Myers to the Bullpen and Luhnow’s Betrayal

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It must’ve been a kick to the gut of the hard core stat people who felt that they finally had one of their own running a club in the way they would run a team if given the opportunity when the GM of the Astros, Jeff Luhnow, okayed the move of Brett Myers from starter to closer.

The reactions ranged from anger to bewildered to non-answer answers in trying to “protect” Luhnow because they don’t want to put forth the impression of infighting in the mostly monolithic “this is how to do it” world of hardline stat-based theory.

Luhnow doesn’t need your protection and obviously, he’s not going to follow a specific set in stone blueprint in running his club.

The underlying sense I got from the responses I saw on Twitter were indicative of righteous indignation and the feeling of betrayal as if a spouse had cheated on them.

(Insert your stat guy/spouse joke here.)

“But, but, but…you’re one of us!!!”

In truth, the shifting of Myers to the bullpen can be argued both ways.

He was a good closer with the Phillies in 2007 and enjoyed the role, the adrenaline rush and the game-on-the-line aspect of doing to the job.

He’s a durable starter who can give a club 200 innings and, at times, pitch well.

The Astros need a closer because they don’t trust Brandon Lyon and the other candidates—David Carpenter and Juan Abreu—are inexperienced.

What you have to do in trying to understand the Astros’ thinking is examine what the long-term strategy is.

They’re not going to be a good team either way and when they are, Myers is not going to be on the roster in any capacity, so how would having Myers for 2012 best help expedite their rebuilding project?

Myers’s contract pays him a guaranteed $14 million with $11 million for 2012, a $10 million club option for 2013 and a $3 million buyout.

Teams have frequently overpaid for good relievers as opposed to mediocre starters in trades in recent years. The Nationals got Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps; the Rangers gave up young talent for Koji Uehara, Mike Gonzalez and Mike Adams; the Rangers got Mike Napoli for Frank Francisco and got David Murphy for Eric Gagne.

What would be the most lucrative return on Myers at mid-season? It depends on whether he’s pitching as he did last season as a starter or as he did in 2010; either way, he probably wouldn’t be a contributor in the post-season for a team that gets him in that role. But as a reliever he would be more attractive to teams with their eyes on post-season help.

It’s cold reasoning not in the Astros using Myers for themselves on the field, but using him to get a few pieces to make themselves better in the future.

Moving Myers to the bullpen could end up being seen as a smart move.

At least there’s an argument for it.

But stat people are reacting as if Luhnow has betrayed them and it displays the lack of in-the-trenches understanding of how to run a team that led them to relying on stats rather than intuitive, subjective interpretations of circumstances to begin with.

They’re a crutch.

Crunching numbers, reading and regurgitating lines off a stat sheet and steering an organization by rote is not how a successful team can and should be run.

Jeff Luhnow knows that.

Do you?

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MLB Trades On 8.31 Means Eligible For the Playoffs

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Braves re-acquire Matt Diaz for a PTBNL or cash.

Here are Diaz’s numbers against lefties in his career:

I Split PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip tOPS+
vs RHP as RHB 966 880 232 38 7 14 103 51 211 .264 .320 .370 .690 326 .330 77
vs LHP as RHB 911 840 277 52 7 29 108 44 135 .330 .369 .512 .881 430 .362 124
vs LH Starter 1058 974 124 318 54 8 30 129 51 170 .326 .367 .491 .857 478 .368 118
vs RH Starter 819 746 75 191 36 6 13 82 44 176 .256 .315 .373 .687 278 .317 76
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/31/2011.

Here are Diaz’s numbers against the Phillies current pitchers:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Cole Hamels 39 38 10 2 1 1 1 1 6 .263 .282 .447 .729
Cliff Lee 12 11 4 0 0 1 4 1 2 .364 .417 .636 1.053
Kyle Kendrick 8 8 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 .375 .375 .375 .750
Ryan Madson 8 7 3 2 0 0 1 0 3 .429 .500 .714 1.214
Brad Lidge 5 4 2 0 0 2 3 0 2 .500 .500 2.000 2.500
David Herndon 4 4 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 .250 .250 .500 .750
Roy Halladay 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000
Antonio Bastardo 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000
Total 79 75 25 5 1 4 10 2 15 .333 .359 .587 .946
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/31/2011.

