San Diego Padres Trade away Chase Headley and Huston Street

A few days ago, the Padres traded their closer Huston Street to the Los Angeles Angels for four prospects: José Rendón, Taylor Lindsey, Elliot Morris, and R.J. Álvarez. It was a great haul for the Padres, who as a terrible team doesn’t need a closer, and a huge overpay for the Angels.

The Angels do need to fortify their bullpen, but not only are they giving up too much to fill that need, they’re overreacting to a career half-season by Street. In the 3 seasons leading up to this one, Street has a 2.92 ERA, but a 3.84 FIP. This season he has a minuscule 1.03 ERA and very good 2.83 FIP. Even when factoring in Petco Park, which is one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the majors, Street’s current BABIP of .198 on batters faced is grossly unsustainable. Though the Angels park is also pitcher-friendly, he’s due for some major regression. The Zips and Steamer projections systems have Street’s ERA at 3.75 and 3.40 for the rest of the season, respectively. It’s highly doubtful that he’ll be worth even 1 extra win the rest of the way. Quite frankly, even if he delivers 2 WAR the rest of the season and is very effective in high leverage situations, that still wouldn’t be worth the Angels weakening their already poor farm system.

Because the Angels farm system is so weak, they didn’t give up anything major to acquire Street, but it was still too much. I’m not going to go into each prospect in detail, as the scouting information on these players are behind paywalls. Suffice it to say that Rendón is the best of the bunch, and has a future as a major league shortstop. Lindsey is a flawed 2nd baseman, but hopefully the Padres can help with that. Morris projects as a reliever and Álvarez is already one. Again, it’s not like they traded Byron Buxton or Kris Bryant for Street, but it was still too much.

Sadly, at the end of the day, the Angels became the latest in a long line of teams that over value the Proven Closer™. Kudos to the San Diego Padres for leveraging that foolishness to their advantage. If only I could be as complimentary regarding Chase Headley…

The New York Yankees recently acquired Chase Headley in a trade with the San Diego Padres. In exchange, they sent Yangervis Solarte and minor leaguer Rafael De Paula. The Padres will also pay $1 million of the roughly $5 million left on Headley’s contract for the rest of the season. It’s a peculiar trade, as it doesn’t really help either side much.

The shame of it all is that the Padres really screwed up with Headley, not this season, but after his career year in 2012. That season, Headley hit .286/.376/.498 with 31 HR and Gold Glove caliber defense at third base. His offense was good for a 145 wRC+ and 6.3 WAR. The season before that he had a 120 wRC+, but was roughly league average offensively in the seasons leading up to it. Since his breakout 2012, Headley has declined. He turned back into pre-2012 Headley last season and has been flat-out bad in 2014. This season he has hit .229/.296/.355 for a poor 87 wRC+. His dWAR is actually higher than his oWAR. Headley has been better as of late, but unless the Yankee scouts saw some reason for that uptick in production to be real, it’s meaningless. The Zips projection system has Headley at .252/.330/.422 and a 107 wRC+ for the rest of the season. That’s obviously an improvement, but that’ll likely net the Yankees 1 extra win the rest of the way. In a tight AL East, that’s not so bad.

The Yankees just didn’t have a lot of options to upgrade the team. Sure, they have a lot of spots that need upgrading, but with a weak farm system they don’t have the pieces they need to acquire any real difference maker. Solarte and De Paula are B-level prospects at best. Solarte is a replacement level player, likely to max out at 1 WAR in his future seasons in the majors. I’m not even sure he’ll have a future. Unless he gets hot again, the Padres are likely to cut him at the end of the season. From the Padres point of view, the success of this trade hinges on De Paula. It all depends on whether or not De Paula sticks as a starting pitcher, or if he has to be moved to the bullpen. Hopefully, pitching in spacious Petco Park will help him remain a starting pitcher.

Where the Padres really screwed up is in not deciding on Headley’s future sooner. Former GM Josh Byrnes really dropped the ball on this one, which is one of the reasons why he got fired recently. After Headley’s stellar 2012, Byrnes should’ve either signed him long-term, or traded him. One of a GM’s primary jobs is to evaluate talent. Byrnes failed to even make an evaluation one way or the other. If he thought Headley’s 2012 was real, he should’ve signed him to an extension. If he thought it was a fluke, which is seemingly was, then he should’ve traded him. The haul would’ve dwarfed what the Padres just got for Headley. I’m sure they would’ve gotten one, maybe 2 high-end prospects for him. What a shame.

Chase Headley will definitely be an upgrade for the Yankees, albeit a small one. His glove will likely be a bigger help than his bat. Of course he gets a walk-off hit on his first day with the Yankees.

American League wins 5-3 in 2014 MLB All-Star Game

Yeah I know the All-Star game was 3 days ago. And I know that there’s no excuse for not having written this earlier since there was no baseball games the last 2 days. I can’t even claim that I had something going on the last couple of nights that didn’t leave me with any time to write. Boy, if I had an editor, he’d be furious!

*****

Before I delve into what happened in the game, I need to point out how MLB and Fox neglected to honor Tony Gwynn, Don Zimmer, and others who we lost in the past year. Gwynn’s omission was the most egregious. How do you not honor one of the greatest hitters of all time? How do you ignore the death of a man who made 15 All-Star games at the All-Star game?  Fox and MLB released a statement in response to all the justifiable outrage:

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, an extraordinary individual whose memory we have honored in numerous ways in recent weeks. The Baseball family has sadly lost a number of people this year – including Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner, Frank Cashen, and former All-Stars Jerry Coleman, Jim Fregosi and Don Zimmer – and did not want to slight anyone by singling out one individual.”

What a load of crap. This is pure damage control. They would’ve been better off saying nothing. Personally, I would’ve preferred that they just say,”We screwed up. We’re sorry. We’ll make this right.”

The above quote is especially embarrassing given how they covered Derek Jeter that night. The excessive coverage of him that night could be construed as a slight to every other player at the game. Check out these numbers that Sam Miller, the new editor-in-chief at Baseball Prospectus, gathered from the game:

  • Jeter mentions (my count): 84, plus five times by a chanting crowd
  • Jeter cut-to shots: 90
  • Jeter in slow motion: 27

Second place was Mike Trout with 38 mentions. There was a steep drop off after Andrew McCutchen at 20. If you’re really feeling masochistic, you can check out this video at Deadspin that collected 100 mentions of Jeter in one clip. To be fair, it included mentions in pre-game and post-game coverage.

Gwynn got screwed. The Legend of Derek Jeter strikes again. Let me be perfectly clear: Tony Gwynn was better than Derek Jeter. Both players’ value was almost completely tied into their bats1, and hopefully I don’t have to convince you that Gwynn’s was better. What do you think the perception of Gwynn’s career would’ve been had be been born 14 years later and got drafted by the Yankees in 1992? What would the perception be had Gwynn played on the most prestigious team in history, been part of the Yankee dynasty in the late 90s, had 5 rings, and had all that team success? Remember that Gwynn was also one of the most likeable guys you’d ever meet and kept out of trouble.

Fox and MLB decided not to honor a deceased all-time great, not to mention the others who we’ve lost in the past year. Instead, they chose to spend almost 4 hours servicing Derek Jeter like one of his gift basket recipients.

*****

On the broadcasting side of things, ESPN and Fox did a terrible job. Chris Berman, John Kruk, and the camera work was terrible during the Home Run Derby. Berman and Kruk added nothing to the broadcast, and were more of a distraction than anything else. ESPN normally does a great job producing MLB, but that night the cameras had trouble tracking balls and were overly focused on the crowds. Much to my surprise, the best part was Pedro Gómez. I’m not a fan of his work at all, but he did an excellent job translating the spanish-speaking players on live TV. He was the only good thing ESPN had going that night.

As you might’ve guessed, I did not listen to the Fox broadcast because I’m not a masochist. I muted the TV and listened to Jon Schiambi and Chris Singleton call the game on ESPN radio. They did a great job. I did hear afterwards that Joe Buck said that someday Mike Trout can be as good as Derek Jeter. What a crock of horse crap. Trout’s worst season is better than Jeter’s best. If Trout ends up as no better than Jeter, he will have been a disappointment.

*****

The 2014 All-Star game was the best one in years. That would mean more if the bar wasn’t so low. The game was close throughout, and there was an adequate amount of scoring and elite pitching. Past problems persist, however. There are too many pitching changes and the starters — the players that the fans actually voted to see — are pulled too early. What we get in place are reserves and relievers that are, for the most part, only there because they got hot at the right time. Despite everything there is to complain about, I still enjoyed the game because I’m a baseball junkie. The first few innings were legitimately fun to watch.

The National League could’ve had a chance to win if it wasn’t for manager Mike Matheny doing Mike Matheny things. As a manger, Matheny improved last year after a terrible rookie year managing. Unfortunately, he seems to have taken a few steps back this year2, and it contributed to the NL’s loss.  Contending NL teams and their fans should be ticked off at him. I know I’d be if my Mets had any shot at making the World Series.

