Archive for the ‘Anaheim Angels’ category

Three True Outcomes Make for Boring Baseball

May 20, 2019

Bryce Harper hit a home run for the second consecutive game on Sunday, but he’s batting .235 and he’s on pace for 218 strikeouts this year.  He’s a better player than this, but he seems to have convinced himself that singles have no value in today’s game.

Harper hit .330 in 2015 and .319 in 2017, but he seems to have convinced himself that somehow 450 foot home runs put more runs on the scoreboard than 400 home runs.  What is he thinking?

Long home runs are sexy, but Harper is now married, so what good does it do him, unless he’s one unfaithful Mormon.

I want to see the superstars who can hit for power, draw walks, and hit for averageChristian Yelich hit .326 last year and is batting .325 so far this year.  He’s on pace for 99 walks this year.  Mike Trout has a .306 batting average.  Cody Bellinger is still hitting .405 and is second in the Senior Circuit behind Yelich with 17 home runs.  Players with superstar talent can still have it all.

I’m beginning to think that Bryce Harper has a $330 million body and a 10 cent head.  Hell, even Joey Gallo is batting .277 this year.  There is just no reason that I can think of that Harper can’t hit .275, draw 100+ walks and hit 30 or 40 or 50 home runs and not strike out 150 times in a season.

There is a once famous story about Stan Musial that is worth retelling here.  The story goes more or less as follows: Musial had a huge year coming back from WWII in 1946.  He batted a league leading .365 with a league leading 50 doubles and 20 triples.  He also hit 16 HRs.  Musial thought that hitting like that without trying to hit home runs, what could he do if he really tried to hit them out.  He hit 19 dingers in 1947, but all his other numbers dropped off dramatically.

In 1948, Musial went back to just trying to put a good swing on the ball while squaring it up.  He batted a league leading .376 and lead the league again in hits, doubles and triples while hitting a career high 39 HRs.  As the story goes, he hit more home runs not trying to hit home runs.

The point of the story, which is probably more true today, given how strong the best hitters are, is that trying to hit home runs is foolish.  Just swing hard and try to hit the ball squarely, and let the outcomes be what they may.  You can’t tell me that a player with Harper’s talent and strength couldn’t hit 50 home runs in a season (to all fields) merely by putting a good swing on the ball and trying to square the ball up by hitting it where it’s pitched.

The largest share of HRs, even for Harper, come on 2-0 and 3-1 pitches when the hitter can look for a specific pitch to crush.  The modern game would be so much more exciting if players didn’t try to hit every single pitch to the wall.

Bryce Harper is setting himself up for a disappointing 13 years in front of Philthy’s notoriously fickle sports fans if he tries to hit a home run every single time he comes up to the plate.

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Reality Bites Dereck Rodriguez

May 12, 2019

Hope springs eternal, especially at the start of each new baseball season, but reality has a way of asserting itself eventually.

Dereck Rodriguez‘s 2018 breakthrough was a very pleasant surprise in what was otherwise an armpit of a season.  Giants’ fans told ourselves, sure Rodriguez is a 26 year old rookie and his peripheral numbers weren’t impressive, but he’d come late to pitching, so maybe he’d be one of those rare players who establishes himself as a major league star after a 26 year old rookie season.

Alas, it didn’t take reality long to call bullsh#$ on that.  Looking at his minor league numbers, there really wasn’t much reason to think that Rodriguez could really ever be better than a fifth starter, and I certainly didn’t go into the 2019 with grand delusions that Rodriguez was going to have the success this year that he did last year.  The law of averages is a bitch.

Rodriguez was sent down to AAA today.  With Drew Pomeranz on the Injured List and Derek Holland ineffective after seven starts, Rodriguez could get another chance if he has a couple of effective starts for the Sacramento River Cats.  One would have to assume that Tyler Beede will get another start as a result of Rodriguez’s demotion, but with an 18.69 ERA after two major league appearances, Beede is on short rope himself.

Shaun Anderson may be the next River Cat to get a shot at the Giants’ rotation.  He’s pitched better than his 4.11 ERA so far this year in Sacramento.

The other big Giants’ news of the day is that the team claimed now former Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr off waivers.  I speculated that the Giants might be interested in Altherr as soon as the Phillies signed Bryce Harper.  Apparently, the Gints were waiting for Altherr’s price to drop — the price doesn’t get any lower than a waiver claim.

