One of the most prominent pieces of the exhibit is a 7' x7' quilt called "My Favorite Baseball Stars," created by Clara Schmitt Rothmeier, the daughter of a minor league ballplayer. (This photo of the quilt and the other photos I link to for this article were generously provided by Susan Flamm of the AFAM for the purposes of this review). Over a ten-year period from the mid-Fifties to the mid-Sixties, Rothmeier drew pictures of her favorite players, traced them onto fabric, appliquéd and embroidered each one, then sent them to the players for their autographs. Once a panel was returned, she would add it to her quilt, embroidering the signature as well. Midway into the project, she added a border of cloth baseballs, each featuring another signature that she'd collected. The finished quilt contains forty-four panels and about three hundred autographed balls. There are some heavy hitters among those portrayed: Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Casey Stengel, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Robin Roberts, Al Kaline, and a sleeveless Ted Kluszewski. Among the signed and embroidered balls are even more legends: Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Jimmie Foxx, Frankie Frisch, Dizzy Dean, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, "Cool Papa" Bell, Bob Gibson, and Sandy Koufax. Yeah, some of those guys could play ball.Here's Rothmeier's bio on the auction site, along with links to a few of the other quilts which are up for auction:
Born in 1931, hailing from Japan, Missouri, Clara Schmitt Rothmeier was certainly no stranger to the diamond.Also via the auction site, here's a bit about her most famous quilt's trip to Cooperstown:
Clara was an accomplished baseball player as well as a quiltmaker. Her father played minor league ball in the Pittsburgh organization, and her five brothers and four sisters had all played on traveling baseball and softball teams. Clara herself played first base for a traveling softball team from Springfield, Illinois. While on the road, she started sewing to keep busy. Her "My Favorite Baseball Stars" quilt took more than 10 years to complete, has 340 actual autographs, and was exhibited in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York in 1959-1960.
She has also made quilts commemorating the 1951 and 1956 St. Louis Cardinals (her favorite club) [here and here], the major league teams of 1948, and Jackie Robinson's 1955 World Champion Dodgers [here], and the "Major League Baseball Stars" quilt [here] containing 537 actual autographs.
This quilt graced the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY from 1959-1960. Clara took the quilt to the offices of J. Taylor Spink, editor of the Sporting News in St. Louis to see if she could have a picture of the completed quilt put in the paper so that those who had contributed their names would be able to see the finished quilt.Also up for auction besides the quilts are autographed pictures, autographed baseballs and other memorabilia, and 10,000 baseball cards. I imagine this stuff will fetch a pretty penny — according to one of Rothmeier's nephews, the main attraction has been valued at "anywhere from $10,000 to six figures" — and am hopeful some high roller will step in and purchase the quilts, then loan or donate them to the Hall of Fame for exhibition so that they can be shared with the widest audience possible. This stuff is simply too cool and too unique to not to be shared.
The picture of the quilt, and Rothmeier and Spink, ran in the Sporting News in March of 1959. Sid Keener, director of the Hall of Fame, saw the picture and made arrangements with Rothmeier to have the quilt displayed in Cooperstown, where it was on public view for almost one year.
The president of the Hall of Fame invited her to go to Cooperstown to see it on display, and arranged for her to see the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs play at Doubleday Field. "After the game there was a tea party where I met the entire Cubs team including Ron Santo," Clara adds, unable to restrain her obvious love for the game. "Nobody could throw it like him!"
In addition to meeting the Cubs, Clara was able to meet many other baseball greats because of her exposure at the Hall of Fame. One such player was former Yankee great Joe DiMaggio. "I loved Joe DiMaggio the moment I met him," said Clara. "He got a lot of autographs for me, and interviewed me on his Fan in the Stands show. When he asked me if I'd do it, I was really unsure about it, and told him I wouldn't know what to say. He said, 'That's okay, nobody listens to me anyway.' Talking with him you felt like you'd known him all your life."
That year, Bibby won 19 games with a horrifically bad 75 ERA+. Nobody in baseball history has ever won that many games with a sub-80 ERA+. How did he do it? Well, for one thing, he lost 19 games, too. But, more to the point, he simply was great some days, awful on others.
In his 19 victories, he had a 2.50 ERA and the league hit .194 against him.
In his 19 losses, he had a 9.23 ERA* and the league hit .359/.443/.589 against him. To give you an idea of just how awful this, the league leading core numbers were .364/.433/.563 (Carew/Carew/Allen)...
• In his first six starts, Bibby was 4-2 with a 3.05 ERA and four complete games, including a shutout.