The very first play of the game involved a hard hit ball by Andrew McCutchen between shortstop and 2nd base. Derek Jeter dove to his left, yes his left, and nearly threw out the speedy McCutchen. As great as it would’ve been had Jeter thrown out McCutchen, I’m glad he didn’t. The interet would’ve broke with all the Jeter-defense apologists saying,”SEE!!! SEE!!! HE IS GOOD AT SHORTSTOP!!! THIS ONE ANECDOTAL EXAMPLE DISPROVES 20 SEASONS OF HAVING POOR LATERAL AGILITY!!! CHOKE ON YOUR FACTS AND EMPIRICISM, NERDS!!!”

In the bottom of the first, NL starter Adam Wainwright got knocked around a little bit. Clayton Kershaw, on the other hand, had a 1-2-3 inning in the second. I am in no way bringing this up in order to criticize Mike Matheny for selecting his own guy to start over the more deserving Kershaw. It really doesn’t matter3. It’s also not fair because after Jeter, Wainwright faced Mike Trout, Robinson Canó, and Miguel Cabrera. Talk about a murderer’s row. Kershaw faced Adam Jones, Josh Donaldson, and Salvador Pérez. Obviously he had it easier.

I also want to say that I have no problem with Wainwright if he did indeed “groove one” to Jeter. Let’s not allow Terrible Commissioner Bud Selig making the game count get in the way of Wainwright trying to create a great moment. It worked too! I’m happy to see the all-time great get a lead-off double in his last All-Star game.

One of the biggest problems with the All-Star game reared its ugly head again. The stars, the players that fans actually voted to see, only last 5 or 6 innings. Look at some of the substitutions. Did anybody want to see Brandon Moss come in for Mike Trout? Devin Mesoraco for Jonathan Lucroy? Dee Gordon for Chase Utley? José Altuve for Robinson Canó? Charlie Blackmon for Andrew McCutchen? Did fans wants to see Miguel Montero at all? Josh Harrison? Tony Watson? Fernando Rodney? Daniel Murphy? I like Murph just fine, but even as a Mets fan I didn’t care to see him in the All-Star game. This doesn’t even being to mention how these substitutions hurt the team’s chances to win.

AL manager John Farrell seemed to understand this so much better than Mike Matheny. Though he made mistakes, he grossly outmanaged him. Farrell started the first 5 innings with the following pitchers: Félix Hernández, Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Chris Sale, and Max Scherzer. He used the 5 best pitchers at his disposal. Matheny was on the right track starting with Wainwright and Kershaw, but then he went to Alfredo Simón. Alfredo Simón. He’s a career replacement level pitcher whose current success can be attributed to an extremely lucky and unsustainable .232 BABIP. He brought in this pitcher face the top of the lineup. This is tactically insane and completely void of logic. Simón only allowed 1 hit so Matheny lucked out. Matheny followed with Greinke in the 4th inning. Good descision. He then started the 5th with Pat Neshek. Terrible decision. I know he grew up in Minnesota, but it was tied with half the game left to go. Neshek has been a replacement level pitcher for 5 seasons. His current hot streak can be attributed to a ridiculous amount of good luck. He has a miniscule .172 BABIP against batters faced. His HR/FB of 1.9% is a whopping 7.1% below his career average. It’s all a mirage. He got the first batter out, but sure enough, he gave up 3 straight hits to to give the AL the lead. So with men on 2nd and 3rd and 1 out, what does Matheny do? He brings in Tyler Clippard of course! He’s better than Neshek, but in this high leverage situation I would’ve brought in Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman to put out the fire. Granted, it was too late as the NL would never regain the lead, but it would’ve been the right decision. He finished the game by going with Francisco Rodríguez4, Craig Kimbrel, Tony Watson, and Aroldis Chapman.

To be fair, Matheny didn’t have the best pitching staff to work with. If I were him, I would’ve let Wainwright and Kershaw go at least 3 innings each. All-Star manager need to stop with showcasing lesser pitchers in a game that counts. Only 5 of the 10 pitchers, and 2 of the last 6, Matheny used can fairly be described as All-Stars. My only criticism of Farrell’s pitching management is using King Félix for only 1 inning and using Fernando Rodney at all, even though it was just for 1/3 of an inning. I would’ve stretched out Felix and avoided Scott Kazmir. Not perfect, and he did make some bizarre offensive subsitutions, but overall John Farrell did very well.

On the offensive side, Matheny wasn’t much better. His 6th inning substitutions basically conceded the game. He took out Troy Tulowitski for Starlin Castro. He replaced Andrew McCutchen, the NL’s best player last year, with Charlie Blackmon. Blackmon is yet another player at the Midsummer Classic who rode a hot start to an All-Star selection. He had a great April and has been terrible since then, not to mention that he was replacement level for the 3 seasons prior. Worst of all, he pulled Carlos Gómez in exchange for Josh Harrison. He sucks. Did Pirates fans even want to see him play? What could Matheny have possibly been thinking? I will give him points for pulling Aramis Ramírez for Todd Frazier. That was an upgrade. Sure enough, Greg Holland made short work of Harrison and Blackmon in the next inning.

Perhaps Matheny’s worst decision of the game came in the 8th inning. Down 2 runs, with one out and a man on 1st, Giancarlo Stanton was due up against Sean Doolittle. Great match up. Stanton has the platoon advantage and is very capable of tying up the game with one swing. Matheny decided that this is when he’d put Anthony Rizzo in the game. I’m sure he would never do such a thing during the regular season, but he put in the lefty to face one of the best left-handed relievers in the game. He struck out on 5 pitches. The team would not score in the inning. Finally, his terrible substitutions came back around in the 9th inning to bite him in the rear. The NL lost the game with Miguel Montero, Josh Harrison, and Charlie Blackmon going down in order.

Mike Trout won the All-Star MVP. I thought Jeter would’ve been a lock to win it. It’s a good story, though, having Jeter pass the torch to Trout. Trout is becoming the new face of baseball. It’s shame that this is his first MVP. Hopefully, he’ll win the season MVP this year after getting screwed the past 2 seasons. However, I don’t put any faith in the BBWAA when it comes to the MVP. Every year, when it comes to deciding the award, they seemingly create a different set of subjective criteria to push whatever narrative they want. I’m happy when the right player wins the MVP, but the BBWAA has turn that award into a farce.

Part of me hopes that the Cardninals make the World Series, so that in Games 6 and 7, Matheny looks back at all the mistakes he made in the All-Star game that prevented him from playing those games at home. It’s a shame that another NL team could pay for his mistakes. However, the AL team in the World Series owes Matheny a gift basket.

 


  1. Yes Jeter played a more valuable position than Gwynn, but I give him little to no credit for that since he played the position so poorly. 
  2. I won’t go into detail here as to why Matheny is worse than last year as it is beyond the scope of this column. Perhaps in a future Baseball Reactions post. 
  3. It only matters if you’re foolish enough to take anything considering the All-Star game into account when evaluating careers, especially for the Hall of Fame. 
  4. I hate Francisco Rodriguez. 

Baseball Reactions (7-11-2014)

On Monday, my New York Mets won in walk-off fashion over the Atlanta Braves, thanks to a game-winning single by Ruben Tejada. The noteworthy event of the game was, of course, the overturned out call at 2nd base in the bottom of the 9th.

Juan Lagares came up to the plate in a tie game, with no outs in the bottom of the 9th, and Eric Campbell on 1st. He bunted the first pitch he saw down the 3rd base line in order to advance the runner. I’m absolutely ok with this bunt. Lagares is not known for his power, and in this instance, you know with absolute metaphysical certitude that 1 run will win you the game. There’s nothing wrong with playing to maximize the chance to score a single run when it’ll win you the game.

Since this was an obvious situation to bunt, Braves 3rd baseman Chris Johnson was ready for it. The bunt was a little hard, so Johnson thought he could get the runner at 2nd, thus negating the desired result. It had appeared to work, though the double play couldn’t be pulled off because Tejada beat the throw to 1st. Mets manager Terry Collins came out to challenge the play at 2nd, claiming that the foot of Andrelton Simmons came off the bag when he caught the throw. Click below for a replay of what happened:

Well, it looks like Collins was right. The problem is that it’s against the rules to challenge a neighborhood play. For as long as baseball has been around, shortstops and 2nd basemen have turned double plays by catching and throwing the ball near the bag without every actually touching it. It’s done to rush the play and to keep safe from the runner sliding hard in an attempt to break up the double play. As long as the infielder catches the ball in the “neighborhood” of the base, the runner is called out. I’m fine with emphasizing safety in college, high school, and little league, but in pro ball you have to touch the base. For some reason that has never been the case, and MLB won’t even allow replay to correct this.

