Thursday, December 3, 2009

Moving to MLB Daily Dish

I know that Scribbling the Majors didn't last particularly long, and I haven't posted in the past couple days, but that was because I was in discussions to join MLB Daily Dish as a writer there.

The writing certainly won't change much at all, and moving to MLBDD seems like the right move for me and my writing as this time.

It's kinda lame that Scribbling only lasted 26 posts, but the fact that I'm now moving on to a different, and frankly better, blog, should do nothing but good things to my work. Thanks to anyone that managed to follow me from MLBTR, and even the one guy that might have stumbled upon my site in some other manner.

You can now find my postings on, part of the SB Nation, and I hope this goes well from here.

Here's a link to my first post with MLBDD:


Friday, November 27, 2009

Why Would D-Backs Want Nick Johnson?

Now, I get it. Why wouldn't the Diamondbacks want a hitter who has posted these OBP's in the past four seasons: .408, .428, .415 and .426?

The question isn't so much why would the Diamondbacks want Nick Johnson, but rather, is that the best way for that team to spend their money with Conor Jackson healthy again?

Arizona has numerous holes on their roster. Their current everyday second baseman has a career OPS of .646 against right-handers. Their rotation consists of Dan Haren, Max Scherzer, the rehabbing Brandon Webb, and two other question marks. The back of their bullpen consists of Chad Qualls, Juan Gutierrez and Aaron Heilman, which shouldn't exactly excite anyone.

The Diamondbacks already have their outfield set with Justin Upton, Gerardo Parra and Chris Young, and that leaves first base wide open for former top prospect Conor Jackson. You know, the same Conor Jackson that posted a .363 wOBA in everyday playing time during 2007-2008 and a 3.5 WAR in 2008? He missed most of 2009 with Valley Fever, but apparently he looked good in the Arizona Fall League and I don't see why Jackson wouldn't deserve everyday playing time if he's back at 100% for 2010.

I get that the Diamondbacks need to improve and first base is essentially the only spot in the lineup where they could get it. But what about hoping for continued development from Upton, Parra, Stephen Drew and Miguel Montero? Repeat season from Mark Reynolds and Ryan Roberts? Quality returns from Young and Jackson?

Given that Arizona's offense is flush with talent and offensive upside, albeit with large risk attached as well, I think that the Diamondbacks would be better off trying to address the holes in their pitching staff with the limited payroll flexibility that they have, pursuing pitchers that can eat innings rather than an injury-prone first baseman with a similar skill set to a younger first baseman that they already have.

Blue Jays Prioritizing Middle Infield Defense

With the resigning of shortstop John McDonald and the addition of former Red Sox shortstop Alex Gonzalez on a one-year, $2.75M deal, it appears that the Blue Jays' search for an MLB shortstop is over for the offseason. Certainly, the Blue Jays will still pursue young shortstops in talks for right-hander Roy Halladay, but it seems almost assured now that the team's previous everyday shortstop, Marco Scutaro, will depart as a free agent.

While the Blue Jays have essentially decided to punt the idea of getting offense from their shortstops, the McDonald/Gonzalez combo along with incumbent second baseman Aaron Hill, a two-time Fielding Bible award winner as the best defensive 2B in the game, should provide the Blue Jays will excellent defense in the middle infield. Both Gonzalez and McDonald have routinely been regarded as two of the best defensive shortstops in the game, and that's been supported by metric statistics, McDonald has a +3.9 UZR/150 for his career, while Gonzalez has an even more impressive +6.9 mark.

Unfortunately, defense is where essentially all of the value lies for these two guys. McDonald has a career line of .238/.276/.317 and a .264 wOBA in 1862 PA, and Gonzalez has a career line of .247/.294/.395 with a .295 wOBA in 4776 PA. McDonald showed some improved power in 2009, but he also walked just once in 156 at-bats, he really doesn't belong on a major-league roster if he's not playing his usual plus defense.

Gonzalez not only has the superior defensive metric numbers, but he's shown far more on the offensive side as well. He posted a solid .284/.316/.453 line in 44 games with Boston, and as recently as 2007 he posted a .340 wOBA with Cincinnati, although that was in a hitter's park in the easier league. He's certainly not an offensive weapon, he's not much of an asset offensively at all, but he's less of a liability than McDonald, and should at least provide a wOBA around .290-.310 before all is said and done, which is at least tolerable if you're a shortstop playing plus defense.

