I promise I’ll talk about things other than my Scoresheet Baseball team once the season starts. It’s just that, well, this is what’s on my mind at the moment.
As previouslynoted, I’m participating in this year’s BP Kings league. We started our spring draft not long ago (we’re wrapping up round 16 as I write this), and… it’s been interesting, as drafts tend to be. You make plans, prepare for different scenarios, and then watch as things unfold in ways you couldn’t have imagined. It’s the best.
Anyway, I had cut down to five veteran players, which meant that I started drafting in the sixth round (first full round is the 11th). Here are the first 20 picks of the draft:
Pete McCarthy: Aroldis Chapman
Pete McCarthy: Derek Holland
Pete McCarthy: Jose Lopez
Pete McCarthy: Edwin Encarnacion
Geoff Young: Kyle Blanks — I adore Blanks, have since he was in A-ball; yeah, Petco Park, but you should see where he hits baseballs
Geoff Young: Rickie Weeks — I was hoping to get either Lopez or Weeks; maybe this will be the year he puts it together… or not
Pete McCarthy: Yadier Molina
Pete McCarthy: Brandon Morrow
Geoff Young: Jhonny Peralta — Last year’s decline is scary, but he’s young, he’s shortstop eligible, and he’s had some nice seasons in the past
Geoff Young: Marcos Scutaro — Because I don’t really believe what I just said about Peralta
Bill Baer: Ben Sheets
Jeff Angus/Grant Sterling: Bobby Abreu
Jeff Erickson: Jorge delaRosa
Pete McCarthy: Trevor Cahill
Jay Jaffe: Andy Pettitte
Jay Jaffe: Ryan Doumit
Pete McCarthy: Anibal Sanchez
Jeff Erickson: Cody Ross
Jeff Angus/Grant Sterling: Placido Polanco
Bill Baer: Raul Ibanez
And my next picks:
Justin Masterson — I’m probably too big a fan from having watched him in college
Andy LaRoche — As with Peralta and Scutaro at shortstop, I doubled up early at third base (I’d protected Kevin Youkilis); this gives me some flexibility and keeps me out of the mad scramble for lousy-hitting utility infielders that inevitably comes in a deep league
Rafael Soriano — I didn’t need another reliever, but he shouldn’t have lasted until the end of the 12th round
Delmon Young — This is crazy stupid, but I need to take some risks; either he’ll continue to hack at everything and be useless or he’ll figure out what he’s supposed to be doing with all that talent
Randy Wells — Here’s hoping his rookie performance wasn’t a fluke
Mike Wuertz — I’m a little uncomfortable being this pitching heavy so early in the draft, but I have a hard time separating the available options at positions of need so I’m hoping others will help me decide; plus I love Wuertz’s strikeout numbers
Melky Cabrera — He has center field range, he’s young enough to improve, and he won’t bat higher than eighth for me
Lyle Overbay — I’d fully intended to grab another outfielder here, but there were too many to choose from and only a couple of first basemen I liked; at least two or three of my outfield targets should still be available at my next pick
I won’t give you a blow-by-blow of the entire draft, but I will pop in from time to time. If you’d like to follow along, thanks to the magic of the Internet, you can do just that.
A while back, I was invited to join the BP Kings Scoresheet Baseball league. As a refresher, the league is set up in a “24-team, split AL/NL format that allows interleague trading.”
Seven new owners came onboard this winter, and we recently concluded our dispersal draft, in which each of us procured talent (or some approximation thereof) from the pool of players left behind by the vacated teams. The draft lasted 16ish rounds (some folks just couldn’t stop making picks), and aside from missing out on Brian Matusz and Anthony Slama (go Toreros!), I’m reasonably satisfied with my effort.
Easy for me to say in January. I may be singing a different tune come August. Or, let’s be honest, come May.
