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January 24, 2011

Transaction of the Day

The Vernon Wells Trade

by Christina Kahrl

IN THIS ISSUE

American League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Traded C/1B-R Mike Napoli and OF-R Juan Rivera to the Blue Jays for OF-R Vernon Wells. [1/21]

If Hollywood is where good ideas go to die, there is something sort of ironic to see the L'Anaheim's hometown nine consummate an expensive mistake of this magnitude in time for the same season that will see the theatrical release of a certain years-overdue film of now-dubious educational value. But if mistakes are a recurring theme, then perhaps it's appropriate that Tony Reagins has managed to fall into his predecessor's exact footsteps when it comes to making major-money mistakes with veteran outfielders. Reagins' repeating Bill Stoneman's massive mistake with Little Sarge may well be the self-capping gesture of a now worse-than-wasted winter for the Angels.

Vernon Wells might be the perfect illustration of the Angels' handicaps in player valuation and active participation in the free market. They wouldn't "overpay" to guarantee themselves signing Adrian Beltre or Carl Crawford. Instead, they wound up paying a very similar price tag over the next four years--one that had to be offset by shedding Napoli and Rivera, which a free-agent signing would not have done--to wind up with 80 percent of the ballplayer. It's a misunderstanding of both the value of talent and the value of money.

By acquiring Wells, the Angels will "only" be paying something like twice what they'd have had to pay Gary Matthews Jr. this year. That's sort of amusing, since they'll only just be paying off the last $11 million to Little Sarge. By dealing Rivera and Napoli, they're buying back the balance of the difference between Matthews' paycheck and Wells'; as long as they're already eating one mistake, why not afford another? Except that there are those three subsequent Wells seasons to afford, at $21.6 million per. Since no money was coming back from Toronto, the Angels have acquired four seasons of Wells for two arb-eligible Napoli campaigns, plus Rivera's last year before free agency. So the trade is four player seasons for three, where the combined expense of the three won't add up to the cost of one Vernon Wells season.

So, it's expensive, but Wells is coming off his third season where he produced something around 80 extra-base hits. His .291 TAv and 4.2 WARP made him among the most productive center fielders in baseball last season. Which sounds awesome, so he's totally worth it, right? To put his year into perspective, among people who spent at least part of the 2010 season in center field, Wells' WARP tally--his best since 2006 (5.5)--ranked behind those of Josh Hamilton, Carlos Gonzalez, Brett Gardner, Andres Torres, Angel Pagan, Andrew McCutchen, B.J. Upton, and Drew Stubbs. Which doesn't make him sub-awesome, but it does ratchet down any interpretation of his 2010 comeback campaign well below your average Carlos Beltran campaign back in the day.

But surely the risk of getting worse isn't that huge, is it? In the context of a decidedly uneven career, 2010 was one of the years that keeps Wells around average as a run-producer for a center fielder. Wells' career .272 True Average is exactly the same as last year's all-center fielder rate. In nine years as a regular, he has been above that four times, below it five, and in the last five seasons, rarely near the mid-point, instead bouncing from extremes. So, say you're an optimist, and figure he'll lean toward the highs. Fine, but without getting into scaring yourself over Wells' weak splits as far as his batsmanship in the Big A, after posting a career-best HR/FB rate in the power-friendly Rogers Centre (which has a BIS right-hander HR park factor of 116 from 2008-10), is it reasonable to expect more of the same in the more neutral Big A (102 over the same span)?

Well, at least he has been fairly durable, right? No, as a matter of fact, he hasn't been durable. He had repeated injury issues in both 2008 and 2009: In 2008 he lost time to hamstring and wrist issues, and had continuing problems with both in 2009 (the hammy in spring training, the hand and wrist during the year). And in 2007, there was that shoulder issue he had to have operated on after the year, and reportedly hampered his hitting all season. So that adds up to quite the tally of handicapped performance while playing, as well as a couple of DL stints and injuries that, if they hadn't been repaired at season's end, would have involved DL time.

