July 21, 2010
Placed LHP Scott Kazmir on the 15-day DL (shoulder), retroactive to 7/11; designated 1B/OF-L Paul McAnulty for assignment; activated INF-S Maicer Izturis from the DL. [7/19]
Optioned OF-L Cory Aldridge to Salt Lake (Triple-A); recalled RHPs Sean O'Sullivan and Trevor Bell from Salt Lake. [7/20]
Using a pitcher's rate of SNLVAR, Kazmir's season has been a disaster of massive proportions, one that rates about 4.8 on the Keough scale, something that for the moment suits my purposes for describing starting pitcher inadequacy, using Matt Keough's appalling 1982 season as a baseline for starting pitcher-related terrors visited upon a team's unhappy fans over a full season. This isn't really especially fair of me, in that Keough doesn't hold the single-season low for a starter with 30 starts in a campaign, but 1982 was a horrifying disappointment, and the man was beaten with a regularity that made me think that he was the drum, and the entire American League was Keith Moon.
That said, your mileage no doubt varies, but using two criteria-30 starts, and a full season with a single victim/team-let's review the all-time trailerboard, the 11 starting pitchers on record who have logged full campaigns in a rotation below replacement level:
So, there's no Keough '82 on the list; if you piece through the record, he's not even in the top 30, and it wasn't below replacement level. His 1982 entry retains its ignominy as the worst full-season rotation regular in A's history, which is special in its own way, but he's not the standard by which we should judge the horrors Kazmir has visited upon the Angels this season.
Looking at the table, some of this isn't too surprising-a couple of Rockies getting thumped, plus some talented youngsters on bad teams, like Lonborg in his rookie season, or Olsen and Viola in their sophomore campaigns. Also a sophomore, Willie Fraser was a short righty without power stuff sucked into the Angels' rotation as they tried to rebuild quickly after Gene Mauch's run with the ancients in the '80s endured its natural death. The entries from the '50s look like guys broken down by their workloads. Drott was a 21-year-old kid who appeared scragged after a fine rookie season (with 32 starts, 229 IP, and a SNLVAR rate of 0.096); he never made 30 starts again. Similarly, Chuck Stobbs was having a 20-loss season a year after posting career highs in starts (33) and IP (240). So, understandable mitigating circumstances go toward explaining some of these guys.
In contrast, you won't find such excuses for the guys more like Kazmir, the veterans who were just flat-out bad: Lima and Coleman atop this list, in a class all their own, and then Milton as the nearest facsimile of a replacement-level rotation regular that history has given us so far. All three rank as worse than Kazmir, with his 0.004 SNLVAR rate and .390 SNWP, but note that Kazmir's flirting with a bid to become the perfect definition of a replacement-level "contributor." To add some additional spice to what Kazmir's season has involved, he's delivered just four quality starts in his 17 turns, while failing to get through six innings in 11 starts.
Perhaps understandably, Angels won't have to hurry as far as when they'll get him back, which probably blows his shot at 30 turns right out of the water. Even with the retroactive move and Monday's off day, they're leaving their front four in a five-man rotation, slotting O'Sullivan in as the starter last night and giving the other four rotation regulars that additional day off. That could be with an eye toward the future: Kazmir can't come off the DL in time to make the fifth slot's next spin, on July 25, so that's another start for O'Sullivan or Bell. If, from that point on, they exploit an August schedule with four days off, they won't need a fifth starter again until the following week (either against the Orioles or the Tigers), and they could employ a fifth starter just three times in a whole month without asking any of their front four to work on short rest. Considering that the Angels' bid for a title defense is at stake, whatever the state of Kazmir's psyche or his shoulder, they'd be better off placing their bets on the qualities of their four best rotation regulars as much as possible to compensate for the 11th-best lineup in the league.
