Monday, November 29, 2004

Over the weekend, the A's finalized a trade of Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes for Jason Kendall. This is a terrific pick-up for Oakland; Redman will be replaced by Joe Blanton, who is younger, cheaper, and likely better, and dismissing Rhodes' contract will help pay for Kendall. In losing these two contracts, Oakland will only be paying an extra $2M for Kendall's services.

Damian Miller is a decent player, but Kendall is far better, so that's a big improvement behind the plate for Oakland moving into 2005. The A's are taking on some risk in that Kendall is under contract through 2007, by which time he should be quite overpaid. Of course, Miller also signed a three-year deal, with Milwaukee, and in 2007 is likely to be even more overpaid. With the other free agent catcher, Jason Varitek, commanding large sums and years, Kendall was likely the best pick-up Oakland could have made.

(Sweetening the deal for Oakland is the fact that Pittsburgh pays them $5M of Kendall's $13M salary in 2007 -- assuming he's even still around -- and the chances of Kendall being worth $8M at age 33 are much better than Miller's chances of being worth $3M at age 37.)

How big of an upgrade is this for Oakland? Clay Davenport at BPro had Kendall at 7.6 Wins Above Replacement for Position last season, with Miller at 4.4. Miller had 15 Win Shares last year -- good for sixth in the AL -- but Kendall's 25 in the NL bested his runner-up by two wins.

So both methods see about a three-win difference between Miller and Kendall in 2004, which would of course made a considerable impact on the divisional race. I project Kendall to have an OPS+ of 99 this year in 149 games, with Miller at 82 in 111 games.

Rob speculates that the A's will move Kendall before the season starts, but I'm not buying it. He's not that expensive, really, and fills a need for the team offensively and defensively. Our divisional rivals really improved over the weekend; what will the Lads do to counter?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Unless something big happens in the next day-and-a-half, I won't have anything to say, and I'll be offline all weekend, so have a great and safe holiday, everybody.

Monday, November 22, 2004

(I have a comparison to ZiPS at the end of this post.)

I have that row for projections when I do my player reviews. It's kind of there as a junk thing, but also just to see if it works. It never had any age adjustments, but finding this data on Tangotiger's site gave me an idea of how to work it. So here are revised projections for everyone I've done so far, except for Alfredo Amezaga because no one gives a damn:

           G    AB   H   2B  3B  HR  SO  BB  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  

Anderson 140 563 168 37 2 22 82 30 5 3 298 331 489
DaVanon 87 228 61 10 2 7 44 33 12 3 268 357 420
Eckstein 139 542 146 23 2 4 48 42 17 7 269 339 338
Erstad 116 464 127 22 2 7 67 32 15 2 275 325 373
Glaus 98 351 87 18 1 22 86 56 6 3 248 354 499
Everyone loses a little bit once age is accounted for, which makes sense (though Glaus moving from 27 to 28 is no biggie).

Again, this is pretty much in fun, to see if it works and because I'm not afraid of looking like a moron.

You can find the original explanation of what I'm doing here. If you care about this sort of stuff, read on; if not, feel free to check out (I won't be offended).

To begin with, I take a weighted average for each player of the last four years in each category. So that works out as 2004 x 4, 2003 x 3, etc. This established the base level.

Next, I take Tango's age adjustments. I have to modify them to make them work ... for instance, BB/AB goes from .660 at age 21 to .800 at age 24 (what that means is that, at age 24, the average player has reached 80% of the high he will reach in his career for BB/AB; BB/AB actually peaks at age 37, per this data). So I take the four-year weighted average of that, as I described above ... so the four-year weighted average for BB/AB after age 24 is .754.

So it's .754 for age 24; it's .794 for age 25. That's an increase of 5%. So, let's say we had a player who had a four-year weighted average of .100 BB/AB through 24 years of age. I would expect that to improve by 5% in the age 25 year, so his BB/AB would be projected to be .105.

