Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wrap Ups

A couple of weeks ago, I had something on Edwin Jackson and promised a part two. I started going through each top 10 prospect from BA and tracked their career progress. After going through about three years of prospects I was bored to tears. Rather than go through everything, I will say that I never found a top 10 prospect who became a star if they had lost their shine within the next five years. In other words, based on that brief analysis, the likelihood of Jackson tapping into that potential everybody seems so fond of is very low. I apologize I couldn't go more in depth.

Speaking of Jackson, I commented last week on the XM radio host who had no clue he had been traded. After doing some digging, I found out that XM's MLB station has gone through a lot of personnel changes since the XM/Sirius merger. They have let go of several of their hosts, including the very knowledgeable Chuck Wilson and Jeff Erickson. There has been a noticible decline in the quality of the station, and replacing baseball experts with people who don't pay attention to recent transactions is a large part of that.

And while we are on the subject of wrap ups, I wanted to say that I am scaling on baseball related research projects in a big way going forward. The New Year is an admittedly cliche time to make priority changes, but I need to do just that. 2008 was a rough year for me on a personal level, as I have had to endure a seemingly endless job search after losing my first job out of college last January. While this has been a great distraction, it is a distraction I need to minimize as I focus on getting my personal life in order in 2009 and beyond. This is not to say that the blog will be gone, but the content will be cut back significantly for an indefinite period. Thank you to everybody who has followed along.

Monday, December 22, 2008

People in the MSM Earning Their Keep Moment of the Day: December 22, 2008

I was just listening to MLB on XM 175, and there was this great exchange between Buck Martinez and host Seth Everett after a caller asks if David Price will be in the rotation this year.

Martinez goes on a typical cliche-ridden discussion about not rushing rookies and how nothing is a given even though there is a spot for him. I had no problem with this. It was Everett's subsequent commentary that, had I not been driving, would have made me put my head into my hands.

"That's why the talks of trading Edwin Jackson have quieted down."

Martinez proceeded to correct him, and there was the embarrassing "Oh. I'm sorry." An honest mistake, but the type of mistake that is all too common for people who have privileges that many would kill for.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Hit-and-Run and Adam Everett

I've never been a big fan of the hit-and-run. Unless you have somebody whose bat control skills are out of this world, the hit-and-run can just as easily move the fielder into the ball as it creates a hole. Throw in the double play risk from a line drive, and I really don't view the hit-and-run as a strategy that is wise to use too frequently.

That's why I squirmed a bit when saw this quote from Jim Leyland after the Adam Everett signing:

"I'm very tickled about adding Adam. We're thrilled to get a great defensive shortstop who can also hit-and-run, bunt, and handle the bat well."

The first thought I had was something along the lines of "If he handles the bat so well, why is his career OPS in the .600's." Obviously, Jim Leyland was referring to his ability to hit and run, but I'd bet there is a pretty high correlation between hit and run ability and straight hitting ability. Luckily, there are some numbers out there that may help us figure out how good of a bat handler Adam Everett is.

There are two main objectives the hitter has during a hit-and-run. The first and most important of those objectives is to make contact. A whiff can hang the runner out to dry. The second is directional hitting. When they do hit the ball, it does no good to just hit the ball anywhere. A hit-and-run is only useful when the ball is hit in a place where there is no fielder. displays the contact percentages for each player since 2005. The method for calculating this statistic is pretty basic. Simply divide the amount of times making contact by the amount of times the player swings at the ball. The more you swing and miss, the lower your contact percentage. Below, I have two lists. The first list includes the Tigers' projected starting nine with their combined contact percentages since 2005. The second list includes some shortstops available this offseason. Both are ranked in order of their 2005-2008 contact percenteges.

Placido Polanco 93.2
Carlos Guillen 84.1
Magglio Ordonez 84.0
Gary Sheffield 83.4
Adam Everett 83.1
Gerald Laird 79.8
Miguel Cabrera 78.5
Brandon Inge 76.6
Curtis Granderson 76.1

Cesar Izturis 92.7
Jack Wilson 89.3
Orlando Cabrera 86.1
Ramon Santiago 86.0
Edgar Renteria 84.1
Adam Everett 83.1
Khalil Greene 77.2

Based on these numbers, it does not appear if Everett is a star at making contact. To nobody's surprise, Polanco was the Tigers' best. If Leyland wanted to hit and run, he probably should have done it with Polanco. The big shock is that the Tigers' two shortstops from last year, Santiago and Renteria, each make contact more often than Everett. We'll just have to hope that Leyland keeps the hit-and-run attempts with Everett to a minimum, as there will be a runner hung out to dry one out of every six attempts.

