CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

Premium and Super Premium Subscribers Get a 20% Discount at MLB.tv!

<< Previous Article
Prospectus Notebook: R... (12/30)
<< Previous Column
Prospectus Notebook: R... (12/30)
Next Column >>
Prospectus Notebook: D... (01/06)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Prospectus Matchups: C... (12/30)

December 30, 2005

Prospectus Notebook

Mets, Rangers

by Baseball Prospectus

NEW YORK METS
Team Audit | Team DT Cards | Team Articles | Team Statistics

David Wright and Jose Reyes, New York's twin cornerstones, will both be 23 in 2006. Combined with Carlos Beltran, who turns 29 next April, New York has a young offensive nucleus that should be the foundation in Queens for years.

Despite that youth, the Mets have approached the marketplace with a "win-now" philosophy, primarily due to ace right-hander Pedro Martinez, who will be 34 next season. Prior to signing his four year, $53 million deal before last year, the conventional wisdom was that Martinez had about two seasons of pre-eminent performance left in the tank. Martinez's strong showing for the Amazin's last year dispelled much of the fear that his 3.90 ERA for the 2004 World Champions was the final achievement of a shredded arm, but there were still danger signs in the 2005 performance--Martinez failed to strike out a batter per inning (208 K in 217 IP) for the first time since 1995. Clearly, the premium unleaded is running a bit low, and Mets fans should be thankful the pesky toe problem may keep Martinez from expending invaluable innings in the World Baseball Classic.

It is not only Martinez's situation that has the Mets looking to gear up for a 2006 championship run. The team's pitchers in general are an aging lot--the aggregate staff age in 2005 was 31.9, oldest in the National League. Martinez and Tom Glavine, who will hit 40 next season, combined for over half of the wins above replacement level racked up by the starters, 13 of 25.2 by SNLVAR. The rest of the rotation isn't much younger--2006 will see Steve Trachsel turn 35, Kris Benson 31, Victor Zambrano 30, and Jae Seo 29. Combine that with a bullpen point man in Billy Wagner who will be 34, and you've got a team whose key arms are in the danger zone in terms of attrition concerns.

With the core of the pitching staff liable to be fully operational for only another year or so, the Mets justifiably felt compelled to trade a significant portion of their future, in the form of Yusmeiro Petit and Mike Jacobs, to the Marlins for first baseman Carlos Delgado. Delgado adds to the age issues in that he will be 34 when he dons orange and blue, but he remains a fearsome hitter, as slugging .582 in the death valleys of Dolphins Stadium and putting up a NL-third best .333 EQA attests. His presence will significantly help New York capitalize on whatever the Martinez/Glavine duo can produce next year.

The acquisition looks especially good in light of James Click's recent article looking at replacement level as the level of production a new player actually replaces. Patrons venturing into Shea Stadium last season were witness to a peculiar phenomenon--at the spot on the diamond normally occupied by the first baseman, light was refracted by an area of space-time with a gravitational field so intense its escape velocity exceeded the speed of light. In other words, the Mets had an abyss at first base. New York's first basemen last year were the worst in the majors by VORP and PMLVr:


Player    AVG  OBP  SLG HR BB SO   VORP  PMLVr
Mets 1B: .227 .303 .391 21 59  97  -8.7 -0.290
Delgado: .301 .399 .582 32 72 121  71.7  0.343

Led by the new Royal Doug Mientkiewicz, Mets first basemen ranked last in OPS, runs, hits, total bases, and RBI. The respective PMLVr figures add up to .633 runs of difference per game between Delgado's 2005 production and what Minky and Co. achieved, an enormous figure (10 runs roughly equals one win). Based on the VORP differential, New York would have gained about 80 runs of offense with Delgado in the fold. Of course, Delgado's cumbersome glove--seven runs worse than replacement level last year--would have negated a portion of the improvement, but even a more conservative estimate of six additional wins would have made the final day of New York's 83-win season meaningful. With the recent research done by Nate Silver on the increased economic value of marginal wins that will likely bump a team into the playoffs, the $41 million the Mets owe Delgado over the next three years looks to be a worthy investment.

Adding to the benefits of Delgado's presence is Shea's kindness towards lefthanded batters. Although Shea is known as a solid pitcher's park, that reputation has been built on its ability to cripple righthanded hitting--as reported by Dayn Perry, the lefthanded park factor for home runs between 2002-04 was an inflationary 115, as compared to a brutal 77 for righties (100 is neutral). Adding Delgado will give the Mets five lefthanded swingers against righthanded pitching, with Cliff Floyd and the switch-hitting Beltran, Reyes and Kazuo Matsui, putting them in position to glean every advantage from their home venue.

