Archive for the ‘Milwaukee Brewers’ category

More KBO Retrenchment: Samsung Lions Move on from Darin Ruf

December 25, 2019

The KBO’s Samsung Lions just signed former major leaguer Tyler Saladino to a contract for 2020 that will pay Saladino $800,000 plus another $100K in performance incentives. It’s a good sign for the Lions, given Saladino’s past major league performance, but it likely means the team won’t be bringing back big bopper Darin Ruf, who did nothing but hit across three KBO seasons.

In 2019, Ruf played in 133 of the Lions’ 144 games, and his .917 OPS was 5th best in the 10-team circuit.  However, Ruf earned about $1.7M last year and presumably expected at least a small raise in 2020 based on his 2019 performance.  Saladino will cost the Lions about half of what Ruf would have cost the team.

It’s possible that Lions could still sign Ruf and go into the 2020 season with two foreign position players out of their three roster spots for foreigners.  In the second half last year, the Lions carried Ruf and outfielder Mac Williamson.  However, since the league expanded the roster to a third foreign player, at least one of whom could not be a pitcher, about five years ago every single KBO team has opened the season with two foreign starting pitchers and a lone foreign position player.

Ruf is 33 in 2020 (he turns 34 next July 28), so he could decide to retire.  Another KBO team could sign him for the $1M cap amount, or he could sign with an NPB team, probably for around the same $1.1M the Hanshin Tigers just gave former KBO slugger Jerry Sands.  Unfortunately for Ruf, there can’t be too many foreign player roster spots left in either NPB or the KBO.

If, in fact, Ruf does not return to the KBO in 2020, it means the league has lost its two best foreign hitters, and two of the top five overall, from 2019.  That’s no way to improve league play.

Meanwhile, SoftBank Hawks’ superstar Yuki Yanagita just signed a seven-year contract extension, meaning it’s all but certain Yanagita will never play in MLB.  Yanagita missed most of 2019 to a knee injury, and under NPB’s service time rules, he only earned 60 days of service time credit for the roughly 100 games he missed.  That was just enough to push back his free agency dates by a year.

It’s hard to feel too sorry for Yanagita, though.  The contract he signed with the Hawks will pay him roughly $5.2M per season with escalator clauses that could bring future salaries up to $6M or $7M per season.  As I like to say, Yanagita won’t be going to bed hungry anytime soon.

Also meanwhile, Tetsuto Yamada has elected to sign a one year deal with the Yakult Swallows which will pay him in the neighborhood of $4.5M, a club salary record.  This means that Yamada could ask to be posted for MLB teams next off-season.  However, he’ll be a domestic free agent next off-season, and Jim Allen thinks it’s just as likely that Yamada will sign a long-term deal with the Yomiuri Giants, Hanshin Tigers or SoftBank Hawks as request to be posted to MLB.

The fact that Yamada apparently did not request to be posted this off-season, when his value to MLB teams would have been greater than it will be a year from now (he’s going into his age 27 season in 2020), does suggest he could be content to remain a superstar in Japan.  Although salaries in NPB are considerably lower than MLB for players of Yamada’s caliber, the endorsement income for Yomiuri or Hanshin stars is enormous.  I suspect, though, that Japanese players who become MLB stars still make considerably more in Japanese endorsements than MLB players make in American endorsements.

Blue Jays Shell Out for Hyun-Jin Ryu

December 24, 2019

The Blue Jays have elected to give Hyun-Jin Ryu $80 million over four years, which is probably $15M to $20M too much given Ryu’s age (33 in March), weight (255 lbs) and past injury history.

One of the ironies of today’s MLB is that in spite of all the revenue sharing and extra draft picks for small market teams (Toronto isn’t a small market, but the Canadian dollar means the Jays’ revenues don’t match Toronto’s population size), small market teams, particularly those perennially trying to compete with the powerhouse teams, have to spend more to sign an A-list free agent.  It pretty much goes without saying that the Jay Birds had to give Ryu an $80M guarantee to get him.

Ryu’s contract also tends to suggest that Madison Bumgarner really did choose the Diamondbacks instead of maximizing his free agent contract, since it sure looks he could have got a nine-figure deal in this market if he’d held out for it.  Players always say they signed with the team they wanted to play for most, even when it’s obvious they elected to sign with however offered the biggest guarantee.  Here’s some evidence that MadBum had some other priorities.

In a much smaller signing, the Padres signed former NPBer Pierce Johnson for two years at a $5M guarantee, with a team option for an affordable third season.  Johnson is only the latest in a steadily increasing number of former MLBers who have gone to Japan for a year or three and then returned to big money from MLB.  It’s clearly a trend that is increasing.

For Johnson, the deal was a no-brainer.  His wife just had a baby, so he wanted to return the U.S.  Also, his former team, the Hanshin Tigers, likely made him a two-year offer for around $3M, so the Padres’ offer was probably the most money.

The trend of signing players like Johnson is largely a product of the fact that numerous teams have had success bringing in NPB returnees, and the other teams are now copying them.  Also, I think that in a gradual way, NPB is improving relative to MLB.

Although NPB teams are still limited to four foreign players in the major league rosters, every NPB team is now carrying 7 or 8 foreign players per season in order to develop young foreigners and to ensure they are getting the maximum performance from each foreign roster spot.

