Monthly Archives: November, 2012

Three Years After ‘The Trade,’ Schlereth is the First to Go

It’s been nearly three years since The Trade that sent Curtis Granderson to the Bronx, Austin Jackson, Max Scherzer, Phil Coke, and Daniel Schlereth to Detroit, and Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy to Arizona.

This shouldn’t really be news today except that the Tigers have cut ties with the smallest piece of that deal; Daniel Schlereth.

It’s hard to call this trade anything but a win for the Tigers at this point given how well Jackson, Scherzer, and Coke have performed over their three seasons with the club at a lower collective cost than Granderson and Jackson.

Granderson has 13.2 WAR since 2010 while making $23.75 million. Austin Jackson (12.3), Scherzer (11.1), and Coke (3.8) sum all the way up to 27.2 WAR and cost $9.5 million together. (Edwin Jackson put up 7.8 WAR in his two years of team control that the deal covered but made lots of money so he’s a wash)

So the Tigers basically added 14 wins to their club over the last three years and saved $14 million, so far. The deal will keeping paying dividends as time goes on and Granderson’s deal expires and Jackson/Scherzer/Coke remain under Tigers’ control.

But what about Daniel (son of Mark) Schlereth? You can’t fault Dombrowski on a deal that worked out this well…or can you?

Schlereth has been worth a whopping -0.6 WAR as a Tiger. That’s a minus sign folks. Many, many walks will do that to you. His Tigers career is over and he’s been worse than useless.

Let’s reimagine the 2009 trade without Schlereth in the picture. Tigers send Granderson to New York for Austin Jackson, Phil Coke, and Ian Kennedy. They then send Kennedy and Edwin Jackson to Arizona for Scherzer and Schlereth. Hmmm…

Could the Tigers have kept Jackson or Kennedy if they hadn’t wanted Schlereth? We’ll never know, but it’s interesting to think about. The Diamondbacks wanted to trade two pitchers for two slightly more proven pitchers. Could we have gotten a one for one? Kennedy for Scherzer or Jackson for Scherzer?

Could this be a world in which the Tigers had Ian Kennedy as well right now? Or Edwin Jackson for two more seasons? Even if the rotations were crowded, those are nice trade chips that would return more than a Daniel Schlereth right now.

This is a fun game we can play, but it’s also pretty crazy to get 14 more wins for $14 fewer million and wish you had done better. One of the pieces of The Trade has watched his clock run out in Detroit. Daniel Schlereth’s days in the organization are over and he will forever be the miss among the hits.

Which is fitting, given how much he missed the strike zone while wearing a Tigers uniform.

Lots of Baseball Happens: Signings, Extensions, and Trades

In the most cliché move yet this offseason, the hot stove is heating up as baseball’s GMs decided to start making moves in the week before the Winter Meetings in Nashville. Because my day job doesn’t allow me to spend the 12 hours a day I would like to writing about baseball, I’m going to have to get you caught up at lightning speed.

Here are the big moves from this week and my brief take on each:

Angels sign RP Ryan Madson, 1 year, $6 million plus incentives

Excellent move by the Angels who followed up by dumping Jordon Walden on the Braves for Tommy Hanson. Madson was a solid reliever for the Phillies for several years before signing a 1 year deal with the Reds last season. He got injured before the season and never threw a pitch, so it’s hard to judge exactly how healthy he may be. The Angels took that risk and added Madson to their bullpen on a one year deal during and offseason that has seen two meh relievers (League and Broxton) get three year contracts. Grade: A

Braves sign OF BJ Upton , 5 years, $75 million

The Braves needed to resign or replace Michael Bourn and this will do the trick. I have my doubts about Upton going forward and think he’s a guy who peaked early and will never live up to his skills. That said, he’s been a useful big leaguer with flashes of star power in the past and the Braves are only signing him through his age 32 season. I don’t love this deal, but it’s not a huge risk given how big contracts are getting. I think Upton has a couple more $15 million seasons in him, I’m just not sure how many and when they’ll come. I’m glad my team isn’t taking this risk, but I’m guessing the Braves won’t regret this and if they do, it won’t be a huge regret. Grade: B-