Now, contact was only one piece of the equation. There is no statistic to directly measure how well a batter can direct the ball towards the holes. While this happens on a hit and run, you'd have to think that players are always trying to handle the bat, so somebody you want to be hitting and running should have a high batting average. With his .246 (and falling) career batting average, Everett is hardly the guy who is going to find holes on the hit and run. Unless there are scouts that have found that Everett has an inate ability to turn on his bat control only when the hit-and-run is put on, it does not seem like he is an ideal option for this play.

Luckily, Everett will not have to play small ball for this move to work. So long as his defense is near the top of the league, he will help the pitchers and the team regardless of how often his at bats are wasted on a hit-and-run.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Edwin Jackson's Prospect History

One of the most common defenses of the Edwin Jackson acquisition that I have seen goes something like this.

"Edwin Jackson was one of the top prospects in baseball a few years back. This is a great chance to see if he can recapture that status."

At first glance, I don't buy that argument. For some perspective on the state of affairs when his prospect status was at its pinnacle:
  • The Tigers were just coming off of a 119 loss season.
  • Dontrelle Willis had just gone 14-6 in his rookie season, Miguel Cabrera had just emerged as the starting left fielder, and Pudge Rodriguez was an apparent leader. These three helped lead the Florida Marlins to a World Series title.
  • This was 163 home runs ago for Cabrera and 205 home runs ago for Albert Pujols.
  • Rick Porcello was starting his freshman year... of High School. Justin Verlander had just started his Junior year of College.
  • George W. Bush's approval rating was north of 50%.
If I haven't convinced you a lot has changed since the 2003-2004 prospect lists have come out, I probably never will. If you are willing to admit that this is a dynamic and ever-changing world, you have to at least consider that Edwin Jackson's stock may have fallen just a wee bit from those times. If you still aren't convinced, ask a Dodger fan. Still not convinced, head on over to Paul DePodesta's blog. While he's probably not allowed to discuss players on other teams, if Edwin Jackson had been all he was cracked up to be, there's a pretty good chance the blog would be in Dodger blue instead of whatever color the Padres are these days.

Edwin Jackson was a sixth round pick by the Dodgers in 2001, straight out of high school. After sitting the rest of the 2001 season out, Jackson was assigned to South Georgia of the South Atlantic League (Tigers' fans, this is the equivalent of West Michigan in the Midwest League) where he and Francisco Cruceta -- yes, that Francisco Cruceta -- were the anchors of their '02 starting rotation. Baseball America ranked him the 99th best prospect in baseball after that season, placing him square between Seth McClung and Nic Jackson.

It was the 2003 season when Jackson really started to make waves. Skipping high-A, he went to AA and didn't miss a beat, dominating the league and moving to the top of most people's prospect lists. There were some warning signs, however, in this AA domination. In 148 innings, Jackson did manage to walk 53 guys and post an ERA of 3.71. While those aren't bad numbers and his 157 strikeouts were impressive, they aren't the numbers of the top pitching prospect in baseball, especially at a pitcher's park like Jacksonville. This was a very impressive performance for a 19 year-old pitcher in AA. While the season in AA gained him attention, it was the September cup of Coffee that vaulted Jackson into the limelight. Specifically, it was his victorious duel with Randy Johnson on his Major League debut that is still remembered to this day by those lamenting what could have been. I will be quick to point out this game to those who want to pin their hopes on one cherry picked game in a player's past. While the season was an extreme success for Edwin Jackson, one has to look back with some hesitation. The slightly above average ERA and walk rate may suggest that he wasn't dominant in AA, and the MLB experience was just 20 innnings... not nearly enough to draw a meaningful sample. (You could make the same points about Matt Joyce, and it would be fair.)

After 2003, Baseball America ranked Edwin Jackson as the #4 player in baseball behind Joe Mauer, B.J. Upton, and Delmon Young and just ahead of Rickie Weeks, Alexis Rios, Kaz Matsui, Greg Miller, Grady Sizemore, and Prince Fielder. I'll get back to this list in a moment, because I want to go over the past five years of Edwin Jackson's career.