Anyway, the play got overturned, which was a big deal for the Braves since it resulted in a man in scoring position with only 1 out during a tie game in the bottom of the 9th. It was also a big deal because neither the umps on the field nor the one reviewing the play knew that they were breaking the rules. Either that, or I would love to know what Collins said to convince them to do so. Braves manager Fredi González was understandably irate. He got ejected.

Setting my Mets fandom aside, I felt torn by what happened. In the end, the umps got the call right, which is what should matter most, but they broke the rules to do it. There are already far too many umpshows1 in baseball. Letting the umps act outside of the rules might enable that kind of behavior. Had the call resulted in the Mets winning the game, I’m sure it would’ve gotten a lot more attention.

*****

Poor Masahiro Tanaka. I may be a life long hater of the New York Yankees, but I hate to see anybody get hurt, especially when it involves the UCL of a dominant pitcher. It has been reported that Tanaka’s UCL is less than 10% torn. This has been confirmed by 3 different doctors and all 3 have recommended rehab over Tommy John surgery. Tanaka is expected to miss at least a month.

You don’t exactly need a brilliant baseball mind to figure out what a blow this is to the Yankees. Tanaka leads the team in fWAR with 3.2, which is twice the amount of the 2nd best starter on the Yankees, fellow countryman Hiroki Kuroda. His WAR is also tied for 4th in the AL among starting pitchers, and just 0.3 WAR behind the 3rd place pitchers2. As Jason Stark put it last night on the seamhead edition of Baseball Tonight3, the Yankees without Tanaka are basically the Mets (thanks a lot Stark)4. It’s now likely that they won’t make the postseason for the second year on a row.

Tanaka’s injury came as a surprise to no one. In Japan, Tanaka had high pitch counts. Before that, it’s tough to say. He very well may have had a history of arm abuse and poor mechanics before his breakout season last year. It is common for kids in Japan to learn to throw several different kinds of pitches, which is the complete opposite of America. In America, kids normally have 2 pitches max. When you throw so many different kinds of pitches, especially when you’re young and inexperienced, it’s easy to throw a lot of them with poor mechanics, thus increasing the likelihood of injury.

During his first season in the states, Tanaka was over reliant on his splitter. He led the league in splitter usage, as it was 25% of his pitches thrown. He also threw it the hardest, averaging 86.5 MPH. The problem with throwing the splitter that hard, that much, is that it’s known to be bad for your elbow. That’s a big reason why kids are discouraged from throwing it. Here’s what the grip for a splitter looks like:

Looks painful doesn’t it? Throwing a ball with that grip puts a lot of strain on your elbow. In addition, the baseball in America is bigger than the one used in Japan, which obviously would cause even more strain. Former pitcher David Cone has stated that he didn’t believe Tanaka would have a problem because of his clean mechanics. That’s probably true, but for all we know he may have spent years throwing the splitter with poor mechanics before his breakout season last year.

The peculiar thing is that his splitter isn’t THAT good. From what I’ve read and heard, scouts have graded it out as a 60 pitch, 65 max. It’s still a good, solid out pitch that Tanaka has had a tremendous amount of success with up to date. However, I’m skeptical on how long Tanaka can succeed with his splitter. Let’s take a look at the zone profile of Tanaka’s splitter usage. All pitching data in this post comes courtesy of Brooks Baseball:

Look at how many of his splitters miss the strike zone. It’s working because the late movement on the pitch is fooling a lot of hitters. Check out this zone profile of hitters’ swing-and-miss rate against his splitter.

Taking these zone profiles into account, we can conclude that hitters are swinging and missing at a lot at his splitters that dip out of the zone. With a good but unspectacular 60 splitter, do you think he can get away with this forever? I believe that eventually hitters will let those splitters go by low for a ball. That’s what major league hitters do. They adjust.

The king of the splitter in all of baseball is Red Sox closer Koji Uehara. If that isn’t an 80 grade splitter, I would love for somebody to show me what one is. Uehara is mostly a 2-pitch guy, throwing either the fastball or splitter. Obviously that means that he throws the splitter ~50% of the time, which means he throws it at about twice the rate of Tanaka. He gets away with it because he throws it at an average of 81 MPH, 5 MPH less than Tanaka, and as a reliever, he has thrown far fewer pitches than Tanaka. Uehara has thrown 261 splitters and 599 total pitches this season. By comparison, Tanaka has thrown 490 splitters and 1,913 total pitches this season. It should be noted, though, that Uehara does have an injury history despite his infrequent usage.

*****

A few more thoughts on the latest All-Star selection news, because it’s not like I talked enough about it before.

The fans got the final vote right! They selected Chris Sale for the AL and Anthony Rizzo for the NL. It’s too bad that the fans knew enough to select one of the best pitchers in the AL, while the players and John Farrell didn’t. Furthermore, I’m not confident that the right choices would’ve been made had the final vote been in the hands of the players and coaches. What a shame.

Back to the fans, a lot of them were upset that Garrett Richards did not win the final vote. He is flat-out, not an All-Star, especially over Sale. Richards is having an excellent season so far, to be sure. He has an ERA and FIP of 2.71, 25.3 K%, and 3.1 WAR this season. Unfortunately, his track record does not indicate that this is real. He was worth only 1.5 WAR last season and was replacement level before that. His K% is also 6.5% higher than his career average. He’s also been helped with a .262 BABIP against hitter he’s faced (league average is .297). This is only Richards’ 4th season, so perhaps he’s turning into the pitcher that he really is. We just have to see more before we conclude that. If he’s still pitching like this a year from now, then he’ll have a more compelling All-Star case.

I was happy to hear that Ian Kinsler made it in. Unfortunately, it came at the expense of Victor Martínez having to sit out due to injury. There was no reason for both him and Nelson Cruz to be on the team anyway. Two DHs is unnecessary. The AL team is better for having Kinsler instead.

Sadly, Yadier Molina will miss the All-Star game due to his devastating thumb injury, and more importantly, 8-12 weeks of the regular season. I’m saddened for all Cardinal fans, as well as myself. I’m probably not supposed to say this as a Mets fan, but I love Yadi. He’s a Puerto Rican who plays my favorite position better than anybody else in baseball. I was hoping they would replace him with Buster Posey. Instead, they selected Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero. He’s having a fine season, but his claim to fame is two 4 WAR seasons in 2011 and 2012. Posey should be in over him and Jonathan Lucroy. Track record is more important than a half season of performance. Montero has 10.2 WAR since 2011. Posey has been worth 16.1 WAR since 2011, and that’s with missing most of 2011 due to the catastrophic injury he suffered on a home plate collisions. I don’t know if the players or Mike Matheny selected Lucroy as a reserve, but the right choice would’ve been to select Posey, and when Yadi went down, to move Posey into the starting role and select Lucroy as the back up. I think Lucroy is turning himself into a star, but Molina and Posey have set the bar pretty high.


  1. I don’t know if Keith Law coined the term, but I’ll quote his definition of it from his glossary of inside jokes“#umpshow: Any time an umpire decides that he wants to make himself the center of attention, especially by attempting to provoke a conflict with a player or coach, it’s an umpshow. Fans don’t watch games to see the umpires ump. We watch to see the players. It would be great if the minority of umpires who think all eyes should be on them could understand that. Not to be confused with basic incompetence, where #robotumpsnow or #thehumanelement might be more accurate.”
  2. That makes the 3rd and 4th place pitchers roughly the same. As powerful and valuable a tool that Wins Above Replacement is, it isn’t precise enough to draw any conclusions from a 0.3 WAR difference.
  3. It was a very good edition of it last night with Keith Law and Jonah Keri. Former pitcher Dallas Braden has impressed me so far too, though I need to hear more before I elevate him to Gabe Kapler status. Law appears to be doing better as well. Last season he appeared nervous and timid on the set, but he appears to be getting more comfortable. Hopefully we’ll start seeing former Baseball Prospectus editor-in-chief Ben Lindbergh appear on the show, thanks to his exciting new job at Grantland!
  4. In all honesty, I laughed out loud when he said that. I think getting worked up over somebody insulting your team is silly. Lighten up. Nothing anybody says has any effect on what happens on the field. Stark is also a good guy and a good journalist. When I criticize the BBWAA, I am not referring to him, nor am I referring to his colleagues, Tim Kurkjian and Buster Olney.

WEEI’s Rob Bradford Takes Low Road to Enable Red Sox Smear Campaign of A.J. Pierzynski

Yesterday, it was announced that the Boston Red Sox designated A.J. Pierzynski for assignment. This really wasn’t surprising. Though Pierzynski actually got off to an ok start to the season, performing at about league average offensively through May, he has crashed and burned since then. In June, he hit .173/.200/.213. Pierzynski needs to hit in order to stay on the field because he is a below average catcher. The Red Sox only owed him ~$4 million for the rest of the year, and with their prospect Christian Vázquez ready to be called up, DFAing Pierzynski became an easy decision.

