Archive for November 2010

Robbie Cano knows BOOM!

November 28, 2010

After a stellar MVP-esque season from the New York Yankees star second baseman, Robinson Cano, I am obligated to reflect upon his monster season and look ahead to what we can expect from him in 2011, being that he’s my boy and all.

To many, 2010 was a coming out party for Robbie Cano. While Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Derek Jeter slumped for much of the season, Robbie put the team on his back- especially in the first half- posting a line of .319/.381/.534/.389/145 with a 6.4 fWAR over the span of 160 games and 696 PA. His bWAR was 6.1, giving him an aWAR (average WAR) of 6.3 (after you round up). He set career bests in OBP, SLG, wOBA, wRC+, HR, BB%, and WAR. When award season rolled around, Robbie swept the Gold Glove/Silver Slugger awards, implying he was the best second baseman in baseball this season, and finished third in AL MVP voting. It was quite the season for a kid who not too long ago had a pathetic 0.2 fWAR during a season in which he was benched for a lack of effort.

But was 2010 really a coming out party for Cano? In 2006, his second season in the majors, he posted a 2.9 fWAR in a shortened season, but his WAR/700 was 4.0 on the nose. In 2007 he posted a 4.7 fWAR and in 2009 he had a 4.4 fWAR. So before 2010, he already had great seasons before his 27th birthday. Thus, his 2010 really shouldn’t come as a surprise. He was simply developing. Granted, there was some luck involved, as is always the case when someone has a really good or really bad season. But as he is approaching his theoretical peak years, his true talent level is rising. Which is why with a little fortune on his side, he should have been expected to improve upon his 4-5 WAR seasons.

Moreover, the UZR scale that fangraphs uses hurts him. If one were to look at his bWAR, his career WAR total would jump from 18.7 to 23.9. His WAR totals from 2005-2009 would all increase. In fact, in the three seasons I highlighted in the previous paragraphs, his WAR, in order, would jump to 4.1, 5.6, and 5.1. That’s two near MVP level seasons instead of “simply” great seasons. The reason being defense.

UZR has Cano has a -36.8 fielder over the life of his career. Rally has him as a +31 fielder. I prefer UZR so I put more stock in those numbers, but DSR has him at -3 for his career. They say UZR needs to be paired with your eyes and the last two years, according to the FSR, he has been +13. UZR has him at -3.4 over the past two years and DSR has him at +14. I think it’s safe to say that Robbie has been and is an average-above average fielder, NOT the terrible fielder that UZR thinks he is. So his fWAR actually undermines Robbie’s defensive value, and thus, his overall value. If you to replace UZR with DSR, Robbie’s career WAR would climb from 18.7 to around 22.0. So yeah, Cano is probably even a little better than you would think by looking at his fWAR alone and not analyzing what comprises it. I mean, he has a career 18.7 fWAR which says his defensive value has been -36.8 runs. BUT, 21.5 of those runs are from his rookie season alone, when he was a terrible defender. I’m not saying those defensive runs allowed shouldn’t count, but they greatly skew his current totals, which conceals the fact that Robbie is actually decent fielder now.

That’s enough of a rant for now though. Let’s take a look at how Robbie put together his amazing season. The first thing I want to mention is PLATE DISCIPLINE. While it’s not a high mark, Robbie had a BB% of 8.2%, which was above his career 4.2% BB% entering the season. In fact, of his 186 career BB, 31% are from his 2010 season alone. What’s interesting though is that he didn’t actually seem to improve upon his plate discipline peripherals. His O-Swing% was a career high 36.5% while the rest of his peripherals are in line with his career averages. So this begs the question- what can we expect from Robbie in 2011?

Well, prior to the 2010 season, Robbie mentioned that A-Rod told him to take more “A-swings” in order to really drive the ball. Kevin Long also worked a ton with Robbie doing the “home-run drill” to help him pull the ball and develop, well, home-run power. The result was a career high ISO and SLG. In previous seasons, Robbie would show glimpses of greatness, but was often inconsistent because he would lose focus- whether it be defensively or offensively. That is not to be confused with work ethic. Whenever he slumped, the MSM would claim he was being lazy because of his laid back on-field demeanor. To me though, that’s lazy journalism. Anyone who follows the Yankees knows that, in large part due to Alex Rodriguez and Larry Bowa, Robbie is arguably the hardest working Yankee. He ALWAYS shows up for the optional BP. He gets to the park early, works his butt off in the off-season, and worked on his fielding so much that he went from TERRIBLE to above average with the glove in just a couple seasons.

2010 was the culmination of all his hard work. He finally had a consistent season where he suffered few lapses- defensively and offensively. In past years with the glove, he would go four months without an error and then commit three in a week. That cold stretch never happened this past season. His future success will depend on consistency. Can he keep the focus for another 162 straight games? If so, then we’re looking at an annual MVP candidate who will provide reliable defense and maintain an average BB rate. If not, then we’re looking at a guy who is unpredictable- great defense and hot hitting for weeks or months at a time, but also long stretches of some terrible performance.

