Thursday, December 27, 2007

Rocking Horse People Eat Marshmallow Pies

The Astros signed Darin Erstad to a $1M contract as a lefthanded bat off the bench.

The Transaction Oracle is too kind.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Oh, Havana, I've been searching for you everywhere

The White Sox signed Cuban exile Alexei Ramirez, who adds entertainment value to spring training by not having a pre-defined defensive position. A star in Cuban professional baseball, Ramirez supposedly can play second, short, and the outfield. Nobody really knows whether he can hit in the majors; Baseball Prospectus thinks the top Cuban league is akin to short-season A ball (that is, the Sally League). Given that Ramirez is 26 and has only faced serious competition in international tournaments, it's tough to expect anything from him except an option to AA.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

We Never Really Knew Each Other Anyway

Call it sour grapes if you want, but I'm kind of relieved the White Sox failed to land Torii Hunter, Aaron Rowand, Miguel Cabrera, and to a lesser extent, Kosuke Fukudome.

Hunter and Rowand don't project to be worth the money they're being paid. Rowand in particular raised polite oh-dear-god remarks from analysts. Considering that his projected ZIPs numbers aren't really any better than Brian Anderson's projected statistics from PECOTA last year (before the Grinderstad spring training incident and the injury), paying him a guaranteed $60M would have been nuts. I don't know which of Goldilocks, or Jerry Owens, or Ryan Sweeney will outhit Rowand over the next five years, but I bet one of them will, and they all might. I'm comfortable with giving them a chance.

Paying Hunter 50% more than that would have been even more nuts. Torii Hunter is a good center fielder, but dear God that is a lot of Arte Moreno's dinero for a team that already has one overpaid centerfielder with years left on his contract...

And God knows the price for Cabrera was too much to pay, as the Tigers will find out when AARP calls for their lineup in a couple of years.

Fukudome is a tougher call, but we don't actually know if he was even capable of playing a major league center field; a lot of the White Sox buzz tacitly assumed he could step in and play a solid center, and maybe his selection of the Cubs was partly his way of saying, "No, I can't."

Friday, December 07, 2007

So put another record on...

A lot of people love the Tiger deal.

One Tiger fan ran the numbers using Cyril Morong et al's lineup analyzer, which is a fun (if tedious) toy. They got a "tasty" 5.831 runs per game number.

5.831 runs per game is good, almost 950 runs. It's wrong, of course, because of the unstated fallacy that Cabrera (or anyone's) National League numbers translate to the AL. Put in the NL-to-AL translations for Miguel Cabrera and Jacque Jones (per Nate Silver), and you get a sharp drop from 5.831 to a still-good 5.658:

I ran the same numbers using the same source projections (Bill James) for current White Sox hitters (Note: These load real slow!) and got 5.300 runs per game. (Brian Anderson gives about the same result.) I'd be thrilled with this at this point, that's about 850 runs. (It doesn't matter a lot who plays center field. So let's say you put in Fukudome at .375/.500. The mill grinds away and says 5.554 runs per game, an increase of about 40 runs a season. You put BA or RS in center and you get about the same as with Owens.)

The problem is the estimator is, of course, sensitive to your guesses for OBA and SLG. I tweak the numbers a little without making them seem at all "fake" and I get the offense up to 5.580 runs per game:

As for the Tigers, put in some accelerated age-related decline for their geezers and you can get to 5.528.

Yeah, that's right, I said geezers. Their average lineup age is going to be about 32 years old. Gary Sheffield is going to be 39. Granderson and Cabrera are their youth, at least until they make a trade.

So if I put my thumb on the scale ONLY SLIGHTLY I get comparable offenses. (The ballparks aren't really comparable, of course, but never mind that).

Monday, December 03, 2007

He captured it and brought it home

Acquired, for minor league DH-to-be Chris Carter, Snakes' former top prospect Carlos Quentin...

I know Black Betsy is really high on Carter, and maybe with good reason, but right-handed players who play first base in A ball should have huge warning signs on them (since, if they are any kind of athlete, they'll be at third or in the outfield).

So I looked at Carter's minor league fielding statistics, and what did I see? A .977 fielding percentage at first base, which is otherwise known as "Dr. Stoneglove". (Frank Thomas' minor league fielding percentage was about
.987...) While Mike Ward would have loved ripping the poor guy a new one twice a week, I don't want to think about it.

Carter has already been used as a DH in the Sally League, because he can't play defense. So Kenny got a LF from the Snakes -- made extraneous by the Byrnes signing -- for a minor league DH.

As for Quentin, he's a stud prospect who lost his luster in a couple of injury-plagued seasons. Runs adequately (not good enough to play center), righthanded power hitter, threw OK before his injuries... kind of like BA with a penchant for being hit by pitches, more power, more raw talent, and somewhat less fielding ability. Can't play center -- he's a corner outfielder.