The Red Sox organization has an ugly reputation for smearing players and coaches on their way out. The excess of sports media in Boston just eats this up, and of course, nobody eats up narratives like the BBWAA. Enter WEEI’s Rob Bradford. Today, he wrote a completely unnecessary article citing “unnamed sources” unhappy with Pierzynski. It was high on narrative and low on facts. Typical BBWAA fluff. Let’s take a look at what Bradford wrote.

“According to multiple sources within the Red Sox clubhouse, Pierzynski had become such a negative influence on the team that players approached both the Sox coaches and front office to address the problem.”

This one is on the Red Sox. What kind of coward anonymously bad mouths a person behind his back? Either put your name to it, or keep your mouth shut. This goes double in Boston, where there is just too much sports media. Feed them a narrative and they’ll be sure to make it a distraction just by the sheer volume of sports talk and writing.

“The common theme expressed was the catcher’s seeming indifference toward his teammates and the common goals of the same organization that had relied on an all-for-one approach when winning the 2013 World Series.”

This is also on the team. Pierzynski was brand new to the team and on a 1-year deal that was unlikely to get renewed given the catching depth in the farm system. He was just a filler, a place holder if you will; a bridge to Christian Vázquez or Blake Swihart. The players knew it, the coaches knew it, and the fans knew it. It certainly would’ve been nice if he cared about his teammates and the organization, but given the situation, why should he?

Also, did the team really rely on an all-for-one approach last year? I would like to think that a smart organization like the Boston Red Sox would rely on talent and performance, and not something nebulous like team spirit. I don’t know if that statement is on the players or Bradford, but it’s likely that both believe far too strongly in the team’s chemistry as the reason for their success last year. In reality, their chemistry was nothing more than a good, fun story. The reasons for the Red Sox success last year could fill a whole separate post, but in short, it was due to a great offseason by GM Ben Cherington, health, a few players overperforming, and some good old-fashioned luck. Just about everything that could’ve gone right for the Red Sox last year did. Even when closers were dropping left and right early in the season due to injury, Koji Uehara emerged to give the Red Sox a whopping 3.3 WAR in only 74.1 IP. Talent wins baseball games, not the proverbial holding hands and singing Kumbaya around the campfire.

“[Pierzynski's] propensity to spend a significant amount of time looking at his phone while at his locker during games.”

So what? Is it in his contract that he’s supposed to be pleasant and sociable? Everyone has known for 16 years that Pierzynski has a reputation for being unlikable. Had he forced himself to exhibit the personality that his teammates wanted, then the narrative probably would’ve changed to complaints of him being disingenuous. That’s the thing about narratives. They can be crafted to screw whoever you want.

“…after a particularly rough outing in which the starting pitcher had been pulled early in the game, Pierzynski could be found staring at his phone while the pitcher gave off the appearance of being an emotional wreck just a few feet away.”

I imagine that it’s normal for a catcher to comfort his pitcher after getting knocked around in an outing. I can’t imagine that a veteran pitcher would be “an emotional wreck” after a bad outing, so I’m speculating that this was either Ruby de la Rosa or Brandon Workman. If that’s the case, then I can understand his teammates being upset with Pierzynski, but he’s not the only person in that dugout capable of comforting the poor pitcher. If nobody talked to him, then the entire dugout is at fault. If somebody did talk to the pitcher, then it doesn’t matter that Pierzynski didn’t. To be clear, it’s a fair criticism, but too much is being made of it.

“The frustrations with Pierzynski among the Red Sox grew with the catcher’s indifference toward the perceived needs of the club.”

This is usually BS, but Bradford elaborated by saying that Pierzynski didn’t care about the success or failure of his pitching staff. That’s a very fair criticism. How much a catcher really helps his pitchers his highly debatable, but not even trying is just lazy.

“…it was tough to ignore the voices throughout the home clubhouse…which described an entirely different dugout environment than there had been up through Tuesday.”

Meaningless. They’re not going to turn it around just because they’re starting to feel all warm and fuzzy inside around each other.

“But the facts are the facts, and the facts are that this one player was identified as a dark cloud that had just been lifted by multiple members of what is perceived as one of baseball’s most tight-knit groups.”

It doesn’t seem that Bradford knows what facts are. Then again, I don’t expect somebody who voted for Miguel Cabrera for the 2013 AL MVP to know the difference between fact and fiction. Since we have no names attached to quotes, we have little idea which players or how many of them disliked Pierzynski. Furthermore, are the Red Sox still perceived as a tight-knit group? Who perceives them that way this season? And since when are perceptions facts? That statement above belongs in a novel, not in a sports article.

The column improved greatly when Bradford discussed the Red Sox options at catcher during the offseason. I didn’t like the Pierzynski signing when it happened. It had nothing to do with his personality, because I don’t care about that sort of thing, and really nobody else does. If you’re awesome, everyone overlooks it. If you suck, then it’s a problem. The thing is that people are just mad that you suck, and being a jerk is just one more thing to be mad at. Whatever an athlete’s personality, it always comes down to his performance. Back to Pierzynski, he’s a 37-year old, below average defensive catcher who never walks. The Red Sox former catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, signed with the Miami Marlins for a measly 3-year, $21 million deal. Why not sign him back if that was all he was asking for? The Rays and the A’s could’ve afforded that contract. Even if Cherington felt that Vazquez would be ready for the start of 2015, I’m sure he could’ve easily found somebody to trade for Salty with such a team-friendly contract. If Vázquez nor Swihart work out, you still have Salty as insurance. What made this all especially perplexing, is that Cherington has made it no secret that he pays attention to team chemistry. If you actually value such a thing, why not sign back the player who can help maintain it? Why sign Pierzynski, who anybody could’ve predicted would’ve been a detriment to team chemistry? At least Cherington took full responsibility for his bad decision to the press yesterday.

The column then started to deteriorate again.

“Pierzynski’s personality wasn’t conducive to the Red Sox’ way of doing things, saying what he wanted when he wanted without much regard for the greater good.”

Why would anybody expect a 37-year old, 16-season veteran to change the way he does things, regardless of his personality?

“From the dugout, he would yell across the field at the opposition, or ridicule umpires during replay challenges.”

I literally just saw Anthony Rizzo yelling at the Reds from his own dugout. But he’s a good player so it’s ok, right? Not to mention all the times that we’ve seen managers argue with umps. We don’t even have any context for the above statement. Come on.

“This wasn’t the Red Sox way, the one that a World Series run had been built on.”

Stupid narrative. This is a vague statement that is not backed up with any facts.

“Pitchers started to express their preference to pitch to David Ross.”

Of course they did. Ross is a much better catcher than Pierzynski. I would expect this to be true even if Pierzynski was a saint.

“He also made little effort to fall in line with the rest of the lineup in regard to seeing at least a few pitches…”

Again, why would anybody expect a 37-year old, 16-season veteran to change the way he does things? He has a career 4% BB%. That’s terrible. It’s completely unreasonable to expect such a player to suddenly develop patience at the plate.

The rest of the article is just more narrative crap that I won’t go over here.

Let me end by making something perfectly clear: It is not my intention to defend Pierzynski. He’s a jerk who got what was coming to him. The purpose of this post is to criticize the players who cowardly attacked Pierzynski without attaching their names to it, the Red Sox for allowing yet another smear campaign to occur to a former member of the organization, and Rob Bradford for enabling them by printing this crap.

This is my problem with beat writers. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with being a beat writer, of course, but they tend to be high on narrative and low on analysis. There are good ones out there, to be sure. C. Trent Rosencrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer is an excellent beat writer. Coincidentally, so is Bradford’s colleague at WEEI, Alex Speier. I highly recommend reading him over Bradford.

My 2014 MLB All-Star Game Selections

The All-Star game is a mess. Just a gigantic, stinkin’ mess.

The Midsummer Classic was first started in 1933. Little do people know, the original purpose of the All-Star game was to showcase its stars. That sounds stupidly obvious when you say it, doesn’t it? It’s really just supposed to be a big marketing event. Nowadays we can subscribe to MLB.tv and watch any player, at any time, on any device1. For the first few decades of baseball, however, the only way to see stars outside of the local team was via the All-Star game. I have no idea when it started, perhaps it’s when the fans started voting in 1947, or when the internet made player stats readily available, or something in between, but eventually fans started to vote on All-Stars based on the first 3 months of the season. That is ridiculous. Players outperform or underperform their true talent levels for long stretches all the time. As a result, going by 1 to 3 month sample sizes will give you an incomplete picture of the players. One month of stats is especially silly, as it is barely more than noise.

