Archive for October 2012

Big Money This Off-Season, or It’s Time for Sergio Romo to Get Paid

October 31, 2012

Two of the early signings this off-season suggest that MLB teams will be spending fast and furious on talent.

The White Sox re-signed Jake Peavy for two years at $29 million, and the Dodgers resigned reliever Brandon League for three years at $22.5 million.  Both contracts contain vesting options for an additional year.

Peavy was pretty good in 2012, but it was his first healthy season out of the last four, and he’ll be 32 in 2013.  League is a closer-caliber reliever, but he’s not one of the best, and the Dodgers would likely be better served with Kenley Jansen as their closer in 2013.  $22.5 million is a lot to pay for a set-up man.

One player who should benefit tremendously from the League signing is Giants’ closer Sergio Romo.  After roughly five major league seasons, Romo now has a career major league ERA of 2.2o.  While he saved only 14 games during the regular season, he did so only because he didn’t become the closer until Santiago Casilla proved he was only the second best reliever in the Giants’ 2012 bullpen.

Romo, of course, ended up saving three games in the World Series and four in the post-season as a whole, allowing only one run in 10.2 IP and ten appearances.

Romo signed last off-season for what I thought was a paltry $1.57 million, given how exceptionally well he pitched in both 2010 and 2011.  During either the NLCS or the World Series, Fox announcer Tim McCarver told a story about how when Romo agreed to the $1.57 million 2012 contract (it was a compromise on arbitration offers), he broke down in tears, because he comes from a poor family and never thought he’d make that kind of money in his life time.

Assuming the story is true (you have to take the things McCarver says with a grain of salt — he also said that Romo grew up in Salinas, when Romo was born and attended high school in Brawley, half way across the state), it says something about how humble Romo is and the fact that an underpaid major league pitcher still makes more money than most people can reasonably dream of.

Anyway, Romo can’t have more than two years left before he becomes a free agent, and I would expect the Giants would probably be willing to give him a two or three year contract, given the circumstances.

The one thing that concerns me, and likely the Giants, is how Romo will handle the heavier work load as the team’s closer going forward.

Romo is a small right-hander, about the same size as Tim Lincecum, and Romo relies disproportionately on his terrific slider.  The slide ball is by all accounts tough on a pitcher’s elbow, and the Giants in using Romo as a set up man the last few years have been very careful to limit his innings pitched (he’s averaged 55 IP in 67 appearances over the last three regular seasons), in order to avoid killing the goose that heaves the golden slider.

If Romo becomes the Giants’ 2013 closer, he’ll have to work more, probably about 70 IP, based on what Brian Wilson did as the Giants’ closer from 2008 through 2011.

Whatever the final outcome, one thing is for certain.  It’s time for Romo to be rewarded for his incredible second half of 2012 and the San Francisco Giants’ second World Series win, with respect to which he performed an out-sized role.

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Final Thoughts on the Giants’ Second World Championship in Three Years

October 30, 2012

Now the 2010-2012 Giants will be remembered as something of a minor dynasty.  Who’d have thunk it?

In truth, the 2012 Giants were not the most talented team in San Francisco Giants history, but I don’t think many teams in baseball history have done a better job of keeping an even keel and buying in to the team concept.  Many Giants’ teams had more offense, and the 2010 team had better pitching, I think. However, the Giants’ defensive alignment in the post-season this year was the best I can remember since becoming a fan in 1978.

The 2012 Giants never lost confidence in themselves and seemed to enjoy the experience throughout, regardless of how many games they were down against the Reds and the Cardinals.  Even the young players (Posey, Crawford and Belt) had the poise of grizzled veterans throughout the games.

Obviously, the pitching will be remembered the most, and the pitchers Barry Zito, Tim Lincecum, Sergio Romo and Brian Wilson are the ones I think most typified the 2012 team.

In 2010, Lincecum was the ace, and Zito was left off the post-season rosters entirely.  Even so, Zito continued to train throughout the 2010 post-season in case some one got hurt.

