Bashing and Smashing the Real Underachievers—American League

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Yesterday I asked why the Mets were being hammered for playing pretty much the way anyone and everyone should’ve expected them to play. Today let’s have a look at some teams that were—according to the “experts,” payrolls and talent levels—were supposed to be performing better and why they aren’t.

Toronto Blue Jays

It’s becoming apparent that the Blue Jays are not a team off to a bad start. They might just be plain bad. In addition to that, one of the main culprits in their mediocrity/badness over the past two seasons—former manager John Farrell—has the Red Sox in first place with the best record in baseball. I don’t think he’s a good game manager, but the reality doesn’t lie. The Red Sox will fall to earth at some point, but will the Blue Jays rise?

They may not be making the same baserunning gaffes they did under Farrell, but they’re third in the American League in homers and twelfth in runs scored. They’re last in batting average, next-to-last in on-base percentage, and thirteenth in ERA. The bullpen has been solid, but if a team doesn’t hit and doesn’t get any starting pitching their roster is irrelevant whether it has Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow and Jose Bautista or whatever refuse the Mets are shuttling in and out of their outfield.

There’s too much talent with too long a history for this type of underperformance to continue for the whole season, but if it does it may be time to stop looking at the players, coaches and manager and turn the blame to the front office.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

What I find funny is that one of the main arguments for Mike Trout’s 2012 MVP candidacy apart from his higher WAR over Miguel Cabrera was that the Angels took off after he was recalled. Without him to start the season they were 6-14; with him in the lineup after his recall they were 81-58. Trout’s been there from the beginning of the 2013 season and the Angels are 10-17, looking haphazard, disconnected and awful. The only “war” being mentioned is the undeclared, but known, “war” between the front office and the manager.

They’re not a cohesive unit and when you have a bunch of mercenaries, some of those mercenaries had better be able to pitch.

Yesterday’s win over the Athletics was indicative of one of the Angels’ biggest problems: veteran apathy. In the eighth inning, an important insurance run would’ve scored had Mark Trumbo touched the plate before Josh Hamilton was thrown out at third base to end the inning. Mike Scioscia’s teams were known for the inside game, pitching, defense, speed and going all out. Those small fundamental mistakes didn’t cost them games because they didn’t happen. Now they do. And they’re 10-17 and going nowhere in large part because of that. They got away with it yesterday, but just barely. It certainly doesn’t help that their pitching is woeful, but their issues stem from more than just bad pitching.

Why don’t the Angels just put the man out of his misery? He’s been there for 14 years, it’s no longer his team, his sway in the organization is all but gone and the players aren’t responding to him. It’s like delaying the decision to put down a beloved pet. Another week isn’t going to make a difference other than to make things worse. Sometimes making a change for its own sake is good.

Tony LaRussa’s says he’s not interested in managing. He might be interested but for one thing: his relationship with Jim Leyland is such that he won’t want to compete with his friend in the same league and possibly ruin Leyland’s last shot at a title so LaRussa could stroke his own ego, make another big payday, derive some joy over abusing Jeff Luhnow and the Astros and being the center of attention again. It’s Ivory Soap Pure (99 44/100%) that you can forget LaRussa.

Phil Garner took over an Astros team that was floundering in 2004 and brought them to the playoffs; the next season, they were 15 games under .500 in late May of 2005 and rebounded to make the World Series. Even Bob Brenly, who was a figurehead as Diamondbacks manager and whose main attribute was that he wasn’t Buck Showalter and didn’t tell the players how to wear their socks, would restore a calming, “it’s different” atmosphere.

Someone, somewhere would yield a better result that Scioscia is now. It’s known and not accepted yet. Maybe after a few more losses, it will be accepted that it’s enough so they can move on.

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Trout’s WAR Now Stands For “Weight After Rookie”

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Mike Trout has gained between 10 and 15 pounds over the winter and is now said to be 241 pounds. According to Trout and the Angels, it’s not fat weight, so he didn’t traverse the banquet circuit and load up on bad catering hall stuffed shells and the stale dessert menu to put on all those extra pounds. Trout says it was intentional and his bodyfat count is 9%.

The numbers and statements from Trout are fine and it’s not a problem until it becomes a problem. By “problem” I mean Trout slowing down in the field and on the bases and losing a large portion of what it was that made him so valuable and, in certain Wins Above Replacement (WAR) circles, deserving of the MVP. 240 is a lot of weight to carry, cover the same ground defensively and steal the bases he did in 2012. With or without the obvious intent to gain this weight, it was probably going to happen anyway based on him being so young and big even if he never picked up a barbell. If he sought to pump up his beach muscles, it’s a mistake based on youthful ignorance and more than a small bit of vanity.

Because a player exhibits a maturity beyond his years on the field and with the press doesn’t make him mature. It’s easy to forget that Trout is 21-years-old and still in evidence is the same oblivious precociousness that ignored the conventional wisdom that someone so young couldn’t force his way into the MVP conversation and have a substantial contingent of supporters promoting his candidacy over a longtime superstar Miguel Cabrera who won the Triple Crown. Trout’s a kid. And that means he might do something ill-thought-out every once in a while. If he came to spring training thinking that because he was so successful last season at 220-225 pounds that with 15 extra pounds of muscle he’d hit even more homers, it’s a mistake. At his age and size, it was unavoidable that he naturally put on some weight. Whether it affects what it was that made him special—speed and defense—will dictate its wisdom.

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The Big One: Trout vs Cabrera for AL MVP

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Exemplifying the polarization of old schoolers vs stat guys, Mike Trout vs Miguel Cabrera for the Most Valuable Player has become a territorial tug-of-war for the hearts and minds of the rank-and-file baseball fan. What’s missed amid the visceral anger, grumpy tantrums, and condescending pomposity is that the MVP is not the WAR (Wins Above Replacement) Award; nor is it the Triple Crown Award. There are criteria for the voter to follow when selecting his MVP and they follow (taken directly from the Baseball Writers Association website):

Dear Voter:

There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.

The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:

1.  Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.

2.  Number of games played.

3.  General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.

4.  Former winners are eligible.

5.  Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.

You are also urged to give serious consideration to all your selections, from 1 to 10. A 10th-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. You must fill in all 10 places on your ballot. Only regular-season performances are to be taken into consideration.

Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters.

