 6 .538 3.68 20 19 120.0 102 50 49 9 38 0 113 4 0 7 112
2005 12 12 .500 3.44 32 32 209.0 184 97 80 12 79 1 198 7 0 12 116
2006 2 0 1.000 1.89 4 4 19.0 11 5 4 1 6 0 22 2 0 1
2006 10 8 .556 3.98 21 21 135.2 138 67 60 14 39 3 118 8 1 6 115
2007 0 0 1.80 1 1 5.0 3 1 1 0 1 0 7 0 0 0
2007 10 8 .556 3.75 25 25 165.2 131 74 69 23 66 2 176 12 0 5 119
2008 18 10 .643 4.07 35 34 221.1 211 109 100 19 86 2 231 9 2 11 104
2009 13 9 .591 4.04 33 33 207.0 193 99 93 25 97 0 195 10 1 17 114
2010 10 15 .400 5.26 33 33 186.2 204 118 109 25 78 2 145 19 0 16 82
2011 8 9 .471 4.54 23 23 142.2 129 78 72 21 63 1 123 7 0 14 93
13 Seasons 118 109 .520 4.03 304 300 1912.2 1725 940 857 193 806 26 1741 96 5 113 106
162 Game Avg. 13 12 .520 4.03 34 34 215 194 106 96 22 91 3 196 11 1 13 106
FLA (7 yrs) 49 50 .495 3.73 134 131 853.2 719 395 354 66 377 16 753 31 1 44 111
NYY (3 yrs) 31 33 .484 4.60 89 89 536.1 526 295 274 71 238 3 463 36 1 47 96
TOR (3 yrs) 38 26 .594 3.94 81 80 522.2 480 250 229 56 191 7 525 29 3 22 112
NL (7 yrs) 49 50 .495 3.73 134 131 853.2 719 395 354 66 377 16 753 31 1 44 111
AL (6 yrs) 69 59 .539 4.27 170 169 1059.0 1006 545 503 127 429 10 988 65 4 69 103
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/4/2011.

He’s consistently inconsistent. That makes him consistent.

He might pitch as he did last night again in his next start.

Or he might pitch a no-hitter.

That is A.J. Burnett.

THIS IS WHAT YOU BOUGHT!!!

Accept it and stop complaining.

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The Defensive Equation With The Brewers And Rangers

All Star Game, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Players, Trade Rumors

Neil Paine writes a piece in the NY Times about the Texas Rangers recent hot streak, how their defense has contributed to winning this season and last.

They’ve done it without an array of “name” pitchers like those of the Phillies, Giants and Brewers; instead, they’ve relied on converted relievers Alexi Ogando and C.J. Wilson; young, unspectacular strike-throwers Derek Holland and Matt Harrison; and a scrapheap pickup Colby Lewis.

While the names are unfamiliar, the results are excellent.

Is it due to the strategy to tell these pitchers to pound the strike zone and let the superior defense take care of the rest despite pitching in a notorious hitters’ ballpark in Arlington?

It certainly appears so.

The Brewers have gone in the opposite direction as the Rangers in terms of putting their team together. Whereas the Rangers built their club with this intention clearly in mind based on the deployment of players and execution of plans, the Brewers have a starting rotation of Cy Young Award quality-talent with Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo; a solid, gutty craftsman in Shaun Marcum; and a workmanlike veteran Randy Wolf.

The Brewers defense is also slow-footed and lacks range. Despite having pitchers in their starting rotation who are better than those on the Rangers, their ERA+ is in the middle-of-the-pack of the National League.

If a team brings in starting pitching the level of that which the Brewers have, ignoring the defense is a huge mistake.

The Brewers are top-heavy with bashers who are more suited to DHing like Prince Fielder; and other regulars who probably shouldn’t be playing at all in Casey McGehee and Yuniesky Betancourt.

The Rangers are deeply balanced and have built their team based on that conscious decision to focus on the factors of pitching and defense with a fair amount of power thrown in.

How much better would the Brewers be if they shored up the defense at third and short and would it behoove them to do so? And would fixing this issue now with the acquisition of a defensive ace at short the likes of Jack Wilson or Jason Bartlett help? There’s been talk of Rafael Furcal who’s been injured and awful, but a pennant race might wake up his game—if he’s healthy. They’d get him for nothing.

The Rangers success with this template is a better option than what the Brewers did. All that great pitching isn’t doing much good if the infielders don’t—or can’t—catch the ball.

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Where Numbers Meets Perception Meets Money

Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Players

Sean Forman of Baseball-Reference writes a piece in today’s NY Times about Jose Reyes‘s stunning season.

Reyes is making a mockery of several perceptions about him and players in general.

The belief that he’s unable to stay healthy stems from his injury-plagued first few years in the big leagues and the high-profile injury/illness in 2009-2010.

Much of this was through no fault of Reyes. But once that “injury-prone” tag is attached to a player, it sticks.

Stat people say that there’s no evidence of a contract-year boost, but Reyes is in the middle of one right now. As much as they try with the fallacy of “statistical evidence” above all, you can’t paint every player with the same brush. Some become motivated by the prospect of untold riches and it translates into an above-and-beyond statistical performance.

In the Times article, Forman points out that Reyes’s average on balls hit in play (BAbip) is over .370 in 2011; in prior years, it’s been .313.