A less inspired acquisition was New York's second trade with the Fish, for catcher Paul Lo Duca, who is due $12.5 million over the next two years. Lo Duca has been overrated since his first full season in 2001, when he put up a .917 OPS and a 0.405 PMLVr, second best in the majors behind Mike Piazza. Lo Duca has not come close to even half that rate of production since then (his next best PMLVr was 0.142 in 2002), and his endemic second-half fade is well documented (.782 first half OPS, .652 second half over the past three years.)

Lo Duca has proven to be a valuable asset when at full strength, though, and the Mets can get the most out of their catching situation by frequently utilizing more-than-capable backup Ramon Castro, whose .756 OPS in 209 AB last year trumped Lo Duca's .714 in 445 AB. New York needs to recognize Lo Duca's inability to perform over a full season and set up a timeshare at the position by treating Castro as the slightly lesser half of a two-headed backstop, similar to what the Reds executed so successfully last year with Jason LaRue and Javier Valentin. Playing Castro regularly will help keep Lo Duca spry in the midsummer heat, so that he can earn his clutch reputation by banging a few RBI gappers in a September pennant race.

James Click contributed research for this article

--Caleb Peiffer

TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | Team DT Cards | Team Articles | Team Statistics

It's not too uncommon to see a team overhaul three-fifths of their starting rotation. But in a span of sixteen days, the Rangers have introduced three veteran pitchers likely to fill the top three rotation slots. And GM Jon Daniels might not be done. We'll work in reverse chronological order, because the more important deals are more recent.

  • The Big One: The Rangers agreed this week to pay Kevin Millwood $60 million spanning five years. Last year's American League ERA champ might not enjoy the perils of The Ball--er, Ameriquest Field in Arlington, but when healthy (and he usually is) he's a stabilizing force. He just turned 31 on Christmas Eve, so we're not dealing with Kevin Brown here. Equally important, while the deal has been advertised as five years and $60 million, the Rangers worked in a vesting option for the fifth year. If Millwood can't stay healthy enough to reach the innings benchmarks (details were not available at press time), the Rangers have covered themselves pretty well.

  • So long to the long, tall Texan: On December 20--and technically, this trade still hinges on Akinori Otsuka's physical--Texas dealt Chris Young, Adrian Gonzalez and Terrmel Sledge to San Diego for Adam Eaton, Otsuka, and catching prospect Billy Killian. As Joe Sheehan alluded the other day, this is a deal that could swing wildly in favor of either team due to the relative youth and promise of the involved players. For Texas, they assume some payroll in Eaton and Otsuka--but those two combine for just over $4 million in 2006. Eaton, however, is potentially a big expense a year from now when his contract expires--quite a contrast to Young, who is still five years from free agency.

    Both Eaton and Young busted out of the gate in 2005. Young's ERA bottomed out at 2.78 on June 13. Through June: 16 starts, 94.2 innings, 3.33 ERA, 81/21 K/BB. From July forward: 15 starts, 70.0 innings, 5.52 ERA, 56/24 K/BB. Eaton likewise hit the wall in June. To quote The Newberg Report:

    Two months into his 2005 season, Eaton was among the best pitchers in baseball. Through his first 13 starts, he was 9-1 with a 3.18 ERA, 61 strikeouts and 23 walks in 79 1/3 innings of work. He then strained a flexor tendon in the middle finger of his pitching hand in his 14th start, sat out for seven weeks and returned to pitch 10 more times, going 2-3 with a 5.74 ERA in that span (37 strikeouts and 19 walks in 47 frames). He apparently had difficulty regaining the grip on his plus curve, which emasculated his mid-90s fastball.

  • And a Padilla in a pear tree: First came Vicente Padilla, acquired from the Phillies for Ricardo Rodriguez. It doesn't take a "player to be named" sticker to know that dealing Rodriguez isn't much of a fee: he'll be 28 next year, can't seem to stay healthy, and after four years of starting sporadically for Cleveland and Texas he's combined to strike out 104 batters in 206.7 innings while yielding 75 walks, 224 hits and 33 home runs. Of course, Padilla hasn't exactly been a model green light himself, but at least he's had success. The Phillies may have non-tendered him if they hadn't found a trade partner. Texas could have tried to wait out the waiver deadline, but Padilla's price as a free agent would have almost certainly made whatever he gets in arbitration look like a bargain (he made $3.2 million last year, and precedent calls for a modest raise). It's a low-risk move. We can only speculate whether changing leagues and coaching staffs will benefit Padilla; the bottom line is that he needs to stay healthy and regain his control.
    