• In his next six starts, Bibby was 1-5 with an 8.07 ERA, and in the game he won he allowed nine runs in eight innings.
• In his next six starts (you getting the pattern?), Bibby was 5-1 with a 2.44 ERA and had two shutouts.
• In his next six starts (it's amazing how this is working), Bibby was 1-4 with a 5.91 ERA -- he actually pitched well in a couple of those games, but he did not make it out of the second inning in either of his first two starts of the stretch.
• Then he threw a shutout at Yankee Stadium.
• Then he went 3-2 with a 7.86 ERA in his next five outings.
• Then he threw a shutout against Detroit.
And so on.
It's a remarkable season. The rest of his career was not quite so up and down, not quite the same blend of brilliant and disastrous. But Jim Bibby always seemed to carry a part of 1974 with him... it seemed like most days when he went out there to pitch, a team would say "Oh man, we don't stand a chance tonight." Trouble is, you never knew which team.
Glavine made 10 All-Star teams, and was the starting pitcher in both 1991 and 1992, though his double-digit total is padded by the fact that he didn't actually pitch in four of those games (two of which were managed by Braves skipper Bobby Cox, who wasn't born last night). He won the 1991 and 1998 NL Cy Young awards, making him one of just 15 multiple award winners, and the one with the longest time between awards (Gaylord Perry, who won in 1972 and 1978, is next). He also had four other top-three finishes, three of them during Maddux's 1992-1995 run. Quite simply, he was regarded as one of the best pitchers of his day.Glavine looks great according to JAWS, ranking 24th among pitchers all-time:
Glavine won 20 games five times, a total that ranks second only to Clemens since the dawn of the designated hitter era (1973 onward), and is in a five-way tie for sixth since the advent of expansion (1961 onward). The other nine pitchers with five or more 20-win seasons in that latter group are all in the Hall except for Clemens. Now, here at Baseball Prospectus we preach the gospel that pitcher wins aren't all they're cracked up to be, as they depend upon offensive, defensive, and—increasingly since the dawn of the DH—bullpen support. According to my 2005 ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia, Glavine received offensive support that was three percent better than the park-adjusted league average up through 2004; just eyeballing it, he may have added another point or two to that rate over the final few years of his career, a period covering his latter-day tenure with the Mets as well as his swan song in Atlanta. Even so, it's quite impressive how proficient he was at garnering the W. From 1991 through 2002, the strongest portion of his career, Glavine's 209 wins rank second only to Maddux's 213.
The real question will be how quickly Glavine gets into the Hall of Fame given how crowded the 2013 (Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza) and 2014 (Glavine, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina, Jeff Kent) ballots will be. It's hardly unprecedented for 300-game winners to have to wait for entry; in fact, I count only four of the 24 such pitchers who DID gain entry on their first try (not including Veterans Committee selections): Warren Spahn, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, and Nolan Ryan. In the end, I think it's quite possible both Maddux and Glavine will join that bunch, because any writer with a story to file will have a hard time resisting voting for teammates.Rk Pitcher WARP3 Peak JAWSGlavine's career WARP ranks 21st, though his peak mark ranks just 76th, as he had just three seasons above 6.0 WARP thanks to his low strikeout rate (since his defenses were thus awarded more of the credit for his work than for a high-strikeout pitcher)... Glavine is about two points above the JAWS standard for starting pitchers, with a mark that among his contemporaries is topped only by Clemens, Maddux, Johnson and Rivera. He'll be a citizen in good standing when the Hall comes calling.
