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February 4, 2000

From The Mailbag

Gerut vs. Clemente, Hampton vs. Dotel, Gord Ash vs. Chris Kahrl

by Baseball Prospectus

Colorado Rockies

Jody Gerut had a great first half last season, but no way will he grace the confines of Coors this year unless he really comes on and even then it will be only as a September callup.

Also, what is your "EqA" supposed to measure? The EqA's for some Rockies players make no sense at all even if your park effects are much greater than those commonly employed elsewhere, which they seem to be. It's an interesting home park effect indeed that penalizes a player to a point far below his road stats.

Rarely agree, never fail to be interested . . .

--Ed

I'll agree Jody Gerut is more of a best-case scenario than a reasonable one, given the presence of Edgard Clemente and Derrick Gibson in Colorado Springs. However, I don't think either of these two have a better chance of being a star than your favorite NFL player has of avoiding serious jail time, and Gerut is more advanced (and projectable) than Choo Freeman. He didn't have any trouble with the wooden bat last year, and is very polished for a second-year player.

EqA is "Equivalent Average", a component of Clay Davenport's Davenport Translations. We've got all the information you need right here.

Thanks for the note.

--Dave

New York Mets

I agree with a lot of points made by Joe Sheehan in his section detailing the outlook for the Mets in 2000. However two comments were way off base. In criticizing the Hampton/Bell for Cedeno/Dotel trade Sheehan stated that Hampton will not be much better than Dotel in 2000. While I agree that Hampton probably will not be as good in 2000 as he was in 1999 he will still be a lot better than Dotel. Then he moved to the Bell/Cedeno part. Cedeno is a better offensive player than Bell-there is no doubt about that. The ridiculous comment was that Cedeno was a "dominant defensive player". I am not sure what a "dominant defensive player" is but if I was to guess I would say Ozzie Smith, Brooks Robinson, Bill Mazeroski. Cedeno is not even a good outfielder. I am not sure where he got that reputation from and if the Astros play him in CF this year they are going to regret it. Look at it this way: Valentine played Benny Agbayani and Shawon Dunston in CF rather than Cedeno. That speaks volumes in and of itself.

--Dan

Thanks for the feedback, Dan. We can agree to disagree on Octavio Dotel and Mike Hampton, but keep in mind: Larry Dierker has shown himself to be a master at getting optimum performances from pitchers. Hampton loses Dierker, while Dotel gains him. I expect that factor alone to make the two pitchers' performances closer than most people think.

As far as Roger Cedeno is concerned, he was probably the best right fielder in baseball last year. His Fielding Translation--Clay Davenport's metric for evaluating defense--of 120 led all major league outfielders, and lapped the field in right: Jermaine Dye was second at 115. His range factor of 2.34 was well above average, as well. He was a center fielder playing right field, and it showed.

--Joe

Toronto Blue Jays

Every team can be criticised. But Chris Kahrl has a serious problem in analysis. Everyone harped on Ash for getting Bush in the Clemens deal. Everyone that was harping has shut their mouths. I guess Kahrl insists on making a fool out of himself, but so be it. How did Ash screw up the Segui deal. He signed him for $4.3 million, $1.3 million a year less than Seattle offered him in July. He doesn't even know a salary dump when he sees one.

Chris Kahrl is an amateur and it would be in the best interest of your website to hire professional writers.

--Don

Howdy Don,

Your belligerence aside, you're right. I do have a serious problem in analysis, because I get really boggled by rationalizations for indefensible moves. I'm even more surprised by moves made when no move had to be made, and when there seems to be very little thought to what that move's repercussions might be. And finally, these sorts of things bug me when it looks like they'll adversely affect a team that ought to be in the playoff hunt, but seems to keep hurting itself with this sort of willful stupidity.