The injuries are also worth noting in terms of evaluating his equally uneven defensive performance of late. Turning to Colin Wyers' new FRAA (or nFRAA, or perhaps DMTBNL, for Defensive Metric TBNL):

Season
PAA
PAA MOE
RAA
RAA MOE
2008 -3.6 14.9 -2.9 12.3
2009 -15.8 18.8 -13.0 15.4
2010 10.5 18.4 8.4 14.8

By way of quick explanation, PAA is Plays Above Average, RAA is Runs Above Average, and MOE is Margin of Error. In short, what Colin's new metric tells us is the range of possibility for interpreting a player's performance in the field. While this might make it seem as if Wells has zig-zagged from terrible to good, not unlike his hitting track record, keep in mind that these encompass his two worst injury-afflicted seasons.

In the context of what looks like his reliably unreliable offensive and defensive performances, it is critical to note that 2010 was his first fairly healthy season since 2006, which was none-too-coincidentally his last really good season. It's upon those that fact that rests the argument that, if healthy, he's a good regular in center. But, as a player now in his 30s with a history for recurring hamstring issues, does it really make sense to bet on his continued good health? Hell no.

Perhaps it makes no less sense than what the Angels seemingly plan to do with Wells: move him to the corner opened up by dealing Rivera and by moving Bobby Abreu to their most-regular DH slot, leaving Peter Bourjos in place in center. That has already generated ejaculations of praise for how good their defense in the outfield will be, which is nice, if a little messy to try and prove, but it's easy to assert, however stretched the data to try and support it might be. Using nFRAA, Rivera and Abreu sort of canceled one another out, while Bourjos' brief bit of work graded out very strongly (+8.4 RAA), and Hunter was a modest improvement on Rivera in right. It might be a very good defensive outfield, yes.

Unfortunately, moving Wells comes at the expense of employing two bats that are offensively below-average for the corners: Wells' .272 career TAv only betters Torii Hunter's career .270 by the narrowest margin, and both are well below the standard for either corner. Add in that Abreu's bat has graded around average for DHs (.288) in the last four years, and you've potentially got a lot of offensive mediocrity on tap from the team's key boppers. If you want to pretend that we can know absolutely that Wells will be healthy this year and the next three, and that this will generate TAv marks in the .280s or .290s, he may even be a good bat in a corner. May isn't exactly the answer you want for eight figures.

Horrifically, by dealing Napoli, the overall offensive issue only gets worse when you move beyond what Wells might do, and get into what adding him costs beyond the money. Ditching Napoli is to some extent a matter of taste; there was never a lot of love from Mike Scioscia for Napoli's skills as a receiver, and in fairness to the Angels, he was also likely to see his offensive production dip in the next two years he was under club control, after already seeing a drop-off last year from his 2008-09 peak (during his age-26 and age-27 seasons, fancy that). It would be easy to claim that the Angels were dealing from a "position of strength." It would also be thoroughly stupid to say so. Jeff Mathis remains the player he was last year, or two years ago, or ever: a bad-bat backstop who wouldn't be allowed to play every day almost anywhere else, and an organizational fetish, even at a time when good catching help might be hard to find.

How bad is Mathis? In terms of WARP over the last four years combined, Mathis' feeble total of 1.5 ranks behind oft-castigated catchers like Dioner Navarro (7.0), Jose Molina (6.8), and Jason Kendall (1.9). The Astros' failure-to-launch catching prospect, the dreaded (or just dreadful) J.R. Towles has lost his job over this kind of production, with a career True Average of .216; Mathis (.208) is in danger of being handed relative security, yet for less cause as he comes up on his 28th birthday. To bandy about an alternative like Bobby Wilson is similarly a case of mistaking familiarity with the tools of ignorance for value--or what boils down to an ignorance of value, almost as egregious with the Angels' annual exercise in overrating Mathis.

The only way this aspect of things looks good is if they have the good sense to employ Hank Conger in a job-sharing arrangement behind the plate. Giving Conger 70-90 starts in 2011, just as they had been sharing the receiving chores between Mathis and Napoli in the last four seasons, could work. There's an obvious platoon possibility if the switch-hitting Conger's performance against right-handers continues: last year, he hit .344/.409/.549 against them, although that was Salt Lake-aided. It would be worth forming up a loose platoon, sparing themselves too much a heaping helping of Mathis, and perhaps Conger's throwing out roughly 30 percent of opposing stolen-base attempts the last two years will get him past Scioscia's refined tastes in receivers.

