Archive for the ‘Oakland A’s’ category

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.

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?  (no stats on baseball reference for Woods’ 1998 KBO season, but he batted .305 that season and .291 for the rest of his KBO career.)

3.     Tilson Brito    .292

Hits

1.      Jay Davis   979

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.

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

RBIs

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.

What Could He Possibly Have Been Thinking?

September 19, 2019

The news today out of Pittsburgh is that Felipe Vazquez has confessed to police his attempt to have sex with a then 13 year old girl and to sending her pornographic photos and videos of himself having sex with someone else.  What could he possibly have been thinking to mess around with a girl that young?

Is it simply that some successful professional athletes feel so entitled that they think can get away with anything?  Is he just incredibly stupid?  Does he have some deep personality flaw or episode from his past that made him think that screwing around with a girl that young was a good idea?

Now, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck — I know that some men well over the age of 21 screw around with under-age girls.  Hell, I remember that a few girls when I was in middle school and high school (8th, 9th and 10th graders) were dating men well over 20.  The girls I remember were 13 or 14 or 15, but looked like they were going on 19 or 20.  However, the latest reporting suggests that Vazquez knew this girl was well under-age the first time he spoke with her at a Pirates game and initially told her she was too young, but then apparently changed his mind.

The thing that is different between Vazquez and your average 25+ year old jail bate chaser/predator is that Vazquez has a job in the public eye for which he is paid millions of dollars a year, a job where public relations is incredibly important to the gravy train the players and management all enjoy.

However, I also remember that once upon a time, it simply wasn’t that big a deal when ball players fooled around with under-age girls.  For example, Luis Polonia got in trouble back in 1989 for having sex with a 15 year old girl he picked up at a game in Milwaukee, back in his hotel room.  It got media attention at the time, but it didn’t impact his professional future in any significant way.

“Nutsy,” which is what one of my college friends (an A’s fan) called him even before the rape charge, was sentenced to 60 days in jail for statutory rape (or some lesser pleaded-to charge), paid a $1,500 fine and was ordered make a $10,000 contribution to a sexual assault treatment center in Milwaukee.  Luis earned $182,500 that year and was probably able to take the ordered charitable contribution as a tax deduction.

The judge in Polonia’s case allowed him to serve the brief sentence during the off-season, and at the start of the 1990, Polonia resumed his major league career as if nothing had happened, making most of career earnings in subsequent seasons.

Vazquez was 26 when his crimes occurred, only a year older than Polonia was in 1989.  Also, Vazquez apparently did not actually succeed in having sex with his 13 year old, although it sounds like he certainly tried.

However, times have sure changed since 1989.  Today, Vazquez will be seen as a sexual predator in a way that Polonia, during the boys-will-be-boys 1980’s, was not.  I will be very surprised if Vazquez receives only a 60-day sentence or something reasonably close to 60 days today.

My guess is that once Vazquez is formally charged, the Pirates will seek to void the remaining $14.5 million guarantee on his current contract, and that in spite of his exceptional baseball abilities, no other major league team will be eager to sign him, even at a bargain price.  I don’t see that MLB will be able to permanently ban Vazquez and make it stick in the face of a union grievance hearing, based on the limited discipline Polonia and other players received in the past for similar crimes.  Still, that may not prevent teams from effectively black-listing Vazquez if no one is willing to deal with the incredibly bad publicity that such a future signing would generate in today’s America.

I, for one, won’t feel sorry Vazquez if his criminal and professional punishments are significantly greater than those suffered by Polonia 30 years ago.  Times have indeed changed with respect to society’s attitudes about the sexual exploitation of girls and women, and it has long since been time for knuckleheads like Vazquez to get what is rightfully coming to them, particularly if it sends a message to every over age 21 male in America about the possible consequences of sexually exploiting 13 to 15 year olds.

A’s Show the Astros They Won’t Be Pushed Around

September 11, 2019

The Oakland A’s sent a message to the Houston Astros tonight — you need to bring it if you’re going to beat us.  Unfortunately, for the A’s, the Astros can bring a lot more starting pitching.

Yesterday, the Astros beat the A’s brains out — the ‘Stros scored 11 runs in the first two innings and cruised to a 15-0 win behind Zack Greinke.  Today, the A’s scored 17 runs in the first four innings and scored in each of the first six innings as they glided to a 21-7 victory.

The A’s sent a message tonight, but that’s about it, because the message was “you need to bring starting pitching to beat us.”  The Astros have starting pitching, and the A’s still need to win a wild card spot and win the wild card game, even to make the real play-off series.

Wade Miley, who got hammered tonight, will probably be in the Astros’ post-season rotation.  It’s certain he won’t get more than one start per post-season series.

Right now, the Astros have to be seen as the World Series favorites.  They have the starters and the line-up and the post-season experience to make them the odds-on favorite.  But that is, of course, why they actually play the games.  Anything can happen in a short series.

