Monday, January 30, 2012

Fantasy Baseball! Top Twelve Catchers

Good afternoon, friends.  Sorry for the long layover between posts.  We were caught in the McD's drive-through behind the Detroit Tigers corner infielders (Wocka Wocka! Ok...sorry...)  Anyhow, let's not waste anymore time!  Here are our Top Twelve Catcher rankings for 2012:



1. Matt Wieters

1. Mike Napoli

2. Mike Napoli

2. Brian McCann

3. Brian McCann

3. Carlos Santana

4. Carlos Santana

4. Buster Posey

5. Joe Mauer

5. Joe Mauer

6. Buster Posey

6. Matt Wieters

7. Miguel Montero

7. Miguel Montero

8. Yadier Molina

8. J.P. Arencebia

9. Jesus Montero

9. Jesus Montero

10. Russell Martin 

10. Alex Avila

11. Geovany Soto

11. Yadier Molina

12. Wilson Ramos

12. Russell Martin

A Few Quick Comments: Overall, the field at catcher seems to be noticeably deeper than it has in recent years.  I remember in recent years feeling as if I needed to try for one of the top three or four guys, or forget about it, because there was such a steep drop-off.  This year, however, I would honestly be fine going into the season with any of my top twelve.  In terms of draft strategy, that means I'm not reaching (or overpaying, in an auction setting) for a catcher.  I have my guys I'd like to get, but only if they fall to me at my price.  

ADR has Wieters in his top spot.  I like Wieters, but not quite that much.  Though maybe this is the breakout year everyone has been waiting for... I've got Napoli there because last year he hit 30 home runs in 432 at-bats, and I'm betting this year the Rangers find a lineup spot for him everyday after he was one out away from being the World Series MVP.  Remember that opposite field bomb he hit off Carpenter in the World Series? Yikes!  

ADR has two players in his top twelve that aren't in mine:  Geovany Soto and Wilson Ramos.  In their places, I've got J.P. Arencebia and Alex Avila.  A lot of folks are down on J.P. because of the batting average, but the guy mashes in a very potent lineup, and held a decent batting average most of his minor league career.  

We both have Jesus Montero in the nine spot.  Even though he plays in power-suppressing Safeco Field, he has the offensive pedigree that could very easily jump him to the top of the rankings.  Then again, he could be a huge bust.  Someone will roll the dice... And speaking of roll the dice, Joe Mauer is scary this year!  He is a tremendous player, in his prime, IF he is able to stay healthy.   

Anyhow, we'd love to interact further on our rankings in the "comments" section below, so post away!

Up next, Top Twelve First Baseman!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Transaction Reaction: Prince Fielder

The Detroit Tigers paid $214 million for 9 years of mash potential and androgyny. I tried to pay an artist for a rendering of Prince wearing a Tigers uniform, but it was hard to make out with all of the purple sequins and whatnot.... so I asked the artist to stop. All that to say, I paid a guy $17 to be the artist who was formerly going to draw Prince.
  • This signing seems like a great story, right? Prince Fielder returns to Detroit where his father Cecil played, and where he grew up taking batting practice as a young boy. Quite a fairy tale. Here's the real story....all that happened, AND THEN his dad started gambling and didn't stop until he had run through his entire career's major league earnings and started stealing from Prince later in life. The two are not on speaking terms, so it strikes me as odd that Prince would want to draw these comparisons. However, I can think of 214 million reasons he might bury the hatchet and embrace his father's legacy in Detroit.
  • At least from the Tiger's perspective it makes sense, right? Nope. In baseball, the rosters have only enough room for MAYBE two overweight players on each team, assuming they are both good enough to play regularly. The Detroit Tigers already have THREE other fatties under team control for two years or more, and all of them are good enough to play everyday. Victor Martinez is a DH who is injured this year, but will be paid handsomely for 2012 and 2013 when he comes back healthy. Alex Avila is a good young player, but one that is big enough that he can only play catcher or DH. Miguel Cabrera is notorious for his incredible performance and his weight. He can only reasonably play first. (Breaking news: The Tigers have just said Miguel Cabrera will be moved to third base to make room for Prince. Just for context, Miguel was very bad at first base....which is approximately 50 times easier and less athletic than third base.)
  • So, it appears that the Tigers have dramatically added to their offense by subtracting from their defense in TWO different spots (1st base and 3rd base, because Prince is even worse than Cabrera!) Their reward for this maneuver is a bill for $214 million dollars, and a very pissed off Justin Verlander. This honestly might end up being the worst defensive infield ever created.
  • Lastly, if the Tigers are expecting Prince to play baseball similar to how his father used to, wouldn't they pay attention to how his father aged? Cecil was a beast until age 32 when he hit 39 home runs, and then his production fell off a cliff. He was so terrible that he was out of baseball completely by age 34. Fangraphs ran an article in October regarding how "heavy" players age. Prince is 27 now, and the results of the article definitely do not support a 9-year deal. According to the Fangraphs analysis, heavy players peak at age 23 or 24 and decline quickly. By the age of 31-32, most heavy sluggers have lost more than 30% of their production.... At the age of 33, Prince will still have 4 years left on his deal and the Tigers will owe him approximately $100 million dollars. Do you know how many Raspberry Berets that could buy???? This is an exciting deal for Tigers fans for 2012....but let's check back with them in 2017.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Fantasy Baseball! Top Twelve Overall