Put that all together, and it's a fairly unhappy deal. While we shouldn't overrate the importance of Napoli and Rivera, or underrate the chances that Wells pays off with a season or two as good as 2006 or 2010, it's still a massive expense for a fairly weak gamble for star-level production. As a make-up move to compensate for the Angels' failure to add something more certain, it's particularly galling. However, nobody in the AL West is that strong to automatically chuck the Halos to the short stack's basement. What affording Wells does surrender is a considerable chunk of the team's financial freedom over the next four years. He will be what he has been for much of his Jays career: a nice ballplayer, good enough to help a winning ballclub, but for the expense of employing him and how much that hampers its efforts to buy real star talent.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Acquired OF-R Juan Rivera and 1B/C-R Mike Napoli from the Angels for OF-R Vernon Wells. [1/21]

Alex Anthopolous must live by the mantra that where there's a will, there's a way, because yet again, he found the means to make another pricey legacy go away. There are few more stunning moves. And yet there was never any need to worry about the Angels sobering up and feeling regret--this had been mooted for weeks, so unless the party just never ends in SoCal, everyone involved is supposed to have consented, entirely on the up and up.

The easy bit of genius to this is getting out from under the money owed. Sure, the Jays will have to go through a spin or two with Mike Napoli in arbitration. They're still saving themselves close to $70 million over the next four years. Maybe getting Alex Rios onto the White Sox might have owed everything to the acquisitive Kenny Williams' too-quick trigger; the Sox seem to have no regrets, and the Angels may also wind up liking their expensive addition. But getting talent and not having to bundle a few bucks into the transaction is what makes this deal the even more remarkable of the two. Just as the Jays never had to eat any of the expense of employing Rios, Anthopolous managed to avoid having to pay out a lone red cent from the back end of Wells' contract.

Combined, Rivera ($5.25 million) and Napoli ($6.1 million or $5.3 million, or somewhere in between if he settles before facing the arbitration panel) still end up saving the Jays around $13 million from their 2011 budget, another $14 million or so in 2012 (depending on what Napoli gets via arbitration for his last year before free agency), and $21.6 million in both 2013 and 2014. If Anthopolous had acquired nothing beyond that buy-back, sparing his employer somewhere in the vicinity of $70 million, he would already be an easy candidate for executive of the year. That he got a pair of useful big-league bodies as well is not exactly gravy--the Angels obviously felt the need to shed salary to add an expenditure of Wells' magnitude--but it's obviously going to prove helpful.

As for the goodies received, it has been said that one man's food is another man's garbage, but rarely is the concept so richly illustrated in a baseball trade than with an example like Mike Napoli. The Angels have been banging on Napoli's work behind the plate for years, and while the Blue Jays might wind up doing so too, they don't have an established everyday catcher and they can't be absolutely sure that Adam Lind's move to first base will go well. As a result, there should be plenty of room for everyday at-bats for Napoli. If J.P. Arencibia earns a straight-up job-share with Napoli behind the plate, that's great, but if not, they can send him back to Vegas for the first month or two. Or, if Arencibia forces their hand, they ought to be able to find a taker for Jose Molina toward the end of spring training.

Regardless of who also catches for the Jays, Napoli ought to spend a little bit of time at DH, start at first base against all lefties, and catch about 60 games, making him a valuable player. We'll see if his rate stats keep dropping, or if that was a function of over-exposure the last couple of years, but the Rogers Centre is generous to right-handed power. If Napoli is cut back to around 400 PAs, it wouldn't surprise me if he arrests his slide in performance metrics.

There's less cause to be excited about what this means for the outfield, where the Jays are obviously taking a hit, just not quite as major as it might seem at first blush. Rajai Davis slots in at center, where his bat is more position-appropriate than either corner. Rivera ought to step into the lineup in whatever corner Travis Snider isn't in, but already 32 years old, he has withered into an occasionally healthy placeholder. Although the park should help him rally in time for his walk year before joining next winter's free-agent field, the last season when he produced better-than-average numbers for a corner outfielder was 2006--his age-27 season, none too coincidentally. Getting the still-available Scott Podsednik to share time with Rivera might even make sense, although the Jays may feel they have that base covered since they count Corey Patterson among their NRI guys.