Could this be a conscious choice on the part of Reyes to hit more line drives and ground balls at the expense of a few homers? Much like the concept of staying on the field and posting massive numbers in a contract year, it’s unquantifiable. No one can know what’s going through Reyes’s head as he speeds toward free agency with the wind at his back and money in his sights. All we can do is look at the results and the results say that this is a man on a mission—a mission to get paid.

Before 2011, people paid attention to Reyes because of his prodigious talents but never treated him with the awestruck reverence he’s receiving now. “How can the Mets even think about letting him leave?” is a neat paraphrase for the media and fan frenzy surrounding the Mets’ shortstop.

The front office can’t think in the same way.

GM Sandy Alderson is going to approach Reyes’s representatives in the hopes of signing him to a contract extension. Don’t expect this to go anywhere. The Mets financial situation is still murky at best and unless Reyes is willing to give the team a hometown discount and perhaps backload his contract until the sale of a chunk of the team by the Wilpons to David Einhorn is completed, he’s going to be a free agent—the free agent.

As things stand now, the Mets can’t trade him unless a team offers an insane package to get him. Alderson and his staff would be willing to take the heat for such a deal, but the Wilpons probably wouldn’t.

In some cases the vaunted “objectivity” is irrelevant; with Reyes it’s hard to be objective because of the season he’s having, fan reaction to the prospect of him being allowed to leave and all the other issues surrounding the inundated franchise.

Like The Most Interesting Man in the World, Reyes’s reputation is expanding faster than the universe—and so too does his future paycheck. Whether it’s the Mets or someone else who signs it is the question.

Get that man a Dos Equis.

Or a bottle of Cristal.

He can afford both in their relative contexts. Easily.

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Batting Orderlies

Books, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

Neil Paine of Baseball-Reference.com writes a piece on batting orders in today’s NY Times—link.

It brings up an interesting set of questions as to whom should be batting leadoff and why.

Rickey Henderson was probably the best all-around leadoff hitter in history—a fulfillment of perfection for which all leadoff hitters and clubs should aspire; as such, it’s naturally unrealistic to think that you’ll be able to find someone with the combination of keen batting eye, patience, speed and power that was Rickey.

There has to be a balance and factoring of what the rest of the lineup can and can’t do—how they’re most comfortable and best-utlized.

Carl Crawford, for example, doesn’t like hitting leadoff. In some circles, there’s the thought of, “Yeah? So?” when confronted with a player disliking or whining about a position in the batting order or on the field.

In some cases, I’m a huge advocate not of, “Yeah? So?”, but of, “What’re they gonna do about it?”

In others, it would influence me as to whether a player—specifically a struggling veteran like Crawford—is happy and comfortable in his spot.

If you look at the clubs that were mentioned as not using their leadoff position optimally, the other players matter greatly.

Is there anyone who’s better-suited to bat first? And if they are, would they help the team more in that spot rather than their other spot?

The Mariners batted Ichiro Suzuki leadoff last season and he had the third highest on base percentage for leadoff hitters at .358. I’m not getting into another debate about Ichiro batting down in the lineup; that he could and should hit for more power; but Ichiro’s OBP and speed did the Mariners absolutely no good because they literally had no one to drive him in last season. He scored 74 runs because the Mariners offense was historically horrible.

Marco Scutaro and Jacoby Ellsbury combined for a .301 OBP from the leadoff position for the Red Sox last season, but this is taken out of context. Scutaro’s OBP batting leadoff was .336 and he scored 86 runs; Ellsbury had a .211 OBP in an injury-ravaged 2010 season and this dragged the club’s overall percentages down drastically.

Scutaro is nowhere near the hitter Ichiro is, but he scored 86 runs batting leadoff with an OBP .17 lower than Ichiro because there were hitters behind him able to drive him in. I’ve long said that Ichiro’s lust for singles and stat compiling would be far more palatable were he playing for the Yankees or Red Sox and had people capable of knocking him in.

Henderson’s value wasn’t solely dictated by his on base ability in and of itself; he scored plenty of runs because he got on base, stole second and sometimes third and was suddenly able to score without benefit of the subsequent batters doing anything aside from hitting a fly ball.

Look at the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals. Vince Coleman burst onto the scene as a terror on the basepaths, stole 110 bases and scored 107 runs with an OBP of .320. Once manager Whitey Herzog realized what he had on his hands, the top of the Cardinals lineup went as follows: 1) Coleman; 2) Willie McGee; 3) Tommy Herr; 4) Jack Clark.

McGee was no on base machine; he batted .353 and won the MVP that year, but had an OBP of .384; Herr was no masher, but he benefited from Coleman and McGee when they were on base because Coleman would get on, steal second and third and be served up on a plate for Herr to drive in. In fact, based on the preferred argument as to whom should be batting first, Herr should’ve batted leadoff in that Cardinals batting order; but it’s hard to imagine the team scoring more runs that way than they did with the construction as it was.

It was confluence of events and the emergence of Coleman that led to the big RBI year from Herr and the Cardinals pennant. Nor did it hurt that Clark was behind the top three hitters and pitchers didn’t want to walk Herr and run the risk of a big inning with the powerful Clark coming to the plate.

The 1985 Cardinals won the pennant, led the league in runs scored and were 11th (out of 12 teams) in homers.

A batting order isn’t unimportant, but you can’t pigeonhole anything into the category of “s’posdas” based on individual achievement and ability; you have to look at the whole picture before coming to an ironclad conclusion and crediting or criticizing.

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