Archive for the ‘Florida Marlins’ category

The Best and Worst Hitters’ Parks in MLB Baseball 2016

April 8, 2016

Back in the summer of 2012 I discovered that espn.com provides stats for what it calls “park factor”, which for purposes of this post means the ratio between the number of runs scored at a ballpark in any given season divided by the number of runs scored by said ballpark’s occupant (and its opponents) in away games that same season.  I’ve written several posts on this subject, which have proven quite popular, the last about two years ago, so it feels like a good time for an update.

As we enter the 2016 season, below are the average park factors for all major league ballparks over the last six seasons, 2010 through 2015 (four seasons for Marlins Park which opened in 2012).

1.  Coors Field (Rockies) 1.427.  Coors Field remains far and away the best hitters’ in MLB by a wide margin.  Every other stadium had a season or two between 2010 and 2015 well out of line with its overall average position except Coors Field.  It was the best hitters’ park in MLB five of the six seasons, usually by a lot, and a strong second in the sixth season.

2.  Globe Life Park at Arlington (Rangers) 1.144.  Globe Life Park remains the best hitters’ park in the American League.

3.  Fenway Park (Red Sox) 1.107.

4.  Chase Field (Diamondbacks) 1.093.

5.  Camden Yards (Orioles) 1.083.

6.  Miller Park (Brewers) 1.072.

7.  Yankee Stadium 1.059.

8.    U.S. Cellular Field (White Sox) 1.058.  One of the more variable parks in MLB, U.S. Cellular Field was a pitchers’ park in 2015, but a strong hitters’ park in 2010 and 2012.

9. Rogers Centre (Blue Jays) 1.047.  A pitchers’ park in 2015, Rogers Center was a hitters’ park every other year of the last six.

10.  Great American Ball Park (Reds) 1.045.

11.  Wrigley Field (Cubs) 1.034.  Long regarded as one of the best hitters’ parks in MLB, Wrigley was a pitchers’ park in 2014 and 2015, bringing it’s six year average down considerably.

12.  Comerica Park (Tigers) 1.026.

13.  Kauffman Stadium (Royals) 1.027.  25 or 30 years ago, Kauffman Stadium was one of the best hitters’ parks in baseball.  However, the newer parks built starting with Camden Yards in 1992, have for the most part been much better hitters’ parks than the ballparks they replaced.  The casual fans want to see offense, and the modern parks have largely catered to that desire with resulting attendance increases.

14.  Target Field (Twins) 1.013.  The Twins’ new ball park looked like it was going to be a pitchers’ park after the first couple of seasons of play there.  However, it now looks to be a slight hitters’ park.

15.  Citizens Bank Ballpark (Phillies) 1.005.

16.  Nationals Park 1.004.

17.  Marlins Park (2012-2015) 1.000.  The Marlins’ new park appears to be as close to a perfectly level playing field for pitchers and hitters as currently exists in MLB, at least based on the first four seasons of play there.

18.  Progressive Field (Indians) 0.992.  Progressive Field was the second best hitters’ park in MLB last year, after five consecutive seasons as a moderate pitchers’ park.  2015 was almost certainly a fluke.

19.  Minute Maid Park (Astros) 0.987.  Once known as Ten-run Park, when it was named after failed energy company Enron, Minute Maid Park varies wildly between a hitters’ park and pitchers’ park from season to season.

20.  Turner Field (Braves) 0.972.

21.  Busch Stadium (Cardinals) 0.957.

22.  Oakland Coliseum (A’s) 0.941.  O.co isn’t as much of a pitchers’ park as it once was, more or less switching places with Angel Stadium, another now antiquated multi-use stadium from the 1960’s.

23.  PNC Park (Pirates) 0.927.

24.  Dodger Stadium 0.906.

25.  Tropicana Field (Rays) 0.894.

26.  Angel Stadium 0.877.  The fact that Angel Stadium is now one of the worst hitters’ parks in MLB gives one additional appreciation of just how good Mike Trout is as an offensive player.

