Sunday, January 30, 2005

Now that the Cubs seem determined to dump Sammy Sosa for a hill of magic beans (while giving out $10 mil for the opportunity to do so), the M's have a golden opportunity: put the Randinator in blue pin stripes. The Cubs have some interesting arms in their system that might even make the trade a steal. Hell, I'd send them Ibanez, too, if they'd rather have him. Since this team probably won't compete this year, I'd like to see the M's spend 2005 figuring out which of Reed, Snelling, Strong, Jacobsen, et al is worth keeping around, rather than goofing around with an outfield/DH/1B of middling 30 year olds.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Mariners rated as the third most improved team according to Jason Stark!!


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Hey, it's been a while! Anyway, a few things have piqued my interest lately and I thought I would comment on them.

1) Baseball Prospectus' 2005 PECOTA projections were released yesterday! While certainly not the be-all, end-all, PECOTA is the most accurate projection system out there...which is unfortunate, because taking a look at the M's revamped squad is rather depressing.

Here are some observations I made from PECOTA's 2005 projections...
*Our projected starting rotation has a combined VORP of 72.2 - Johan Santana's projected VORP is 63.6.
* Strictly looking at VORP, PECOTA has J-Lo (21.3) pegged as the 16th best SS in MLB next season (17th if you include A-Rod) and, as a 2B, he would rank 14th. Like I said, PECOTA's not all knowing, but it is certainly encouraging and it will be interesting to watch him progress.
* Again, going off of VORP, Jeremy Reed (24.6) is projected to be the M's 4th best hitter next season, behind Boone (31.9), Beltre (30.9) and Ichiro! (30.7). If you didn't notice - that's a HUUUGGEEE drop-off for Beltre and Ichiro (who posted VORPs of 89.1 & 80.9, respectively, last year). Beltre's lowballing can be attributed to the fact that, historically, there aren't many players who have had the odd career path he has experienced. For Ichiro - it's because he's so unique that PECOTA doesn't know what to do with him.
* Number of pitchers still available that project to be better than Villone next season: 8
* The crystal ball is looking bleak for Raul Ibanez.
PECOTA is projecting that Ibanez will hit .270/.324/.420 with only 12 dingers and a VORP of 9.7.

2) Apparently, the Arizona Diamondbacks are looking at Jeromy Burnitz as a possible "center field solution." To me, this just screams: "Yes, we'd love to trade for Randy Winn!" The D-Backs certainly have some interesting young arms they could send in return. Hell, I'd even take Casey Daigle - just to free up about $4 million and for the possibility of seeing Jenny Finch at Safeco Field!

3) Sports Weekly is doing a week-by-week rundown of the best prospects for each team in baseball. Last week they looked at the AL West, and I found it very interesting (and a little hard to believe) that, for overall organizational power ranking, the Seattle Mariners were ranked second in all of MLB to the Oakland Athletics.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Again, long time no activity. Uh, we here at the Grand Salami are trying to get our livers in shape for the upcoming season. Please forgive the lack of activity on the site. Please don't confuse this with a lack of dedication to our craft.

The angle on the Beltran signing seems to be that the best free agent winds up in New York. While this may in fact be true, indulge me while I present an alternate view.

Carlos Beltran is a very good offensive player. He is also a bit overrated by conventional stats by spending most of his career in Coors-mid-west. Average park factor for KC over the 2001-3 seasons is about 1100, or 10% more offensiveness than the average park. (Expect a Buster Olney article about how Beltran can't handle the stress of New York when his offense drops off a predicted 10% or so - ETA July 1st.)

Beltran has established a pretty clear record of an EqA of .300 at his career peak. This is pretty good, and while it wouldn't probably be league top ten, it would push the team toward the top. But what happens going forward?

Nate Silver's PECOTA system tends to be pretty pessimistic. He gets compared most closely to a number of players who fizzled out very young - Ken Henderson, Bobby Bonds, Andy Van Slyke. It predicts a slow and steady decline from here. I find PECOTA pretty pessimistic across the board, but this is a good reminder that centerfielders often will decline early compared to other positions. Even if Beltran holds his own at this level for seven more years, he's not any more valuable than, say, Aramis Ramirez by the advanced metrics. Clearly, this level is not consistent with other $15+ mil players.

Contrast this with Adrian Beltre. He is a player who's peak years are possibly ahead of him (although he's just not going to ever be any better than last year). Are you convinced he's going to give back a lot of his gains from last year? Here is a list of some players who made big leaps in their age 24 or 25 seasons who stayed at that level for a long time: Brooks Robinson, Miguel Tejada, Roberto Clemente, Robin Yount. Interesting is that each one of these players was compared to Beltre by PECOTA before his breakout year last year. Also interesting is that PECOTA's five year outlook for Beltre is not all that dissimilar to Beltran's prior to that breakout.

To recap: Beltran is well established as a very good, but not elite (defined as Ramirez, Rodriguez, Bonds, Pujols, etc), player. He is not likely to get any better. He is clearly a step below other players making similar money. There is a past record of similar players falling off very quickly around age 30.

Beltre is a risk - he's only had one truly elite year, but arguably this is one more than Beltran has had. He is likely to play at a peak level for most of the life of his contract. He plays a position in very short supply right now (the only three other elite third basemen are locked up under contract for a LONG time).

Add in that his front loaded contract pays about 30% less than Beltran for the 2006-2009 seasons, and who got the best player? If Beltran doesn't hold his value well over the next few seasons, and Pedro's shoulder falls off, the Mets could set a new standard for expensive and bad teams. Of course, they'll be facing stiff competition from their neighbors in the Bronx.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

There was a very insightful commentary by Frank Deford on NPR this morning about the NY Yankees. I hope most of you were fortunate enough to hear it. You can still hear it at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4259515
The crux of his commentary was this:
It cannot be satisfying to be a Yankee fan. They buy every free agent they think is attractive. Price seems no object. They laugh at the luxury tax! Everyone expects them to win, though applauds when they don't. When they do win, oh well, everyone expected it.

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