Clearly, Gonzalez is the superior hitter and likely the superior defender at this point as well, so he's clearly Toronto's everyday shortstop going into next season. The shortstop will likely be manning the nine spot in Toronto's batting order next season, but at the very least, Blue Jay pitchers should feel better knowing that they have one of the best defensive middle infields in the game behind them.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Who Would Want Miguel Cabrera?

While it's been made clear that the Tigers are trying to shed payroll this offseason in some way, there had been little discussion about the possibility of the Tigers dealing superstar first baseman Miguel Cabrera until this morning, when Lynn Henning of The Detroit News discussed the topic after comments made by Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski.

Moving Cabrera, 27 next April, could make sense for the Tigers if they don't believe that they're World Series contenders next season, given that Cabrera is due $126M through 2015 and is relatively limited by the fact that he's relegated to first base or designated hitter and there are some small character issues. But on the flip side, few hitters have accomplished more before turning 27 than Cabrera.

Cabrera has a career .311/.383/.542 line and a .389 wOBA in seven seasons with the Tigers and Florida Marlins, getting time at third base and left field before settling in at first base in 2008. He's had at least 65 extra-base hits in each season, four seasons with a BA above .320 and an OBP above .385, and four seasons with a wOBA over .399, with an ISO above .219 in every season. He's an elite hitter showing no signs of slowing down, he's played in 157+ games in every season since becoming an everyday player at the age of 21, and he even posted a solid, above-average 3.1 UZR as Detroit's everyday first baseman in 2009, although the sample size was small. To put it simply, Cabrera is one of the very best hitters, and players, in the game.

But still, you can essentially limit trade partners to big-market teams with a hole at first base or designated hitter, and that cuts out a major part of the market.

The Yankees likely can't fit Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez AND Miguel Cabrera on their payroll, given that A-Rod could very well end up at DH within a few years, and you're not putting Teixeira or Cabrera in a different spot on the field. The Cubs have Derrek Lee for 2010 and very limited payroll flexibility, they're more likely to pursue Curtis Granderson in trade talks with Detroit. The Angels could be a landing spot, but they also are already set at first base long-term with Kendry Morales. The Phillies have Ryan Howard, the Astros have Lance Berkman, and the Rangers have Justin Smoak, which pretty much knocks them all out of the running.

That leaves you with the Dodgers, White Sox, Red Sox, Giants, Mariners, Braves and Mets as the only realistic trade partners for Detroit.

The Braves, Dodgers, Giants and White Sox aren't particularly likely to pursue Cabrera, either. Atlanta probably doesn't have the money, for the White Sox, neither team probably don't want to trade that kind of talent within the division, the Giants probably don't want to have Cabrera and Sandoval around long-term due the defensive issues it would create, and the Dodgers are more likely to pursue help for the starting rotation than focus on Cabrera.

So realistically, it would be between the Mariners, Red Sox and Mets.

The Mariners could presumably start a package with Carlos Triunfel, Phillippe Aumont, J.P. Ramirez and one of the outfielders (Halman, Saunders, Raben). Basically, anyone but Dustin Ackley. But one major concern with the Mariners adding Cabrera is the impact that it could have on their efforts to retain Felix Hernandez, presumably the player that they would much rather have.

The Mets would likely have to start a package with Ike Davis, Fernando Martinez and Brad Holt, I'm not sure if the Tigers could ask for both Wilmer Flores and Jennry Meija if they expect the Mets to take on the entire contract. I think that the Mets could be a fit if they can afford the money.

The Red Sox are the other good fit, they have the hole at DH long-term and the need for an impact bat, can easily afford Cabrera's contract, and have talent that would definitely interest Detroit. A package could presumably start with Clay Buchholz, but even if Boston didn't want to surrender him in an effort to win-now, they could likely get Detroit's attention with a package based around Casey Kelly and/or Ryan Westmoreland, with other prospects like Michael Bowden, Josh Reddick, Ryan Kalish, Michael Almanzar, Yamaico Navarro, Oscar Tejeda, Anthony Rizzo, Lars Anderson, and Derrik Gibson.