1 Walter Johnson* 161.5 87.1 124.3
2 Grover Alexander* 124.4 78.2 101.3
3 Cy Young* 142.6 59.7 101.2
4 Roger Clemens 135.1 64.6 99.9
5 Christy Mathewson* 109.6 71.1 90.4
6 Greg Maddux 115.8 59.6 87.7
7 Tom Seaver* 104.9 55.4 80.2
8 Warren Spahn* 105.3 52.9 79.1
9 Phil Niekro* 98.5 52.8 75.7
10 Steve Carlton* 91.6 55.9 73.8
11 Bob Gibson* 86.5 58.8 72.7
12T Randy Johnson 89.7 53.2 71.5
Ed Walsh** 72.7 70.2 71.5
Gaylord Perry* 91.1 51.8 71.5
15 Bert Blyleven 92.4 49.3 70.9
16 Eddie Plank** 87.7 52.5 70.1
17 Lefty Grove* 84.7 51.0 67.9
18 Fergie Jenkins* 85.5 50.1 67.8
19 Mariano Rivera 82.6 52.0 67.3
20 Robin Roberts* 82.0 49.7 65.9
21 Hal Newhouser** 68.2 56.0 62.1
22 Amos Rusie** 64.7 57.8 61.3
23 Kid Nichols** 75.7 46.2 61.0
24 Tom Glavine 81.4 40.3 60.9<<<
25T Carl Hubbell* 70.9 50.1 60.5
Pedro Martinez 71.0 49.9 60.5
27 Don Drysdale* 72.9 46.5 59.7
28 Dennis Eckersley* 77.9 40.8 59.4
AVG HOF SP 70.3 47.7 59.0
29 John Clarkson** 64.0 53.5 58.8
30 Rick Reuschel 72.5 44.7 58.6
31 Nolan Ryan* 74.0 43.1 58.6
32 Mike Mussina 74.0 41.1 57.6
33 Juan Marichal* 63.0 51.4 57.2
34 John Smoltz 74.3 39.4 56.9
*BBWAA-elected Hall of Famer
**VC-elected Hall of Famer
It's no stretch to say that the physically imposing Thomas, who swung a three-foot, five-pound piece of rebar in the on-deck circle, struck fear in the hearts of AL pitchers. The 138 walks he drew in 1991, his first full season, were the highest total in the majors since 1969, and he led the league in both OBP (.453) and EqA (.358) while bopping 32 homers. He finished third in the league's MVP voting, and his 9.5 WARP3 ranked second only to award-winner Cal Ripken's 12.5.In terms of JAWS, Thomas (90.2 Career WARP/58.1 Peak/74.2 JAWS) ranks third among first basemen (despite spending more than half his career at DH, that's where he fits, but it doesn't really matter) behind Lou Gehrig and Albert Pujols. In fact, the Big Hurt ranks 38th overall in JAWS, and 27th among non-pitchers. That's not just a Hall of Famer, that's an inner-circle one.
That was the first full season of a dominant seven-years-and-change stretch in which Thomas would hit a combined .330/.452/.600 with 1261 hits, 257 homers, and an impressive 582/879 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He led the league in OBP and EqA four times apiece during that span, won the batting title in 1997 (.347) and the slugging crown in 1994 (.729). His 38 homers in the strike-shortened year were good for a 54-homer pace, which would have far outdistances his eventual career high of 43. He led the league in WARP3 in 1992 and 1994, and took home back-to-back MVP honors in 1993 (unanimously) and 1994, having helped the White Sox to a pair of first place finishes (the latter, of course, mooted by the strike). Along the way, White Sox announcer Ken Harrelson nicknamed him "The Big Hurt" after shouting "Frank put a big hurt on that ball!" during a 1991 home run. The moniker became perhaps the era's most memorable one.
...One can make a reasonable case that Thomas was the AL's best hitter of the Nineties. His .440 OBP was the circuit's best, his .573 SLG was just eight points behind that of Albert Belle and Ken Griffey Jr., and his EqA for the decade trailed only that of Barry Bonds:Player PA EQA...On the traditional merits, his credentials [for the Hall of Fame] are certainly strong, with two MVP awards, five All-Star appearances, 521 homers, 2,468 hits, all-time top 25 rankings in OBP (.419) and SLG (.555), and the ninth-highest walk total (1667). He's one of just six hitters to total 10,000 plate appearances with a batting average above .300, an OBP above .400, and a slugging percentage above .500—the triple-slash "Golden Ratio," as my friend Nick Stone likes to call it—the others being Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Tris Speaker, and Mel Ott (stump your friends with that list, as I did on Twitter yesterday). Plus he never laid down a successful sacrifice bunt despite spending a good portion of his career under the smallball-friendly Manuel and Ozzie Guillen, which has to count for something. Thomas' only real shortcoming is a .224/.441/.429 line in 68 postseason PA.