Also, NPB teams have attendance numbers that suggest that they have the money to sign a better class of not-quite MLB major league performers.  NPB is a mature league, with more than 80 years now in the books, and attendance figures don’t go up or down much from year to year.  However, in recent years, there has been small, steady increases every season.

Here are NPB’s 2019 attendance figures.  Even NPB’s weakest team, the Chiba Lotte Marines, drew 1.67 million fans in 71 home dates.  That’s more than eight MLB teams in more 2019 games.  The Marines’ average attendance of 23,463 per game was better than 12 MLB teams.

The upshot is that NPB have the money to sign foreign players who only need to improve their games a little bit in Japan to make successful returns to the MLB majors.  The big difference now on the MLB side of things is that late bloomers who establish themselves as big stars in NPB don’t necessarily have to stay there anymore.

On the other hand, I’m not convinced that we are about to see a big increase in the number of KBO stars who go on to MLB success.  NPB is clearly much closer to the MLB level of play than is the KBO, and I don’t think it’s likely that the KBO level of play will increase significantly any time soon.

The KBO has decided to let its teams sign two more foreign players each to play at the KBO minor league level, so that will improve performance from the three major league roster spots each team has for foreign players.  However, attendance was down sharply in the KBO in 2019, and it’s revenues can’t possibly be near to NPB’s.  The lack of funds is showing in a big way this off-season, with foreign player salaries down, making it more difficult for KBO teams to compete with NPB for the best foreign players.

The KBO is still a great opportunity for foreign 4-A players, but the league is going to have a hard time signing players like Dustin Nippert, Eric Thames and Josh Lindblom going forward unless it can get its attendance up and keep it there, avoiding a crash every time the Korean National Team does poorly in the World Baseball Classic.


Still More Asian Comings and Goings

December 13, 2019

It’s been an exciting week for International pro baseball, at least for baseball nerds like me.  We’re seeing more movement between the World’s major leagues than ever and for more money than ever.

The Milwaukee Brewers signed KBO ace Josh Lindblom for three years and $9.125 million guarantee.  It’s a big commitment by the standards of former MLB washouts returning to MLB after honing their craft in Asia, but it makes a certain amount of sense.  Even if Lindblom can’t really cut it as a major league starter, the odds are good he’d be an effective major league reliever.  At roughly $3M a season, that’s currently a successful middle reliever/set-up man salary.

NPB’s Orix Buffaloes signed still major league starter Adam Jones to a two-year $8M guarantee with the possibility that the contract could be worth $15.5 million to Jones if the Buffaloes exercise a third season option and Jones earns all performance incentives.

Jones has obviously slipped a bit over the last few seasons, but the decline has been gradual and he’s still able to stay healthy and play regularly.  In Japan’s smaller ballparks against generally weaker pitchers, he could still be a big power threat there.

It’s also exciting to see a small revenue club like Orix take this big a risk on a foreign player.  It’s a little like seeing the KC Royals shell out the bucks for one of the off-season’s five best free agents.

Jim Allen recently had a good post comparing Jones to some of the other former major league stars who have gone over to play in Japan after hitting at least 100 major league home runs.  It’s a reminder of just how many and for how long former major league stars have gone to NPB to wind down their careers and haul in a few more lucrative paydays.

Reliever Joely Rodriguez returns to MLB with a two-year $5.5M deal from the Texas Rangers.  It’s almost certain that Pierce Johnson will also be returning to MLB in 2020 after a very successful season for the Hanshin Tigers.  As more players turn success in Asia into big contracts to return to the States, better players will sign to play in the KBO and NPB.

Another KBO ace Angel Sanchez signed a mult-year deal (probably 2 seasons) with the Yomiuri Giants.  It’s being reported that Sanchez turned down bigger offers from MLB clubs to sign with Yomiuri, but I kind of doubt it.  What player from the Americas would turn down more money to play in the U.S. in order to play in Japan?

That said, it’s at least possible that Sanchez figures he’s got a better chance of long term success in NPB, particularly if Yomiuri is guaranteeing at least two years.  One of the toughest things for foreign players in the Asian majors is that they have to be immediately successful or they get shipped out fast.

Needless to say some players (and their agents) are still putting out rumors of MLB interest to squeeze a few more bucks out of their Asian teams.  I saw a rumor that MLB teams had an interest in the KBO’s Casey Kelly.  He re-signed with the LG Twins for a $1.2M guarantee and $300K in incentives.  Similar rumors have been floated about Mel Rojas Jr. which probably means he’ll soon re-sign with the KT Wiz for a nice raise from 2019.

In a strange move I hope to hear more about later, the Kiwoom Heroes will not be re-signing Jerry Sands, who was the KBO’s best foreign hitter in 2019.  The Heroes pay the worst of any the KBO’s teams, at least when it comes to foreign players.  They paid Sands only $500,000 last year for what was his first full KBO season.  My guess is they offered him a raise to something like $800,000 and he wanted something more like $1.2M.  I expect Sands to surface with an NPB team, because at 32 in 2020, he’s a little old for a return to MLB.

The Heroes signed Taylor Motter for a paltry $350,000 to replace Sands, and I doubt it’s going to work out well for the Heroes.  Motter slashed a dismal .206/.298/.343 in 70 games for two AA teams in 2019.  Hard to see him hitting in the KBO.  Odds are he’ll end up as an overpaid back-up middle infielder.

Are Qualifying Offers Negotiable?