This is a very good deal for the White Sox.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

You can shine like silver all you want

So Scott Linebrink's signing is sending shock waves through the industry. Right. Give me a break. Giving him 4/$19M is pretty stupid, but where's the outrage over the enormous pile of cash handed out to Coco Cordero at about the same time? Or the Angels' overcall bid for Torii Hunter after another overcall bid for Gary Matthews Jr last year? Where's the outrage of Boras and A-Rod cheating on the performance-clause ban, which is far more dangerous and earth-shattering?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Fish, he got a hook in his throat

Scott Linebrink reportedly negotiating with the White Sox for four years and nineteen million dollars...

Linebrink is not a leak-type reliever, he's a burst-type reliever. What I mean by that is his usual game is a scoreless inning, but once in a while, oh my God. In 71 appearances last year, he posted scoreless innings or more in 52 of them, and one or fewer runs in 62 of them. A four spot, three threes, and five twos inflated his ERA. He tends to do this from time to time. He does finish what he starts and he doesn't bleed runs. That's what you get with a setup man.

Chicago fans aren't really tolerant of the burst-type reliever, so this should end well. Yeah.

Let's toast the hero with blood in his eyes

So Torii hunter is an Angel, for five years and ninety million dollars.

Wow. Of course, congratulations to Hunter, who now will be able to serve his dogs their food on antique china if he feels like it.

And congratulations to Kenny Williams, who was saved from himself. A close bidding war might have created a situation where the White Sox, who don't need an aging centerfielder to add to their aging first baseman and DH, could have gone to seventy million for Hunter. By blowing away the field (what used to be called "pulling a Tom Hicks") the Angels managed to, in one swoop, make their fifty million dollar centerfielder from last off-season (with a no-trade clause) redundant, and possibly raise the going rate for centerfielders by four million a year for no good reason.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

To know how it feels when the universe reels...

Item: The White Sox traded John Garland to the Angels for Orlando Cabrera and, apparently, $1.5 million. Both Garland and Cabrera will be eligible for free agency after 2008. Garland is owed $12 million next year, and Cabrera, $9 million.

After careful consiration, I come down in favor.

First, the White Sox aren't really going to contend in 2008, or 2009 for that matter, unless Miracles Occur. So one question really is, are you more comfortable hoping for miracles with Gio, Egbert, Broadway, and Danks, or with Sweeney, Anderson, Owens, and Richar? I know what I think. The ONLY real assets the White Sox have in the minors worth talking about (at least above A ball, that is) are a handful of starting pitchers. They have few position player prospects ready that I trust. They simply have to trade pitching for position players because otherwise they'll be PLAYING pitchers at positions.

Second, there is the matter of public perception. The White Sox can get away with hoping for Gio et al because, at least two to three times a week, they will still put a veteran major league pitcher on the mound, and more if Contreras can bounce back. But the everyday lineup is there EVERY DAY, and putting Andy Gonzalez and Richar and Owens and Cintron on the field is just brutal. Those guys shouldn't be in the majors, let alone occupying a significant chunk of your roster. In these days of four-man benches, these guys will play a lot. So you, the fan, can't even pick and choose which games to watch because they are *all* bad. The White Sox can't afford to risk that financially.

Third, there is the "message" with the free agent CFs the White Sox are allegedly courting. (I'll believe it when I see a signing.) "We're going to put a veteran defense behind young pitching" is a selling point. "We're going with D-list position player prospects but keeping JG for an extra year" isn't. Everybody in baseball knows Garland is gone after 2008. Whether OC won't be re-signed is open to doubt.

Finally, Cabrera is 33 but otherwise he is the kind of player I think you should be glad to see Kenny picking up. He's a defensive plus. He's smart. He stays healthy. Yeah, he's 33, but he's not Omar Vizquel, and he's tied down for one and only one year, and the problem with old players isn't the next year, it's the next four. Even if he turns into a giant crater, the pain will be over in 10 months anyway.

Garland will be missed, sure. But the relief of not being blinded by the uglier alternatives is probably worth it.

By the way, John... thanks for 2005.

Friday, October 19, 2007

It's been such a long time

The last time I posted, the White Sox were watching the Tigers win their division, waiting for next year...

A year later, the White Sox have imploded, with every one of Baseball Prospectus' worst predictions having come true.

The spiral was hard to take -- so hard that yours truly couldn't bring himself to post a word about it here.

So, Johnny's spent his time in the sanitarium, cleaning up the razor wounds, and it's time to pick up the thread as the White Sox try to arrest their decline.

Anxiously waiting the first transaction,

I am,

Your obedient servant,

Johnny Mostil's Razor