Good morning, friends. Recently, ADR and I were talking about the upcoming 2012 fantasy baseball season (we both love fantasy baseball, by the way), and were discussing some stupid rankings given by the so-called fantasy baseball "experts." In the course of our conversation, we decided that we should be fantasy "experts," and just like that, it happened. We are now fantasy baseball "experts." (Seriously... I think that's all it takes...) In fact, we are already in the process of having "Fantasy Baseball Expert" business cards printed up. Anyhow, given our new expert status, ADR and I will be posting fantasy baseball articles in addition to our normal baseball commentary.

More specifically, beginning this week we will releasing our series of "Top Twelves," as we give first our Top Twelve overall for 2012, and then our position-by-position top twelves, all of which will be a part of our Hottest Stove 2012 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. (We are going with twelve, by the way, because that should cover both ten and twelve team leagues.)

Now, if for some reason you are not into fantasy baseball (which, I think, you really should be...), no need to fret, because in addition to our fantasy baseball content, we will be continuing with our "Pick to Click" Series, and regular baseball musings.

With all that being said, here are our Top Twelve Overall Rankings:



1. Matt Kemp

1. Jose Bautista

2. Jose Bautista

2. Matt Kemp

3. Albert Pujols

3. Miguel Cabrera

4. Troy Tulowitzki

4. Adrian Gonzalez

5. Miguel Cabrera

5. Albert Pujols

6. Adrian Gonzalez

6. Troy Tulowitzki

(This is where Ryan Braun goes for me if he beats the P.E.D. rap)

7. Justin Upton

7. Evan Longoria

8. Curtis Granderson

8. Justin Upton

9. Prince Fielder

9. Prince Fielder (Because he hasn’t signed yet, this is a team-neutral ranking. If he signs with Texas, I bump him up to #3. If he signs with Seattle, I drop him out of the Top 12.)

10. Robinson Cano

10. Roy Halladay

11. Matt Holliday

11. Joey Votto

12. Jose Reyes

12. Robinson Cano

A Few Quick Comments: People can always squabble with first round orders, but frankly its hard to miss with any of these guys. That's why they are being taken in the first round of fantasy drafts. There few notable differences between ADR and I. While we agree on the first two guys (Bautista and Kemp), we have them flip-flopped. Pujols, who has long been #1 overall has dropped in both of our rankings. Granderson, Holliday, and Reyes, whom ADR has in his Top Twelve, do not appear in mine. In their place, I have Longoria, Halladay--the only pitcher in either Top Twelve, and Votto. The only spot that we both have exactly the same is the Purple Rain at #9.

By the way, either of us are happy to defend our respective rankings in the comments section below. Up next, the Top Twelve Catchers!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

"Pick to Click" Series: NL Central UPDATE

Back in the original NL Central edition post of our "Pick to Click" Series, begrudgingly picked Fernando Martinez as my Pick to Click for the Houston Astros, not because I'm excited about him, but because I was less not-excited about him than anyone else on the team (follow the grammar there?). Anyway, since the original post, the Houston Astros have added a free agent who is now my Pick to Click for the team. Yep, that's right. Jack Cust. Cust, built in the pre-2011 Adam Dunn mode, is the definition of a "Three True Outcomes" player (strikeout, walk, or home run). He is not going to play good defense, he is not going to hit for a nice average, or steal bases. He probably won't do much of anything that resembles athleticism. But Cust has one worthwhile skill, and that is dropping bombs (Hitting home runs, I mean. No need to alert the local authorities). Up until this season, Cust has nearly his entire career in three of the worst hitters' parks in the game--San Diego, Oakland, and Seattle. But this year, he will be playing his home games in Minuit Maid Park, a stadium aptly nicknamed "The Juice Box" because of its small size. For this reason, while Jack may not be winning MVP awards or making All-Star teams, or frankly maybe not even really helping his team win, I do think that if he is given a full season worth of at-bats, he is going to hit 25+ dingers for the anemic Astros offense. Jack Cust... Pick to Click!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Pick to Click" Series: NL East

Pick to click! How about some NL East love?