27.  Citi Field (Mets) 0.876.

28.  Petco Park (Padres) 0.857.

29.  Safeco Field (Mariners) 0.842.  The Mariners and the Padres moved their outfield fences in before the 2013 season in order to goose offensive production.  It hasn’t helped a whole lot, as both parks remained among the worst hitters’ parks in MLB from 2013-2015.

29.    AT&T Park (Giants) 0.842.  AT&T varies a lot season to season, but in 2011, 2012 and 2015 it was a strong pitchers’ park.

What Is the Most Wins a Pitcher Could Win in One Season in Today’s Game?

August 18, 2014

In my last post, I wrote that it is highly unlikely that we will see a batter hit .400 in a full season in our lifetimes, but more likely that we’ll see another .400 hitter before we see a starting pitcher win 30 games in a season again.  Which made me think, what is the most wins a pitcher could accumulate in the most extreme season which could reasonably happen.

My feeling is that the limit is about 28 games, if everything reasonably broke in favor of one great starter in one season.  I will explain how I got to that number as follows.

The last pitcher to win 30 games in a season was Denny McLain in 1968, when he won 31.  He was the first to win 30 since since Dizzy Dean in 1934.   McLain’s 1968 was a fluke season by a pitcher who was terrific that year.

The last pitcher to win as many as 27 in a season was the recently deceased Bob Welch, who went 27-6 in 1990.  Since then, no one has won more than 24 games in a season (John Smoltz in 1996, Randy Johnson in 2002 and Justin Verlander in 2011.  Smoltz, Johnson and Verlander were just terrific in the seasons they won 24, but the truth of the matter is that Bob Welch wasn’t particularly brilliant in his 27-win season.

In 1990, Welch had a 2.95 ERA in 35 starts and pitched only two complete games.  He did generally go deep into his games, pitching 238 innings that year, but he struck out only 127.  His exceptional record that season was a testament to tremendously good luck and the exceptional job Dennis Eckersley did as the Oakland A’s closer that year.

If Bob Welch could win 27 games in 1990, I think its at least reasonably possible that in the next 40 years a pitcher having a much better season in all other respects could finish the season at 28-4 if everything reasonably possible broke right for him.

35 starts in a season was relatively common through the 2006 season.  In the the last seven complete seasons, however, only three pitchers have made 35 starts in a season (Dontrelle Willis in 2007, Justin Verlander in 2009 and Chris Carpenter in 2010).  Elite pitchers still routinely make 34 starts in a season, though, and this number isn’t likely to drop any lower in the future, simply because there is no indication that teams will use more than five starters or that active major league rosters are going to get any bigger than the current 25 slots in the foreseeable future.

While no one has made 35 starts in the last few seasons, I certainly think that in a situation where a starter is having an historically great season, teams would find a way to squeeze a 35th start out of that pitcher.  Further, each league’s leader still pitches more than 238 innings in a season more often than not.

In short, a pitcher with Welch’s luck and an historically great bullpen could go 28-4 if he pitched 35 starts as well Randy Johnson or Justin Verlander pitched the seasons they won 24.  I can’t imagine a major league pitcher doing better than that simply because no pitcher in baseball history has ever won 20 games in a season with a won-loss percentage as high as .900.

Only four qualifiers (excluding Perry Werden, who won 12 out of 13 decisions in 1884 in a league that was nowhere near a major league level of talent, although in fairness to Werden, he was one of the greatest players no one has ever heard of) have ever finished the season with a winning percentage at or over .900, and none of them won more than Greg Maddux‘s 19 in 1995.  The closest was Ron Guidry‘s 25-3 in 1978.

In short, I just can’t see anyone going 29-3 in a major league season, but 28-4 at least seems possible based on what’s actually happened in the past.

File and Trial Salary Arbitration Strategy

February 10, 2014

Another article I read today was this piece by Sports Illustrated’s Ben Reiter about the current trend by teams to adopt a “file and trial” strategy for salary arbitration, which means that once player and team exchange salary arbitration figures, the team will no longer negotiate with the player over the next year’s salary but will instead go to the arbitration hearing and get an arbitrator’s decision.

