June 27, 2006

FROM SELLERS TO BUYERS IN RECORD TIME:

Marlins deserve shot at upgrades: Will Loria help young club as it makes run at improbable wild card? (Mike Berardino, June 27, 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Now that South Florida is slowly emerging from its White Hot haze, now that the last piece of confetti has been swept up along Biscayne Boulevard, we interrupt your basking for a bulletin.

The Marlins are pretty good. No, really. They are.

What Joe Girardi's boys have done over the past five weeks has been nothing short of remarkable.

They have taken a Green Day season -- Wake Me Up When September Ends -- and turned it into an old-school U2 summer (Wide Awake and Not Sleeping.)

There's no other way to describe this stretch that has seen the Marlins win 22 of 31 games -- including Monday's 8-5 comeback against Tampa Bay -- and claw their way back from an 11-31 start to the fringe of the National League wild-card race. [...]

Despite using 20 rookies, these Marlins have pulled within 6½ games of the wild card. By comparison, the 2003 Marlins were 4½ games from the wild card when they made the epic July trade for Ugie Urbina.

I'm not saying they are one deal away from winning their third World Series. But it is intriguing to consider what they might be able to accomplish with a few choice additions to an impressive young core. [...]

There's also the Marlins' farm system, which is rolling out top arms the way Honda does hybrids. Yankee-killer Anibal Sanchez is the latest, and more are on the way.

But first, the Marlins should step up their search for an upgrade in center field, where their production ranks 13th in the league and they recently passed on Joey Gathright after an earlier flirtation. [...]

[O]nce the Cubs decide to pack it in, the Marlins should consider taking Pierre off their hands. They won't have to give back Ricky Nolasco, and they might even get the Cubs to pay the bulk of the remaining money.

The Astros may be souring on Willy Tavares. Luis Matos is buried on the Orioles bench. And if Choo Freeman keeps improving in Colorado, maybe the Rockies would talk about speedy Cory Sullivan.

The price has to be right, of course. No vital pieces should be sacrificed to feed what might be a short-term monster.

But after the way this season started, it sure is fun to consider.


A rotation that starts out Dontrelle Willis, Josh Johnson, Scott Olsen, Ricky Nolasco is as good as any in the NL, whether Anibal Sanchez is ready to be the #5 or not. What the Marlins have driven home this year though is just how much effort it takes for the Pirates and Royals to stay so wretched. Rebuilding just isn't that hard.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 27, 2006 2:24 PM
Comments

Wait, so now Anibal Sanchez is a product of Fla.'s minor league system?

How soon they forget.

Meanwhile the Beckett trade is looking worse and worse for the Sawx. Delgado is only in high A ball, but Sanchez, albeit based on the one start already looks much better than Beckett (4.84 era, and shocking.803 ops against), while Hanley is already outhitting and outfielding his replacement, AGon, tho the latter might well be the worst ss in mlb so that's not saying that much for youngn Hanley.

Well at least the Sawx got an aging 3rd baseman, who performed well in April and May. (Tho he has had a steep decline to a .711 ops in June that is more characteristic of last season for him than early this season.)

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at June 27, 2006 2:54 PM

Hanley Ramirez is a disaster on offense (.111 in June) and defense (10 errors).

Gonzalez is the best fielding ss in the majors and has made the adjustments to the NL that make him not a complete hole in the lineup.

Lowell has been terrific on both sides of the ball.

Sanchez wasn't even dominating AA:

http://cbs.sportsline.com/mlb/players/playerpage/533212

while Beckett is 9-3 despite two bad outings.

Posted by: oj at June 27, 2006 3:08 PM

Surely you're not using fielding pct and won/loss as reliable indicators, OJ?

I repeat, Beckett has an era near 5, a shocking ops vs, and has given up a ridiculous 18 homers already.

As for Agon, Baseball Prospectus' very reliable Rate metric for fielding has Agon at a very poor 93, Hanley at 95 (Jeter's at 94 btw), meaning that Agon, aside from his dreadful hitting (which btw is par for his career, so unlikely to improve), is costing the SAwx 7 runs for every 100 games he plays.

Lowell has fielded well, but, again, his hitting has returned in June to what one might expect given his disasterous season of a year ago.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at June 27, 2006 3:14 PM

Given the evidence, isn't the lesson that you're best off taking your chances with young, hungry talent rather than established millionaires?

