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July 25, 2001

From The Mailbag

Transactions Feedback

by Baseball Prospectus


For the love of God! Where is Transaction Analysis?!? Please Chris, take mercy on my soul and post a new Transaction Analysis!


Well, it should hopefully warm your heart to hear that TA is gearing up for daily coverage of the trading deadline action, starting on Friday. Sorry about the quiet period, but a road trip to the SABR convention kept me out of commission, and while some of my cohorts urged me to attempt a well-liquored "TA on the Road" segment, I thought the better of it.

--Chris Kahrl

The Mets need outfielders, yes. Bubba Trammell and Rickey Henderson? How about Manny Ramirez or Gary Sheffield? They needed a bopper and they didn't acquire one.

Case closed on a season of well-pitched 3-2 losses.


While I agree that Gary Sheffield and Manny Ramirez would be pretty handy, you do have to take into account that players who have the freedom to choose can choose to go wherever they please, and neither Sheff nor Manny seemed inclined to take the Mets seriously.

While I'm probably faster on the draw than most when it comes to flogging Steve Phillips for mistakes past and present, I try to restrict myself to the decisions for which he had some responsibility. Trammell and Rickey are both useful near-regulars, and Phillips had control of both. Despite not having any viable alternatives, he frittered them away to address questions of ego and an already-strong bullpen, and this after plunging an awful lot of cash into two unproductive players, Todd Zeile (relative to his peers) and Rey Ordonez. Now, I hope he wasn't taking Timo Perez's press clippings seriously, but unfortunately, it looks like he was. Phillips could have gone with what worked in '99--a collection of outfielders who could contribute at varying levels--but he stuck with the same idea (no expensive outfielders) without finding good bit players, and foregoing any top-notch pickups. So he artificially limited his choices, and then made certain he made bad choices.

Oh well, there's always a next (Steve Trachsel-less) year.

--Chris Kahrl

I don't disagree with your evaluation of Barry Larkin, but please don't assign his contract to Jim Bowden. Bowden was ready to let Larkin walk after last season, or at most only extend him year-to-year. But, as this article points out, Reds CEO Carl Lindner decided he wanted to keep Barry around, and essentially signed Barry to an extension against the advice of his baseball folks.

--Erick Metzger

There's no other way to put this but: point taken, and conceded.

--Chris Kahrl

How can you say that Tomokazu Ohka pitched poorly at Triple-A because he was frustrated? That kind of rank speculation is beneath your usual fine analysis. This is just your anti-old-Red Sox-pitcher bias at work.

Ohka pitched poorly his last three weeks for the big club, apparently during his entire Triple-A stay, and in his first start back. Maybe those scouts I've seen quoted anonymously in various columns who thought he projected out to nothing more than a fifth starter were right. Face it, David Cone is a better option right now.

As a postscript, your Cone reply about his quality-start ratio was hypercritical, in my opinion. He was on a strict pitch count early on. He's well on his way to being a little more than serviceable down the stretch. And there's a decent chance he can be significantly better than that. But we shall see. I bet you're eating Cone, er... crow, on that one by season's end.


Well, in the original article I did not state a causal relationship, I merely pointed out that Ohka's performance at Pawtucket after his demotion had to make you wonder about him. This is what is called "lilly-livered temporizing," and while I'd like to say it's an occupational hazard, TA is my pastime, not my occupation, so I am guilty and innocent, all at once.

Meanwhile, I cannot help but notice that Coney is still the worst Sox starter not named Tomo Ohka, so I doubt I'm going to have to eat anything that might give me West Nile Virus.

--Chris Kahrl

There should be next to no demand for Rick Helling?

He has been very solid from 1998-2000, with ERAs in the mid-4.00s despite pitching in The Ballpark in Arlington, and after a rough start, has pitched well for the Rangers the last couple of months. Plus, there is a very reasonable club option on him for next season.

Kenny Rogers and (especially) Darren Oliver, I can understand, but I don't see why you think no contender would be interested in Helling.

--Adam J. Morris

There's a lot of scouty bias against Helling from the get-go, because he isn't a speed gun kind of guy. That and his awful start to this season should keep him off of all but the most confident of GM's shopping lists. Would I take a chance on him? Sure, if I was the Braves or the Indians or the Astros, I would. Will they? I really doubt it.

--Chris Kahrl


Your mid-season award balloting got me feeling cantankerous enough to send off an e-mail. My problem: an apparent double standard in evaluating batting an pitching performances. My evidence: Freddy Garcia.

Garcia was missing from every single ballot. His raw stats are almost identical to Tim Hudson's. Before anyone brings up Safeco Field, he's performed a bit better on the road than at home. He's 3rd in the league in opponents batting average. Looking at VORP, Garcia is more than 31 runs better than replacement level, better than Tim Wakefield, Mike Mussina, Mark Buerhle, Eric Milton and Roger Clemens. He goes deeper into games than the rest of the Mariners starters, helping keep Jeff Nelson, et al fresh; Jamie Moyer, Paul Abbott, and this month's fifth starter are averaging less than six innings before Piniella turns to the bullpen.

