This is your semi-weekly/periodic wrap-up of Nats and other baseball news that caught my eye. I try to publish this about weekly or if it gets up to about 1500 words, so that it’s not to voluminous.
Apologies for the delay on this; life sometimes intervenes into blogging :-). Most of this news is at least a week old.
Nationals In General
- John Lannan presses his luck, goes to arbitration with the team and “loses,” meaning he’ll only get $5M in 2012 instead of the $5.7M he was seeking. I thought $5M was rich frankly; using my 40/60/80% theory on arbitration salaries (as in, your first year arbitration salary is roughly 40% of your open market free agent value, 2nd year 60% and so on…) I thought Lannan’s salary would be roughly $4.8M (equating to an $8M salary on the open market). Still, he nearly doubles his 2011 salary of $2.75M despite having a sub .500 record (yes I know that’s relatively meaning less but still).
- In the out of nowhere department, Edwin Jackson signs with the Nats. 1yr, $11M (with $2M deferred to 2013). Scott Boras finds employment for another client in Washington DC. Mike Rizzo immediately had to comment on the future of John Lannan, who clearly seems like the odd-man out despite being guaranteed a $5M salary in 2012. I should do a more in-depth post on this situation … Rizzo mentioned at the press conference a “flaw” in Jackson’s delivery that they’ve identified; its not often you invest $11M into a guy just to say he’s flawed. But the splits are pretty obvious: As noted by Joe Lemire with no-one on base the league had an astounding .868 OPS (slash line: .339/.390/.478) against Jackson but with runners on that figure dropped to .665 (slash line: .239/.292/.373). However most every other pitcher in the league experiences the reverse of this situation, faring better out of the wind-up than from the stretch. Maybe Jackson needs to pitch from the stretch all the time…. For context, a Batting Average Against (BAA) of .239 for an entire season would have ranked Jackson around 30th for all qualified Starters in the league, better than supposed Aces Matt Garza and Zack Greinke. Maybe we didn’t get a 4th starter; maybe we got something close to a #2 starter in disguise.
- Very good Nats starting pitching option analysis post Jackson acquisition from David Shoenfield, who does some trade analysis for Lannan and comes up with some good options. And Joe Lemire does a 5-point analysis of the Nats and concludes
- Si.com‘s very detailed article on Venezuelan baseball, safety concerns and details on the Wilson Ramos kidnapping case.
- A link to try out for the Racing Presidents.
Free Agents/Player Transaction News
- Reports from both Craig Calcaterra and Jon Heyman that JD Drew may retire based on the lack of interest this off-season. See, I have a big problem with this. Drew’s career numbers are very under-rated; he’s got a career .873 OPS and a career 125 OPS+. Yes he tailed off badly in 2011, and has struggled with injuries the past several seasons; but look at his OBP figures; he could be the solution to the Nats outfield problem! I think I need to write a post on this.
Hall of Fame leftovers
- More interesting Jack Morris articles; this one talking about the fact that he was the “winningest pitcher” of the 80s. Which he was, by a fairly large margin (20 wins if memory serves). Here’s the pertinent fact: EVERY single pitcher who has led a “decade” in wins is in the Hall of Fame, prior to Morris and the 80s. The leader for the 90s was Greg Maddox, who may become the first unanimous first ballot hall of famer (unless of course someone makes a “statement” vote by mailing in a blank ballot or something stupid). The leader for the 2000 decade? Andy Pettitte, who I think will struggle to make the Hall just as Morris has. Now, does this mean that Morris and Pettitte are automatically hall of famers by virtue of leading their decades? No, probably not, but just because a pitcher is a “borderline” candidate doesn’t mean they don’t deserve consideration. I’ll bet we’ll be arguing about Pettitte the same way we’re arguing about Morris in about 10 year’s time. The other interesting takeaway from this article was this google doc spreadsheet, where someone went through and calculated the leader of every 10-year period to see how the “leader of the decade” worked on rolling 10 year scales. You’re hard pressed to find a non-hall of fame pitcher on this rolling scale no matter what the 10 year period.
- An interesting article that says that certain legendary hitters are “overrated” when looking at career WAR. This is something I’ve been saying for years, especially with those that think Bert Blyleven is one of the best pitchers ever to play the game. WAR is an accumulator stat, overrating mediocre-but-extremely-healthy players who rack up a ton of stats over time. My simple case in point: Blyleven’s career WAR of 87.6 ranks him 44th of all time, while Pedro Martinez‘s career WAR is 73.5. Anyone who looks at me with a straight face and says that Blyleven therefore is a better pitcher than Martinez needs to consider both this article and my statement. Stats are what they are; they are tools that help people analyze and consider behaviors. They’re not be-all, end-all statements.