November 28, 2019

I saw on mlbtraderumors a few minutes ago that the Orioles are putting middle infielder Jonathan Villar on outright waivers because the O’s don’t want to pay him the $10.1 million he’s projected to get through arbitration, and they couldn’t find a trade partner for him.  As MLBTR points, it seems like kind of a crazy move by the team, as baseball reference ranks Villar as the team’s best position player in 2019, fangraphs says he was worth $31.7M last year, and the O’s 2020 payroll will be low with or without Villar.  It does tend to show why the O’s have been so awful in recent years.

Anyhoo, it made me wonder if O’s could have tried to get Villar to sign at the 2020 price the team wanted, say $7M or $8M (assuming the team valued Villar at that much), and tried to sweeten the deal by releasing any ability the team might have to give him a qualifying offer next off-season.

For certain players, a release of any ability by the team to later give the player a qualifying offer in the future would be well worth a much lower salary to the player now.  There are certain teams, the tightwads particularly, who would also likely be willing to trade away the right to make a Qualifying Offer for the ability to save money during the player’s six years of control.

One issue would be whether a team could permanently waive the QO even if the player is traded to another team later.  Frankly, I don’t see any good reason why not, because any later acquiring team would go in knowing that they they also couldn’t make a qualifying offer and would price that fact in to any trade they make for the player.

A real good example would be Christian Yelich earlier in his career.  The cash-strapped and just plain cheap Marlins might readily have been willing to sell the QO for a smaller salary when they gave Yelich a seven year deal before the 2015 season.  Teams like the Marlins know they are going to lose their best players sooner or later, and maybe selling the QO would have made it possible for the Marlins to hold onto Yelich longer

Meanwhile, had the Marlins sold the QO, the Brewers could have factored this in when traded for Yelich before the 2018 season.  In fact, it would likely not have changed Yelich’s worth at all, because the Brewers would be receiving the same player owed less future salary under Yelich’s long-term deal because Yelich had purchased the QO from the Marlins.

One has to remember that the Qualifying Offer regime is ultimately about holding down player salaries, and I very strongly suspect that teams are intentionally overvaluing what little they actually lose by signing a free agent tied to a QO because there is more sophisticated collusion going on than the old in-your-face collusion the owners got burned on in arbitration back in the 1980’s.

Still, like using opt-out clauses to obtain lower guarantees on long-term contracts, there is no reason why Qualifying Offers should not be negotiable also.  If it does not require further bargaining between the players and owners, it may only be a matter of a crafty player agent like Scott Boras or a crafty team executive to put the QO on the bargaining table as a bargaining chip,  In the case of a young superstar like a Ronald Acuna or Juan Soto, there might be real value to both player and team if the QO is on the table as a subject of discussion.

I Probably Would Have Gone with Bregman or Semien

November 15, 2019

If I had an American League MVP vote, I probably would have gone with Alex Bregman on the theory that he was more “valuable.”  It’s hard to argue that Mike Trout isn’t the best player in baseball and the best, at least in an absolute sense, in the Junior Circuit in 2019.

However, the Angels went a pathetic 72-90, and Trout missed 28 games, while Bregman played in 157 and filled in at SS for the ‘Stros when Carlos Correa was out for sixty games with a broken rib (I kind of doubt the veracity of the claim that it happened during a massage — players often lie about stupid injuries of this sort).

In fact, one could make a compelling argument that Marcus Semien was the “most valuable” AL player, as the A’s probably don’t make the post-season without his tremendous performance, while the Astros would have made the post-season even if Bregman had merely played as well as he did in 2018.

No complaints about the NL voting, though.  Bellinger, then Yelich seems just about right.

Milwaukee Brewers Decline Eric Thames’ $7.5 Million Option

November 5, 2019

In a move that caught my attention, the Brewers declined Eric Thames‘ $7.5 million option for 2020, instead electing to pay Thames a $1M buy-out.  In other words, it was a $6.5M decision, which is surprising only in that fangraphs valued Thames’ 2019 performance at $15.4M, his three year contribution under his current contract at $39.8M and never less than the $7.2M fangraphs says he was worth in 2018.

Of course, the Brewers could well value Thames’ contribution differently, and Thames will be going into his age 33 season in 2020.  Thames strikes out a lot, can’t hit lefties, and doesn’t have any defensive value.  He does, however, draw walks and hit for power, two skills that tend to age well.  The Brewers have also made the play-offs the last two seasons, presumably at least in part due to Thames’ contributions.  It’s strange that they would consider $6.5M too much for Thames’ services in 2020.

The Brewers have already made it known that they might be willing to take Thames back at a lower price than $6.5M.  Clearly, the team doesn’t seem to think anyone else will offer Thames a one-year $6.5M deal.  I, however, would be surprised if at least one team did not offer Thames at least $5M for 2020.  Jose Abreu will also be 33 in 2020 and hasn’t been significantly more productive the last two seasons than Thames, but baseball reference still predicts Abreu will get two years and $28M this off-season, not to mention the fact that the ChiSox have already made Abreu a $17.8M qualifying offer.  Further, baseball ref predicts that Edwin Encarnacion, going into his age 37 season, will get an $8M contract for 2020.

Paired up with a right-handed hitting slugger who pounds lefties, Thames would be a bargain at $5M.

For MLB as a whole, there is relatively little down-side for owners to non-tender players whom they might like to bring back at a lower price.  The Braves also rejected Julio Teheran’s $12M option in favor of a $1M buyout, but have suggested they might also be willing to re-sign Teheran at a lower price.  Given Teheran’s age and relative effectiveness in 2019, though, I’d be surprised if he does not get a two-year offer from someone else for significantly more than $11M.