In 2012, Zito had finished the season much stronger and deserved to be the one left in the starting rotation (you have to ride the hot hand in baseball).  Lincecum, not far removed from his two Cy Young awards and his 2010 post-season dominance, not only accepted being relegated to the bullpen, but seemed to take complete ownership of that new role.  His relief pitching turned out to be exceptionally valuable to the Giants.

Anything can happen in a short series, and it’s not exactly sporting to kick the Yankees while they’re down.  Even so, it’s hard to imagine the highly paid stars of the current Yankees’ roster so willingly accepting giving up their starting roles for the benefit of the team, the way Zito did in 2010 and Lincecum did in 2012.  Joe Girardi’s reported call to the Yankees’ press box to have the Yankee’s field announcer not announce that Alex Rodriguez was coming out for a pinch hitter pretty much says it all.

Romo and Wilson have been the heart of the Giants’ bullpen the last three years, and both are playful, fun-loving guys who help keep everyone else loose.  Wilson was injured all year, but he still made his presence felt in the dug-out with his tremendous enthusiasm and playfulness.  Romo seemed to appreciate the thrill of being back in the World Series at least as much as any other player on the team.

Hanwha Eagles to Post LHP Hyun-jin Ryu

October 29, 2012

mlbtraderumors.com reported today that the Hanwha Eagles of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) intend to post lefty ace Hyun-jin Ryu (to use the western order of his name) for bids by major league teams.  Ryu has already retained agent Scott Boras to represent him in negotiations with the winning bidder.

Ryu is probably the best pitcher in the KBO.  His stats can be found at the bottom of this wikipedia article.  Since 2006, he’s led this KBO in stike outs five times and in ERA twice.  He led the KBO in strike outs again this year, and his 2.66 ERA appears to have been the fifth best in the eight team league.

Ryu will be 26 in 2013 and is listed as 6’2″ and 215 lbs, which sounds like a size major league teams like.  His fastball apparently sits around 90 mph and he can hit 95 mph on occasion.

The biggest knock on Ryu is that it’s much harder to project how a KBO pitcher will do in the majors compared to an NPB pitcher (Japan), since the NPB is much closer to MLB’s level of play.  By way of comparison, two of the top foreign pitchers in KBO this past season were Brandon Knight and Shane Youman (they finished 1st and 3rd in ERA), two over age 30 high minors retreads who had had to resort to pitching in the independent-A Atlantic League to keep their North American careers going before signing with Korean teams.

That being said, the Americans (used broadly) who played in KBO in 2012 (they are all pitchers) almost all have at least some past MLB experience (Mario Santiago was the only one of the 19 foreign pitchers who pitched in the KBO this year who has not played in the majors), and while better than average (that’s what they’re paid for), they didn’t exactly dominate the league.  Former major leaguers Chan Ho Park and Byung-hyun Kim also pitched in KBO this year and were not particularly effective.

As far as I can tell, NPB teams cannot participate in the posting process.  If this is the case, it’s a mistake.  In theory, at least, a Korean star might be worth more to a Japanese team (at least the Yomiuri Giants, Hanshin Tigers or Softbank Hawks) than he is to an MLB team, particularly since a Korean player might be more easily projected as an NPB player and Japanese teams would presumably find it easier to scout Korean players than MLB teams.  Certainly, more potential teams who could post bids would be to the benefit of the posting team.

If Hyun-Jin Ryu does indeed end up signing with a major league team and is reasonably successful, the next Korean import is likely to be Suk-min Yoon, who won a pitcher’s Triple Crown in KBO in 2011.  This year, he posted a 3.12 ERA (8th best in KBO) and struck out 137 (4th best) in 153 innings pitched.  He’s been less consistent Ryu over his career, but Yoon was also terrific in 2008 when he led the KBO in ERA.

Yoon will be 27 in 2014.  If he has a another great season in KBO in 2013, he may be posted by his team the Kia Tigers.

