As I wrote a few months back, the Brewers finished 28th out of 30 teams in Park Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. They were 3.44 percent below average in converting batted balls into outs, a shortcoming that translates to -44.7 runs (every one percent away from average equals 13 runs). A look at the defensive numbers of the infielders suggests that number isn't far out of line. Based on their Fielding Runs Above Average totals and a simple Linear Weights conversion of Baseball Information Solutions' Plus/Minus ratings into runs, the quartet of Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy and Ryan Braun came in a whopping 49 runs below average.I did two estimates, one the those numbers, the other using the 2008 PECOTA projections, which account for multiple years of data, player aging patterns, and regression to the mean. Between the two estimates, I bracketed the defensive improvements as worth between 1.5 and four wins, something that should comfort my Brewer-loving in-laws.
In a tight but winnable division, that simply won't do, so kudos to the Brewers for not sitting on their hands. The recent signing of Mike Cameron to play center field created a domino effect, shifting incumbent Bill Hall, who struggled to hold down the middle pasture, to the hot corner, and Braun, who put up a ghastly .895 fielding percentage, to left field. According to the Davenport fielding numbers, Hall has performed as a league-average third baseman in 84 career games, 59 of them in 2005. Braun, however, is untested in the outfield.
How much will all these moves improve the defense? I set out to do a quick, back-of-the-envelope calculation, incorporating 2007 FRAA, Plus/Minus and the new kid on the block, Dan Fox's Simple Fielding Runs...
Guerra (No. 2), Gomez (No. 3), Mulvey (No. 4) and Humber (No. 7) all ranked prominently on our Mets Top 10 Prospects list. But there’s simply too much risk involved in this deal for Minnesota.BPs Joe Sheehan was none too wild about the haul either, though he did counter some of the conventional wisdom based on the rumors that have floated around all winter:
The two best prospects in the trade, Guerra and Gomez, come with high ceilings but also lack a lot of polish and have a long ways to go to reach their potential. The odds that they both will do so are slim.
Guerra has an 89-94 mph fastball and a promising changeup and he’s only 18. But he also has a below-average breaking ball, has yet to pitch more than 90 innings in a season and while he has held his own, he hasn’t dominated. Gomez had the best package of tools in the Mets system, but his bat is still extremely raw...
Mulvey has an arsenal of four average pitches and throws strikes. He’s not overpowering and he’s most likely a No. 4 starter. Since having Tommy John surgery in 2005, Humber hasn’t fully regained the stuff that made him the No. 3 overall pick in the 2004 draft. His curveball is his best pitch but his fastball now sits at 87-91 mph. He too projects as a No. 4 starter.
The Twins have traded Santana for two high-reward but also high-risk prospects, and two back-of-the-rotation starters. They didn’t get a prospect whose combination of ceiling and certainty approaches that of Hughes, whom the Yankees were willing to deal for Santana earlier in the winter. They didn’t get a package comparable to the ones the Red Sox reportedly offered earlier, fronted by either Jacoby Ellsbury and Jon Lester and also containing two solid prospects nearly ready for the majors: righty Justin Masterson and shortstop Jed Lowrie.
The package just wasn’t the right one. I’m not going to compare this trade to the long-rumored and varying offers that were reportedly on the table at varying times this winter, because I’ve come around to the idea that what’s actually offered and what gets reported are two wildly different things. We can’t compare an actual trade to rumors. However, evaluating this deal in a vacuum, we see that it adds just one position player of note, one with some major flaws and who wouldn’t be one of the top ten prospects at his position in the game. The rest of the deal is mid-rotation pitching prospects.What's really funny is that I spent nearly six years at a design studio with a boss named Bill Smith. Didn't know much about baseball; the story goes that when he was taken to a game, he brought magazines to read and asked when halftime was. Possibly more legend than fact, but good for a punchline in this context.
There are mitigating circumstances here that must be noted. Santana forced Bill Smith’s hand by threatening to invoke his no-trade clause, which would have ended all talks and forced the Twins to either sign Santana or lose him at the end of the year for nothing. With the Twins looking up at the Tigers and Indians in the division, and the Red Sox and Yankees in the league, it didn’t seem reasonable to keep him in a push for success in 2008, and the Twins have never acted like signing Santana was a reasonable option for them. With Santana pointing the gun, apparently wishing to have his 2008 status settled right now, Smith had little choice but to make a deal. This trade does little for me, but when positioned as “one year of Johan Santana or this trade,” it’s a bit more defensible... Blame Bill Smith for the deal that he did make, but save a little ire for Terry Ryan, whose decision three years ago [to grant Santana the no-trade clause] set these events in motion.
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