So you can run this through all the categories, and use some algebra, some double-checking, and eventually you come up with a projected line. All you're doing is predicting the predictable, by finding a player's baseline performance and adjusting for age. Garret Anderson's baseline AVG/OBP/SLG for 2001-2004 is 305/338/503. He's going to be 33 for 2005, so you would have to expect some decline there, so we come up with a line of 298/331/489.

I don't have the means to figure out park factors on this, but since I'm only doing Angel players, that should come out pretty fine.

UPDATE: I had looked at them when they were posted, but Richard's link today reminded me to check in with Dan Szymborski's ZiPS predictions over at BTF.

Just looking at rates:

                 Me            Szymborski

Anderson 298 331 489 299 333 488
DaVanon 268 357 420 280 367 436
Eckstein 269 339 338 276 343 339
Erstad 275 325 373 271 325 373
Glaus 248 354 499 258 364 471
Wow, the Anderson and Erstad predictions are kinda scary, and Eckstein is damn close as well. There is a bit of a difference on DaVanon, though it's mostly batting average (adding 12 points to my projections gets 280/369/432, very close to Dan's). The big difference we have is on Glaus' power, and my projection is a lot closer to his career mark than Dan's is.

Friday, November 19, 2004

The deeper I dig, the more I like it.

First of all, remember that the Angels were coming from a disadvantageous position, in that everyone knew they had to trade Guillen. That has to make dealing difficult.

In doing so, they acquired a player with much of the same skill set as Guillen, but who happens to be a few years younger.

      Guillen   Rivera

Age EqA Out EqA Out
23 .229 90 .235 64
24 .243 239 .259 129
25 .236 102 .279 273
Guillen kicked into gear at age 27, and his EqA last year (age 28) was .282.

According to Bill Stoneman on the press conference call (which you can listen to here), the Angels are looking at Figgins or someone from the outside to play center. He speaks of Rivera being a complement to DaVanon, and doesn't seem to consider either one (or a platoon) for CF.

Stoneman admits that Izturis has a shot at the SS job, or even playing 2B until Kennedy returns. Izturis has an interesting track record; he has a good defensive rep, and the fact that he's drawn more walks than strikeouts in his minor league career is encouraging.

I think there's a decent chance that both of these guys will be in the 2005 starting lineup. We could be looking at:

C -- Molina
1B - Erstad
2B - Eckstein
3B - McPherson
SS - Izturis
LF/DH - Anderson/DaVanon/Rivera
CF - Figgins
RF - Vlad

I'm not sold on that; I'm not sold on Figgins as an everyday CF; I obviously don't know that Izturis is ready. But Stoneman moved an obstacle for two intriguing young (and cheap) players, and I think it's a solid move.

UPDATE: Dan Szymborski's analysis at BTF gives Stoneman kudos, and also gives some very generous projections to the new Angel acquisitions.

Rotoworld speculates that Rivera could be part of a package sent by Anaheim to Arizona for you-know-who, and sees the same possibility for Izturis.

The Angels are reportedly in the hunt for Cuban defector Kendry Morales, an alleged 20-year-old that has played right field, second base, first base, and DH for the Cuban team, and is described as a "switch-hitting slugger."

Another big if: if the Angels were to sign Morales and put him in the pipeline for 1B, that frees up Casey Kotchman to be involved in a Randy Johnson trade. Again, a big if. And I prescribe a few tons of salt for hyped Cuban players, and especially their ages.

Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Lads and the Washington Expos have agreed to a deal trading Jose Guillen for Juan Rivera and a minor leaguer. There is apparently a press conference scheduled for 1 PM Pacific Time to announce this.

Rivera hit 307/364/465 in 391 AB last season (an OPS+ of 118), at the age of 26. He spent most of his time in right field, and has been a corner outfielder for practically all of his career. Last season was by far his best so far in the majors, and also the first time he has had considerable playing time in the majors. He hit 325/374/466 in Columbus in 2003, and 325/355/502 there in 2002.

