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February 15, 2005

Prospectus Triple Play

Florida Marlins, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates

by Baseball Prospectus

Florida Marlins

  • Delgado is Spanish for "Slim": After a bidding war that drew in the Rangers, Orioles and Mets, Carlos Delgado is now a Florida Marlin. Though correlation does not imply causation, Delgado's four-year, $52 million deal did come just days before Miami-Dade County approved, in principle, a $420 million ballpark plan.

    Before anyone gets too excited, there have been agreements in principle before in the Marlins' saga, going back to Wayne Huizenga's tenure as team owner. Right now, the whole thing's contingent on getting money from the state. Since some Florida legislators want to re-name the team the Terrorists (hey, it's better than the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) you'd have to think the funding isn't exactly in the bag. Stay tuned.

  • Nostradamus Wouldn't Stand for "God Bless America" Either: In deciding to move to South Florida rather than Flushing, N.Y., Carlos Delgado claimed--as many free agents are wont to do--that he made his decision based upon which team was most likely to go to the World Series.

    What kind of future does Delgado have as a player/prognosticator? Let's ask PECOTA, with first base removed from both teams' lineups to account for the Marlins' pre-Delgado state:

    Marlins                             Mets
    Pos.  Player       VORP             Player       VORP
    C     LoDuca       16.3             Piazza       24.2
    2B    Castillo     20.3             Matsui       25.9
    3B    Lowell       33.0             Wright       32.4
    SS    Gonzalez     14.7             Reyes        12.7
    LF    Encarnacion  12.7             Floyd        23.1
    CF    Pierre       19.9             Beltran      51.6
    RF    Cabrera      43.0             Cameron      24.4
    Hitters' Total    159.9                         194.3
    Carlos isn't looking too good based upon the two teams' lineups, since the Mets wallop the Fish in VORP by 34.4 runs, roughly a three-win advantage. The Mets' attack looks to be well-balanced, and if Jose Reyes is able to beat his projection, things could get interesting in Queens. Meanwhile, Juan Encarnacion and Alex Gonzalez--he of the least impressive 23 homers in major league history--weigh down the Marlins' attack like a pair of concrete overshoes. What about the pitchers?
    SP    Beckett      32.3             Martinez     53.3
    SP    Willis       31.2             Glavine      12.2
    SP    Burnett      23.3             Trachsel      9.7
    SP    Leiter       14.9             Benson       13.6
    SP    Valdez        4.7             Zambrano      4.7
    RP    Mota         14.8             Looper       14.9
    RP    Jones         8.3             DeJean        9.1
    RP    Bump          6.9             Bottalico     7.1
    Pitchers' Total   136.4                         124.6
    Team's Total      296.3                         318.9
    The Marlins make up some of the difference on the pitching side, with Florida's young top three expected to provide more production than Pedro Martinez and a bunch of guys who are old (Tom Glavine), mediocre (Kris Benson) or hurt (Victor Zambrano). Surprisingly, Guillermo Mota is expected to be a dead ringer for Mets' closer Braden Looper, VORP-wise. Still, PECOTA gives the Mets the overall edge in the "who's more likely to go to the Series" sweepstakes.

    Still, there's one last factor that Delgado might've considered:

    1B    Delgado      42.5             Mientkiewicz 12.7
    New Total         338.8                         331.6

  • From the Nostalgia File, Part I: In honor of BP 2005--our 10th annual, hitting the shelves in a couple of weeks--we're going to look at a few comments from a past BP on Delgado.

    Carlos Delgado (1999): Delgado's fast comeback was a huge surprise, and he went on to enjoy his best season yet. For sluggers, doing this at this age isn't extraordinary...Statistically, the expectation should be that he won't be much better than he's been, but I can't shake the feeling that he's going to have a better career than your typical slow slugger.

    Turns out that 1998 wasn't even the tip of the iceberg. Since 1999, Delgado has hit 251 homers, and been in the top 10 in OBP or slugging or both, each year. Better than your typical slow slugger, indeed.

    Still, Delgado would have to be an extraordinary player, indeed, to meet one of the incentives contained in his new contract. In order to guarantee a fifth year at $16 million to his contract, Delgado needs to earn 30 points, on a system where he gets 10 points for winning the League MVP down to one point for finishing 10th, 10 points for being the LCS MVP, and 20 points for winning the World Series MVP.