There has been a lot in the baseball press this off-season about the increase of teams with “file and trial” (also called “file and go [to arbitration]”) strategies, but a lot of the discussion sounds overwrought to me.

Up to this off-season, we’ve gone through a period where teams and players (and their agents) have seemingly gone out of their way to avoid taking salary disputes to arbitration, leading to the 2012/2013 off-season as the first since salary arbitration began in 1974 in which no arbitration hearing was held.  This already appears to be something of a fluke, as we’ve had two salary arbitration decisions this off-season and may have several more before it’s all over.  We may also be due for the pendulum to swing back the other way with more teams electing to go to hearing as a way to hold down player costs.

Owners have long hated salary arbitration because it forces them to give their players big raises whether they like it or not.  At least with free agency, owners can elect not to engage in the bidding wars.  However, in the last decade management has largely found a way to minimize this problem by non-tendering large numbers of arbitration-eligible players.  Non-tendering marginal major league players has been an effective way to keep salaries down for these players, particularly middle relievers.

The purported purpose of the “file and trial” strategy is to make players and their agents more reasonable in their demands for salary increases.  Some teams believe that agents intentionally file excessive arbitration amounts in order to create an artificially high figure from which to compromise with the team’s filed amount, since most settlements after team and player exchange figures come in at or around the midpoint of the two sides’ numbers.

The self-proclaimed “file and trial” teams are the White Sox, the Marlins, the Blue Jays, the Braves, and Rays, with the Marlins being the team in recent years most likely to take cases to arbitration and most likely to lose them.

Four other teams (the Brewers, Indians, Nationals, and Pirates) have been described as “file and trial” teams on a case-by-case basis; however, I don’t really know what this means.  Doesn’t every team willing to take at least some cases to arbitration have a figure for some players which they won’t cross but will instead go to arbitration over?  Also, if teams take a “file and trial” approach on some players but not others, it doesn’t much seem to serve the purpose of getting all players and agents to make reasonable salary negotiation demands.  If a player/agent make what the team considers an unreasonable arbitration filing, can’t every team simply state they won’t go higher than a certain figure and the take the case to hearing if their final offer isn’t accepted?

Anyway, Reiter argues that the Marlins have shown the success of the “file and trial” negotiating strategy even though the Marlins have lost more arbitration cases in recent years than any other team, because, according to Rieter, the filing amounts of the Marlins’ players have been more reasonable.  He offers the examples of Miguel Cabrera‘s 2007 arbitration against the Marlins and Ryan Howard‘s 2008 case against the Phillies as evidence. (Both players won their arbitration cases: Cabrera sought $7.4 million, the Marlins offered $6.7 million; Howard sought $10 million, the Phillies offered $7 million).

I’m not convinced.  First, as good as Cabrera’s numbers were after the 2006 season, his back-of-the-baseball-card statistics which the arbitration process over-values (see my piece from a year ago) were no match for Ryan Howard’s at the end of the 2007 season.  Cabrera came into his arbitration hearing averaging about 30 HRs and 115 RBIs in prior seasons while Howard came in averaging more than 50 HRs and 140 RBIs the prior two seasons.  Howard also had an MVP Award in his pocket, while Cabrera had not yet won either of his.

Also, Howard came into his salary arbitration with a much higher base salary than Cabrera ($900,000 compared to $472,000) the year before.  Some of that was due to the fact that the Marlins refused to pay its young players much over the minimum until they became salary arbitration eligible; however, it also gave Howard an argument that he got paid more in recognition of his exceptional early career performance, which included the afore-mentioned MVP award.  [Howard also had an argument that the Phillies kept him in the minor leagues a year longer than Howard deserved because he was stuck behind Jim Thome and his big contract, but I have no idea if he actually made this kind of argument at the hearing.]

Finally, the contention that Howard and his agent would have asked for less than the $10 million they ultimately won at hearing if the Phillies had been a “file and trial” team cannot possibly be proven and, in fact, lacks any real evidence in support whatsoever.  The only thing we can be sure about is that if Howard and his agent would have accepted to split the difference in filing amounts ($8.5 million), the Phillies made a $1.5 million mistake in refusing to offer it to him.