Recalled 3B-S Josh Bell from Norfolk (Triple-A). [7/16]
Activated DH-L Luke Scott from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Frank Mata to Norfolk. [7/19]
Optioned RHP Chris Tillman to Norfolk. [7/20]
So, sort of as we discussed last week, the lineup seems like it ought to be better off, but the immediate results aren't appreciably better. You might hope that Bell's return pre-figures a trade that puts Miguel Tejada someplace else for a stretch run, but with Kevin Millwood due back at the end of the week (taking Tillman's place in the rotation), and Brian Roberts potentially returning to the nest this weekend, it seems more likely they'll spin things out with their veterans and option the optionable.
Optioned RHP Robert Manuel to Pawtucket (Triple-A); purchased the contract of RHP Fernando Cabrera from Pawtucket; transferred RHP Josh Beckett from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/16]
Optioned LHP Felix Doubront to Pawtucket; designated RHP Fernando Cabrera for assignment; activated RHP Manny Delcarmen from the 15-day DL; recalled C-R Dusty Brown from Pawtucket. [7/17]
Designated C-R Gustavo Molina for assignment; recalled RHP Michael Bowden from Pawtucket. [7/18]
Outrighted C-R Gustavo Molina to Pawtucket. [7/20]
Having gone 4-8 in their last 12, and with three of those wins being one-run victories that could easily have swung the other way and deepened the club's swoon, the Sox are due for good news, but it's about to start coming in now. With Clay Buchholz due to be activated today, Jeremy Hermida looking like he'll be reactivated tomorrow, and Mike Lowell and Victor Martinez both looking likely for returns at the start of next week, the plot thickens, in part because the more recent additions could stick around.
Take Brown, for starters. He's now 28 and in his third year with Pawtucket, so he isn't a prospect, but he can boast an 11 percent walk rate at Triple-A in that time, he's solid against the running game, and he already has exposure to the knuckler, having played with Charlie Zink. So Kevin Cash's primary argument for why he might be the better choice to back up V-Mart doesn't have a lot going for it, meaning that the Sox should be able to break in Brown now and burn Cash later, once Martinez is ready. Once Hermida returns, you might expect they'll ditch Ryan Shealy; next week, we'll see who loses out to Lowell, but it won't be an easy choice.
In the bullpen, Bowden also has a decent shot at sticking, even though figuring out who he shunts aside makes for a tough decision. The highly regarded pitching prospect was bumped to the PawSox pen a couple of weeks ago, and threw six shutout innings with a single hit allowed and five strikeouts. As an adaptation to the fact that they have commitments to six starting pitchers (Buchholz included) for 2011, bumping Bowden might seem like a bad way of maximizing his value as a potential starter, but why not find a way to use him? He remains somebody the Sox harbor high hopes for, and the Sox' pen hasn't been getting great work from anyone beyond Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard. Ramon Ramirez hasn't been trustworthy this season, in light of his struggles to keep right-handed batters from going yard against him. Delcarmen has pitched the least well among the lot, struggling in a high-leverage role, but he's also out of options.
So credit Theo Epstein and company for another good idea, using Bowden instead of shopping for veteran relief help, and setting themselves up to employ him down the stretch. It isn't hard to envision how Bowden could pitch his way past lesser lights like Scott Atchison or Delcarmen, and earn his roost at the back end of Boston's bullpen. After already throwing 92 innings for Pawtucket, it has the additional benefit of keeping the 23-year-old down around his previous seasonal workloads in the 140-IP range.