The advantage to non-tendering players is that more players on the open market drives down their prices as a basic matter of supply and demand.  The more teams non-tender close calls like Thames and Teheran, the less teams will likely have to pay for them or their replacements.  The Brewers’ decision to non-tender Thames seems like clear evidence that the Brewers think this will be another tough off-season for free agents, because even one-dimensional players with .850 OPS numbers are hard to come by.

Although Milwaukee is a small market, the Brewers were 8th in attendance in 2019 and 10th in both 2017 and 2018, as they have fielded winning teams the last three seasons, again in some part due to Thames.  The fact that they see Thames as too great an investment at $6.5M suggests the Brewers know something about the current market for free agents that the general public doesn’t.

NPB Signings, Rumors and Speculations

November 3, 2019

We are in the phase of the MLB post-season, where teams are mainly designating marginal players for assignment and players and teams are deciding whether to exercise their option rights.  It’s not a tremendously exciting time for anyone but the individual players involved and the real hot stove league die-hards.

Aroldis Chapman exercised his opt-out right to squeeze another season (2022) and $18 million out of the New York Yankees, which seems entirely reasonable for the parties concerned.  It’s hard to imagine a Cuban player like Chapman wanting to leave NYC.

Stephen Strasburg has also opted out of the last four years and $100M with the Nats.  My guess is that he could well command six years at $150M going into his age 31 season.  We’ll see if the Nats are willing to pay that, or if another team steps in and ponies up the bucks.

The most recent two signings of former MLBers by Japanese teams are the Yakult Swallows signing former Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar for a reported $800,000 for 2020 and the Hiroshima Toyo Carp signing former Padres and Phillies 2Bman Jose Pirela for a reported $600,000 plus another $250,000 in performance incentives.

Escobar spent most of 2019 at AAA Charlotte in the White Sox organization, until he was released on August 2nd, probably because Escobar was frustrated the Sox had’t promoted him to Chi as he had expected.  Escobar will 33 in 2020, which is old for a foreign player signing a first contract with an NPB team, but Escobar has a record of staying healthy and playing every day.  He posted a .787 OPS in the suddenly hitter-friendly International League in 2019, which seems in line with his past MLB performance.

The most interesting thing about the Escobar signing is whether it means the Swallows are more likely to post 2Bman Tetsuto Yamada this off-season.  Escobar will presumably play SS for the Swallows in 2020, because that’s where is value (mostly defense) is greatest.  The Swallows’ main shortstop in 2019 was Taishi Hirooka, who batted a feeble .203  and struck out an awful lot.  However, Hirooka was willing to take a walk and hit 10 home runs, resulting in a .710 OPS, which isn’t bad for a 22 year old middle infielder.

I don’t really see the point in signing Escobar, unless the Swallows plan to post Yamada and move Hirooka, who is still worth trying to develop into an NPB star, to 2B.  With Yamada going into his age 27 season in 2020, he should bring the Swallows a pretty penny if posted to MLB teams.  We’ll see soon enough.

Pirela is no spring chicken either, going into his age 30 season.  He also mostly played at AAA in 2019.

Rumors have it that Seibu Lions’ star outfielder Shogo Akiyama wants to play in MLB in 2020 now that he’s earned his international free agents rights.  However, he suffered a broken toe on a HBP on November 1st while playing in a post-season exhibition game.  An untimely injury makes it at least a little more likely he remains in Japan.

The Hanshin Tigers reportedly offered 2019 break-out relief pitcher Pierce Johnson a two year contract for 2020-2021.  However, Johnson’s wife just had a baby, leading to speculation he’ll want to return to the U.S. if he can get a major league contract offer from an MLB team.

Rumors also have it that the Hanshin Tigers are targeting Adam Duvall and Tyler Austin this off-season.  I would expect Duvall to get a major league contract offer from an MLB team after his strong late-season performance with the Braves, although the Tigers could certainly offer him more money than an MLB team might guarantee.  Tyler Austin is now a free agent after being outrighted off the Brewers’ 40-man roster.  Going into his age 28 season, Austin looks like a prime candidate for NPB, as does former Brewer and Padre Corey Spangenberg, who turns 29 next March and was also just outrighted by Milwaukee.

Other news out of Japan is that Scott Mathieson, who had by and large eight very successful seasons pitching out of the bullpen for the Yomiuri Giants, announced his retirement at the end of the 2019 Nippon Series, in which the SoftBank Hawks swept the Giants in four games. He won’t be well remembered in MLB circles, but he’s unlikely to be forgotten any time soon by Japanese baseball fans.  And, of course, he made a pile of money playing in Asia.

I haven’t seen anything yet on signings of new foreign players by KBO teams, which usually all take place by the end of November.  Most likely the signings will start once all MLB teams get closer to making their final 40-man roster cut-downs going into the free agent signing period, which starts tomorrow.

The Best Foreign Pitchers in the History of Taiwan’s CPBL, Post-2019 Season Update

October 5, 2019

This is the post-2019 season update on an article I first published two years ago.  I have not published a piece on foreign hitters because no foreign position player has played enough in any relatively recent CPBL season to qualify for the batting title.