Another point to make here: the Marlins are such an outlier as major league teams go, that I’m not sure that many other teams are going to pursue their salary arbitration strategies.  The Marlins are regarded throughout MLB as the stingiest team most willing to put immediate annual profits before long-term profits (i.e., trying to build a winning team to increase the value of the franchise).  It’s also common knowledge that since Jeff Loria bought the Marlins in 2002 (or at least since the Marlins won the 2003 World Series), the Marlins have been willing to pay their players less than any other team and are the least concerned about the long-term consequences of nickle-and-diming their players.

[Even the Marlins’ spending spree in the 2011-2012 off-season was about short-term profits.  A good team in a new ballpark (Marlins Park opened in 2012) means immediate sell-outs.]

Next, the Braves’ recent dealings with Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward don’t suggest that the “file and trial” posture really has all that many teeth.  O.K., the Braves weren’t willing to negotiate further on 2014 salaries alone, but they gave Freeman a contract extension which mlbtraderumors.com says resets the bar for future similar players entirely in favor of the players.

Heyward’s two-year contract extension provides that, including the $1 million signing bonus, Heyward gets the $5.5 million in 2014 he filed for, and he gets a second year at $7.8 million.  If Heyward plays in 2014 like he did in 2010 and 2012, the second year will be a bargain; if he plays like he did in 2011 and 2013, it won’t.

Craig Kimbrel‘s case may well go to arbitration, but in any event his situation looks an awful lot like Ryan Howard’s back in 2008: players who played historically well in their first few seasons seeking record-setting amounts that their teams think is just too much given what similar arbitration-status players have made in the recent past.

Finally, Reiter says that players, their agents and the players’ union are considering challenging the “file and trial” strategy, presumably as a refusal by management to negotiate in good faith.  They may be technically right, but unlike collusion against free agents, it doesn’t seem like a violation without its own built-in remedy.  If teams won’t continue to negotiate after salary amounts are exchanged, player and team can simply take the case to arbitration and let a neutral and professional arbitrator decide.  The past record of salary arbitrations over 40 years suggest that the arbitrators make reasonable decisions most of the time.

The Best Hitting Pitchers in MLB Baseball 2013

February 7, 2013

The most popular posts I’ve written for this blog identify the best hitting pitchers currently active in major league baseball.  Given the level of interest, I have decided to update this piece annually, starting with this 2013 update.

As I’m sure you know, modern pitchers as a group can’t hit a lick.  The rise of the designated hitter, not only in the American League, but also it’s wide-spread use in the minors and in the college game is perhaps the biggest factor for the demise of pitchers who can hit, but it’s hardly the only one.

Pitchers simply don’t get as many opportunities to hit today because of the steady trend of using more and more relievers throwing more and more innings, which means starting pitchers get fewer opportunities to hit, and there are more opportunities for professional hitters to be used as pinch hitters.

Also, no matter what the old-timers tend to say, the level of major league play has gradually and steadily improved since the professional game started in the 1870′s, which means that pitchers, who make the major leagues solely based on their ability to pitch (which has been the norm since at least the early 1880’s and probably much earlier) have undergone a slow but steady decline as hitters by virtue of the relative improvement of pitchers (as pitchers), fielders and professional hitters, even though most major league pitchers were great hitters in high school.

Nevertheless, there are always a few pitchers in any era who can hit.  This post ranks current pitchers with at least 100 career major league at-bats in order to weed out the pitchers who just haven’t had enough at-bats for their career hitting stats to mean anything one way or another.  I may have missed a couple of qualifiers, but not more than a couple.

By today’s standards, a good-hitting pitcher is any pitcher with a career batting average above .167 or a career OPS over .400.  That’s really pretty terrible as hitters go, and it shows just how hard it is even for professional athletes who have played baseball all their lives to hit major league pitching if the players have not been selected for the major leagues based their ability to hit.