Placed RHP Kerry Wood on the 15-day DL (blistered index finger), retroactive to 7/12; recalled RHP Jensen Lewis from Columbus (Triple-A). [7/17]
Designated MI-S Anderson Hernandez for assignment; recalled RHP Jeanmar Gomez from Columbus. [7/18]
Optioned RHP Jeanmar Gomez to Columbus; recalled RHP Jess Todd from Columbus. [7/19]
Activated SS-S Asdrubal Cabrera from the 60-day DL; designated RHP Jensen Lewis for assignment. [7/20]
Gomez was brought up as a necessary spacer in the wake of Saturday's doubleheader, which didn't have any ripple effect on the rotation because of Thursday's day off. However, after spinning a quality start by allowing just two runs in seven innings, you can bet that he'll get consideration for a return engagement should the Tribe flip (or foist) either Fausto Carmona or Jake Westbrook to a contender. That would be despite a rough campaign in Columbus (6.2 RA/9, 3.5 BB/9, 6.0 K/9), and with a fastball just a tick above 90 on average, the 21-year-old Venezuelan isn't a top prospect as much as someone to consider when your existing options aren't so hot. Looking at Todd now is an example of what they may as well spend the balance of their season on, as he's managed an impressive 46/9 K/UBB ratio in 39
Optioned LHP Daniel Schlereth to Toledo (Triple-A); recalled RHP Rick Porcello from Toledo. [7/17]
Optioned LHP Andrew Oliver to Toledo; recalled RHP Armando Galarraga from Toledo. [7/19]
Placed 3B-R Brandon Inge on the 15-day DL (hand); recalled RHP Casey Fien from Toledo. [7/20]
Sure enough, it only took one good start for Porcello to be back in everyone's good graces and regain his job in the rotation-well, that, plus the decision to rush up Oliver, a 2009 second-round pick, had moved into bad news territory after his fourth straight bad outing. And according to plan, Galarraga has resumed his slot in the rotation, so the Tigers are back to the ideal front five
The worse news by far is losing Inge for four to six weeks, because whether they adapt by giving the at-bats to Ryan Raburn or Danny Worth or Don Kelly, they'll take a hit on defense, but not necessarily a hit on offense. Inge was producing a .270 True Average, and before the season Raburn was projected to deliver a .271, which he's short of (.238) in no small part because he hasn't gotten a clean shot at playing time at any point during the season. (He's started three consecutive games just once all season, for example; good luck on getting a streak going with that usage pattern.)
Naturally, an alternative would be to accrue some defensive value at a more significant defensive position-like moving Carlos Guillen to third base, and slotting Worth or Raburn (or Kelly) at second base. Merely as a matter of pro experience, across all levels Raburn has twice as much pro game experience at the keystone compared to Guillen or Kelly. Of course, another option would be to bring back Scott Sizemore-after almost two months with the Mudhens, he's hitting .329/.392/.515, good for a .278 TAv with Toledo. But even there, Jim Leyland has decided his club's beyond the Rubicon with Guillen-per his public comments, Guillen is his second baseman, leaving the potential defensive benefit of moving the former DH over to third base unrealized, and leaving Sizemore among the rest for their options at the hot corner.
So, while it isn't like the Tigers have no option, it's more a matter of acting on what information they have about the options they're left with. With Guillen on the bench, in last night's action they played all three third-base alternatives on the big-league roster: Raburn at second, Kelly at third, and Worth at short. That plus slumping Alex Avila and Brennan Boesch added up to a shutout at the Rangers' hands , and the Kitties' seventh straight loss. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sizemore was playing third base for the Mudhens, his fourth game at the position.
Looking at their projections for 2010 alone, Raburn remains the best of the bats to stick in the lineup. Absent a decision to move Guillen off second, it really does become a matter of playing their better bat, because the volume at plays at third is such that there will be fewer plays in the field than at-bats at the plate. Perhaps that's to Raburn's advantage as well; it isn't like Worth or Sizemore or Kelly are going to make people forget Aurelio Rodriguez with their footwork around the bag, let alone Travis Fryman at the plate, and regardless of whether they play badly or well, they'll suffer in comparison to Inge's outsized reputation. Perhaps the worst thing they could do is zig-zag between their options-Kelly's track record is established and weak, while Worth hits like a middle infielder. As long as they're making their determination on the basis of who best fills their bill at third base, Raburn should be the choice. Now, let's just see if they make it.