  • Pick to click - Jason Heyward
  • Never underestimate the power of a much-hyped prospect that everyone writes off as a bust too early. As a 20 year old rookie, Heyward put up an on-base percentage of .393 and an OPS of .839. A huge bounce back candidate....HUGE.
  • Pick to click - Logan Morrison
  • All of the crazy players will probably prosper under Ozzie... so logically the craziest will prosper the most. In a clubhouse full of candidates, I'm singling out Logan Morrison as the most crazy. (However, we excluded Carlos Zambrano because I'm expecting him to get arrested for stabbing someone by about mid-May. If not for his propensity for stabbing, he would have been picked to click.)


  • Pick to click - Johan Sant....just kidding. Ike Davis
  • Davis finished the year strong after returning from injury, but it will be interesting to see what he is capable of if given another full major league season. His rookie season in 2010 looked good, last year was essentially lost, so we'll see how he bounces back. I'm projecting around 30 home runs even in the middle of a terrible lineup.
  • (Seriously though, the only clicking for Johan Santana is the sound his arm makes when he tries to throw a baseball.)
  • Pick to click - Prince Fielder
  • Let's not get hung up on the details like, "He hasn't signed with them yet." or "His body mass index is close to 50." or "They created a third type of diabetes when he broke into the majors in 2005." (Which is true, by the way....look it up.)
  • Trust me. Prince will sign with the Nationals, and their lineup will look excellent with him in the middle. He will click. They will click. It's suddenly a pretty deep lineup - Espinosa, Zimmerman, Fielder, Morse, Ramos, Werth etc.
  • Prince will also be featured in our upcoming series "Picks to Stay Thick." Also in that series, we'll give a nod to Pablo Sandoval and relievers Ray King and Dennys Reyes. That's Dennys. Like the restaurant.
  • Pick to click -John Mayberry, Jr. and/or Dominic Brown
  • Both have the potential to be productive everyday players. Mayberry was a good offensive player in a limited role last year, and thus far Brown has been underwhelming in his brief time in the majors. The injury to Howard will give one of these players an opportunity to get regular at bats, and there might also be a spot in the outfield if they both start playing well since no one wants to see Laynce Nix out there every day. Double pick to click!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Joel Zumaya... Play "Free Bird!"

Earlier this week, the Minnesota Twins signed reliever Joel Zumaya to one-year contract worth $800k, but could be worth $1.7 million if certain incentives have been reached.  The signing passed with relatively little fanfare, and with good reason.  Zumaya hasn't been healthy since 2010, and he was never as dominant as he was in his 2006 rookie season.  His main weapon was always his 100 mph+ fastball, and he is reportedly now being clocked between 92-94--still fast, but not the same.  Now certainly Joel could ramp that speed back up during the course of the season, but even if he performs at a high level, I don't think it will drastically change the mediocre outlook for the Twins in 2012.

So why write about this signing?  Because it reminds me of one of my favorite sports stories of all time.  Back in the 2006 American League Championships Series, Zumaya had to be sidelined for a couple games because of forearm soreness.  Many figured the soreness was understandable, even expected, given how hard Zumaya threw.  But doctors were somewhat befuddled, because the injury to Zumaya was more consistent with injuries they regularly saw with musicians that play the guitar.  That's when Zumaya admitted his love/addiction to the video game, Guitar Hero... Which doctors said explained the injury perfectly.  Awesome.  

Below you can find a picture formerly posted on Zumaya's Facebook page (which it appears he has since deleted), attesting to his devotion to the game, and forever reminding me of how hard Joel rocks...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Pick to Click" Series: NL Central

Good day, Hot-Stovers!  Today, we are beginning a new series we are calling the "Pick to Click" series.  We will be looking at every team and naming a player that is our "pick to click."  When we say that we think a player is going to "click," what we mean is that we think he is going to have everything fall into place in 2012 for a season of unexpected, and perhaps unprecedented, success.  (By the way, if you are fantasy baseball enthusiasts, like we are, you might term these guys as "sleepers"... Do with the info what you will.)

As we are wont to do, ADR and I will be going division by division, starting today with the National League Central.  Please, feel free to offer your own "pick to clicks" for the division in the comments below.  Without further ado...

St. Louis Cardinals

  • Pick to Click--Tyler Greene
  • I have been personally touting the Greene Lantern (it will catch on... just wait... I've already got the t-shirts printed up...) for years now.  Originally drafted in the first round of the 2005 amateur draft, a first round loaded with talent, Greene was originally slotted to take over at shortstop for David Eckstein.  However, while producing at the minor league level, Greene has never taken advantage of his short stints at the majors.  Many have been suspicious that he struggled under the iron fist of pro-crusty-veteran former manager, Tony LaRussa.  But, as you may have heard, Tony retired, and has been replaced by a more young-guy-friendly Mike Matheny.  Both Matheny and GM John Mozeliak have verbally praised Greene's minor league success (.323/.422/.579 slash line last year at triple-A... Yikes!)  and have expressed a desire to see him win the starting second base job for the Cards in 2012.   Tyler Greene... Pick to click!