This leaves such room for interpretation that it’s inevitable that stat guys whose lives are based in WAR (baseball’s version of the military industrial complex) are going to ignore any dissenters as to other factors and look at WAR and WAR alone to make their decision. It’s also inevitable that the voters will do what they want regardless of said criteria and, as George A. King III did in 1999, will omit a deserved candidate (in this case Pedro Martinez) due to ludicrous partisanship disguised as an epiphany.

Murray Chass rants about what Chass rants about; Mike Francesa demands to “see” the number of catches Trout made to increase his defensive value past Cabrera’s offensive numbers; Jeff Passan shakes his head disapprovingly with a disconsolate, “I think that’s sad” that he thinks Cabrera’s going to win; Keith Law tweets in Latin.

Chaos ensues.

None of this helps. If anything, it forces the open-minded to pick a side among the entrenched with few understanding exactly what they’re advocating or why. The proper method to convince the undecided (or even the decided) is to provide a cogent, understandable, and palatable point-of-view without rancor, arrogance, or perception of force. The argument has to be shifted from where it is to where it should be.

So let’s examine the MVP race in the American League and decide who should win. I’ll play Abraham Lincoln to provide the foundation to end this destructive and pointless civil war.

WAR vs the Triple Crown

I listed the players in MLB history who have won the Triple Crown and whether or not they won the MVP here, along with the circumstances of their winning or losing the award.

The Triple Crown is not the deciding factor for the MVP. It is part of the decisionmaking process and has to be placed into proper context. The same can be said for WAR. WAR is a formula designed to evaluate how much better an individual player is than the baseline Triple A player that you can find anywhere for nothing—basically, a ham-and-egger—and it adds in defense, baserunning, and offense. Based on WAR, Trout (10.7) is the MVP over Cabrera (6.9). But it’s not that simple.

That the feat of winning the Triple Crown hasn’t been accomplished in 45 years does matter. Cabrera’s offensive slash line was .330/.393/.606 with an OPS of .999 (leading the majors), and an OPS+ of 165. Trout’s slash line was .326/.399/.564 with an OPS of .963 and an AL leading OPS+ of 171. Cabrera hit 44 homers; Trout 30. Cabrera isn’t a baserunner; Trout is a great baserunner who stole 49 bases in 54 attempts. Trout’s presence is seen as having saved the Angels’ disappointing season from an utter disaster as he arrived with the club at 6-14 and immediately provided a cleansing spark to a toxic atmosphere. Cabrera was the linchpin of the Tigers offense.

Calculating the OPS is also misleading because Cabrera’s walk total declined from 108 in 2011 to 66 in 2012 because he had Prince Fielder hitting behind him. Cabrera doesn’t strike out (98); Trout does (139). Cabrera is a double play machine (28 to lead the majors); Trout grounded into 7.

Where does the dissection stop and the diagnosis begin?

Because Cabrera had Fielder hitting behind him, his old-school offensive stats were bolstered as teams had to pitch to him, and hindered as his new-school stat of OPS was lowered because he walked 42 fewer times. Had he walked 20 more times in 2012, how much would that have increased his OPS and decreased his RBI/HR totals? We don’t know because, like WAR, it’s speculative.

Trout’s WAR was driven up by his defense and speed; Cabrera’s was dropped because he didn’t add anything on the bases and was a below average defender. Does that tally up to Cabrera being deprived of the award?

Defense, speed, credit, and punishment

Did Muhammad Ali become the legend he is because he was great at beating on a punching bag? No. It was because of his work in the ring. Taking points away from Cabrera because of his poor defense at third base is the same thing. He’s not a good third baseman and Trout is a great defensive center fielder. Is it fair to punish Cabrera because of what he can’t do? It’s like refusing a great novelist the Pulitzer because he’s not a poet; depriving an actor the Oscar because he can’t sing. Why should he have to justify what he can’t do and have it reduce the impressiveness of what he did do?

Cabrera was the epitome of the team player by accepting the shift to third base to accommodate Fielder and losing weight to improve his range. Not every star-level player of Cabrera’s caliber would do that. When he got hit in the face by a ground ball in spring training, the easiest thing for Cabrera to do would have been to toss his infielder’s glove on manager Jim Leyland’s desk and say he’s not going back there—and he could’ve done that and gotten away with it putting the team in an awful position right before the season started. But he didn’t. He moved to third to help the team and, defensive metrics aside, was actually far better than anyone could have expected given that he hadn’t played the position in five years.

Does he get credit for that?

Trout’s defense is absolutely a factor in the MVP voting, but calculating the runs he supposedly saved statistically is ignoring the number of runs the Tigers added by their addition of Fielder and Cabrera’s selflessness in moving to a position he wasn’t good at playing to accommodate that signing. Does WAR account for the team-oriented move? No. Because it can’t since it’s not a number in a calculator.

Much like depriving a pitcher of the MVP because he’s a pitcher, you cannot logically take away the MVP from Cabrera because Trout had a higher WAR due to his basestealing and defense when, at the plate, Cabrera was the bigger threat.

Team results

Where would the Tigers have been without Cabrera?

Where would the Angels have been without Trout?

The Tigers would have been in the situation where they had to find a third baseman and a middle of the lineup masher to replace what they would not have had without Cabrera. Could they have done that? And where would they have finished in the AL Central without Cabrera?

They could, I suppose, have traded for the available at the time Chase Headley or could have made the Mets an offer they couldn’t refuse for David Wright, but that would’ve gutted the system of the players they eventually used to land Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, effectively rendering their acquisitions as a net loss. The Tigers would not have made the playoffs without Cabrera, Sanchez, and Infante.

And the Angels?

They were 6-14 when Trout was recalled in what was labeled as a desperation move for a fractured and shocked team and the Angels went 81-58 with him in the lineup. Would they have righted the ship without him in time to end up at 89-73 and out of the playoffs? Given the star power of the club, their pitching, and willingness to make mid-season deals for the likes of Zack Greinke, it’s not much to expect that team—without Trout—to have righted their ship to the mediocre degree that they did. Trout is given the credit for the club getting straight, but they probably would’ve gotten straight anyway and finished in third place with Trout or anyone in center field.

The “value to the team” argument goes to Cabrera because his team made the playoffs and Trout’s didn’t and because the Tigers had no options at third base and the Angels did in center field.