A note here on KBO attendance.  As of late September, KBO games averaged 13,734 fans per game in 2012, up 7% from 2011’s attendance, which had also been the league’s all-time high.  The Lotte Giants, KBO’s best drawing team, became the first KBO team to draw one million fans for the fifth year in a row.

However, only about half of KBO’s eight teams average as many as 10,000 fans a game, which means that there should be strong financial pressure for NPB and MLB to cherry-pick the cream of Korean baseball talent.

For example, KBO superstar Seung-yeop Lee was probably the highest paid player in KBO in 2012.  He signed a $708,000 contract with the Samsung Lions after playing the previous eight seasons in NPB.  The information I have indicates he was paid in excess of $2.5 million per year for at least his first five seasons in Japan.

Similarly, Dae-ho Lee received approximately $9 million to play for the Orix Buffaloes for two seasons last off-season, roughly the same amount that his former KBO team the Lotte Giants, KBO’s wealthiest team, offered him spread out over four seasons.

A Surprising Game

October 25, 2012

Of all the major sports, baseball provides the most surprises and unexpected outcomes, particularly when it comes to the post-season.

I thought the Giants behind Barry Zito would be extremely hard-pressed to beat Justin Verlander, the best pitcher in baseball at this moment, and the Tigers in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series.  Shows what I know.

Yes, the Giants had won Zito’s last 13 starts (streaks are made to be broken), and Zito had pitched the best game of his career in Game 5 of the NLCS (anyone starting in the play-offs is good enough to pitch one great game) — I still thought Zito had been bucking the law of averages long enough.  Turns out I was wrong.

As for Pablo Sandoval’s three home runs, that actually surprises me less than Zito’s terrific performance tonight.  While three home runs in a game is obviously something extremely rare, if you told a serious Giants fan that a Giant hit three home runs in a post-season game and that Giant was Pablo Sandoval, I don’t think they’d be particularly surprised.

Sandoval’s talent is enormous.  His bat is incredibly fast, and he is a bad ball hitter of Vladimir Guerrero/Yogi Berra caliber.

Here are the highlights of Game 1.  Note that none of the three pitches Pablo hit out of the park were bad pitches.

The first was a high 0-2 fastball.  The pitch got too much of the plate, and Verlander didn’t have his best fastball.  Even so, there are very few hitters in baseball that can square up a high 95 mph fastball like that one and drive it out to center field.

The second home run came when Pablo took a low and outside strike the other way to straight-away left field.  Not a perfect pitch, but hardly a mistake, and a pitch on which if the hitter drills it, the pitcher can only tip his cap.

The final home run came on an Al Albuquerque breaking pitch that had dipped below the strike zone when Pablo launched it.  It was not a pitch an average major league hitter would hit out of the park 400 feet to dead center.

If the Giants go on to win this World Series, I expect that fans outside of the Bay Area will become pretty sick of the Giants, the team having won two of the last three World Series.  Even so, one thing that should endear the Giants to baseball fans generally is that they are one of the only teams in baseball where players still have nicknames.

Gerald “Buster” Posey; Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval; Brandon “Baby Giraffe” Belt; Tim “The Freak” Lincecum; Angel “Cabello Loco/Crazy Horse” Pagan; Marco “Blockbuster” Scutaro; Gregor “White Shark” Blanco; Brian “The Beard” Wilson; Melky “The Melk Man” Cabrera [“The Juice Man”?];  Matt “Big Sugar” Cain [what they called him in high school in Germantown, TN]; Hunter “The Reverend” Pence [I suggest “Crazy Eyes”]; Ryan “Vogey” Vogelsong [kinda lame]; Barry “Planet Zito/Captain Quirk” Zito [haven’t heard these much since he became a big money Giant]; and Madison “Sad Mad” Bumgarner [this is my nickname I’m hoping will catch on — see photo here: he looks like he’s about to cry].

Unlike the old days when nicknames were largely the creation of sportswriters looking to add color to their reports of the day’s games, most of the current Giants’ nicknames were assigned by their teammates and then picked up on by sportswriters and fans.