Barry Bonds 6146 .352
Frank Thomas 6092 .343
Mark McGwire 5054 .338
Jeff Bagwell 5800 .334
Mike Piazza 4075 .326
Edgar Martinez 5589 .325
Gary Sheffield 5054 .317
Ken Griffey 6182 .314
Rickey Henderson 5452 .313
Albert Belle 5820 .313
Via BP's advanced metrics, Thomas's work should be held in similarly high esteem. His career EqA ranks in a virtual tie for 13th (i.e., not sweating the fourth decimal point) among players with at least 6,000 PA, eighth if one raises the bar to 10,000 PA:Rk Player PA EQA
1 Babe Ruth 10617 .363
2 Ted Williams 9789 .359
3 Barry Bonds 12606 .354
4 Albert Pujols 6082 .347
5 Mickey Mantle 9909 .342
6 Lou Gehrig 9660 .341
7 Rogers Hornsby 9475 .337
8 Stan Musial 12712 .332
9T Willie Mays 12493 .330
Ty Cobb 13072 .330
11T Hank Aaron 13940 .328
Mel Ott 11337 .328
13T Frank Thomas 10074 .327
Johnny Mize 7371 .327
Mark McGwire 7660 .327
Dick Allen 7314 .327
17T Dan Brouthers 7676 .326
Joe Dimaggio 7671 .326
19 Frank Robinson 11743 .324
20T Jeff Bagwell 9431 .322
Jimmie Foxx 9670 .322
It's quite a star-studded cast, and I'm honored to be part of it. Maple Street Press is also doing annuals of the Yankees, Red Sox, Twins, Phillies, Mets, Mariners, Cubs and Cardinals, and via the Twitscape, it sounds as though at least some of those books are already shipping. Each one goes for $12.99.
Amid Turmoil, Hope (2010 season preview), by Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone So Close, Again (2009 season in review), by Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. Manny Be Good? (What to expect from Ramirez in 2010), by Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus Disorder In McCourt (an analysis of the impact of the McCourts' divorce) by Joshua Fisher of Dodger Divorce State Of The Stadium, by Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. One Out Away (Jonathan Broxton looks to recover from another disappointing finish), by Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness Critical Campaigns (James Loney and Russell Martin), by Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness The Collected Colletti (a Q&A), by Josh Suchon of KABC AM 790 Aces Are Wild Cards (The last word on No. 1 starters), by Eric Enders, baseball historian Prospect Park (Top 20 prospects in the Dodger farm system), by Dodger prospect expert Richard Bostan Individually Packaged (how the Dodgers develop young arms), by Josh Suchon of KABC AM 790 No Minor Hopes (life in AAA), by Albuquerque Isotopes play-by-play announcer Robert Portnoy One In A Trillion (a Vin Scully retrospective), by Dodger team historian Mark Langill Unsung Heroes (key contributions from unexpected sources), by Bob Timmermann of The Griddle and One Through Forty-Two or Forty-Three Sweep And Low (the end of the 1980 season), by Dodger Thoughts commenter BHSportsGuy The Great Dividers (the 20 most controversial Dodgers of the 2000s), by Jon Weisman
If there was a moment that really seemed to call into question the Dodgers' ability to commit to prospects, it was when the team traded Carlos Santana and Jonathan Meloan in mid-2008 for a three-month test run of Casey Blake. (Blake re-signed with the Dodgers as a free agent after the 2008 season.) It was widely reported, to the point that almost no doubt remained, that the Dodgers included Santana, a catcher who was having an explosive year in A ball, so that they wouldn't have to pay approximately $2 million in Blake's remaining '08 salary.The entire piece is well worth reading, so kudos to Jon on that front. I'm not going to pick apart McCourt's replies, many of which do deserve some deeper dissection than the piece provides; Dodger Divorce's Josh Fisher is already hard at work on that front.
McCourt said in the interview that he had "no idea" about that aspect of the trade, that this was general manager Ned Colletti's territory. This is an example of the plausible deniability McCourt periodically exercises that seems not quite so plausible, given the level of detail with which he'll talk about other aspects of the Dodgers. Subsequent to the interview, neither Colletti nor anyone else with the Dodgers would comment about this on the record.
However, a source within the Dodgers organization insisted that the following was true: The Indians were not going to trade Blake to the Dodgers unless they got Santana in the deal. His inclusion had nothing to do with money.
If you know my policy on anonymous sources, you know that I always say you should take them with a grain of salt. So please do. But also realize that the original report was never confirmed on the record, either.
In any case, there's still a baseball debate to be had on the trade, even if Santana was the centerpiece for the Indians rather than a money-saving throw-in. Was Blake worth the price of a red-hot catching prospect? Blake had immediate value but was aging. Santana had all the promise in the world, though he was a 22-year-old in A ball who might end up moving out from behind the plate defensively.
Even if the original reports about the trade were true and the Dodgers did it to save $2 million, it's not like they haven't spent that $2 million and more elsewhere since then, and rather recklessly at times to boot (Guillermo Mota fits this bill rather perfectly). On the other hand, if my source is correct and the Dodgers simply believed Santana and Meloan for Blake was a smart move, was the team right to do it? It was debatable then, is debatable now even after Blake's presence on two division-winning Dodger teams, and will continue to be debatable for some time to come.