Some emphasize that it is the 2014 All-Star game, and not the lifetime achievement award, or something to that effect. My counterargument: The “All-Star” part of the name is more important than the year. Furthermore, do you really think that 1-3 months makes a player a “star”? Especially over players who’ve been stars for years? For example, do you really think that Devin Mesoraco is more of a star than Buster Posey? Mesoraco spent 3 seasons as a replacement level player before this season. Buster Posey has the track record on top of being  a 2-time World Series Champion, MVP winner, and arguably one of the most recognizable faces in baseball. But sure, let’s sit him over the guy whose success can be attributed to an unsustainable .352 BABIP for 53 games.

On top of everything, fans and the media put too much meaning in All-Star selections. They treat it as if it’s a meaningful measure of a player’s talent level. It’s even used in Hall of Fame arguments! Stop it! Citing the number of All-Star selections, or the lack thereof, as a measure of a player’s career is the ultimate ad populum logical fallacy. I completely ignore All-Star appearances when evaluating Hall of Fame cases. I go by facts, not popularity contests. When I get to my selections, it will be based on track record and true talent level, because that’s the most logical, sensible way to do it.

Things weren’t too bad until 2003. The year before, Terrible Commissioner Bud Selig overreacted to the All-Star game ending in a tie, and as a result he came up with a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Starting in 2003, the All-Star game determined home-field advantage for the World Series. That’s completely asinine. Selig made it so that fans were in control of selecting rosters to a game that matters. Furthermore, the players are in charge of voting for the back-ups in a game that matters. I know this is counter intuitive, but players tend to be poor talent evaluators. In fact, they seem to rely on outdated stats more than the BBWAA does. Players are good at playing baseball, not analyzing it. Just think of all the terrible analysts on TV today who are former players. I think Joe Morgan is the worst of all time, and he’s the greatest 2nd baseman ever! To top all of this nonsense off, each team must have at least one representative. We’ve all seen this result in subpar players make it onto the All-Star roster. That makes no sense for a game that counts, nor does it make any sense for a game that’s supposed to showcase its stars. To all front offices out there: This is professional baseball, not little league. If you don’t want your team shut out of the All-Star game, then hire GMs who don’t suck at their jobs. Too many relievers make it in too. As I’ve said a million times, if Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman or Greg Holland or any elite relief pitcher was that good, they’d be starters. Check out the end of my Baseball Reactions post here for more detail. The AL has 4 relievers and the NL has 5. That’s absurd. I do support recognizing good relief pitching, but keep it to 2 slots at the most, and absolutely no middle relievers. Nobody tunes into the All-Star game to watch middle relievers.

This is how I would fix the All-Star game:

  1. Stop making the game count. Let it go back to being a fun exhibition of the game’s best talent.
  2. We need to stop letting fans and players go by half season stats. It’s impossible to completely erase this, but we can try. Instead of having the game midseason, schedule it right before the season even begins. Can you think of a better way to kick off the season and build excitement for it than to exhibit the game’s best talents? The players will be fresh, and you don’t have to worry about starting pitchers having to be replaced due to pitching right before the game, the result of which is further talent dilution of the rosters. I think that this way, the fans would be more likely to vote on track record since the previous season wouldn’t be fresh in their minds. At the very least they’d go by a full season of performance.
  3. Give the fans complete control of the rosters. The game is for them after all, and sadly, fans tend to be better at evaluating talent than the players. It’s also one less thing for the managers to worry about, since they’d probably be more focused on getting their own teams ready for Opening Day.
  4. Eliminate the requirement that each team needs at least 1 representative. If the team sucks, deal with it.
  5. Two slots MAX for relief pitchers. No middle relievers.
  6. Allow the game to end in a tie. I know it’s not satisfying, but there’s no need to go extras when the game doesn’t matter.
  7. This one is an extreme long shot: Hall of Fame voters cannot take All-Star appearances into consideration when making their selections. The number of All-Star selections does not tell you anything new about a player that statistical and empirical analysis don’t.

Here are my selections for the All-Star game. It is based on track record and talent evaluation, not silly 1-3 month sample sizes. That’s how you should go about selecting a roster of stars, and selecting a roster of players to win 1 game. There will be weight put on who is a “star” or “rising star”. I understand there is some subjectivity behind this. There are many places here where a reasonable person can disagree. That’s fine.

National League:

  • 1B-Paul Goldschmidt: This was an easy pick, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t close. Goldy is a rising star, as he has proven that last year was no fluke. Conversely, Joey Votto seems to be on a decline. His knee injuries have taken a toll on his power, though he’s still an on-base machine. Goldy and Freddie Freeman are very close, however. Goldy hits for a little more power and is a superior defender. Freeman did make it in as a reserve and deservedly so,
  • 2B-Chase Utley: He has been the best 2nd baseman in the NL since 2005. Unfortunately, he’s been derailed by injuries the past few years. He’s the clear choice over players such as Dee Gordon and Daniel Murphy, who are enjoying flukish 1st halfs. With a shortage of legit 2B stars, I don’t have a problem with Gordon and Murphy being reserves. Also, please don’t mention Brandon Phillips as an option. He’s always been overrated and hasn’t been an above-average hitter since 2011. He’s always been a star because of his personality, not his talent.
  • SS-Troy Tulowitski: Complete no-brainer. He’s a career .299/.374/.517 hitter, which would be impressive even for a DH, but he’s doing this as a plus defender at shortstop. If it wasn’t for all his injuries, he’d probably be on his way to the Hall of Fame. No other shortstop in the baseball even comes close to him right now.
  • 3B-David Wright: I know, I know. You’re probably screaming at the computer screen right now at what a Mets homer I’m being, especially since he’s been fairly average this year.  He’s a career .300/.379/.500 hitter who’s a Gold Glove caliber defender and a 60 baserunner. You have to admit, he’s a star, and has been for almost 10 years. The best counterargument is Todd Frazier2 of the Reds. While he regressed a little last year, he has bounced back. I think picking him over Wright because he’s a rising star is valid counterargument. Same can be said about Anthony Rendon or Matt Carpenter, though Rendon hasn’t played full-time at 3rd. The fans did get this one wrong by picking Aramis Ramirez. He doesn’t have the track record, nor has he been especially good this year. His OBP is mediocre and his defense isn’t even that. Not only was he not the best choice, he wasn’t even a good one.
  • C-Yadier Molina: I did not pick him just because he’s Puerto Rican. He’s the best catcher in baseball and has been a star for years now. He’s an 80 defender at the most difficult and valuable position on the field, and still manages to be a solid hitter. I know everyone is excited about Jonathan Lucroy. Believe me, I get it. He’s hitting an excellent .333/.402/.522, good for 4.5 WAR so far this season. I’m sorry Brewers fans, but since he’s grossly outperforming his track record, there’s no reason to believe this isn’t a fluke. Same can be said about Devin Mesoraco of the Reds. It’s ridiculous that they were both picked over Buster Posey. Posey has been a little off this year, but he’s still on pace for a 4 WAR season. He’s had a much more successful career than the other 2 and is undeniably the bigger star. Posey should’ve been a reserve.
  • OF-Andrew McCutchen: McCutchen, last year’s deserving NL MVP winner — and a rare correct pick by the BBWAA — was an auto-pick. He’s obviously a star. He’s actually a little better offensively this year than he was last, not to mention that he combines that kind of production with speed and plus defense in center field.

That left me to decide between Giancarlo Stanton, Yasiel Puig, and Carlos Gómez for 2 remaining spots. They’re practically interchangeable for All-Star selection purposes, and picking any 2 of those 3 is perfectly defensible. This was an incredibly difficult decision. They’re all rising stars with track records of success that go beyond this season.

  • OF- Giancarlo Stanton: He has more of a track record than the other 2, and I believe that his current breakout season is representative of his true talent level. His .373 BABIP is not that unsustainable given how hard he hits the ball. Labeling him with 80 power actually sells him a bit short. He has the most power out of any player in baseball. I think that’s the kind of thing that fans want to see at an All-Star game, don’t you?
  • OF-Yasiel Puig: When he broke out last year, there was skepticism to how real his performance was. He had a high BABIP and didn’t walk much due to his impatience at the plate. Of course, we all know the mental mistakes he’s made on the field that the media has blown out of proportion. Surprisingly, his BABIP has remained high. It’s still too early to say that it’s legit, as BABIP is one of the statistics that takes the longest to stabilize. What is legit is that he has improved his approach at the plate. He is walking more and striking out less. The guy has speed and he has the potential to become a 70 defender in right field as he develops more and cuts down on the mental mistakes. Finally, he plays on the prestigious LA Dodgers. That’s a star right there.

Cutting out Carlos Gómez was incredibly difficult. He is inarguably the best defender out of the 4 outfielders listed here. He’s an 80 defender in center field and plays the position better than anyone in baseball (yes, even better than Juan Lagares, as much as I love the guy). While he has been excellent at the plate since breaking out last season, he still isn’t as good as Stanton and Puig. That, combined with the fact that he was terrible before last season, led me to exclude him from the outfield. I believe that fans would prefer seeing the better hitters over the better defenders anyway.