Realistically, I think that Cabrera either lands in New York or Boston (shocker), and trading him probably wouldn't be the worst idea for Detroit if they can get an impressive package. While he's a great player, he's expensive, and the Tigers could build a dominant team around Justin Verlander (who needs to be paid after 2011, when he's due to hit free agency) when all of the bad contracts finish after 2010 and 2011.

Monday, November 23, 2009

AL MVP Ballot Oddities

Today, the BBWAA announced that Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer was voted American League MVP. While his victory was unsurprising, he just posted a .438 wOBA as an above-average defensive catcher and he received 27 of 28 first-place votes, there were numerous other surprises to keep us entertained. Let's dig into the ones I saw:

Bobby Abreu: 2 fifth-place votes, 9 votes overall, 23 points

Listen, I get that Abreu's patient approach supposedly transformed the Angels' slap-happy, energetic offense into a pitch-taking, on-base machine, but how is a below-average defensive right fielder with a .365 wOBA (which takes SB/CS into account) one of the five most valuable players in the league?

Carl Crawford, who posted an identical wOBA while playing elite defense and stealing 60 bases, didn't even receive ONE vote on a single ballot, but Abreu gets votes on nine different ballots? Yeah, Abreu gets bonus points for being on a playoff team and the whole "nice story" thing, but how is Abreu remotely as valuable as Crawford?

The guy with the 13th-best wOBA among everyday AL outfielders while posting a -11.0 UZR was really an MVP candidate?

Aaron Hill: 1 fourth-place vote, 8 votes overall, 23 points

Just like with Abreu, I get how a well-regarded defensive second baseman who hits .286 with 36 home runs, 37 doubles and 108 RBI might garner some MVP votes. But at the same time, how do you ignore the numerous flaws in his candidacy?

Hill's 5.8% walk rate was the worst of his career and led to a very mediocre .330 OBP, which combined with his lack of value in terms of stolen bases, adds up to a .357 wOBA. While that's certainly an impressive mark, it's still only fifth among everyday AL second baseman, behind Ben Zobrist, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler and Robinson Cano.

And while UZR certainly has its flaws, especially in a sample size of only 156 games, it's certainly worth acknowledging his -2.3 UZR from this season, and the possibility that his defense won't quite return to the level that it was at before the major injuries of last season.

Hill is a great player, but unless you're only using traditional manners of evaluation (BA, HR, RBI, Runs, etc.), he just hasn't been one of the 10 most valuable players in the AL.

Placido Polanco: 1 ninth-place vote

Essentially every player that got an MVP vote is a great player, it's just that some great players had more valuable seasons than others, obviously. With Placido Polanco, I just don't get what's going on.

How does a second baseman with a .285/.331/.396 line garner even one MVP vote? Even if he's pretty good defensively, Polanco is not much more than a solid everyday player, and it's not even like his team made the playoffs this season.

I would just really love to know the explanation behind that one, because I'm sure that it must be exceptionally warped.

And finally: Where's the lack of love for Zack Greinke?

I know, I know, pitchers generally aren't considered in MVP voting, even though they're allowed to be, and how could Greinke be so valuable if the Royals were so awful?

Well, according to WAR, Greinke was easily the most valuable player IN THE GAME, his 9.4 WAR, Rays 2B Ben Zobrist finished second with a 8.6 WAR and Albert Pujols was third with an 8.4 WAR. Mauer certainly would have finished with a better mark than his 8.2 WAR if UZR actually rated defense for catchers, because Mauer is regarded as above-average and UZR, and WAR as a function of that, assumes that all catchers are league average defensively.

I know that WAR has numerous flaws, but wouldn't it seem that the guy that posted the highest WAR in baseball in 2009 would deserve more than one fifth-place vote, one sixth-place vote, one ninth-place vote and one tenth-place vote?

Luckily, the voters got the biggest part of the voting process right, and that was that they recognized that Joe Mauer was the most valuable player in the AL.

Omar Vizquel Signs With White Sox

The Chicago White Sox and 42-year-old shortstop Omar Vizquel agreed to a one-year, $1.375M contract this morning, Scott Merkin of reported this morning.

Vizquel, who turns 43 in April, is likely to slot in as the team's back-up infielder, presuming that they go into the season with Gordon Beckham at second base, Alexei Ramirez at shortstop, and recently added Mark Teahen at third base. While Vizquel is still a complete zero with the bat, he's one of the best defensive shortstops in the game, he has a +7.2 UZR/150 for his career, and he posted a massive +20.6 UZR/150 in his last full season in 2007, while also receiving similarly impressive marks in other metric systems and from numerous scouting reports. While he's obviously not going to be 20 runs above average defensively again, he's clearly still an asset with the glove, and more than a solid bench piece in that aspect.