Placed 1B-L Justin Morneau on the 15-day DL (PCS), retroactive to 7/8; recalled RHP Jeff Manship from Rochester (Triple-A). [7/16]
Optioned RHP Alex Burnett to Rochester; purchased the contract of RHP Anthony Slama from Rochester; transferred RHP Clay Condrey from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/20]
Losing Morneau is never good news, and as a significant health issue, between the Twins' monitoring his recovery from a concussion and Will Carroll's constancy to the principle of Quis custodiet ipsos custodes, I figure we can all just take our places in the queue of watching the watchmen without irony. Regardless of your rooting interest, it's safe to say we all look forward to good news on this front.
As tough a hit a losing Morneau is to take, there is some form of good news, in that this isn't yesteryear's Twins. With Jim Thome to add to a lineup already reaping the benefit of the organization's faith that someday Delmon Young's ship would come in, Ron Gardenhire's simply following up on his initial adaptability with Michael Cuddyer, rotating him from third base over to first from third, with Danny Valencia coming back into the lineup to man the hot corner. Given Valencia's plinky brand of single-riffic heroics, that's obviously a steep drop-off-nearly a half-run per game, per MLVr.
However, Valencia's defense at third base might be an equally useful reinforcement for a team that has to carry the weak work of Young and Jason Kubel in the outfield corners. The Twins' D is already a mediocre unit overall, and while SIERA's obviously going to be a bit optimistic about how the Twins' collection of strike-throwers in the rotation should improve, that improvement will depend a lot on the quality of the defensive effort behind them.
Another bit of good news is the addition of Slama to the pen. He's a situational godling in the making in part because of a delivery that makes him especially tough on right-handers, which you can hear more about in David Laurila's interview with him from May. For Rochester, he was living up to that billing by mowing down his fellow righties at a .103/.186/.131 clip, striking out 44 of 118 of them (37 percent) while allowing just two extra-base hits and no homers, but lefties were working him for a .367 OBP. Although he was closing for the Red Wings, he'll be best used as a set-up man in what is now eight-man pen, which suggests that with a lot less offense to work with absent Morneau, Gardy's compensation gesture will be an even more frenetic tempo while playing matchup gambits in-game.
Optioned UT-R Kevin Russo to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A); recalled 1B-L Juan Miranda from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [7/16]
Placed LHP Damaso Marte on the 15-day DL (sore shoulder), retroactive to 7/8; recalled LHP Boone Logan from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [7/17]
Placed LHP Andy Pettitte on the 15-day DL (strained groin), retroactive to 7/19; recalled RHP Jonathan Albaladejo from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [7/20]
There's cause for upset, and there isn't, so let's dispense with what is not. Bringing in Juan Miranda because Francisco Cervelli got hit upside the head with the reality stick since May ended is not a cause for upset. It's a sign of positive development-Joe Girardi has put down his pixie cup of Cervelli-brand Kool-Aid, noticed that his backup backstop is hitting .203/.292/.253 in his last six weeks' worth of play, recognized that Jorge Posada is going to be able to catch, and made room for a better bat to absorb a healthy share of the DH at-bats. Miranda might not even be a poor man's Kevin Maas, but he'll still out-hit Cervelli in whatever formula for playing-time splits between the two positions, and between Miranda and Marcus Thames, and Posada and Cervelli. And in case you didn't notice, losing the team's best starter makes scoring more runs that much more precious a quality in the lineup.
Similarly, shipping off that man, that Damaso Marte, token lefty reliever of the Yankees' bullpen, is again hardly cause to fire up the freak-out klaxons that New York newsrooms apparently operate with. Pick a stat, any stat, and Logan's outperformed the famous former Buccaneer, not unlike Wall Street dwarfing any feat achieved by Blackbeard: better FRA (2.89 to 5.84), better ARP (5.2 to -1.5), a half-win's worth of difference via WXRL in effectively the same amount of playing time (very little). Marte has done a better job of fulfilling the particulars of specialist work, but here again, for as sporadically as Girardi has even turned to him, that may amount to very little going forward, especially if Girardi just decides to avoid using a situational lefty at all because he isn't especially confident in Logan. As far as answers, whether they trust Logan, trade for a disposable veteran southpaw in the next 10 days, or even give Royce Ring a shot on the basis of his .159/.243/.302 performance vs. LHBs at Scranton, this is not cause for panic.