The winner

This is a landmark case in the extreme wings of baseball. Extremities win on occasion, but for the most part, it’s nuance that rules not by force and not by transformative thinking, but by reason and reality. And by reason and reality, the AL MVP is the Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera.

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Triple Crown Winners and the MVP

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The reason the Triple Crown is getting such attention is that it’s so unknown to most everyone because it hasn’t happened since 1967 when Carl Yastrzemski won it leading the Red Sox to their “Impossible Dream” pennant. But now, with Tigers’ third baseman Miguel Cabrera on the verge of winning the Triple Crown in the American League, there’s an increasingly contentious debate as to whether leading the home runs, RBI, and batting average will justify Cabrera taking the Most Valuable Player over Angels’ center fielder Mike Trout.

Trout has the accumulation of numbers including great defense and stolen bases to go along with power for a 10.4 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Cabrera’s WAR has been reduced significantly because he’s a poor defensive third baseman. Discounting defense, Trout is still ahead by .9 wins per game over Cabrera when calculating offensive WAR.

So how is it going to be decided? Will it be based on the player with the big power numbers? The one with the higher WAR and better all-around game? Will the word “value” be taken literally and used out of convenience by the voter to achieve his ends of picking Cabrera or Trout and use a floating, elusive, and adaptive principle to counter disagreement? Will there be the “clutch” stats factored into the equation? Difficulty of opponent? Will it go macro by dissecting when they did their damage and against whom and a myriad of other reasons to do what one would prefer to do? A motivated supporter of either Trout or Cabrera can find a reason to do it. It’s not hard.

I wrote about Trout vs Cabrera recently here, but what’s interesting is examining how players who had previously won the Triple Crown were treated by the MVP voters. Let’s take a look at the Triple Crown winners, some of whom didn’t win the MVP.

(The MVP was called the “league award” before it became the MVP in 1931.)

1925: Triple Crown Winner—Rogers Hornsby, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals; won the MVP

Hornsby won the Triple Crown with 39 homers, 143 RBI, and a .403 BA. He had a 10.1 WAR and won the National League MVP. He also led the league in every major offensive category. His Cardinals team finished at 77-76.

Pirates’ right fielder Kiki Cuyler came in second in the voting and it was far closer than it should’ve been with Hornsby getting 91% of the votes and Cuyler 76%. Cuyler stole 41 bases, had 26 triples, and led the majors with 144 runs scored. Obviously the Pirates winning the pennant with a 95-58 record and pennant helped Cuyler’s case with many of the voters.

1933: Triple Crown Winner—Jimmie Foxx, 1B, Philadelphia Athletics; won the MVP

Foxx had 48 homers, 163 RBI, and batted .356. He also led the league in slugging, OPS, OPS+, and total bases. He had a WAR of 9.0. Foxx won the award relatively easily with 91%. Next was Lou Gehrig at 69%. The only player who warranted consideration based on the way his team finished was third place finisher, left fielder Heinie Manush of the pennant winning Washington Senators, and his numbers weren’t MVP-quality. He led the league in hits and triples.

The Senators didn’t have one significant star who “made” their 99-53 record. They finished 19 ½ games ahead of the A’s, but Foxx won the MVP anyway.

1933: Triple Crown Winner—Chuck Klein, RF, Philadelphia Phillies; did not win the MVP

Klein played for the Phillies who finished in last place in the National League with a record of 60-92. Klein led the league in every significant offensive category and had a 7.3 WAR. Klein had won the MVP in the National League in 1932, but finished in second place to New York Giants pitcher Carl Hubbell (there was no Cy Young Award then). The Giants won the National League pennant that season, Hubbell went 23-12 with a 1.66 ERA and an 8.5 WAR. Hubbell deserved the award.

1934: Triple Crown Winner—Lou Gehrig, 1B, New York Yankees; did not win the MVP

The Yankees finished second to the Tigers by seven games in the American League. Gehrig led the AL in everything from homers, to RBI, to batting average, to on-base, slugging, and total bases. He had a 10.1 WAR. But Tigers’ catcher Mickey Cochrane won the MVP based on the Tigers winning the pennant. There could be no other reason. The voting was close…but it was close between Cochrane and his teammate Charlie Gehringer. Gehringer should’ve won it over Cochrane. Gehrig came in a ludicrous fifth. You could try to make the argument of Gehringer over Gehrig. You’d be wrong, but given Gehringer playing second base well and Gehrig playing first base poorly, along with the Tigers winning the pennant, you could make the argument.

1937: Triple Crown Winner—Joe Medwick, LF, St. Louis Cardinals; won the MVP

Looking at Medwick’s numbers, he reminds me of Don Mattingly. He was a hacker who never walked, but never struck out either. In addition to the Triple Crown numbers, he led the National League in hits, runs, doubles, slugging, OPS, and OPS+. His WAR was 8.1.

The Cardinals finished in fourth place in the National League far behind the pennant-winning Giants. Gabby Hartnett came in second in the MVP voting, but Medwick deserved it and won it.

1942: Triple Crown Winner—Ted Williams, LF, Boston Red Sox; did not win the MVP

Williams led the AL in every offensive category by a lot. The Red Sox finished in second place in the AL behind the Yankees. Yankees’ second baseman Joe Gordon won the MVP. Williams’s WAR was 10.2 and Gordon’s was 7.8. The voting was close with Gordon accumulating 270 points to Williams’s 249. Of course Williams should’ve won. It’s doubtful anyone was paying attention to his shaky, uninterested defense back then, but the voters certainly knew that Williams had no use for the writers and perhaps that affected the voting more than Gordon’s Yankees winning the pennant with a far better team.

1947: Triple Crown Winner—Ted Williams, LF, Boston Red Sox; did not win the MVP

The Red Sox finished in third place, 14 games behind the pennant winning Yankees, but the absurdity of this MVP voting was stark. Joe DiMaggio won it with mediocre (for him) numbers of 20 homers and a .315/.391/.522 split. His WAR was 4.5.

Williams led the American League in every major offensive category and was again playing for a far inferior team. DiMaggio won the award by 1 point when he should have come in third behind Williams and Lou Boudreau.

1956: Triple Crown Winner—Mickey Mantle, CF, New York Yankees; won the MVP

The Yankees won the pennant by 9 games, Mantle led the American League in every major offensive category; he won the award unanimously and deserved it.