Cincinnati Reds

  • Pick to Click--Jay Bruce
  • I know, I know.  You are saying that Jay Bruce kinda already clicked last year.  But I'm expecting even higher levels of clicktitude this year.  Like .300+ batting average and 40+ home runs clicking.  Bruce plays in a hitter-friendly stadium, and in a lineup where pitchers will be focused more on getting out Joey Votto.  Oh, and by the way, while it feels like he has been around for a while, Bruce is still only 24 years old.  Do you know who lists as the most comparable hitter through age 24?  Reggie Jackson.  Yep.  Jay Bruce... Pick to click!

Milwaukee Brewers

  • Pick to Click--Matt Gamel
  • Matt Gamel has displayed some serious mash in his minor league career, but many have labelled him a Quad-A player after his hitting prowess has seemingly not translated to the bigs.  If you look at his major league career, however, he really has not gotten an extended look with every day playing time.  Until this year, that is.  With the Purple Rain departing, the Brewers seem content to hand the first base gig to Gamel, who is coming off a Triple-A season in which he batted .310 with 28 home runs and a .540 slugging percentage.  I don't think he will be a world-beater, but I bet he has a really solid season.  Matt Gamel... Pick to click!

Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Pick to Click--Erik Bedard
  • Hey, remember when Erik Bedard was awesome?  Back when he was traded for Adam (non-Pacman) Jones and four other players?  Back when he was arguably the second best starter in fantasy baseball after Johan Santana?  The Pirates do.  And so do I.  Erik Bedard... Pick to click!

Chicago Cubs

  • Pick to Click--Ian Stewart
  • I also thought about Bryan LaHair or Anthony Rizzo in this spot, but ultimately I settled on Ian Stewart.  Back when Stewart was still a prospect in the Rockies organization, I read an article by one of the Colorado sportswriters (nice citation form, right?) in which the author explained that at the time the Rockies would be okay with trading away Matt Holliday because they were confident that Ian Stewart would be able to fill his offensive void.  Pretty high expectations, but at the time the Colorado front office must have felt they were justified.  I'm betting that a change of scenery will be just what the doctor ordered for Stewart.  Ian Stewart... Pick to click!

Houston Astros (soon to be of the AL West)

  • Pick to Click--Gross... Do I have to pick someone from the Astros?  Really?  Alright... Hmmm... I guess I'll go with... Fernando Martinez
  • This team is absolutely devoid of anything exciting or hope-worthy.  So devoid that the guy I decided to (was forced to) pick is a guy the Mets just decided to cut.  Martinez, still only 23 years old, has long been on top prospect lists as a guy who has flashed impressive power rates, but just has not been able to stay healthy.  So I'm betting on him (by default) to finally start to live up to some of his potential with a change of scenery.  His new home with the Astros takes him from a bad hitters park in New York to a great one in Houston.  And the only thing standing between him and winning a starting job with the Astros is perhaps the worst starting outfield of all time, in Martinez, Schafer, and Bogusevic.  Fernando Martinez... Pick to click (sorta...)