There are exceptions, of course, but once these guys bank their first $10 million or so, the motivation is gone.

Posted by: curt at June 27, 2006 3:22 PM

Yesterday the Tigers, today the Marlins as the darlings of the MLB. The pretenders begin to become apparent in late July/August - let's see if these teams are still in the race at that point.

Posted by: AWW at June 27, 2006 3:25 PM

The only measure that matters for starting pitchers is wins, but Beckett has been dominant except for a couple starts.


Gonzalez can field and Jeter can't. I've not seen enough of Ramirez but his minor league numbers are mediocre and he and Gonzo will cross ops's some time early in July.

Posted by: oj at June 27, 2006 3:29 PM

Not really. A player brought up in his early twenties will be at his peak years when he hits that 6 year mark. But you're certainly better off with a team of 26-29 year olds than of 34-40 year olds.

Posted by: oj at June 27, 2006 3:32 PM

In other words, guys who havent signed that first big multi-year contract.

Posted by: curt at June 27, 2006 3:35 PM

Ah, yes the common wisdom. Jeter can't field and AGon can. You've convinced me.

In actuality, however, neither fields particularly well. BP's Rate has Jeter at 92 for his career, and AGon scarcely better at 94. (Jeter of course has a career ops of .848 compared to Agon's .681, so he makes up for his poor defense).

The last 3 seasons, however, AGon's been considerably worse: Rate of 96, 98, and now 93. Jeter's Rate meanwhile has been 98, 108, and now 94.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at June 27, 2006 3:41 PM

Which by the way is why the Marlins will probably be looking to deal Cabrera and Willis for young talent the day after this team wins a pennant next year.

Posted by: curt at June 27, 2006 3:44 PM

"AGon" or "Gonzalez". Does anyone remember OJ moaning about him before the Sox signed him? I see that the usual "Lake Wobegon" effect has magicly transformed him.

Posted by: Bob at June 27, 2006 4:00 PM

Jeter's obviously a better hitter even though an awful ss.

Posted by: oj at June 27, 2006 4:17 PM

No, Cabrera, for instance, will be a free agent before he peaks.

Posted by: oj at June 27, 2006 4:18 PM

Bob:

The Sox would be a better club with at least ten shortstops other than Gonzalez--including Nomar. He's still a terrific defensive player and they wouldn't be better starting a liability like Ramirez there, though Hanley may be a decent player a few years from now.

Posted by: oj at June 27, 2006 4:21 PM

Bob has a good point, but Hanley Ramirez's upside is AGon with an extra 20 errors. Whatever the value of BP's stat, Red Sox pitchers rave about AGon's defense and believe he saves them runs - Schilling said he's better defensively than Ozzie Smith.

Josh Beckett is outperforming Randy Johnson and he's still a baby, developing his third pitch and learning how to do more than just blow fastballs and curves by mediocre hitters, turning always to the fastball when he's in trouble. In a year or two, with help from Schilling and Al Nipper, he'll be one of the elite pitchers in the game after he's learned to mix up his repertoire a little more.

You have to be pretty pleased with that trade if you're the Sox. Sanchez is a nice talent, but shutting out the Yankees doesn't have the cachet it once did.

Posted by: pj at June 27, 2006 4:31 PM

He's definitely not Ozzie, but Yuniesky Betancourt might be.

Posted by: oj at June 27, 2006 4:52 PM

Whatever the Sawx players think, Agon is simply not a good fielding ss. Hey ESPN announcers think Jeter's a great ss b/c of the flashy jump throw he makes all the time. That doesn't make it so.

Agon is a poor fielder and a terrible hitter.

As for Beckett vs RJ, despite how dismal the latter has been for much of the season, his stats are actually very very similar to JBs.

RJ's pitched 10+ more innings, and partly as a result has given up 7 more runs, and a bunch more hits and walks, to go along with 10 more ks.

Teams are hitting 18 pts higher vs RJ, however, teams are slugging 35 pts higher vs Beckett, whose given up 3 more dingers in despite the 10 fewer innings, and have been walking a tad more vs him, so that Beckett's ops is some 28 pts higher.