1.      Osvaldo (Ozzy) Martinez  108-85     MiLB, WiL Stats and more MiLB Stats

2.     Mike Loree                84-50     MiLB, Indy-A stats

3.     Jonathan Hurst        76-52     MLB, NPB, MiLB Stats

4.      Jose Nunez                62-30*     MLB, NPB, KBO, etc Stats

5.      John Burgos             58-34     MiLB, Indy-A Stats

6.      Mark Kiefer             55-27     MLB, MiLB, KBO stats

7.      Don August               52-48*   MLB, MiLB Stats

8.     Joe Strong                  47-33     MLB, MiLB, Indy-A Stats

9.     Orlando Roman       44-28     MiLB, NPB Stats, WiL

10.     Gabriel “Gab” Ozuna     43-39     MiLB Stats

Martinez, Loree and Hurst are the only long-term veterans among pitchers I could find in my search of the CPBL website.  Martinez pitched nine seasons, while Loree and Hurst each pitched seven with Loree likely to return for an eighth season in 2020.  Burgos had a terrific 4.5 seasons, Kiefer had four terrific seasons, and Nunez had an even-better-than-either three seasons.  Kiefer won 34 KBO games over three seasons later in his career.

Mike Loree is the most successful foreign pitcher currently pitching in CPBL or since Oswaldo Martinez’s and Jonathan Hurst’s CPBL careers ended after the 2005 season.  After missing the first month of the 2019 season with an abominal strain, the same injury that caused him to miss about the same amount of time at the beginning of the 2017 season, Loree was once again the CPBL’s best starter.  While his 12-9 record wasn’t particularly impressive (but still tied for second most wins), he led the circuit with a 2.78 ERA and finished second with 167 strikeouts.  Loree passed Jonathan Hurst on the all-time wins list this season, but still has about two more full seasons at his current performance level to catch up to Ozzie Martinez.

Joe Strong was a 37 year old MLB rookie in 2000 for the Florida Marlins, but he pitched better in the Show in limited use in 2001.  He pitched professionally through his age 41 season.

* Jose Nunez and Don August both later pitched a season in Taiwan’s other major league, the Taiwan Major League (TML).  Don August only won 18 games in the CPBL, but he then went went 34-30 in the TML, the same as his career MLB major league record.  The CPBL counts TML stats for purposes of career records, but unfortunately does not publish the TML records on its website, making it very difficult for a non-Mandarin speaker to obtain these records.  Thanks to Rob over at CPBL STATS for providing the TML stats necessary to make this year’s edition of this post as accurate as possible.

ERA   (650 IP)

1.      Jose Nunez             2.18

2.     Jonathan Hurst        2.56

3.     Joe Strong               2.71

4.     Mark Kiefer              2.82

5.     John Burgos             2.84

6.     Gab Ozuna               3.16

7.     Mike Loree              3.19

8.     Osvaldo Martinez    3.20

8.     Enrique Burgos     3.20     MLB, MiLB Stats 

10.  Don August              3.49

11.    Orlando Roman     3.78

I set the 650 IP limit because I wanted to include Jose Nunez (687 CPBL innings, but he topped 700 with TML innings included) and Orlando Roman (691).  Nunez won 56 games over three seasons, before moving on to greener Japanese NPB pastures.  As mentioned above, he returned to pitch in the TML in 1998, during that competitor league’s six-year history before it folded/merged into the CPBL after the 2002 season.

In this extreme hitter-friendly era of the CPBL, Mike Loree’s and Orlando Roman’s higher ERAs are at least equivalent to what the best foreign pitchers accomplished in different, less offensive eras than today.  I base this claim on their W-L records, the fact that Loree has been arguably the league’s best pitcher in each of his six full CPBL seasons, and the fact that Roman used the CPBL as a springboard to a four-year NPB career, where he won a total of 18 games and saved another six, before returning to CPBL in 2016.  Alas, Roman’s CBPL career ended after the 2017 season, but he was still around to pitch in three Puerto Rican Winter League games last winter as he approached his 40th birthday.


1.     Ozzie Martinez      1,286

2.     Mike Loree             964

3.     Jonathan Hurst      779

4.     Enrique Burgos      736

5.     Michael “Mike” Garcia      651     MLB, MiLB, KBO etc Stats

6.     Orlando Roman    564

7.     Jose Nunez            545

8.     John Burgos          541

9.     Mark Kiefer           532

10.    Gab Ozuna           508

Enrique Burgos had some of the best strikeout stuff CPBL had ever seen, but it didn’t translate into his W-L record.  He finished his CPBL career an even 36-36.

Ozzy Martinez is the CPBL’s career strikeouts leader.  I know this because I recently saw a twitter that now all-time CPBL wins leader Pan Wei-lun is currently second on the list with 1113 careers K’s.


1.     Mike Garcia             124

2.     Ryan Cullen           70     MiLB, Indy-A, WiL Stats

3.     Brad Thomas        59     MLB, NPB, KBO etc Stats

3.     Brandy Vann         59     MiLB, Indy-A Stats

5.     Alfornio (“Al”) Jones     50     MLB, MiLB Stats

6.   Dario Veras           49     MLB, MiLB, KBO etc Stats 

6.   Tony Metoyer       49     MiLB, Indy-A Stats

Mike Garcia is far and away the best foreign closer in CPBL history, and certainly one of the best in league history overall, second only in career saves to Yueh-Ping Lin.  He pitched five seasons in Taiwan (1996-1998, 2004-2005) in between which he was a 31 year old MLB rookie for the 1999 Pittsburgh Pirates.  His career CPBL ERA is an even 2.00.  He last pitched professionally at age 39.