As great as his '03 season was, Jackson's '04 was as much of a disaster. Penciled into the starting rotation in the spring, Jackson proceeded to blow up in the spring and lose his spot. In AAA-Las Vegas, a tremendous hitter's environment, he was awful, posting an ERA of 5.84 and walking 55 guys in 91 innings. Nonetheless, injuries to the Dodgers' starting staff pushed Jackson into a spot starter's role in the summer. Upon filling in for Odalis Perez in July, he had to leave a game in the second inning with an elbow injury, yet started again five days later. No word on if Kevin Rand was consulted for this decision. It should come as no surprise that Jackson spent some time in July on the disabled list after this before heading back to Las Vegas for further struggles before a pretty brutal cup of coffee in September with the Dodgers. It was a year to forget for Edwin Jackson.

It was more of the same in 2005 for this enigma. Despite constant praise from his Major League manager Jim Tracy, Jackson just couldn't put it together in the minors, warranting a June demotion from Las Vegas back to AA Jacksonville, where he recovered somewhat. Unfortunately, it was more of the same in the late season call-up. Edwin Jackson was quickly becoming a flop.

With his biggest supporter, Jim Tracy, out of a job, the Dodgers shipped Edwin Jackson to Tampa Bay in a deal for relievers Danys Baez and Lance Carter. Clearly his stock had fallen hard, and very few players were in need of a change of scenery than Jackson. However, the 2006 season wasn't much different for Jackson. He struggled in AAA Durham before a complete lack of Tampa Bay pitching forced him into being completely overmatched to the tune of a 5.45 ERA in relief.

Jackson has been in the Majors for good for the past two years, but it was only because he was out of options and the Rays felt they would lose him on waivers. They simply didn't have any other pitchers to force him off the staff, either. This past year, Jackson stayed on as the Rays' fifth starter, but was clearly a notch below everybody else on the staff, only appearing in three games during the postseason, each in a mop up role. Jackson's improvement in his ERA and win totals were largely the results of improvements around him. The Rays' defense was upgraded from one of the league's worst to the league's best, and they were simply keeping runs off the scoreboard. While it appears that Jackson may have found himself, it is likely that he is the same middling pitcher that has frustrated the Rays, Devil Rays, and Dodgers for the past five years.

This post is much longer than I anticipated when I started writing, so I will save the rest for another post. The one question I want to address is whether or not we can expect a resurgance out of Edwin Jackson because of his former prospect status. We'll take a look at that later in the week.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Aquilino Lopez Non-tendered

The Tigers non-tendered Aquilino Lopez last night. This is not a big surprise, as he was among the league's worst in keeping inherited runners from scoring. Turning 34 in April, Lopez was not likely to improve, so keeping him around didn't serve much of a purpose. Before people start complaining about losing Skelton while a roster spot was going to be opened, bear in mind that the Tigers may be signing 2-3 more free agents, so the open roster spot is a bit misleading at this point. If Eddie Bonine survives the offseason, complaints are valid.

Mlbtraderumors has a list of the non-tenders. Some pitchers (a lot of which are recovering from injuries) on the list include:

Daniel Cabrera
Joe Nelson
Takashi Saito

Chris Capuano
Scott Proctor
Tyler Johnson
Chris Britton
Gary Majewski
Chuck James

And former Tigers:
Denny Bautista
Wilfredo Ledezma
Jason Smith

One really interesting player non-tendered was Jairo Cuevas, who has had an eventful offseason. Claimed off waivers from the Braves by the Royals on October 24, he was claimed back by Atlanta on November 26 before Kansas City claimed him back this Wednesday. Now Cuevas has been non-tendered, and is a free agent, presumably so that Kansas City can bypass the waiver process, but interesting nonetheless.

Sometime next week I'll go through some of these non-tenders. Odds are that at least one of them will end up on the Tigers roster next year.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's okay. He's skinny.

James Skelton was taken by Arizona in the Rule 5 draft. Kyle Bloom was taken by the Tigers from Pittsburgh. I'll have more on this after the dust settles. A lot of trades tend to take place after the draft.

The good news is that Alfredo Figaro could not have possibly been taken today. Thank God.

As of yet, James Skelton still hasn't been traded by Arizona. Why is this important? The Diamondbacks already have two quality catchers under 30 in Chris Snyder and Miguel Montero. As it stands, there is no room to stash Skelton on the roster. Unless he or Montero is traded, there is no room for Skelton on the roster, meaning he'd have to be returned. This still isn't sitting very well, although this would probably not be a catastrophic loss. Would is the key word in that sentence. The odds that Skelton sticks all year on Arizona's roster are very low right now, however they have carried three catchers in the past. I still don't like this one bit, as we have yet another sign of backwards thinking by the Tigers' front office this year.