Focusing on the $2 million distracts from the real issue, which is how well the Dodgers evaluate players and needs, whether it's Santana for Blake, Andy LaRoche for Manny Ramirez, Tony Abreu for Jon Garland, and so on.
"The Santana trade is an example of ... the pressure to trade players in course of season," McCourt said. "You give up real value for that. Sometimes you're able to -- sometimes it's worth it, sometimes it's not. Sometimes what you give up is less than what you thought it was, sometimes it's more than what you thought it was. There's always pulls and tugs on this."
I doubt anyone will quibble with Kuroda or Kershaw as risks. Kuroda's a litle inflated in that he was out for something that's unpredictable [a line drive to the noggin which caused a concussion] and then going out again [due to a herniated disc in his neck] makes it look worse than I think it really was. Kershaw is young, threw a lot of innings (not outrageous, but an increase) and is expected to have another increase this year. Risky, yes. Red, yes, but my god, the upside. McDonald is a case where if he's the five starter on Day 1 and stays there all year, his innings increase will be insane. I doubt the Dodgers would ignore this, but I can't project that forward.Yikes. As noted before, McDonald has some competition among the ranks for the fifth starter job, including a couple of guys who popped up on colleague Kevin Goldstein's Top 11 Prospects list earlier this week, Scott Elbert and Josh Lindblom. The list is headed by shortstop Dee Gordon, son of former Yankees reliever Tom Gordon, and anagram for "Dodger One," for whatever that's worth (you're free to go to town on his full name, Devaris Strange-Gordon, if you like). Here's the list as well as Kevin's writeup of Son of Flash:
As for Billingsley - who I don't hate - he wore down in the latter stages of the season. He was pretty solid, but if I tell you that Dan Haren has a similar pattern, would it bother you? Risk is not reality, but the fact is that every single one of the Dodgers starters as we speak now is a demonstrable risk. All goes well, no worries and the Dodgers run away with the division. One thing goes bad? Meh, most teams can survive. Two or three ... not so much, especially if they have to start rushing some of their good young arms.
Five-Star ProspectsA five-star prospect is one which by Kevin's definition ranks among the top 50 prospects in the game in his forthcoming Top 100 Prospects list. While one might be skeptical about how raw Gordon is — he didn't commit to playing baseball until his senior year of high school — it's worth noting that the Dodgers were able to spin a similarly raw Matt Kemp into an All-Star caliber player. In the comments to the piece, Kevin elaborated on Gordon, "As you are watching a guy hit .300, steal 70+ bases and get to balls at short no human should get to, and you realize he's doing it without really having much of an idea of what he's doing out there. That creates tons of understandable excitement, but it doesn't come without its reservations as well."
1. Dee Gordon, SS
2. Chris Withrow, RHP
3. Ethan Martin, RHP
4. Aaron Miller, LHP
5. Scott Elbert, LHP
6. Trayvon Robinson, OF
7. Garrett Gould, RHP
8. Ivan DeJesus Jr., SS
9. Josh Lindblom, RHP
10. Kenley Jansen, RHP
11. Kyle Russell, OF
1. Dee Gordon, SS
Drafted/Signed: 4th round, 2008, Seminole CC (FL)
2009 Stats: .301/.362/.394 at Low-A (131 G)
Last Year’s Ranking: 7
Year in Review: A highly athletic shortstop, Gordon earned Midwest League co-MVP honors in a stunning full-season debut.
The Good: Gordon's tools are the best in the system by a mile, and among the best in the game, with one scout calling him, "A Jimmy Rollins starter kit." He has outstanding hand-eye coordination and a knack for contact; he has the potential to develop enough power for 10-15 home runs annually. He's a pure burner who led the league with 73 stolen bases, and he's a quick-twitch athlete with well above-average range and arm strength.
The Bad: Gordon is quite raw, and while that creates plenty of room for excitement, as he's been able to produce big numbers on sheer athleticism, there's also concern, as he's far less refined than most players his age. He needs to improve his plate discipline and work on becoming more consistent defensively, but both of those issues saw considerable improvement as the 2009 season wore on.
Ephemera: Dodgers farm director DeJon Watson was a roommate with Gordon's father, Tom, when both were minor-leaguers in the Royals system.
Perfect World Projection: He’s an All-Star shortstop.
