Thursday, January 22, 2004

New Home 

SaberMets has officially moved to a new server. The actual address is sabermets.weblogs.us, but please update all links and bookmarks to point to www.sabermets.com, which will redirect you to the correct site. If you know anyone who is still using the old link, please be so kind as to advise them of the address change.

Thanks for your patience with this move and for your dedicated reading of my brain droppings.

Blog entries from December and January have already been moved to the new site. October and November will be moved shortly.

Friday, January 16, 2004

SaberMets Update 

SaberMets will be moving soon. I am in the process of getting set up on a Movable Type server, thanks to the selfless folks at weblogs.us. Please check out the new layout and let me know what you think. I will be posting to both sites until the move is complete.

You can check out the new site HERE!

Please let me know what you think. Advice, tips, and encouraging words are welcome and appreciated.

Also, anyone who is currently linking (or has a bookmark) pointing to sabermets.blogspot.com, please update your links to target http://www.sabermets.com. It is currently redirecting to this site (blog*spot), but will be switched over to point to the new MT site as soon as it is complete. www.sabermets.com will always point to the correct address, so please use it in all of your links from now on.

Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

What's That I Smell? Ah, Yes ... Money Burning 

The Baltimore Orioles are undoubtedly frustrated by their sixth consecutive fourth place finish. In fact, every season since 1998 has ended with the American League East standings looking like this:

1) New York Yankees
2) Boston Red Sox
3) Toronto Blue Jays
4) Baltimore Orioles
5) Tampa Bay Devil Rays

And the future doesn't look much brighter, at least in terms of the standings changing. The Orioles have taken a number of steps this offseason to at least improve the product on the field, even if it doesn't really get them any closer to the playoffs. Despite losing out on Vladimir Guerrero (I wonder what that must feel like), the Orioles have upgraded at several key positions.

Last season the O's flirted with .500 around the All-Star break, and were as close as 57-59 after beating the Red Sox on August 10. They finished the season 71-91, a mere 30 games behind the Yankees. If you're an Oriole fan (and who isn't?), there are brighter days ahead, even though those days won't be falling in October.


                  OBP   SLG   OPS   WS
Miguel Tejada    .336  .472  .807   25
Deivi Cruz       .269  .378  .647   10
                                    15 = 5 games


                  OBP   SLG   OPS   WS
Rafael Palmeiro  .359  .508  .867   19
Jeff Conine      .338  .459  .797   16
                                    3 = 1 game


                  OBP   SLG   OPS   WS
Javy Lopez       .378  .687 1.065   30
Brook Fordyce    .311  .371  .682    5
                                    25 = 8.3 games

The Orioles have significantly upgraded, at least offensively, at shortstop and catcher, with a decent upgrade at first base as well. Based on production numbers from 2003, they could reasonably expect to be 14 games better than last year, which is a lot of games. Based on their record from last year, the O's would project to go 85-77 which, sadly, would still have put them in forth place last season, just a game behind third place Toronto, who, by the way, have also improved themselves since 2003 ended, particularly their starting rotation and bullpen.

Even if they finish in fourth again, those 14 games will mean a whole lot to the millions of fans attending the games and watching on tv. Even though, by the above measure, they would still be well out of playoff contention, you can't underestimate the value of those extra wins in terms of fan appreciation and team morale. These things can't be measured by mundane baseball statistics, but the subjective human element is a powerful one indeed.

And now to the burning money. On top of the three sluggers they've inked this offseason, they have also just locked up Sidney Ponson for three years at $7.5 million per year. That's an awful lot of money to pay a pitcher who, by all accounts, had no other serious suitors. The Orioles were essentially bidding against themselves, and they couldn't get a better deal than this? Ponson is not a terrible pitcher by any stretch, but he's a not that good either, and he's a little thick in the hip for my liking.

Here's what Ponson has done these past few years.


        IP    K/9    BB/9   HR/9   ERA+
2001   138.1  5.47   2.41   1.37    85
2002   176.0  6.14   3.22   1.33   107
2003   216.0  5.58   2.54   0.67   115

His peripheral numbers are nothing to write home about, though he did a great job in 2003 keeping the ball in the yard after giving up his fair share the previous two seasons. His ERA+ (ERA relative to the league) has improved each of the past three years as his workload has increased. His strikeout and walk rates, while not great, have remained steady as he has pitched more innings.