He also hits Randy Wolf and Jeremy Affeldt very well.

Some Braves fans are voicing their concerns that manager Fredi Gonzalez is suggesting he’s going to platoon Diaz with Jason Heyward.

I understand the irritation at the treatment Heyward has received this season. But objectively, he looks like he’s playing hurt and is batting .188 against lefties; he doesn’t deserve to automatically be granted playing time, especially in a post-season situation. Diaz murders lefties and his defensive shortcomings will be mitigated by Michael Bourn‘s range and a Braves pitching staff that is leading the league in strikeouts and gets a lot of ground balls; late in games with a lead, Diaz will be yanked in favor of Heyward for defense.

In the short-term, Diaz playing against lefties instead of Heyward is a smart move.


Giants cut some dead and expensive weight. (No, not Barry Zito.)

Say this about the Giants, they don’t let money stand in the way of doing what they think is right for the team whether they’re benching highly paid players or leaving them off the playoff roster entirely.

Today the Giants essentially severed ties with infielder Miguel Tejada and outfielder Aaron Rowand. GM Brian Sabean isn’t going to find a taker for Rowand with $12 million coming to him next year; someone (the Phillies?) will pick him up when he’s eventually released.

There might be a taker for Tejada with his contract expiring at the end of the season.

Rangers acquire Mike Gonzalez.

It should give hope to Mets fans that the Rangers, not far removed from near bankruptcy and utter ownership disarray, are now able to buy, buy, buy to fill their needs.

Adding Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez to their bullpen could be the difference between getting bounced in the first round and winning a World Series.

The Rangers built a super-deep farm system under Jon Daniels and they’re not afraid to use it to try and win now.

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Trade Targets For National League Contenders

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

Let’s have a look at the National League contenders, what they need to improve and whom they should target.

The word “contender” is defined by teams that I think are contenders based on current position and whether they can make a legitimate run towards the playoffs. Being over .500 or overachieving based on pre-season predictions (my own included) are not factored in.

Philadelphia Phillies

What they need: Bullpen help; a versatile defender/bat, preferably right-handed.

There are the popular bullpen names like Heath Bell. Bell’s going to get traded. Kerry Wood, Grant Balfour, Mike Gonzalez, Jon Rauch and Hong-Chih Kuo could be had; the Mets wouldn’t hesitate to trade Francisco Rodriguez anywhere and they’d give him away.

They’ll get bullpen help from somewhere.

For a bat, if Casey Blake is healthy he’s a veteran righty bat who can play multiple positions; he’s got a team option for $6 million with a $1.25 million buyout at the end of the year and might be rejuvenated by a shot at a ring.

Atlanta Braves

What they need: A bat.

Chipper Jones is out for at least a month after knee surgery and center field has been a toxic wasteland.

The A’s are going to clear out the house so that makes Coco Crisp, Josh Willingham and David DeJesus available. The aforementioned Blake could be acquired cheaply; they could go after Carlos Beltran who would undoubtedly love to go to the Braves.

The Padres’ Chase Headley plays third and has played the outfield before. Aramis Ramirez has said he’s not waiving his no-trade clause, but I’m not buying it. Why wouldn’t a veteran player want to go to the Braves?

The question with Beltran is whether he can play center field for a couple of months or if the Braves felt comfortable shifting Jason Heyward over from right for the remainder of the season.

Maybe they should re-acquire Jeff Francoeur. Not because he’d help but: A) he’d fit neatly into hitting coach Larry Parrish‘s aggressive!!! approach; and B) it’d be funny!!

Milwaukee Brewers

What they need: A good fielding shortstop; a lefty for the bullpen; an extra outfielder who can play center field.

There was talk about J.J. Hardy being reacquired, but he wants to stay with the Orioles.

Jason Bartlett would be perfect.