What might be cause is losing Pettitte, because Joltless Joe's first fix is to turn to his former Fishy friend, Sergio Mitre, starting this weekend. Even then, with some judicious skipping (without asking anyone to start on less than four days' rest), the Yankees might be able to make sure that Mitre just sees the Royals twice, the Jays once or twice, the Indians, and the Mariners before they re-enter the period at which Pettitte begins to come back on the radar. In other words, if Girardi is careful, his fifth starter would not have to face a single contender, and not even a single above-average offense. With props to Lou Boudreau on the subject of how good teams beat the bejeebus out of the bad teams, spotting your worst starter against their worse opponents is exactly what the Yanks need to be thinking about. Even on the charitable basis of Mitre's "big year" in 2007, with a .451 SNWP, Mitre is all that and a bag of rancid, post-nuclear holocaust, abandoned-in-an-irradiated-mall chips.
Which might be about as good as A.J. Burnett has been, but here we get into the reasons why they were so heavily invested in getting Cliff Lee, and why they're still going to need to play the market and see about what they can pawn off to the Cubs to get Ted Lilly or the Mariners to rent Erik Bedard, or to get in on Dan Haren, because those are the best remaining examples available on the market of win-now rentals on the one hand, or win-now-and-keep'im-around acquisitions they might find.
Placed RF-L Ryan Sweeney on the 15-day DL (patella tendinitis), retroactive to 7/12; recalled RHP Henry Rodriguez from Sacramento (Triple-A). [7/19]
Activated LHP Dallas Braden from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Cedrick Bowers to Sacramento. [7/20]
Even if the A's weren't now without Sweeney for the balance of the season, their outfield had come to resemble a remainders table in Wal-Mart. Sure, there might be the odd really good book in there, wedged between the collected wisdom of Mr. Food, or Dr. Laura's berating those she deems stupid, or the odd coffee table confection that you'd never pay list price for. ("Another book on Fresno's historic architecture?!?! Oh man, what a bargain!") You have to root around a bit, but you find some things.
Unfortunately, there's also an awful lot of placeholding junk, the sort of stuff best employed to stock the shelves of a furnished model home or an incurious bed & breakfast, where the appearance of substance matters as much or more than the actual content. It's to this state that it sometimes seems as if the A's outfield has been reduced to. The right fielder who has never hit for power, and never will. The center fielder who rates as a nice knockoff from something found in the always tasteful, rarely exciting Brian McRae collection. A speed guy who gets on base at a .312 clip in left field. If any one of them were your worst outfield regular, you'd be in a better position to celebrate their individual merits, but when there's so little to help you identify an actual best outfield regular, like some condominium's model unit library you're left with a Potemkinized facsimile of a major-league outfield.
Take a look at the collective production at each position of all American League outfields, ranked through Monday's action. At the bottom of the table, you'll see the MLB position averages as a point of reference:
The first thing I'd take from this chart is that outfield production and especially left-field production in the junior circuit has been massively disappointing this season. While some are anointing this the year of the pitcher, I'm wondering if a big part of the problem is sorting out where the game's big boppers went to, because you won't find them playing at the position of Ted Williams and Albert Belle. You can blame injuries in some instances, but a lot of the problem appears to be a matter of design (Juan Pierre, the Mariners' mess).
