“Addition by subtraction” is one of those terms that seems exclusive to sports, and more specifically to baseball. While it would seem to apply in other walks of life, you just don’t see it used very much. “Tina, you know Bob from accounting? He quit.” “Heck, that’s addition by subtraction; he never made deadlines, and he was always hitting on me.”
In baseball, however, addition by subtraction has a long and storied history. Over the past 48 hours, we may have the seen the concept have its all-time peak.
- The Angels and their sycophants can say whatever they want about the
blessed leadership of Darin Erstad. The fact is, when he went on the disabled list with a pulled right hamstring–and remember, the sole
benefit of moving him to first base was to keep him healthier–the team got
better. He was hitting .264/.294/.333 when he went down, the fourth straight
season in which he’s provided little or no value with his bat.
Casey Kotchman, called up from Double-A despite just 635
at-bats as a professional, is almost certainly a better player than Erstad
right now. He was hitting .368/.438/.544 at Arkansas, a major-league
equivalent average of .272, far outstripping Erstad’s .226. Conceding that
Kotchman’s PECOTA projection is based on a small amount of data, even his
weighted-mean projection of .236/.309/.350 would be an upgrade on what the
Halos were getting from their punter. I think his hammering of Double-A this
year indicates that he’ll out-hit that projection, especially for average.
Most importantly, Kotchman has managed to go five weeks without getting
injured, nearly matching his career-high.
The Angels are a better team with Erstad on the disabled list and Kotchman in
the lineup. Erstad is a replacement-level first baseman, and until the Angels
move him back to center field or into a reserve role, they’re going to be
- Working our way east, we find the newly unemployed Jimmy
Haynes, released Monday by the Reds. I don’t know that you would have
seen this type of move five years ago, but teams are becoming more willing to
rid themselves of sunk costs. That’s one of the less-heralded real-world
impacts of performance analysis.
Haynes is just a bad pitcher, a tremendous example of why you should never
judge one based on his win total. After being credited with 15 Ws in 2002–a
year in which he posted basically the same peripheral stats he’d had in in his
8-17 2001 campaign–the Reds dubbed him a solution and signed him to a two-year
deal worth $5 million. From that point until yesterday’s release, Haynes
allowed 91 runs in 109 1/3 innings.
The Reds have rid themselves of a mistake, one that pushed them further from
respectability every time he took the mound. Presumably, they won’t settle for
Todd Van Poppel in that rotation spot, and whichever of their
young, effective starters at Louisville comes up and takes the role–I’d lean
towards Matt Belisle on performance–will be a big upgrade of
- Also on Monday, the Pirates received the news that Raul
Mondesi was planning to take the rest of the season off, the suitably
bizarre end to Mondesi’s strange trip though the headlines this spring.
Embroiled in a lawsuit with a former coach over money that was supposedly
promised to him, Mondesi didn’t receive his first few paychecks from the
Pirates, the team instead putting them into an escrow account. That situation
ended last week, but over the weekend, Mondesi left the team for the Dominican
Republic, and has apparently decided to stay there.
Unlike the other two guys, Mondesi wasn’t performly that badly this year,
hitting .283/.355/.424. Having him around, though, created a logjam for a team
with a lot of corner players vying for at-bats, and Lloyd McClendon wasn’t
going to take playing time from one of his Proven Veterans to find out if,
say, J.J. Davis could become the player that Mondesi is now.
With Mondy gone, the immediate effect is that Craig Wilson is
assured of his starting spot for the first time in his Pirates career. Davis
may get a chance to carve out a greater role for himself, especially if
Tike Redman continues to post a .240 OBP, with Jason
Bay picking up time in center field. If Davis falters, erstwhile
prospect Tony Alvarez and erstwhiler prospect Ruben
Mateo are both vying for a call-up from Triple-A Nashville.
All of these players are close to Mondesi in value right now, and all have
more chance to improve over the next two seasons than Mondesi did. The Pirates
are better for his decision, unexpected though it was, and have a chance to
get real benefit from his departure.
- Finally, the Cubs released Double-A right-hander Ben
Christensen over the weekend. This wouldn’t be notable–Christensen
has a career ERA of 4.55 and never got past the Southern League–except for how
Christensen’s college career ended. In April 1999, the Wichita State product
threw a warmup pitch into the face of Evansville second baseman Anthony
Molina. Molina was 25 feet from home plate at the time, never saw the throw
coming and has suffered debilitating vision problems since the incident.
The act was made worse by Christensen’s lack of remorse in its aftermath.
While he eventually offered half-hearted apologies, and reached an
out-of-court settlement with Molina that paid his target an unspecified amount
of money, his stance, and the stance of the Wichita State staff, at the time
was that Molina’s effort to “time” pitches from the on-deck circle
warranted having a 90 m.p.h. fastball hurled in his direction. Neither
Christensen nor Shockers coach Gene Stephenson ever received appropriate
punishment for their actions that day, while Molina is forced to live with the
results for the rest of his life.
Baseball won’t miss Ben Christensen, who was responsible for one of the
ugliest moments in the game’s history and never quite grasped that he wasn’t
the victim of it. For everyone who loves the game, his release is addition by