Carlos Gomez isn’t going to hit. That’s clear. Michael Bourn is available. Crisp could be had for very little.

Would they make a move on Beltran? GM Doug Melvin has been super-aggressive in the past and with Prince Fielder halfway out the door as a free agent and their brilliant starting pitching, the Brewers have to win now.

Brian Fuentes as a lefty specialist is an idea even though his splits in 2011 are ghastly against lefties. Sean Burnett and Kuo are options.

St. Louis Cardinals

What they need: Pitching.

They need a starter and could use bullpen help.

The Cardinals are in a bit of a box as to what they can do both practically and financially. They don’t have many prospects to deal for a Ricky Nolasco or Anibal Sanchez of the Marlins; nor do they have the money to fit Ted Lilly or Wandy Rodriguez into their long-term payroll.

If they felt confident that K-Rod wouldn’t reach his 2012 incentive based on appearances, they could get him for almost nothing.

They’d probably be better off leaving the rotation as is rather than do something stupid; I’d go after a Balfour, Fuentes or Bell.

Pittsburgh Pirates

What they need: A power bat.

If I’m the Pirates, I say screw it and go for it. Now.

The division is winnable, they’ve hung around with pitching and defense, but can’t hit.

Would Aramis Ramirez be willing to go back to Pittsburgh? How about Kosuke Fukudome? Beltran? Willingham? Hunter Pence? Luke Scott? Carlos Quentin?

Throw the bomb, Pirates. Why not?

Cincinnati Reds

What they need: Starting pitching a shortstop bat.

They need to watch the Marlins to see if they’re going to sell. Nolasco and Sanchez would help the Reds drastically. The Cubs’ Ryan Dempster has a $14 million player option that will undoubtedly scare off the majority of the league.

Rafael Furcal has a $12 million club option and a limited no-trade to certain teams. Ask about Hanley Ramirez. The Marlins might’ve had it with him and be willing to drop a bomb in the clubhouse for a lot of pieces.

San Francisco Giants

What they need: A bat. Any bat.

They’re linked with Beltran, but this concept of it being fait accompli that he’s going to San Francisco is stupid.

The Giants were supposedly after Jose Reyes, Reyes is on the disabled list and not getting traded.

How about Hanley Ramirez? They have the prospects to get him and he’s signed.

They could use a catcher, but there aren’t any available. One thing I was thinking the other day was if the Rockies fade, why not ask about Chris Iannetta?

Arizona Diamondbacks

What they need: A first base bat; bullpen help.

They could trade for Aramis Ramirez and shift Ryan Roberts to first base.

I don’t think Carlos Pena is as useful as others do with his feast or famine style; they released Russell Branyan who does pretty much the same things that Pena does.

Bell, Wood, Fuentes, Balfour—the usual bullpen suspects should be considered.

Here’s an interesting thought: K-Rod. It’d be a role reversal from the grand plan of the Mets in 2009 with J.J. Putz as the set-up man and K-Rod as the closer and they wouldn’t have to worry about the contract kicker if K-Rod is setting up for Putz.

Colorado Rockies

What they need: A starting pitcher.

Once they’re healthy, the Rockies will hit enough and the bullpen is okay.

Their starting rotation has been hurt badly in losing Jorge de la Rosa. It’s doubtful they have the money for Wandy Rodriguez or Lilly, but if the Marlins sell, Nolasco and Sanchez are targets. Jason Marquis isn’t any better than what the Rockies currently have, but he’s a functioning arm—for what that’s worth.

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The Pavanover II

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Brian Cashman tried to bring back the original Carl Pavano for a 1-year encore to his hellish Yankees tenure from the years 2005-2008, the majority of which was spent on the disabled list (and the beach; and in car accidents; and in the gossip columns; and looking for new agents; and as the foundation for endless, hilarious ridicule).

Pavano declined the Yankees offer, choosing instead to return to the Twins.

It was better for both parties. A Pavano redux had very little chance of succeeding in any context.

But the Yankees, in a weird way, did bring Pavano back.

They brought him back as Rafael Soriano.