I won’t bore you with the entire draft, but here’s how the first two rounds unfolded:
Casey Stern: Evan Longoria
Matthew Pouliot: Prince Fielder
Pete McCarthy: Zach Greinke
Rob McQuown: Ryan Zimmerman
Matthew Leach: Dan Haren
Bill Baer: C.C. Sabathia
Geoff Young: Roy Halladay
Geoff Young: Kevin Youkilis
Bill Baer: Ryan Howard
Matthew Leach: Cliff Lee
Rob McQuown: Yovani Gallardo (traded to King Kaufman/Rob Granick for Aramis Ramirez, Ervin Santana, Michael Bourn, and Angel Salome)
Pete McCarthy: Justin Morneau
Matthew Pouliot: Jose Reyes
Casey Stern: Robinson Cano
And this is what my team looks like:
Daniel Bard (rookie)
Carlos Rosa (rookie)
Tony Sipp (rookie)
I ended up with an old team because that’s where the “soft spots” were in this draft. Most owners placed a premium (and rightfully so) on younger players with upside, so I largely ignored age, focusing instead on reliability.
On the pitching side, I took a fairly early flier on Billingsley, hoping he’ll rebound. He is young, and his home park helps, so I like my chances on that gamble.
And although I normally shy away from protecting relievers (especially in a soft 10, where we can keep a maximum of 10 non-rookie players but draft earlier if we keep fewer), there are exceptions: Papelbon is one of them. Yeah, it’s only 60-70 innings, but the guy is an out machine.
With the rookies, I passed on higher profile prospects and went with players who can help now. I’m hoping for 100 innings of 4.50 ERA from Bard, Rosa, and Sipp combined. That doesn’t sound like much, but the cost of keeping rookies (picks at the very end of the spring draft) is minimal when compared with what is typically available in the draft that late. (Last year’s draft had Jason Frasor as an end-game steal, but it also “featured” Matt Albers, Jose Molina, Matt Tolbert, and Dewayne Wise.) The way I figure, if those three rookies are who I think they are, that’s two picks I don’t have to blow on Kyle Farnsworth clones.
As for the hitters, I ignored position scarcity, going with the best lineup I could find. My team is on the AL side so I get to employ a DH. I’ll take a defensive hit for that outfield, but their production should make up for it.
My focus in the spring draft will be on catchers and middle infielders. I’ll probably pay more attention to defense with them since most of the good offensive performers at those positions will be gone already and to make up for my brutal outfield.
I fully expect some of my hitters to fall off the proverbial cliff. I’m feeling good about Youkilis, but out of those other five guys, my guess is that two or three won’t perform as well as I’d like (no clue which ones, of course, although Ibanez would seem to be a good candidate). That’s the risk I’ve assumed, and I’m okay with it. My strategy is basically the flip side of “this guy is young, I hope he gets better,” which is “this guy is old, I hope he doesn’t get worse.”
It might not work. Then again, it might. Either way, this should be fun.
Back at the end of August, our friends at ESPN tasked me with building an MVP predictor in the spirit of a system such as Bill James’ Hall of Fame Monitor, one that awards points for various accomplishments in an attempt to identify who will win as opposed to who should win. Limiting my scope to the post-strike timeframe to take advantage of the fact that none of the ensuing winners were pitchers, that all of them save for the 2003 version of Alex Rodriguez came from teams that finished above .500, and that 22 of the 28 hailed from teams that qualified for the expanded postseason, I built a carefully-gerrymandered system—Jaffe’s Ugly MVP Predictor (JUMP)—that “predicted” 14 winners, and put 27 out of 28 winners in its top three in points for that year.
Getting any closer on the direct hits proved impossible (at least for me), because over the 1995-2008 span, the voters were only so predictable. Nonetheless, certain tendencies made it easier to identify the top candidates, enabling me to rack up secondary hits in all but one election. Instead of focusing on the round-numbered benchmarks typical of a Jamesian system (30 homers, 100 RBI, etc.), I focused on league rankings among batting title qualifiers in key offensive categories, discarding anything that didn’t have the power to predict a player into that top three. To a bit of my surprise and disappointment, on-base percentage fell by the wayside in the process—one simply can’t do a better job of predicting voter behavior by taking it into account. The categories ultimately found to have some bearing on prediction were as follows: batting average, slugging percentage, home runs, total bases, runs, RBI, intentional walks and stolen bases. Additionally, player position and team success carried significant bonuses which had a major impact on winnowing the field of candidates, with middle infielders getting a boost, and designated hitters a penalty. Team success generated points for three levels of accomplishment, a .500 record, a wild card, or a division title. Playing for the Colorado Rockies carried an additional penalty.