Altherr is out of options, so the Giants will give Altherr a major league shot. It’s likely that Aramis Garcia gets sent down to make room for Altherr.  Altherr’s start in Philly was awful this year — 1 for 29 at the plate.  He’s one of those players who has talent but strikes out too much.  Hard for those kinds of hitters to be consistent.  There’s not a lot of daylight between Altherr and Mac Williamson, both 28 year old right-handed sluggers still trying to establish themselves.

In a final note, the Pirates just bought former Giant Chris Stratton‘s contract from the Angels for what I am sure was a modest sum since the Halos had just designated the out-of-options Stratton for assignment.  It’s the best outcome Stratton could reasonably have hoped for.  Stratton is back in the National League, where he’s had some success, and PNC Park is a good one for pitchers.

San Francisco Giants Make a Bunch of Roster Moves

May 7, 2019

Yangervis Solarte, Pat Venditte and Mike Gerber are out.  Mac Williamson, Donovan Solano and Williams Jerez are in.

Only Solarte really got a chance to show what he could do (he didn’t — slashing only .205/.247/.315 in 78 plate appearances), but Venditte (allowed five earned runs in his last outing of 1.1 IP) and Gerber (1 for 15) played so poorly they were quickly sent packing.

After a recent three-home-run game, Williamson was slashing .378/.459/.756 after 23 games for AAA Sacramento. We’ll see if he can finally hit major league pitching.  I see this season as Williamson’s last real chance to establish himself as a major league player, and he’s certainly got the opportunity with no one in the Giants’ outfield really hitting.  I won’t hold my breath, however.

Donovan Solano hasn’t played in the majors since 2016, so I’m sure he’s excited about the promotion.  I’m doubtful he’ll hit significantly better than Solarte, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Williams Jerez is seven years younger than Venditte, so one would have to think he has more of a future.  He had 2.40 ERA after 12 appearances covering 15 innings in Sacto, while striking out 14.

It all kind of feels like moving around deck chairs on the Titanic, but maybe one of the new guys will get hot and provide a little excitement in what has not been a very inspiring campaign so far.

Meanwhile, Gerardo Parra opted for free agency, so he’s presumably out of the organization unless the Giants make him the best offer he gets.

In sort of Giants’ news, the Angels have designated RHP Chris Stratton for assignment after he posted an awful 8.59 ERA across 29.1 IP.  Stratton is out of options, so he has to pass through waivers.  I could see an NL teams claiming him, since he’s still only 28 and pitched O.K. in 2017 and 2018.  He’s also a former 1st round pick, which might convince another team to see him as player who could become effective with a few minor mechanical tweeks.

Early Season Asian Baseball Run-Down

April 28, 2019

The elite few who have read this blog with any regularity know that I follow Asian major league baseball quite closely.  Here’s a run-down on what’s happening in the Far East so far in 2019.

Japan’s NPB

So far, it feels like a fairly typical NPB season.  The high revenue Yomiuri Giants and SoftBank Hawks are leading their leagues respectively.  However, the small or mid-market Yakult Swallows, Chunichi Dragons, Hiroshima Carp and Rakuten Golden Eagles remain within close striking distance.  Of course, only 25 games into the NPB season, no one is yet truly out of it.

Most of the top NPB hitters are off to good starts, including Hayato Sakamoto, Tetsuto Yamada, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Nori Aoki and Dayan ViciedoTomoyuki Sugano is off to a not so hot start after a recent rough outing and Takahiro Norimoto is still recovering from non-Tommy-John elbow surgery to clean out loose bodies and bone chips, but Kodai Senga is still showing MLB-level stuff.

I am convinced that Tetsuto Yamada is going to be an MLB player.  The most important stat for NPB hitters in terms of future MLB success is on-base percentage, and Yamada has that in spades.  He has a .513 OBP so far this season and an NPB career OBP of .404.  He plays 2B, he runs well (142 career NPB steals at an 82% success rate) ,and he plays for the small market Swallows.

Yamada should be posted this post-season, so he can join MLB in 2020 for his age 27 season.  The relatively new posting fee regime gives NPB teams the most money based on the greatest value of the player to an MLB team.  Yamada’s value to an MLB team will be highest this coming post-season if he doesn’t get hurt or slump.

South Korea’s KBO

The SK Wyverns and Doosan Bears are off to the best starts, with LG Twin, NC Dinos and Kiwoon Heroes leading the field for the KBO’s five playoff spots.  Foreign Aces Tyler Wilson and Josh Lindblom are off to great starts.  Lindblom is the KBO’s highest paid foreign player this year at somewhere between $1.7M and $1.9M, so if he can keep up this exemplary performance so far, he could challenge Dustin Nippert’s $2.2M single season record for foreign player compensation in 2020.