Nationals acquire Denard Span from the Twins for P Alex Meyer

The Tigers fan in me is thrilled Span is leaving the AL Central. The analyst in me thinks the Nationals made a shrewd move here. A cost controlled Span for three more seasons will do wonders between Harper and Werth and can provide a nice boost at the top of the order in a much cheaper way than the free agent options. Meyer is an interesting prospect, but most of the people I’ve talked to or read seem to think he’s a risky-high upside type. Span fills a hole in the Nats outfield and they traded from pitching depth, and they have a lot of that. The Twins have Ben Revere to fill the Span void and they do need a lot of pitching. I like this deal for them except that I think they probably could have gotten more in a deal for Span. Grade (Nats): A, Grade (Twins): C+

Pirates sign Russell Martin, 2 years, $17 million

The Pirates got something they needed. Offense. Martin hits for power and walks at a decent rate while provide some value on defense through solid pitching framing and debatable throwing skills. He’s a good fit for the Pirates and it’s hard to call $8.5 million for a free agent who can easily get to 2.0 WAR an overpay. Can’t complain if I’m a Bucs fan, but I really just want to point out that the Pirates outbid the Yankees for a player. The Pirates…outbid…the Yankees. With money. Grade: B

Mets extend David Wright, 7 years, $122 million

This extension starts after 2013 and carries Wright into his age 37 season. I was preparing a “What Should the Mets Pay Wright” piece when the news broke of this extension and I have to say, the Mets are getting a really solid yearly price for the cost of guaranteeing a lot of years. This is similar to the Longoria deal in a lot of ways except Longoria signed his four years ahead of free agency and Wright signed his one year ahead. Wright proved, through signing this deal, that he is committed to winning in New York and he’ll likely be a Met for life. Assuming he stays healthy, it’s hard for me to see a way in which this deal becomes a mess. It might not payoff, but it should mostly pay off. Grade: B+

The Winter Meetings are coming next week and a lot more action should be coming. Check back with STT for complete coverage.

122 days until Opening Day.

2012 Season in Review: NL Central

Over the last couple weeks, you’ve seen the STT Seasons in Review for each of the six NL Central teams that gave brief overviews of each team’s biggest contributors and how their seasons went. I gave each club a letter grade for 2012 and a rough projection of how I see them stacking up in 2013.

Today, I want to review the division as a whole and paint a broad picture about what it looks like going forward (See you never, Astros!).

This is how things went in 2012:

And here’s how the Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds looked from April to October.

The Reds took over by July and the Cardinals pretty much stayed in Wild Card position for most of the season. Each of the Brewers and Pirates made a run at it at different points, but neither could really close the deal. Needless to say, the Cubs and Astros did not really factor into the race.

The NL Central is one of the lesser divisions in the game, but the offense from the Reds, Cards, and Brewers was pretty good. Match that with a Pirates club on the rise and some good pitching from a couple of these teams, and what we really have is a division dragged down by the bottom feeders.

The Reds and Cardinals are good teams. The Brewers are talented but have damaging holes. The Pirates are becoming competitive, but still haven’t become a threat. The Cubs and Astros are a mess. One of these teams is leaving next year, so the division as a whole might get a little better by subtraction.

My bet is that the division will look pretty similar in 2013 when it’s all said and done. Here is my early projection, which is subject to change throughout the offseason:

The key variable here is that these teams have to pick up some wins that normally came at the expense of the Astros in order to keep these win totals up. I guess I’ll have to look at this more closely as I fill in the sheet with the rest of the divisions.

The NL Central MVP goes to Ryan Braun over Yadier Molina and the Cy Young belongs to Johnny Cueto.

Here’s a final summary of the NL Central 2012 Grades and Win totals:

All and all, another fine year in the pitcher-bats-9th Midwestern United States led by the Reds and Cardinals.