Kyle Bloom is an interesting pick. He'll be 26 when the season starts, so he's no spring chicken. His minor league splits mesh with various reports that he made significant mechanical changes during this season, posting FIP's of 5.40, 4.51, 5.61, 3.33, and 3.33 in April, May, June, July, and August respectively. This improvement continued in the Hawaiian Leagues, where he posted a 1.5 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 30 innings pitched. It certainly looks as if the mechanical changes have set Bloom in the right direction, and this is a worthwhile gamble to take.

Finally, the Tigers passed in the minor league phase, and lost no players. In case you were worried, the math professor stays in the organization.

Update #2:
From the Tiger's website:
"If he throws the way he threw for [Egan], I think he'll be interesting and have a chance to make our ballclub," Dombrowski said.
Isn't this how we ended up with Francisco Cruceta?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Andrew Friedman Takes DD to the Cleaners

Edwin Jackson for Matt Joyce?

This makes no sense at first. I'll update after I do some digging on Edwin Jackson and gather my thoughts. This doesn't look good though. Jackson is exactly the type of pitcher the Tigers shouldn't be going after.

Okay, here we go in bullet point format.
  • Like Laird, Edwin Jackson is eligible for arbitration. Unlike Laird, i doubt anybody else was going to acquire Jackson. Could this have waited for two days just in case he was non-tendered?
  • Edwin Jackson is out of options. This means if he takes a slight step back, he can't be sent to the minors without slipping through waivers.
  • And the difference between Jackson's 2008 and needing to be sent to the minors isn't as great as you would think. Yes, he had a "shiny" 4.42 ERA, but some of that was due to factors outside of his control. The 4.90 FIP suggests that he really was pretty bad this year. 77 BB and 108 K's in 183 innings is pretty bad.
  • Why is it that all the pitchers the Tigers are linked to have fluky ERA's? Jackson? Joe Beimel? John Parrish? Either the Tigers aren't even looking at peripherals or they are seeing something I don't. I hope it's the latter, but fear it's the former.
  • This only works out if Jackson finds something and becomes a better pitcher. He's simply not a good pitcher right now, and that will need to work.
  • After years trying to find a left-handed bat and spending plate appearances offensive nonentities Sean Casey and Jacque Jones for their left-handedness, Matt Joyce finally provided a decent option there. He was cast to the bench this offseason because he wasn't being overpaid like Gary Sheffield and Brandon Inge. Now he's been sent to the American League's best team for a thrower.
  • Matt Joyce was the Tigers' best defensive player last year.
I don't see how this trade makes sense. In doing this, Dombrowski is essentially betting on Carlos Guillen and Gary Sheffield playing 150 games apiece this year. I don't like those odds.

If somebody drafts James Skelton tomorrow, I'll lose it.

Note: Andrew Friedman is the Tampa Bay Rays' GM, not a guest author.

In an Attempt to Raise Joe Beimel's Relative Stock,

The Tigers are interested in one of the worst pitchers on the market.

Some career numbers for John Parrish:

271.2 IP
188 BB
221 K
25 HR
4.54 ERA

The walk rate is unacceptable and there is nothing there to offset it. Stay away! I'm sure there are dozens of LOOGY's available for $50,000 on Thursday in the Rule 5 draft that would do a better job than Parrish, including this guy.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Looking Over Laird's Shoulder

From Gerald Laird's teleconference yesterday:

"Knowing that I'm not going to look over my shoulder, it's relaxing now. I'm just going to play baseball. I'm not going to worry about the small things I did over the last couple years.
Well, two things have changed since I had a post on acquiring Gerald Laird yesterday. At the time, it seemed likely that there was going to be some sort of a time share arrangement between Laird and Dusty Ryan. That doesn't appear to be the case, as Laird has been annointed the team's starter. This only turns out to be a bad thing if a struggling Laird is taking playing time away from a capable Ryan. There's a possibility that series of events could occur and Jim Leyland's trademark veteran stubbornness could block the Tigers' best option. Then again, Dusty Ryan could have been a fluke this year, and Laird could be saving us from disaster. Regardless, it is difficult to approve Laird's dismissal of Dusty Ryan, and could make for an awkward situation during the season.

Could the Tigers be in the market for Laird's backup now? Here's a quote from Dombrowski yesterday.
"Ideally," Dombrowski said, "our (plan) is that it will benefit him to play every day at Triple-A."
I am perfectly fine with Dusty Ryan getting seasoning in AAA. However, the implication here seems to be that the Tigers are content having Dane Sardinha as the team's backup. I see no reason why Dane Sardinha should be any higher than fourth on any catching depth chart, and if this trade makes the Tigers feel comfortable with him on the roster, it would be an unfortunate consequence.

