February, in the baseball world, is the month of predictions. Every analyst, writer, web site, undefeatable computer program, guy with a beer, and book (some better than others) will spend the next month looking over the offseason wasteland and espousing conclusions. The method behind these processes varies more widely than Johnny Depp’s acting roles; some are based purely on numbers, some purely on empirical data, some purely on names, and some purely on nothing. So what can you count on?
For one thing, you can count on me not offering you any spectacular predictions, guaranteed to be more accurate than anything on the market. If you want that, read up on BP’s own PECOTA projection system. Instead, the aim will be to lay a basic groundwork for your expectations of the consistency of basic statistics from season to season. Surmising the volatility of various metrics, and their consistency from year-to-year, is the primary goal.
The Cubs should have applied their cash toward a hitter, not Greg Maddux. The Dodgers save $3 million on a closer. The Doug Mientkiewicz signing could yet work out for the Twins. The Rangers sign Alan Mills, ensuring a World Series berth. These and other news, notes, and Kahrlisms in today’s Transaction Analysis.
Alex Rodriguez’s trade to the Yankees has elicited plenty of spirited debate on several related topics, notably what to do with Derek Jeter and his matador defense at short. Reader Mark Shirk had this to say: With an nearly imminent A-Rod to the Yankees trade, I got to thinking about how a move to 3B would affect the value of Derek Jeter. I figured out, using Clay Davenport’s equations, that a move to 3B would mean that Jeter’s RARP would drop about 4 runs over the course of a full season or roughly 154 games. However since Jeter is such a bad defensive player (-22.5 FRAA per 154 games from 2001-2003) the move might actually benefit him. Is it unreasonable to think that Jeter would be 15 runs below average as a 3B? I don’t think it is even out of the realm of potability for him to be only 10 runs below average. All told that is an 8-run gain in value for Jeter, a pretty significant sum. Am I wrong in thinking this?
Earlier this week, the Chicago Cubs tried to exorcise some demons by bringing back the one that got away. A little more than 10 years after allowing him to leave for Atlanta, they signed Greg Maddux to a two-year, $15-million contract. The deal includes a vesting option for 2006 at $9 million, one that kicks in based on Maddux’s 2005 innings pitched. Even so, the deal looks pretty good in a market where Kelvim Escobar got a guaranteed $18.75MM over three years and Andy Pettitte got more than $31 million for three seasons.
Maddux gilds one hell of a lily. The Cubs’ four returning starters were among the best front four in the game in ’03, with the rotation dragged down statistically only by the Lerchian performance of #5 man Shawn Estes. The upgrade Maddux provides over Estes is significant, but that’s not the relevant comparison. With Estes long gone, Maddux actually replaces Juan Cruz, a hard-throwing 25-year-old who has struggled to establish himself in three major-league seasons.
How do the Expos look without Vlad the Impaler? With few meaningful offseason additions, do the Giants still have what it takes for the playoffs? Is there any hope for the Blue Jays while they’re stuck in the division from Hades? All this and more from Toronto, San Francisco, and Montreal in your Friday Prospectus Triple Play.
The one young shortstop whose time was perceived to have come was Richard William Thon of the Houston Astros, “Dickie” from South Bend, Indiana. In spring training that year, The Sporting News surveyed the Astros on Thon. The shortstop’s teammates could have been expected to be supportive, but the ‘Stros were downright lavish: “When I see Dickie Thon, I see a future Hall of Famer.” – Astros GM Al Rosen. “I think Dickie has a good chance to become the MVP in our league.” – Craig Reynolds. “Dickie is the backbone of our team.” – Astros manager Bob Lillis. “I’m afraid to predict how great Dickie can become. I know I’d love to play second base for Houston the next 20 years and have Dickie by my side.” – Astros second baseman Bill Doran. “When I see Dickie play, my heart flutters in my chest like a caged bluebird trying to get free so it can sing paeans, soprano hosannas to the sparkling greatness that is the Thonster Monster.” – Phil Garner.