Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Futility of the NL West

Seriously, how bad is this division? The first place Daimondbacks are only four games over .500 and have proven to that they are mediocre. Despite their amazing pitching, the Diamondbacks struggle to put together rallies with their horrid .251 team batting average and their pedestrian .326 OBP. They still scare me if they make the playoffs because of Webb and Haren, but they have shown no ability to run away with this division.
Sitting behind the Diamondbacks are the Dodgers and Rockies, both of whom have no business sniffing the playoffs. The Dodgers are 4.5 games out, but they are currently on an eight game losing streak, which includes being swept by the lowly Nationals. The Dodgers are in the same boat as the Diamondbacks as they have tremendous pitching, but the offense has remained stagnant even with Manny Ramirez. The Dodgers simply do not have much power around Manny, which has resulted in their despicable .712 team OPS. The Dodgers have an intriguing mix of youth and experience, but this season has been a failure so far because of injuries (Nomar, Juan Pierre, Furcal, and Brad Penny) and over the hill veterans (Nomar, Andruw Jones). Not too mention the 144 ABs they gave to Angel Berroa. I bet they want those back.
The Rockies are the exact opposite of the Dodgers and D-Backs: wonderful hitting, but no pitching. Besides Aaron Cook, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Brian Fuentes; they don't have much else. If the Rockies are going to make a run, the offense will have to carry the load. Guys like Matt Holliday and Garrett Atkins are going to have to lead the way and hope for two things: QUALITY PITCHING, and that the Dodgers and Diamondbacks continue to play poorly. If the Rockies some good pitching, watch out, because they will win this division.

Remaining Schedule:
Rockies v. Diamondbacks: 6 times
Rockies v. Dodgers: 3 times
Dodgers v. Diamondbacks: 5 times
(Photo: Sports Illustrated)

My Struggling Organization: Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates used to be a model organization back in the early nineties. The Pirates were oozing with talented players like: Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Denny Neagle, Doug Drabek, Jay Bell, and a young Tim Wakefield. The 1992 version of the Pittsburgh Pirates came within an out of making it to the World Series, but then Francisco Cabrera singled in both David Justice and the immortal Sid Bream. Bream famously slide around the throw from Barry Bonds, who departed for the San Francisco Giants in the offseason. Since the Bream slide, the Pirates have been abysmal. Don't get me wrong, the Pirates have had some talent (Jason Schmidt, Aramis Ramirez, Brian Giles, Oliver Perez), but they have never been able to keep them because of the economics of baseball. Simply put, baseball economics have killed baseball in Pittsburgh as we once knew it.

Free Agents
Unless you count Joe Randa, Derek Bell, and Pokey Reese to be big time free agent signings, the Pirates have failed miserably to invest any money into the free agent pool. A majority of the players they have signed over the years have simply been to minor league deals or one year deals (Kenny Lofton). And to make matters worse, the money that the Pirates have invested in their own talent has been foolishly spent. Signing Jason Kendall to a $60 million dollar contract, c'mon! Signing SS Jack Wilson to a $20 million dollar deal, horrible! The Pirates only have a $35-$50 million dollar payroll so spending that much on guys that simply aren't good sets the franchise back years.

Here is where the Pirates drive me up the wall. As I previously mentioned, the Pirates have had some talent over the past few seasons and ownership knew that they had no shot to sign some of these talented players. So they decided to trade them, which is not too unreasonable right? But c'mon, getting back Bobby Hill and Jose Hernandez for Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton? That's like highway robbery. And only receiving Armand Rios and Ryan Vogelsong for Jason Schmidt? That's just horrible.
With that said, the Pirates have made some good moves over the years to bring talent into the organization. The Pirates picked up 1B Adam LaRoche for RP Mike Gonzalez and while LaRoche hasn't been phenomenal, he has given the Pirates stability at the position while Gonzalez has battled through Tommy John Surgery. The Pirates also picked up batting champion 2B Freddy Sanchez from the Red Sox in return for Jeff Suppan and Brandon Lyon. Unfortunately for the Pirates, Sanchez is only hitting .258 after hitting over .300 for the past two seasons. Still, Sanchez gave the Pirates value at a position where value is hard to find. The Pirates also got OF Xavier Nady from the Mets for SP Oliver Perez. The Pirates definitly got some use/players for Nady, but Ollie has been a stalwart for us, not to mention Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. Thanks again Dave Littlefield.
And as we have discussed before, the Pirates made tow huge trades at this year's deadline by moving both Jason Bay and Xavier Nady for 8 young players from the Dodgers, Yankees, and Red Sox. While the players have not performed that well so far (Hansen and LaRoche), I am still in favor of the deals because the Pirates need to upgrade the talent in the organization and these trades jump start the process.

This has probably been the Pirates biggest weakness over their run of futility. This is especially bad when you consider how important the draft is to low market teams. Usually when teams get high draft picks, like the Pirates always have, they draft the most talented guy available and worry about the dollar amount later. However, the Pirates have continually focused on the money rather than the upside, which is why they wound up with Bryan Bullington instead of BJ Upton, 2006 1st rounder Brad Lincoln instead of Clayton Kershaw or Andrew Miller, and 2007 1st rounder Daniel Moskos instead of Matt Wieters. Could you imagine if the Pirates had any of those guys? Also, the Pirates have also made tons of bad draft picks: 1999 1st rounder Bobby Bradley, 2001 1st rounder Jon Van Benschoten, and 2004 1st rounder Neil Walker. It's impossible to add talent to the organization when you draft guys who either stink or get hurt.

Needless to say, the Pirates needed to make a splash during this year's draft and they thought they had drafted and signed the best player available, 3B Pedro Alvarez. The Pirates thought they had signed Alvarez to a contract that included a 6 million dollar bonus, but now agent Scott Boras is claiming that the Pirates signed Alvarez after the deadline. C'mon Scott...can't you cut the Pirates some slack? Six million bucks is ALOT of them to dole out! Hopefully this all gets worked out because the new management of the Pirates is actually spending $6 million on an amateur for once and to put this bluntly, they need him.

*The Pirates will continue to struggle until they decide to pay for top talent. I would say respectability by 2012 and perhaps playoffs in 2013 (this is all contingent on young players developing and signing Doumit and McClouth to extensions)*

The most important thing for the Pirates to do is to continue to spend money on talent. Simply put, the Pirates will not be competitive until ownership commits the money that the team needs. The six million to Alvarez is a good sign, but GM Neal Huntington and President Frank Coonelly need to make Pittsburgh into an ideal free agent destination again. They have a wonderful ballpark, but they will never fill it by having crappy teams. Huntington and Coonelly have inherited a mess left by former GM Dave Littlefield, but if they spend (wisely), then the Pirates can flourish again.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Leave it to Wheeler!

It's not too often that a player on another team (besides the Mets) makes me feel thrilled at their success. There are the obvious success stories that warm your heart: Josh Hamilton and Rick Ankiel. But for me, watching Wheeler succeed with the Rays is especially gratifying. Wheeler never got his fair shot to prove his worth with the Mets in 2004 and the Mets finally gave up on him later that year. After that, Wheeler thrived with the Astros before being moved to the Rays last season. And this season, something amazing has happened. With closer Troy Percival making frequent trips to the DL, Wheeler has filled the role admirably by converting 10 of 12 saves this season and has a phenomenal 2.48 ERA. The Rays are in first place and their bullpen has been the main component in their success. So kudos to you Dan Wheeler, for taking advantage of your opportunity and for ultimately, proving my Mets wrong. Boy could we use you now.
(Photo: View Images)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Who do you trust? Phillies Edition.

I should probably say this right now to get it out of the way, but as a Met fan, the Phillies scare me. They have played bad baseball against the Mets this season and have some pretty bad starting pitching, but the bullpen is such a vital part of September baseball. Even if the Phillies fall behind big (7-0 to the Mets) they always will have a shot to come back because of their ballpark and their great bullpen. Acquiring closer Brad Lidge has turned out to be a great move and for the price they paid for Lidge, the Mets have to be kicking themselves that they did not make a play for him. So without further ado here is the Phillies big, menacing, and scary bullpen.

Brad Lidge: To be quite honest, Lidge has been phenomenal so far. His past struggles have to taken into account (hello Albert Pujols), but he finally looks like he's turned the corner.

