Analyzing the Reds-Padres Trade

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The Padres traded pitcher Mat Latos to the Reds for a package of four players—top prospect first baseman/outfielder Yonder Alonso; righty starter Edinson Volquez; minor league catcher Yasmani Grandal; and minor league pitcher Brad Boxberger.

Let’s take a look at the deal for all sides.

For the Reds:

The 24-year-old righty Latos has superstar potential. His 2011 numbers appeared to take a tumble from his 2010 work in which he went 14-10 with a 2.92 ERA. In 2010, he had an excellent walk/strikeout/innings pitched ratio of 50/189/184 and allowed only 150 hits and 16 homers in 31 starts. He finished 8th in the National League Cy Young Award voting.

In 2011, Latos went 9-14 for the 91-game losing Padres; his ERA jumped to 3.47; his walk/strikeout/innings pitched ratio rose to 62/185/194. But his hits allowed and homers stayed consistent with 168 hits and 16 homers in those 194 innings.

The increase in hits allowed can be accounted for by the rise in BAbip from .275 to .288; the Padres defense in 2010 was appreciably better than it was in 2011 and the downgrade with the departures of Adrian Gonzalez, David Eckstein and surprisingly Miguel Tejada truly affected Latos.

The Padres intent in acquiring Jason Bartlett and Orlando Hudson was to shore up the middle-infield defense, but both players were far worse than the veteran stopgaps they had in 2010.

Brad Hawpe isn’t a first baseman and no one could’ve expected him to replace Gonzalez’s Gold Glove, but that was no consolation to Latos.

He’s been consistent at home (pitching in a cavernous ballpark) and on the road. He’ll allow a few more homers pitching in the hitter-friendly Reds home field, Great American Ballpark, but he’ll also have a better defense behind him and the Reds—second in runs scored in the NL in 2011; 1st in 2010—will be able to provide more runs than the Padres popgun offense did.

Reds manager Dusty Baker is a laid back and easy man to play for and that should suit the free-spirited Latos better than San Diego.

The Reds surrendered a large chunk of their farm system in this trade, but they’re trying to win now; the NL Central is suddenly in play again with the Brewers pending loss of Prince Fielder and likely suspension of Ryan Braun; the Cardinals loss of Albert Pujols and uncertainty with a new, neophyte manager in Mike Matheny.

Reds GM Walt Jocketty is aggressive. The Reds stumbled to 79-83 after winning the division in 2010; they needed a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher and got one in Latos.

Alonso played the outfield in the minors, but they saw him as a first baseman—and they proved with a flourish that they aren’t trading Joey Votto; they had no place for Alonso to play. Ryan Hanigan and Devin Mesoraco were blocking Grandal; Volquez hasn’t been the same since his 17-game-winning rookie year in 2008, followed by Tommy John surgery and a PED suspension; Boxberger is a minor league righty with impressive strikeout numbers.

The Reds gave up a lot, but they got a lot in return.

Given the cost the Reds just paid in terms of players to get him, if I were Latos I would want to discuss a long term contract to buy out my arbitration years and first couple of free agent seasons as well.

They traded for him and have to keep him.

For the Padres:

One thing you can say about Padres new GM Josh Byrnes is that he’s not afraid to make drastic and risky decisions.

The Padres have enough starting pitching to get by without Latos; their offense in 2011 was predictably rancid; their defense wasn’t what they expected; they’ve already lost closer Heath Bell and replaced him with Huston Street, who’s not as good.

They had to do something to upgrade their offense and they did with Alonso.

Grandal probably won’t be ready to start 2012 in the majors. Volquez is a question mark; Boxberger was relieving in the minors, but might be better-utilized as a starter.

This calls into question what the Padres are going to do with Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo was acquired from the Red Sox in the Gonzalez trade and has tremendous power and on-base skills; interestingly, he reminds me of Votto. He batted .141 in 153 plate appearances in the big leagues in 2011, but he’s only 22.

The Padres are desperate for offense and if that means they need to use Alonso in the outfield when Rizzo is ready to play in the big leagues, that’s what they’ll do.

The Padres aren’t in a rebuild-mode, but the NL West is a tough sell for them to contend until they find hitters and improve the defense.

They’re not done because they have a lot more to do to be respectable again.

It’s not a cop-out when analyzing a trade to say it helps both teams if it indeed does help both teams.

The Reds had plenty of offense and needed a 200-inning starter; that he’s 24 and under team control for the foreseeable future makes Latos a good buy for them.

The Padres needed to replenish their farm system and acquire guys who can hit. They have enough pitching and could afford to part with Latos.

In short, the Reds are contenders; the Padres weren’t contending under their prior construction.

Each got what they wanted; whether the trade pans out or not, it’s a logical maneuver and an immediate win for each side.

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Welcome To The Charlie Sheen Wing Of Analysts

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

Of course, I’m referring to “WINNING!!”

In today’s NY Times, Mike Tully writes in the Keeping Score feature that To Create Winner, You Have to Find the Winners.

Examples cited to “prove” his point are David Eckstein‘s overachievement and two championship rings; records of players who—in any permutation—have very little to do with their teams winning or losing; and Carlos Beltran‘s return to the Mets lineup last season coinciding with their slide from contention to mediocrity and embarrassment.

How does one quantify this?

It’s not even an old-school, antiquated notion that can be picked apart by new metrics; it’s simple baseless nonsense.

Although it’s rife with assertions that are akin to a shooting gallery to pick off one-by-one, the best example of the bizarre leaps of logic in the piece is the following about Brendan Ryan:

St. Louis traded shortstop Brendan Ryan to Seattle in the off-season after his career-worst .223 batting average. The Cardinals were 17 games over .500 with Ryan, seven games under without him.

So?