As major game-changing propositions for the Jays' immediate future, this ranks with the decision to deal Roy Halladay, except what the Jays reap here is money more than talent. All told, between making Wells and Rios go away, the Jays have gotten back at least $34 million in the till over the next four seasons, or what figures to be at least half of their operating budget for 2011. (We'll see once they're on the other side of arbitration.)

As far as making an impact on the franchise's future, that much money and the freedom that comes with it is huge. If Anthopolous might not get all of that back in the kitty to do with as he pleases, whatever he's free to use his war chest for should represent a better expense. Whether the money goes to player development, scouting, the draft, a multi-year commitment to Jose Bautista, an offer to a real bopper at first base next winter... whether it's some or all of these things, it's part and parcel of a better Blue Jays future than another mailed-in fourth-place finish.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

45 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

TraderBob

OK - is it lunatic to dream the Jays just freed up the money to become a player should Pujols hit the open market? The Jays will spend the money (see the Wells and Rios contracts to begin with) and there aren't many big money suitors left.

Jan 24, 2011 07:17 AM
rating: 4
 
SC

With Pujols, the Jays do run into a tax problem. Canadian income taxes are so much higher than US income taxes that players effectively pay a penalty for signing with Toronto. So the Jays would have to pay more than any other club for Pujols, and by a significant margin just for the money to match.

And it's pretty hard to see the best player in the game going to one of the smallest markets in the league regardless of the money.

Jan 24, 2011 11:26 AM
rating: 0
 
Greg Ioannou

Toronto is the 4th largest market in the league, after NY, LA and Chicago, no? Both in terms of population and economic data.

Jan 24, 2011 11:34 AM
rating: 6
 
TraderBob

Granted the taxes are a real issue, but they've run with the big dawgs when they felt they 'had something'. It's just they haven't made the best decisions of how (Rios), who (Ryan), and who not (Doc) to pay. Their payroll yo-yos quite a bit and was north of 90 mil as recently as 2008.

http://content.usatoday.com/sportsdata/baseball/mlb/salaries/team/2008

Still I think paying for Pujols energizes a large market, would affect a large tv market (all of Ontario if not all of cananda) and possibly could be used as a building block in a pitch for a new stadium (see pujols, see the crowds, etc etc)

Jan 24, 2011 11:49 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Excellent pint, and in a related consideration, later this week, Eric Seidman's going to be writing about this issue, in that he'll be talking about the "jock tax" for MLB markets.

And yeah, I'm not really buying the idea that Pujols will go to Toronto.

Jan 24, 2011 12:56 PM
 
mharrop

Thanks for the great analysis Christina - overheard in the Great White North the morning after "I'm pretty sure today is better than Christmas morning"....we do wish Vernon well, a classy guy who loved Toronto and Canada, but on we go, unencumberred!

Jan 24, 2011 07:29 AM
rating: 2
 
Robotey

Trader Bob, if the American dollar continues to plunge, and trades at say 80 cents come this November, then I would agree with you. Or if global warming triggers a mass migration north of the border. Or both.

Jan 24, 2011 07:38 AM
rating: 3
 
Davidsilverwood
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

listen this is not going to really help either team all players have been over rated for years and Wells fails to hustle all the time. Understand why BlueJays made deal, but the Angels continue to make poor decisions. General Manager may be the problem

Jan 24, 2011 07:52 AM
rating: -10
 
mick968

"... and Wells fails to hustle all the time."

Not sure how you're making this evaluation. I've seen pretty much every game Wells has played in MLB, and by no means is he a slacker. Maybe you're confusing him with Rios.

Which isn't to say that I think this is a good deal for the Angels. Given that there's no cash relief, it's a completely inexplicable deal from their end of it.

Jan 24, 2011 09:36 AM
rating: 4
 
Matt Kory

Next time maybe post in English?