J.C Romero
: I have not the slightest idea how Romero wen from future journeyman to one of the better relief pitchers in the National League in the course of a year. He got a big contract this offseason, but has actually maintained his tremendous performance. Lefties only have nine hits of Romero all season and his 2.29 ERA reflects his dominance.

Chad Durbin:
Where did this guy come from? Durbin has gone from a AAAA starter in the big leagues and has developed into a stud in the bullpen. Durbin has a 1.95 ERA this season in 73 innings of work. Lemme repeat that: 1.95 ERA! And he pitches multiple innings! How much better does it get?

Ryan Madson:
Lemme get this straight, the Mets don't have anyone who I feel confident pitching an inning, but the Phillies have two great pitchers who can pitch multiple innings? Not fair. Madson has been up and down with the Phillies for his career, but he is putting together a great campaign in 2008. Madson has pitched 68 innings this season and has a very respectable 3.16 ERA. Even though I have seen Madson blow some big games, I would trust him in a big spot.

Rudy Seanez:
This guy is still around? Seriously? And wow, he's actually been kinda good. His 3.82 ERA is good, but he has almost a 5 ERA against righties and his WHIP is 1.56. Seems like he gets into more trouble than his ERA leads us to believe.

Clay Condrey:
What I like most about Condrey is that he gets both lefties and righties out. He's another guy out of the Phillies pen that has done a good job. Now, I don't like the 1.57 WHIP or the poor strikeout rate, but for some reason, I think Condrey can get the job done.

Scott Eyre: Does his job. Lefties cannot hit this guy. If Manuel uses him ONLY as a specialist, he'll be golden.

How is this possible? The Phillies go six deep in the bullpen. Wow. So if the Phillies can have a starter eat six innings and leave with the lead, the Phillies should be golden. How is this team .5 games behind the Mets with that offense and that bullpen. Their too good. After writing this, I'm going to pray to my lucky stars for Billy Wagner and oh yeah, Adam Eaton, please come back to the Phillies rotation. And bring your 5.80 ERA too.

Pitching and the Blue Jays

I'm not sure if anyone has taken notice of this, but the Toronto Blue Jays have demoted two of their best starting pitchers to the minor leagues at different points this season. Most teams allow pitchers some time to let pitchers right themselves in the bigs, but the Blue Jays have shown little patience with their starters and have instead opted for them to work in the minors.
Starting pitcher Jesse Litsch was demoted on July 24 after a few bad starts, but had been one of the Blue Jays better starting pitchers. When he was demoted, Litsch had a 4.46 ERA and maintained an ERA in the 3's for a good portion of the season. Litsch will never be confused for Roger Clemens, but he could still be a very good #4 or #5 starter in the bigs.
Starting pitcher Shawn Marcum is a different story. Marcum was one of the best starting pitchers in the bigs for the first three months of the season before he went down with a right elbow injury. Marcum had an unreal 2.60 ERA before he got hurt, but his ERA has jumped a full point since he returned to 3.60. In 3 of his last 4 starts in the bigs, Marcum has given up 2 or fewer runs, but his strikeout numbers have fallen dramatically. Toronto management claimed that the team could not afford prolonged slumps while the Jays try to track down the Red Sox for the wild card. I don't know about you, but I have more faith in Shawn Marcum than journeyman John Parrish.
These decisions simply come down to which pitchers give the Blue Jays the best chance to win. While most teams show loyalty to guys who have performed well in the past, the Blue Jays going forward with the idea that you better perform, or else will ship you to AAA. The Blue Jays decision making is odd to me because these guys have performed well this season, so its not like they haven't performed well in years. The one thing I do like about this is that it shows organizational commitment to a certain degree. By shipping Litsch and Marcum to AAA, management is showing them that they are a big part of the team's future and that they need to get themselves right so they can be effective in the future.
I can't remember the last time a team demoted two of their best starters in the middle of the season, but who knows, maybe this will become the norm in baseball. It simply comes down to how teams want to handle their pitching investments when they struggle: let them figure it out in the bigs because they are better than any replacement, or ship them off to AAA so they can fix themselves without the hounding pressure.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Replay a plus?

In case you missed it, MLB announced that instant replay will now be used only inn "boundary calls." And by boundary calls, we mean if a ball made it over the wall, whether a ball was fair or foul, and in determining fan interference. Sounds pretty good right? Of course it does. Even though it signals a changing of the guard for baseball, this technology will make the make sure that umpires will not be put in the impossible position of making calls that the human eye cannot judge. And while we may have to wait another minute or two for the call to correct, I would rather spend another couple minutes waiting for them to get it right rather than have a game decided on a bad call.

The detractor to replay will say "why did they put this in so late?" And that question has some undeniable validity to it. Why did this take so long? And what about the games in May and June that were decided by a bad call? Why couldn't we have had replay then?

I'm sad that baseball will no longer rely solely on the human element, which was part of the beauty of the game, but replay is a necessary evil. If you are skeptical about replay now, I ask you to simply give it time. This will make the game better and fairer.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Empty Hitters

I'm not saying that the following hitters are completely useless, but to me, they are clearly "empty." And by empty I mean, they might hit for average and some power, but do have abysmal OBPs. To me, OBP is one of the most important statistics and provides a better idea of the true efficiency of the hitter. Empty hitters are quite fascinating because many teams rely on them for quality production, but they can never truly achieve that level of success until they raise their OBP. (Note: When I look at OBP, a quality big league player should have an OBP at least 40 points above his batting average while great players will have an OBP 80-100 points above his BA). There is no doubt that these players have talent, but c'mon brother, learn how to take a walk!

Yuniesky Betancourt, Mariners: He is a defensive specialist who hits .265. What's there not to love? Well, his .284 OBP his simply brutal and the fact that he is hitting second in the order in unfathomable. This is a good reason why the Mariners suck. How can you justify having a guy hit 2nd in the order when he can't produce an OBP of .300?

Miguel Tejada, Astros: Again, what is there not to like? Tejada was an all star this season and has a .285 BA with 12 HRs while hitting third for the Astros. Oh yeah, he has a .317 OBP. Tejada has walked 22 times all season! How is that acceptable for a 3 hitter! Tejada has never been much of a OBP hitter, but having a .317 OBP is an obvious sign of decline and he should not be counted on as a three hitter. Another great move by Ed Wade.

Corey Hart, Brewers: Yet another all-star who is having a good power season. Hart has hit .285 with 19 HR and 37 doubles, but seriously, how can he have an OBP of .319? Could you imagine if Hart could take walks? He would be able to use his incredible speed (22 SB) to further set up the Brewers offense. There is no doubt that Hart is an incredible talent, but his OBP needs to improve in order for him to take the next step as a pro.

Bengie Molina, Giants: Lemme get this out of the way: Bengie Molina is one of my favorite players. Why you may ask...because he is slower than dog poo and I love watching him run the bases. With that said, Bengie is a tremendous catcher on a horrible team and he is hitting cleanup simply because they have no one else. Molina is hitting a respectable .286 with 10 HR, but his OBP is a lowly .317. That is unacceptable for a cleanup hitter. No surprise that the Giants suck.

Jose Lopez, Mariners: There is no doubt in my mind that Jose Lopez makes no sense. The guy is having a great season with a .297 BA and 11 HR at 2b, where it is almost impossible to find power. But Lopez is only has a .321 OBP. Wow, Lopez has 22 walks in 522 at bats! That is a dismal number and is horrifically low for a starting player. To make matters worse, Lopez is hitting 5th in the Mariners lineup! Yet another reason why the Mariners suck! Don't they have anyone who can get on base? Geez...

Hmm, maybe I hit on something here. Four of the five guys I mentioned are on losing teams. Could it be possible that a low OBP could actually lead to losses? YES! The five lowest team OBPs are the: Padres, Athletics, Nationals, and Royals. What do they all have in common...they all suck. The five highest team OBP: Cubs, Red Sox, Rangers, Cardinals, and Yankees. Four of those five teams have some chance at making the playoffs (except the Rangers who have no pitching). So maybe there is a lesson here to all GMs: OBP is important. You can survive with players who have low OBP, but sustained success is rarely achieved (case in point: 2007 Mariners vs. 2008 Mariners). So please, look at OBP before you sign players or give them extensions, its very important.
(Seattle Times)

Who Ya Building Around? Sizemore or Hanley??