As you probably know, the fans picked Gómez over Stanton. I have no problem with this. Stanton was still picked as a reserve and is likely to start at DH. It’s a great solution to the log jam in the outfield.

I’m not going to go over the rest of the selections in detail, but here are some thoughts about the rest of the NL roster:

  • I have absolutely no idea why Josh Harrison was selected. He sucks. He’s a career .264/.298/.392 hitter who provides no defensive value. He’s having a good season at the plate, with .298/.335/.453 line, but it’s a complete fluke, as he is enjoying a completely unsustainable .332 BABIP. It’s not like he was selected because the Pirates need a representative either. They have one of the best players in baseball in Andrew McCutchen.
  • I would’ve put Anthony Rizzo in over Starlin Castro, even though that would’ve left the NL without a backup shortstop. Rizzo is a rising star who is turning himself into Joey Votto. Hopefully he’ll get in via the final vote.
  • The National League has 5 relievers, yet no Stephen Strasburg. You’ve got to be kidding me. He has the track record and has been a star since he struck out 14 in his MLB debut. Speaking of strikeouts, he leads the NL in total strikeouts and K%. His omission is probably the result of his unimpressive 7-6 record, as if that means anything, and his 3.53 ERA. He has a FIP of 2.80, though, and a career FIP of 2.79. That ranks him 3rd among all starters in the NL since he made his debut in 20103. His ERA this season is the result of the Nationals poor defense allowing a .348 BABIP. His teammate Jordan Zimmerman can relate. Hitters have a .324 BABIP against him. The voters, who are players and coaches, likely picked Zimmerman over Strasburg because of his 2.79 ERA. His superior ERA is the result of a better BABIP, strand rate, and a HR/FB that is 3.1% lower than his career rate. All of that is luck driven. Of course, the players and coaches don’t know or care about any of that stuff. The coaches deserve a lot more criticism for this than the players. After all, talent evaluation is part of their jobs.
  • I would pick Clayton Kershaw to start. I don’t care how much time he missed this year. He’s the greatest pitcher on the face of the planet and has been since 2011.

American League:

  • 1B-Miguel Cabrera: Duh. He’s the best hitter in baseball and has been for years. The funny thing is that any fans who vote by current season stats got this one wrong if they voted for Cabrera. Edwin Encarnación has started roughly the same number of games as Cabrera at 1st with slightly better numbers. Encarnación has a 162 wRC+ to Cabrera’s 145 wRC+, and almost twice the number of home runs. Of course, that was because Cabrera had a bad April, which was obviously a fluke. Since the start of May, Cabrera has had a 167 wRC+.
  • 2B-Robinson Canó: Despite his current power outage, he’s still roughly equal offensively to José Altuve and Ian Kinsler when going by wRC+. When you factor in his track record of having been the best 2nd baseman in baseball for a few years now, it makes him the easy choice. I have no problem with Altuve being selected as a reserve, but I do think Kinsler was snubbed.
  • SS-Derek Jeter: Surprised? Considering everything I’ve written about him on this site, you probably think I hate the guy. Just because I don’t think he is who the media portrays him to be, doesn’t mean I hate him. On the contrary, I have the nothing but the utmost respect for Derek Jeter. He’s an all-time great who played the game with honor and integrity. Honoring Jeter’s career by starting him in the Midsummer Classic is the perfect use of the All-Star game. He’s arguably been the biggest star in the game since the late 90s. This season is a weak one for AL shortstops anyway. Erick Aybar and Alcides Escobar are having flukishly good seasons at the plate, but even then they’ve been roughly league average hitters this year. The major drawback with Jeter is that the game counts, and he’s been terrible this year. If I were John Farrell, I’d try to limit him to 1 at bat and 2 innings in the field.
  • 3B-Josh Donaldson: This one was really hard. It’s a coin flip between him and Adrián Beltré. Beltré is the star with the track record who deserves to be enshrined in Cooperstown someday. Donaldson, however, is the rising star, so I decided to vote for him in order for him to get the recognition he deserves. Donaldson has hit .279/.360/.484 for a total of 12.6 WAR since the beginning of the 2013 season. He has combined his great offensive numbers with excellent defense at 3rd base. I’d say he’s a solid 70 defender there. I’m glad Beltré made it as a reserve, and though it took Encarnación’s injury to make it happen, I’m glad that Kyle Seager made it too.
  • C-Salvador Pérez: I cannot believe that Matt Wieters was selected over Pérez. Putting up great numbers in only 26 games is noise. Wieters has been a disappointment at the plate during his MLB career. Pérez, like Wieters, is an excellent defensive catcher. However, unlike Wieters, he’s above average offensively. Also unlike Wieters, Pérez is a rising star, while Wieters seems to have plateaued. Yan Gomes of the Indians would’ve also been a fine choice. Unfortunately, he wasn’t even a reserve, no thanks to Kurt Suzuki being selected as a result of the Twins needing to send a representative.
  • DH-David Ortiz: Simply put, he’s the star with the track record. Nelson Cruz and Victor Martinez are more examples of hitters enjoying a flukishly good season. They’re both significantly outperforming their track records. Ortiz has a career wRC+ that is significantly higher than the other 2, and if you take their performances since 2011, Ortiz comes out on top by a wide margin. In the end, Cruz and Martinez ended up getting selected over Ortiz. Two DHs is a little much for an All-Star roster.
  • OF-Mike Trout: Duh. He’s been the best player in baseball since 2012.
  • OF-José Bautista: Though he’s been fighting injuries the past couple of seasons, he’s still a monster hitter who’s also a plus defender in right field with a cannon for an arm. Bautista has a 158 wRC+ since his breakout season in 2010, which is good for 3rd in all of baseball among hitters with at least 2500 plate appearances. Only Joey Votto and Miguel Cabrera were better.
  • OF-Alex Gordon: I surprised myself when I arrived at this decision. I excluded Michael Brantley because his performance this season, while excellent, appears to be a fluke. He’s been roughly league average at the plate the last 3 seasons, so there’s no reason to believe his breakout this year is real. Alex Gordon has been flying under the radar for too long. He deserves to be showcased at the All-Star game. He’s nothing special offensively, but he may be an 80 defender in left field. This season, he has provided 1.8 WAR with his glove alone. Unfortunately, the fans decided to continue overrating Adam Jones and gave him the start. Jones only real asset is his power. He never walks and has a mediocre OBP. His defense has been the most overrated skill of his. His 3 Gold Gloves are just further proof of what a joke that award is. In 8,525 career innings in center field, he has a DRS of -16 and a UZR of -22. He’s definitely athletic, but he just doesn’t get good reads on the ball.

Thoughts on the rest of the AL roster:

  • Four relief pitchers plus Marke Buerle and Scott Kazmir, yet no Chris Sale. Kazmir and Buerle are 15th and 20th in the AL in FIP, respectively. Kazmir is enjoying an unsustainable .253 BABIP from hitters he’s faced. Buerle hasn’t even struck out 14% of the batters he’s faced and is enjoying a HR/FB rate that is 3% lower than his career average. They’re good pitchers, but with career FIPs of at least 4.00, they’re not All-Stars. Why did they get picked? Because of those shiny, pretty records of theirs. They each have 10 wins. Give me a break. On the other hand, despite having pitched 25-35 less innings than those pitchers, Sale has still accumulated more fWAR. He is in his 3rd season of being a Cy Young contender. In the last 2.5 seasons he has amassed a 2.90 ERA, 3.09 FIP, and 12.7 fWAR. It’s a crime that he wasn’t selected. Hopefully the final vote will rectify this.
  • José Abreu deserved his selection. For him, half a season of stats is all we have to go on and he’s clearly a rising star
  • Ian Kinsler should’ve made it in. We know his performance this season is real because we’ve seen him do this before. I would’ve put him in over Brandon Moss. First base is stacked this year and Moss has only been worth ~2 WAR each of the last 2 seasons. He puts up good numbers at the plate but he’s a disaster defensively.
  • My pick for starting the All-Star game is Félix Hernández. Unlike in the NL, though, this isn’t as clear-cut. You can make a good argument for Yu Darvish, Masahiro Tanaka, Max Scherzer, or Chris Sale (if me makes it in). I think King Félix has been the best pitcher in the AL for years now, though to be fair, you could say Verlander was better when he was at his best. He was my pick for AL Cy Young last season, too4. He has consistently ranked among the top pitchers in the AL by fWAR for several years now. This season he has a minuscule 2.11 ERA and 1.94 FIP, and he leads the AL in fWAR by over a full win over the runner-up, Jon Lester.

If you think the All-Star game should be based on 1-3 months of performance, then go to Fangraphs, sort by league and position, then find the player with the highest WAR or wRC+ or whatever, and there’s your answer. Like I said before, there are many places here where a reasonable person can disagree. I even provided the counterargument myself in some places! Feel free to let me know what you think.