Path to the Big Leagues: Gordon needs at least two more years in the minors, and there's still a chance he'll need to move to center field.
Timetable: Despite his performance, most see Gordon as a one-step-at-a-time player, so he'll likely spend most, if not all of 2010 at High-A Inland Empire.
Nick Stone (New York, NY): How do you see the Marcus Thames/Randy Winn/Jamie Hoffman situation shaking out? Do Thames and Winn have anything left in the tank, given last season's fades? I would have though Thames would pinch hit and Winn would then take over to avoid exposing Thames' glove (or lack thereof). Does this mean Hoffman will be returned to the Dodgers shortly?
JJ: First, I think this probably means Hoffman is going back to the Dodgers' organization. I like the natural fit between Thames (a lefty-masher) and Winn (a switch hitter whose bat died vs. lefties last year) or Granderson (who's struggled vs. southpaws lately as well), but it's worth remembering you're talking about fourth and fifth outfielders here, since Brett Gardner is projected to start somewhere, too.
The other good thing about Thames is that he can spot for Nick Johnson at DH against tough lefties, though the Stick has had at least some success against southpaws as well.
Jquinton82 (NY): A pair of Yankees questions for you Jay: 1) Who do you think is a better bet for the 5th spot in the rotation Hughes or Chamberlain? 2) When do you see Jesus Montero breaking in and will it be behind the plate or somewhere else?
JJ: Right now I think Hughes is the better bet, and I'd love to see how well his arsenal plays out multiple times through the order given the addition of that cut fastball. I think [moving back to the bullpen is] a waste of Chamberlain's talents, though, and I'd rather both were taking their turn every fifth day.
With Posada signed through next year, the Yanks have plenty of time to figure out whether Montero can actually catch at a big league level. At best perhaps he gets a September callup. If he can't cut it this year behind the plate, I think you start working on the idea that he's a corner outfielder/DH. But as somebody who's not a prospect guy...
Scott (DC): If the Reds find a huge pile of money under the mattress and add Johnny Damon, do they instantly become favorites for the Wild Card?
JJ: Man, if the Reds understood anything about the marginal win curve, they'd already have signed Damon. He'd be a nice fit in that park, and they really could use his bat atop that lineup.
Then again, that they haven't signed him suggests that maybe they know too much about the conditions of some of those young arms. Say a prayer for Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez tonight.
tommybones (brooklyn): Do you think Carl Crawford gets dealt before the deadline this year, paving the way for Jennings? Or do you see an outfield of Crawford, Jennings and Upton heading into August?
JJ: I think it all depends upon where the Rays are in the standings. Crawford is obviously more likely to get dealt if they're out of it.
That said, it's going to be *very* interesting to see what happens, because there's a line of thinking that says they keep Crawford and trade Upton at the point when his value is on the rise again. Remember, they've also got to figure out where Ben Zobrist fits, and Matt Joyce... suffice it to say that they've got an enviable amount of depth and flexibility.
garethbluejays1 (Newcastle, UK): Are there any free agents left unsigned who could be useful to contending teams?
JJ: I realize it's a well-kept secret that Johnny Damon is still looking for work. Beyond him, Russell Branyan, Rocco Baldelli, Joe Beimel, Carlos Delgado, Jermaine Dye, Pedro Martinez, Chan Ho Park, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield and Jarrod Washburn all strike me as players who could help somebody win. Not necessarily by getting 500 PA worth of playing time, mind you, and maybe not getting enough playing time to satisfy their own estimations of their talent. Park can pitch out of my bullpen, but if he wants to start, fuggedaboutit.
mattymatty2000 (Philly, PA): Jay - I know you don't write the headlines, so I'm purely asking for your opinion here. Two years ago one of the pictures on the cover of BP '08 was of Clay Buchholz, with the caption reading "Better Than Joba". My question: was it true then, and is it true now? Thanks for the chat.
JJ: It's pretty subjective any way you slice it. Both pitchers have had flashes of brilliance in the majors, and both have taken their lumps to the point where a lot of people wondered if they'd be better off traded.
Joba's got a clear edge in terms of the big league numbers he's put up overall (3.61 in ~280 innings vs. 4.91 ERA in ~180 innings), but Buchholz is riding the stronger trend in terms of making the necessary adjustments to survive in the majors. FWIW, PECOTA sees both at coming in with ERAs around 3.80 this year.