If you were starting a team, who is the one player that you would want to build around? The question is simple, but the responses can vary. My brother Evan and I can go into hour long arguments about what player would be the best to build around. Even though I believe that pitching wins baseball games, I have to admit that I would NOT select a pitcher to be the face of my franchise. There is just so much risk that pitcher will blow out his elbow and my team will never see him again.
The two guys who I absolutely love are Hanley Ramirez and Grady Sizemore. Both guys are having amazing seasons and are unbelievable talents, but it is their long term projectability and age that leaves them open for consideration. Obviously there are many other players who you could make a case for, but to me, these two guys are two great choices.
I find it ironic that my two choices came down to two guys who have so much in common. Both are the best hitters in their respective lineups, but they hit leadoff, not in a power position. Both of these guys are redefining the leadoff spot, which has traditionally been reserved for guys who get on base and can run. Well, these guys do that, but they can also hit the long ball. Furthermore, both of these guys were acquired in massive, franchise changing trades. Sizemore was the centerpiece of the Bartolo Colon trade in 2002 that should haunt the Expos/Nationals for the next decade. And Ramirez was picked up in the Josh Beckett trade that helped the Red Sox win the World Series and delivered a star to the Marlins.

The Case for Hanley
Ramirez, 24, does everything a team could ask an offensive player to do. He hits for power, steals bases, gets on base, and hits for average. Ramirez has already posted 28 HR and 29 SBs this season while hitting an impressive .296. Ramirez is a sure bet to go 30-30 this season and there is no doubt in my mind that Hanley can go 40-40 in the near future.
The biggest knock on Ramirez is that his fielding at SS is atrocious. In each of his three major league seasons, Ramirez has made at least 20 errors at the premium defensive position. However, I think that Ramirez is athletic enough to eventually move to the outfield (BJ Upton) and limit his defensive inefficiencies.

The Case for Sizemore

Grady Sizemore is the American League equivalent to Hanley Ramirez. Sizemore has a classic left handed swing that generates stunning power while he has shown amazing speed and defensive ability in center field. Sizemore, 26, has hit at least 20 HR in each of his first four seasons while showing a knack to get on base (101 BB last season, .383 OBP this season). He has already gone 30/30 this season, but 40/40 is certainly within reach. Perhaps the best thing I can say about Grady is that he plays center field as good as anyone in the bigs today. There is no doubt that Indians pitchers love having Grady in center.

I would absolutely love to have Sizemore patrolling centerfield for me for the next 10 years. While I love both Ramirez and Grady's upside, it is the unknown factor (defense) that shies me away from selecting Hanley Ramirez. Nevertheless, I would take them both in a heartbeat.

Jorge Says No! will continue Who Ya Building Around? with a team feel. We will examine the Mets' left side of the infield (Reyes/Wright) vs. the Phillies' right side of the infield (Utley/Howard).
(Sports Illustrated)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Who do you trust?

As I have previously discussed, the Mets bullpen is abysmal. For us fans, when we hear "this call to the bullpen" we collectively cringe. Since Billy Wagner's injury, the Mets have played Russian roulette with the bullpen and most of the guys in the pen have failed miserably. With the stetch run coming, the Mets have me freaked out that they will collapse again because of their bullpen. I hope I'm wrong. They have seven guys in the bullpen right now and I trust a grand total of 2 of them.
Here is the breakdown:

Heilman: Simply put, he has been awful. Heilman has been the King of Inconsistency and no reliever speeds up my heart rate like the Heil-man. He throws hard and has a great change, but for whatever reason, cannot get anyone out this season. Jerry Manuel continues to use him because he supposedly can get both lefties and righties out. However, we have yet to see him get anyone out.

Feliciano: I like Feliciano, but I think that the current state of the Mets bullpen is detrimental to Feliciano. He should be a lefty specialist, nothing more. However, with all of the injuries and bad performances, Feliciano has been thrust into a bigger role, one which is not suitable to his strengths.
NO TRUST (thanks Mr. Manuel)

Smith is another guy who I like alot and for whatever reason, I feel good when he comes in the game. His numbers aren't good (4.06 ERA), but he's been great against right hand hitters

Sanchez: Duaner is coming off shoulder surgery and his velocity has suffered big time. He routinely tops out at 86-87 MPH and like Heilman, struggles to get out lefties and righties. He needs to perform better for the Mets to survive Wagner's injuries.

Probably the best thing I can say about Schoeneweis is that he is not getting booed like last season. The Mets gave him $11 mil to do basically exactly what Pedro Feliciano does. Not a smart move. Anyway, Schoenweis has not been bad and actually has good numbers, but I won't trust him in a big spot because I have seen him blow it many times before.

He throws hard, but I haven't seen/heard enough about him to actually develop trust.

He has been good in the past against lefties and righties despite his horrible numbers this season. What I like most about him is that he wants to take the ball everyday and has shown a great ability to get out of big spots. Yes he is new, but I like what I see so far.

Looks like watching the Mets down the stretch will be brutal and painful again this season. Get well soon Billy!

So I ask you, the readers, who do you trust in your team's bullpen? The funny thing about trusting a pitcher is that the numbers don't really tell the whole story. A reliever might have blown a lead or given up a big homer that could have permanently scarred the fans' trust. It's a personal thing.
With so many close races, the bullpen will be the determining factor into who makes the playoffs. Jorge Says No! will be examining the playoff contending bullpens to determine: who do you trust? We will look at the hated Phillies bullpen next. And again, Mr. Wagner, please get well soon.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Free Agent at the End of the Season: Francisco Rodriguez

Since his arrival in the big leagues in 2002, Francisco Rodriguez has established himself as one of the premier closers in the game today. Rodriguez is a hard thrower with a dynamite breaking pitch, which are all thrown together by a wacky complex motion that must be hard for a hitter to follow. When K-Rod enters the game, odds are, the game is over. Rodriguez currently has a 2.65 ERA with 49 saves-already. He is on pace to set the record for saves (59 saves), which would only increase his value further.

The Case for Rodriguez
-He gets the job done.
K-Rod has at least 40 saves in each of the past 4 seasons. With Rodriguez around, the Angels have been able to shorten the game to eight innings because Rodriguez has been such an automatic in the ninth.

-Rodriguez is dominant.
In each of the past 6 seasons, opposing hitter have hit .204 or less against K-Rod. Also, K-Rod strikes out 9.9 hitters for every 9 innings pitched, which means that he gets lots of swings and misses.

-Rodriguez is very durable.
Despite his funky motion that looks like Tommy John surgery waiting to happen, Rodriguez has only been to the DL once in his career (2005). For any team interested in K-Rod, his lack of injuries has to be a positive.

-K-Rod gets it done when it counts.
Rodriguez has been great in the playoffs, especially in 2002 when he helped lead the Angels to a World Championship. He owns a 2.76 ERA in the playoffs and is probably the most feared relief pitcher today outside Mariano Rivera when it comes to post season baseball.

-His age.
Do you believe this? Rodriguez will be 30 years old in 2012. He is only 26 years old and will be entering the prime of his career right now. It seems like K-Rod has been around forever even though he still has so many more years left.

The Case Against Rodriguez
-His motion can give any GM a heart attack.
Even though K-Rod has essentially been injury free throughout his career, his motion is so bizarre that I would be surprised if he doesn't get hurt in the next few years. The torque Rodriguez gets on the ball looks unnatural and uncomfortable to the point that a GM needs to expect some sort of arm trouble down the road.

-K-Rod's declining K/WHIP rate.
Even though K-Rod is young, these two stats have to concern any GM. Rodriguez has only struck out 60 hitters this season and his WHIP 1.270, which would be a career high for K-Rod. Those numbers are still impressive, but the are not as dominant as the K-Rod of old.

-There is a lot of tread on those tires.
K-Rod has pitched a ton of innings already in his short career, especially with his stressful delivery. The Angels have already used K-Rod in 60 games this season, which is only 9 less than his previous career high. I love that the Angels' stud pitcher likes to pitch a lot, but the risk of injury cannot be taken lightly.

Simply put, there is no one in K-Rod's league in this year's free agent class. K-Rod is above and beyond any other closer out there and he will be paid like it. Sure Dan Wheeler and Brian Fuentes are nice pitchers, but K-Rod is head and shoulders above them.