Japanese Players Most Likely to Join MLB in 2013

October 23, 2012

While it’s still the post-season, and the off-season wheeling and dealing has not yet begun in earnest, it seems like a good time for a post on which Japanese stars we are most likely to see crossing the pond to the U.S. for the 2013 season.

Also, given the bargains that Wei-Yin Chen, Norichika Aoki and Hisashi Iwakuma turned out to be for the MLB teams that signed them last off-season, I expect that the market for Japanese players will be up this off-season compared to last.

There are only two ways a Japanese NPB veteran can come to MLB: (1) he becomes an international free agent after nine years of service in NPB; or (2) his NPB team “posts” him for MLB teams to bid on the exclusive right to negotiate a possible contract with the player.  Under the posting system, the NPB team only receives the winning posting bid if the player successfully signs a contract with the high-bidding MLB team.

Further complicating the matter is that fact that NPB players now become “domestic” free agents after eight NPB seasons, which means that after eight seasons an NPB player can sign a contract with another NPB team (although the signing team must provide the former team with compensation), but cannot sign with an MLB team.

More on the financial structure of NPB is useful here.  NPB is sharply divided into two tiers of teams: a smaller group of teams that are highly profitable (or at least breaking even) and a larger group of teams that survive only because they are heavily subsidized for advertizing and publicity purposes by their corporate owners/sponsors.

Over the last three seasons (2010 through 2012), here are the average annual attendance figures (in millions) for NPB’s twelve teams:

Hanshin Tigers 2.88; Yomiuri Giants 2.86; Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 2.30; Chunichi Dragons 2.14; Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 1.93

Hiroshima Toyo Carp 1.59; Saitama Seibu Lions 1.57;  Orix Buffaloes 1.39; Chiba Lotte Marines 1.37; Tokyo Yakult Swallows 1.33; Yokahama DeNA Bay Stars 1.16; Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 1.16.

[Raw attendance figures come from yakyubaka.com — e.g. here.  Note also that while NPB teams play 72 home dates per season, while MLB teams play 81, in 2012 five of the twelve NPB teams drew fewer than 20,000 fans per game, while only three of MLB’s 30 teams drew fewer than 20,000 per game.  Also, NPB overall attendance is down slightly each of the last two seasons, while MLB’s attendance is up.]

The effect of this division in team revenues has been obvious with respect to the posting system.  The Yomiuri Giants and the Softbank Hawks are the only two clubs never to have posted a player, and the four highest drawing teams have posted only two of the twenty players posted during the history of the posting system.

Nevertheless, once they become true (9-year) free agents, players for the wealthiest teams have frequently elected to sign with MLB teams, presumably to play against a higher level of competition, to receive at least the possibility of higher MLB salaries, and to escape the more rigorous training regimens and greater interference in their personal lives which NPB teams generally impose.

With all that said and in mind, here is my list of current NPB players most likely to make the jump to MLB for the 2013 season.

SS Hiroyuki Nakajima.  The Seibu Lions’ shortstop should have become a major leaguer last off-season, but failed to reach agreement on a contract with the New York Yankees, who won with a $2.5 million bid when the Lions posted him.  The Yankees didn’t need Nakajimi, since they already have highly paid superstars at SS, 2nd and 3rd, and placed the high bid most likely only because other teams were afraid to bid more after the Twins’ bid & signing of Tsuyoshi Nishioka before the 2011 season turned out to be a disaster.

Because so few players come over from Japan each off-season, particularly position players, teams give too much weight to the previous year’s signings.  However, as mentioned above, Norichika Aoki’s bargain signing by the Brewers last off-season should help Nakajima substantially this off-season.

Nakajima is now a true free agent, which means no posting fee, and he had another fine season in Japan.  He finished second in NPB’s Pacific League in each of batting average (.313), on-base percentage (.382) and OPS (.833)(it was a another terrible year for offensive in NPB — no wonder attendance is down there).  He will be 30 years old next season, so he’s still at or reasonably close to his prime.

