The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Friday, July 31, 2009


Deadline Day Drama

Having a blast at the SABR Convention in Washington, DC, despite a few snafus on the navigation front (a city where the subway closes? WTF?) and a good chunk of both Thursday or Friday holed up in my hotel room working on this week's Hit List and the BP Hot Sheet. Given the travel and the deadline drama, that actually amounted to a Hit List and a half, because I had to re-write multiple entries, some of them multiple times. Take the Red Sox, please:
Shopping at V-Mart: The Sox land Victor Martinez at the deadline at a time when their offense appears to be emerging from its July funk via 42 runs in seven games, and they manage to hold onto Clay Buchholz in the process. They'll need him to step up, with John Smoltz being smoked for a 7.04 ERA through his first six starts, Tim Wakefield and an unhappy Daisuke Matsuzaka on the DL, and Brad Penny backsliding (5.07 ERA, .445 SNWP after Wednesday's debacle). Meanwhile, the Leak Fairy outs David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez as two of the 104 players who tested positive in the supposedly anonymous 2003 survey test, which should put a sock in the mouths of those so sanctimonious as to claim that the Sox had the high moral ground on the Yankees—or any other team—when it came to performance-enhancing drugs.
V-Mart killed the previous lead, involving Adam LaRoche, who was flipped to the Braves for Casey Kotchman less than a week after being acquired, as did a larger bit about Buchholz. All of that's small beer compared to the bigger news therein, the sad but hardly surprising note regarding Ortiz and Ramirez being on the 2003 list.

I like Big Papi more than most Sox haters, having written a chapter about him for Baseball Prospectus' Mind Game back in 2005; one SABR member suggested via my Facebook page that the revelations now explain why the Twins non-tendered him back in late 2002, but I'm not sure I buy that; they were awash in left-spectrum hitters at that point, they considered Ortiz out of shape, and they always discouraged his power tendencies, trying to make him hit "like a little bitch" (his words). Anyway, schadenfreude is a bitch, ain't it? I suspect he'll survive much as Manny has, with fans ultimately at least somewhat forgiving, and I think the headline to Tyler Kepner's New York Times piece ("If Every Team Was Doping, Why Use Asterisks?") speaks volumes. Also, a tip of the cap to Craig Calcaterra; just when I was starting to buy the idea -- or at least considering setting aside some time to think about possibly looking into the feasibility of potentially purchasing that cup of Kool Aid -- that the list should be released, the Shystermeister weighed in with some well-reasoned perspective.

Enough of that. A few of my pre- and post-trade takes from the BP Hot Sheet over at ESPN Insider:
Baseball Prospectus: There will be rest for the weary

The Sox made by far the best move among the three AL East contenders, acquiring a potential difference-maker who's hitting .284/.368/.464. The switch-hitting 30-year-old provides the lineup with flexibility, as he can catch or play first base, allowing the Sox to rest Jason Varitek, Kevin Youkilis, or Mike Lowell (with Youkilis shifting to third) -- a major boon given Lowell's fragility. --Jay Jaffe

Baseball Prospectus: We're scratching our heads here

Rolen's having a fantastic season (.320/.370/.476 with defense about five runs above average), but even assuming he has waived his no-trade clause, this one's a puzzler. The remaining money on Rolen's deal (about $3.5 million this year, and $11 million for next) represents a substantial burden for a notoriously cost-conscious team, and given that the Reds have lost 18 of 26, they're hardly contenders -- fifth in the NL Central at 9.5 out, ninth in the Wild Card at 10.5 out. --Jay Jaffe

Baseball Prospectus: Injury won't force Milwaukee's hand

It's somehow fitting that Jeff Suppan hit the disabled list the day before a trade deadline at which the Brewers didn't make a splash. The Brewers' highest-paid player ($12.5 million, with another $12.5 million due next year) is currently putting up a 5.27 ERA and .415 support-neutral win percentage. He is a major reason the team ranks second-to-last in the league in support-neutral value and didn't have the financial flexibility to replace the losses of CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets with a front-line starter this past winter. It appears that because the Brewers were not willing to part with a top prospect such as Mat Gamel or Alcides Escobar -- or alternatively, to trade J.J. Hardy so the latter could play -- they'll likely do little more than play out the string over the final two months of the season. And the right move was probably no move, if the best they could have obtained via one of those two highly regarded youngsters was Doug Davis. --Jay Jaffe

Baseball Prospectus: Bannister reinvents himself on the mound

Brian Bannister quietly has had a very solid season for the Royals. In one of the more fascinating little stories of 2009, he has remade himself as a pitcher by studying the pitch f/x data provided by Major League Baseball Advanced Media and abandoning his four-seam fastball in favor of a cutter to generate more ground balls [see here]. Mission accomplished: His ground-ball percentage has risen from 38 percent last season to 46 percent this season, his home run rate has fallen from 1.4 per nine innings to 0.9, and he has shaved almost two runs off his ERA. He'd be a solid No. 5 starter for a contender, and for the Yankees to balk at such a minimal price tag might rate as one of their dumber [non]moves this season. --Jay Jaffe
Now: rest for the weary. And beer. Lots of beer.

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