As for their own lot and their below-average offense at all three spots, the A's have had modest shares of both injuries and bad choices. It would be hard to assert that the A's outfield is the product of unqualified endorsements, a collection composed of the proper facets in a master plan of crystalline perfection. Rajai Davis was just a waiver claim, Coco Crisp an addition made as much via a union-drive guilt trip as any calculated consideration, and Sweeney just one part-arguably the least important part-of the Nick Swisher deal. Although losing Crisp for a significant chunk of the season has hurt them, league-relative it isn't center field that is their worst position.
Keeping in mind that right field is the second-best offensive position in the game today, the A's just lost the man most responsible for their last-place ranking at the spot. So while it's a setback to lose Sweeney, that's because they'll lose runs because of an even worse fall-back option in Gabe Gross. You don't get to rank any lower than last place, but I suppose they'll have the benefit of being even more decisively the worst. Is it any wonder Daric Barton has become an unsupervised bunting fool? 'Offensive indifference' may as well be the lineup's plan of attack, both in how it has been assembled to how it's operating in-game.
Placed RHP Dustin Nippert on the 15-day DL (head injury); recalled RHP Doug Mathis from Oklahoma City (Triple-A). [7/20]
Activated OF-L Travis Snider from the 15-day DL, and optioned him to New Hampshire (Double-A). [7/17]
Activated RHP Shaun Marcum from the 15-day DL; designated INF-R Nick Green for assignment. [7/18]
With trading season upon us and the Jays a solid non-contender, they're in a bit of a holding pattern, both in their lineup and in their rotation, reflected in the decisions to activate both Snider and Marcum, but demote the former without doing likewise with another starting pitcher for the latter. They both represent deliberate non-decisions, since there's not a lot at stake, and no reason to be decisive as a result.
Consider the temporary decision to run with a six-man rotation with Marcum back in the fold. Essentially, the Jays decided to not make an immediate choice between Jesse Litsch and Marc Rzepczynski for the fifth slot, affording both pitchers additional spins. As a result, they found themselves rewarded for their indecision once Marcum came up with a blistered middle finger on his throwing hand his first time out. If they end up skipping Marcum (per Jordan Bastian's tweet), Litsch and Rzepczynski get two more turns to settle the matter. Add in how this spaces everyone out, and it helps keep the starters' workloads under control, while giving the team more information-in terms of in-game results-to make their eventual choices.
Similarly, they had little cause to move aggressively to bring Snider back. Picking between Edwin Encarnacion, Fred Lewis, and Jose Bautista for who plays at third base and the outfield corners isn't a call they need to make before the deadline. With Adam Lind's bat finally coming back from the dead in recent weeks, they don't have an obvious loser in the lineup either. Since all three of Double-E, Lewis, and Bautista are arbitration-eligible after the season, and Encarnacion and Bautista will be heading into their last spins in the process before free agency, Alex Anthopolous has a nice bit of flexibility in terms of matching players at various positions to payrolls and various contenders' needs. Regardless of whether or not he keeps all three, controlling Snider's service time makes sense, potentially pushing his first entry into the process until after the 2012 season.
Indeed, the best solution might not involve any of these guys-not unless the Jays get an offer they can't refuse-but instead involves renting out Lyle Overbay's last two months as a Blue Jay. Even if they have to eat cash to make a decidedly replacement-level first baseman go away via trade by the end of August, there's always the gambit of letting him leave on an outright waiver claim, which would hardly hurts them. Once they've excused Overbay, they'd have lineup space for Snider, all the better to mull their remaining options with, because they could easily bring Bautista back into the infield at third base while moving Encarnacion across the diamond in Overbay's place. Even if Encarnacion subsequently blows it, they'll have cleared the decks for Brett Wallace, assuming he can fulfill his past promise.
So even while seemingly doing next to nothing, and seemingly avoiding any choices, the Jays have wound up in that zen-like state of choosing to not act. If, as Carlyle suggested, man is the architect of circumstance, credit Anthopolous for marking time to create one as effectively as he struck when a remarkable opportunity arose.