1966: Triple Crown Winner—Frank Robinson, RF, Baltimore Orioles; won the MVP

The Orioles won the pennant that year and Robinson won the AL MVP unanimously and deserved it. The interesting part of the Robinson’s 1966 season was how he’d been traded by the Reds the year before because Reds’ owner Bill DeWitt called the 30-year-old Robinson “an old 30.”

Challenging someone as cantankerous as Robinson—even now at age 77—is not a good idea. In truth, this trade in which Robinson was dealt for pitchers Milt Pappas, Jack Baldschun, and Dick Simpson might’ve been something the self-proclaimed experts who think they can study a stat sheet and know the ins-and-outs of baseball would pull and, in theory, it wasn’t a horrible idea.

Pappas has had his name sullied because he was traded for Robinson, but he was a very good pitcher who won 209 big league games. Simpson was 21 and had a big year in Triple A for the Angels in 1965 with 24 homers and 29 stolen bases, a .301 BA and .380 OBP (he was traded to the Orioles a week before they traded him to the Reds). Baldschun had been a useful reliever for the Phillies in the preceding years.

The pride of a man like Robinson was ignored and the trade and comments about why they made it set Robinson off on a mission to prove DeWitt wrong. And he did.

1967: Triple Crown Winner—Carl Yastrzemski, LF, Boston Red Sox; won the MVP

The only thing preventing Yastrzemski from winning the AL MVP unanimously was someone, somewhere who decided to vote for Cesar Tovar. Tovar had led the league in games, plate appearances, and at-bats. He batted .267 with a .325 OBP, 6 homers and 19 stolen bases. He was average defensively. Tovar was apparently voted for the MVP because of his attendance record.

Yastrzemski led the Red Sox to the World Series. The race went down to the wire with the White Sox, Twins, Tigers, and Red Sox all fighting until the end. Yastrzemski hit 9 homers in Sept./Oct. and had a .417/.504/.760 split in that last month-plus when it counted most.

For the most part, the rightful MVP has tended to win. There are mitigating circumstances when humans who rely on various biases and criteria are making the decisions. Some will be starstruck from the Triple Crown because it’s something many probably haven’t seen before. Others will lodge a “protest” vote against the stat people who are rolling their eyes and trying to bully the objectors of Trout’s candidacy using WAR as an end-of-story hammer without taking other aspects into account. Still others will try to use either the Tigers or Angels making the playoffs (or not) as the context of voting for or against either Trout or Cabrera.

When baseball awards are selected, there’s no list of reasons to vote or not vote for a candidate. All that can be done is to make a case and hope others agree. But I don’t see people making a case either way. I just see fighting, and all fighting is going to do is cause the factions to dig in and ignore any list of reasons, regardless of how logical and sensible they are. Being a hardline old-schooler or a condescending and arrogant stat person isn’t going to sway people to either side. That much I can guarantee.

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Verlander Casts A Spell

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When Roger Maris had the infamous asterisk* attached to his home run record because of the extra 8 games played in Maris’s time as opposed to Babe Ruth‘s time, Maris rightfully and indignantly said something to the tune of, “Which 154? The first 154? The last 154? The middle? A season’s a season.”

For the record, there was never an asterisk*; there was a 162 game season and 154 game season separation.

It’s a similar comparison to Justin Verlander and those who say that his mere job of being a pitcher and only participating in 34 games a season should eliminate him from consideration for the Most Valuable Player award.

But what about the games in which the other candidates Miguel Cabrera, Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson and Jose Bautista did absolutely nothing while Verlander was dominating for 27 of those 34 starts?

It’s impossible to quantify the importance of a particular player based on his position.

Would the Tigers have won 95 games without Verlander?

Of course not.

Because they had such a blazing hot streak of 12 straight wins in September and ran off with a weak division, the contribution of Verlander is being mistakenly muted.

Early in the season, when the Tigers were essentially playing Verlander Incanter (the French word for cast a spell—yeah, I’m going high-end; do something about it) that the rest of the starting rotation would provide something—anything—of use so the Tigers could win a few games that Verlander wasn’t starting, the team would’ve been buried without him.

Max Scherzer was inconsistent to start the season; Rick Porcello was mostly terrible; Brad Penny was Brad Penny; and Phil Coke was yanked from the rotation after 14 starts.

In conjunction with his production, the “where would they be without him?” argument is a viable reason to give someone an MVP vote.

The momentum from the leader of the staff grew so the Tigers were able to stay near the top of the AL Central and make mid-summer trades for Doug Fister, Wilson Betemit and Delmon Young to bolster a flawed team. On August 17th, they only led the division by 2 games and were 9 1/2 games out in the Wild Card; at that time, it was generally assumed that the Wild Card was going to come down to which team between the Yankees and Red Sox didn’t win the AL East. The dynamic changed drastically in September for everyone. For the Tigers, their playoff position was not assured until September despite winning the division by 15 games.

It’s not only about where the team and player ended, but how they got there.

The Tigers would’ve been nowhere without Verlander.

Once we accept that it wasn’t a situation of the Tigers being so deep that they were going to win that division anyway, Verlander’s value becomes stronger.

In their precarious position, the Tigers held the Ace every fifth day; on the morning of a Verlander start, they knew they had a great chance to win because of Verlander. Added to that overriding feeling of foreboding for his opponents and comfort for his teammates, he led the league in starts, wins, strikeouts, ERA, ERA+, WAR (and not just pitcher WAR, WAR period), and WHIP.

My criteria for MVP is, in no particular order: performance; importance; indispensability.

Based on performance, you can make the case for any of the top 5 finishers, but the final trigger for me in such a close race comes down to Velrander’s irreplaceability.

The Blue Jays were a .500 team with Bautista and they misused him by failing to get players on base in front of him and trying to steal too many bases for no reason to run themselves out of innings.

The Red Sox came apart in spite of Ellsbury’s heroics.

The Yankees would’ve found someone to play center field and hit well enough to account for not having Granderson and had the surrounding players to survive his absence.

The Tigers could’ve found a first baseman (perhaps Victor Martinez who was DHing) to play first base and gotten 25 homers from that spot and had better defense.