2012 Season in Review: Cincinnati Reds

97-65, 1st in the NL Central, Division Champion

Lost in the NLDS to the Giants

It’s hard not to be happy with 97 wins. That’s a lot of wins. The Reds were a great team in 2012 and should be really happy about everything they did except for those last three playoff games where they let the Giants embarrass them.

Joey Votto played 70 percent of the year and posted a 5.9 WAR. His slash line (.337/474/.567) was something out of a video game. Brandon Phillips, Ryan Hanigan, Todd Frazier, Ryan Ludwick, Zack Cozart, and Jay Bruce all posted starter or better WARs while contributing to baseball’s 10th best cohort of position players.

It’s hard to argue with a top five pitching staff either. The original rotation, led by Johnny Cueto, made 161 starts, yielding only a single game to Todd Redmond at the very end of the season. Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake, and Homer Bailey joined Cueto in the original five to form one of the better rotations in the game.

But the bullpen was the story. They posted the second best K/9 rate and the third best FIP in 2012 on the back of fireballer Aroldis Chapman.

The Reds hit well, fielded well enough, and pitched great. That’s a really good formula if you’re trying to win baseball games.

The Reds were a complete team and commanded the soft NL Central for the entire season. They fought off challenges from the Pirates and Cardinals and coasted their way into the postseason. After a strong start on the road in San Francisco, the Reds lost all three home games and called it a season after Game 5 of the NLDS.

It’s hard not to favor the Reds again in 2013 as they return most of their key pieces and look to be moving Chapman to the rotation where he belongs. The Cardinals will have something to say about the Reds’ chance at a repeat division crown, but the Great American Ballpark faithful should clear their schedules for next fall.

2012 Grade: A

Early 2013 Projection: 94-68

Steroid Users and the Hall of Fame: The Time Has Come to Decide

The 2013 MLB Hall of Fame ballot is out, and it’s time to start yelling and screaming. Why you ask? Well because we’re welcoming a wave of suspected steroid users into the conversation and people seem to have strong opinions about that.

Here is the official ballot, and you can see a lot of first timers are controversial like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Roger Clemens along with previous question marks like Mark McGwire and Jeff Bagwell. Curt Schilling, Mike Piazza, and Craig Biggio are others of note joining the party for the first time.

I’m not going to assess each candidacy individually, but I will say that there are some players who clearly belong in the Hall based on their numbers, but might have a tough time getting in because of their conduct. Presumably, in a world in which we could know with certainty that Barry Bonds never used steroids, he would be a first ballot Hall of Famer easily. Same goes for Sosa and Clemens. No question.

The rest of the players I’ve named are all Hall-worthy, but some of them are under suspicion to varying degrees. Let’s ask the more important question here. Should steroid use matter in Hall of Fame voting?

We can never know who used and who didn’t, so all of this is based on suspicion because none of these guys ever failed a test (although McGwire has admitted to using). Let’s assume for a moment that all of these players would make the Hall of Fame if there was no suspicious on steroid use and that higher suspicion decreases an individual’s likelihood of election.

There are different scenarios for how to address this.

1) Suspicion versus Evidence?

Should we keep players out of the Hall because we think they used? This is an important question. Manny Ramirez, who won’t be eligible for four more years, failed two tests. We know he used banned substances. Bonds never failed a test; we just think he used banned substances. Should we vote based on a feeling, in the absence of true evidence? I would argue that we probably shouldn’t.

We think certain players used, but we don’t actually know. A lot of players used steroids and we’ll never know exactly who did. That includes the players who competed against each of these stars. That doesn’t make their choices to use morally okay, but it does make me think that we can’t just decide certain players don’t belong in the Hall because we think they may have done something wrong. We don’t have evidence. We want to punish users because they corrupted the sport, but we can’t just keep people out of the Hall of Fame because we think they did something wrong.

A jury shouldn’t convict someone just because they look like a murderer if there is no evidence they murdered someone. Certainly, the stakes are different, but the logic is the same.

If we don’t have proof, can we really say who is clean and who isn’t?

2) Is excluding suspected users immoral?