Monday, January 16, 2012

MLB Power Ranking: January 16

Time for our bi-monthly MLB Power Ranking update. With every rise or drop of a team, we will offer a brief explanation for the change.   Still curious to see where the Purple Rain will land... As always, feel free to squabble in the comments below! 
  1. New York Yankees (Up from #4. In one day, the Yankees dramatically improved their chances by drastically improving their rotation, turning what was a weakness into a strength.  Prior to their recent moves, beyond Sabathia, the rotation was brutal [see: "The Yankees' Inexplicable Dearth of Starting Pitching"].  By adding Pineda and Kuroda as their #2/#3 starters, the Yankees have turned Nova into their #4 and now have an open competition between Hughes/Burnett/Garcia for the #5 spot. [Just noticed this oddity, but if Garcia wins the job, all five starter will have last names that end with "A."])  
  2. Texas Rangers (Up from #3.  This ranking comes with the assumption that the Rangers will eventually actually sign Yu Darvish.  Frankly, its also a lot about my present feelings on the Red Sox, who haven't necessarily yet addressed some question marks in the rotation.  I'm also very uneasy about Bobby Valentine, who looks like he could be part of sci-fi show in which all the figures in a wax museum come to life.)
  3. Boston Red Sox
  4. St. Louis Cardinals 
  5. Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim)
  6. Philadelphia Phillies
  7. Arizona Diamondbacks
  8. Tampa Bay Rays
  9. Toronto Blue Jays
  10. Cincinnati Reds
  11. Atlanta Braves
  12. Washington Nationals
  13. Detroit Tigers (Down from #8.  No major changes with the Tigers.  I just looked at their roster and said, "Bleah...") 
  14. Cleveland Indians
  15. Colorado Rockies
  16. San Francisco Giants
  17. Chicago White Sox
  18. Minnesota Twins
  19. Milwaukee Brewers
  20. Miami Marlins (Down from #17.  Yep, this drop comes because of the addition of Carlos Zambrano, who actually represents negative vale.  In my mind, his acquisition signals that the Marlins aren't really trying to win [see: "The 2012 Miami Marlins: My New Favorite Reality TV Show"])
  21. Kansas City Royals
  22. Los Angeles Dodgers
  23. Chicago Cubs (Up from #26.  As much as I hate to say it, Theo Epstein has made some great [in a couple cases, very one-sided] moves.  He was able to acquire a potential franchise first baseman in Anthony Rizzo for nothing more than a hard-throwing reliever [see: "Transaction Reaction: Anthony Rizzo for Andrew Cashner"] somehow able to get rid of Carlos Zambrano without the involvement of the mob.  By the way, I can't wait until everybody in the world jumps on the Cubs bandwagon when they start showing signs of life.  Just wait, being a Cubs fan will become painfully trendy, a-la being a Red Sox fan in 2004.) 
  24. Seattle Mariners (Up from #25.  Jesus Montero should offer some long-term mash on a team starving for offense.  But they also lost their #2 starter in the trade with the Yankees, so not a huge jump in the power rankings.  This move up also represents a drop for the Padres who were on the wrong end of the Rizzo for Cashner swap.)
  25. Pittsburgh Pirates
  26. San Diego Padres 
  27. New York Mets
  28. Baltimore Orioles
  29. Houston Astros
  30. Oakland Athletics (If there was a way for me to drop the A's further, I would.  They are brutal! Maybe they can bring Scott Hatteberg out of retirement.)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Transaction Reaction: The Yankees' New Rotation

In a matter of minutes, the Bronx Bombers negotiated a major trade for Michael Pineda and signed free agent Hiroki Kuroda. Bombers and the Japanese haven't combined for this big of a news story since......(edited due to a blatant lack of cultural sensitivity).

These moves addressed and then erased the only doubts about New York's roster for 2012. Many seemed to think the Yankees were content to huddle just under the salary cap and wait for next years' free agent class to address their pitching needs (Cain, Greinke, etc.) These moves immediately push the Yankees to the top of the power rankings in my book, as the middle and back end of their rotation just shifted from being an Achilles heel to one of the biggest strengths of the ball club. Keep in mind they also still have Burnett, Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes to battle for the fifth spot. This is crucial because they will have two additional pitchers who can step in immediately for spot starts rather than relying on unproven youngsters. This also might give them some time to work with Burnett and see if he can regain his form from a few years ago.

-First, the trade. The Yankees traded Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to obtain Michael Pineda and Jose Campos, a hard-throwing prospect. How good is Michael Pineda? Well, Pineda was good enough to make the All-Star team as a rookie last year. He also gets his outs by striking out a TON of hitters, which is crucial if he's going to pitch well in the New York Launching Pad. I've heard that Hector Noesi has huge upside, which may eventually make him as good as Pineda. However, I've never seen him pitch and the Yankees have a history of vastly overrating their own prospects (see: Joba). Jesus Montero is also a big time prospect, and he seems like he will end up being an elite bat. The challenge for the Mariners will be whether to keep him at catcher or to put him at first base. Either way, it seems like each team got what they wanted, and on the surface it looks to be a reasonably fair deal.

-Then, the free agent signing. Hiroki Kuroda is a phenominal pitcher when he is healthy. However, his injury history has limited his innings load. This works out pretty nicely for the Yankees given their new found depth. I already mentioned that they have 6 or 7 decent option for 5 spots, so they can use Kuroda when he is healthy, and use Phil Hughes or AJ Burnett if not. I love the look of the new rotation, and Kuroda brings some talent and a different look to the middle of their rotation. I can't imagine how awkward it would feel trying to hit against CC Sabathia one day, and then attempting to regain your timing against Kuroda the next day. The only possible downside to this deal is that Kuroda is an aging, contact pitcher who is used to playing in Los Angeles, which is a very favorable pitching environment. For context, to translate Kuroda's numbers from LA to his new park in New York, you'd have to adjust his stats by an incredible 45% (according to Stat Corner's park effects data). That would push his ERA closer to 4.30 or 4.40. Yankees fans can breathe easy though, because Kuroda does induce a high number of ground balls, and those don't often fly over the fence.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The True Cost of Luxury