Let's take a good look at what Homer Bush brings his team. In the field, both our fielding translations (103 versus 100 average) and Range Factor (5.39 versus 5.06 average) have him as slightly above average. As much as we can divine anything from fielding stats, it looks like Bush is pretty good, and it helps that he hangs in on the deuce. What about his hitting? Last year, he posted a .261 Equivalent Average. Interestingly enough, .260 is average for both the major leagues and major league second basemen. That isn't to put him down: he does have his strengths. Teams can usually use somebody who hits .320, and Homer can run or drop a bunt.

On the down side, his power is negligible and he won't take a walk. The problem is that hitting for average is his only offensive skill. For all of his mighty single-thwackability, he isn't an outstanding offensive player right now, and if he isn't hitting .320 (and chances are he won't), he won't be doing his team much good. But if he's young, he'll get a lot better, right? Unfortunately, Bush is already 27, so its very likely that he's as good as he's going to get.

That still doesn't make him a bad player. On a good team lacking an alternative at second base, he can be handy for the next year or two. Of course, the Jays do have a good-looking group of middle infielders in the organization, but now one of the two positions they could get a shot at is manned by a mediocre player through at least 2002.

Further problems crop up with the Jays and their avowed salary crunch. If the Jays are really tied up financially, as Gord Ash claims, then why should they surrender their control of Bush's career (he isn't eligible for free agency until after 2003) to give him oodles of cash, when at his best he's a very average player? Bush's ability to hit for average is uncommon, but there are plenty of minor league second basemen just as capable of contributing just as ably to a team's offense. Scott Sheldon, Brian Raabe, and Jason Hardtke all come to mind, and they're minor league free agents every year these days, available for considerably less than it now costs to have Bush around. If we're going to take Ash's poormouthing seriously, then we have to wonder what he's smoking to make this kind of deal with this kind of mediocrity. Worse yet, if Bush fades from last year's high, the Jays are still on the hook, without even the option of non-tendering him, as they could have if they hadn't given him the guaranteed deal.

Maybe we can consider it to the Jays' credit that they're deferring $4 million of the $7.375 million they're giving Homer Bush. But on top of locking in the franchise for guaranteed money for a mediocre second baseman, Ash has also blown more of his financial wiggle room because of David Segui's arbitration-induced raise of almost $2 million, to $4.35 million. The first major problem is that Carlos Delgado has stressed he expects to play first, which is fine in itself, because it isn't like he's Frank Thomas around the bag.

What it really means is that the Jays, while claiming poverty, are now paying David Segui for his bat. While you might cut Segui some slack for his putative value to a team as a first baseman because of his good glove, as a DH, we're talking about a 33 year old who's hit twenty homeruns once in his career despite playing every day during a historic offensive explosion. He was one of the worst-hitting first basemen in all of baseball last year (26th out of 30 in Equivalent Average, ahead of a young Richie Sexson and three other stiffs: Jeff Conine, Wally Joyner, and Rico Brogna). That doesn't sound like good DH material to me. It doesn't help that just as there are at second base, there are plenty of minor league players who are better hitters than Segui right now, and who will hit better in the future. The Jays have their share of these kinds of guys already hanging around: Kevin Witt and Andy Thompson are both better hitters than Segui, and both are young enough to keep improving. And together, they'd cost about a tenth of what Segui costs. You can play make-believe and call this a salary dump, but I see the Jays paying $4.35 million for a lousy DH, while the Mariners have some guy Gord Ash gave up for the immortal Robert Person and cash, who turned into Paul Spoljaric, who got thrown away in the Hentgen dump.

The troubling repurcussion is that if Ash is being honest about his team's salary problems, then the signings of Bush and Segui figure to hurt the team even more than either player's "contributions" on the field. If these signings in tandem create more pressure to dump Alex Gonzalez or to trade Jumbo "as old as and even more inconsistent than David Cone" Wells, then Ash will have done a great job of undermining his team's playoff chances for a third straight season.

So Don, thanks for your venom. I'm always happy to talk about that wacky Gord Ash, because he's one of a kind.

--Chris

We'd love to hear your thoughts on anything baseball-related at info@baseballprospectus.com. We'll publish the best of what we get periodically at www.baseballprospectus.com.
Related Content:  The Who,  David Segui

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