Let's say that in 2003 he found his stroke, and he'll continue to post ERA+ marks of around 115, or 15% better than the league. In 2003, the average salary for starting pitchers was $3.3 million (msnbc.com). Hell, let's say that Ponson hits his stride next season and is 20% better than the league.

Let's see. That's $3.3 million x 1.20 = $3.96 million. Throw in an extra $40,000 for a personal trainer and dietician and you're at an even $4 million, which is pretty fair for someone of Ponson's talents. Over three years, that's $12 million, or $10.5 million less than the Orioles are actually going to pay him.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Clemens Joins the Astros ... Piazza Seen Polishing His Whooping Stick 

As everyone is aware by now, Roger Clemens has signed a one-year deal with Los Houston Astros. Personally, I've hated Clemens for a while. More specifically, since he joined the Yankees after the 1999 season in a trade for David Wells (plus Graeme Lloyd and Homer Bush).

Now that Clemens has signed with Houston (joining fellow Texan, workout buddy, devout Christian, and candidate for most overrated pitcher in baseball Andy Pettitte), I don't harbor such bad feelings for him. Much of the animosity stemmed from his multiple run-ins with Mets slugger and latent heterosexual Mike Piazza. Besides, as a baseball fan it's hard not to root for the best pitcher in the past forty years not named Tom Seaver.

Anyways, in the wake of Clemens' deal, ESPN.com's Sports Nation added a new poll asking readers which team they thought had the best rotation. Their choices look like this:

Houston Astros
Roy Oswalt (10-5, 2.97)
Andy Pettitte (21-8, 4.02)
Roger Clemens (17-9, 3.91)
Wade Miller (14-13, 4.13)
Jeriome Robertson (15-9, 5.10)

New York Yankees
Mike Mussina (17-8, 3.40)
Kevin Brown (14-9, 2.39)
Javier Vazquez (13-12, 3.12)
Jose Contreras (7-2, 3.30)
Jon Lieber (injured)

Oakland A's
Tim Hudson (16-7, 2.70)
Mark Mulder (15-9, 3.13)
Barry Zito (14-12, 3.30)
Mark Redman (14-9, 3.59)
Rich Harden (5-4, 4.46)

Boston Red Sox
Pedro Martinez (14-4, 2.22)
Curt Schilling (8-9, 2.95)
Derek Lowe (17-7, 4.47)
Tim Wakefield (11-7, 4.09)
Byung-Hyun Kim (9-10, 3.31)

Chicago Cubs
Mark Prior (18-6, 2.43)
Kerry Wood (14-11, 3.20)
Carlos Zambrano (13-11, 3.11)
Matt Clement (14-12, 4.11)

Florida Marlins
Josh Beckett (9-8, 3.04)
A.J. Burnett (injured)
Dontrelle Willis (14-6, 3.30)
Brad Penny (14-10, 4.13)
Carl Pavano (12-13, 4.30)

Of course, I wouldn't mind if my team sported any of these staffs. As of now, the poll results look like this:

23.7% Boston Red Sox
21.6% Oakland A's
20.2% Chicago Cubs
17.8% Houston Astros
11.4% New York Yankees
 5.2% Florida Marlins

For the record, I voted for the Red Sox. For a very elementary comparison, I am going to use Bill James' Win Shares to come up with a value for each staff. I am only going to use the top four pitchers for a number of reasons. Firstly, I don't know how many win shares ???? recorded for the Cubs last year. Also, Jon Lieber didn't pitch at all last year and only pitched 141 innings in 2002. Since A.J. Burnett only pitched 23 innings last season I will use his win shares from 2002 (thanks to baseballtruth.com).


A's         69 (Hudson 23; Mulder 17; Zito 18; Redman 11)
Cubs        68 (Prior 22; Wood 18; Zambrano 18; Clement 10)
Yankees     67 (Mussina 19; Kevin Brown 20; Javier Vazquez 21; Contreras 7)
Red Sox     61 (Martinez 20; Schilling 15; Lowe 12; Kim 14)
Astros      49 (Oswalt 10; Pettitte 15; Clemens 15; Miller 9)
Marlins     49 (Beckett 11; Burnett 14; Willis 14; Penny 10)

I'll admit that this comparison is crude and rudimentary. Curt Schilling, who averaged 24 win shares in 2001-2002 only earned 15 in 2003 due to injuries. Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller also missed time last season, but sported win share averages from 2001-2002 of 17 and 15, respectively.