An interesting thing happens when a big market team decides to overpay for a free agent. It starts a cycle in which the team has to continue paying for the same mistake over and over again. This is....the more painful, yet unwritten luxury tax. Often, these factors are glossed over because these teams can use their seemingly unlimited resources to cover their tracks, but once a team is labeled as a "free agent big spender" the following problems blossom immediately:

1) By injecting money into your own division with a free agent signing, you are elevating the playing field for all of your competitors and forcing them to spend big.
This is seemingly unavoidable if you want to be successful, but each free agent signing makes the cost of future acquisitions and the cost of a win more expensive moving forward. This hike in cost moving forward occurs regardless of whether or not your big time free agent acquisition produces like you expected him to. For example, the signings of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson were obviously very expensive, but if the Rangers then signed Prince Fielder and/or Yu Darvish to counter...a large portion of the value to the Angels was just lost. To further this point, if any of the players involved underachieves, the result is a huge cost AND a net loss in performance relative to your competitors.

2) Farewell to the home town discount.
Every team has core players, and these players expect to be treated as such. Therefore, when a core player sees his team lure a free agent to town with a big contract, he sees this as the floor for his own negotiations (assuming relative talent). Teams such as Tampa or Oakland do have a small amount of leverage in that, they can point to the books and say, "If you wish to stay, here is the highest amount we can reasonably pay you." Although this is a false ceiling, it does tend to ground negotiations and forces the player to weigh their drive to achieve a big contract against staying in a place they enjoy. If the player leaves, small market club can often absorb the PR backlash since the public knows of the club's financial limitations. This is even sometimes directed back at the player with accusations of greed. Without this false ceiling, the club ALWAYS loses the PR battle. For example, no one in their right mind would pay Jeter as much as his most recent contract was worth. However, the Yankees were stuck between fans romanticizing Jeter's past performance and Jeter's knowledge of their endless revenue streams. This same factor assisted in pushing Nomar Garciaparra out the door in 2004 because the Red Sox payroll was going sky-high, just as Nomar's performance was in decline. The reports were that the sides weren't close on an extension, so the Sox rightfully opted to make a trade to bring in Orlando Cabrera.

3) Relativity.
Again touching on the Yankees, any free agent pitcher will certainly have New York's history of spending in mind. Negotiations from the player's perspective will certainly open with a favorable comparison. Starting pitcher? "Well I'm THIS much better than AJ Burnett, and you gave him 5 years and 86.5 million. Let's start at 5 years and $110 million" Mediocre relief pitcher? "Well I'm about the same as your ineffective reliever Rafael Soriano, so I'll just take the 3 years, 30 million." Eek. You can see how that adds up quickly.

These three problems never wear off, and they actually accelerate over time. The value of each dollar spent decreases each offseason, because agents and players alike study these trends and use them to their advantage. This is the reason that Scott Boras and Dan Lozano intentionally draw the Phillies, Red Sox, Cubs or Yankees into every single negotiation. These agents have recognized that for these teams to get a dollar's worth of production, they are required to pay their client closer to $1.50.

Editor's note: I'm wondering if the restraint shown by the Yankees and Red Sox so far this offseason are cursory attempts to break this cycle. Contrarily, the Phillies' offseason spending thus far has shown this inflation pretty vividly (Overpay for an incumbent shortstop? check. Dramatically overpay for a closer? check.)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Hall of Fame Apathy

It was announced today that Barry Larkin was elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, receiving 86% of the votes, easily clearing the required 75% needed for election.  I'll be honest in saying that sadly, I'm kind of apathetic about the whole thing.  When I was a kid, the Hall of Fame election used to be something of mythological proportions.  The Hall of Fame was a place containing the names of men who transcended beyond normal greatness to the level of legendary.  And the great thing about baseball history is that statistics have been so meticulously kept over the years that certain benchmarks developed, statistical heights when reached, secured your place in baseball lore: 500 home runs, 3,000 hits, 300 wins, etc.  

So where did the magic go?  I think it disappeared with the cynicism of the steroid age.  A whole generation of players not only met those historical benchmarks, but shattered long-held records in the process.  But a cloud hangs over the whole era.  Some players were caught, some confessed, but even the others seem to be stained with the guilt of their peers.  And the greatest players of the generation--McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, Clemens, Rodriguez--will forever remain in some sort of baseball limbo, their names in the record books, but with an accusatory asterisk to the right, always.  I know that I'm not the first person to ever write about the tragedy of the steroid era, nor will I be the  last, but it makes me particularly sad on a day like today.  

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Transaction Reaction: Anthony Rizzo for Andrew Cashner

The Cubs sent RP Andrew Cashner and OF Kyung-Min Na to the Padres for 1B Anthony Rizzo and P Zach Cates.