4 years/$65 mil
K-Rod will set the new standard for contracts for a closer. His agents will look at these huge deals:
BJ Ryan: 5 years/$47 mil
Mariano Rivera: 3 years/$45 mil
Billy Wagner: 4 years/$43 mil
Joe Nathan: 4 years/$47 mil

After seeing these deals, his agents will say the following: K-Rod is younger than any of these pitchers and has accomplished more at his age than any of the other three. Rodriguez deserves to be paid like the best because quite simply, he is the best. K-Rod probably will not get 5 years because teams will be scared off because of the injuries to Wagner and Ryan as well as the potential injuries to K-Rod. However, $15 million for a closer seems ridiculous, but how many elite closers are there? Rivera, K-Rod, Papelbon, Joe Nathan, and maybe Joakim Soria. That's all there is folks. K-Rod is a rare breed and at his young age, he should have more wonderful moments ahead of him.

We will continue to look at the free agent class of 2009 with Pat Burrell.

Random Frustration: Why NOT swing 3-0?

When Mike Piazza was a Met, nothing would frustrate me more than his tendency to take the 0-0 pitch, 2-0 pitch, and the 3-0 pitch. Piazza was a dead red hitter in his prime and rarely swung at a bad pitch, yet it was almost a given that Mike was not going to swing. Now, I can understand why coaches would want a young or mediocre hitter to take these pitches because the odds are high that they will swing at a ball out of the zone and turn the count in the pitcher's favor. But this is Mike Piazza were talking about. As a manager, wouldn't you want your best hitter to swing the bat when odds are, he's gonna get a fastball down the chute? And if it's not perfect, coaches have to have trust that the hitter won't swing. As a fan, nothing frustrates me more than watching a 3-0 pitch glide down the middle for a strike, followed by a foul ball on a pitcher's pitch, which is then followed by a swing and miss. The most hittable pitch in the entire at bat was taken for a strike. I could care less if a hitter pops the ball up on 3-0 because I want to see a hitter be aggressive and swing at the best pitch in the at bat.
(Sports Illustrated)

Welcome Back Carl!

For all of you who don't know, Carl Pavano is currently my favorite Yankee. Pavano signed a 4 year/39.95 mil dollar contract in 2005 and has won exactly six games for the Yankees since then. What an investment! My favorite Yankee this season was Kyle Farnsworth(less), who unfortunately was traded to the Tigers in July, which made me yearn for the good ole' days of Pavano (I am a bitter bitter Met fan). Well, guess who showed up last night? The human injury-Carl Pavano! Woooo-hoooo!
And who would have guessed? Pavano wasn't terrible last night...surprisingly. 5 IP, 3 ER, 5 K-not too bad. Especially after considering that he hasn't pitched since April 2007, which feels like a lifetime ago. Could you imagine the NY papers if Carl Pavano pitches great ball down the stretch and then receives a huge contract with another team after the season (Pavano is a free agent)? It would be like Christmas for the Met fans.
So here's to you Carl Pavano, keep teasing Yankee fans for the rest of the season with your dynamic stuff and then please, leave for greener pastures. And also, please don't pitch the Bombers into the playoffs; us Met fans really could use a year off.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Jorge Toca All Stars...Featuring 1B/OF Jeff Bailey

Outside of the good people in Boston, Massachusetts, how many of us can honestly say we have heard of Jeff Bailey? I'm going to guess that there aren't many of us. Bailey fits the Jorge Toca profile perfectly: a power hitter who cannot buy an opportunity in the majors. Bailey, 30, has been in AAA for the past 4 seasons and has hit at least 15 HR in each of the past three seasons. Bailey's 2008 campaign has been his best yet as he has already posted 25 HR, 75 RBI and a .405 OBP.
So why can't Bailey get his shot (to play consistently) in the majors? The answer to that question is actually quite simple: there is no room for him on the Red Sox roster. Where would they put him? Even with injuries the Sox have a full outfield and some great corner infielders (Youk and Lowell) as well as a great backup 1B in Sean Casey. Furthermore, do you really think the Sox would throw a 30 year old journeyman into a pennant race? I don't think so.

Here at Jorge Says No! we love the underdog. And Jeff Bailey, you sir are an underdog. For all of the stars in major league baseball, there are tons of Jeff Baileys out there who never get that shot. Here's to hoping that the lingering injury to JD Drew will give you a shot. Good luck to you sir!
(Getty Images)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My Struggling Organization: Cincinnati Reds

Anyone remember the 1999 Reds? The team had a heartbreaking end to the season by losing the wild card to my beloved Mets in game 163. That team was littered with "future stars" such as: Sean Casey, Pokey Reese, Danny Graves, Scott Williamson, Scott Sullivan, and Aaron Boone; names that make you realize why Ken Griffey Jr. was not successful with the Reds. However, if you had told me in 1998 that the Reds were going to be this bad over the next ten years, I would have smacked you. The organization appears to have no solid direction, their manager is terrible, and they play in a smaller ballpark than I did during little league. The Reds have some of the best fans in baseball, but the organization has messed up this organization pretty bad.

Free Agents
Surprisingly, this has not been the Reds' problem area. There are only two signings that make me scratch my head. The first is the horrific contract that the Reds gave Francisco Cordero this off season (4 years/$46 mil). Cordero is simply not a good enough closer to warrant that kind of money and the Reds are simply not close enough to Championship to warrant spending that money. Cordero has not been that bad this season, but the Reds still sit in the cellar of the NL Central, so obviously Cordero's impact has been minimal.

Secondly, what the hell was GM Wayne Krivsky thinking giving Corey Patterson a $3 mil contract? I mean, c'mon, there had to have been better options around. Patterson seems to be allergic to walks and for whatever reason Dusty Baker decided that he would be a good lead off hitter despite his abysmal OBP. A .195 BA and .229 OBP later, this deal obviously failed, but in Patterson's defense, I could have predicted his failure back in March.

This is another area where I simply cannot kill the Reds. They made a great trade this season by acquiring ace Edinson Volquez from the Rangers even though they had to give up MVP candidate Josh Hamilton. Finding quality pitching is hard enough, but the Reds have never had success finding a stud like Volquez. He's going to be a great one even in the Reds' little league ballpark. The Reds also picked up 2B Brandon Phillips for nothing in a classic "buy low" deal that has been a major coup for the Reds. Quality young second baseman are nearly impossible to find especially one like Phillips who bats cleanup and hits 30+ HR every year. Great move by former GM Wayne Krivsky.

The Reds have also picked up pitchers Bill Bray, Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo via the trade route and all of them have provided some value to the team at some point. However, Harang and Arroyo appear to be showing signs of decline based on their heavy workloads over the past few seasons. Both are signed until 2010 and both currently have ERAs that are above 5. Hopefully the Reds haven't worked these two past their prime because they both are quality starting pitchers.

However, the trade that every Reds fan will point back to is the acquisition of Ken Griffey Jr. from the Seattle Mariners in 2000. The Reds did not give up boatloads of talent (Mike Cameron and Brett Tomko), but once the Reds got Griffey, every Reds fan began thinking championship, but the reality was that the Reds were severely lacking on the pitching front. To make matters worse, Griffey was hurt during his entire tenure with the Reds (100+ RBI only once) and the Reds failed to build a suitable supporting cast around him that could carry the load in his absence (especially on the pitching side).

The Reds recently traded away both Dunn and Griffey as both guys are set to become free agents at the end of the season. However, trading these two was long overdue because any Reds fan will be able to tell you that these two took up too much payroll for a small market team (the two combined to make $25 mil while the Reds payroll is only between $60-70 mil), especially a team that has performed so badly. The Reds failed to get max value for either player, which would have jump started the rebuilding process.

If you take a look at some previous Reds drafts, the results have not been pretty. Their first round picks in 2000, 2002, and 2003 have all been busts (David Espinosa, Chris Gruler, Ryan Wagner), while the Reds failed to sign 2001 first rounder Jeremy Sowers. Their failure to draft well in the early Griffey years definitely diluted their talent and diminished their opportunity to succeed. Furthermore, 2004 first round pick Homer Bailey, who was at one point one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, has been mediocre at AAA this season and has stunk up the joint in his brief time in the majors. The Reds inability to draft quality young arms has prevented the team from succeeding and achieving long term success. The Reds have hit on a few picks including OF Jay Bruce and 1B Joey Votto, but you can see that neither one of them pitches. Memo to new GM Walt Jocketty: the Reds need pitching in the worst way. Organizational success is based on the performance of the pitching depth. You guys have not taken a pitcher in the first round since Homer Bailey in 2004. Draft pitchers.