When he was signed, there was an open fissure between the Yankees top-tier hierarchy of Hank and Hal Steinbrenner and Randy Levine vs the baseball people led by GM Brian Cashman.

In retrospect, Cashman may not have been being honest as an end unto itself when he said at the Soriano introductory press conference that he was not on-board with the signing of the reliever. The obvious excuse was that Cashman didn’t want to spend the money nor surrender the draft picks to the division rival Rays, but now that Soriano has been an absolute and utter disaster in every possible permutation—both on and off the field—it might’ve been that Cashman knew something from the gossipy world of MLB executives and on-field personnel that made him say, “let me distance myself from this right from the get-go”.

Defending the Yankees, there was never an allegation of Pavano being a malingerer before he was signed; he’d pitched well and durably for the two immediate seasons prior to inking his 4-year, $39.95 million deal; had the Yankees not signed him for that money, the Red Sox, Mariners or Tigers would have.

The Yankees acquisition of Pavano can’t even be called a “mistake” in the classic, second-guessing baseball world sense; it didn’t work for a multitude of reasons.

That said, a reuniting of Pavano and the Yankees this season would’ve been a ghastly mistake…but not in comparison to the pitcher they did sign, Soriano.

Was there a demand for Soriano? Would any club have given him more than 1-year or approached that guaranteed cash?

Soriano has behaved abominably going back to last season with the Rays when his attitude and clear looking toward future riches influenced his relentless whining and atrocious body language whenever Rays manager Joe Maddon either asked him to pitch more than one inning or enter a game in a non-save situation.

He was the epitome of what the Yankees tried to avoid in building their dynasty of the 1990s—the selfish player who was more interested in his paycheck than team goals.

Nor did it help that, throughout his career, Soriano has had a penchant for allowing home runs at the most inopportune times.

But the Yankees upper management, spurned by Cliff Lee and  concerned about the lack of action in a weak free agent class, chose to toss a portion of the money allocated for Lee at Soriano. The money isn’t as much of an issue as the public disagreement between ownership and the GM; that Cashman’s contract is up at the end of the year and he might have seen the Levine-executed public castration as the final boot out the door.

If Soriano pitched and pitched well, behaved like a “Yankee”, then all parties would’ve agreed to disagree and been happy that the signing worked.

But it hasn’t worked.

In fact, since he arrived, Soriano has exhibited diva-like behavior that would make Madonna blush.

He made his own schedule in spring training; had little to do with his new teammates and didn’t even put forth the effort to create clubhouse continuity; he avoided the media after a blown game; complained about not being accustomed to the set-up role (a role he held every year but the previous two and in 2009, he shared the closing job with Mike Gonzalez); he ripped the Yankees lineup and shunned any responsibility for himself and the job he’s supposed to be doing; now he’s hurt with elbow inflammation and out for at least 6-8 weeks—ESPN Story.

What makes matters worse is that I don’t get the impression from Soriano—given his behaviors present and past—that he’s all that bothered about being on the DL.

Whereas Pedro Feliciano is ready to do anything and everything to get back on the field, feels legitimately terrible about not living up to his contract and loves to pitch and compete, Soriano has his money and is on the disabled list.

His tone is one of satisfaction.

Will he work hard to get back?

Do his teammates even want him back?

In a weird way, this might be a blessing in disguise for the club and manager Joe Girardi; not only does Soriano taking up residence on the disabled list free the manager of having to use a struggling pitcher whose role was designated to be the “closer in the 8th inning”, but when and if Soriano gets back he won’t be automatically slotted into the 8th inning role (I would hope; this is Joe Girardi we’re talking about, so who knows?) simply because that was his “job”.

The signing has been a nightmare in every conceivable metric; now he’s out, probably won’t be around the team at all and won’t work all that hard to get back as quickly as possible.

In the short term, the disabled list’s gain may turn out to be the Yankees gain as well. How the usurping of Cashman’s authority, the money and the lost draft picks affect the Yankees future remains to be seen, but judging how it’s gone so far, the entire result is probably going to be terrible.

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