Ultimately, the one player who slipped through the cracks—who didn’t make the top three in his league in points, but won an MVP award during the timeframe—was the one who appeared at that juncture to have some bearing on the 2009 AL MVP race: Ivan Rodriguez in 1999. I could come up with no positional or team bonus which could explain his election in what was an unusually crowded field; Pudge ranked 10th in JUMP points but won an especially close election. At the time of the article’s publication, Joe Mauer was leading the AL in all three triple-slash categories (as he did at season’s end), but because the Twins were a game under .500, he wasn’t anywhere close to the top three in points; I could figure out no bonus for catcher that didn’t upset the rest of the system’s historical “predictions.” One need only to remember the 2006 vote, when teammate Justin Morneau received 15 first place votes and won, while Mauer finished a distant sixth, to appreciate the fact that recent voters haven’t awarded backstops any extra credit for their position. Mind you, that was not at all to suggest Mauer wasn’t worthy of winning (a point initially misunderstood by a few readers) but simply that it would have been an anomaly given 1995-2008 voting patterns. Instead, the system identified Mark Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera and Chone Figgins as the three frontrunners for the award.
The Twins, as you’ll recall, did pull it together long enough to make the playoffs, providing Mauer with enough points to crack the final top three; he ranks between Teixeira and Derek Jeter. The Yankee first baseman, whose anointment by Tyler Kepner as the obvious frontrunner touched off the debate which led to my piece, led the league in homers, total bases and RBI while playing for a division winner—a set of accomplishments that are usually enough to garner the trophy, at least in years when a catcher doesn’t hit .365. With the voting to be announced today, however, there’s little doubt that Mauer will actually win; the question is more whether he’ll do so unanimously. While he won’t count as a direct hit on JUMP, he’ll keep the system’s secondary hit total intact.
As for the NL, the top three in order are Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, the same as they were back in late August. Pujols’ league lead in slugging, homers, total bases, runs, and intentional walks (not to mention top-three finishes in batting average and RBI) while playing for a division winner should be enough to carry the day, and to keep the JUMP system’s 50 percent rate of direct hits intact.
A quick list of those direct hits, for anyone interested:
1997: Ken Griffey
1998: Juan Gonzalez
2000: Jason Giambi
2003: Alex Rodriguez
2004: Vladimir Guerrero
2005: Alex Rodriguez
2007: Alex Rodriguez
2008: Dustin Pedroia
1996: Ken Caminiti
1998: Sammy Sosa
1999: Chipper Jones
2002: Barry Bonds
2003: Barry Bonds
2005: Albert Pujols
Pre-game tidbits from Game 2 of the World Series between the Phillies and Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg:
Phillies: Rollins SS, Werth RF, Utley 2B, Howard 1B, Burrell LF, Victorino CF, Dobbs DH, Feliz 3B, Ruiz C, Myers P
Rays: Iwamura 2B, Upton CF, Pena 1B, Longoria 3B, Crawford LF, Floyd DH, Navarro C, Baldelli RF, Bartlett SS, Shields P
–Phillies manager Charlie Manuel had a choice between left-handed hitters Greg Dobbs and Matt Stairs to serve as the designated hitter against Rays right-hander James Shields and chose Dobbs.
Manuel toyed with the idea of using Stairs as the DH and playing Dobbs at third base in place of right-handed hitting Pedro Feliz but decided against it because of defensive concerns. Manuel also decided to keep Stairs on the bench because he is 3-for-20 with one home run, two walks and five strikeouts in his career against Shields.
“With the quickness of the infield in this ballpark, I just like Feliz’s defense better at third base, especially since Dobbs hasn’t played on turf in two years,” Manuel said.
–OF Gabe Gross was the Rays’ primary right fielder through the first two rounds of the postseason but he has been marginalized so far in the World Series. Manager Joe Maddon opted to start right-handed hitting Rocco Baldelli against Phillies right-hander Brett Myers in Game 2 instead of the left handed-hitting Gross after giving switch-hitting infielder Ben Zobrist just his second career start in right field in Game 1.
Baldelli hit .219/.286/.438 in 35 plate appearances against right-handers in the regular season as opposed to .292/.382/.500 in 55 plate appearances against left-handers. However, Gross is hitting .063/.211/063 in 19 plate appearances during the postseason.