So we have another free-swinging corner outfielder on the team. He's got a little upside, but ... he doesn't solve either the middle infielder problem, the center field problem, or the starting pitching problem. He might fill the DH spot, either by playing in left and putting Garret there or DHing himself.

A lot would depend on who the prospect is, but it looks like Guillen has been dispatched for a comparable player, and not one that directly addresses our needs. Given the baggage, maybe that's the best we could do.

UPDATE: There is some speculation that the prospect may be Maicer Izturis, a shorstop prospect in the D.C. system blocked by their recent acquisition of Cristian Guzman. Following that link takes you to a page including Izturis' minor league numbers, which include a 338/428/423 tear last year in AAA at the age of 24. Of course, the 'Spos' AAA team is based in Edmonton, and the Angels know all about getting burned by Edmonton stats. Per Clay Davenport at BPro, Izturis had an EqA of .283 at Edmonton -- which translates to a measly .238 in the show (there's about a 40-point difference between the majors and AAA by this measure). Izturis does look good in Davenport's projections, however.

I don't want to get too far ahead of facts with speculation, but if this is all true, Izturis could start at short, booting Eckstein to second while the team is on Adam Kennedy Health Watch.

UPDATE II: The AP also runs the story, but the prospect is still unidentified.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

ESPN is reporting that Troy Percival has signed with Detroit (not online yet). Good; this means we won't have to face him in the playoffs.

UPDATE: Online confirmation.

       G   AB   H  2B  3B  HR  SO  BB  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS+  EqA  ZR(1B)

2004 125 495 146 29 1 7 74 37 16 1 295 346 400 95 .273 .851(4)
Car. 125 486 136 24 3 11 69 38 16 5 289 344 424 98 .272 .864
Pro. 116 464 130 23 2 7 66 32 16 2 280 329 380 87
In my pre-season preview, I identified Darin Erstad as "[t]he single greatest risk for the Angels coming into 2004." The Angels were gambling that returning him to first base would enliven his dreary bat of 2001-2003. And, for about three months, they were right.

Coming off the DL in June, The Punter hit 321/368/453, followed up by a 337/415/478 in July and 367/407/505 in August.

And that was it; the rest of the time he was terrible. Here are 4-3's OPS by month in 2004:

April    623

May 644
June 821
July 893
August 911
Sept. 532
October 944
That October was only eight at-bats-worth, and includes his big hit in the division clincher. He was also en fuego during the postseason, ripping out a 500/643/900 in three games.

Erstad got within spitting distance of his career hitting norms last year, which is the first time he's done so in an aeon. As his career numbers are amped up by the out-of-left-field 2000, that means he actually had a pretty good year by his standards. So what does a pretty good year for Darin Erstad mean, in terms of where he ranks at his position?

1. Out of the 30 regular 1B in the majors last season (as listed by BB-ref), Erstad's OPS+ surpassed only Doug Mientkiewicz (who lost his starting job) and John Old-erud's time in Seattle only (not his overall season numbers). That's it.

2. Erstad ranked 36th out of all MLB 1B in VORP.

3. He ranked 26th in RARP.

4. (2) and (3) refer to cumulative stats, so you might think Erstad's missed time hurt him. However, there were 30 MLB 1B in 2004 that had 400+ plate appearances; Erstad ranked 25th in that group. Out of 23 1B with 500+ PA, he ranked 20th.

5. As a group, Angel 1B ranked 29th in the majors in OPS and last in home runs. Erstad, again, was hurt for part of the year, but much of that is his fault.

And this is him having a good year, remember? With three hot months.

Look, we all know Erstad is ill-suited to 1B offensively, so none of the above should be a surprise. He would be much more valuable in center or even left, where his considerable defensive talents could be more advantageous. But would he decline as a hitter? Who knows? Even if he drops a bit offensively, could the defense make it up?