This is an interesting perspective. If we exclude users, are we punishing them or are we trying to hide from a black mark on the game’s record. Wouldn’t we be pretty upset if Germany just stopped putting Nazis in history books because they were bad people? Isn’t the Hall of Fame a museum to baseball? Shouldn’t it include the good and the bad?

I could understand not wanting to celebrate Bonds, but his absence from the Hall would just be strange. He’s the all-time HR leader and one of the best players of all time. He may have cheated to get that far, but we can’t just say he never happened, can we?

If we hide from what brings us shame, we’re trying to pretend it never happened.

3) The Story of the Game

How can we exclude steroid users when they were such a big part of baseball? How can I take my kids to a Cooperstown that doesn’t include the best players of my childhood? They might not be the heroes we want them to be, but they were the best.

We don’t just ignore Nixon because he broke the law. He’s a critical character in American history for that very reason. Bonds can be a villain, but all great stories need villains. These guys were bad guys, we can say, but they are part of our history and we were really happy when clean players broke their records and stole their limelight.

4) What about the Type II Error?

This is a problem in the same vein as #1. What if we exclude a player who earned his way into the Hall cleanly because we thought he used. What if Bonds was totally clean? Wouldn’t we rather have a few bad apples in the Hall if it means all of the innocent people made it in for sure instead of keeping innocent people out in order to make sure none of the guilty get in?

This is a serious dilemma for the voters. Which is better? I’d feel a lot worse if a clean player was left out that if a steroid user got in.

All said, what should we do about the steroid era and the Hall of Fame? I’ve waivered about this for a while, but now that the day has come, it’s time to decide. How do we handle such a complex problem?

I think we have to let them in.

It’s wrong to punish someone on suspicion alone and we shouldn’t try to whitewash over a black period of history. We need to tell the whole story and I don’t want anyone punished for something they didn’t do.

It’s our responsibility as fans to teach our kids about the game in the most honest way possible. When the time comes, my kids will know I think Barry Bonds cheated, but they’ll also know that I can’t prove it. I’ll tell him he was a force to be reckoned with in the box, but I don’t know if he or anyone else was using something they shouldn’t have.

I’ll tell him he’s in the Hall because the Hall is a museum to the game, not a reward for the best behaved.

Most importantly, I teach my kids the important lesson of Bonds and Clemens and Sosa. I’ll teach them that cheating might be a good short term answer, but it’s never the right choice in the long run. I’ll tell them about how I sat up at night watching Barry Bonds break the homerun record in a quiet house. I’ll tell them that no one celebrated outside of San Francisco.

I’ll tell them how everyone said Bonds’ name with disgust, disappointment, or indifference.

He broke the most hallowed record in sports and almost no one really cared. Compare that with the excitement of Aaron passing Ruth and you’ll learn the valuable lesson. Cheating might earn you some hardware. It might make you some money. You might even make it into the Hall of Fame.

But it won’t earn you respect and it won’t make you happy.

We should let the suspected users into the Hall because if they cheated, they’ll be the ones living with the lie, not us.

 

2012 Season in Review: St. Louis Cardinals

88-74, 2nd in the NL Central, 2nd Wild Card

Lost in the NLCS to the Giants

After winning the 2011 World Series in dramatic fashion the Cardinals came within one win of making it back to rekindle the 2006 series against the Tigers. But falling short can hardly be called a failure in a game filled with parity. The Cardinals had an amazing season that was capped off by one of the more amazing wins in recent memory.

They lost Albert Pujols to free agency and Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan to retirement after 2011, but the Cardinals didn’t panic and had a solid season. They won the inaugural NL Coin Flip game against the Braves with a little help from a bad call and came back to stun the Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS. They took a 3-1 lead on the Giants in the NLCS, but couldn’t close the deal and went home one win shy of the Fall Classic.

The offense led the way as we all thought it would. Yadier Molina (6.5), Matt Holliday (5.1), David Freese (4.1), Jon Jay (4.1), Carlos Beltran (3.6), and Allen Craig (3.1) all racked up solid to great WARs and role players like Matt Carpenter and Pete Kozma delivered when they needed them to do so.