After failing to sign with the Yankees last off-season, Nakajima re-signed with Seibu for a reported $3.64 million.  Two of the sticking points with the Yankees were Nakajima’s insistence on a three-year deal at the end of which he would become an MLB free agent.  Presumably then, a three-year deal worth at least $10 million at the end of which Nakajima becomes a free agent again would be required for Nakajima to sign with a major league team.

RHP Kyuji Fujikawa.  The long-time Hanshin Tigers’ closer is also a true free agent this off-season and is reportedly interested in exploring opportunities to pitch in the U.S.

Fujikawa turns 33 next July 21st, and he appears to have had some minor injury problems in 2012, which limited him to his lowest games pitched, innings pitched, saves, K/IP and K/BB rates since 2004.  Even so, he still managed to save 24 games, post a 1.32 ERA, strike out 11.0 batters per nine innings and record 3.9 strikeouts for each walk allowed.  With a career 1.77 ERA, 11.9 Ks per nine IP and 4.4 strikeouts for each walk, it’s hard to imagine that he would not be a great addition to a major league team’s bullpen.

The Hanshin Tigers have said they hope to resign Fujikawa, and they have the money to match a major league team’s offer, if they choose to do so.  As such, whether or not Fujikawa signs with a major league team, may have more to do with how much Fujikawa wants to test his skills in MLB than the financial aspect.

SS Takashi Toritani.  Another true free agent, Toritani is a fine player, but thirteen months older than Hiroyuki Nakajima.  Toritani hit only .262 this past season, but his .373 on-base percentage was fifth best in NPB’s Central League, and he has a career average of .282 and an OBP just over .360.

There is concern in some quarters about the drop in Toritani’s power numbers the last two years since new pitcher-friendly baseballs were introduced in NPB.  The drop off in power relative to Nakajima probably has more to do with the fact that Toritani is a year older.

What I have been able to find on the internet indicates that there is some doubt among major league scouts whether either Nakajima or Toritani provides major league defense at shortstop.  Instead, their value would appear to be as relatively high on-base percentage utility infielders who could play at 2nd, 3rd and SS as needed.

The chances are reasonably good that Toritani will get a better offer from his current team, the Hanshin Tigers, than what a major league team will offer him.

2B Kensuke Tanaka.  Tanaka is another true free agent, and he reportedly is interested in coming to the U.S.  However, his career .342 OBP is approximately twenty points lower than Toritani and almost 30 lower than Nakajima. Also, his 2012 season ended with an elbow injury caused by a collision with Nakajima at second base.

RHPs Masahiro Tanaka and Kenta Maeda.  Tanaka and Maeda remain NPB’s top two MLB pitching prospects since the Rangers signed Yu Darvish.  Tanaka is ultimately the better prospect, but for reasons I’ll explain below the odds are probably better for Maeda to be the one posted this off-season, if either are.

Masahiro Tanaka missed four or five starts this year due to an early season hip injury, which limited him to 173 innings pitched.  Even so, he finished second in the Pacific League in ERA (1.87) and first in strike outs (169).  Nevertheless, there is a good chance the Rakuten Golden Eagles will hold onto him at least one more year to see if he can put up another season like 2011, when his numbers very nearly matched Yu Darvish’s as the best in NPB.

Certainly, Tanaka’s value would then be at its highest, particularly considering that he will still be only 25 in 2014.

Kenta Maeda’s 2012 season was terrific.  He led the Central League in ERA (1.53) by 45 points and was the only pitcher in the Central League to pitch more than 200 innings, the third year in a row he has done so.  He was second in the league with 14 wins, and his 171 strike outs was good for third best, only one strike out behind co-leaders Toshiya Sugiuchi of the Yomiuri Giants and Atsushi Nomi of the Hanshin Tigers.