If the Cubs end up signing Greg Maddux, this table wouldn't look much different because Maddux had only one more win share (11) than Matt Clement. However, Clement's 10 win shares are better than most #5 starters, which is what he would be on that staff. The A's, Cubs, and Yankees are the cream of the crop here, with the Red Sox very close given a full season of Shilling and Tim Wakefield's 12 win shares.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Ex-Met Signings 

A couple of familiar faces caught on with new teams today. Jay Payton signed a two-year deal with the San Diego Padres worth $5.5 million. He will earn $1.5 million in 2004 and $3.5 million in 2005, and the Pods have a $4 million team option for 2006. If Payton can stay healthy, Payton will provide decent production and defense in center field. Payton was no doubt helped by the friendly confines of Coors Field in Colorado last season. Some will point to the fact that he hit more homeruns on the road than at home (15 to 13), but he was markedly better in almost every other category at home.


         AVG   OBP   SLG
HOME    .322  .377  .540
AWAY    .281  .330  .483

Payton ranked #32 in National League outfielders in Win Shares last season with 15, just behind Cliff Floyd who only played 108 games. Payton's signing will likely move Xavier Nady back to AAA, which will probably do him some good. He's still only 25, but still needs a lot of work at the plate if he wants to become a productive everyday outfielder in the big leagues. He had an OPS of 712 (.321 OBP, .391 SLG) which is only slightly better than one Roger Cedeno. He showed a little more pop in the minors, posting a SLG of .499 in three seasons.

Like Payton, Matt Franco signed a new contract today. Unlike Payton, Franco will be playing in another hemisphere. Franco signed a 1-year, $750,000 deal with the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan. If that name rings a bell, it should because former Mets manager Bobby Valentine is the current manager of the Marines. This isn't a big surprise because Bobby V was always a big fan of Matty F. There were rumors a few weeks back that Bobby was trying to Turk Wendell overseas as well. In any event, this looks like a good deal for Franco. He wasn't likely to get a major league deal with any American club, and 750 bones is not bad for a year's "work".

Monday, January 12, 2004

Easy Come, Easy Go 

So the Mets didn't bag free agent stud Vladimir Guerrero. So the Mets still have a huge gaping hole in right field. Things could be a lot worse. Disappointment abounds, from Mets fans to players to the entire Mets organization. Even though we were braced from the outset that this was a longshot at best, it's hard not to get your hopes up.

The Mets have done a lot right this offseason. With a few key moves and zero A-List additions, the Mets have gone a long way to help alleviate the pain inflicted by the last two seasons of "baseball" in Queens.

For the latter half of the Steve Phillips era, the Mets made a number of "win now" moves in an effort to get the most out of a core group of players who were getting older and less competent every season. The Mets best season under the Phillips regime was 1999. Sure, they went to the 2000 World Series, but the 1999 team was the best one they sent out there in the past decade.

Once the Mets lost to the Braves in the NLCS and John Olerud took a reasonable deal to go home to Seattle, the hourglass had been flipped and time began ticking away on this ballclub.

Robin Ventura was coming off a career season, and the Mets management struggled to find a suitable replacement for Olerud, eventually setting for Todd Zeile, who had started a grand total of 62 games at first base to that point. He had a respectable first season with the Mets, but the team was the recipient of some good fortune en route to the franchise's first World Series appearance in 15 seasons. They dodged a bullet by not having to face their nemesis, the Braves, in the NL playoffs.

We all know too well where the story goes from here. Despite playing in back-to-back LCS, the Mets were a team and an organization on the decline. The Mets star players (Mike Piazza, Al Leiter, etc.) were already on the wrong side of thirty, with further regression of performance to be expected. Nevertheless, the Mets two-headed ownership demon (Nelson Doubleday and current owner Fred Wilpon) approved a series of moves that, at least in retrospect, ultimately led to the decimation of the franchise, leaving the team and its many many fans scratching their collective heads.