Ryan Cullen pitched 3+ seasons in Taiwan, saving a then record-setting 34 games for the Brother Elephants in 2010 and recording a career CPBL ERA of 1.60.  Cullen is best remembered for his final CPBL game, when he threw a pitch, felt pain in his throwing shoulder, and walked off the mound and off the field without motioning to the dugout and waiting for the manager to take him out of the game.  He was released the next day.

Cullen said he didn’t intend to disrespect anyone, but it does not appear that he ever played professional baseball again.  Since he was only 32 and still pitching effectively at the time of his release, I suspect that he either just decided that he’d had enough of pro ball or the injury he suffered that caused him to walk off the field was more serious than it looked in the video of it I’ve seen.

Brad Thomas is an Aussie who pitched professionally in at least seven countries on four continents, concluding his baseball odyssey with 2.5 seasons in Taiwan.  Tony Metoyer pitched parts of seven seasons in the CPBL, where he was used as both a closer and spot starter.

Brandy Vann was a former 1st round MLB draft pick by the Angels.  He had good stuff, but not enough command to reach the MLB majors.  He pitched three years in the CPBL, followed by two more in the TML.  Vann may well be the first foreign player signed by a CPBL team out of an Independent-A league, something that happens all the time today.

Unfortunately, the CPBL doesn’t hire foreign relievers much any more.  Werner Madrigal saved 16 games for the 7-11 Uni-Lions as recently as 2015, and in 2014 Miguel Mejia saved a record-setting 35 games and posted a 1.24 ERA for the Lamigo Monkeys, although that record was bested in 2017 by Chen Yu-Hsun, who recorded 37 saves for a Lamigo Monkeys team that set a league record for wins in a season.  Today, though, CPBL teams have decided that starting pitchers are just too valuable for their three available foreign player roster spaces, even though there are almost always some good relievers in the Mexican League to choose from.

It’s hard for a foreign player to have a long career in the CPBL.  If the player has a bad year or even a bad half-season (most foreigners initially receive half-season contracts), he’s too expensive to keep around and too easily replaced.  There are a lot of players of the age and talent level to whom the CPBL salary scale is highly appealing, so CPBL teams can pick and choose their foreign players.  For example, Brian Woodall entered 2019 appearing ready and able to make his way onto my lists by the end of the season, but he was ineffective and released well before the 2019 season ended.

If a foreign player has a great full season or two, he typically moves on to NPB, KBO or back to MLB AAA.  However, a lot of departing foreign players have come back to the CPBL a few years later for another go ’round when it was their last best chance to make a substantial wage playing summer baseball.

In its early days, the CPBL appears to have recruited heavily among Latin American players who put up successful seasons in the winter leagues, which makes a lot of sense, since the Latin American winter leagues are pretty good and pay accordingly.  However, with the CPBL season now longer (it has climbed from an initial 90 game season to 120 games today), fewer Latin players seem willing in playing in Taiwan, because it interferes with their ability to play a full season of winter league ball in their home countries.  However, this trend didn’t prevent the Lamigo Monkeys from inking Dominican former KBO star Radhames Liz — at age 35 in 2019, he led the CPBL this year in wins (16) and strikeouts (179).

In recent years, the independent-A Atlantic League has been a major source for CPBL teams looking for in-season pitching help, and the (summer) Mexican League has been a prime source particularly for off-season signings.

Slugging It Out in South Korea: The Best Foreign Hitters in KBO History

October 5, 2019

This is the second update on a piece I originally posted back in 2015 and the first since after the 2016 season.  South Korea’s KBO only began allowing foreign players in 1998, and it’s is a young league, starting play only in 1982.  This means the records for foreign players are very much in play.

Initially, KBO teams brought in mostly hitters; and the foreigners, at least at first, hit a lot of home runs.  As the league improved, KBO teams began to realize after about 2005 that foreign pitchers were worth more to them than the hitters — so much so that by 2012 and 2013, there were no foreign hitters in the league at all.

KBO teams expanded the roster space for foreigners from two to three beginning with the 2014 season, as the league was undergoing expansion, with the requirement that one of the three be a position player/hitter.  Foreign hitters have been back in the league the last six seasons and have fully taken advantage of what was until the 2019 season an extreme hitters’ league.  However, relatively few have lasted long enough in the KBO to challenge the foreign player records set before 2010.

Batting Average  (2,000 at-bats)

1.     Jay Davis      .313

2.     Tyrone Woods   .294

3.     Tilson Brito    .292


1.      Jay Davis   979

2.     Tilson Brito  683

3.     Tyrone Woods  655

Jay Davis had far and away the best career of any foreign hitter in the KBO, with Tyrone Woods as the only other player in the conversation.  Davis, Woods and Brito are the only three foreign players to reach 2,000 career KBO at-bats.

The problem is that very few foreigners have had long careers in the KBO.  Until the last ten years, when increased revenues made bigger salaries possible, the foreigners who played in KBO were clearly a cut below the foreign players who signed with Japanese NPB teams.  They tended not to maintain their initial KBO performance levels for long — three full seasons was and still is a long KBO career for a foreigner — or they moved on to greener NPB pastures or back to MLB.