Thank you for reading this monstrous All-Star game post!


  1. MLB.tv is the greatest invention in MLB history. You can watch any out-of-market game, in HD, on any device that can connect to the internet. It also gives you access to all radio broadcasts, highlight clips, and archived games. All this for only $125. That’s a fantastic price for what you’re getting, and a no-brainer for any serious baseball fan. The only drawback is the blackout restrictions. The RSNs don’t want to lose viewership because of MLB.tv. Depending on where you live, like in Iowa, you can be considered in the home territory of multiple teams. Those people really get screwed over. It’s a complicated situation.
  2. I learned on his Baseball Reference page just now that he was born earlier in the same year that my brother was, and in the same town! Probably the same hospital too!
  3. Granted, he missed 2011 due to Tommy John surgery.
  4. The AL Cy Young was a tight race last year. There was really no one objective, conclusive choice. You really had to split hairs to pick between Félix and Scherzer. Scherzer was certainly a deserving winner.

Baseball Reactions (7-5-2014)

An Omega’s Corner version of Baseball Reactions today. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse with Thomas Boswell and the Legend of Jeter, but somebody needs to call this stuff out.

*****

Thomas Boswell was at it again the other day. In a recent column, he criticized Bryce Harper for some comments he made during an interview on the day he returned from the DL. Let’s take a look at some of what Boswell and Harper had to say:

“Manager Matt Williams put Ryan Zimmerman at third base, Anthony Rendon at second base, Harper in left field and benched Danny Espinosa. He also batted Harper sixth, exiled from the glamorous heart-of-the-order spots. Harper disagreed, on all fronts, and said so several hours before the game.

“I think [Zimmerman] should be playing left. Rendon’s a good third baseman. He should be playing third. We’ve got one of the best second basemen in the league in Danny Espinosa,” said Harper. “Of course, we want the best-hitting lineup in there. [But] I think Rendon playing third and Zim playing left is something that would be good for this team. I think that should be what’s happening.”

First of all, we have no context for what Harper said. Secondly, we don’t know what question Harper was answering, or if the interviewer was trying to trap him, as they are prone to do in order to fabricate their narratives. Thirdly, and most importantly, Harper is absolutely right. It’s a crying shame that the 21-year old with maturity issues is better at lineup construction and talent evaluation than the man that the Nationals actually pay to do it, Matt Williams. Williams has just been terrible this season and continues to exhibit further proof that playing baseball and managing baseball are two completely different skills. Hopefully front offices will figure this out some day.

“This Harper proposal would also put Denard Span on the bench and Harper himself in center field, the position he’s politicked for weeks to play.”

This is a good example of a biased argument being a good one. Implying that an argument is invalid because the arguer is biased, or just perceived to be so, is a complete non-argument and a bit of a strawman. Claiming bias can explain why the arguer arrived at the wrong conclusion, but not why the conclusion itself is wrong. As a Mets fan, I hate the Phillies, but I doubt any Philly fans would argue with my belief that their GM, Ruben Amaro Jr., is the worst GM in baseball. I hate the Yankees, but I could’ve made a good case against the Yankees chances going into this season1. Unfortunately, accusations of bias tend to be incredibly successful. Asserting bias is a convenient cop-out for the close-minded out there who are too mentally lazy and weak to deal with the cognitive dissonance that an opposing view causes. In other words, it’s easier to wipe away an argument by crying bias than it is to actually go through the trouble of mounting a counterargument using actual facts and logic.

I doubt Boswell is aware of the contents of my last paragraph. He expects that his readers will buy into his “politicked for weeks to play [center field]” propaganda against Harper because he’s falling for it himself.

“I haven’t talked to nobody about anything, so I have no clue,” said Harper, who frequently mentioned how happy and excited he was to return but never smiled.”

What? A professional athlete wasn’t being straight about his thoughts and feelings to a reporter? How is this not the leading story on every sports website?

I cannot believe a journalist with 45 years experience is accusing a professional athlete of being disingenuous. I guess you just go with whatever feeds the narrative, right?

“And what about batting sixth?

“I’m in the lineup. That’s all that matters. If I had the lineup, it would maybe not be the same. He’s got the lineup card. He’s got the pen. That’s what he’s doing,” said Harper. “So there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m hitting sixth tonight.”

For what it’s worth, I really do believe that Harper would do a better job with the lineup card than Williams. However, Harper isn’t without fault here. Even though Harper was right about everything he said, he should’ve said it to Williams behind closed doors, and not undermine him in front of the media. It’s similar to when Williams benched Harper for no good reason. Don’t publicly embarrass a player or coach. It accomplishes nothing except to serve as a distraction.

All in all, Boswell’s article was just terrible and logically fallacious baseball writing. Harper hasn’t fed him the narratives he wanted by becoming the Mike Trout-like superstar that he was projected to be, so he’s creating his own narratives to fill the void. Harper WILL become a superstar someday, but the mismanagement by Williams and the smear campaign by Boswell make it increasingly likely that Harper will choose to give his best years to another team. Heck, as a Mets fan I would love to see Harper move out of the NL East.

 *****

Check out this gem from Jon Heyman of CBS sports.

Click on the tweet above if you want to read the responses. They were glorious. Here’s one for example:

Bingo. It’s so refreshing to see regular baseball fans show such intelligence. Don’t misunderstand me, I actually believe that serious baseball fans are very smart and follow the modern principles of analyzing baseball, at least in general. The thing is that the internet tends to bring out the idiots. I would’ve expected some die hard Yankee fans to blindly defend Heyman and attack his detractors in the name of their beloved Jeter. That didn’t happen here.

Derek Jeter is the greatest hitter of all time among players whose primary position was shortstop. The offensive numbers he put up at that high value position easily qualify him as an upper-tier Hall of Famer. Unfortunately, the horrible truth is that he just may be one of the worst defensive shortstops of all time among players who regularly started at the position.

The history of Jeter and his defense is a strange and unique one. Jeter maintaining his job as a shortstop was the result of a perfect storm of good fortune. He played his first full season in 1996 for the most prestigious team in sports. The Yankees were already quite good, and were 2 years away from dominating baseball by winning 3 straight World Series2. Jeter’s excellent bat, good looks, and likability, combined with playing on an excellent Yankee team, blinded everyone to his terrible defense. Nobody noticed that Jeter had poor lateral agility and reaction time. He simply did not have the speed nor the range to handle the position. It may very well be true that Jeter does the backhand so well because being incapable of getting in front of the ball has given him a lot of practice.

Let’s say that Hal Newhouser actually convinced the Houston Astros to draft Jeter. The Astros, to put it mildly, do not have any where near the prestige that the Yankees do, not to mention that they weren’t anywhere near as successful when Jeter got started. Jeter likely would’ve also been overshadowed by should-be-in-the-Hall-of-Famers Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell in their primes. Under those circumstances, I guarantee that there would’ve been nowhere for Jeter’s defense to hide. He probably would’ve still been a Hall of Famer, but it would’ve been interesting to see how differently he would’ve been perceived had he spent his career on a smaller market team without all the regular and postseason success he enjoyed. He would’ve been exactly the same player, just without the mythical aura that others see. Quite the “what if”, huh?

To be clear, I’m not criticizing Jeter, so much as I’m criticizing the perception of Jeter.

Jon Heyman said what he said because nobody is more susceptible to the Legend of Jeter than the BBWAA. Let’s face it, a guy like Jeter is narrative crack. First, let me give credit where credit is due. Heyman is an excellent journalist. It seemed like he broke every major story of the offseason. He’s obviously very well connected and it allows him to get lots of great scoops. Heyman, however, is another example of a journalist who doesn’t know how to analyze baseball. He’s a terrible analyst. Whenever I see him on MLB Network, I change the channel. I don’t know why people don’t understand that journalism and analysis are two completely different skills. Some people like Eno Sarris and Ben Lindbergh can do both, but that’s not the norm. I would suck at being a journalist. Just completely suck. Joe Sheehan is one of the best minds in baseball, and he has readily admitted that he would be no good at journalism. Analytical writers are smart enough to stick to what they’re good at. Journalists, for some reason, think that covering baseball means that they understand it. Heyman did get a little better last year. He stopped bashing WAR, and even put Josh Donaldson 3rd on his MVP ballot. Unfortunately, he still put Miguel Cabrera first, so he still has a long way to go.

Mr. Heyman, if by some act of God you’re reading this, just stick to journalism. There’s nothing wrong with just being an exceptionally talented journalist.

*****

Harold Reynolds seems to be much worse in the Fox booth than anyone feared. I say “seems” because I refuse to listen. I just catch a lot of his nonsense from people tweeting it out. Last weekend, he came out with the following statement that seemingly broke social media:

The color commentator covering national broadcasts for Fox doesn’t know anything about one of the greatest players of all time. He’s actually misrepresenting Williams in order to denigrate OPS. The funny thing is, he’s right to denigrate OPS. The not funny thing is that he’s right about OPS for all the wrong reasons. He attacks it just because it’s an “advanced stat”, and not because of its actual flaws. Oh, and by the way, WILLIAMS HAS THE SECOND HIGHEST OPS OF ALL TIME! Only Babe Ruth had a higher career OPS.

