The Florida Marlins have been in the news quite a bit lately. Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera have arrived in Miami with great fanfare, with Willis’ performance being one of the reasons the Marlins can still consider themselves in the playoff hunt. More recently, Florida parted with three prospects, including former number one overall pick Adrian Gonzalez, to acquire Ugueth Urbina. The Marlins were willing to part with Gonzalez because of the presence of Jason Stokes, also a first baseman whom the Marlins view in a more positive light. However, one name who has been kept out of the spotlight is Jeremy Hermida, who just may be the Marlins best hitting prospect, and one of the more unheralded young players in the game.
At the end of January, I was fortunate enough to sit down and talk with executives from a couple of clubs, and reader response was heavy and extremely positive. So we’ve imposed once again on the executive of the AL Club who was so generous with his time back in January, and here’s what he had to say as we approach the final third of the season.
Bill Stoneman and Mike Scioscia get rewarded for 2002. The Indians and Rangers swap pitching prospect for hitting prospect. The Yankees grab Armando Benitez in a non-Sierran move. The Jays get a steal in Stewart-for-Kielty. These and other tidbits, plus a full array of Kahrlisms, in this edition of Transaction Analysis.
Much of the medhead buzz of the day has come around the widely reported declaration that Trevor Hoffman would like to return this year and pitch for the Padres. This goes on the list of things that might happen, but aren’t real likely, like winning the Powerball, being given the keys to my dream car, or having Sarah Michelle Gellar realize that Freddy Prinze Jr. is a tool and that she’d much rather spend time at the ballpark with me. The fact is that Hoffman’s return is slightly more likely than my fantasies, but it’s not something I’d count on either. Hoffman, at best, could put in a cameo appearance to close out Qualcomm and concentrate on being ready for 2004.
Jack Wilson left the Pirates game Thursday with a strained groin. There’s no word at deadline regarding the severity, so keep an eye on this to see how the Pirates will deal with it. Jose Hernandez gives Lloyd McLendon some options in the infield. If Pokey Reese is able to return in mid-August as planned, the Pirates will have…well, they’ll still have a big mess on the field, but Dave Littlefield at least seems to realize it.
Zach Day has rejoined the Expos and will likely be activated in time for a weekend start. Day is coming back from a small tear in his rotator cuff, but he’s had a very successful and incident-free rehab. I’m still quite worried about the short amount of time it took him to come back, but I’ll give a lot of credit to the Expos staff–they’ve been on the ball all year long.
The received sabermetric wisdom is that the breakeven point on stolen bases is a success rate of 67%; if you’re above that, you’re adding runs; if you’re not, you’re just hurting yourself. Now, that’s a broad stroke; for one, the run environment of the early 21st century is high enough to change the relative values of the base and the out, meaning that you want to be at least in the low 70s. For another, all situations are not created equal. Sometimes, you try and steal second base with a slower runner with two outs and a singles hitter up, especially in a close game. On the other hand, there’s little sense in trying to steal with no one out and a power hitter at the plate, even with the love child of Tim Raines and Carlos Beltran edging off of first.
The general point is that you can’t evaluate stolen bases in a vacuum. You have to consider the costs of the times you get caught stealing, and that cost is about twice the benefit of the stolen base. Regardless of how you adjust the numbers, though, there’s no way that the Tigers aren’t killing themselves on the bases with their 54% success rate. Had they never attempted a steal all year, they’d be a better offensive team for it.
Now, you’ll see this a lot with bad teams, especially bad teams that can’t hit. The general notion is that if you can’t hit you might as well run, in order to “make something happen.” The Marlins are doing this with a bit more success this year: they have an MLB-leading 108 stolen bases. Because they’ve been caught 45 times, however, all their running hasn’t amounted to much on the scoreboard; maybe an extra win, total.
The Indians front office is taking management advice from Charles Nagy. Guillermo Mota has been outstanding for the Dodgers. And any way you slice it, Jeff Cirillo has been a bust in the truest sense of the word. All this and much more news from Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Seattle in your Friday edition of Prospectus Triple Play.