Jan 24, 2011 14:54 PM
rating: -1
 
Cromulent

Thanks, CK. I didn't think there was anything left to be said on this subject but this is the definitive analysis.

Just one question - do we know if Wells has been exposed to waivers in the past few years? I have always assumed so and if that is the case Wells could have been had for "just" money whereas here the Angels also give up useful assets and a truckload of dollars.

Jan 24, 2011 07:53 AM
rating: 8
 
R.A.Wagman

I'm pretty sure he has. I'm also pretty sure that the Angels didn't really want him last year, at this price. A big impetus of this weekend's deal seems to have been pressure on Reagins after having failed to acquire the services of either Carl Crawford or Adrian Beltre, who would have cost money only.

Jan 24, 2011 08:03 AM
rating: 6
 
Cromulent

No doubt.

Jan 24, 2011 10:40 AM
rating: 0
 
ScottyB

I read somewhere that the Angels will be paying almost $50Mil this year for three centerfielders (Wells, Hunter, Matthews), none of whom will play CF this year.

and, yes, Wells has been put on waivers more than once.

Jan 24, 2011 08:36 AM
rating: 11
 
fgreenagel2

That is just a devastating sentence.

Jan 24, 2011 11:59 AM
rating: 2
 
Matt Kory

You read that in Ken Rosenthal's latest piece.

Jan 24, 2011 14:55 PM
rating: 1
 
RossBlums

There are stories out of cash going to the Angels in this deal - I have heard one that says $5 million and another that says $3.6 million per year, i.e. bringing the AAV down to $18 million per year from $21.6 million. Anyone know what is correct?

Jan 24, 2011 09:29 AM
rating: 0
 
mick968

It is not correct. Both GMs are on record stating that no cash was included in the deal.

Jan 24, 2011 09:32 AM
rating: 3
 
garethbluejays2

How the Angels were willing to take Wells without a bundle of cash is beyond unbelievable. It's not about his ability or personality, it's about the money. What is impressive is that virtually every move AA has made has appeared to be clearly the right move to take the Blue Jays forward. Maybe none of the Halladay prospects pans out at the MLB level, maybe Lawrie fails and Marcum wins 20 games this year. That's what impresses the vast majority of Blue Jays fans.

Jan 24, 2011 09:35 AM
rating: 0
 
mick968

" ... and Marcum wins 20 games this year."

I think there's a good chance of it in the NL Central. And then we'll hear yet more of the "salary dump," "not enough in return," "Rogers never spends" whining that has been rampant from some fans since the deal. But this trade was made from a position of strength (starting pitching) and got a potential star player (who wouldn't surprise me if he's in the MLB lineup by mid-season 2011). It was a great trade, as were the deals for Morrow and Escobar.

But this one is just amazing, although it seems to have been more an instance of seizing the opportunity which the Angels inexplicably presented. Wells is a decent player, but his contract is an albatross for whichever team has to pay it.

Jan 24, 2011 09:46 AM
rating: 2
 
Matthew Avery

It's worth noting that Napoli is in no way an expense for the Blue Jays beyond this year. He'll be arbitration-eligible, but no money has been committed, so if the Jays don't want him, they can simply not tender him a contract.

Jan 24, 2011 09:42 AM
rating: 3
 
juiced

This is an absolutely abysmal move for the Angels.

Jan 24, 2011 10:41 AM
rating: 3
 
rbrianc

yeah, bad deal for the Angels.....but as a fan and forced to look at the bright side, here goes. First, just ignore the contract - you have to - it stinks and is done.

That said, it does make them a better team for 2011. Napoli just wasn't going to play enough (sad to say) and Wells is an upgrade over Rivera. Outfield defense has always been important in the Angels ballpark and Rivera isn't a great defender.

That's all I got. Yep, Reagins was too desperate after they blew it in the FA market; we can only hope we get the All Star version of Wells, even if it still means he's a tremendously overpaid All-Star.

Jan 24, 2011 11:00 AM
rating: 2
 
BurrRutledge

With regard to Rivera and Napoli, will they be Type A free agents at the end of the 2011 season (Rivera) or beyond (Napoli)? If so, in addition to the salary benefits, do I understand that the Jays have the possibility of additional draft picks?