Aside from a handful of leftovers (Piazza, Leiter, John Franco), there remains little at Shea to remind us of those years of near-greatness. Mets general manager Jim Duquette is slowly but steadily rebuilding the foundation of this franchise. The Mets farm system, once completely bereft of talent, is now blossoming, with a number of young arms and quality position players making their way up the organizational ladder, projected to roam the fields of Shea within the next few seasons.

Additionally, management has thrown away the ideas that led to the recent decline, electing to focus on the elements that brought championships to Queens in 1969 and 1986. Pitching and defense win games, as they say. At the very least, they help to put your offense in the position to win those games.

So the Mets didn't sign Vlad Guerrero. I think they played it as well as they could have, though. They waited around long enough so that they actually had a fighting chance to sign the slugger on their own terms. There was a soft market for Guerrero, and the Mets almost landed him. Some may scoff at the Mets offer, calling $30 million guaranteed over three years a lowball pitch. The fact is, the Mets could not secure insurance on Guerrero's back and, based on his medical records and the advice of the Mets physicians, guaranteeing any more money than that would be foolhardy.

I would have been thrilled if Vlad had signed for three guaranteed years, with the potential for $70 million over five seasons if he could, *gasp*, stay healthy enough to clock in for 400 plate appearances per season. I would have been less thrilled if the Mets had assumed all of the risk (as teams seem to be expected to do) and given Guerrero five guaranteed years at $14 million per (as the Angels have apparently done). Let him go, he probably had no intention of playing in New York anyway.

Maybe next year the Mets can convince Carlos Beltran to play right field. Maybe they can lure Magglio Ordonez to the Big Apple. Who knows. I do know that the Mets will be better this year than they were last year, and will be better next year than they are this year. I also know that I like the direction things are going in, I like the plan Jim Duquette has put together and stuck to, and I like the chances that the Mets will be playing meaningful games by 2005.

I have no choice. I'm a Mets fan, and I take what I'm given.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Vlad Update & Mets Mini Camp 

According to ESPN.com's Buster Olney, the Orioles are considering making a new offer to Pudge Rodriguez, with the plan being for he and Javy Lopez to both split time between catcher and DH. Such an offer may indicate that the O's will take a pass on Vladimir Guerrero, electing to spend their money on an outfielder from the 2004 free agent class, such as Carlos Beltran or Magglio Ordonez.

* * * * * * * * * *

If you didn't already know, the Mets have been conducting their January Mini Camp in St. Lucie, Florida. NYFanSites.com has been reporting from Florida all week with news and photos of the Mets in action. Check out their daily reports from this week if you haven't already.

Monday: Mini Camp Opens
Tuesday: Braden Looper
Wednesday: Peterson Tinkers With Roberts & Wheeler
Thursday: Davidson Puts On A Show
Friday: Lastings Impression

Dream A Little Dream 

According to several sources, the Mets have made an offer to free-agent outfielder Vladimir Guerrero. Based on reports, the offer appears to be worth $30 million over three years, with incentives based on plate appearances that could bring the value closer to $40 million, or approximately the same $13 million annually that the Baltimore Orioles have offered. There is also speculation that the offer contains vesting options for a fourth and fifth season, similarly based on plate appearances.

If all incentives were met (which probably only requires that Guerrero not spend an inordinate amount of time on the disabled list), the total value of the contract would likely be between $65-$70 million over five years, which is almost identical to the terms of Baltimore's offer.

For all intents and purposes, acquiring Vladimir Guerrero amounts to little more than a pipe dream for the Mets (and me). Be that as it may, a pipe dream still requires that there be at least a modicum of hope that something can happen. The fact that Guerrero has not signed yet and that Spring Training is but a month away means that there is something keeping him from signing with Baltimore.

The player's union is no doubt encouraging (read: demanding) Guerrero's agents to take the largest guaranteed offer, which doesn't bode well for the Mets' chances. Regardless, I am, by nature, a hopeless optimist. An answer was originally expected from Guerrero within the next couple of days, but some think it could drag into next week, if not longer. We'll just have to wait and see how it plays out.

* * * * * * * * * *

If you missed any of this week's blogs, please check them out.

Monday: A Closer Look
Tuesday: Link-A-Dink
Wednesday: Things Are Not As Vlad As They Seem

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