Former MLBers Jose Miguel Fernandez, Byung-ho Park, Jerry Sands and Darin Ruf are among the top six KBO hitters in terms of OPS so far.

Offense is down in the KBO so far this season, apparently due to less zing in the baseballs per fangraphs.com.

I’ve noticed the out-sized effect Cuban players have had in Asia in recent years.  Part of it is that Cuba produces a great deal of baseball talent, at least as much as the Dominican Republic or Venezuela, and only the Cuban players with a reasonable shot at playing in the MLB majors go through the very arduous process of defecting.  Needless to say, the Cuban defectors don’t all live the MLB major league dream, but many of those that haven’t have lived the dream in Asia.

I think that one of the things that help Cuban players is that, because they come to the MLB system later, they have to make a bigger adjustment than the Dominicans and Venezuelans who come to the MLB system between age 17 and 21.  If the Cuban players can succeed as AAA players in the MLB system, they’ve done something, and it’s relatively not as big a deal for them to adjust to playing and living in Asia.  That’s my theory anyway.

Taiwan’s CPBL

The big story in the CPBL this year is the performance of former KBO Ace and marginal MLB major leaguer Henry Sosa.  After six starts, his 1.26 ERA leads the league by nearly a run-and-a-half and his 48 Ks (in 43 IP) leads the league by an even dozen.

The CPBL got lucky in signing Sosa, who was one of the KBO’s top starters in 2018, when/where he finished third in ERA (3.52), sixth in run average (4.12), second in strikeouts (181) and third in innnings pitched (181.1).  Sosa didn’t return to the KBO for 2019 because of South Korean tax law changes which would have required him to pay most of his salary to the government, and at age 33 (he turns 34 in July), he was too old to interest any MLB team.

Sosa at 95-to-97 mph consistently throws harder than any other pitcher in the CPBL, and he’s learned from his time in the KBO that he throws hard enough at the KBO level to attack the strike zone.  Rob over at CPBL Stats opined before the season started that the signing of recent MLB major leaguer Austin Bibens-Dirkx would create a test for how good CPBL hitters currently are.  I think that Sosa is a better test — the extent to which CPBL hitters can eventually catch up to Sosa will show just how good or not they are.

The second best pitcher in the CPBL so far this year is another Dominican former KBO Ace Radhames Liz.  The 35 year old Liz has been recorded as throwing even bigger fast balls than Henry Sosa, but Liz can’t do it as often as Sosa.

In recent years, CPBL teams (there are currently only four of them) have focused mostly on North American pitchers as their foreign imports.  I think part of that is that even though the CPBL pays better, there is more longevity for Latino pitchers to pitch in the summer Mexican League and their home country’s winter league than to try to jump to the CPBL’s slightly higher salaries.  In Sosa’s case, I believe he is looking at jumping to Japan’s NPB if he can dominate in Taiwan.

Anyway, I think that Sosa and Liz will have CBPL teams looking at Latin pitchers more next off-season.

San Francisco Giants Trade Chris Stratton to Angels for Williams Perez

March 26, 2019

The Giants traded former 1st round draft pick Chris Stratton to the Angels for hard-throwing lefty reliever Williams Jerez.  It’s pretty much a move to clear space on the Giants’ roster, as Stratton has no minor league options left and Jerez does.

I will be kind of sad to see Stratton go.  He had his moments the last year and a half, and it was nice to see him become a major league contributor after looking a few years ago like he might be a total bust.  That said, Stratton can only be seen as a disappointment for a first round draft pick taken 20 overall.

Stratton pitched O.K. this spring, and I hope he can help the Angels in 2019.  Jerez definitely has major league stuff, but his command still needs work.  He’s all but certain to start the 2019 season at AAA Sacramento, where he’ll get to work on it.

Now that the Giants have traded away their sixth potential starter, it will be interesting to see whether they make a run at Dan Straily, who is on the verge of being released by the Marlins.  The Marlins gave Straily a $5 million contract for 2019, but they will only have to pay him $1.2M if they release him before the regular season starts.

Straily has pitched pretty well the last three years, and he’s still only 30, so I fully expect that at least one team will step in and offer him $2M to $3M plus another $1M to $2M in performance incentives, once he clears released waivers and can be signed.  He doesn’t seem like a bad risk at this price for a team that needs one more starter.

An Off-Season of Contract Extensions

March 26, 2019

As we approach the start of the 2019 season, it was a notable off-season for the way in which big money contract extensions eclipsed all but the top three free agent signings.  As Spring Training started, it seemed like every single team was determined to lock in their best players for many years at big money, bigger money it sure seems than the free agents got at least in grand total.