Jan 24, 2011 11:06 AM
rating: 0
 
garethbluejays2

I think the most the Blue Jays could hop fro, if they are not to be traded immediately would be type b status for Rivera. I think Napoli has two years to free agency.

Jan 24, 2011 11:34 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Napoli does indeed have two years to go until free agency, per Cot's.

Jan 24, 2011 12:58 PM
 
fgreenagel2

so unless the party just never ends in SoCal, everyone involved is supposed to have consented, entirely on the up and up.

I love this line. Great analysis combined with a funny touch.

Jan 24, 2011 11:53 AM
rating: 1
 
conwell

It's amazing that this trade was made by the same guy who stole Dan Haren from Arizona.

The trade would make some sense (not much) if the Angels were getting some money in return (15-20 million total), but it makes no sense in isolation.

Jan 24, 2011 12:24 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Sometimes, there's an advantage to having a deep-pocketed owner with a commitment to the team's place in the standings as its bottom line, like Haren. And sometimes, not so much.

Jan 24, 2011 13:00 PM
 
Matt Kory

But, Christina, does this deal even make the Angels better on the field? With Napoli gone Mathis will be in line for more PAs and Wells' career line isn't that far off from Rivera's. In addition to costing the Angels $20M a year for four years, this deal could actually make them a worse team.

Jan 24, 2011 15:01 PM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

As I suggested, I'm a bit dubious that it does, even offered proofs using whatever defensive metric, because Wells' performance in the field is as wildly inconsistent as his performance at the plate. And yes, more Mathis is a very bad thing, also noted above, to the point that, if he gets 400 or more PAs, he'll knock Bob Boone '84 off his underworld perch at the absolute nadir in franchise history for offensive craptitude from a backstop (-23.9 VORP).

Jan 24, 2011 20:35 PM
 
Matt Kory

Thanks for your response, Christina. Next time I'll read more carefully! I should add I appreciate you answering commenters questions in so timely a manner.

Jan 25, 2011 00:37 AM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

No worries mattymatty, and certainly no offense taken. Speaking from my own virtual barstool, talking baseball still remains of the simplest pleasures any and all of us ought to be enjoying, no?

Jan 25, 2011 00:56 AM
 
elbelz

Sabermaticians get themselves worked up thinking about a power-hitting catcher in Napoli. But Napoli was a horrible catcher, he routinely missed breaking balls(as in could not catch them) , which I think as a catcher is a serious problem (leading to a story last year about his new bigger mitt, which was supposed to solve his problems but didn't). Serious defensive metrics don't exist for catchers yet; but it should tell you something that John Lackey worked almost exclusively with Mathis.

So Napoli is a power hitter who can hit 30 HR a game, but with a 30% strikeout rate and a .238 average with sub-sub par defensive skills to be paid $6mil and more in forthcoming years. It's easy to compare Mathis and Napoli and cry injustice, but really Napoli was a defensive liability.

Signing Wells for superstar rates is horrible horrible horrible, but I don't think the Angels were losing much in Rivera and Napoli.

Frankly, observing the Angels over the past few years, the only way I can make sense of this is that I'm convinced Reagins is obsessed with developing minor league talent. And that commitment extends from protecting their picks, letting free agents go (to get more Type A compensation picks), and being stingy about rarely trading away minor league players. The $20 mil price / year price tag is Reagins rationalization of protecting talent.

Jan 24, 2011 15:19 PM
rating: 1
 
amazin_mess

Or it was your run-of-the-mill desperation move. I'd bet the latter.

Jan 24, 2011 15:34 PM
rating: 7
 
Matt Kory

Napoli may be a defensive liability, but the question is how many runs does that cost you and then compare it with how many runs he generates on offense. Admittedly the first question is harder to answer, but I think generally speaking we can conclude the first number is smaller than the second.

Jan 24, 2011 16:28 PM
rating: 4
 
R.A.Wagman

It may be time to attempt measuring the previously intangible in catcher defense

Jan 24, 2011 16:52 PM
rating: 0
 
Richie

Why are 'catcher intangibles' hard to estimate nowadays?