Bold Prediction
*Reds will struggle again next year with Dusty at the helm, fire him, and then compete in 2010. Playoffs by 2011 not out of the question.*
I love Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto, both of whom should have phenomenal careers in the majors. However, I worry that Dusty will burn them out just like Kerry Wood and Mark Prior before them. Simply put, the Reds will go nowhere with Baker at the helm. He's a terrible manager and cannot control a pitching staff. The health of those two studs will determine the success of the Reds in the next few years.
With that said, the Reds have a lot of talent for a team that has performed so badly over the past few years. I look for them to be aggressive in the free agent market, but the real change should be with the draft as pitching needs to be the focal point.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Give 'em Four!

In case you missed it last night, the D-Rays decided to intentionally walk Josh Hamilton with two outs and the bases loaded. The D-Rays were up 7-3 at the time ad by walking Hamilton, they put the winning run at the plate (with the score now 7-4) with the much less intimidating Marlon Byrd coming up to the plate. I'm sure some of you are saying, "what the hell are the Rays thinking?" Well, it simply comes down to which hitter is a bigger threat to beat you? Managers have to give their teams the best chance to win, which is exactly what Maddon did.

Who you would you rather have up:
Hamilton: He has light tower power (home run derby!) and has 110+ RBI already. Could be the second coming of the natural.

Marlon Byrd: Perennial stiff who has no business batting behind Hamilton (side note: the only reason Byrd is batting 5th is because he bats from the right side).

Hmmm, I think I'll take my chances with Marlon Byrd. Sure, he's hit walk offs before (against the Yankees), but he'll never be half the player that Hamilton is and with a righty on the mound, facing Byrd makes sense.

Kudos to you, Joe Maddon, for thinking outside the box and for making all of America fall in love with the IBB all over again.

The AL Overdoes on Offense

Good pitching always beats good hitting...right? Absolutely.

Good hitting always beats really crappy pitching right? Most of the time.

Ladies and gentlemen, this Sunday introduced baseball fans to lots of really crappy pitching. And lucky for us, the offenses responded. The Twins scored 11 runs. The Mariners scored 8 runs. The Tigers scored 8 runs. The White Sox scored 13 runs. The Yankees scored 15 runs. The Blue Jays scored 15 runs. The Orioles scored 16 runs.

Holy crap thats a lot of runs. I mean, c'mon, I love offense as much as anyone, but this is ridiculous. No pitcher was safe from the tremendous display of offense. From 2003 World Series MVP Josh Beckett, a future stud Gio Gonzalez, and scrubs Zach Miner, Brian Bannister, Ryan Rowland Smith; everyone got beat up today.

Offensive showings like this make me think about:
1. contracting teams (YAY!!!!)
I despise mediocre pitching and nothing has added to mediocrity than adding teams to the MLB.
2. How the hell are some of these guys in the bigs?
If I was a GM, Mark Lowe and his 5.57 ERA would be history. Casey Fossum and his 6.23 ERA would be no where near the majors. Brian Bannister and his 5.96 ERA would no longer throw 84 MPH fastballs to major league hitters. And Garrett Olson and his 6.38 ERA would be back in AAA where he belongs. There is no excuse for these guys being in the majors, especially Bannister.
3. How much I love pitcher's duels
Nothing excites me more than a 2-1 game simply because to me, pitching is an art and there is nothing I would rather do than watch two masters execute their craft. Also, pitcher's duels make the game go quicker, while offensive slug fests make the game painfully drag on because poor pitching is absolutely brutal to watch.

And finally, is anyone else surprised that the Texas Rangers did not give up 10+ runs today? Seriously, if you had told me that 4 AL teams would have scored 10+ runs today, I would have bet $10 on the Rangers giving up at least 10. In fact, I would have said 17. Their pitching sucks.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Free Agent at the End of the Season: Adam Dunn

There are three things that everyone in baseball knows what Adam Dunn can do: hit home runs, walk, and strike out. Power hitters are routinely taken care of on the free agent market and the Dunn will be no different despite his obvious deficiencies. Dunn has benefited from playing in a bandbox in Cincinnati, but most of his shots clear the fence by a good 50 or 60 feet. Dunn is basically a modern day Dave Kingman, who was your classic boom or bust homer run hitter in the 70's and 80's. Kingman and Dunn both posses tons of power, but it is Dunn's ability to get on base that separate him.

The Case for Dunn
-He hits for Power. Dunn has hit at least 40 HR in each of the past 4 seasons and he is well on his way towards 40 HR again this season. Dunn has a 14:1 at bats per home run ratio, which is a ridiculously good ratio. Any team would improve by putting Dunn in the middle of their lineup.

-He gets on base. Dunn has been incredibly consistent in getting on base since 2004 as he's maintained an OBP of at least .380. In this new age of baseball statistics, OBP has become a very trendy stat that GMs, scouts, and baseball personnel swear by.

-He doesn't miss games. Dunn has played in at least 150 games in each of the past four seasons. If you sign him, you know that Dunn can be counted on to be in the lineup everyday.

-Age. Dunn is only 29 years old, which means he is still in the prime of his career and can be expected to continue to hit for power.

The Case Against Dunn
-His low batting average. Clearly, Dunn lacks the ability to hit for average, which prevents him from achieving his full potential as a player. Just imagine if Dunn could consistently hit .260; how much more valuable would that make him? I know batting average is a somewhat overrated statistic, but hitting .230 is simply not good enough.

-Dunn is a liability in the field. Even though Dunn can play first base and left field, he cannot play either position particularly well. Dunn lethargically lumbers around the outfield while he has asked not to play first base (back in 2006). Dunn is DH waiting to happen.

-He strike out A LOT. Dunn is the King of the K. If Dunn strikes out less than 170 times in a season, then it would be a improvement. The whiffs are clearly part of his game, but nothing kills a rally like the almighty K.

This is where Dunn can really takes the cake. He has no competition in the outfield that is of his age or skill, so Dunn should have no problem having teams compete for his services. You can make the case that no other position player (besides Tex) should come close to matching both the length and dollars that Dunn should get.

6 years/$100 million
The obvious contract that his agent should be looking at is the 6 year/$100 million dollar contract that the Astros gave Carlos Lee. Lee and Dunn are similar players because they both play a weak left field, hit for tons of power, and were around the same age during free agency (Dunn is gonna be 29, Lee was 30). I look for Dunn to receive a contract similar to Lee, which should make him smile all the way to the bank.

Dunn will have tons of interest on the free agent market because of his ridiculous power, however, I do believe that his lack of defense and low batting average will shy some teams away. Nevertheless, he should have the Yankees, Orioles, Angels, Braves, Giants, and Diamondbacks to be in on signing Dunn.

We will continue to look at the free agent class of 2009 with Francisco Rodriguez.

You Gotta Be Kidding Me!

The Washington Nationals continue to boggle my mind. Only a few days after Jorge Says No! profiled them in My Struggling Organization, the Nationals have yet again screwed up. They failed to sign their #1 selection in this year's draft, RHP Aaron Crow, because of money. According to Nationals Journal, the Nationals offered $3.5 million while Crow's agents wanted $4 million.

Hmmm, Nationals organization, you guys have virtually no talent on your roster or in the farm and your gonna haggle over 500 grand? C'mon....Whether this was about a miscommunication, a lack of communication, or hostile negotiations; this was a deal the Nationals needed to get done. And they didn't. The Nationals have not brought any marquee talent into Washington D.C and the draft is really their main opportunity to do so.

To me, Crow was the best pitcher in the draft and was a guy who could have helped the Nats out in a few seasons. Nationals fans, I feel for you. Hopefully better days are to come. But right now, they are the worst organization in baseball.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


In case you missed it last night, 46 year old Jaime Moyer won a pitcher's duel against 42 year old Greg Maddux. So what? A couple of old guys pitched well, who cares? I do because quite simply, there is something special about their efforts. These guys are like the Yoda's of pitching. And perhaps the coolest part of Maddux and Moyer is that they consistently show all the young pitchers out there how it should be done.

