Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Give Me A Break 

Writing five blogs a week is hard work. Well, not necessarily hard, but definitely tiring. That said, SaberMets is going to take a short holiday break, but will be back on Monday with fresh blogs. I'm going to try to get to some of your blog requests, too. So, if you have a topic you would like to see analyzed and/or written about on SaberMets, shoot me an e-mail.

Happy holidays everyone!

Monday, December 22, 2003

Javy Holidays 

I don't suppose that anyone ever prospered as much from a free agent walk year as Javy Lopez has. That's not to say that other players haven't seen bigger paydays when they hit the market, because they have. Had Lopez hit free agency a year earlier, he might have had trouble finding work.

In 2003, Lopez set the single-season record for homeruns by a catcher with 42, breaking Todd Hundley's record of 41. He had the second-highest OPS ever for a catcher at 1.065, trailing only Mike Piazza's 1.070 he put up in 1997. In terms of slugging percentage, Lopez obliterated Piazza's 1997 then-record mark of .638 by ripping pitchers to the tune of a .687 SLG. Lopez' previous career-high SLG? .540 in 1998.

After six moderately-to-very productive seasons at the plate from 1995-2000, Lopez fell off a cliff in 2001 and was clinically dead in 2002. He had the fifth best OPS among major league catchers from 1995-2000, and was just 20 points out of third. After averaging 26 homeruns from 1996-2000 (not counting 1999 when he played only 65 games), he dropped to 17 in 2001 and plummeted to 11 in 2002. His .671 OPS in 2002 was actually lower than his SLG in 2003.

He's never walked much, though his walk totals have been very consistent over the course of his career. Since 1996, he's had no more than 40 walks and no fewer than 26 walks in any full season (100+ games). He's fairly prone to the strikeout, though, averaging 102 whiffs per 162 games. There's also that whole thing about Greg Maddux not pitching to him, which no one has ever really explained to my satisfaction. It wasn't a huge deal, as most catchers typically sit once every five games or so. It was just a bit unsettling why one of this era's best pitchers wanted no part of Javy Lopez' catching abilities.

Beyond his horrific 2001 and 2002 and his otherworldly 2003, Lopez has been a solid hitter throughout his career:

per 162 games

HR   RBI   AVG    OBP    SLG    OPS    GPA
30    97  .287   .337   .502   .839   .277

Considering the dearth of productive catchers these days (or any days), this is probably a good signing for Baltimore. However, Lopez is already 33 years old, and catchers typically don't put up career years when they're his age. That said, the O's definitely needed to do something to keep up with the rest of the American League East, what with the Devil Rays trading for Geoff Blum and all.

Love Me Non-Tender 

Yesterday, 58 Major League Baseball players were not tendered contracts by their former teams, releasing them into the wild unknown of the free agent market. Non-tendered players can still negotiate with their old teams, but they are free to negotiate with the other 29 teams as well. There are a lot of warm bodies here, many of which are adept at one thing or another. Some of them are even pretty good at baseball. You just have to know what to look for.

Jay Payton: The Mets waited a long time for Payton to live up to his hype. He was drafted out of Georgia Tech, where he was roommates with Nomar Garciaparra. He had a promising rookie season in 2000 where he finished runner-up in the Rookie of the Year voting to Rafael Furcal, hit .291 and belted 17 homeruns. He also had went an unthinkable 5-for-16 in stolen bases (31% success rate). He's spent an exorbitant amount of time on the disabled list in his career in both the minors and majors. He put up a deplorable .298 OBP in 2001 in 361 AB, and was hitting .284 in 2002 before being shipped to the Rockies. In 47 games for the Rocks that year, Payton tore it up, going .335/.376/.606 with his new team. He wasn't able to keep up that torrid pace, but he did post very good numbers in 2003 with Colorado, posting a solid .866 OPS (.287 GPA) with 28 homers and 89 RBI. Sure, a lot of that was Coors field. But he actually hit more homers on the road (15-13), and posted a decent if not sparkling .813 OPS. He's a hacker, so he'll never walk much but will put the ball in play. He doesn't have a great bat for a corner outfielder, and he doesn't have much of an arm, but he always hustled when he was with the Mets, and he would make a decent third outfielder for a bad team or a good fourth outfielder for a good team.

Randall Simon: As far as hackers go, he might rival Kevin Mitnick for the world's biggest. He's averaged one walk every 22.5 at-bats over the course of his career. The upside is that he doesn't strike out much either -- only once every 11.3 at-bats. As a comparison, Whiffy McStrikeout walks once every 22.1 at-bats and K's once every 4.7 at-bats. The difference is that Soriano does a lot more damage when he makes contact than Simon does. Simon has a very good career batting average at .297. His .743 career OPS (.256 GPA), while not completely useless, has no business taking up 300+ at-bats in any major league lineup, particularly one with post-season aspirations. He's got enough pop and makes good enough contact to be fairly valuable as a primary pinch hitter for most teams. His defense is pretty bad, though he can whack a sausage with the best of them.

Danys Baez: This guy will find work. He made an absurd $5.125 million last season to close games for the Indians, but would be a good pickup for a bad team looking for a stopgap closer (*cough*) or a good team looking for a decent setup man. He had a very good 7.85 K/9 ratio last season with 2.87 K/BB. He gave up a few too many longballs, surrendering nine in only 75.2 innings. He somehow lost nine games coming out of the pen, while saving 25 in 35 chances (71% SvPct). He's not an ace reliever by any stretch, but he'll help some team out in 2003.

Braden Looper: He's picked up 41 saves over the past two seasons in 50 chances (82% SvPct), and fits into a similar category as Baez. His strikeout rate is okay (6.25 per nine innings last season), and he did a good job limiting homeruns, coughing up only four in 80.2 innings. His 29 years are three more than Baez, though both could go for around $1-$1.5 million to any number of teams. I'd consider taking a flyer on either of them.

A number of non-tenders will still resign with their old teams, they just might not have been able to come to terms on a deal in time for yesterday's deadline. There are no premier guys here, but certainly puzzle pieces that can fill in a team's holes. For a complete list of non-tenders, check out ESPN.com.

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