Onto Adam Everett, whom the Tigers worked out last week and have apparently signed. For $1 million plus incentives, this isn't a bad deal. However, there are some question marks surrounding him. The biggest of which is his shoulder, which caused him to miss much of last season. They apparently feel confident that his shoulder is healthy and will not hamper him defensively this year. Forgive me if I'm skeptical of the Tigers' scouting after they felt Jacque Jones was still an MLB caliber outfielder or that Edgar Renteria was an above average defensive shortstop. We'll just have to wait and see if he is and capable of playing a full season at a high level. I cannot blindly trust this organization anymore.

Everett was one of the top, if not the top, defensive shortstops in the game before his injuries, but he needs to continue to be elite in order to be useful, because the career .653 OPS will not cut it if he is merely good out there. It will also do no good if he is only able to play 40 or 50 games, as the Tigers would then have to go right back to square one. In which case, we would be subjected to the seemingly endless Jack Wilson rumors.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Transactions/Eligibilties Post Updated

Just a reminder, I am keeping the transactions and eligibilities post updated this off-season. With the winter meetings looming, you can see who is eligible for arbitration, who is eligible to be selected for the Rule 5 draft, and how many roster spots the Tigers have open.

I will also be keeping track of options and service time for all players on the 40-man roster. That page is now updated to include Gerald Laird and the new 40-man additions.

Laird for Moscoso (and Melo)

The long rumored Gerald Laird trade finally happened last night. After worrying about the cost (especially after hearing the names Matt Joyce and Jeff Larish thrown around in the Jack Wilson discussions), giving up just Guillermo Moscoso and Carlos Melo is a bit of a relief.

Even despite the incredible ratios this year, I'm really not that high on Moscoso. He started out the season missing some time with a shoulder issue and was assigned to Lakeland when healthy. There, as a 24 year old, Moscoso struck out 72 in 54 innings while being used both in relief and in the rotation. He moved to Erie and posted a 50/8 K/BB ratio in 34 innings. That is out of this world. However, there are some problems.

He is a big time fly ball pitcher, posting an abysmal 29% ground ball rate in Erie. Actually, that's an okay fit for the Tigers so long as Curtis Granderson's average defensive season was a fluke. However, the Rangers may regret acquiring him, as the ball simply flies out of Ameriquest Field. It also remains to be seen if he'd be able to keep the ball in the park against MLB hitters, who punish mistakes up in the zone much more than his minor league brethren. Also, Moscoso does have a history of shoulder issues, and reports of fatigue have come out of his time in the winter leagues. While I will admit I said this about trading Jair Jurrjens, this could be a very good time to trade Guillermo. Overall, this isn't as big of a loss as one would think.

Now, to Carlos Melo, a guy who I honestly don't know much about. This was his first year in the Tigers' organization, and I'd be remiss if I didn't point out how similar his final line looked to Moscoso's. It may sound like a cop out, but Melo is so far away that I have a hard time seeing his loss affecting the Tigers.

As for Gerald Laird, I can live with him. Given the options on the free agent market, this is an okay pickup at a reasonable rate. I don't think he's anything close to a long term answer at catcher. So long as there is a reasonable time share between him and Ryan, I am okay with this trade. If Laird is hitting .220/.280/.320 and chucking only 15% of baserunners out in the middle of July, my hope is that Leyland realizes he may be better off using Dusty Ryan. If not, like the Sean Casey and Neifi Perez trades before, this one could backfire.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

No Arbitration for Renteria

It's not a huge surprise, but Edgar Renteria was denied arbitration yesterday. Yes, this means that the Tigers will not be receiving those two draft picks as compensation. Looking around the league, there were less arbitration offers than I figured. Pat Burrell and Adam Dunn were two other type A free agents who teams did not want to take the risk on. Clearly teams -- The Tigers included -- want no part in giving up in excess of $10-million to keep players they don't necessarily want. In addition to their 2008 salaries, there is another common thread between those three players: they are all poor defensively.

I was upset at first about this move, but the more I look at it, the more it makes sense. Clearly a team which is up to its neck in payroll in a city whose main industry could be on the brink of a collapse isn't in position to risk paying $8-10M for a player only worth $1-2M. The 35th pick in the draft would have been nice, though.