NC Dinos Add a Couple of New Foreign Players

July 3, 2019

I was interested to see yesterday that the NC Dinos of South Korea’s KBO have swapped out two of their three foreign players for new ones.  Christian Bethancourt and Eddie Butler got the ax, and Jake Smolinski and Christian Friedrich got the opportunity.

Bethancourt hadn’t hit the way the Dinos had hoped, and I’m not sure how much use the Dinos got out of him at his principal position (catcher) because of the language barrier.  Butler wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t good in KBO either (at least relative to his salary), and he was experiencing shoulder problems.

One thing is certain: Smolinski and Friedrich will be making a helluva lot less for the Dinos’ final 62 games than Bethancourt and Butler made for the Dino’s first approximately 82 games.  As an expansion team, the Dinos probably play in a secondary South Korean market, and the big contracts go to the players brought in at the beginning of the season.  Both Betancourt and Butler received $200,000 signing bonuses to come to South Korea at the start of 2019 and earned more than half of the total $1.3 million in salaries they had been promised before getting cut.  I very much doubt that either Smolinski or Friedrich will be earning more than $150,000 for the remainder of the 2019 KBO season, and each could be earning as little as about $90,000.

The small replacement salaries are in line with the players selected.  Smolinski was hitting fairly well in the AAA International League, but with newly introduced baseballs adding more power-hitting to what had been a pitchers’ league, his .864 OPS wasn’t quite in the top 20 among players with at least 200 IL plate appearances this year.

Christian Friedrich was pitching in the Independent-A Atlantic League for what I would guess was $2,500 a month, after missing most of 2017 and all of 2018 with elbow problems.  He was pitching well in the Atlantic League, but I can’t remember the last Atlantic League player signed by a KBO team.  Friedrich does have 296.2 career major league innings pitched, so that and his likely very cheap cost were presumably the main attractions for the Dinos.

In recent years, numerous foreign players have had success in the KBO in spite of being brought in as cheap, late-season replacements.  Jamie Romak, Michael Choice and Jerry Sands have all taken advantage of the opportunity as mid-season replacements to stick around and make some real money for at least one more season after the ones in which they were brought over.  The quality of KBO play is close enough to AAA that any successful AAA player has a shot at making in the KBO if he can get off to a hot start.

It’s worth noting that in the KBO’s salary scale, if your first contract amount is small, it tends to stay smaller even after a few months of successful performance have been established.  Even so, coming back the next season for a $500,000 salary sure beats AAA pay, and a full season’s strong performance in Year 2 can mean a $1 million salary for a third KBO season.  None too shabby for playing baseball.

Mr. Inconsistent

June 10, 2019

I just noticed that 33 year old Eric Sogard has a .799 OPS for the Toronto Blue Jays and has hit a career high five home runs so far in the still young 2019 season. He’s set his personal long-ball best in only 159 plate appearances.

I remember Sogard from when he was a glove-tree middle infielder and semi-regular for the A’s a few years ago.  He played in between 117 and 130 games three years in a row for the A’s, but the Oakland Coliseum is a tough place to hit, and two years with OPS totals below .600 and a knee injury in 2016 drummed him out of the major leagues.

He caught on with the Milwaukee Brewers’ organization in 2017 and a fast start at AAA Colorado Springs got him another shot in the Show.  He got off to an extremely hot start with the Brewers, as the team went from losing 89 the year before to winning 86 in 2017.

Sogard had a .900 OPS as late as July 23rd that season, but cooled off considerably in the second half and finished with a .770 OPS.  Along with Eric Thames, Travis Shaw and Domingo Santana, Sogard was one of the real offensive surprises and/or bright spots in the Brewers’ line-up that year.

Alas, in 2018 Sogard came crashing back down to earth.  In fact, he was absolutely horrible, slashing an awful .134/.241/.165 in 113 plate appearance, before the Brewers released him on July 10th.  The organization re-signed him, but when he didn’t play better in the minors, the Brewers released him again on September 1st.

At the time, I thought that Sogard’s 2018 was an extreme case of the law of averages coming back to take its revenge on Sogard’s fine 2017 season.  Also, Sogard was 32 in 2018, an age at which performance drops sharply for a lot of players, and I expected that we’d probably never see Sogard in the majors again.

Instead, the Blue Jays signed Sogard to a minor league contract, he got off to a reasonably good start at AAA Buffalo and got a call up on April 15th when the Jays decided that Lourdes Gurriel needed more minor league seasoning.

As in Milwaukee in 2017, Sogard got off to a hot start with the Jays and has been cooling off since the start of May.  Even so, he’s been a relative bright spot on a very bad 2019 Blue Jays team, which is mainly in the process of developing some young stars so that the team can be better in the not too distant future.

At some point soon enough one would expect that Lourdes Gurriel will go back to being the Jays’ every day 2Bman, and Sogard will move back into a bench role.  However, the Jays’ outfield has hit so poorly this season that right now Gurriel is playing in left field, and Sogard may remain at second so long as he can continue to provide more offense than the Jays’ outfielders.