Given the difficulty in finding quality pitching, can anyone honestly say that the Tigers could’ve replaced Verlander’s innings? His dominance? His mere presence? And still been anywhere close to the 95 wins they accumulated?

No.

The MVP is not for everyday players alone because the pitchers have the Cy Young Award—that’s a faulty premise. The Cy Young Award is for pitching performance independent of team—that’s how Felix Hernandez won the award with a 13-12 record in 2010; the MVP is an all-encompassing award based on the team and the individual, and by that judgment, Verlander is the Most Valuable Player in the American League for 2011.

Period.

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The AL/NL MVP Dichotomy

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On one side, you have a pitcher who has to deal with the dogmatism of the self-involved voters who feel as if they’re the interpreters and adjusters of stated rules.

On the other, you have a player who’s put up numbers that justify a Most Valuable Player season, but is on a team that is out of contention.

How’s this going to go?

Justin Verlander of the Tigers is a clear MVP candidate as well as the AL Cy Young Award winner.

Matt Kemp of the Dodgers is leading the National League in homers and RBI and is right behind Jose Reyes and Ryan Braun for the lead in batting average.

Of course stat people will scoff at the value of both RBI and average, but the Triple Crown is the Triple Crown—it still has meaning as a symbol even if the results aren’t showing up in the won/lost column for the Dodgers.

The Tigers pulled away from the NL Central pack with a 12 game winning streak, but before that their playoff hopes rested largely on the shoulders of Verlander and Miguel Cabrera; without Verlander, they would’ve been barely in contention, if at all.

This is a situation where Wins Above Replacement—in context—is a valuable stat.

Kemp’s WAR is 9.6; let’s say the Dodgers found someone who was serviceable in center field, they still would be well below the 79-77 record they’ve posted with a second half string of good play after an awful start.

Verlander’s WAR is 8.6 and the Tigers would have no chance of replicating even a quarter of what Verlander has meant to the team given the dearth of pitching available. If the Tigers were to lose Cabrera, they would’ve found someone—Carlos Beltran; Josh Willingham; Michael Cuddyer—to make up for some semblance of that lost offense. Such was not the case with Verlander.

The other MVP candidates in the National League like Albert Pujols are just as irreplaceable as Kemp; the Brewers strength has been on the mound and they have enough offense to function if Braun were injured; in fact, there’s an argument that Prince Fielder has been more valuable to the Brewers than Braun has.

In the American League, the same holds true for the Red Sox with Adrian Gonzalez and the Yankees with Curtis Granderson. Had either player gone down, the Red Sox could’ve plugged someone in at either first or third base and gotten by without Gonzalez; the Yankees would’ve gotten a corner outfield bat, shifted Brett Gardner to center and survived with the rest of the lineup picking up the slack.

So does it come down to the “best” player? The “most valuable”?

And are these arguments going to mirror one another in each league while, in some way, validating both?

I only hope that George King of the New York Post no longer has a vote. It was King who famously left Pedro Martinez off his 1999 ballot because he was supposedly convinced by people he respected the year before that pitchers didn’t deserve MVP votes (EUREKA!!!) and left the deserving winner off his ballot entirely depriving him of the award that went to Ivan Rodriguez. In a ludicrous bit of backpedaling and stupid “explanation”, King said that he thought then-Red Sox manager Jimy Williams was more valuable to the Red Sox than Martinez.

If he has a vote this season, one can only hope that King hasn’t been studiously watching the job done by Eric Wedge with the Mariners and deemed it more important than Verlander’s work; if that’s the case, then Verlander’s going to be left out in the cold just like Martinez was and it’ll be a case of idiocy all over again.

//

Viewer Mail 2.19.2011

Fantasy/Roto, Media, Spring Training

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE WAR:

Great take on WAR.

(Personally, I feel it’s just a way for stat zombies to think they sound cool when they talk)

So, looking forward to your take on the Pujols sitch… on Jon Heyman’s “reports” and Ken Rosenthal’s “reports”, etc.

It’s mind-boggling that there’s an ever-growing faction of individuals who feel their ability to calculate a faulty formula constitutes expertise.

I continually go back to the Jason Bay/UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) controversy. Bay’s “inferior” defense was referenced so often that it became an accepted “fact” when in reality, it was little more than a factoid. Anyone who’d watched Bay handle the Green Monster and play at cavernous Citi Field could see that he was actually an above-average defender with speed.

But that mattered little to those with their complicated formulas to determine Bay’s “true” defensive abilities.

So it was laughable and eerily appropriate when UZR’s calculations were altered at mid-season last year to reflect that—wait a minute!!—Bay’s not that bad!!

They disguise their misplaced assertions as evolution in the calculations.

Oh. I see.

All winter long we were inundated with stories of Bay’s inadequacies in the outfield and how he didn’t fit into the Red Sox 2009-2010 decision to focus on pitching and defense rather than power; that Bay was a candidate for injury that made signing him to a long-term deal a too great a risk.

It turned out that Bay didn’t play well for the Mets, but it had nothing to do with his glove nor his knees or shoulders; it had to do with the whole aura of being a Met in transitioning to New York and the inherent dysfunction; with the big ballpark; and with a concussion he sustained at mid-season.

But his poor UZR number followed him around like a leeching greenfly.

Two things: one, having watched Bay play the outfield, it was clear he wasn’t a bad defender; and two, there’s a difference between handling the Green Monster and any other left field. The Green Monster is nuance and knowing caroms; other outfields and the defensive metrics aren’t limited to UZR; the center fielder’s range; positional placement; and the pitching staff all need to be accounted for.

But it’s a number and if one understands it, they have an “expertise”; except they don’t. They’re parroting and spouting regurgitated nonsense disguised as analysis.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Joba Chamberlain:

Nobody said Joba came to camp fat. And there’s certainly no evidence of a “spiral.” Sorry if it ruins your theory/spin/etc.

He’s fat, Jane.

The “spiral” is connected more to his perception than his performance which was only worthy of the heights his reputation dictated for a month in 2007. Apart from that, he’s been a mediocre pitcher at best whose press was always light years ahead of his accomplishments.

It wasn’t all his fault back then, but that he showed up to camp out of shape is indicative of his immaturity and either giving up or a sense of entitlement that came with the accolades he received as a “star” based on nothing other than idolatry or organizational babying.