–The Rays played an extreme defensive shift against the Phillies’ top two left-handed hitters, 1B Ryan Howard and 2B Chase Utley, in Game 1 and Maddon said that will likely continue throughout the World Series. Howard routinely saw three infielders stationed on the right side of the infield with the third baseman behind second base in the regular season but teams rarely played Utley that way.
“It’s based on information, all the stuff we were able to acquire during the course of the year,” Maddon said. “We’re very extensive. If you look at the spray charts and notice that balls are not hit in a certain area, why cover it? And you see the ones that are inundated with red lines (indicating batted balls), why don’t you cover it more? You utilize all this stuff to attempt to put your guys in the best position to make a play based on the high-percentage chance of where the batter is going to hit the ball.”
–The Rays became the fourth consecutive team to lose in their World Series debut when they dropped Game 1 on Wednesday night, joining the 2007 Rockies, 2005 Astros and 2002 Angels.
–Only four teams have won Game 1 of the World Series and been swept in the next four games but it has happened to the Phillies twice, in 1915 against the Red Sox and 1983 against the Orioles. The others were the 1942 Yankees against the Cardinals and 1969 Orioles against the Mets.
–Only three teams have lost the first two games at home and gone on to win a World Series _ the 1985 Royals, 1986 Mets and 1996 Yankees.
–Game 2 marks the 600th World Series game played to a decision. It will actually be the 603rd World Series game played overall but three ended in ties _ Game 1 in 1907 between the Cubs and Tigers, Game 2 in 192 between the Giants and Red Sox and Game 2 in 1922 between the Giants and Yankees.
–Philles left-hander Cole Hamels became the fourth pitcher to win Game 1 of three series in a single postseason, joining John Smoltz of the 1996 Braves, David Wells of the 1998 Yankees and Josh Beckett of the 2002 Red Sox. Meanwhile, Phillies right-hander Brett Myers is trying to win a Game 2 for the third time in this postseason tonight. No team has ever had a pair of pitchers win both Games 1 and 2 of three series in the same postseason.
–Hamels and Rays left-hander Scott Kazmir, both 24, because just the third pair of starting pitchers in Game 1 of the World Series under the age of 25. The other pairs were the Red Sox’ Smoky Joe Wood (22) and Giants’ Jeff Tesreau (23) in 1912 and Orioles’ Jim Palmer (24) and Reds’ Gary Nolan (22) in 1970. Hamels was the third-youngest pitcher to win a Game 1 behind Livan Hernandez (22) with the 1997 Marlins and Bob Walk (23) with the 1980 Phillies.
–The Phillies are 80-0 this season when leading after eight innings, including 8-0 in the postseason.
–The Phillies went 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position in Game 1, the most at bats without a hit in those situations ever in a World Series game. The old mark was 0-for-12 by the Royals in Game 5 in 1980 against the Phillies.
–Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins and Howard were a combined 0-for-9 with five strikeouts in Game 1, the first time in five seasons as major-league teammates that the duo went hitless in nine-or-more at bats with five strikeouts in a game.
–No player has ever hit a home run in his first regular-season and World Series at bat but Dobbs could do so tonight. Dobbbs homered for the Mariners on Sept. 8, 2004 off the Indians’ Bob Wickman in his major-league debut.
–General David Petraeus, incoming commander of the U.S. Central Command, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
–The biggest lineup surprise is Ben Zobrist playing right field for the Rays. The switch-hitting infielder has started in right only once before in his three major-league seasons, on May 28 this year against the Rangers, and has played the position just three times, including in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Red Sox after pinch hitting for Gabe Gross.
Rocco Baldelli usually plays right field against left-handed starters and manager Joe Maddon also had rookie switch-hitting speedster Fernando Perez as an option but decided Zobrist was a better matchup against Phillies ace left-hander Cole Hamels. Zobrist’s splits this season were .269/.356/.449 in 90 plate appearances against lefties and .239/.328/.538 in 134 plate appearances against right-handers.
“I guess without getting too smart but getting smarter, we look at the way Hamels pitches and the way different guys in the lineup hit and pitches they are to handle,” Maddon said. “Zoey has been getting work in the outfield and he did great for us in the last week of the (regular) season. Maybe there is a little concern about the defense but we had a pretty in-depth discussion amongst the coaching staff and everybody felt good about it.”
