Which players around the league are sucking so badly that they're killing their teams?
With just over a week to go before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline, we bring you this semi-annual reminder that complacency in the face of adversity is the potential undoing of every manager and general manager. For reasons rooted in issues beyond a player's recent performance—contract size, longer-term track record, clubhouse chemistry—teams all too often fail to make the moves that could help them win, allowing subpar production to fester until it kills a club's post-season hopes. In 2007, I compiled a historical all-star squad of ignominy for our pennant race book, It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over, identifying players at each position whose performances had dragged their teams down in tight races: the Replacement-Level Killers. The concept has become a semiannual tradition—near the trading deadline and the opening of spring training—with an eye toward what teams can do to solve potentially fatal problems.
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There are roughly nine people, depending on how you count, that are at the core of the Oakland A’s problems this season. We’ll be charitable and call them the “hitters” on the team. Bob Geren’s most powerful tool to affect the team’s offense was to choose which players he put on that lineup card (in the AL, even the order isn’t all that important—it’s not like you can bat a pitcher leadoff or anything).
Clubs who are down with re-signing their own free agents get better value than those who sign other people's players.
After remembering the 1981 hit "Should I Stay or Should I Go" by The Clash with last week’s title on the same topic, we move forward a decade to a 1991 Naughty by Nature hit—and we introduce the money to the equation this time (if you’re down with that). In this article, I will show that players who re-sign with their clubs on multi-year deals provide far more bang for their buck than players who sign contracts with new teams.
Sinking sunk costs may only end up sinking the teams willing to move quickly on slumping veteran players.
On April 20, before their game with the Detroit Tigers, the Toronto Blue Jays released veteran designated hitter Frank Thomas. Just two days prior, Jays manager John Gibbons had announced that Thomas' playing time would be reduced, which inspired a petulant reaction by Thomas. All this occurred against a backdrop of Thomas needing about 300 additional plate appearances to vest a 2009 contract option. Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi was insistent that the decision was about Thomas' performance and the team's expectation that he would not improve upon it, rather than the potential commitment, a case that was hard to take seriously when Rod Barajas and Robinzon Diaz occupied the Jays' DH slot over the next few days.
Are some of the turnarounds we've seen in the second half of the season because teams are plating more of their baserunners? James takes a closer look.
Three months ago, I took a look at the struggles of the A's, Indians and Pirates with regards to their complete and utter inability to get runners home once they'd put them on base, a light stat called runner scoring percentage. While the Indians' offensive struggles were more a result of overall struggles (they were batting .226/.296/.379 at the time and were plating a more respectable 35.4% of their baserunners), the A's and Pirates were plating a lower percentage of their runners on base than any team since 1990, and it wasn't particularly close.
The Red Sox don't strand that many runners, given how many they get on base. The Reds continue to dismantle a snake-bitten team. The Padres appear close to acquiring Brian Giles. These and other news and notes out of Boston, Cincinnati, and San Diego in today's Prospectus Triple Play.
Microstudy: The Red Sox lost to the A's 8-6 on August 20th. But this was no ordinary loss. The Red Sox lost in one of the most frustrating ways possible--leaving 17 men on base during the game, almost two stranded per inning. The Sox seem to have a knack (or at least the reputation) for stranding runners. Despite a high-powered offense and one of the best slugging teams in history (their current .496 SLG would be the all-time record by a wide margin), the Bosox seem to have more trouble that you'd expect in plating their baserunners. But is this true, or more typical teeth-gnashing from New England fans?