Much like the Lenny Dykstra-steroids allegations from 25 years ago when the skinny speedster arrived at Mets camp with 20 pounds of muscle added to his frame, think about the likelihood of someone with Chamberlain’s lack of discipline spending a week—let alone a winter—pumping iron.

It wouldn’t happen.

If he pitches well, the weight is meaningless; but it’s not meaningless in the way the club views him. Baseball players need not look like bodybuilders—it probably does more harm than good—but his place in the Yankees universe is increasingly tenuous. The notion of being “in shape” is different for a baseball player, but Chamberlain could not arrive looking like he spent the winter lying on the couch eating pork rinds.

And that’s what he did.

Pattie writes RE Joba:

Thank you for articulating the responsibility and putting it where it belongs. I am no Joba fan, but, as my dad used to say (endlessly): “as the twig is bent, so grows the tree.” Yankees management bent Joba the Twig into the gnarly mess he is now. Seriously bad handling of what used to be a potentially great asset.

I can’t take the excuses anymore. I wish they’d come out and say, “we mishandled him; we’re responsible”; but they’re still offering up silliness like it was the shoulder injury or proffering the “guidelines” as justification for what they did to him.

If they’d let him pitch and he’d gotten hurt, so be it; but this is worse—everything was designed to have a justification for his failure if it happened as if they somehow expected it.

Maybe they did.

The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats writes RE Joba:

Joba and I have the same birthday. Same day, same year. Beyond that, I find nothing about him interesting.

He is obnoxious and overblown. Unfortunately, I can’t just unlearn who he is. He is trapped in my brain forever and his added girth means he’s taking up a lot more room than most.

As sad as it is, the story of a failed prospect or person is interesting in the “watching a train wreck” sort of way.

I genuinely think certain individuals are salvageable, but only if they go to the right people; people that can and will help them; but they have to make the effort too.

And the sand in the hourglass is dangerously low.

Lower than they realize.

Mike the Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE Joba:

Sorry Jane; Brian Cashman flat out broke Joba Chamberlain and rendered him inconsequential. The Yankees don’t know how to groom pitchers and never have in 38 years since BOSS bought the team. They buy other team’s pitchers instead. I’ll be generous and say Guidry; Righetti; Pettitte; and Wang (don’t make me laugh) were the only starting pitchers to do anything worthy of discussion that came from within. Ian Kennedy, Hughes and Joba were All Hurt at one point. Outside of Hughes, the most recent attempt to groom a pitcher is A BIG FAIL, and adds to the Yankees’ woeful history of not farming up pitchers under the Stienbrenner’s. To dispute this you must come up with names. Drabek and Rijo did nothing in a Yankee uniform. Other than who I mentioned, who else did? There are none and don’t even try to insult Guidry; Righetti or Andy by naming someone who is very ordinary.
The JOBA RUSE is over people.
I blogged about this very topic Tuesday before he even showed up fat. The writing has been on the wall for all to read. There’s no denying, Brian Cashman broke it.
….Hey Prince, can we by-pass Spring Training and get right to it?

I can’t argue with any of the points. I’d have to examine the Yankees pitchers who’ve made it as Yankees. Ted Lilly and others made it, but did it elsewhere; how much credit should go to the Yankees for development needs to be determined.

Because the big club was impatient doesn’t mean they didn’t have a hand in the success of said pitchers.

Impatience and the “name” players took precedence over giving the youngsters a chance. We’ll get a clearer view this year as Ivan Nova will be a necessity and not a luxury; Dellin Betances could also play a part this season.

Will there be rules and regulations? Due to the situational immediacy and club desperation, probably not.

If anyone has access to ESPN Insider, please send me the Dave Cameron posting on why letting C.C. Sabathia walk if he opts out of his contract is a good move for the Yankees.

He might have solid points; he might be writing stat zombie, blockheaded idiocy. I need to see what he says before retorting one way or the other.

Viewer Mail 2.16.2011

Spring Training

Joe writes RE WAR:

The way you look at WAR is wrong. It is a statistic trying to tell us how good a player is, taking into account all facets of the game. You don’t bring in “team” just like you shouldn’t in MVP discussions, etc. It is all opportunity driven.


James K also writes RE WAR:

Yeah, you’re misunderstanding WAR. Check out WAR primers from FanGraphs and Yahoo!

Now, now…coming at me with a condescending pat on the head—no matter how slight—will not be met with a positive response.

Um…yes, I do understand WAR; but the way it’s presented is of little use to me because I don’t need to have a starting point of zero to get a grasp on the value of a player.

It may sound egotistical, but I don’t care; I can judge a player without a baseline number comparing him to some generic “Triple A player” who’s available, replaceable and negligible in performance to the next guy.

In a team sport, how do you not bring team into the discussion? Would Jayson Werth have accumulated his 5.2 WAR from 2010 had he not been in the Phillies lineup? What’s his individual value going to be with a rotten team in 2011, the Nationals?

My guess is that it’ll go down; and even if it doesn’t, so what? What good does this do if one component of the unit is head-and-shoulders above his counterparts on his and other teams and the team is still terrible?

Let’s have a look at an example different from Werth; a cog in the machine if there ever was one: Scott Brosius.

With the Athletics in 1996 and the Yankees in 1998, Brosius had a similar WAR of 5.3 (1996), and 5.7 (1998). The 1996 A’s went 78-84; the 1998 Yankees 114-48.

If either team had Brosius or didn’t have Brosius the results would’ve been close to what they were; as a part of the group he was an important part, but that had little to do with the end results positively or negatively.

How do you remove the team aspect in judging a player in a team sport?

Baseball is a sport of freedom within structure; of individual within a team concept; you can succeed individually as much as you want, but without the team you’re nothing.

The number assigned to the player based on WAR has nothing to do with winning in that team concept especially when it’s interpreted wrongly and treated as a final answer in judging a player who might put up big numbers because he’s part of a great team and in an advantageous situation.

According to the suggested links of WAR explanation, this is not taken into account.

Maybe this will, er, slam my point home in a clearer fashion:

The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats writes RE Zack Greinke:

But, his ERA last year was 4.17, which is more par for the course for Greinke.

I can’t believe in the guy when he follows up his Cy Young campaign by reverting to such pedestriocity.

Pedestriocity?