Zobrist has played 21 career games in the outfield, all this season.
–Phillies manager Charlie Manuel decided on using Chris Coste, his best right-handed hitter on the bench, with left-hander Scott Kazmir starting for the Rays, even though that leaves him without a backup catcher on the bench behind Carlos Ruiz.
“I’ve taken my catcher out quite a bit this year and especially when Coste is catching, I’ll put Ruiz in, sometime in the eighth or ninth inning, especially to catch (closer Brad) Lidge,” Manuel said. “As far as Coste DHing, I did think a lot about it but I wanted to make sure I could cover everything. Most of the time when Coste is in the game, I’ll pinch run for him later in the game or I might hit a left-handed hitter for him.”
Indeed, according to crack _ and quick _ research by BP’s Joe Sheehan who is also here at the World Series, Manuel left himself without a backup catcher 32 times during the regular season as he pinch hit for Coste 22 times and pinch hit or pinch ran for Ruiz 13 times. While that adds up to 35, three of those games came after the September roster expansion when rookie catcher Lou Marson was also available.
–Both teams have decided to keep the same rosters they used during the League Championship Series and will carry 11 pitchers.
–With Hamels facing Kazmir, it marks the first time two left-handers have started Game 1 of the World Series since the Yankees Andy Pettitte faced the Mets’ Al Leiter in 2000.
–The Rays are the fifth team to make their World Series debut since 2001, joining the Diamondbacks (2001), Angels (2002), Astros (2005) and Rockies (2007).
–The team with home-field advantage has won 18 of the last 22 World Series with the exceptions coming in 1992 (Blue Jays over Braves), 1999 (Yankees over Braves), 2003 (Marlins over Yankees) and 2006 (Cardinals over Tigers)
–Eight different clubs have occupied the eight World Series slots in the last four years and 15 of the major leagues’ 30 clubs have been to the Fall Classic in the last 10 years.
–The Phillies have had six days off since beating the Dodgers in five games in the National League Championship Series. Since 1988, 11 teams have had a layoff of at least five days before the World Series and seven of them have gone on to win.
–The Rays are the first team to have the first pick in the first-year player draft and play in the World Series in the same year. The Rays selected shortstop Tim Beckham with the top pick.
–For the first time since 2003, the World Series is taking place exclusively in the Eastern time zone.
–St. Petersburg councilman Bob Stewart, known throughout this region as “Mr. Baseball” because he was instrumental to the creation of the Florida Suncoast Dome (now known as Tropicana Field) and a key member of the team that brought major-league baseball to Tampa Bay, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
The old cliché is that you can go to a game and chances are you’ll see something you never saw before. On the same level, when you sit with the scouts, you can learn something you never knew. I attended last night’s game between Low-A Kane County and Burlington. It was a relatively uneventful game on a prospect level, but then in the fourth inning, something cool happened. Looking at the play-by-play of the game, it’s simply put, “Mike Moustakas flies out to center fielder Corey Brown.” In reality it was a majestic thing. By the time it came down there was a four-man committee standing in short-short center with the two middle infielders, the center fielder, and the left fielder all having enough time to vote on who should catch it and sign a declaration declaring so before Corey Brown put his glove up to snag it in. One veteran baseball man turned to me and said, “How many kids in this league can hit a pop-up like that in this league? That’s pretty special.” It sounded strange at first, but then I learned that it really was special. Talking later that night to a scout, I learned that many of them time pop-ups and it helps them measure raw power. They’re already starting their stopwatches on the crack of the bat to time the batters’ speed to first, so they leave it on and measure to time in the air of the pop flies. If you get past seven seconds, you’re getting into Mark McGwire territory. The more you know…
Currently in his third season with the Diamondbacks, Orlando Hudson is one of the best defensive infielders in the game, capturing Gold Gloves at second base in each of the past three seasons. While Gold Gloves are sometimes awarded more on undeserved reputation than on merit, Hudson has earned his hardware, regularly rating among the league best in defensive metrics such as range factor and zone ratings.
David Laurila: How would you describe Orlando Hudson the baseball player?