Maeda has completed five NPB seasons and will be 25 next year.  The reason the Hiroshima Carp may decide to post him this year is that his posting value may now be at its all-time high.  The main knock on Maeda is his body type.  He’s listed as 6’0″ and 161 lbs (about Tim Lincecum’s size), compared to 6’2″ and 205 lbs for Masahiro Tanaka.

After three consecutive seasons of 200+ innings pitched, I don’t think any further such performances will do anything to convince major league executives that Maeda is any less of a risk going forward.  In other words, his posting value is probably greatest now while Maeda is still young and not showing any effects from the heavy work load.

Barry Zito Finally Earns His Ginormous Contract

October 20, 2012

Well, Barry Zito finally did something to justify the $126 million contract the Giants gave him before the 2007 season.  In what was the most important start of his major league career, Zito flummoxed the Cardinals for 7.2 innings, as Zito and two relievers ultimately shut the Cards out in the first elimination game of the series.

Zito’s exceptional and, at least in this quarter, unexpected performance pretty much started and ended with his ability to command his pitches.  None of his pitches hit more than 86 mph on the radar gun, but he got ahead of hitters consistently and walked no batters unintentionally.

It was truly an outstanding pitching performance from a pitcher whose stuff is now marginal for a major leaguer, but who has a great deal of experience and inherent pitching smarts.  All six of Zito’s strike outs were of the swing-and-miss variety, mostly on 84 to 86 mph fastballs up and in that even great hitters like Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday couldn’t catch up with because Zito effectively had their bats looking for something even slower and in a different location.

Zito’s bunt base hit in the Giants’ half of the fourth to drive in the Giants’ fourth run of the inning was also brilliant, at least on Zito’s part.  How David Freese could have been playing back on that play is mystifying.

Zito has a career batting average of .097 and hit only .075 this year in roughly 60 plate appearances.  There was almost no way he was going to get a clean hit off Lance Lynn, and Freese should have known this.  Although Freese doesn’t have a whole lot of major league experience (he’s in his third year in the Show), he’s 29 years old and in his seventh year of professional baseball.  You can’t make mistakes like that if you want to win the pennant.

Lynn’s thowing error to start the Giants’ scoring and set the stage for a big inning was much more significant, but the mistake was much more understandable.  He’s a rookie who was trying to be aggressive and get two outs on the play.

The play’s biggest mistake was really made by young middle infielders Daniel Descalso or Pete Kozma who failed to figure out whose responsibility it was to cover second on a grounder back to the pitcher.  Lynn’s mistake was going ahead with the throw when he saw Kozma was late to cover, instead of taking the sure out at first.  Still, it’s hard to fault a young player (Lynn is 25 and in his fourth year of professional baseball), who makes a mistake because he’s playing aggressively.

For those youngsters watching at home, I hope you noticed that right fielder Hunter Pence’s great sliding catch in the bottom half of the fifth inning occurred only because Pence used both hands in trying to make the play.  The ball actually hit his bare hand first and deflected into the heal of his fielder’s glove where Pence was then able to pin it with his bare hand.

With the big outfielder’s gloves in use for the last generation or so, 99.9% of the time it isn’t necessary to use two hands to catch the ball.  Even so, the other hand should be up there next to the mitt, so that when that one time in a thousand play happens where the ball pops out, hits off the heal of the mitt, etc., the outfielder still has a chance to stuff the ball back in with his bare hand.  Having the bare hand up there also cuts down the time to make the exchange for the throw back in to the infield.

Failing to use two hands when it would be easy to do so is one of my many pet-peeves, along with watching major league players make the first or third out of an inning at third base (particularly when the player’s team is behind in the game — it happens a lot more often that it should) or hacking away at the first pitch of an at-bat when the team is down by three or more runs in the last three innings of the ball game and the guy on the hill is not a control pitcher.

Finally, I was not thrilled with home plate umpire Ted Barrett’s ball-strike calls in tonight’s game.  He’s got a 1990’s strike zone — few strikes called above the belt, strikes called at the bottom of the knees, the pitch two inches off the plate outside (but not inside) thrown to the target called a strike.  I prefer when umpires call the strike zone described in the rule book, which most umpires now more or less do.