Cano’s salary will be $10mil in 2011 and then climb to $14mil in 2012 and $15mil in 2013 if his options are picked up. So he will no longer be a “cheap” player for the Yankees. Considering the rising average age of the team and what that average age will be in 2012-2013, the Yankees need Robinson Cano to maintain his focus and continue to get better. If so, he could emerge as the best player on baseball’s most recognizable team. Hell, he could supplant Chase Utley as the premiere second baseman of baseball. On the other hand, he could become another overpriced good-but-not-great Bronx Bomber.

2011 will be a pivotal year for Robinson Cano if he wants to truly prove his worth. Here’s hoping he goes BOOM.

Valuing the 2011 free agent class: Manny Ramirez

November 27, 2010

Manny Ramirez is one of the more recognizable baseball faces of the past generation. Despite that, he seemingly has garnered zero interest this off-season. But that’s understandable- he’s old, has behavior issues few teams want to deal with at this stage in his career, has been hurt the past couple seasons, and “struggled” in 2010.

So who would want to sign him? If you were to ask me, I’d say the Tampa Bay Rays.

Yes, the Tampa Bay Rays. They are losing Carl Crawford and Carl Pena, two players who have bolstered their lineup for the past few seasons. Even though Pena struggled in 2010, losing those two will be a blow to the offense. Manny Ramirez is one of the best hitters of all-time and even in his injury-plagued “down year” he still had a 141 wRC+ in 320 PA and an OBP north of .400. If you let him strictly DH, so that his body can rest and not deal with the rigors of fielding, I fully believe Manny will continue to produce at a .400 OBP/.500 SLG level of production. Tampa Bay could really use that production after losing two key offensive players- especially if they want to keep up New York, Boston, and even Toronto.

Now, you might ask, isn’t Manny Ramirez too expensive? The dood was paid $20mil last season. Tampa is too frugal to pay him a similar contract. You’re right. But Manny will not be getting paid much. According to this report, the best Manny will do this off-season is 800k to $5mil with incentives. Tampa Bay can afford that.

If Manny hits like he can, at the DH position, he could be a 2 WAR player. So that’s about $9mil-$10mil worth of value. Tampa Bay, as cheap as they are, will and can afford to pay someone that much if they will help the club. Manny can help the club. So if he is paid $2mil-$5mil, he could be a bargain. The best part for Tampa is that Manny will not cost them a draft pick, but when he leaves after 2011, he could net them a pick or two in return. It’s a win-win for Tampa.

Manny is looking for a new home and Tampa Bay is looking for a hitter. I think the two should get together for a little bit.

Happy Thanksgiving

November 25, 2010

 

 

Victor Martinez and Aubrey Huff sign

November 24, 2010

Victor Martinez agreed to a 4/$50mil deal with the Detroit Tigers while Aubrey Huff signed a 2/$22mil deal (that includes an option) with the San Francisco Giants.

Here is what I said regarding Victor Martinez:

Quote: So I think it’s fair to project him as a 4.5 WAR player in 2011 with a decrease of 0.5 WAR moving forward each season. Without adjusting for inflation and using an estimated market rate of $4.4mil per win, over a four year deal he would be worth about $66mil.

Yikes, I thought he’d get away more than $50mil. If I were to project him again, I would start him at 4.0 WAR, not 4.5. The reason being he may just be a DH who catches once in a while, which really zaps his value. Either way, if I start him at 4 WAR and start at $4.5mil per year and go up from there, I still get around 4/$66mil for him. So the Tigers got a steal. But it might be wasted money either way. The Tigers are more a .500 team than a contender, and Martinez probably won’t be catching in four years. This money could have been better spent.

Moreover, if Martinez mainly DH’s over the length of his deal, I would start his WAR estimates at 3.0 in 2011. If that is the case, over four years he’d be worth 4/$44.5mil. So yeah. It’s a relatively fair price for Martinez, but in Detroit’s case I do not think it’s money well spent.

As for Huff, I said:

Quote: At the end of the day, I expect Huff to sign a two year deal worth around $10-$13mil a year with inflated salaries in the current market thus far.

Well, he signed for $11mil per year. That’s fair value and makes sense for San Francisco.

 

Joey Votto takes home NL MVP

November 22, 2010

Congratulations Joey! Votto was one of my favorite prospects when he was coming up through the Reds system (mainly because of his Italian last name) and it’s been fun watching him develop into a premiere franchise player.

I still find it funny he needed a final vote to get on the NL All-Star team. The f’ing MVP needs a final vote. What can ya do?

Tomorrow the award I’ve been most looking forward to will be announced- AL MVP. Josh Hamilton will probably win in a runaway, but I’m hoping my boy RC can at least get a couple first place votes.

And once again I’ve got to give props to the BBWAA. On the big four awards, they are batting 1.000 so far (Doc Halladay, Felix Hernandez, Joey Votto).

 

My take on a Justin Upton trade

November 21, 2010

The biggest rumor swirling around baseball these days is a potential Justin Upton trade. At first it seemed like Arizona was just toying around, but apparently they are serious and a few other teams want to get serious with Arizona. A potential trade of this magnitude has probably never occurred before in baseball  history.