Should Garcia win the Cy Young? No. Should he get consideration? Most definitely. He's working on a great year (perhaps the best season from a Mariner starter not named Randy Johnson) for an excellent team, contributing as much as Jeff Nelson without the freakish strikeout stats. While John Halama didn't bring a lot to the table, give Aaron Sele and Garcia some credit and don't ignore them out of hand.

I feel better now, and don't even get the urge to ask about Darryl Kile or how a voter-not-to-be-named could include Ellis Burks on their ballot ahead of Edgar Martinez or how two relievers and a part-time starter made it onto another AL ballot or...


I voted before Garcia's last pre-ASB start, and I downgraded him primarily due to the ballpark effects. Even with the second shutout, his ERA was only sixth in the league before ballpark adjustments, which would probably drop him to tenth (he wasn't too far ahead of #9, Mike Mussina). He also only ranked tenth in opponents' OBP, behind all five guys I listed on my ballot.

If I have a bias, it's towards pitchers who keep men off base. There was no anti-Mariner bias at play that I know of.

As for your backhanded reference to my inclusion of Burks and omission of Martinez, Burks was ahead in offensive stats at the time and unlike Edgar has actually used a glove this year. I'm also slightly biased against hitters, particularly older ones, whose values are heavily weighted towards the base on balls, a la Mark Grace (a more extreme example). I should have ranked Burks lower, in retrospect. This was more of a judgment call; Garcia's omission was pretty clear-cut to me.

--Keith Law

Why is it hard to take "veteran leadership" seriously? Because of things like Mark Grace's performance against the Mariners today. Because you never heard about the other side of the coin, when so called "veterans" should know better. Because Mark Grace can double, slide past the bag, and get called out without anybody taking him to task. Because he can later, in the same game, get thrown out trying to advance on a throw without anybody taking him to task. If veteran leadership is so valuable, why does the consummate veteran leader still make rookie mistakes?


Joe Sheehan has already mentioned Mark Grace's excellent offensive performance this season, something that has us pretty surprised. It's possible that Grace is reading his own press--"geez, even the Baseball Prospectus has something nice to say about me"--and he may have decided that with the stick he's swinging this year, being a "veteran leader" is more trouble than it's worth.

After all, veteran leadership is what keeps decrepit players like Terry Pendleton and Ozzie Guillen in uniform long after the last vestiges of actual effectiveness have gone the way of Gary Condit's career. The way he's hitting this year, Grace can goof around on the basepaths like a much slower, much paler version of Chuck E. Carr and it'll never get reported.

--Dave Pease

I'll admit that I have an odd fascination with Juan Pierre. As a Homer Bush, high average, no power, low walk, Coors Field hitter, I was sure he would be vastly overrated both by the media and my fellow roto owners on auction day.

Consequently, it was with supreme confidence that I announced at our auction "Juan Pierre, $20." I knew I had started a bidding war during which I could sit back and snicker at my foolish compatriots. But, to my surprise, chirp, chirp, giggle, giggle. People got up to use the facilities, to get a beer, to shake their heads, to thumb through Fantasy Baseball Insider to determine the identity of this unsung French-Hispanic-American. (Wherein, I believe, Keith Law said something to the effect of "Juan Pierre sucks.") So, I had Juan Pierre for $20. The problem is, I still have him. Even with a gazillion steal lead. You see, I've figured out the problem: NOBODY IS TALKING ABOUT JUAN PIERRE. At least, nobody but me.

Pierre is hitting .326, with a .380 OBP. He is stealing bases like, well, like he has a bobblehead Whitey Herzog as his first base coach. "Should I go Whitey?" Bobble yes, bobble yes. He has struck out a mere 10 times in about 350 plate appearances. He is Ichiro-lite. And, the most amazing thing, he is hitting .337 on the road, with a .390 OBP and a .438 SLG. He isn't even a Coors Field creation.

Does the media mention any of this? A near-rookie hitting .326? Stealing bases? Playing center field? With a French last name? Of course not. Are there legions (legionnaires?) of French press standing in Juan's driveway, sending half-naked locker room photos of Pierre back to gaggles of screaming teens in sweet Paree? No. I'm leading steals by about four frickin' billion and I can't even trade the SOB because Gammons won't mention him, Kurkijijiajajjkan won't mention him, Stark won't mention him. Even you guys won't mention him, even mockingly. How about some help here? Ron Shandler is the only guy singing his praises, and nobody listens to Ron Shandler.... How 'bout you help a brother out?


You paid twenty bucks for Juan Pierre?

--Dave Pease

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