  • At first glance, this looks to be a steal for the Cubs, and it's hard to see what the Padres' front office hopes to gain through this deal. Rizzo was a hot commodity that other teams were begging for, and it is hard to believe this is the best package a competitor was willing to offer. If patience is a virtue....what is selling off huge talent for peanuts?
  • It was obvious after the Padres would be looking to move Rizzo after bringing in Yonder Alonso in the Latos deal. In my eyes, this deal is so bad for the Padres that it actually weakens the return they received in the Latos trade. To clarify, the Padres gave up a pseudo-ace pitcher to the Reds and received a studly young bat that plays a corner IF position, which the Padres already had in Rizzo. (They also got Volquez, which was solid.) Bringing in another studly, corner bat was not a bad thing because it offered the Padres flexibility and created a VERY talented surplus. Having two young, top-tier bats could be useful to flip for almost anything they wanted. By missing the mark and only obtaining Cashner and a low-ceiling OF, they went backwards. They are in a worse place now than if they would have just held the surplus in hand, or if they would have kept Latos until they found a better package. The chain of events from the Padres front office looks confusing and underwhelming to say the least, with the usual caveat - Maybe the Padres know something about Cashner or Rizzo that no one else has figured out yet. (If this is the case, we will be praising this deal in 2017. Please do not attempt to hold your breath for this length of time.)
  • From the Cubs' perspective, it seems like a great play. The Cubs already had Bryan LaHair in the minors and many analysts thought he would be crucial to the rebuilding project given his huge triple A numbers. However, LaHair is already 28 while putting up those numbers, and no one really knows how long it will take for the Cubs to be relevant again. Enter Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo was almost equally as impressive in triple A when looking at league neutral stats, and he even got a cameo in the big leagues. The difference is that Rizzo is SEVEN YEARS YOUNGER. Holy cow.... See: upside.
  • (And do not fret loyal Cubs fans clamoring for Lahair. This still leaves the Cubs the option of working Lahair's bat into the lineup at one of the corner outfield spots. Both of these guys will hit, and they could be squeezed into a young lineup also featuring the newly acquired Ian Stewart.)
  • All of this potential, and the Cubs didn't have to give up much.... A young, enigmatic Cashner who will probably end up as nothing more than a right-handed reliever. Right-handed relievers also happen to be the easiest and cheapest thing to acquire in baseball. As we saw in the World Series during the late innings, the Rangers and Cardinals each have about 6 of these "Cashners" on their respective rosters.....only the "Cashners" we saw in October have much better control and less of an injury history than the 25 year old, actual Andrew Cashner. Obviously there was also a throw-in on each side, but neither of these players look like they will tip the scales in either direction.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The 2012 Miami Marlins: My New Favorite Reality TV Show

When I first heard the news yesterday that the Miami Marlins had acquired Carlos Zambrano via a trade, I thought they had lost their collective mind.  Over the past number of seasons, his craziness has proven to be a cancer for the Chicago Cubs, and oh, by the way, he doesn't really pitch well anymore either.

But then it hit me, and I saw the brilliance of what the Marlins are doing.    Somebody in the front office has realized that even more than winning, the one thing that attracts viewers is a crazy train-wreck of explosive personalities.  All you have to do is look at the more popular reality shows (The Bachelor/Bachelorette, Jersey Shore, Hell's Kitchen, etc.) to see that this is the case.  As human beings, we are attracted to dysfunction.  And the Marlins get this.

So you see, they really aren't trying to win, per se.  What they are more interested in is ratings.  For this reason, they have put together one of the most potentially combustible situations in baseball history with a high-strung, emotional manager in Ozzie Guillen, two prideful high-priced superstars who both play the same position, a left fielder (@LoMoMarlins) who will be on hand to tweet it all to the watching world, and now, Carlos Zambrano, one of the most mentally unstable pitchers of all time.  Brilliant.

So what are the next moves for the Marlins?  Perhaps adding another expensive diva who also happens to play shortstop?  Sign Milton Bradly and/or Manny Ramirez to come off the bench?  Trade for Nyjer Morgan to play centerfield?  Hire Jose Canseco as a "strength and conditioning coach?"  He certainly already has the reality show street cred.  

Should be a lot of fun, and I can't wait to watch!  Which is exactly what the Marlins want to hear. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Transaction Reaction: Coco Crisp

The Oakland Athletics sign Coco Crisp to a two year deal worth $14 million with a team option for 2014.  Crisp will be paid $6 million in 2012, $7 million in 2013, and in 2014, the A's will either pick up an option worth $7.5 million or pay a $1 million buyout.