All told, they were baseball’s second best offense and third best group of position players when you factor in defense. As expected, they Cardinals bats delivered.

But the league’s 9th best pitching staff also called Busch Stadium home in 2012. Adam Wainwright led the staff (4.4 WAR) and had a great #2 in the form of Kyle Lohse’s breakout year (3.6). Lance Lynn and Jamie Garcia also contributed along with a respectable year from Jake Westbrook. Joe Kelly picked up the slack and filled in when those five couldn’t go, allowing Chris Carpenter to rest up for the very late stretch run.

The bullpen was middle of the roadish, but they certainly didn’t cost them enough games to make it hurt.

Mike Matheny’s first season as a manager went well for the club, even if he does think bunting is compulsory.

It was a very strong year from one of baseball’s strongest franchises. The Cardinals locked up the newly minted 2nd Wild Card and carried that good fortune deep into October. They didn’t miss Pujols and managed without Carpenter.

With some exciting young arms coming to a Busch Stadium mound near you, it’s hard not to be bullish on the 2013 Cardinals while commending them on a fine 2012.

2012 Grade: A

Early 2013 Projection: 90-72

2012 Season in Review: Milwaukee Brewers

83-79, 3rd in the NL Central

The Brewers came close to following up their run to the 2011 NLCS with another playoff appearance, but ended up just short and finished 5 games behind WC2 St. Louis. This might feel like a respectable season given the loss of Prince Fielder to the big spending Tigers and Zach Greinke to the Angels via trade, but it’s hard not to look at 2012 as a missed opportunity if you’re a Brewers fan.

The reason I say this is because the Brewers could have made the playoffs if their bullpen didn’t implode time after time during the first half. They played well down the stretch and certainly could have won five more games with two more months of Greinke mixed with a not-terrible bullpen in May and June.

Ryan Braun had a near MVP season (7.9 WAR) and Aramis Ramirez filled in admirably in place of Fielder (6.5 WAR) behind him. Jonathan Lucroy posted a spectacular 3.9 WAR in 96 games behind the plate and Carlos Gomez (3.5), Nori Aoki (2.9), and Corey Hart (2.9) all had solid seasons at the plate.

Collectively, Brewers position players accumulated 33.6 WAR on offense and defense, good for second in all of baseball. They didn’t miss Fielder that much. They got elite production from their stars, solid contributions from regulars, and didn’t have anyone who dragged them down with a lot of at bats of negative value.

On the hill, the story is a bit different. Greinke gave them two great months (3.8 WAR) and Mike Fiers (3.0), Marco Estrada (2.7), and Yovani Gallardo (2.7) all had solid seasons. Wolf and Marcum also made quite a few starts of mediocre value, but the key deficiency of the rotation was that only Gallardo make more than 24 starts. By WAR, they had the 9th best rotation in baseball.

The bullpen, however, was 25th in baseball and posted a 4.11 BB/9 rate. Only the Cubs and Dodgers were as bad or worse in 2012. Only the Mets had a worse Left on Base rate. Only the Astros and Rockies gave up more hits. We should cut them some slack because they pitch in a hitter friendly park, but not this much. And we should also remember they stunk in the first half and did get a little better.

But the story here is that bullpens performing very badly over a short period can cost you a good deal of games with a small raw amount of terrible performance. I don’t like Saves as a stat for many reasons, but when you blow 30 of them as a team in one season, you’re doing something wrong.

So the story of the 2012 Brewers is a story about a good offense, respectable starting pitching, and a rough bullpen. They were good enough to make the Play-in Game except for a ton of blown games late. It’s hard not to let that eat at you over the course of an offseason.

The loss of Greinke going forward will cost them without an obvious replacement, but they should be able to recreate him with a couple of solid arms who can replace all of the starts they gave to AAAA type players.

The Reds and Cardinals aren’t going anywhere and the Pirates look serious. The Brewers need to beef up their bullpen and solidify their rotation if they want to give their offense a shot at carrying them back to the postseason.

