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September 26, 2006

Prospectus Matchups

Transient All-Star Update

by Jim Baker

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Each spring (well, each of the last two springs, anyway), I've selected a Transient All-Star team I select the players who are with new teams who seem like a good bet to have the best season. Today we'll review those picks and also look to see who the best Transient All-Stars have turned out to be.

Catcher
February choices:
American League: Bengie Molina, Toronto Blue Jays
National League: Mike Piazza, San Diego Padres

Piazza is holding his own in VORP but teammate Josh Bard has a better WARP1 in many fewer at-bats. Paul Lo Duca of the Mets has been even better. The Reds' David Ross rates pretty high as well, thanks in part to his defense. Molina has been trumped by the other big-name catching free agent who landed in the American League last year: Ramon Hernandez. His WARP1 is at 5.1 to Molina's 2.0. No, Kenji Johjima doesn't count here. It's for inter-major league team transients only.

First Base
February choices:
American League: Kevin Millar, Baltimore Orioles
National League: Carlos Delgado, New York Mets

Millar's been OK, posting a .278 EqA. Lyle Overbay is currently 18 points higher and is the man right now. (PECOTA didn't like Overbay that much heading into this season, hence the choice of Millar.) Delgado has the highest VORP among National League transient first basemen, although Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres is not far off. Gonzalez, though--does the guy ever run out anything, or have I just caught him on a bad night? He hit into a double play last night and barely bothered to run to first--and he didn't exactly mash the ball. A couple weeks ago, he stood and watched two balls he thought were over the fence--turned out that neither was. I hate to sound like the authoritarian figure in a dirty white boy movie, but there is no excuse for that sort of thing.

Second Base
February choices:
American League: Mark Grudzielanek, Kansas City Royals
National League: Alfonso Soriano, Washington Nationals

And Grudz delivers! True, it's a .258 EqA (about his career average), but his 4.2 WARP1 bests Luis Castillo's 3.2 at the moment. Soriano would have been the best transient second baseman, but his transience carried him not only to a new team but also out to left field as well where he would easily be the best transient if not the best period--although he has much competition from Matt Holliday and Barry Bonds for the more general consideration of best left fielder. If we take Soriano out of the second base mix--as the Nationals have done--the default winner is Orlando Hudson of the Diamondbacks, late of the Blue Jays whom we find enjoying the best year of his career. (Brandon Phillips would be a viable candidate as well, except that he moved after the season began, so he was not a transient at the time the initial picks were made.)

Third Base
February choices:
American League: Troy Glaus, Toronto Blue Jays
National League: Bill Mueller, Los Angeles Dodgers

Glaus has not disappointed in Toronto, but the resurgent Mike Lowell--he wasn't even really on the radar last winter--has a slight edge over Glaus at the moment, thanks in part ot his glovework. Lowell's FRAR/FRAA is 33/18 as opposed to Glaus's 22/2. This has helped up Lowell's WARP1 to 6.1 over Glaus's 5.2. Meanwhile, Glaus continues to do a wonderful impersonation of himself. His .252/.356/.512 line closely approximates his career averages coming into this season: .252/.358/.501. Mueller wasn't exactly off to a flying start when he was felled after 127 plate appearances. One gets the impression, though, that had he stayed healthy he would have played well enough to live up to his preseason selection to the Transient All-Star team owing to light competition. The honor was there for Joe Randa to grab but, no-hitter heartbreaking aside, he didn't rise to the challenge. The NL pick falls to Corey Koskie of the Brewers for posting a VORP of 10.0 in 289 PA before he went down with post-concussion syndrome in July.

Shortstop
February choices:
American League: Alex Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox
National League: Rafael Furcal, Los Angeles Dodgers

Furcal has certainly given the Dodgers their money's worth--especially in the last two weeks by hitting .381/.452/.745. He's got a serious challenger in Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins, however. The former Red Sox is his equal in VORP and EqA but loses some ground in FRAR/FRAA where he's 15/-4 to Furcal's 28/8. Ramirez's numbers would look a lot better plugged into shortstop than those of Alex Gonzalez. Boston has given him 429 plate appearances to lock down his Transient All-Star position and he has not taken the bit. Instead, he's neck-and-neck with Alex Cintron of the White Sox.