No one really knows the answer to those questions; it's much speculation. But it's obvious that moving him to 1B didn't keep him healthy:

                      % of Innings Played At:

Year Games Missed 1B LF CF
2000 5 0.3 81.3 18.4
2001 5 5.3 94.6
2002 12 0.7 99.3
2003 95 100.0
2004 37 100.0
As demonstrated above, it's not like Erstad playing 1B made him a consistent hitter. But was he more consistent than in years past? Did he maintain better over the course of the year?

The following is a quick "OPS+" for each month of Erstad's life in the last few years. For instance, last year his OPS was 746, and in August he had 911, so that's an OPS+ of 122 (that's not exactly how OPS+ is calculated, but it should be close enough for our purposes). Each month is compared to the total for that year, and the Pre- and Post-All Star Break numbers come at the end.

              2001        2002        2003        2004

April 93 86 141 84
May 114 130 86
June 117 107 86 110
July 88 74 88 120
August 86 110 100 122
September 106 82 71
October 81 127
Pre ASB 109 108 106 98
Post ASB 89 90 85 102
Is there any reason to believe that Erstad's rough-and-tumble ways lead to his offense degenerating? Well, in 2001 he was stronger hear the beginning of the year ... and in 2002 ... and even in 2003, which was a lost season due to injury. Last year was the first time he was as good after the break as he was before in the last four seasons. He had the same pattern in 2000, as well, with a 1033 OPS before the break and 849 after (regression to the mean, anyone?).

I have no idea if having Erstad at first really helped him not decline in the second half. Actually, I think its his DL stint. His getting injured may have helped, in that he may have come back fresh from the DL. The All Star Break was by no means Erstad's midpoint in 2004, so it's really just an arbitrary break.

Here's what I think: I think Erstad's going to hit what he's going to hit, and it doesn't really matter what position he's playing at the time. Sure, if he's injured that might affect him, but I don't buy that he's any less likely to be injured playing first base than he is playing in the outfield.

Anyway, my entreaties to return Erstad to the outfield have fallen upon deaf ears. Stoneman reportedly would prefer to keep Erstad at first in 2005. Which means that there's a good chance we'll have the weakest offensive first baseman in the league in 2005, and a Gold Glove doesn't quite make up for that.

But I can tell you I'm rooting for Casey Kotchman to have a monster spring.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Yes, it was expected and deserved, so congrats to Vlad on the honor.


Yesterday, I bid adieu to Ramon Ortiz. I knew he technically could come back, but doubted the Angels would pursue such action. However, Stoneman leaves the door open in today's LA Times. "Command got him into trouble," he is quoted as saying. "If he can find the command we've seen from him in the past then, shoot, he can be a starter." Well, yeah, if ...

Also from Stoneman: "Looking at his option price, we decided we would do better in arbitration. The analysis we went through suggests a much lower number than $5.5 million." I would hope so!

Even if we get him back cheap, I don't know ... as I mentioned in the comments section to yesterday's post, his inconsistency is infuriating. He's had some great moments but he'll be 32 years old next year, so there's no real reason to believe he's going to improve.

If he comes back cheap, and fills a middle relief/spot starter role, that could be okay -- he managed a 104 ERA+ last year, but almost all his success came out of the bullpen (he had a 5.47 ERA as a starter, but 2.76 in 49 relief innings last year). But would Ortiz be happy in such a role? Could we find equal or better alternatives for cheaper in the farm system or waiver wire? A lot depends on if we acquire a starter like Randy Johnson or Pedro, and how the rotation looks thereafter. I wouldn't be surprised if the decision on whether or not to offer Ortiz arbitration comes very close to the deadline.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Adios, Sr. Ortiz.

I was kind of silent last week, basically because I was out of town this past weekend and was busy at work. But I should have a few posts this week, so have no fear! There might even be something up later today -- we've got Darin Erstad to get to, and we have trade rumors bouncing all over the place.