  • Huh?
  • I'll be honest, I don't get this one, Brad Pi... I mean Billy Beane.  This offseason, the A's have dealt away talented young players entering their prime (Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey, Craig Breslow) for even younger prospects who are years away from major league contributions and have let players in the latter half of their prime (Josh Willingham, David DeJesus) walk, all presumably in an attempt for a total rebuild.  All of their actions signal the raising up of the white flag before the 2012 even starts.  And then they sign Coco Crisp, a mediocre player entering the downside of his career, to a multi-year contract in which he makes just enough money to successfully block some young prospect outfielder from getting playing time.  I don't get it.
  • Crisp is still fairly speedy (49 stolen bases last year), and is a decent defensive outfielder.  But he has little power, a middling average, and absolutely no upside.  And don't look for the Moneyball on-base magic, as Crisp has an ugly .330 career .OBP mark over a large sample size.  For a team like where the A's are right now, Coco Crisp makes no sense.
  • So what is the angle? There has to be some reason to sign Crisp.  Right?  Maybe this team is so devoid of talent and personality, they needed to find the cheapest possible "face of the franchise," and who better than a guy with an Afro who is named after a cereal.   Enjoy your Coco Crisp bobble-head night, Oakland fans! 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Twelve Bold MLB Predictions for 2012

As the new year dawns, and we are still a month plus away from pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training, I wanted to throw out twelve bold predictions for the 2012 MLB season.  For accountability's sake, I will be sure to revisit these after the season.

  1. The St. Louis Cardinals will be the first repeat world champions since the Yankees three-peated it in 1998-2000. 
  2. Albert Pujols, however, will not be participating in the 2012 playoffs.
  3. Neither will the New York Yankees.
  4. Adam Dunn will lead the majors in home runs.  And then he will pull a tree out of the ground with his bare hands.
  5. Last year's American League Cy Young winner, Justin Verlander will have a rough season, and will disappoint zillions of fantasy general managers.  And his actual general manager.
  6. Only a year removed from Tommy John surgery, Adam Wainwright will surprise everyone by winning not only Comeback Player of the Year, but the National League Cy Young Award to boot.
  7. With Pujols now out of the National League, Matt Kemp will be the first player to win the offensive triple crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 (the first national leaguer since Joe Medwick in 1937!)
  8. With a highly-combustible manager, a quickly blooming controversy over the shortstop position, and numerous young, social media loving players, The Miami Marlins will provide excellent off-the-field entertainment value throughout the season.
  9. The surprise team of the year will be the Kansas City Royals who will challenge for the American League Central division title.
  10. Joe Mauer will stay healthy for the entire 2012, and will win the American League batting title. 
  11. Ryan Howard, on the other hand, will not play a game before June.
  12. With the soon advent of more interleague play, Bud Selig will finally do away with the Designated Hitter (if I keep saying it, maybe it will happen...)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

MLB Power Ranking: January 1

Happy New Year to all of our "Hottest Stovers" (newly coined term)!  Starting today, on January 1st, we will be updating our MLB Power Rankings on the first and fifteenth of every month.  With every rise or drop of a team, we will offer a brief explanation for the change.  Not much has happened since we last ranked the teams in December, so there won't be a whole lot of drastic changes made.  As always, feel free to squabble in the comments below!

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. Texas Rangers
  3. St. Louis Cardinals (Up from #5.  The addition of Carlos Beltran coupled with the positive rehab news from Adam Wainwright gives this team a boost.  Plus, the Yankees really only have one good starting pitcher right now, and don't seem to be doing anything to change that fact. [see "The Yankees' Inexplicable Dearth of Starting Pitching" article])
  4. New York Yankees
  5. Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim)
  6. Philadelphia Phillies
  7. Arizona Diamondbacks
  8. Detroit Tigers
  9. Tampa Bay Rays
  10. Toronto Blue Jays
  11. Cincinnati Reds (Up from #12.  Change due to Mat Latos acquisition.  He's a great pitcher, but he's also going from one of the best pitcher's parks to one of the worst.)
  12. Atlanta Braves
  13. Washington Nationals (Up from #17.  I don't think that the Nationals acquisition of Gio Gonzalez is a complete game-changer of a move, but it caused me to re-evaluate their roster and commitment to winning now.  Wouldn't be surprised to see the Purple Rain land here as well.)
  14. Cleveland Indians
  15. Colorado Rockies
  16. San Francisco Giants
  17. Miami Marlins
  18. Chicago White Sox
  19. Minnesota Twins
  20. Milwaukee Brewers
  21. Kansas City Royals
  22. Los Angeles Dodgers
  23. Pittsburgh Pirates
  24. San Diego Padres (Up from #26.  Slight bump because of Carlos Quentin acquisition.  Still a team with a lot of holes.  Just one less, now.)
  25. Seattle Mariners
  26. Chicago Cubs
  27. New York Mets
  28. Baltimore Orioles
  29. Houston Astros
  30. Oakland Athletics