Home Runs

1.     Tyrone Woods   174

2.     Jay Davis             167

3.     Eric Thames       124

4.     Cliff Brumbaugh  116

5.     Tilson Brito         112

6.     Karim Garcia      103

6.     Jamie Romak     103

8.     Felix Jose            95

In the early days (late 1990’s and early 2000’s), KBO teams paid foreigners to hit home runs.  The most prolific was Tyrone Woods, who blasted 174 dingers over five KBO seaons and then moved on to the NPB, where he blasted 240 HRs in six seasons.  Woods never played even one game in the major leagues, and there are some reasons to believe that PEDs may have had something to do with his tremendous Asian performance, at least by the time he reached NPB.

Eric Thames was the best of the hitters to join the KBO since the foreign player roster expansion in 2014, and he was the caliber of player who would have signed with an NPB team during the earlier era when KBO teams were signing foreign sluggers.  As I predicted in October 2016, Thames did return to MLB (I actually predicted he’d sign with either an MLB or NPB team that off-season), and his contract has been an absolute steal for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Cliff Brumbaugh played briefly for the Rangers and Rockies in 2001 before starting a successful seven year career in South Korea and Japan.  You probably remember Karim Garcia and Felix Jose, who both had significant major leagues careers, and you may even remember Tilson Brito, who played in 92 MLB games in 1996-1997 for the Blue Jays and the A’s.

Jamie Romak is the latest slugger to etch his name on my lists.  He’ll almost certainly be back in the KBO in 2020, as his 29 HRs and .882 OPS were tied for second best and 11th, respectively, in the 10-team circuit, so he’ll have an opportunity to move up the HR list.  It’s also likely that former Philadelphia Philly Darin Ruf will return to the KBO in 2020, when he’ll have a chance to put his name on one or more of my lists.  Mel Rojas, Jr. is also good enough and young enough to have a real chance.

Runs Scored

1.     Jay Davis    538

2.     Tyrone Woods   412


1.     Jay Davis   591

2.     Tyrone Woods   510

As you can see from the above numbers, the KBO records for foreign hitters are ready to be broken in all categories, because so relatively little has been accomplished by foreign hitters to date.  It’s mainly a matter of whether any of the post-2014 crop of foreign hitters hangs around long enough to add their names to my lists as the seasons pass.

Is It Worth Tanking to Improve Your MLB Draft Position?

September 25, 2019

My team, the SF Giants, are currently in line to get either the 13th or 14th pick in the 2020 June Draft.  Gints fans will remember that the team made deals at the trade deadline, but they were kind of push.  The team sold on a couple of relievers, but also made trades designed to help the team going forward in 2019.  The Gints still had an outside shot at making the play-offs at the trade deadline, and they play in a market large enough to make total rebuilds relatively expensive.

Is it worth tanking, at least once the team has realized it has no reasonable chance of making the post-season, in order to get a higher selection in the next MLB draft?

I looked at the first twelve draft picks from the June drafts starting with 1987 (the first year the June draft was the only MLB amateur draft conducted for the year) through 2009 (which is long enough ago that we should now know whether the players drafted were major league success stories).  Suffice it say, with the first 12 draft picks of each June draft, the team imagines it has drafted a future major league star in compensation for sucking ass the previous season.

In order to keep things simple, I used baseball reference’s career WAR totals to determine whether each drafted player was a major league success.  Not precise, I’ll admit, since what drafting teams really care about is the first six-plus major league seasons of control.  However, I don’t know how to create a computer program to figure out the years-of-control WAR for each drafted player, and I’m not sure I’d be willing to spend the time to do so even if I knew how.  Career WAR seems a close enough approximation.

Also, for purposes of my study, no player is considered to have lower than a 0 career WAR — you cannot convince me that a drafted player who never reaches the majors is worth more than a drafted player who played in the majors but had a negative career WAR.  A player reaches and plays in the majors 9 times out of 10 because he is the best player available at that moment to take the available roster spot.  The tenth time, he is worth trying to develop as a major league player because of his potential upside.

As a result, I did not bother with averages.  Instead, I looked at median performances (i.e., for the 23 players picked at each of the first 12 draft slots during the relevant period, 11 players had a higher career WAR and 11 players had a lower career WAR than the median player.

Also, if a player was drafted more than once in the top 12, because he didn’t sign the first time drafted, I still counted him as his career WAR for each time he was drafted.

Here we go:

1st Overall Pick.  Median player:  Ben McDonald (1989, 20.8 Career WAR).  Best Players drafted with the No. 1 pick: Alex Rodriguez (1993, 117.8 career WAR); Chipper Jones (1990, 85.3 WAR); Ken Griffey, Jr. (1987, 83.8 WAR).  Odds of drafting a 15+ WAR player = 61%.  [Examples of 15+ WAR players are Mike Lieberthal (15.3 WAR); Gavin Floyd (15.6 WAR); Eric Hosmer (15.7+ WAR); and Phil Nevin (15.9 WAR).]  Odds of drafting a 10+ WAR player = 65%.  [Examples of 10+ WAR players are Rocco Baldelli (10.2 WAR); Shawn Estes (10.4 WAR); Todd Walker (10.5 WAR)  ; and Doug Glanville (10.9 WAR).]  Odds of drafting a 5+ WAR player = 70%.  [Examples of 5+ WAR players are John Patterson (5.0 WAR); Mike Pelfrey (5.3 WAR); Billy Koch (5.4 WAR); and Sean Burroughs (5.5 WAR).]