Orlando Hudson: I’m an OK baseball player. I’m not going to say that I’m good, or that I’m average, I’m just going to say that I’m an OK baseball player. I think that defensively I’ve developed over the years. I was always a hitter in the minor leagues – not one of the defensive guys — but I developed defensive things over the years. Having an infield coach like Brian Butterfield when I was in Toronto was a huge help to me.
DL: Do you think that defense is underappreciated by most baseball fans?
OH: No, not by real fans like you’ll find in places like Boston, Chicago, St. Louis and both New Yorks. They know the game well, so they know how important defense is.
DL: There are defensive reputations and there are defensive metrics. How much disconnect do you feel there is between the two?
OH: I have no clue, man, as to how that is perceived; I don’t know how it’s looked at. I don’t know if there’s a guy sitting up there saying, “This guy has more range than this one.” I just go out there and play.
DL: I’m referring, in part, to whether some players arguably deserve Gold Gloves more than the guys who actually win them, primarily because of the difference between perception and actual value.
OH: There are definitely some guys out there who made one or two errors and won the Gold Glove, but it’s one of those things, man. It’s definitely a great award to win, but there are a lot of guys who definitely should have won one that haven’t won any yet. But beyond that, I can’t really say.
DL: Who are some of the more underrated defensive infielders in the game?
OH: I think Mark Ellis – man, he’s a great defensive player. Brandon Phillips of the Reds is a great defensive player. Chase Utley – great. Dan Uggla – another great defensive player. There are quite a few guys. Don’t get me wrong, they get notice that they make the plays, that they make the routine plays. Obviously they haven’t brought home Gold Gloves yet, but that’s not saying they won’t, because they have potential to definitely bring home Gold Gloves. It’s just one of those things. I’m not saying that people don’t appreciate them for their defense, but some guys put up so many power offensive numbers — they’re great defensive players too.
DL: When you look at your defensive numbers, which ones mean the most to you?
OH: Errors. I have a lot of silly errors, like maybe you throw the ball home and it kicks off the catcher or something, and the runner advances, and it’s an error. I try to keep my limit every year, but I always seem to go over it. But it’s just part of the game that’s going to happen; we’re not perfect.
DL: Do you pay attention to things like Range Factors and Zone Ratings?
OH: No, I just go out there and play. I don’t pay attention to Range Factors or Zone Ratings, no.
DL: Some players are said to have “soft hands.” Is that something innate, or can it be developed?
OH: I think that’s something natural, and I don’t have soft hands. It’s just a God-given talent that you’re born with, and I’m not one of those guys. But it’s the way you field the ball, how you see the hops, and how you play the hops the right way – and you’re not going to play every hop the right way – and the way you see the ball come off the bat and get around it to get in position to get off a good throw to first base.
DL: Can you say a little about the relative value of scouting reports and reacting to how the ball comes off the bat?
OH: Part of it depends on the way the guy is pitching that day, whether he’s throwing a guy inside or out. And if it’s a power pitcher like a Roger Clemens, and you’ve got a guy like David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez at the plate, the ball is going to come off a little harder than usual. In that case, I’d obviously play back a little deeper to get a better read of the ball if it comes to me. So it’s definitely knowing your hitter and knowing your pitcher.
DL: Do you pay a lot of attention to reports?
OH: I do a little bit, but I’ve been around both leagues, so I pretty much know the hitters and go more by feel now.
DL: Do you view Omar Vizquel as a Hall of Fame player?
OH: I think that Omar Vizquel is a Hall of Fame player, because he’s much like Ozzie Smith, who was such a superb, superb defensive player. He’s not going to hit for power, but he’ll go get his base hits and steal you some bases. I think Omar is definitely one of the most exciting defensive players to ever play the game.
As if you weren’t watching, we had a trio of games take us down to two, with Fresno State and Georgia beginning things very soon. Here are the results.