1. Both guys went 7 innings AND less than 100 pitches

In this era of pitchers failing to be economical in their pitches (Sean Gallagher on Thursday, 91 pitches, 4 innings), Moyer and Maddux have proven to be masters at their craft. Neither throws hard, but wow, they sure do know how to control their pitches, move the ball around, and entice hitters to swing at pitcher's pitches.

2. Both guys have ERAs of less than 4

How amazing is this? Here are two guys who don't throw over 85 MPH, but they can make hitters sure look foolish (I would know because they are both Met killers). So for all you young pitchers out there, pitching is less about velocity and power and more about precision and location. Their ERAs are proof of that. These guys are tremendous.

3. Limit the Walks

Right along the lines of being economical, both of these guys can locate their pitches and remain in pitchers counts. To me, this is probably the skill that young pitchers today have yet to master. To many pitchers today enable hitters to dominate the count or at least be able to work the count back into their favor (3-2, 2-1, 1-0). Moyer and Maddux are great at getting ahead early and then having hitters swing at pitches that Moyer and Maddux want them to swing at.

4. Old People

They are a combined 88 years old, but no one can fight with the numbers. Maddux is 6-9 with a 3.99 ERA while Moyer has a remarkable 11-7 with a 3.64 ERA. So the question is simple, when will they call it quits? If the economics of baseball have any say, then never will be a good answer. Moyer and Maddux obviously will not be hot free agents, but I would want either of them on my team (especially Moyer). They are great teachers of the game and I expect both to get some interesting offers for the 2009 baseball season instead of playing shuffleboard in Boca.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Basics of Betting On Baseball

Few games have benefited from the popularity of online betting as much as baseball. It used to be quite hard to find a good line or some fun prop bets for MLB games, but now, online bookmakers are offering great odds and even greater prop bets. There are so many great online betting opportunities that many online bettors have not discovered yet. But, I must warn you. Betting on baseball is different than betting on other games. It is a bit more complicated and requires a little more mathematical skill. There are few differences that you must take note of if you want to be successful.

Let’s just run through the basics of betting on baseball one more time…

Run Line

This is a bet on the overall winner of the game. Baseball uses something similar to a spread to even out the betting. There are a few fundamental differences between the two though.
The main difference between the way a football spread and a baseball spread is used is the money line. In football, the spread can range from 3.5 all the way up to 14.5 and higher, but in baseball, it will usually be 1.5. That is because in baseball, the spread is not used to even out the amount of betting on each team, the money line is. Instead of adjusting the spread, the bookmakers adjust the money line according to who the favorites are to even out the betting. This is a big difference and may take a little while to get used to, but in time it will be second nature to you.


The over/under on the total number of runs scored is also very popular for people who bet on baseball. It is just a bet on how many times both teams will score during the whole game. There’s nothing more to it than that. As with every other sport that can be bet on, the over/under is set with a .5 decimal, as to prevent a push.

Proposition or Exotic Bets

Like almost any other major sport, bookmakers offer a wide variety of prop of exotic bets on baseball games. Since there are more facets to baseball games than many other sports games, more prop bets can be offered. The basic ones usually include specific player matchups (usually batter matchups) and over/under on specific players, with more advanced bets being who will score first, totals after specified innings, and even number of unforced errors. If there is an area of the game you want to bet on, chances are, bookmakers are offering it!

If you want to explore the various betting options for the MLB, or any sport for that matter, head over to 888sport and take advantage of their free bets promotion. They are allowing new players to place a number of risk free bets to test out how the whole process works. There is no reason not to take advantage of this deal.

Opinion: Is Mariano Rivera the Great Closer Ever?

(Spray him Jorge)
Over the past 12 seasons, Mariano Rivera has established himself as one of the greatest relief pitchers of all time. He is become a stalwart at the end of the Yankees bullpen and has not shown any real signs of a decline (last year was a fluke). Amazingly, Rivera throws one pitch, a cut fastball, a even after all these years, no one has figured out how to hit it (besides Edgar Martinez). Rivera sports a career 2.31 ERA with 471 lifetime saves. Most importantly, Rivera has an unreal 0.77 ERA in the post season, which is ridiculous because the Yankees have not missed the playoffs since Rivera has been around. For those of you scoring at home, River has pitcher over 110 innings when it matters most and for the most part, he has dominated.

However, the knock on Rivera is that he has three of the biggest blown saves in the history of baseball. In 1997 ALDS, with the Yankees leading in the bottom of the eighth against the Indians, Rivera gave up a game tying home run to Sandy Alomar Jr. The Yankees eventually lost that game and the series. In 2001, with the Yankees leading the Diamondbacks 3-2 in the eighth inning, the Yankees turned to Rivera, who looked absolutely dominant in the eighth, but badly faltered in the ninth. Rivera gave up a lead-off single to Mark Grace, which was followed by a bunt by Damien Miller. Rivera fielded the bunt and threw the ball wide of second as both runners were safe. After getting an out Rivera then gave up a double to Tony Womack, which tied the game. Then finally, with the bases loaded, Luis Gonzalez blooped a single over the head of Derek Jeter and the D-Backs won. In 2004, with the Yankees leading the Red Sox 3 games to zero, Rivera proceeded to blow both games 4 and 5, which led to the greatest comeback in history. During game 4, Rivera walked Millar to lead off the ninth (very un-Riveralike), which was followed up by a steal of second by Dave Roberts (running for Millar). Bill Mueller then ripped a single up the middle to tie the game and the rest is history.

Ok, so after those three debacles, can we still say that Rivera is the best? I know there will be many people saying, "C'mon, Rivera is only human, he's going to blow a few." And that point is 100% correct. We have to remember that they Yankees have been in the playoffs for the past 13 years, which gives Rivera lots of chances to blow saves. However, Rivera blew saves in crucial spots for his team and has played a major role in losing three playoff series. As much as we like to praise Rivera, his past failures have been brutal for the Yankees. They could have had another Championship or two if Rivera had not blown these saves.

When it comes down to it, yes, Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer ever. The numbers don't lie. And I would still want Rivera on the mound in a clutch spot more than Billy Wagner, K-Rod, or Papelbon. However, nothing bothers me more than when Yankee fans put Rivera on a pedestal and seemingly forget the games he did blow. I just think we have to be honest with ourselves about Rivera and say, "yes, he is the greatest ever. But boy did he blow some big games when it mattered most."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Introducing the Jorge Toca All Stars!

(View Images)
Ladies and Gentlemen, if you enjoyed our look into the Atlantic League, then you will love this. Back in the late nineties and early 2000s, the Mets had a 1st base prospect with tons of power named Jorge Toca. Toca was a huge dude with tons of power, who had been the Mets organizational player of the year in 1999, but for whatever reason, never got a fair shot in the majors. Toca played with the Mets in September only from 1999-2001 and was only able to garner a mere 27 at bats. Whenever he would come up to bat for the Mets, my brother and I would go crazy (I have no idea why) and start yelling and screaming "TOCA TOCA!" Since his last cup of tea in the majors in 2001, Toca has bounced around from the Mets organization (AAA Norfolk), White Sox (AAA Charlotte), and the Mexican League. Toca displayed his power (25 HR in 2005), but no team ever gave him a shot in the bigs.

Toca is what baseball people like to call a "AAAA player." Toca can hit minor league pitching and obviously has talent, but for whatever reason, teams don't think he can cut it in the bigs. These guys are career minor leaguers, who still ride the buses hoping for their shot in the bigs. I always feel bad for these guys because they have a skill that most people don't have, but they have very little chance of achieving their dreams. So, Jorge Says No! has decided to profile these AAAA players and call them The Jorge Toca All Stars.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My Struggling Organization: Seattle Mariners

Oh boy, where do we start here? The Mariners are a complete mess. They have fallen a LONG way since 2001, when they won a record 116 regular season games. Seattle currently sits 29.5 games out of first place in the AL West and 23 games out of the wild card. GM Bill Bavasi and Manager John McLaren were fired in June because of the team's poor performance. Obviously, their season is cooked, but the Mariners still seem stuck in neutral. At the trading deadline, inti rm GM Lee Pelekoudas refused to trade either Jarrod Washburn or Adrian Beltre and instead decided to stand pat with aging veterans on horrible team. So how did the Mariners wind up in this situation? The answer is simple: money.