2012 Grade: C

Early 2013 Projection: 82-80

Rays Extend Best Contract in Baseball, Evan Longoria is now Rich, Awesome, and Loyal

Baseball’s most team friendly deal just got longer. It didn’t get better, but that would have been impossible.

This morning, the Tampa Bay Rays signed Evan Longoria to a 6 year, $100 million extension that tacks on to the end of their current accord.

Let’s summarize Longoria’s salary progression:

2008: $500,000

2009: $550,000

2010: $950,000

2011: $2,000,000

2012: $4,500,000

2013: $6,000,000

2014: $7,500,000

2015: $11,000,000

2016: $11,500,000

2017-2022: $16,667,000 (average, breakdown unknown at time of publishing)

2023: (undisclosed option at time of publishing)

Basically, Longoria’s first three seasons brought him standard pre-arbitration payment with a touch of sweetener. In what would have been his arbitration seasons, he will make $12.5 million. That’s about what Hunter Pence will earn in arbitration next year alone.

Needless to say, the Rays made a good investment with the first contract that guaranteed money through in 2013. Longoria ended up earning a lot less than he could of, but he opted for certainty over potential.

The new deal exercises the options from the first deal (14-16) and adds 6-7 more seasons. Longoria’s going to average $14.4 million over the life of this deal (not counting the 2023 option). He’s basically going to be paid to average 2-3 WAR over the next ten seasons after averaging 6 WAR through his first five seasons that included three seasons of less than 140 games.

His average WAR is 6 despite only playing two full seasons, two majority seasons, and one half season. That’s pretty awesome given that he is entering his prime according to our conception of aging in MLB. According to Fangraphs’ Salary numbers, Longoria has already been worth $128 million in his career. To earn the rest of his contract, he essentially only has to match his value over the next ten years with the last five.

This is a great deal for the club given the kind of money flying around to players these days. 10 year, $200 plus million deals are everywhere. Pujols, Fielder, and Votto all got that in the last 12 months.

Certainly Longoria could have earned more on the open market, but he’s also going to have more money than any reasonable person can spend for the rest of his life. He’s tied to one city and one team. He’ll easily earn 10 and 5 rights if the deal doesn’t include its own no-trade clause. He’s basically mapped out his professional career at 27 years old.

He’s an elite third baseman now, but he can move to 1B and then DH as he ages if need be. The Rays only need him to be pretty good to earn his contract and he’s set for life on a team he loves either way. Longoria can basically guarantee he’ll retire as the greatest Ray of all time and he’ll be a very rich man.

So while the Longoria contract is no longer a giant steal, it’s still a steal. It’s probably no longer the best contract in baseball because he’s making more than $500,000, but it’s still amazing.

Everyone wins, especially baseball fans in Tampa Bay. If any ex-Marlins fans are looking for a new team to follow, the guys in St. Pete are actually building a winner in a small market, and their poster-boy is now a Ray for life.

Black Friday Baseball Shopping

If you’re looking for a good baseball themed gift today and apparel isn’t an option, I recommend The Hardball Times Annual 2013 put out by THT and Fangraphs. I’m reading it this weekend and it’s a must read for anyone who’s missing baseball.

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/the-2013-hardball-times-baseball-annual/

Get to Know the Site While We’re Gone

Thanks for visiting SABR Toothed Tigers, the sabermetrically informed website about the Detroit Tigers and all things baseball. We run a pretty small operation here, so it’s hard to find people to work over the holiday weekend. We can’t promise any new content until Monday 11/26, but we hope you take this opportunity to look around at some of the features we’ve run so far.

We have series explaining sabermetrics, goofy 2012 leaderboards, 2012 awards, lots of Free Agent coverage, and along with lighter fare like baseball and culture posts and memorable baseball moments.

We hope you enjoy it and we’re always looking for feedback about features and topics you’d like to see on the site.

One piece of advice before we go, try to come up with a few things you are thankful for ahead of baseball if you’re asked this weekend. While everyone here at STT is most thankful for baseball, family and friends like to feel like they matter in your lives too, so throw them a bone.

Go Tigers,

STT Staff

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