    Under this system, here are the top point-getters over the past four years:

                        MVP   WS/LCS   TOTAL
    Albert Pujols       33      10     43
    Barry Bonds         40       0     40
    Manny Ramirez       17      20     37
    Alex Rodriguez      24       0     24
    Randy Johnson        4      20     24
    David Ortiz         13      10     23
    Curt Schilling       2      20     22
    Troy Glaus           0      20     20
    Josh Beckett         0      20     20
    Lance Berkman       18       0     18
    As you can see, although it's not quite Curt Schilling's "when the Red Sox win the World Series" clause, Delgado better hope the Fish make a habit of the post-season if he's to have any chance of vesting that fifth year. Over his entire career, Delgado has a total of 16 points for two top-five MVP finishes.

New York Yankees

  • A Jason Giambi Valentine: All our Valentine's Days could look like this, if we only took our relationship advice from Jason Giambi:

    "C'mon baby, let's make up. It's Valentine's Day. You know I love you, and I'm really sorry for what I did."

    "What does that mean?"

    "Y'know, I'm sorry I let you down, baby. I apologize. Now come here, let me put my arms around you."

    "How'd you let me down?"

    "Now, you know I can't talk about that baby. Isn't it enough that I'm really, truly sorry?"

    "Yeah, that's nice, but what are you sorry you did?"

    "Uh, um. OK. I'm sorry I hurt your feelings, baby. I was very hurtful, and it was wrong, and I wanna make it up to you."

    "Just tell me what you did to hurt my feelings, and it'll be a start."

    "I don't want to get into that, baby. Isn't it enough that I apologize?"

    "You'd better start making sense soon, or I'm going to leave."

    "This is the last thing I want to say on this subject: I promise, I'll never do it again."

    "Do WHAT again? Aaaaargh!" [She stomps out of the room, slams the door, goes out to a bar, and has a one-night stand with some random guy.]

    Maybe it works better if you have Arn Tellem sitting next to you...

  • Pine Time Players: The Yanks are unleashing a horde of NRIs on a quest to try and capture the 25th, 24th, and possibly 23rd spots on the roster:
                     Age      2004 VORP      PECOTA VORP
    Doug Glanville    34        - 8.6           -3.2
    Damian Rolls      27        -13.3            2.5
    Homer Bush        32         -1.6            N/A
    Russ Johnson      32          N/A            4.5
    Ramiro Mendoza    33          9.4            6.8
    Buddy Groom       39          6.8            6.3
    These are the highlights, we're not counting the Mike Ventos, Marc Valdeses, Colin Porters or David Parrishes of the world. Doug Glanville was invited as a defensive replacement for Bernie Williams, or as a concession to Yankee beat writers in need of a good quote. While Glanville was once a top gloveman in center, the last few years he's been about average by our measures, and he's a giant vacuum on offense. Over the past three years, Glanville's hit .246/.281/.329. He could make Joe Torre yearn for Kenny Lofton.

    Damian Rolls can handle three infield spots and play the outfield, and he has a little speed. He's a super utility guy in the Joe McEwing mold--right down to the weak hitting. Rolls' problem is that the Yankees already have a player like this on the roster-Tony Womack. They don't need another guy who can back up at every position and-pinch run from time to time. What they need is a starting second baseman, so they can use Womack in that utility role.

    Ramiro Mendoza and Buddy Groom enter an already overstuffed bullpen situation. While the Yankees are actually short on lefty relief, Groom's stats don't indicate success in the specialist role the Yanks would need of him. Over the past three years, right-handers have produced a .728 OPS against him; he's held lefties to a similar .710 OPS.

    It's tempting to file away Mendoza as another sign of the Yankees' nostalgic reattachment to the championship teams of the 90's. Still, last year the Yanks were well-served by an old-timer who got a rehab-and-make-good minor league contract, so you never know.

  • From the Nostalgia File, Part II: This time, we're walking down a pinstriped memory lane with a Dodgers comment:

    Kevin Brown (2003): Brown's injuries prompted management to throw more money at pitching help before last season, ignoring the multiple offensive holes in the lineup.