A few pitchers can swing the stick a little bit, though.  Here is my non-scientific list of the best hitting pitchers currently playing as we approach the start of the 2013 season:

1.  Micah Owings.  Micah Owings remains far and away the best hitting pitcher in baseball (at least if you exclude Rick Ankiel, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2004).  Micah’s career numbers have slipped a bit the last two season, likely due both to the law of averages and the facts that he isn’t a starter any more and didn’t pitch much last year due to an elbow injury.  His career batting average is currently .283 with an .813 OPS in 205 career ABs.

As I’ve written previously, it’s clear the Arizona Diamondbacks made a terrible mistake when, after drafting Owings in the 3rd Round of the 2005 Draft, they decided to develop him solely as a pitcher.

Owings is now 30 years old, and it’s doubtful he’ll ever develop into a good major league pitcher.  In fact, Owings just signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals with an invitation to 2013 Spring Training — the Nats signed Owings as a 1Bman, which strongly suggests they will try to develop him as a hitter.

Owings is getting old to switch positions, and it isn’t clear if he could still pitch if he and the Nats wanted him to.  He had arthroscopic elbow surgery last July and hasn’t pitched since last April.  Nonetheless, I still have a hope he’ll become the next Brooks Kieschnick, pitching, pinch-hitting and occasionally playing the field, depending on his team’s needs at the moment.

2 Dontrelle Willis.  One of the things I always loved about Dontrelle was his ability to hit.  While he hasn’t played in the majors since 2011, he recently signed a minor league deal with the Cubs with an invitation to 2013 Spring Training.  In 2011 his last year of play, Willis batted .387 (12 for 31) with a 1.032 OPS to bring his career numbers up to .244 with a .665 OPS, respectively.

Dontrelle is now 31 years old, so it’s probably too late for him to make the switch to a position.  Too bad — as a 6’4″ lefty, he probably could have been major league 1Bman or corner outfielder if he’d been developed as a hitter.

3.  Mike Leake.  Leake remains the top young hitting pitcher in MLB.  He hit .295 with a .749 OPS last year, and despite his 2011 sophomore slump year, he still has a career batting average of .274 with a .656 OPS in 164 major league at-bats.  Leake walked only once last season, dropping his career on-base percentage to .308, but he hit for power for the first time in his career with two taters and five extra base hits.

I wonder what is more discouraging to a pitcher: walking the opposing pitcher or giving up an extra base hit.  Even though the latter would seem to have more value, the pitcher on the hill can better rationalize it: the batter got lucky, he’s a good-hitting pitcher, etc.  Everyone on defense slumps their shoulders when the pitcher walks his doppelganger.

4.  Carlos Zambrano.  In 2012 Big Z had his worst season swinging the ash since his 2002 rookie season, hitting only .176 with a .441 OPS.  Even so, he still has a career .238 batting average with a .636 OPS.

Carlos is an all-or-nothing hitter.  He has only ten walks to go with 240 strikeouts in 693 major league at-bats, but he has hit an impressive 24 HRs and 53 extra base hits.  He’s scored 75 runs and driven in another 71 in his career.  That’s better than a lot of middle infielders given the same number of at-bats.

5.  C. C. Sabathia.  He’s one of the most interesting players on this list.  Unlike all the other pitchers on this list, he’s only played one-half of one season in the National League.  As an American League hurler, he only gets to hit about two games a year, yet hit he does.  Despite going 0 for 5 at the plate in 2012, he’s still hitting .238 with a .598 OPS in 105 career at-bats.

Sabathia is tall and heavy set, which doesn’t sound like a recipe for a good-hitting pitcher, but obviously he’s just a baseball player pure and simple.  One wonders what kind of numbers he would put up playing three or four full seasons in a row in the NL.

6.  Yovani Gallardo.  The still young Brewers ace is another pitcher with pop at the plate.  Despite his worst season with the bat as a regular starting pitcher, Yovani still has a career batting average of .2o7 with a .599 OPS, thanks to ten HRs and 27 extra base hits in 305 career at-bats.

7.  Daniel Hudson.  After a break-out season in 2011 at age 24, Hudson blew out his elbow tendon after ten starts (nine for Arizona, one for AAA Reno) before having Tommy John surgery in early July.  Presumably, he won’t be back in action until after the 2013 All-Star Break.  At any rate, Hudson has a .229 batting average and a .573 OPS in 105 major league at-bats to date.