The rule here is that no one uses words that I don’t understand.

Actually his 2.16 ERA in 2009 was more out of line with his career than was the 4.17 in 2010.

Check his Gamelogs and you get a clearer picture of how he pitched. Looking beneath the vanilla result presented by ERA, you can conclude that the increased walks and homers emanated from poor location; Greinke wasn’t hitting his spots as he was in 2009 and he gave up more walks and homers which led to the repeated crooked numbers he allowed.

Objectively, the Brewers didn’t give up that much to get Greinke and it was a no-brainer for them to make the move whether it works or not; my main question with him is his emotions and how he’ll react to expectations that were previously—again to the WAR debate— individual and non-team related; no one expects anything from the Royals in a team concept (at least, apparently, until 2013 when the prospects supposedly arrive); the Brewers are supposed to contend now and without a big performance from Greinke, they won’t.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE C.C. Sabathia:

Yeah, I don’t see him opting out… but, Bengie Molina hit for the cycle so anything is possible I suppose.


Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan also writes RE Sabathia:

CC can certainly test the open market after this season, but as you say – Who will pay him more than the Yankees will/can? Meanwhile, he had knee surgery and has to prove he can bounce back THIS season.

The opt-out is put into the contract for a reason and with the way Sabathia’s pitched, the market and his durability, he’d be foolish not to consider it. Much like the Yankees exposed themselves stupidly with their public disagreement, Sabathia and his agent are leaving that door open so it’s known he might be available after the season.

It’s in his mind that no one can outspend the Yankees; but the chasm between Brian Cashman and his bosses regarding Rafael Soriano, plus the clear desperation inherent with the club considering Carl Pavano and signing the retreads they have clearly have emboldened Sabathia to make let it be known that he has the choice at his disposal.

Norm writes RE Mike Francesa and Bernie Madoff:

Francesa still taking calls on Madoff…and still revealing ignorance…this is what happens when you are surrounded by lackeys and yes-men; no one has the temerity to tell him he should shut up and not embarrass himself.

I didn’t mention it when it happened, but you reminded me of the recent show dedicated to the 2000 Mets-Yankees World Series and his interview with Don Zimmer; Francesa went to great lengths to praise Evan Longoria and, without saying it specifically, there were the ever-present shots at David Wright because he’s Wright and not Longoria.

The familiar themes—egomania, omnipotence, expertise not just in sports but in everything—have rendered Francesa transparent to the newer listeners as well as the old. It’s tiresome.

Sunday Lightning 2.13.2011

Fantasy/Roto, Hot Stove

I can see it.

Pitchers and catchers are reporting; the sun in Florida and Arizona is warm; hope abounds for every team in baseball that good things are going to happen in 2011.

Regardless of history, off and on-field drama and perception, all—however briefly—can believe.

There’s such a thing as the “best case scenario”; and there’s such a thing as an editor demanding a spin be placed on the Mets prospects for the season.

In reading this piece by Dan Rosenheck in the New York Times, I can’t help but envision the latter.

I can see the editors telling Rosenheck that it’s spring training, we all know the reality the Mets face in 2011 as they’re trapped in the same division with two top teams in the National League (the Phillies and Braves); and another with a load of young talent (the Marlins); but hope springs eternal and the spring begets hope. So, presumably, they told him to say something positive.

I can also see Rosenheck examining the circumstances surrounding the Mets, widening his eyes, puffing his cheeks and exhaling heavily…then hammering away with what amounts to a dream.

The title—If the Stars Align, the Mets Could Surprise. Really.—is an indicator of where the piece was going before reading the first sentence.

As justification for the thought of a Mets surprise, examples presented are the Giants from 2010; the overly enthusiastic suggestion that the Mets might—might—get production close to that which they achieved three years ago from their remaining stars; their young players; and the statistic WAR.

Let’s look at it realistically.

First, is anyone, anywhere thinking that Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana—coming off injuries and aging—are going to be a shell of what they once were?

Beltran is determined to get himself another big contract, but the fact is that the tools have been compromised by his badly damaged knee. He can’t run as well; he doesn’t have the leg drive to hit for power from the left side of the plate; his defense is compromised; and he’s going to need frequent rest days.

Santana is only now starting to soft toss. If he returns in the summer, his already declining velocity is likely to be worse than it was. He can still win, but the dominant pitcher the Mets thought they were getting from the Twins is gone forever.

David Wright is still one of the top third basemen in baseball; Jose Reyes is looking to get paid, so he’ll be healthy and have a great year; Jason Bay will be back to normal after his acclimating year in New York. But before last year, Angel Pagan had never played a full season without injury—he was a pleasant surprise as was R.A. Dickey—now there are expectations in not outright reliance.

The odds against this are great.

Then we get to the statistic WAR (Wins Above Replacement).

The stat is designed to simplify “value” for the masses by equating a player with a Triple A replacement. So if Wright gets hurt, a baseline minor league replacement would diminish the Mets number of wins by “X” amount.

It’s absurd to take a complicated issue and make it into an abridged, out of context number to give “value” to said player’s contribution.

No one is replacing David Wright on the Mets; no one is replacing Albert Pujols on the Cardinals; no one is replacing Felix Hernandez on the Mariners.

It’s an attempt to explain encompassing issues to those who does not understand the intricacies of the game and make it more comprehensible; but those who actually know the game numerically and practically can see that the true contribution of said player is not easily bundled into a number detailing what would happen if he were replaced by Cody Ransom.

The idea that the best case scenario laid out by Rosenheck is a possibility is the same thing as saying the Mets could also bring Tom Seaver out of retirement and for one year and one year only, he’d be back to the Tom Seaver of 1969.

How many games would they win then?

Or if they had Pujols? Or King Felix? Or an in-his-prime Ken Griffey, Jr.

What’s it mean?

Nothing.

To me, the whole concept of WAR is boiled down to the statements, “if we lose him we’re screwed”; or “we’ll live without him”.

No kidding. If the Mets lose Wright or Reyes, they’re screwed. Is this news? Do you need a stat to tell you this? And what team is going to account for losing a player of that magnitude? The higher salaried teams might have a super-utility player who will fill in adequately for such a devastating loss; other clubs might discover some young player who can fill in for bursts, thereby rendering WAR meaningless because he’s not a borderline big leaguer who hadn’t gotten a chance to play—he’s a useful component.