    That was written two years ago while Brown was with the Dodgers, but change the word "offensive" for "defensive," and it would fit right into BP 2005. Just as Brown's 2001 injury prompted the Dodgers to acquire Hideo Nomo, Omar Daal, and Kaz Ishii, his injured and ineffective 2004 may well have prompted the Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright signings, restricting the Yankees' ability--or at least their desire--to acquire a better center fielder and/or second baseman.

    PECOTA sees the Yankee defense lining up as follows in 2005:

    1B   Tino Martinez     94 1B +2
         Jason Giambi      91 1B -6
    2b   Tony Womack      101 2B -7
         Rey Sanchez       50 2B +1
    SS   Derek Jeter      145 SS -4
    3B   Alex Rodriguez   148 3B +9
    LF   Hideki Matsui    142 LF -6
    CF   Bernie Williams  123 CF -12
    RF   Gary Sheffield   142 RF -4
    Outfield defense is a priority the Yankees are putting off until next year. They shouldn't. Randy Johnson is being blamed for the team's failure to land Carlos Beltran, who would've patched that hole in center field. But some of the blame should be put on Kevin Brown.

Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Satisfaction Not Guaranteed: The Pirates are bringing a bunch of down-on-their-luck old favorites to Brandenton as non-roster invitees:
                     Age      2004 VORP      PECOTA VORP
    Chris Enochs     29         N/A             10.2
    Graham Koonce    30         N/A              6.9
    Ben Grieve       29         12.5             6.3
    Joe Roa          33         10.8             5.5
    Howie Clark      31         -3.4             3.6
    Jose Leon        28         N/A              0.8
    Kirk Bullinger   35         -2.6             0.5
    Todd Ritchie     33         -3.5             0.3
    Brian Reith      27         -4.5             N/A
    Cesar Crespo     26         -8.1             N/A
    We're still waiting for the episode of Unsolved Mysteries that deals with Ben Grieve. With apologies to Robert Stack: "If you have any information about Ben Grieve's lost power, or which could lead to its recapture, please call David Littlefield, care of the Pirates front office." As things stand right now, Grieve could still provide the Bucs some much-needed OBP in a limited outfield role. But if there were such a thing as a Leo Mazzone of batting coaches, we'd sure like him to make Grieve's acquaintance.

    Graham Koonce will be battling for the same spot as Grieve--lefty bat with a good batting eye, corner fill-in. His stock has dropped a bunch since his Ken Phelps All-Star 2003 season, as Koonce's Triple-A performance last season was only good enough for a .224 MjEqA. Chris Enochs' claim to fame is that he's the best pitcher in West Virginia Mountaineer history, a former first-round pick of the Oakland A's. Jose Leon has been traded for both Will Clark and Mike Timlin--that tops his career achievements list. Cesar Crespo was Theo Epstein's first acquisition as Boston's GM. Crespo's batting eye abandoned him in the Red Sox organization, and in 2004 he was jettisoned before the playoffs after a performance (.165/.165/.215) that was scarier than a beer-soaked Ron Artest. Any one of these players could become a feel-good story with a few good weeks in the Grapefruit League.

  • From the Nostalgia File, Part III: We'll explore near history in the Pirates' player comments:

    Mike Gonzalez (2004): Now healthy, he gets his fastball up over 95 and has a good slider. Command is a concern, but it'll come, either this year or next.

    As things turn out, "it" came this year (55 strikeouts versus six walks in 43.1 innings pitched). Still, there's some disconnect between Gonzalez's excellent traditional stats (3-1, 1.25 ERA) and his performance preventing inherited runners from scoring.

    Let's look at this using BP's reliever evaluation tools. The Relievers Expected Wins Added Report shows Gonzalez with an R&O_E(W) (man, does this stat need a nickname, like "Reliever Coolness Factor") of 1.141. That's roughly in the range of Ricardo Rincon (1.229), Joe Horgan (1.189) and Grant Balfour (1.123). Not bad, but you wouldn't call it elite. Looking directly at Gonzalez's inherited runners allowed from our Inherited/Bequeathed Runners Report puts Gonzalez at -3.0 inherited runners prevented, roughly the same area as Felix Heredia (-2.6) and Terry Adams (-3.3). That's pretty ugly.

    As noted on the Baseball Graphs Web site, Gonzalez had three particularly damaging appearances in June that might explain some of the discrepancy. PECOTA remains bullish on Gonzalez, predicting a 19.7 VORP, and a 33.8% chance of a breakout season in 2005.

--Derek Jacques

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