8.  Dan Haren.   Haren has a .223 lifetime batting average and .572 OPS.  In 2010, his last season in the NL, he hit .364 (20 for 55) with a .902 OPS. He signed with the Washington Nationals this off-season, so he’ll get the opportunity to hit regularly again in 2013.

Haren and Sabathia are the best arguments against the designated hitter.

9.  Adam Wainwright.  Wainwright’s hitting has dropped off his last two seasons (2010 and 2012), but he still has a career .204 batting average and .545 OPS in 367 major league at-bats.

Honorable MentionLivan Hernandez (career .221 batting average, .526 OPS, but his career might be over — he’d still like to pitch, but hasn’t been offered even a minor league contract as of early February 2013); Darren Oliver (.221, .545 — the latest word is he’ll be back with the Blue Jays in 2013, but he hasn’t had a plate appearance since 2006); Chris Narveson (.227, .522 — he missed most of 2012 to rotator cuff surgery, but the Brewers have signed him to a major league contract for 2013); Jason Marquis (.202, .508 — he hit well last year and he’s returning to the Padres for 2013); Manny Parra (.183, .500 — he signed with the Reds for 2013); Javier Vasquez (.204, .478 — rumor has it he’s interested in resuming his major league pitching career after a strong season in the Puerto Rican Winter League); Jordan Zimmerman (.190, .463); and Edwin Jackson (.200, .462).  As you can see, the best hitting pitchers get bad pretty fast.

Young Hitting Pitcher to WatchStephen Strasburg.  He hit .277 (13 for 47) in 2012 with a .759 OPS, highest of any pitcher with at least 50 plate appearances, just beating out Mike Leake.  Strasburg’s career numbers are only .192 and .521, so it has yet to be determined whether he’s closer to 2012’s best hitting pitcher or the guy who started his career a pathetic-even-for-a-pitcher 1 for 26.

Carlos Zambrano started his career 1 for 32, before developing into a good-hitting pitcher, so I tend to think Strasburg will continue to hit well for a pitcher in future years.  One thing is for certain, however: with Strasburg, Haren, Zimmerman and possibly Micah Owings, the Nationals should have the best hitting pitching in MLB in 2013.

You can find my 2014 update on this post here.

The Best and Worst Hitters’ Parks in MLB 2013

January 11, 2013

Last summer I discovered that espn.com provides stats for what it calls “park factor”, which for purposes of this post means the ratio between the number of runs scored at a ballpark in any given season divided by the number of runs scored by said ballpark’s occupant (and its opponents) in away games that same season.  I wrote a post last June which evaluates each park’s park factor for the five years ending with the 2011 season.

As we approach the 2013 season (and the 2012 stats have long been in), it seems like a good time to update my earlier post incorporating the 2012 season.  Without further ado, here are the average park factors for all major league ballparks over the last six season (or less for the five ball parks that have opened more recently).