A couple of things seem to be in play here.  First, it seems like the owners have finally figured out what Charlie Finley had realized around 1975, which is essentially that only the superstars are worth the really big contracts and that more average players and aging stars are fungible enough that teams shouldn’t go around overpaying them.

When the players won the Andy Messersmith free agency arbitration, Finley suggested that all players should be allowed to be free agents every year.  That way, the biggest stars would get huge salaries, but all the other players would be competing with each other for contracts, which would drive their prices down.

However, the other owners thought Finley was a kook and wanted to hold on to their best players as long as they could.  Thus, the owners negotiated a six-year service requirement for free agency, which meant that there would always be more demand for free agents than there were actual players who satisfied the six year service requirement and were still playing well.  As a result, for a very long time, free agents received enormous contracts, and the players’ association used those contract amounts to get higher contracts for younger players through the salary arbitration process they had successfully negotiated for a few years earlier.

The pendulum back towards a freer market began when teams began to non-tender an increasingly large share of their arbitration eligible players as arbitration salaries also got enormous.  More available players each off-season meant more competition for second-tier free agents, and the non-tendered players were and are more likely to sign one-year contracts for less money just to guarantee themselves major league jobs.  That surely drove down the market for second-tier free agents.

Also, teams may be realizing that their own superstars are worth more to them than anyone else.  While it is certainly exciting to bring in a high profile free agent like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, there is probably just as much good will to be gained from the fan base when a Mike Trout or Nolan Arenado is locked into play all or nearly all of his professional career for the team that developed him into a superstar.

Given how much more generous the recent spate of extensions feels compared to the free agent signings this winter, I would if teams aren’t acting collusively to send a message to players: sign with the team that developed you for big money, or test an increasingly uncertain free agent market.

Of course, if more superstars sign long-term extensions covering their prime and declining years, the superstars who do elect to become free agents will find even less competition for their services.  In short, the Bryce Harpers of the baseball world who elect free agency will continue to set contract records.  Instead, it’s the second-tier free agents who will be feeling greater pressure to accept any extension offers their current teams are willing to offer them.

Chicago White Sox and Eloy Jimenez Reportedly Agree to Record-Setting Contract

March 21, 2019

It is being reported today that the ChiSox and their 22 year old prospect Eloy Jimenez have agreed to a record-setting, long-term deal for a player yet to have played even one game in the major leagues.  The deal with reportedly guarantee Jimenez $43 million over six seasons with two team option years for an additional total of $32M.

This deal blows away the $10M guarantee that the Astros gave Jon Singleton and the $24M guarantee the Phillies gave Scott Kingery, the only other two long-term contracts for players never to have played in the majors (excluding Bryce Harper’s first pro contract).  There was a lot of rending of clothing and nashing of teeth by players and the players’ union when the Astros signed Singleton to what appeared could have been a tremendous bargain for the team with a whiff of black-mail that the ‘Stros would have been less likely to call Singleton up if he didn’t sign the seemingly team friendly extension.

But Singleton didn’t make it.  His major league career was a complete flop for reasons likely as much mental as anything else. Singleton was out of pro baseball in 2018 at age 26, which suggests his heart isn’t in it.  In the meantime, the Astros still owe him a cool million for 2019 through 2021, if they didn’t cash out for a lump sum when they released him last May.

In the case of Scott Kingery, even though he was the Phillies starting shortstop last year, the verdict is still out whether he’ll be worth the $24M guarantee.  His .605 OPS meant he wasn’t yet a major league replacement level player in 2018.

I don’t imagine we will hear a lot of complaints from players about Jimenez’s contract.  I mean, how do you tell a poor black kid from the Dominican Republic not to accept a $43M guarantee before he has even played one game in the majors.  Yes, Jimenez did get a $2.8 million signing bonus in 2013, but one would think that money is long gone between taxes, automobiles, living in the U.S., buscones, buying a home for his parents and friends and relatives with their hands out.

The deal here is obvious.  It’s a great deal for the White Sox if Jimenez develops as they hope, the kind of deal that can enable a small market team to build a winner on less money.  Meanwhile, JImenez and his family get a sure thing.  Jimenez could get hit in the face with a fastball, tear his elbow or both knee tendons, or get killed in an off-season road accident back in the Dominican Republic one winter.  He and his family will still get a pay out that will enable them to live like royalty in their homeland for at least a generation or two.  Like Mike Trout‘s extension with the Angels, it’s another win-win.