The 17 games over .500/7 games under stuff is meaningless without full context. Did Tully look at the games in which Ryan played and how the pitchers pitched? Whether Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday homered or drove in multiple runs? If the opposing club had a bad day in one way or another?

It’s as if he credited Ryan for his attendance though Ryan—with his .223 average, no power, little speed, no on base skills at the plate and his very good defense—had that much of an influence on the “winning” when he played and the losses when he didn’t.

The Cardinals defense at shortstop was markedly worse when Ryan wasn’t playing and his primary replacements—Felipe Lopez and Tyler Greene—were; but you can’t judge whether the diminished defense had to do with the poorer record without tearing the whole thing apart.

That’s the point.

Tully leaves out a warehouse full of accessible information to bolster a non-existent case that cannot be bolstered without doing some actual research beyond the won/lost record.

Some people who rely on stats are bad enough with their condescension and self-important beliefs that since they can calculate a formula they’re automatic “experts” who can tell Tony La Russa how to run his team; but those on the other side (the radical opposing wing led by Murray Chass and others) is, in a way, worse!

It’s as if those still resistant to any kind of statistical analysis are more invested in maintaining their position than using new metrics to increase their understanding; slow to evolve because even the tiniest utilization of a new and potentially valuable tool is perceived as an admission of weakness.

We see this in Mike Francesa who’s always about 3-5 years behind everyone else, yet never admits the alteration in what he calls “expertise”. I haven’t heard him reference the “stat” he and his former partner Chris Russo used called “runs created” in which they’d add up the homers, RBI and runs scored of a hitter; this was ignorant of the fact that, yeah, a hitter gets an RBI and a run every time he hits a homer—it’s a bit redundant.

No, it’s a lot redundant.

I’m no stat guy, but I use stats in their proper place to try and come to a consensus in my own mind as to what I think is going to happen; how teams would best be served in acquiring and subtracting players among other maneuvers on and off the field.

The piece printed in today’s Times is a colossal waste of energy that has to be addressed because there are going to be a substantial number of people who want to believe it and will use it as “proof”.

As for Brendan Ryan, let’s see how his reputation as a “winner” plays out in Seattle with the Mariners, a team destined to lose 95 games—a number of games they’d lose with or without Ryan.

Why?

Because the Mariners are terrible and Ryan is a fringe big leaguer who benefited by playing for the Cardinals.

At least Charlie Sheen has a viable excuse for his delusions: he’s a drug addict!!

Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

Now it’s also out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.


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Metaphorical Disaster

Books, Management, Media, Players, Spring Training

Today the Mets released Luis Castillo in a move that was unavoidable for the team; demanded by the fans and media; and necessary in a baseball and cultural way. If any one player exemplified the Mets fall from where they were when he arrived on July 30th, 2007 to the mess they’re in now, it’s Castillo.

And it’s not all his fault.

Before he put on a Mets uniform, Castillo was recognized as a good, speedy, useful player; one who led on and off the field and was a stand up character with the media. In an accident of circumstance and an exercise in scapegoating, Castillo has become the lightning rod of the downfall of the Mets.

I don’t know what people were expecting.

Statistically with the Mets, Castillo was essentially what he was with the Marlins and Twins. He lost a few steps defensively due to age and injuries; he hit predominately singles; stole a few bases; and got on base at a reasonable clip.

The main issue with Castillo is the perception that the entire club structure—the best team in the National League for most of 2006 and 3/4 of 2007—and their collapse coincided almost directly with his arrival.

Was it because of him? Did he bring bad mojo from Minnesota?

Of course not.

The Marlins won a championship with Castillo as a primary player; the Twins made the playoffs in his one full year with the club.

Castillo played as he normally did for the rest of 2007 with the Mets and was a free agent after the season. Much criticism was doled out on GM Omar Minaya for bidding against himself and re-signing Castillo to a 4-year, $25 million contract. It was a lot of money, but it’s not as if there were a multitude of options available at second base and they tried to use a similar tack—and a successful one—when they were looking for a catcher after the 2005 season when they placed identical contract offers on the table for Ramon Hernandez and Bengie Molina, waited and moved on by trading for Paul LoDuca when neither player answered quickly enough; the Mets made an offer to David Eckstein after 2007; the offer was supposedly never relayed to the player by his agent and Eckstein wound up taking a 1-year deal from the Blue Jays.

They were left with Castillo. At the time, was $6 million a year for an ancillary player with a consistent history of performance (such as it was) that much money?

No.

Castillo was out-of-shape and appeared lazy in 2008 and he still managed a .355 on base percentage; the boobirds were out for him as the club, for the second year in a row, suffered devastation and a missed playoff spot on the last day of the season.

In 2009, the whole team—except for Castillo—was on the disabled list. Castillo had a very good year; left alone with David Wright in the lineup, he wasn’t able to garner credit for a return to some semblance of form because of the humiliating dropped pop-up against the Yankees, costing the Mets the game and further cementing Castillo’s place in infamy.

By 2010, the team was crumbling, the front office and management knew they were on the way out and the attitude of the entire organization appeared to be one of resignation. Castillo was benched for much of the second half.

Unlike Oliver Perez, who at least has had a few positive moments for the club in the 2006 playoffs and with a very good 2007 season, the memories of Castillo are all negative; for the most part, he played the game the way he always has.

The Mets had to make this move for the greater good. They’re in flux and it makes no sense to be playing Castillo when there are so many questions that need to be answered in a season that is clearly going to be one of sifting through the wreckage, cleaning up, salvaging and making drastic changes.

But to suggest that Castillo is the epitome of all that’s ailed the Mets since the trading deadline in 2007 is wrong.

There’s plenty of blame to go around.

I published a full excerpt of my book on Wednesday here.

The book is available  now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.


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