Georgia 10, Stanford 8 (Cardinal eliminated)
North Carolina 4, Fresno State 3
Fresno State 6, North Carolina 1 (Tar Heels eliminated)
One player to watch for next season is definitely Georgia lefty Alex McRee. He came out of the bullpen to hold onto Georgia’s 9-4 lead over Stanford, and while it wasn’t his best outing, he flashed some good stuff. The first thing that strikes you about McRee is his projectability — he’s 6-6, with probably 20 pounds to gain. So that fastball that sits at 88-90 now, and touches 92? Maybe it can add 2-3 mph. His breaking ball probably isn’t a plus pitch right now because he gets around it too much, but it definitely showed potential, especially on a strikeout of Randy Molina. I think the biggest problems scouts will have about McRee will be concern about varying arm slots, and it’s not like his 3/4 normal slot is ideal, anyway. However, if he hits the weight room and tightens up the curveball, he’s a good sleeper to really help the Bulldogs and get drafted on the first day next season.
A look at Justin Wilson’s line would probably get someone to think the Fresno State lefty had big stuff, just didn’t know how to harness it. Six walks and six strikeouts in five innings? Well, that doesn’t really tell the story, as I think those numbers were a combination of Wilson being too careful and North Carolina being too aggressive. In actuality, Wilson is a big-bodied lefty with no projectability, who’s going to be what he is now — up to 90 mph, with a nice curveball that he likes to backdoor. He’s a fast worker, and as we’ve seen, he’s got a lot of guys. But I can’t imagine why the Pirates drafted him so high, because there isn’t much of a ceiling on this kid, and there’s not relief to fall back on.
I loath to make this comparison, because statistically, it makes little sense — but when I watch Dustin Ackley, I can’t help but reminded of a left-handed Ryan Theriot. Similar good contact hitter, similar inside-out swing, similar speed, and similar weight. The difference, I think — thanks to two inches, a left-handed bat and a swing that isn’t quite-so one-plane — is that Ackley should boast slugging percentages above .400 in the Major Leagues. And to see why I didn’t want to make this comparison, for full disclosure sake, here are their first two seasons, side-by-side.
It’s no secret to anyone here in Omaha anymore why Fresno State has made it this far – converting balls into outs. Their infield is the best one in Omaha by a country mile. Friday, Alan Ahmady made one of the players of the tournament, with a sliding catch against the wall on a foul out, and then jumping up and throwing out a tagging Dustin Ackley. Today, both middle infielders – Danny Muno and Erik Wetzel – went deep, deep into the hole to make outs; Muno to his right, Wetzel to his left. But the real star is Tommy Mendonca, who has a striking resemblance to Mike Lowell in terms of looks, but also plays defense like the Boston third baseman. Anything hit around this kid he blocks, and he has a good, quick release to get out baserunners. At the plate, he’s a mess, a first-pitch swinger that swings through breaking balls, but he can turn on a fastball. If the coaching staff shortens his swing a touch and adds walks to his game, his defense will certainly play at the next level.
After the game, Mike Batesole said he would be “shocked if Alex White doesn’t go first in the draft next year.” It’s hyperbole, but it’s amazing what White has done. A starter all year, Mike Fox called on White in relief for three consecutive days. He didn’t have his best stuff today, but all weekend we saw a 93-96 mph fastball and a wicked slider. Steven Strasburg is in another tier, which Batesole might not realize, but Alex White certainly joins Grant Green as the guys right behind Strasburg. It will be a good year to draft in the top five, if nothing else.
I’m going Georgia in two in the championship game. But I’ve bet against Fresno all tournament and paid for it, so it certainly wouldn’t shock me to see it happen again.
As I was reminded through e-mail, not everyone plays in a league where the outfield positions are split up. To fix that, I’ve decided I will post the top ten overall outfielders here for you, sans commentary. Before I get to that though, I wanted to clear up a few other questions from e-mails I received yesterday.
First, I made the mistake of forgetting Ryan Church was actually traded for Lastings Milledge, which makes platooning them in real life somewhat difficult. The PECOTA sheet I looked at still had Church’s forecast from Washington, and it slipped my mind. Regardless, if you’re in a league where you can change your roster daily, picking up the two of them might still be a pretty solid plan, as long as you pay attention to who is playing when. It still beats most of the outfielders I would have ranked between 11-20 at that position.