1.  Coors Field (Rockies) 1.301

2.  The Ballpark at Arlington (Rangers) 1.148

3.  Chase Field (Diamondbacks) 1.134

4.  Fenway Park (Red Sox) 1.131

5.  U.S. Cellular Field (White Sox) 1.111

6.  Wrigley Field (Cubs) 1.086

7.  Camden Yards (Orioles) 1.080

8.  New Yankee Stadium (2009-2012) 1.066 [Old Yankee Stadium, 2004-2008, 1.002]

9.  Great American Ball Park (Reds) 1.057.

10.  Comerica Park (Tigers) 1.044.

11.  Kauffman Stadium (Royals) 1.018

12.  Rogers Center (Blue Jays) 1.010

12.  Miller Park (Brewers) 1.010

14.  Citizens Bank Ballpark (Phillies) 1.008

15.  Marlins Park (2012) 1.005  [Sun Life Stadium, 2007-2011, 1.038]

16.  Nationals Park (2008-2012) 0.998 [RFK Stadium, 2005-2007, 0.892]

17.  Minute Maid Park (Astros) 0.986

18.  Target Field (Twins, 2010-2012) 0.983 [Mall of America Field (the Metrodome), 2005-2009, 0.966]

19.  Turner Field (Braves) 0.978

20.  Progressive Field (Indians) 0.960

21.  Angels Stadium 0.939

22.  PNC Park (Pirates) 0.936

22.  Busch Stadium (Cardinals) 0.936

24.  Oakland Coliseum (A’s) 0.919

25.  AT&T Park (Giants) 0.917

26.  Dodger Stadium 0.915

27.  Citi Field (Mets, 2009-2012) 0.904 [Shea Stadium, 2004-2008, 0.886]

28.  Tropicana Field (Rays) 0.889

29.  Safeco Field (Mariners) 0.864

30.  Petco Park (Padres) 0.808

The rankings didn’t change much from last year.  Among last year’s ten best hitters’ parks, U.S. Cellular Park, where the White Sox play, was apparently a great place to hit in 2012, moving it up two slots.  New Yankee Stadium was apparently not a great place to hit, moving it down two slots. Coors Field improved on its status as far and away the best hitters’ park in MLB.

The Marlins’ new park, which looked like a great place to hit in late June of last year, turned out to be only a little better than average for the full season — we’ll have to see how it plays over the next few seasons.

The Royals’ Kauffman Stadium moved up two slots, and the Phillies’ Citizens’ Bank Park fell two slots.  The Astros’ Minute Maid Park also fell two slots.  The Twins’ Target Field was a hitters’ park for the first time in its three year history, jumping it up four slots.  The Pirates and Giants and their respective opponents scored a lot more runs on the road in 2012, causing both PNC Park and AT&T Park to drop three slots.

With another year in the books, the Mets’ Citi Field is developing into as much of a pitchers’ park as the old Shea Stadium.  San Diego’s Petco Park remains the worst place to ply one’s trade as a major league hitter, but Seattle’s Safeco Field narrowed the gap considerably.

A Few More Minor Signings

December 14, 2012

The San Francisco Giants signed Chad Gaudin to a minor league contract today.  It seems like Gaudin has been around forever (he’s already a ten year major league veteran (he has a little over seven and half seasons of service time), but he’ll still be only 30 years old in 2013.

For years I thought that Gaudin would eventually put it together and become a highly valuable major league pitcher.  He’s always had good stuff, but he’s never had the command to become a star.  At age 30, it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll finally turn that corner.

Nevertheless, it’s a good move for the Giants.  Gaudin almost certainly received an invitation to Spring Training, but the odds are heavy that he’ll start the 2013 season at AAA Fresno.  I’m fairly confident he’ll pitch well there, whether as a starter or out of the bullpen, and he’ll be a good fill-in if someone gets hurt on the major league staff.

Leftie Doug Slaten is going to South Korea.  He just signed with the SK Wyverns of the Korean Baseball Organization (“KBO”).  Wikipedia says that Slaten will be used as a starter there.  That’s an interesting decision, since Slaten has exactly one career start above the A+ level in a 13 year professional career.

However, Slaten is a better pitcher than most of the pitchers who sign with KBO teams, and I expect he’ll be an effective starter there.  If not, one would have to think he’ll become a top KBO reliever, since he’s coming off a 2012 season in which he posted a 2.11 ERA at AAA Indianapolis and a 2.77 ERA in ten appearances (13 IP) for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Slaten signing is another indication of how fast KBO is growing.  Slaten is pitcher who should have drawn interest from a Japanese NPB team at a substantially higher salary.  Even so, he will likely be paid at least in the top 15 of KBO players in 2013, although I have not yet seen any reports regarding his 2013 salary.  For a KBO team to be able to sign a pitcher as good as Doug Slaten suggests that KBO team revenues are increasing by leaps and bounds.

Meanwhile former New York Mets right-handed reliever Manny Acosta just signed with the Yomiuri Giants for a guaranteed $1.65 million with an additional $500,000 in potential performance bonuses.  Acosta posted a dreadful 6.46 ERA for the Mets in 2012, but his other numbers were nearly identical to 2011 when he had a 3.45, except for the fact that he issued a lot more walks in 2012.