Vizquel was never much of a hitter, and he showed substantial decline from 2006 to 2008 before having somewhat of a rebound season in Texas in 2009, posting a .266/.316/.345 line and a .301 wOBA, his first over .300 since 2006. While his 2007/2008 numbers were greatly impacted by low BABIP's, he's also began to hit less line drives and more flyballs, which certainly is a factor in the decrease in his BABIP. The other major concern with Vizquel is that he's so dependent on his ability to make contact offensively, but in 2009 he posted the highest strikeout rate (15.3%) and lowest contact rate (87.8%) of his career, while also swinging at significantly more pitches outside of the strike zone. Given how infrequently Vizquel walks and his utter lack of power, if he's not making contact, then he's essentially completely worthless as a hitter.

Still, given the fact that Beckham is trying out a new position (again), Teahen is regarded as a below-average defender at third base, and Ramirez hasn't exactly established himself as a brilliant defender at shortstop, it seems that the White Sox could certainly use a versatile, plus defensive infielder, and Vizquel is exactly that, even if he's a liability offensively. Not to mention that he may even have a few pointers for the less experienced everyday players that are likely to get time in front of him.

Seeing that his cost was relatively low for a versatile premium defender, it seems that Kenny Williams has made a decent move here, adding a solid, usable bench piece at a relatively low price. Vizquel seems like a clear upgrade on former top prospect Brent Lillibridge, the apparent internal alternative to Vizquel and whose career has stalled in AAA after impressive showing in the lower minors. Lillibridge isn't nearly the defender that Vizquel is, and while he would likely offer more walks and better value on the bases, he has a similar lack of power and has shown little ability to make consistent contact on quality pitching.

Vizquel shouldn't be expected to play everyday, and a wOBA over .300 would be a pleasant surprise, but there aren't that many shortstop options out there, and Vizquel at least gives the White Sox a late-game defensive replacement for their everyday infield at a pretty low price.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Possible First Base Option: Daric Barton

A top prospect since being a part of the package that landed Mark Mulder in St. Louis, Daric Barton hasn't quite taken hold of the first base job in Oakland as expected. But people certainly shouldn't write off Barton, because he still has a chance to be one of the better first baseman in the game. The bigger question is whether that could happen in Oakland, given that Brett Wallace, Chris Carter and Sean Doolittle should be ready to contribute at the major league level very soon.

This leaves the Athletics with a nice problem, as they have to figure out what to do with all of those bats, as Wallace tries to stick at third base and Carter tries to adjsut to left field, neither of which is likely to work out particularly well. If the Athletics consider trading Barton to make room at first base for one of those guys, which is really more of a when rather than an if, then he could be a very appealing piece to any team in need of a solid first baseman with good OBP skills.

Barton's biggest flaw has always been a lack of power for someone on his side of the defensive spectrum, but he makes up for it with excellent contact skills and a very developed, patient approach at the plate. Barton was given the everyday job in Oakland in 2008 and struggled, posting a .226/.327/.348 line in 523 plate appearances, but he still posted a strong walk rate, and was pretty unlucky with balls in play and converting fly balls into home runs. He rebounded quite well in 2009, with a .261/.386/.458 line in 313 plate appearances with AAA Sacramento, and an improved .269/.372/.413 line in 192 plate appearances in Oakland.

He's consistently posted great walk and strikeout rates in the upper minors while flashing solid gap power, and he's also a plus defender at first base, an observation supported by both scouting reports and defensive metrics. He could certainly find a place as a first baseman in the Nick Johnson/Lyle Overbay mold, churning out doubles with a high OBP and above-average defense.

I'm not saying that the A's should shop Barton because he'll never be helpful to them, but it's not clear how he fits into their long-term plans and he's a guy that they would presumably consider moving. If Oakland is willing to deal Barton in order to get playing time for more highly touted young players, they're not exactly a contender in 2010 anyways, for teams like the Mets, Indians, White Sox, Orioles, and Mariners, Barton could be a great fit. He's not the 40-homer masher that you ideally want at first base, but he could definitely be a nice addition for someone with a hole there.