I mean, we have a 23 year old All-Star, with a VERY FAVORABLE contract for the next five seasons, who has HALL OF FAME potential. A player like that isn’t put on the trade market very often. As Dave Cameron wrote back in July, “he’s not a star yet, but not only could he become one, he could be the best player in baseball”. I’d have to agree.

So lets do some calculations!

So for those keeping score, that’s a net value of $104.25mil! No joke. And if you ask me, his WAR estimates might even be a little too conservative. The scary part is that by age 27, he should just be entering his best seasons.

Using Victor Wang’s prospect value chart, we know that a top ten hitting prospect is worth $36.5mil, a top 11-25 hitter is worth $25.1mil, and a top level pitcher is worth about $15mil. So yeah, trading for Upton means trading away any prospect of value in your system.

As a Yankees fan, a trade is intriguing. We’d be getting a potential Hall of Fame, at the ripe age of 23, and chances are he’d be a Yankee for life well beyond 2015. As the Yankees deal with lofty contracts belonging Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, among others, Upton will be relatively cheap. Especially from 2011-2013. Swisher will be gone after 2011 or 2012 anyway, with no internal replacement in sight. Trading for Upton would allow New York to trade Swisher, who could fetch a couple decent prospects which would somewhat “re-stock” the system after a possible Upton trade. But who would the Yankees give up?

The first name to pop up is obviously Jesus Montero. He is the number one positional prospect in baseball and many project his bat to play like Frank Thomas or Manny Ramirez as a catcher, if he can stick there. Would I give up him? Yes, but it would hurt. It would hurt since he is so close to joining the team after so many years of being awesome the minors. I’ve been waiting forever for him to debut. But he is still just potential. He could flop and fail. Upton has succeeded in the ML already and has Hall of Fame potential, as I’ve mentioned. Give me the sure thing. Especially since he would then probably remain a Yankee well past 2015 when his current deal is up.

Who else would the Yankees have to give up? I’d imagine some names would be Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman, Manny Banuelos, Hector Noesi, and Ivan Nova. Outside Banuelos, I would give all of them up. Dellin could be a beast, but he does have a poor record of staying healthy and I don’t want to miss out on Upton because of the potential of a health-risk prospect. Despite giving up so many good pitching prospects, the Yankees would still have solid arms in Adam Warren, Jose Ramires, and Graham Stoneburner. Plus, we would still have Austin Romine, who I liken to Kurt Suzuki, and Gary Sanchez. Sanchez may be years away, but he is Montero 2.0 and could make us forget Jesus Montero, even if Montero goes onto a stellar career himself.

So if I’m the Yankees, I would seriously look into Justin Upton. What other team should get in on Upton? The Washington Nationals.

It’s time for winning baseball to return to the nation’s capital. They have a growing core in Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman, and Bryce Harper. Trading for Justin Upton would give the team a dynamic group of superstars to build around. Zimmerman is arguably the best third baseman in the game. Upton and Strasburg could become the best in the game at what they do. Many think Harper is a prodigy. Having all four superstars on one team would be insane. The Miami Heat of baseball. Plus, they have the pieces to get a deal done. Derek Norris, Jordan Zimmerman, Ross Detwiler, Michael Burgess, Ian Desmond, Drew Storen, and so on. Let Arizona pick from anybody in the organization besides their current big three. I really hope Washington is one of the teams getting serious.

The final question is why is Arizona trading Upton? To be honest, I don’t know. He is the face of franchise and while he would bring back a lot of great prospect, why not just take the production he will give you for a well below market value contract? It’s not like Arizona is a shitty team. In the NL West they could easily compete sometime soon. Moreover, while he should fetch the equivalent of $100mil in value, I don’t think Arizona will get that much in actuality, so I think they will be ripped off. I would keep him, but I don’t know what direction Ken Towers want to take the franchise. So we’ll see how this plays out.

It should be fun.

Yankees trade Juan Miranda for Scott Allen

November 18, 2010

In other news, the Yankees traded 1b Juan Miranda for minor league pitcher Scott Allen.

This news makes me sad, because I love Juan “Man Child” Miranda. But it’s a solid move. I think Juan Miranda could be a useful ML player. Maybe not a starter, because he could get 300-400 PA against righties a year and hit above average with power. But he has no place on the Yankees in the foreseeable future. First base is blocked by Mark Teixeira. DH wouldn’t be an option since the Yankees have a revolving door for old players (Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez) and even some prospects (Jesus Montero).

So the return for Miranda should be small, but the Yankees did a good job on that small return. Scott Hall was a 2009 draft pick in the 11th round, so he’s got some talent. Last season he made 16 starts and threw 78 innings in A ball. He had a 9.12 K/9, 2.54 BB/9, 0.58 HR/9, and a 2.97 FIP. So he has some potential. He gives up a lot of fly balls which could become a problem, but for now, he looks promising. There is a great chance he never throws an inning for the Yankees at the ML level, but his promise is worth trading a 28 year old first baseman who has not future for sure with the Yankees. I mean, the kid isn’t even 20 yet.

Meanwhile, Arizona very well could have gotten a decent starting first baseman, in a hitters park, for a low level prospect. Solid trade all around.