Left field
February choices:
American League: Coco Crisp, Boston Red Sox
National League: Eric Byrnes, Arizona Diamondbacks

Crisp rated in left because that's where he played last year, in spite of Boston's known intention to plug him into center. As it is, there are no viable transient candidates for the position in that league. (Carlos Lee's move came at midseason.) Byrnes has been playing a lot of centerfield for Arizona but he, like Crisp, has played well enough that he would have carried left field.

Center field
February choices:
American League: Johnny Damon, New York Yankees
National League: Aaron Rowand, Philadelphia Phillies

Injured or not, Rowand had 445 plate appearances to make his case, and it didn't happen. Instead, the Padres Mike Cameron (who was an honorable mention in rightfield back in February) has been the National League champ at his position, with the Cubs' Juan Pierre running a distant second. Damon has delivered on his end of his Yankees contract in its first year--his string of nine consecutive season scoring 100 or more runs looks like a 1930s listing in the Baseball Encyclopedia. He's also set a career high in home runs (22), and is currently matching his best ever EqA (.283).

Right field
February choices:
American League: Matt Lawton, Seattle Mariners
National League: Juan Encarnacion, St. Louis Cardinals

Yes, it was a very weak field in the American League at the time the selections were made. Certainly, it will be a surprise if Lawton ever gets another major league at-bat. Wily Mo Pena is the winner here, injuries be damned. He was still on the Reds when the transients were picked, however. In the senior circuit, Encarnacion has not made the most of the first year of his three-year contract, considering that in twice as many at bats he's posted the same VORP as Xavier Nady did in his brief time with the Mets (just under 10.0). The gig goes instead to Jacque Jones who brought his act to Wrigley Field after seven years with the Twins. Given his start it might surprise to learn that he's on his way to his second-best EqA ever.

Designated Hitter
February choice:
Carl Everett, Seattle Mariners

Yes, that looks pretty crazy right now given the 2006 accomplishments of Jim Thome and Frank Thomas. PECOTA, though, didn't quite trust their previously-injured personages. Before getting cashiered, Everett somehow managed to cost his team an entire game (-9.4 VORP) playing only one way. That's not easy to do. It's also about seven games worse than what Thome has done for the White Sox.

Starting Pitchers
February choices:
American League: Javier Vazquez, Chicago White Sox, A.J. Burnett, Toronto Blue Jays, Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox, Esteban Loaiza, Oakland A's, Kevin Millwood, Texas Rangers National League: Brian Lawrence, Washington Nationals, Dave Bush, Milwaukee Brewers, Chris Young, San Diego Padres, Orlando Hernandez, Arizona Diamondbacks, Dave Williams, Cincinnati Reds

The main theme of the Transient All-Star pitching piece was the drain of talent from the National League to the American with very little going the other way. This caused me to muse, "Don't be surprised when the American League wins most of the interleague matchups, the All-Star Game and the World Series as a result of this scandalous transfer of talent." I'm pretty sure I was joking around but it's turned out to be true--not in a strict cause and effect sense, though.

The American League picks have turned out fairly well. Kenny Rogers of the Tigers aces them all and the Rangers' Vicente Padilla rates highly, too, but Millwood, Burnett and Vazquez have definitely turned out to be top five transients. Beckett is very close as well. The only one of the five who won't rate is Loaiza.

It was thin pickings as far as the National League transients back in February. Nothing illustrates that like the inclusion of Williams. Concerns about gopher balls in Cincinnati proved well-founded, as he surrendered over two per nine innings and was shipped to the Mets, where he's been better but not spectacular. Sadly for the Nationals, Lawrence was not the best transient starter in the league but was, instead, excused from duty because of injury. The best transient starter has actually been Bronson Arroyo, but, as was mentioned in the Wily Mo Pena comment above, that trade came after the fact. Chris Young is number two and Dave Bush is number three, so those selections are looking good.

Matt Morris has been one of the better transient starters, although with a VORP of just 12.7, that's more a testament to the state of affairs in the League than anything else. The El Duque choice is working out, provided credit is given for his time with the Mets--his 17.1 combined VORP is among the top five among transients. That trade put the lie to something I wrote then, "His move to the Diamondbacks is going to end his personal streak of having been in the playoffs in every season of his seven-year big league career." Instead, Orlando Hernandez will be back in the playoffs next week as he continues his career as the John Cazale of baseball--Cazale was in just five major motion pictures and all five were nominated for Best Picture Academy Awards.

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