- The above article led me to create this interesting trivia question; what baseball player has the highest career WAR but who is not enshrined in the Hall of Fame (counting these caveats; the player can’t be currently active, pre-Hall of Fame eligible or currently ON the hall of fame ballot)? The answer is Bill Dahlen, with a career WAR of 75.9 and who played from 1891 to 1911. He played mostly short stop, which explains why his WAR is so high considering his career OPS+ of 109. Pete Rose, coincidentally, is just behind him on the career WAR leaderboard and would probably be most people’s guess.
General Baseball News
- Adam Dunn talks about his “one stupid year” in 2011 to the Chicago Sun-Times (h/t to Craig Calcaterra). I do feel sorry for Dunn, who seems to have caught a perfect storm of adjustments (switching leagues, switching teams, switching positions, moving cities and going to a unique on-field manager just to name a few) just at the wrong time, leading to his historically bad season. I hope he figures out what he needs to do to return to his prior form.
- Interesting NYTimes article by Tyler Kepner (h/t to Calcaterra again) on the Identity Fraud problem for baseball players in the DR. This of course is a follow up to the latest scandal, this time involving all-star Cleveland pitcher Fausto Carmona, or as we now know his real name to be Roberto Hernandez Heredia. He paid off someone 3 years younger to assume his identity, and was outed when he stopped paying the bribe. (side note: if you pay someone to help you do something illegal … chances are you’ll probably be outed on your illegal behavior 100% of the time if you remove the sole incentive for keeping that person quiet. Duh). Anyway; the interesting takeaway here was the anonymous quote that more than “a dozen such cases” could soon get exposed. I hate anonymous quotes like this, but on this topic it isn’t surprising. Age disputes have dogged Albert Pujols for years (though I doubt them personally; if he really is 2-3 years older than he says, then he would have been a MUCH bigger prospect out of high school).
- An article at Cleveland.com (but which is of severe interest to Washington fans as we re-negotiate our MASN deal) talking about Regional Sports Network TV money highlights an interesting point that nearly every team in a major market soon will have tens of millions more dollars in their pocket, thanks to renegotiated TV deals. We squawk about how the big market teams over spend now? How about when suddenly teams that are “mid-market” but spending $100M on payroll get an extra $30-$40M to play with? I wonder if the solution for the betterment of the sport (considering that a team in a small market like Milwaukee only gets about $12M total in TV money) is going to be to go to a NFL-style TV revenue model where all 30 teams share the same pool equally. That last sentence of course will never happen; the Steinbrenner family isn’t about to give up HUNDREDS of millions of dollars of their own money to help tight-fisted owners in other cities pad their bottom line.
- I hate seeing this story blown so far out of proportion: Josh Hamilton had “a few drinks” at a bar and now there’s headlines talking about a “relapse” and holier than thou stories about how this is going to cost him tens of millions of dollars. This post on sbnation.com asks the right question; “Is this any of our business?” I had 3-4 drinks one night at dinner last week; am I I a relapsed alcoholic? Of course not. I guess this is the price of fame.
General News; other
- Months ago, when Tyler Hamilton had his gripping appearance disclosing all sorts of supposedly incriminating facts about Lance Armstrong on 60-minutes I had a rather heated discussion over email with some fellow sports-fanatic fans talking about whether that interview was really “proof” of Armstrong’s having cheated his way to 7 tour de France wins. I guess not: Federal prosecutors closed the inquiry into Armstrong after a 2-year witch hunt. I was much more vehement on this topic before but my general stance is this; Armstrong took hundreds of drug tests in his life and never ONCE tested positive. There’s allegations of cheating by former teammates who themselves lied about cheating (and were eventually caught), and there’s allegations of covered-up tests (which can’t be corroborated), and there’s rumors and innuendo. But nowhere, ever, has anyone actually found anything close to concrete “proof” that Armstrong cheated. So to anyone who still thinks he’s a cheater, I’ll say this: “Innocent until proven guilty.” And nobody will ever find any proof, because (as is noted in this column) if Jeff Novitzky couldn’t find the proof, nobody will.