The busiest November ever continues with a spate of questionable signings and some even more questionable awards.
The most popular name among the readers was Jose Guillen, who had an injury-plagued year in D.C. A lot of people seem to think he can bounce back and be a power source for someone in '07. I have serious doubts. Never a patient hitter, his walk rate and strikeout-to-walk ratio are actually going backwards as he crosses 30. He's a good corner outfielder, not a great one, and whatever speed he may have had seems to be going, based on indicators such as steals, triples and GIDPs. He's not someone I would target.
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Jonah sits down with the architect of teams in Montreal, Florida and now Detroit to discuss building teams under difficult circumstances, the importance of finding front-office talent, and the development of the current Tiger squad.
Dombrowski made the best of suboptimal situations in both Montreal and South Florida, twice producing winning teams under difficult circumstances. But the Detroit Tigers seemed to be an even tougher task when Dombrowski took over. When owner Mike Ilitch hired Dombrowski as GM in the fall of 2001, the Tigers were coming off eight straight losing seasons. Lacking a strong farm system or star-level major league talent, many speculated that things could get worse before they got better in Detroit. Four more losing seasons, including the historically awful 43-119 season in 2003, proved those dire predictions true. But thanks to some strong drafting, a fruitful player development system and some well-timed trades and signings, the Tigers have come roaring back in 2006. More than one-third of the way through the season, Detroit sports the best record in MLB. Dombrowski recently chatted with Baseball Prospectus about the “r” word (rebuilding), the hidden value found in the Rule 5 draft, and tips on how to make the best of a bad situation.
The Indians and White Sox are putting on a great show in Chicago this week.
You want to create baseball fans? Get people to watch tonight's White Sox/Indians game, because if it's anything like the first two games of this series, you'll be making a fan for life. They don't even need to know the backstory, how the Indians have chopped 11 ½ games off of the White Sox' division lead, or how the two teams have traded off being the game's "It Team" in each half of the season, or even how both will probably end up in the postseason regardless of tonight's outcome.
Small ball might be more fun to watch, but what is its relationship to run-scoring? Sean Ehrlich takes a look.
The performance analysis community's opposition to small ball is long documented: sacrifice hits are, almost always, wasted outs while stolen bases are only useful when the player can steal with a high enough success rate. One of the most basic tenets of the performance analysis community is that playing small ball should decrease the number of runs scored by giving up precious outs.
The defense of small ball by the traditional baseball community seems a little more nebulous. A lot of the commentators and writers who speak and write glowingly of small ball seem to be yearning for what they think of as the golden days, before expansion, before bandbox ballparks, and before steroids. Or they seem to believe small ball emphasizes the fundamentals, or that it's more beautiful. It is pointless to argue with nostalgia and aesthetics (though that does not always stop me), but some have defended small ball as not only more enjoyable baseball, but as winning baseball, with the Sox' fast start taken as evidence to prove the theory.
The White Sox have the best record in baseball thanks to a terrific defense. But are they really a small-ball team?
It's an occupational hazard, of course, but it makes analyzing their success an interesting exercise. No matter how much I try to be an impartial observer in this role (Yankees aside), or how much I try and downplay my preseason predictions, ego is involved here, and it's hard to balance the analytical side with the part that knows he whiffed badly. I predicted the White Sox to go 71-91, largely because I underestimated their run prevention ability.