However, what really bothered me was Barrett’s inconsistency.  In the late innings with the Giants ahead 5-0, the same pitches an inch or two off the plate outside were called strikes when thrown by the Cardinals’ hard-throwing relievers, but not when thrown by the Giants’ Barry Zito and Sergio Romo.  Consistency in an umpire’s ball-strike calls are more important than conformity to the defined strike zone, because if the umpire is at least consistent, each side’s pitchers and hitters at least know what the umpire’s strike zone is by the end of the game’s first three innings.

What is Jonny Gomes Worth?

October 13, 2012

I saw a post on mlbtraderumors.com today stating essentially that now that the A’s have been eliminated from the post-season, they are already working to resign Jonny Gomes for 2012.  Makes sense — Gomes’ incredible platoon performance with Seth Smith was a big part of the reason the A’s surprised everyone and made the post-season.

What is Gomes worth?  The A’s paid him only $1 million in 2012, which is why he was such a tremendous bargain.

The A’s would obviously like to sign Gomes to another one-year deal because he will be 32 in 2013, an age at which players of his caliber generally drop off considerably, and he has been a fairly inconsistent player in his career, although that really has more to do with the fact that teams have mistakenly tried to use him as an everyday player in the past.

Gomes is a classic platoon player.  A right-handed hitter, he now has a career OPS against lefties of .894, compared to only .732 against righties.  In other words, he’s an offensive super-stud with the platoon advantage, but a bench player at best against the platoon.  In 2012, Gomes’ splits were even more extreme (.974 OPS against lefties, .715 against righties), which was a big part of the reason the platoon with Seth Smith (.805 OPS in ’12 against righties, but only .521 against lefties) was so incredibly successful for the A’s this year.

With the platoon advantage, Gomes and Smith combined for a roughly .864 OPS in 557 plate appearances, a terrific offensive performance for an Oakland A at any position, given how difficult it is to hit at the Oakland Coliseum (huge foul territories and the ball doesn’t carry well).

Fangraphs rates Gomes’ 2012 performance as worth $9.7 million.  In my opinion, this is simply too high.  For one thing, since approximately two-thirds of major league pitchers are righties, Gomes, as the right-handed hitting part of the platoon, is going to hit a fair amount of the time against right-handed pitchers.  In 2012, 41% of Gomes’ plate appearances were against right-handers, while only 18% of Seth Smith’s plate appearances were against lefties, and Smith had more total plate appearances on the season.

Also, fangraphs’ metrics probably fail to take into account fully Gomes’ lack of defensive value.  Gomes’ fielding value for 2012 is listed as -0.7 runs per game (0.7 runs below replacement value), which is only this good/bad because Gomes played at most only 42 of his 99 games this year in the outfield.  The rest of the time he was a DH.  It seems to me that a player whose defense is so bad that he must play at DH to avoid significantly hurting the team defensively is worth less, because he only makes sense to an American League team.

Gomes getting about $5 million for 2013 on a one year deal sounds about right to me in terms of a fair contract for both player and team.  The A’s have a certain advantage in negotiating in that other teams may not see the value of a strictly platoon player to the same degree that they do, and Gomes isn’t going to draw interest from any NL team with the sense God gave a jack rabbit.

Platoon players are clearly one of the moneyball value points Billy Beane and his team have identified, which is why they signed Gomes and Smith in the first place.  Also, Gomes is from Petaluma, which means the A’s may get a home town discount, particularly coming off a winning season.  Playing at home for a winner is the dream of most young ballplayers.

The deal that makes the most sense would be one that guarantees Gomes $5 million but contains a team option for roughly the same amount in 2014.  In other words, $4.5 million for 2013, with a $5 million dollar option for 2014 or a $500,000 buy-out.  In fact, a similar deal for $8 million with $4 million guaranteed would probably get Gomes signed.