Free Agents
The Mariners front office has been willing to spend money. The Mariners payroll this season is just over $117 million dollars Obviously, this is a good thing. However, they have spent money on aging players on the downside of their careers. Take a look at all this wasted money:
Carlos Silva: 4 years/$48 mil (began this year)
Jarrod Washburn: 4 years/$37.5 mil (ends next year)
Adrian Beltre: 5 years/$64 mil (ends next year)
Miguel Batista: 3 years/$25 mil (ends next year)
Kenji Johjima: 3 years/$24 mil (begins next year)
Richie Sexson: 4 years/$50 mil (released)

Quite simply folks, it is unbelievable that one team can spend so much money so badly (over $200 million on 6 players). Besides Beltre, none of those players was entering their "prime" during the seasons that the Mariners are paying them for. And the Mariners have gotten very little from these 6 "big signings" as they have all disappointed in their own way. That's horrible baseball management by Mariners management and GM Bill Bavasi as they failed to give the M's the best chance to win.

This off season, the Mariners made a splash by acquiring Baltimore Orioles ace Erik Bedard from the Seattle Mariners for OF Adam Jones (top prospect), SP Chris Tillman (top prospect), SP Tony Butler (good prospect), RP George Sherrill and Kam Mickolio. The Mariners obviously thought that they were going to be more competitive this season, but this trade makes them look foolish. Jones has been a mainstay in the Orioles lineup with his combination of athleticism and power. Sherrill has been the Orioles closer this season and actually made the all star team. He could prove to be a valuable trade chip this off season (even though the O's control his rights for the next few seasons). Tillman could actually wind up being the real coup of the deal as he is pitching great as a 20 year old in AA ball (7-4 3.67 ERA with 124 K). This deal looks even worse for the Mariners when you consider that Bedard has missed more than a month because of shoulder stiffness. Yikes.

The Mariners have drafted well over the past few years, but they could have done better. In 2005, the Mariners drafted Jeff Clement, catcher from USC, who has finally gotten some playing time this season. Clement could develop into a stud catcher, but considering that Ryan Braun, Jay Bruce, Ryan Zimmerman, and Matt Garza were drafted after him, Clement has a lot to live up too. And no one can forget that the Mariners let Clement waste away in AAA while they gave at bats away to Richie Sexson, Kenji Johjima and Jose Vidro. Yuck.

In 2006, the Mariners selected starter Brandon Morrow with the fifth pick over Clayton Kershaw and local boy Tim Lincecum. All three have made it to the majors, but the Mariners rushed Morrow to the bigs by using him as a reliever in 2007 and half of 2008, before finally sending him back to AAA to develop into a starter.

Could you imagine the Mariners with Braun and Lincecum instead of Clement and Morrow? They would have two studs and potential greats, but instead they have two unproven talents who the Mariners have mishandled. We'll see what happens when Morrow and Clement get a true shot to show what they can do.

Bold Prediction
*Mariners struggle in 2009, come near .500 in 2010 before finally sniffing the playoffs in 2011 and 2012*
The Mariners have lots of payroll coming off the books in 2009 so the rebuilding process could be expedited. The Mariners still have some talent: Ichiro, Felix Hernandez, Jose Lopez, JJ Putz, Raul Ibanez (free agent after this year), Morrow, Clement, and Balentien; but, the sad reality is that they will not be able to competed with the consistency of the Angels, the offense of the Rangers, or the great young talent of the Athletics. The next 2 seasons will be rough for the Mariners, but as long as they can spend wisely, handle their young players better, perhaps trade away some veterans (Bedard, Washburn, Beltre), and continue to build the farm system; then the Mariners will come back to prominence in a few seasons.

Plus, they have a scary Moose Mascot. He creeps me out. C'mon Mariners, you can do better!

Could this work? The Bullpen Blues...

There is nothing more frustrating for me than watching a bullpen give back crucial runs or a lead late in a game when my team's stud pitcher is still in the bullpen. And I know, that stud pitcher is usually the closer (confined to only pitching the ninth inning), but wouldn't you want your team's best pitcher on the mound in a big spot instead of some scrub specialist? I know I would.

Scenario: Mets vs. Braves
Top of the eighth inning, two on for the Braves (2nd and 3rd), one out with the Mets nursing a 3-2 lead at Shea. Brian McCann is up followed by Casey Kotchman as the Braves look to take the lead. Jerry Manuel comes out to the mound to remove a tiring John Maine, who has thrown 98 pitches (that's a lot for Jerry). As a Met fan, who do you want in...Pedro Feliciano (the lefty specialist) or Billy Wagner (the closer)?

I have thought many times about this situation and my instincts tell me that Wagner would be the best choice even though I'm confident that Manuel would go with Feliciano. I want Wagner in the game because he is my best pitcher, a lefty, and it is the deciding moment in the game. I want my best in there. Manuel would probably go with Feliciano because he is the lefty specialist and it is his job to be able to get McCann and Kotchman out.

Of course, my thinking has a downside, who will pitch the ninth if Wagner throws too many pitches? Will the ninth inning become a disaster? Will I burn out my bullpen ace by using him too much? Will I shatter Feliciano's confidence by not using him against the lefties? How does a manager decide when to use his bullpen ace? How early is too early to use him? 6th inning? 7th inning?

But to me, the positives outweigh the negatives simply because I want my best on the mound when I need him most. If Wagner gets past McCann and Kotchman in this scenario, then whoever pitches the ninth will face the lower part of the order, which gives my team the best chance to win. It's almost like when you have David Wright on the bench when you are down 3-2 in the top of the ninth, but you decide not to use him as a pinch hitter. It is inexcusable and lowers your team's chance at succeeding. I know all the hoopla about being "the closer", but with the game on the line, that is when I want Wagner to shut the door.

Maybe this idea will only work in my mind, but I do think it's a fascinating way to use the pen.

Longoria fractures wrist...Rays in trouble?

For those who haven't heard, Evan Longoria fractured his right wrist and is expected to miss about 3 weeks. Longoria has been so important to the Rays lineup and losing him (along with Carl Crawford) is potentially a severe blow to their playoff hopes. On top of playing tremendous defense, Longoria has been a stabilizing right handed bat in the middle of the Rays order by hitting .278 with 22 HR and 71 RBI. Those are spectacular numbers for a first year player.

With that said, I think the Rays will actually be OK. They might lose some ground during these next three weeks, but the Rays success has been the result of solid pitching and great defense. Wily Aybar should be able to step in and play some good defense, but he cannot come close to replacing Longoria's bat. BJ Upton is really going to have to step up, while Carlos Pena needs to hit like its 2007. The Rays can even get creative by putting Hinske at the hot corner, while having Baldelli, Upton, and either Gabe Gross/Cliff Floyd play OF (but this harms the defense). If he is out longer than 3 weeks and the Rays struggle, don't be surprised if the Rays take a look at Mariners 3B Adrian Beltre or to a lesser extent Indians 3B Jamey Carroll or even a guy like Nationals 2B Ronnie Belliard.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Free Agent at the End of the Season: Ben Sheets

In 2000, the world was introduced to a young pitcher named Ben Sheets. Sheets, pitching for the US Olympic Team, proceeded to outpitch Cuban ace Pedro Lazo and win the gold medal for the US. What a moment it was. By 2001, Sheets had made it to the big leagues with the Milwaukee Brewers and quickly established himself as a stud pitcher. However, with all of his potential has come the yearly Ben Sheets injury. Injuries include: a inner ear infection, shoulder tendinitis and a sprained middle finger. Needless to say, Sheets has struggled to establish himself as a consistent stud pitcher because of all the injuries. Sheets has flourished this season with 11 wins and a 2.95 ERA, which is convenient given the fact that he will be a free agent at the end of this season. So which team will pony up the dough for a potential ace?

The Case for Sheets
-When he's on, he's dominant. Sheets has a WHIP of 1.15 and has struck out 129 batters in 155 innings.

-He can be an innings eater. From 2002-2004, Sheets pitched 216, 220, and 237 innings respectively, which reeks of ace.

-Sheets has tons of potential. As we have seen in the past, teams will pay for potential (AJ Burnett, Darren Driefort) and Sheets not only has great upside, but he has shown it before.

-He has three great pitches. A heavy 94+ fastball with a dropping 80+ MPH curveball and a solid changeup.

The Case Against Sheets
-He doesn't win that much. Besides 2007 and 2008, Sheets's record has consistently been under .500 or a game over .500. That's not good for an ace. Sheets is only 5 games over .500 for his career. Yikes.