Shortstop: Yuniesky Betancourt (.220 EqA, -1.4 WARP), Willie Bloomquist (.241 EqA, 0.6 WARP), and Mike Aviles (.154 EqA, -0.6 WARP), Royals• I wrote about the potential landing spots for Johnny Damon in the wake of the Randy Winn signing, which finally closed the door on just about every last shred of hope that he might return to the Yankees. Here are two of the six options I identified:
Royals general manager Dayton Moore has produced his share of headscratchers and howlers, turning the team into a laughingstock even in the eyes of its most ardent supporters. But no move generated—or deserved—quite as much ridicule as the team's mid-July acquisition of Betancourt, who at the time was already vying for this list in Seattle via a .220 EqA, -8 FRAA and -0.9 WARP in just 62 games. To be fair, the Royals did actually enter the year with a better plan at short; Aviles had hit .325/.354/.480 in two-thirds of a season as a rookie in 2008, good enough to place fourth in the Rookie of the Year balloting. Alas, he struggled at the start of the year due to forearm soreness, and was found to need Tommy John surgery, which he underwent around the All-Star break, just before Betancourt hit town. In the interim, the team had tried Bloomquist, Luis Hernandez (11-for-51) and Tony Peña Jr. (5-for-50 before giving up the hitting business in favor of pitching). At the very least, Betancourt's daily availability allowed manager Trey Hillman to devote time to not solving a variety of other problems.
Remedy (?): The Royals will actually pay Betancourt to return to work in 2010—in fact they're obligated to pay him $8 million over the next three years (including his 2012 buyout). The rehabbing Aviles is hoping to be ready for spring training, but how he'll fit back into the lineup once he proves his health is unclear; as unglovely as he is, incumbent second baseman Alberto Callaspo did hit a tidy .300/.356/.457 last year. One thing is for certain: whatever typically cockeyed solution the Royals come up with, it won't cost them the pennant.
Mariners: Between the free agent signing of Chone Figgins and the trades for Bradley and Cliff Lee, the Mariners have probably done more to improve their 2010 chances than any team. Last year's left field situation was a veritable Vortex of Suck, with Wladimir Balentien, Endy Chavez, Michael Saunders et al hitting a combined .219/.276/.333, the worst showing at any outfield position in the majors in terms of REqA (Raw Equivalent Average). Bradley figures to see the bulk of his time at DH, since as Joe Sheehan famously remarked, "Bradley can only do any two of these three things at once: hit, play the field, stay healthy." PECOTA is quite optimistic about a rebound: .277/.393/.463/.295 EqA. It's less so about the idea of handing left field over to the 23-year-old Saunders, the team's second-best prospect, projecting a .249/.320/395/.247 EqA line. Damon would obviously represent a significant upgrade, and while there's been relatively little noise about this possibility, GM Jack Zduriencik is one of the sharper tools in the shed.• I examined the competitive ecology of the game's six divisions using a few tools developed by my Baseball Prospectus colleagues:
Giants: Elsewhere in that shed, Brian Sabean continues to pound screws into bricks with a garden rake. Given an offense that finished last in the majors with a .244 EqA, Sabean has thrown about $35 million in 2010-2011 commitments at DeRosa, Aubrey Huff, Freddy Sanchez, Bengie Molina, and Juan Uribe, none of whom are strong steps in the direction of boosting that. Huff and Molina were below .260 last year, Uribe's at .242 for his career, and both DeRosa and Sanchez are coming off injuries that led to unproductive post-trade stints; the latter isn't even likely to be available for opening day given recent shoulder surgery. Projected for a .267/.346/.428/.269 EqA performance, DeRosa's production appears to be light for a corner outfielder. He'd make far more sense at second or third base, with a concomitant shift of Pablo Sandoval to first base to do away with Huff's similarly subpar production (.274/.340/.436/.268 EqA) and dodgy defense Sabean ruled out Damon last month, and while it happened at the same media session in which he dismissed a return engagement from Molina, it's clear that Damon is just too fancy for the GM's taste.
Having gotten the lay of the land in terms of wins and losses, we turn our attention to money. Factoring payrolls into the equation, specifically end-of-year payrolls, which include salaries, signing bonuses, earned incentive bonuses, buyouts of unexercised options, deferred cash, and more (BP alumnus Maury Brown's got the details here), here's how the divisions ranked in 2009 according to Marginal Payroll dollars per Marginal Win, which is computed according to the formula (club payroll - (28 x major league minimum)) / ((winning percentage - .300) x 162):• Spinning that off because of positive reception, I began a series on each division, discussing the nuances of each team's competitive ecology. First up is the NL East; here's what I had to say about the Mets:Division Avg Payroll WPCT MP/MWThe two Wests, which had the lowest average payrolls of any division, were very close in terms of MP/MW, and got considerably more bang for their buck than the rest of the divisions. What may be the most surprising is the AL Central's relative inefficiency. While the Orioles ($4.4 million) spent more per marginal win than any AL club, the Royals ($4.3 million) and Indians ($4.0 million) both spent more than the Yankees ($3.8 million, not even high enough to crack the top five), while the Tigers ($3.4 million) and White Sox ($3.1 million) both spent more than the Red Sox ($2.8 million).