2nd Overall Pick.  Median player: Dustin Ackley (2009, 8.1 WAR).  Best Players drafted with the No. 2 pick: Justin Verlander (2004, 70.8+ WAR); J.D. Drew (1997, 44.9 WAR).  Odds of drafting a 15+ WAR player = 35%.  Odds of drafting a 10+ WAR player = 43%.  Odds of drafting a 5+ WAR player = 70%.

3rd Overall Pick.  Median player:  Philip Humber (2004, 0.9 WAR).  Best Players drafted at No. 3: Evan Longoria (2006, 54.2+ WAR); Troy Glaus (1997, 38.0 WAR).  15+ WAR player = 22%10+ WAR player = 35%5+ WAR player = 43%.

4th Overall Pick.  Median player: Tim Stauffer (2003, 3.8 WAR).  Best Players drafted at No. 4: Ryan Zimmerman (2005, 37.7+ WAR); Alex Fernandez (1990, 28.4 WAR).  15+ WAR player = 17%10+ WAR player = 26%5+ WAR player = 39%.

5th Overall Pick.  Median player: zero value.  Best players drafted at No. 5: Mark Teixeira (2001, 51.8 WAR); Ryan Braun (2005, 47.7+ WAR).  15+ WAR player = 30%10+ WAR player = 35%5+ WAR player = 39%.

6th Overall Pick.  Median player: zero value.  Best players drafted at No. 6: Derek Jeter (1992, 72.6 WAR); Zack Greinke (2002, 71.3+ WAR).  15+ WAR player = 9%10+ WAR player = 13%5+ WAR player = 26%.

7th Overall Pick.  Median player: Calvin Murray (1992, 2.1 WAR).  Best players drafted at No. 7: Frank Thomas (1989, 73.9 WAR); Clayton Kershaw (2006, 67.6+ WAR).  15+ WAR player = 30%10+ WAR player = 39%5+ WAR player = 48%.

8th Overall Pick.  Median player: zero value.  Best players drafted at No. 8: Todd Helton (1995, 61.2 WAR); Jim Abbott (1988, 19.6 WAR).  15+ WAR player = 13%10+ WAR player = 26%5+ WAR player = 39%.

9th Overall Pick.  Median player: Aaron Crow (2008, 2.6 WAR).  Best players drafted at No. 9:  Kevin Appier (1987, 54.5 WAR); Barry Zito (1999, 31.9 WAR).  15+ WAR player = 26%10+ WAR player = 26%5+ WAR player = 48%.

10th Overall Pick.  Median player: Michael Tucker (1992, 8.1 WAR).  Best players drafted at No. 10: Robin Ventura (1988, 56.1 WAR); Eric Chavez (1996, 37.5 WAR).  15+ WAR player = 39%10+ WAR player = 48%5+ WAR player = 52%.

11th Overall Pick.  Median player: Lee Tinsley (1987, 1.7 WAR).  Best players drafted at No. 11: Max Scherzer (2006, 60.5+ WAR); Andrew McCutchen (2005, 43.6+ WAR).  15+ WAR player = 13%10+ WAR player = 17%5+ WAR player = 22%.

12th Overall Pick.  Median player: Bobby Seay (1996, 3.0 WAR).  Best players drafted at No. 12: Nomar Garciaparra (1994, 44.2 WAR); Jared Weaver (2004, 34.4 WAR).  15+ WAR player = 26%10+ WAR player = 39%5+ WAR player = 48%.

What do I conclude from all of the above number-crunching and name-dropping (and my cursory review of the Nos. 13-15 draft picks during the relevant period)?  It’s worth tanking to get the first or second pick in the June Draft or to get one of the top ten picks.  Since teams bad enough at the trade deadline to have a reasonable shot to get the No. 1 or 2 picks will be tanking no matter what, the only real lesson is that teams that have the 11th to 15th worst record in MLB approaching the trade deadline and realize they have no reasonable shot to make the post-season should SELL, SELL, SELL in order to get one of the top ten draft picks the next June.

The second lesson I take from my study is that teams should ALWAYS draft the player they think to be the best available/remaining if they have a top 12 or 15 draft pick and PAY what it takes to sign the player, unless the potential draftee has made it clear he will not sign with the team under any circumstances.  After the two best players in any given draft, there is too much uncertainty for teams not to draft the player they think is the best available.  Drafting a player the team thinks is a lesser player in order to save $2 million to throw at a high school player drafted in the 11th round is going to be a bad decision in most cases, particularly in the current regime where teams get a finite budget to sign their first ten draft picks, and the draftees know the cap amounts.

I see no obvious difference in the results for the third through tenth rounds, because, I assume, after the first two consensus best players in any given draft, teams have different opinions about the merits of the next, larger group of potential draftees, to the point where it more or less becomes a crap shoot.  After the first two rounds, and with the notable exception of the 10th round, the median player drafted with the third through 12th pick isn’t really worth a damn, and the odds of selecting a 15+ WAR player, a true star, are considerably less than one in three.

As a final note, I don’t like the fact that post-trade-deadline waiver deals can no longer be made.  I don’t see the downside in allowing losing teams to dump their over-paid veterans after the trade deadline (but before the Sept. 1st play-off eligibility deadline) in exchange for some, usually limited, salary relief and prospects, while play-off bound teams get to add veterans so they can put the best possible team on the field come play-off time.  I hope MLB can find a way for these deals to resume in the future.