-His injuries. Sheets has been hurt before and whose to say he won't get hurt again? Sheets doesn't have the best track record and that will hurt him when it comes to getting the almighty dollar.

-He is 30 years old, which is two years older than CC Sabathia.

-He is an awful hitter. (I'm nit picking here)

-The only pitcher who is in Sheets's class is Sabathia, who will be in for an absolutely huge deal. As far as right handed pitchers go, Sheets's only competition will be Derek Lowe, AJ Burnett (if he opts out), and Jon Garland. Quite frankly, I'd rather have Sheets, but only if the price is right (not too many years).

5 years/$85 million
My feeling here is that Sheets will shoot for the moon (Santana or Zito type deal), but his injuries will force him to come down on his demands. If I was Sheets's agent, I would look at these deals for realistic contracts:

Carlos Zambrano (5 years/$91 million)

Jake Peavy (3 years/$54 million)

Neither of those deals is unreasonable, and Sheets's statistics are comparable to both Zambrano and Peavy. As I said before, Sheets has a ton of potential and any contending team can look at Sheets and see him as the missing piece-an ace who has shown he can pitch the big one (2000 Olympics). I look for the Yankees, Braves, Cardinals, Phillies and maybe the Rangers to be in on it. Unfortunately, I don't think the Brewers can make much of a run at him because of their salary restrictions, but I'd love to see him go back there.

We will continue to look at the free agent class of 2009 with Adam Dunn.

Dunn the D-Back!

How many times can we honestly say that acquiring a .233 hitter is a big move? Well, this one definitely qualifies. Literally and figuratively. Dunn is a huge dude at 6'6 and he carries a big stick (not nearly as big as Teddy's). Dunn has hit 32 homers this season to go along with his .373 OBP and the aforementioned .232 batting average, which makes him one of the oddest players in baseball. On one hand, you can almost guarantee he will give you 40 HR, 100 RBI and 100 walks, but on the other hand he hits around .245 and strikes out more than Steve Urkel did in high school (170+ strikeouts to be exact).

With that said, I like this deal for the D-Backs. They have played mediocre baseball despite having Haren and Webb and they have lost two vital cogs in their offense and defense in Orlando Hudson and Eric Byrnes. Dunn instantly gives that lineup a veteran presence who can get on base consistently and hit for tons of power. The team only has a collective .323 OBP with a modest 113 HRs. Dunn should be able to help in both categories while filling the void left by Byrnes and Hudson while sliding right in between Conor Jackson and Mark Reynolds to give the D-Backs a deep powerful lineup.

However, the negative of this deal is that the D-Backs only have a team batting average of .251 and Dunn will only make that go down. Also, the deal weakens the D-Backs defensively as they will now presumably have Dunn and Conor Jackson in the outfield with Chad Tracy manning first base. Second base: who knows? Will it be Reynolds? Where in the world is Emilio Bonifacio nowadays?

The deal should help the D-Backs to the playoffs or at least a competitive couple of weeks with the Dodgers. I don't think the D-Backs will make a run at Dunn in the off season, but for right now, he gives that offense some much needed juice. The Reds finally got rid of Dunn, but we can't say much about their haul because they got Dallas Buck and 2 PLAYERS TO BE NAMED LATER. Who the hell gets 2? I've heard of one, but c'mon Reds, get specific here!

Are we done yet?

With less than 50 games left on the schedule, the contenders have somewhat started to separate themselves from the pack. The inception of the Wild Card in 1997 has given teams with no shot at a division title another chance to make the playoffs. Playoff battles are rarely decided until the last week or two (unless your the LA Angels), which leads to an amazing last few weeks. Granted, we have seen teams such as the 2007 Colorado Rockies go on some absurd streak by winning 15 of 16 or the 2002 Athletics winning 20 in a row in late 2002. So obviously, anything can still happen.

Even though "anything can happen", so teams are more screwed than others by either having bad luck, not playing well, or by being inconsistent. Jorge Says No! proudly presents (in the words of Christopher "Mad Dog" Russo):

THEY'RE DONE! D! O! N! E! (or are they?)

Absolutely DONE (no shot at playoffs):
Seattle Mariners, Oakland A's, Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles, Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres

Too Close to Call (close division races):
NY Mets, Florida Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks, LA Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins, Tampa Rays, Boston Red Sox

In the Playoffs: LA Angels (14 Game Lead)

*Now we have the "toss up teams"*

New York Yankees:
This one is hard for me. I want to say they are done because they are 8.5 out of the division (behind two teams) and 4 games back of the wild card (behind two teams). I want to tell you that they are done because they have played some really bad baseball lately (losing 5 of 6) and losing their ace Joba Chamberlain. I want to tell you they are done because Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, and Bobby Abreu are all having down years, while Melky Cabrera has fallen off the face of the Earth. I want to tell you they are done because they have 6 games against the Rays, 6 against the Red Sox, and 3 more against the Angels). But people, these are they Yankees. They ALWAYS come back. They have been down before and always find a way (or at least they have for the past 12 seasons). So, until I see the Yanks farther out in the Wild Card, I can't call them dead just yet. As much as I want to.

Detroit Tigers:
I don't know what is more surprising: that Armando Galarraga has 10 wins or that the Tigers have struggled this season. Off season acquisitions Edgar Renteria and Dontrelle Willis have been miserable this season, especially Willis, who is currently in Class A Lakeland trying to fix his control. The main problem is simple: pitching. The Tigers have not had a reliable bullpen all year, have lost Jeremy Bonderman for the season, and have gotten bad years from Justin Verlander, Nate Robertson, and Kenny Rogers. You know your in trouble when Farnsworth-less is a main cog in your bullpen. Their schedule down the stretch isn't that bad (9 against KC, 6 against Cleveland), but even their dynamite offense cannot make up for their horrific pitching as they are already 8.5 out of the wild card and 7.5 out of the division. I have no faith in them
D! O! N! E! They're Done!

Texas Rangers

They have been one of my favorite teams to watch this season because of their electrifying offense (Chris Davis, Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young). They also have 4 quality young catchers (Laird, Saltalamacchia, Ramirez, and Teagarden), which no other team can claim to have. However, like the Detroit Tigers, the Rangers have NO pitching. The lowest ERA in their starting rotation right now is Scott Feldman with a 4.82 ERA. Simply put, that's horrible. I cant even fault the coaches on this one, there is not much talent on the pitching side. With so much bad pitching, it is amazing that they are only 6.5 games out of the wild card. They have a brutal schedule down the stretch as the play Boston (6 times), LA Angels (10 times), so they have no shot.
D! O! N! E! They're Done!

Toronto Blue Jays

The Jays can certainly pitch, but they simply do not have enough offense to compete. They are only 8 games back in the Wild Card, but they have 4 teams ahead of them. Injuries to Vernon Wells, Scott Rolen and Aaron Hill combined with the poor performance of Alex Rios, David Eckstein, and Matt Stairs have caused the offense to struggle. Despite the brilliance of Roy Halladay, they simply have to many teams to jump and not enough offense to do it.
D! O! N! E! They're Done!

Colorado Rockies

They were last year's Cinderella, but they have come back down to Earth this season. Outside of Aaron Cook, Ubaldo Jimenez, Taylor Buccholz and Brian Fuentes, the pitching has been awful. The offense has been fine statistically, but the loss of Todd Helton will hurt the offense and defense. They made a remarkable run at the end of last season, but they have been a below .500 team for the past two seasons if you take away that lucky stretch. The rest of the NL West sucks so another quality run (win 6 or more) can have them in contention. I'm not ready to count them out yet.
NOT DONE (but their close)

St Louis Cardinals

They got off to a great start led by Kyle Lohse, Ryan Ludwick, Rick Ankiel and Albert Pujols; but they have tailed off recently. The Cardinals pitching has tailed off a little bit (4.18 team ERA before all star break, 4.48 after all star break) as the offense has remained consistent (.280 team batting average). I like the makeup of this team a lot, but I think they have no shot of the division. And even though they are only 3 games out of the Wild Card, the Brewers have much better pitching.
NOT DONE (but their in some trouble)

By my count, that leaves us with only 14 teams that have no shot at making the playoffs this season. Sixteen teams have some shot at making the playoffs, which tells us that the parity in baseball is strong and that the races will be tons of fun to watch down the stretch.