NL West $85,634,258 .519 $2,102,663
AL West $90,797,019 .531 $2,128,263
NL Central $93,843,462 .482 $2,795,709
NL East $97,489,694 .488 $2,838,477
AL East $119,028,142 .520 $3,028,880
AL Central $95,379,003 .470 $3,048,658
Turning to the three-year picture, we see that aside from the AL East, there isn't much that's separating the teams by this measure:The two West divisions remain the most efficient ones, and while the AL East is by far the most expensive on a per-win basis, the two Centrals are getting very little for their money.
Division Avg Payroll WPCT MP/MW
NL West $85,968,141 .500 $2,311,548
AL West $94,038,461 .511 $2,436,833
NL East $87,713,776 .493 $2,461,417
AL Central $89,639,497 .490 $2,555,610
NL Central $90,966,392 .490 $2,600,034
AL East $119,257,244 .520 $3,034,541
Following final-day eliminations from contention in 2007 and 2008 with a nightmarish campaign in which they seemed to invent new ways to lose games, players and credibility on a weekly basis, the Mets have become the game's biggest punchline. As doubts about their finances, medical staff and decision-making processes have sprung up, the team with the NL's highest average payroll over the past three years hasn't been able to reap the benefits of a single playoff appearance. Indeed, their 0.54 PER' [Payroll Efficiency Rating, the ratio between their Estimated Marginal Revenue (derived from win totals and market size) to Expected Marginal Revenue (derived from payroll)] in 2009 is the league's lowest single-year mark of the timespan, and their three-year mark is the league's second lowest.So now you're more or less caught up. Back later with some excerpts from today's BP chat.
Of course, that's hardly a surprising outcome given the fact that the Mets lost 1,451 days and $52.2 million worth of salary to the disabled list in 2009 (both MLB highs), as a variety of disasters befell seven of the team's 10 highest-paid players. All salaries in millions of dollars:Rk Player '09 Sal Fut. Sal DL DaysThose top five players qualify as Auction Market salaries, which helps explain why the Mets declined so sharply from their 2007-2008 WARP levels in that category, falling from fourth to sixth to ninth in the majors from 2007 to 2009. They've got the equivalent of more than a year's worth of payroll tied up in four of those players (for nine player-seasons) going forward, and their 2011 payroll commitments are already over $108 million, so they'll have to pray for strong rebounds. They'll also have to hope that marquee free agent signing Jason Bay, whose four-year, $66 million deal ranks as the winter's third-largest, holds up as well given the concerns about his knee which apparently cooled the Red Sox's interest in retaining him.
1 Carlos Beltran $20.1 $40.1 78
2 Johan Santana $20.0 $93.0 42*
3 Carlos Delgado $12.0 - 144*
4 Oliver Perez $12.0 $24.0 104
5 Billy Wagner $10.5 - 137
9 Jose Reyes $6.1 $9.9 134*
10 J.J. Putz $6.0 - 119*
*Ended season on disabled list
Even more unsettling is the fact that the Mets fell from 14th to 18th to 28th in terms of WARP from Non-Market salaries over the three-year period. Again, injuries were part of the story, as players like Angel Pagan (3.7 WARP), John Maine (0.4 WARP) and Fernando Martinez (-0.7 WARP) all spent at least 80 days on the DL, too. On the other hand, the regular lineup presence of soph Daniel Murphy (0.6 WARP while splitting his time between the two positions where the offensive bar is the highest, first base and left field) didn't help matters either.
Of course, last year marked the Mets' debut in Citi Field, an attractive, intimate replacement for their Shea Stadium dive, but one with 27 percent less seating capacity, which will likely produce a drag on revenues even given higher ticket prices. If there's any good news to be found, it's that the farm system is on the rise thanks to the team's international scouting efforts, and that the 2010 season couldn't possibly bring more bad news for the franchise than the past year did. At least until Omar Minaya's impending firing opens up a whole new can of tabloid whoop-ass.
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