    Vicente Padilla
    
    Year  GS IP  ERA   HR/BF BB/BF K/BF  AVG/OBP/SLG  G/F   SNLVAR
    2002  32 206 3.28  .019  .061  .148  254/309/367  2.56  5.4
    2003  32 209 3.62  .025  .071  .152  251/313/413  1.95  5.1
    2004  20 115 4.53  .031  .072  .163  267/328/458  1.83  1.7
    2005  27 147 4.71  .034  .113  .157  260/349/456  1.81  2.8
    
    
  • Rotation renovation station: Unfortunately, these additions coincide with the exodus of Young and Kenny Rogers, the steady hands of last year's staff. The writing was on the wall for Rogers, true, but we shouldn't ignore his contributions last year. Frankly, if Millwood next year can match Rogers' 195 innings and 3.46 ERA from 2005, the Rangers can't be disappointed. For this exercise, let's say Eaton replaces Young. Since we can't really pinpoint who Padilla pushes out, we'll use Rodriguez, although keep in mind that James Click tabbed Texas' "replacement level" starting pitcher at 1.6 Support-Neutral Runs Above Replacement SNLVAR). In other words, Padilla is theoretically ousting a better number five starter than Rodriguez, which reduces the value of this addition.
    
                                       SNLVAR
                            2005  2004  2003  2002  2001
    (+) Kevin Millwood       5.7   1.5   5.6   6.1   2.2
    (-) Kenny Rogers         4.0   3.6   3.0   5.2   1.0
    
    (+) Adam Eaton           2.3   3.0   3.6   0.6   2.4
    (-) Chris Young          3.6   0.6   ---   ---   ---
    
    (+) Vicente Padilla      2.8   1.7   5.1   5.4   ---
    (-) Ricardo Rodriguez    0.2   0.8   0.8   0.3   ---
    
    
  • Rocket town? And if that Clemens fellow fancies the Rangers enough to zoom up I-45 every fifth day in his Hummer, maybe the team could spin him a cool $30 million for a year of his services. Is a million per start enough? Is the five-hour commute too stressful? Might President Bush pull some strings and throw in Air Force One for the Rocket's personal use? Would the Astros listen to offers for Koby Clemens?

    The Kansas City Star reports that Brian Anderson is close to a deal with Texas (he is rehabbing from elbow surgery and could join the team at mid-season). Maybe, just maybe, before Spring has sprung, the rotation will be completely overhauled. Can the Rangers turn over all five starters in one winter? Stay tuned.

--Dave Haller

0 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Prospectus Notebook: R... (12/30)
<< Previous Column
Prospectus Notebook: R... (12/30)
Next Column >>
Prospectus Notebook: D... (01/06)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Prospectus Matchups: C... (12/30)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Article Deep Impact: Week 17
Fantasy Article The Stash List: 15th Edition
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of Monday, July 2...
Premium Article What You Need to Know: July 29, 2014
BBQ State of Mind
Notes About Baseball: The Logistics of Human...
Premium Article Baseball Therapy: Trading Ryan Howard For No...

MORE FROM DECEMBER 30, 2005
Premium Article Prospectus Today: Looking Back...and Looking...
Premium Article Prospectus Matchups: Cumulative Commemoratio...
Prospectus Notebook: Red Sox, Indians

MORE BY BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
2006-01-13 - Prospectus Notebook: Astros
2006-01-11 - Prospectus Notebook: White Sox, Giants
2006-01-06 - Prospectus Notebook: Diamondbacks, Marlins
2005-12-30 - Prospectus Notebook: Mets, Rangers
2005-12-30 - Prospectus Notebook: Red Sox, Indians
2005-12-28 - Prospectus Notebook: Tigers, Yankees
2005-12-27 - Prospectus Notebook: Royals
More...

MORE PROSPECTUS NOTEBOOK
2006-01-13 - Prospectus Notebook: Astros
2006-01-11 - Prospectus Notebook: White Sox, Giants
2006-01-06 - Prospectus Notebook: Diamondbacks, Marlins
2005-12-30 - Prospectus Notebook: Mets, Rangers
2005-12-30 - Prospectus Notebook: Red Sox, Indians
2005-12-28 - Prospectus Notebook: Tigers, Yankees
2005-12-27 - Prospectus Notebook: Royals
More...