Acosta is a year younger than Slaten (32 compared to 33 in 2013), but I doubt that Acosta has any more value to a major league club this off-season, since left-handed short men are always in great demand in MLB.  However, their career major league numbers suggest that Acosta has better stuff, and that is likely the reason he’ll probably be making three times as much money playing for the Yomiuri Giants in 2013 than Slaten will make playing for the SK Wyverns.  No one ever said that life if fair.

The Massive Blue Jays-Marlins Trade

November 14, 2012

It’s good that there are certain things in life you can rely on — the coming of Spring, old friends, and the Marlins dumping salary.

After spending mightily on free agents last Winter to fill their new ballpark and getting less than satisfactory short-term results, the Marlins have now traded away Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and two others in what can only be described as a massive salary dump.

The Marlins are reportedly throwing in $4 million into the deal, but that’s peanuts compared to the contracts the Blue Jays are taking on.  The Marlins got seven mostly young players, but none of them look to me like players the Marlins are certain to be able to build around in the future.  The Marlins received two Cubans in the deal, which will appeal to local fans in Miami, but I’m sure that Marlins’ fans, like any other, are more interested in seeing a winner.

It’s safe to say that the Blue Jays are now more or less done with deal-making this off-season.  Hard to believe they could have any more money to chase any but the cheapest free agents.

My educated guess is that the Blue Jays pulled the trigger on this deal because they believe that free agent prices are going to go so high this off-season, that by comparison Reyes’ and Buehrle’s large contracts from last off-season will suddenly seem like relative bargains.

In the case of Buehrle, this seems somewhat doubtful, since his four-year free agent contract is heavily back-loaded.  Even so, given that Buehrle’s 2012 season was exactly in line with his prior performances, it certainly is not outside the range of possibility that Buehrle could have commanded a three-year deal for $52 million, the amount left on his contract, if he were a free agent this off-season.

It seems fairly obvious that Jose Reyes is a better player than Yunel Escobar, but in terms of pay-for-play ratio I can see why the Marlins would much rather have Escobar.  Reyes is the better offensive player, although Escobar hit well in 2009 and 2011.

However, fangraphs says that Escobar provides better defense at SS.  Both players will be 30 in 2013.

Meanwhile, Reyes is owed $96 million through 2017, while the Marlins owe Escobar $5 million in 2013 and hold team options to pay Yunel $5 million in each of 2014 and 2015.  Josh Johnson has one year left on his contract at $13.75 million.

Another factor playing into the Reyes/Escobar swap is how Reyes will hit in the American League in 2013, where he’s never played before.

None of the prospects the Marlins receives looks like a can’t miss guy.  Infielder Adeiny Hechavarria will be 24 next year and he looks promising, but he doesn’t walk enough (.314 career minor league OPS).  20 year old LHP Justin Nicolino also looks promising but hasn’t pitched above the Class A Midwest League.  The same is true for 22 year old RHP Anthony DeSclafani.

Centerfielder Jake Marisnick was overmatched in AA ball at age 21 last year, but he definitely has some talent.  RHP Henderson Alvarez established himself as a major league starter in 2012 at age 22, but I doubt he has a bright future because he doesn’t strike anyone out (4.3 Ks/9 IP in MLB; 6.5 Ks/9 IP in the minors) and he isn’t a ground ball pitcher (37 HRs allowed in 251 major league innings pitched).

The trade certainly addresses the Blue Jays’ need for starting pitching and should improve their offense slightly at shortstop and at catcher.  They also get a useful jack-of-all-trades kind of player in Emilio Bonifacio.

Whether it’s enough to make the Blue Jays contenders in the AL East in 2013 remains to be seen.  Needless to say, the Marlins didn’t win with these players in 2012, despite also having the immensely talented young outfielder Giancarlo Stanton.  At least the trade gives Blue Jays’ fans something to be excited about going into 2013 and may help season ticket sales.

You can find links to the traded players’ stats at baseball-reference here.