Second, Curtis Granderson. I didn’t overlook him yesterday in the centerfield rankings–he was actually the guy who I was considering putting at #10 instead of Ichiro. Ichiro’s problems I recounted in yesterday’s piece, but as for Granderson’s, let me pull from another recent piece on center field:
There are problems in Granderson’s future though, if you look at both his batted-ball data and his PECOTA projection. Granderson had a .391 BABIP and a 22.1 percent liner rate last season, two numbers that would be really hard to maintain. His batting average on line drives was .846, and he also managed to hit .277 on grounders and .306 on fly balls. Those numbers are all higher than what is normal, and all of them figure to come down a bit this season. Adjusting his season line for the expected BABIP puts him at .252/.311/.502, assuming all of the missing hits are singles.
This may seem extreme, but his most updated PECOTA for 2008 forecasts a .267/.339/.467 line, which is not too far off. His value depends on how high he can bring his batting average up, and if he can’t hit more than .250-.270, he’s not going to hold anywhere near as much value as he did last year. Remember this on draft day, and let someone else make the mistake of picking him up too early or for too much of their budget.
By both BABIP regression and PECOTA, Granderson is in for a hell of a fall production wise in 2008. Is this enough to push him out of the top 10 centerfielders? If you’re following PECOTA’s advice, then probably, though you could safely swap him out with Ichiro just the same. The problem is this: center field is stacked with talent, young and old. If Granderson were a corner outfielder, he probably would have made either list. As it is, think of the #10 spot in center field as a tie of sorts between Ichiro and Granderson, depending on what your own team needs more of. Remember that the real life Granderson is probably a better player than the fantasy Granderson as well.
If I were in a situation where it was Granderson or say, Justin Upton, available to me at this year’s draft, I would take Upton. The potential upside to Upton versus what you could get with Curtis Granderson or a known quantity like say, Torii Hunter, far outweighs the comfort you get from that safer pick. Taking risks in the middle and back end of the draft is part of the way you end up with a winning team; almost anyone can successfully build a foundation for a team in the first few rounds, but those middle rounds are where you can make your mark on the season.
Here’s what many of you were asking for though, a 1-10 ranking of outfielders in general. I’m having some formatting problems here, so this is going up without the accompanying statistics. Those can be found in yesterday’s piece though.
1. Grady Sizemore
2. Matt Holliday
3. Corey Hart
4. Carlos Beltran
5. Alfonso Soriano
6. Vladimir Guerrero
7. Chris B. Young
8. Carlos Lee
9. B.J. Upton
10. Adam Dunn
Just as with yesterday, if you could guarantee Matt Kemp and Lastings Milledge 600 plate appearances, both of them would appear on this list thanks to their combination of speed and power. Next week I’ll put together the infielders list, but I have a question for the pitchers. How deep would you like to see the lists for starters? Is there any way you want them broken down? Let me know with an e-mail and I’ll see what I can put together.
Just a quick and somewhat overdue note here to publicize a rapidly approaching talk and signing to promote It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over: the Baseball Prospectus Pennant Race Book. With our editor Steven Goldman on the 15-day DL with the Dreaded Gamboo (get well soon, Steve), Clay Davenport and I will take the ball for an appearance at a site of many a frequent Washington, DC BP soirée:
Tuesday, September 4, 7:00 PM
Politics & Prose Bookstore
5015 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008
Clay will discuss the nuts and bolts of the methodology that determined which races made the book, demonstrate an exciting new method in which the Davenport Translations can be translated back into ancient Hebrew, and favor us with a brief encore of the award-winning cat-juggling technique that helped make him the toast of county fairs up and down the Eastern seaboard back in the summer of 1989.
That being a tough act to follow, I’ll be discussing a few of my favorite races from the book as well as research I’ve done on the standup comedy career of Walter Alston (whose running “No Respect” gag was stolen by Rodney Dangerfield, lock, stock and barrel). I’ll also show you how to cook a pot of Tinker and Evers’ Famous World Series Goulash that easily feeds two dozen people. Serious baseball fans know the famed Cubs middle infielders went years without talking to one another, but their synergy around the keystone was matched only in the kitchen, where their mastery of the spice rack was the inspiration for many a Franklin Pierce Adams poem.
Seriously, Steven and our former DC bureau chief Christina Kahrl have long regaled me with tales of successful bookstore appearances at Politics and Prose. While neither of them will be along for this ride, the evening will be no less full of the baseball chatter you know and love. We hope to see you there!