Now hold on, it gets worse…

Ted Williams was the most analytical and patient hitter of his time. His approach to hitting was so far ahead of anyone at the time. The man was a sabermetrician 40-50 years before Bill James pioneered it. For example, in his book, The Science of Hitting, he explained how he divided the strike zone into 77 sections and knew his batting average in each section. In fact, there’s an exhibit at Cooperstown that describes this. He knew how bad outs were, and conversely, how important it was to get on base ~50 years before OBP became popular. Nobody gave him credit for getting on base, but he took his walks anyway. Not counting his military years, he led the league in walks 6 straight seasons, and 7 out of 8. There’s no way the newspapers in the 1940s were giving him any credit for that. Yet he continued to walk anyway, because he understood its value. He knew that expanding the zone just leads to more outs, which leads to less offense.

Finally, anybody who knows anything about Ted Williams knows that he was a brutally honest person who never gave a crap about what anyone thought, ever. If the media ever got on his case about not driving in enough runs, I guarantee you that he would’ve changed nothing. He knew he was right. It led him to having the highest OBP of all time, a monstrous .482.

How does Harold Reynolds not know anything about one of the greatest hitters of all time? Like I’ve said before, I think he’s just being a contrarian. He decided a long time ago to be the anti-stats and anti-facts and anti-logic guy. If he wants to sell out his integrity and self-respect, that’s his business. It just sucks that Fox continues to screw its fans out of any kind of intelligent color commentary.

A quick thought on Reynolds’ broadcasting partner, Tom Verducci: As I had predicted, he’s adding absolutely nothing to broadcasts. Like I’ve said before, I have no idea what a journalist has to add that is of any value to the broadcasting booth. He hasn’t said anything stupid that I’m aware of, but he also hasn’t added any insight whatsoever that I’m aware of. You could say the same thing about ESPN’s John Kruk, but at least he’s funny and entertaining. Literally any baseball fan could enter the booth and do Verducci’s job. He would be much more valuable if Fox just returned him to sideline reporting. Buster Olney does a fine job doing that for ESPN. A journalist’s skills come in handy for that job.

*****

Well this edition of Baseball Reactions didn’t turn out to be as short as I intended. I’ll try and do a better job of keeping it short and sweet in the future.

 


  1. So far the Yankees have indeed outperformed expectations. Thanks to Masahiro Tanaka and an excellent bullpen, the Yankees have won 4 more games than their run differential says they should’ve won according to the Pythagorean expectation. I predicted at the beginning of the season that the Yankees wouldn’t finish over .500. At this point I’ll predict that I will have been wrong by 2 games, meaning that Yankees will finish with no better than 83 wins. 
  2. Their 2000 World Championship was my worst nightmare. 

Baseball Reactions (6-30-2014)

Baseball Reactions! Because I’m a chemist! Get it? GET IT?!?!?!?!? Nevermind, let’s move on. I’m going to experiment with what I hope to be a recurring column on thoughts I have throughout baseball that aren’t sufficient for it’s own separate post. I’ll try to keep them relatively short.

*****

What got me to start this post was tuning in to tonight’s Red Sox/Yankees game and seeing Derek Jeter batting 2nd in the lineup. This is a joke. It’s one of the rare instances when I don’t blame the manager. Taking an all-time great on the most prestigious team in baseball, dropping him down in the order, and taking him off the only position he’s ever played is no trivial task. If Girardi were to make that decision, the media would blow it out of proportion and he’d likely get eviscerated by the fan base. I wouldn’t be surprised if Girardi felt guilty making that decision. He’s known Jeter since he first broke out. However, Girardi hasn’t shied away from giving Jeter the occasional day off, stating that it’s not his job to give him a farewell tour. Perhaps GM Brian Cashman or the Steinbrenners are keeping Girardi from making the right decision? Anyway, that’s more speculation than I like to do, but the point is that this is all on Jeter. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t believe the legend of Derek Jeter is all it’s cracked up to be. He is an upper-tier Hall of Famer to be sure, but that’s because of the facts, not the narratives. The narratives that fuel the legend of Jeter lead to garbage like this: Derek Jeter scouting report No, that wasn’t from The Onion. That was from a real Fox broadcast. That “scouting report” describes countless players throughout history of all different kinds of talent levels. You could even say that describes Red Sox backup catcher, David Ross, who has a career line of .234/.319/.438 with a wRC+ of 97, and has never had a season with more than 2.0 WAR. The funny thing is how much The Captain is hurting his team this season. I think even the most die hard Derek Jeter fan had low expectations going into this season. He’s currently hitting .272/.329/.330 with a 84 wRC+ and 0.8 WAR. That’s almost exactly what the Zips projections system predicted for him. Out of 164 qualified players in all of baseball, Jeter is hitting for the least amount of power with a pitiful .058 ISO. To top this all off, I’ve never seen Jeter worse at shortstop, which is saying a lot. Even in his prime he had poor lateral agility, but I’ve never seen him as slow as he has been on the field. If Jeter really cared about the team more than himself, if he was really the consummate leader that everyone says he is, he’d tell Girardi to move him off shortstop and down in the batting order. Continuing to accept hitting in the 2-hole with a .329 OBP and no power is beyond selfish. Same can be said about continuing to play shortstop when they have an excellent defensive shortstop in Brendan Ryan on the roster. Ryan is at least a 70 defender1 at shortstop (who got robbed of a Gold Glove in 2012, by the way) and his offensive numbers were projected to be not much worse than Jeter’s. It’s all reminiscent of when Jeter refused to move off of shortstop when Alex Rodriguez went to the Yankees, even though A-Rod was inarguably the better defender. Now I don’t like A-Rod anymore than your average fan, but moving to 3rd was a completely selfless act. He could’ve insisted on staying at shortstop and go down as the undisputed greatest shortstop of all time, if not for the steroids of course. I appreciate the honor and integrity that Jeter has played with in his career, but this has long since gotten out of hand. He needs to give Girardi a gift basket with a note that reads, “I’m sorry for letting my ego get in the way of what’s best for the team. It’s tough. I’m volunteering to move off of short and down in the lineup for the good of the team.” That’s what a real leader does.

*****

Cleveland Indians first baseman, Lonnie Chisenhall, is having a career year. He’s hitting .350/.405/.565 with a 175 wRC+. I like to see players succeed, so I hope it’s real, but I don’t think it is. If he’s on your fantasy team, then sell, sell, sell. He’s grossly outperforming his career numbers of .271/.315/.449 and has a completely unsustainable .394 BABIP. The good news is that he really hasn’t fallen off yet, so perhaps his success is the result of some change he’s made. Without knowing what that change could be, though, you can’t expect his offensive run to continue. It’s at least somewhat real, as his line drive rate is 4% higher than his career rate, and he’s already hit as many line drives this season as he did all of last season. Simply put, it appears he’s doing a better job of squaring up the ball and making hard contact.

*****

Atlanta Braves closer, Craig Kimbrel, is having another elite season. His crazy good 42.3 K% is on par with his career numbers, and his FIP is only slightly higher than that. Wade Davis of the Kansas City Royals is having a similar season across the board to Kimbrel. Credit goes to Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus for making the point I’m going to elaborate on: Davis is a failed starter. Last season as a starter, he had a 5.32 ERA, 4.18 FIP, with a K% less than half of what it is now. Since he’s pitching less innings as a reliever, his fastball is a full 3 MPH faster than last season.  3 MPH! That’s also faster than any point of his career, period. Here’s mine and Miller’s point: Every team has multiple Craig Kimbrels. Their called the starting rotation. Any competent starter can easily be an elite reliever. If elite relievers could be starters, that’s what they’d be doing, because a mediocre starter is more valuable than an elite closer. Last season, Kimbrel was tied for 66th in fWAR among all pitchers. The best reliever by fWAR last season was Koji Uehara, but he was only tied for 31st. If Kimbrel was a starter, his velocity would likely dip from all the extra innings, and when combined with the fact that he only has 2 pitches, it would lead to him having great difficulties in turning a lineup over 3 times. Keep all this in mind next time you want your team to sign or trade for a Proven Closer.

To end on a light note, Wade Davis was part of the infamous Wil Myers trade. In last year’s Saberseminar in Boston, Dr. Daniel L.C. Mack, an employee 0f the Royals analytics department, did a Q&A, and somebody asked for his thoughts on the deal. Loud and proud, he said, “It is against organizational policy to comment on any trades or signings!”


  1. That’s a conservative rating of Ryan’s defense. This site rated him as an 80 defender, and maybe that’s true, but you have to take it easy with those 80s.