JB's whip is 1.21, RJs, 1.28. Again very similar.

And their era is an identical 4.84.

I admire your faith pj that JB's on a steep learning curve and that Blawdy Sawk will turn him into a great pitcher, but I'll believe it when I see it. Gawdy record aside, I've yet to see it this season. And I'll note as well that when good hitting teams like the Yanks and Jays have got a chance to see him a second time, the results haven't been kind to Becks. (The Indians didn't even need a 2nd viewing to tee off on that fastball.)

The dude is the 2nd coming of Nuke Laloosh, or whatever the dude in that movie was.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at June 27, 2006 5:30 PM

Johnson is 9-6 and Beckett 9-3. If Johnson were 25 instead of forty something and implicated in the steroid controversy you might have an argument. In fact Beckett has had a good major league career by the age Johnson made the majors.

Jeter and Gonzalez have both ssed World Series winners. One can field, one can hit.

Posted by: oj at June 27, 2006 5:45 PM

Beckett was tipping his pitches against the Yankees and Jays - one tip, already fixed, is that whenever he shook Varitek off, he ended up throwing a fastball. He's already learned he needs to be less predictable.

I expect his improved performance in recent games to continue (last game: 3 hits, 8 Ks, 0 BBs, 8 IP vs the Phillies) and significant further improvement next year after he gets an offseason and spring training to work on off pitches.

The experience pitching against top-hitting AL teams is invaluable for him and at 26 his peak years are ahead of him.

Posted by: pj at June 27, 2006 8:24 PM

The diff in the two records -- 3 losses -- is b/c RJ has lost just about every game he's pitched poorly in, while the Sawx have saved JB's bacon 3 times, giving him 3 no decisions in games he pitched poorly in and should've lost.

Randy's a 42 year old pitching like it, what's JB's excuse?

As for Agon, it's already been established that he simply is not a good fielding ss.

You can keep saying he is, but his career RATE says otherwise. He's scarcely better fielding than Jeter over the course of their careers, and the past 3 seasons, he's been significantly worse.

Meanwhile, for Blawdy Sawk's sake, let's match up AGon's pathetic 94 career Rate with Ozzie Smith's sterling 110 career Rate. Is SChilling delusional?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at June 27, 2006 8:30 PM

PJ -- JB's clearly capable of pitching very well. It's hard for me to credit his stinkers tho to tipping his pitches. Every month this season has been similar, he'll have some very good starts -- usually against mediocre hitting teams like the Phils, tho he's also pithced well against Texas -- mixed in with some real poor starts. If it was all tipping, you'd think the runs of poor starts would've been longer.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at June 27, 2006 8:36 PM

6 Seasons 698.1 118 50 37 0 682 253 607 3.636 1.232

Posted by: oj at June 27, 2006 9:44 PM

He's 9-3, what excuse?

Posted by: oj at June 27, 2006 9:44 PM

Most over-rated pitcher in baseball? era up around 5? Lotso homers? Teams slugging the bejebus out of the ball?

Its funny tho that won/loss is the be all and end all to you now.

Baseball is a game of stats. That's one of the many reasons why we love it. Somewhere in about 18something, folks realized that won/loss record doesn't tell us very much about a pitcher. Since then people like Bill James and the folks at BP have taken statistical metrics to a new level. You're taking them back to the stone age.

Sorry, but JB is a young pitcher with a quality arm, who has never pitched even close to 200 innings in a season, who's gotten battered this season, and on whom one team has already given up.

He has plenty of potential, but he's yet to fulfill any of it.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at June 27, 2006 10:03 PM

Jim - I just heard on the radio the announcers say that Joe Morgan told them that AGon was "the best [defensive] shortstop he'd ever seen." Who you gonna believe, somebody's stat or the lyin' eyes of top professional baseball players, coaches, and scouts?

As for Beckett, we'll see. I think he's going to be a very, very good pitcher for the Red Sox. His best is ahead of him.

Posted by: pj at June 27, 2006 10:14 PM

He's a World Series MVP. How many of the stathead favorites have that on their resume?

Here's how Randy Johnson was at the same age, his first full year in the majors:

1989 MTL-SEA 160.2 28 7 13 0 130 96 147 4.832 1.517

Posted by: oj at June 27, 2006 10:48 PM
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