What I thought was interesting was the reaction to the Cubs’ end of the deal.
Tuesday night, I heard Betsy Ross praise the swap on SportsCenter, lauding the addition of Lofton’s veteran
leadership. She mentioned that the Cubs hadn’t been to the
postseason since 1998, which I supposed might have had some relevance in a
world where Marvin Miller was elected to public office in 1964 instead of
getting into baseball.
That kind of “analysis” trickles down. Yesterday afternoon, my good
friend Matt called from Boston to ask what his beloved Sawks might be doing in
the trade market. In the course of the conversation, he more or less repeated
the line about Lofton’s impact on the Cubs’ clubhouse.
I think the idea that the Cubs need veteran leadership is a crock. Take a look
at their lineup. On most days, they start old people at four positions,
including two players with World Series rings (Moises Alou
and Damian Miller) and another, Sammy Sosa,
who has some occasional experience in dealing with baseball-related pressure.
Was Eric Karros sitting around wetting himself over the idea
that he might not be able to perform in August and September, desperately
hoping the Cubs would acquire someone who could teach him?
OK, so it might not have been the most controversial thing he’s said this month–even our intrepid Derek Zumsteg didn’t dare sweat out this Dusty Baker gem. But the Cubbie manager also made the claim that older players fare better in the second half.
Dusty’s claim has at least some grounding in his own experience–under his management, the veteran-laden Giants were markedly better in the second half in both 2002 and 2000, and marginally better in 2001. (Over the course of his entire tenure, the record is far more ambiguous: in Dusty’s 10 seasons at the helm, the Giants played .535 ball before the first of July, and .546 after it). While the Cubs’ second half didn’t get off to a great start with the injuries to Corey Patterson and Mark Prior, it’d sure be nice to see them still in the race come September. The acquisitions of Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton have the Wrigley faithful in a frenzy; will Baker prove to be a sage or a charlatan?
Not to ruin the fun or anything, but this is a testable claim. By comparing the first and second half performances of players of various ages, we can see which ones really perform best down the stretch.
There seems to be some sort of cosmic injury analysis karma at work some weeks; when I write a ton one night, I usually get a slow day later in the week. For every burst of writing that surrounds a flurry of injuries, there are slow nights where I can sit around watching baseball rather than staring at my phone, waiting for someone to call and give me bad news. I have a dream that one day, there are a complete complement of games and not a single injury. I don’t think that anywhere in the geometry and art of baseball there can be a way to completely avoid traumatic injuries, but my dream day is possible. It will take great medical staffs throughout baseball, well-conditioned players, a lot of education, and a bit of luck, but it’s possible.
The Diamondbacks’ Brandon Webb offers another data point in the case for home run-preventing minor league pitchers succeeding in the majors. Royals staff ace Darrell May continues the success he had in Japan. The Phillies’ Rheal Cormier was the best reliever in the National League in the first half…for rheal. These and other news and notes out of Arizona, Kansas City, and Philadelphia in today’s Prospectus Triple Play.
You’ve heard it all before: “We’re comfortable with our team,” “We’re going to go to battle with what we have,” or the best one of ’em all, “We don’t want to tamper with success.”
No matter how you slice it, though, each one of those phrases translates into the same thing: “Yes, we know we’ve got some gaping holes, but we don’t want to make a trade because we’re cheap, or we don’t think we’ll make it to the playoffs anyway.”
Dave Van Horne broadcasted baseball games for the Montreal Expos for 32 years, from the club’s inception in 1969 through to the Jeffrey Loria era. Since then he’s moved on to become play-by-play man for the Florida Marlins, where a new generation of fans have heard him use his trademark “Up, Up, and Away” home run call. In Part I of BP’s chat with Van Horne, we discussed breaking into baseball, calling the game, and a few pages of Expos history.