There were a limitless number of plays on words I could’ve made with Rosenheck. “Rosenheck Needs A Reality Check”; “What The (Rosen)heck?”

But no. I prefer to inject some objectivity into this.

The best case scenario for the Mets is if they do get big performances from the players who are still capable of delivering them—Francisco Rodriguez, Wright, Reyes and Bay; get improvement from Ike Davis, Jonathon Niese and Mike Pelfrey; have Dickey and Pagan come close to what they did last season; have Beltran healthy and able to contribute; and get Santana back with some semblance of effectiveness.

If these things happen, they’ll be over .500; if the Wild Card is limited to 88 or so wins (highly unlikely with the strength of numerous clubs), the Mets can hang around into September and hope to steal a playoff spot.

But even if they are contending, will they be able to add that big bat or arm at mid-season? While other clubs like the Yankees, Phillies and Cardinals will be looking to do the same thing? Do the Mets have the money? Are they willing to surrender the prospects? Would it be worth it?

You can come up with a number to explain any assertion and make it so complex with twisted verbiage as a means of confusion, but that’s not real. It’s not accurate. It’s not the truth. It’s brainwashing the masses who don’t have the capacity to analyze without fear of criticism or numerical “proof”.

The Times editors got what I presume they wanted—hope for the Mets where there is a limited supply for 2011.

  • Viewer Mail 2.13.2011:

Liz writes RE Fantasy Baseball:

Wow, there’s an actual strategy to fantasy baseball?  I used to pick the best-looking players for my team… I was under the impression that’s what “fantasy” was referring to?

All silliness (or seriousness) aside, I may just choose some of these players and see how your predictions play out.  I never win anything, so what have I got to lose?  However, I don’t know about Berkman – I think his heavy hitting days might be numbered.

I often joke about my fantasies having literally nothing to do with baseball!! (Don’t ask.)

I don’t know the strategies—that’s the thing. I’ve never even thought about playing. I’m sticking to my statement—swiped from Whitey Herzog—when I stopped physically playing the game (again, don’t ask): “Baseball has been very, very good to me since I quit trying to play it.”

Why muck with a good thing?

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE my Fantasy Baseball lists of whom to consider:

Nice list! I went with the Pineiro pick VERY late last year and it did benefit me until he went down for the season. I like the Javi Vazquez pick this year. He’ll be undervalued and there late… AND it’s clear he’s better suited to pitching in the NL (and NOT in Yankee pinstripes).

The Javier Vazquez case is interesting in that the Yankees continually look at the numbers and ignore the human being. Bringing him back was a mistake they were prepared to make again with, unbelievably(!)—Carl Pavano.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Fantasy Baseball:

I don’t play fantasy baseball. I have enough trouble keeping up with players on my own team. But thanks for the rundown.

We’re old school, Jane.

You and me.

Pam writes RE Fantasy Baseball:

As a fervent fantasy baseball player, I thank you for this from the bottom of my heart!  The reason that I enjoy playing is because since I’m constantly poring over player information, I find myself enjoying players that might have otherwise slipped under my radar.  Last year, as I was looking for another C to add to my line up, I noticed some kid named Buster Posey who seemed to be surging.  I locked him up on my fantasy team before he became a big name, and I had the pleasure of watching him blossom.  If not for playing FF, I probably wouldn’t have been as acutely aware of him until the playoffs.

Plus, I’m a nerd.

Ain’t nothing wrong with being a nerd. Within reason. And Posey was a great pick.

Mike Fierman writes RE Fantasy Baseball:

A worthy effort from someone who claims not to know the rules. actually the “rules” and strategies vary wildly from league to league…I like having a few sleeper picks that I get in late rounds that give me great rewards. Ibanez the year he went to the phils, 2008 I believe was a steal. i knew him going from safeco to the bandbox was a match made in heaven. i was an early Bell , Wilson and Broxton guy. My late closer pick this year is Kimbrel. Last year I had Wagner on all of my teams..No one was picking him.

There are way too many good pitching options to go with javy and his nothingball. must disagree there. I always have my eye on Gregerson. he gave me many holds last year. not sold on Yunel. I think he’s a flameout type. I don’t see Hinske being drafted by many people except in a VERY deep offense only league. I had Morse and Niese on a couple of different teams at point or another last year and was very happy with what they did for me.

Quote from The Dark Knight (twisted for my nefarious purposes): “You got rules. The Prince? He’s got no rules!! Nobody’s gonna cross him for you!!!”

When you get into the “deep offense league” my eyes glaze like a monkey staring at a bright red ball.

My analysis of Luke Gregerson expands beyond the numbers and whether “holds” are applicable. It’s an examination of the Padres; the type of year I think they’ll have; that Heath Bell is a free agent at the end of the year and since their GM Jed Hoyer came from the Red Sox, he’s not paying big money for a closer; and that Gregerson is the likely replacement if and when Bell is traded. You’ll get your saves then.

Gabriel writes RE Fantasy Baseball:

I play Fantasy Baseball in the MLB.com site, and it’s fun. Last year I noticed José Bautista‘s sudden rise and it paid off.

I agree with you about Billy Butler and Yunel Escobar (I believe the Blue Jays’ season depends on whether Adam Lind and Aaron Hill bounce back).

I used to pick Lance Berkman a lot, but last year I put Paul Konerko instead, and it paid off too.

I’m 100% with you on Lind and Hill.

Berkman is similar to my selection of Gregerson; it’s circumstantial. In that lineup with Pujols and Matt Holliday, he’ll see pitches to hit and his defensive limitations will mean nothing on the fantasy stat sheet. (They don’t count defense, do they?)

The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats writes RE Zack Greinke:

I’m glad somebody else thinks Zack Greinke is being overrated and overstated. You should have heard all the moaning and groaning from the Dallas media when the Brewers got him.

He was going to be Plan B if Cliff Lee left, but I never wanted any part of him and his lifetime 4.23 ERA, which includes every year but one.

The bad ERA is misleading because of his early-career struggles; but the Brewers getting a Roy Halladay-type year in Greinke’s move to the National League is highly presumptuous.

The Brewers defense is terrible. They made two flashy moves in getting Greinke and Shaun Marcum, but I’m looking at them with a tilted head and an “I dunno” countenance.