Way, way back Bill James would track a catcher's ERA allowed and roughly compare it to team ERA. Which left the problems of different pitchers caught, different batting lineups faced, and so on.

Which was too big a data nightmare to sort through back then. But now? Wouldn't it be reasonably/well somewhat simple to estimate a catcher's expected RA given who he caught and who he and his pitchers faced?

Jan 24, 2011 19:39 PM
rating: 0
 
R.A.Wagman

But what do you measure? Look at the Jays catchers last year. Jose Molina had a long-held top defensive reputation. John Buck assuredly did not. Last year he threw out 18 of 65 thieves (28%) - meh. Molina, OTOH, threw out 15 of 34 (44%) - MEH!
Then again, Molina, forever attempting to backhand breaking balls to his left, allowed 34 PBs and WPs in 444.2 defensive innings. 0.688 non-catches/per 9innings.
Buck, showing a wee bit more diligence to his craft, if not to his throwing arm, allowed 43 PBs and WPs in 933 IP. 0.415 non-catches per 9innings.
As for Scoscia's favourite, Jeff Mathis - 45 non-catches in 553.2 innings. 0.731 non-catches per 9innings. Makes Molina look like Buck. - CS% of 20%
And Mrs. Napoli's son? 35 missed catches in 252 defensive innings caught. Works out to an even .6 muffs per nine innings. - CS% of 27%
Are my numbers crude? Definitely.
Are managers stupid? Probably not as much as we like to something think. (How many qualifiers can I squeeze into a sentence? Depends on a few things, doesn't it?)
Do defensive wizards get by more on reputation than offensive types? I think so.
What might I not be taking into account? It is said that pitchers "feel more comfortable" pitching to their catcher. Sticking with Toronto, Molina was Brandon Morrow's personal catcher throughout the season, much to Cito's displeasure. As such, they are more willing to try to bend them. So they play it safer with the other guy, maybe losing some effectiveness. Maybe that's true. And so, feeling more comfortable, they pitch worse.
Then again, I'm probably overthinking it here. After all, all signs are still pointing to J.P. Arencibia being the Jays' starting catcher in 2011 and John Buck getting way too much money to be a Marlin.

Jan 24, 2011 20:07 PM
rating: 3
 
elbelz

In fact, in 2009 Mathis used his superior catcher's ERA as an argument in his arbitration hearing.

This model doesn't exclude selection bias. Since Napoli was platooning, he caught only when he wasn't considered such a liability. That significantly boosts his numbers.

Jan 24, 2011 22:56 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

One hopes the Angels right properly nuked that argument of Mathis' value, since year-to-year CERA has long since been invalidated as a means of documenting a "game-calling skill." That is not to say such a skill does not exist, but as Keith Woolner put it then, it lay below the level of statistical detectability.

Jan 24, 2011 23:25 PM
 
abluejayinoz

VW was put on waivers near the end of last season. If the Angels wanted him, then they could probably have persuaded the Jays to kick a percentage of his outstanding contract (say 20% per annum, which Toronto would probably have agreed to) and still have Napoli and/or Rivera as trade bait for another player or even just released them from their contracts. This trade smacks of desperation. AA and Rogers will laughing all the way to the bank. I wouldn't be surprised if either or both those players were moved on sometime soon.

Jan 25, 2011 00:16 AM
rating: 0
 
juiced

And now the Jays go and trade Napoli for Frank Francisco? Wtf? I'm glad they sloughed off Vernon Wells' salary but Frank Francisco? Napoli is way more valuable than that. Perhaps its just a further salary dump as they retool until Arrenciba is ready. But Frank Frickin Francisco? I guess I like Napoli a lot, dude can rake.

Jan 25, 2011 15:40 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Well, best-laid plans have a way of getting un-laid, so I'll be writing about the trade for tomorrow instead of about bullpens. C'est la vie les transactions.

Jan 25, 2011 17:39 PM
 
abluejayinoz

Arencibia is ready, already. Apart from a LOOGY the Toronto bullpen is now just about set (could be 7 or 8 deep). The deal makes sense. Texas have an over-abundance of relief arms and the Jays are very deep at C.

Jan 25, 2011 22:53 PM
rating: 0
 
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