Monday, November 08, 2004

       G   AB   H  2B  3B  HR  SO  BB  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS+  EqA  ZR(SS)

2004 142 566 156 24 1 2 49 42 16 5 276 339 332 77 .250 .859(4)
Car. 142 541 151 23 3 4 49 42 20 7 278 347 353 87 .260 .870
Pro. 139 542 149 23 2 4 48 41 18 7 275 343 346 84
(La explanaciĆ³n esta aquĆ­ . The career numbers are prorated to last year's number of games.)

In my very first post ever, I uttered the following about David Eckstein:

David Eckstein will bounce back in 2004.

His career line is a 279/350/360, and I believe he will perform close to this in the coming season, and will make his injury-riddled 2003 a distant memory.
Okay, so that didn't work out so well. Though his raw totals hide it, Eckstein wasn't really all that much better with the bat in 2004; his OPS+ was 77, just below his 79 of 2003, and his EqA only went up from .245 to .250.

We all like to root for David Eckstein, because he's an underdog and a nice guy, but I'm not really sure how much gas he has left in the tank. He'll be 30 years old in January, so it's not like he's about to get better in any aspect of his game. If Adam Kennedy can come back from injury fairly quickly, that might free up The Legs to play short, and Figgins is probably a better alternative a short than Eck right now.

That said, Eckstein isn't all that bad. Shortstops who had worse offensive seasons than Eck in 2004 include Christian Guzman (now unemployed), Orlando Cabrera, Adam Everett, Angel Berroa, and Rich Aurilia. Clay Davenport's ratings mark him as 18th amongst major league shortstops in runs above replacement for 2003, while Keith Woolner's VORP has him 8th in the AL and 18th in the majors. Win Shares only has him as 11th in the league, though.

What Eckstein has become is this guy that's not going to hurt you. He's better than replacement level and hovers around average, which has value. Shorstop isn't particularly a strength for the Angels at this point, but they have more pressing weaknesses and concerns. That doesn't mean that upgrading short is off the table; as I discussed a bit here, it doesn't seem that the available shortstops this offseason will be viable choices.

But the Angels have to be aware that no matter how great a story Eckstein is, or what he's brought us in the past, his days as a useful player are likely numbered. They likely know this, as Alberto Callaspo, Brandon Wood, and Erick Aybar are lined up to take his job (though Callaspo may end up manning the keystone).


Since I've brought them up, let's take a look at the Halo middle infield prospects. I am indebted to Future Angels for much of the following information.

Callaspo used to be paired with Erick Aybar, but moved back to short this year at Arkansas. At age 21, he posted a 285/339/377 line in the Texas League, stealing 15 bases against 14 caught-stealings. That's a below-average offensive performance in the Texas League. At age 21, that's not really that big a deal, but you'd have to think he'll repeat the level in 2005. The fact that he has spent a lot of time at second, and may yet return there, indicates to me that the Angels don't really think he can be a major-league shortstop defensively.

One strong mark in Callaspo's favor is that he has had pretty good plate discipline at every stop in the minors; though he doesn't walk a great deal (only 47 times in 544 AB a year ago) he strikes out even less: he only whiffed 25 times last year. That's one reason Clay Davenport's system projects him pretty well, and he sees a bit of power developing, too.

The Lads' 2003 first-round pick did not have what appears to be a stellar season with the bat at Cedar Rapids, hitting 251/322/404. However, that performance is slightly above-average for the league and park. You might want more than "slightly above-average" from a first-round pick, but when you consider that he was 19 and playing his first professional season, and playing an important defensive, you realize that's okay. He didn't really tear up the Rookie level in 2003, either, though, and hasn't demonstrated a great deal of plate discipline as yet.

A toolsy fellow, Aybar was 20 in 2004 and hit 330/370/485 in the California League, stealing 51 bases and being thrown out a mind-numbing 36 times. That ranked him sixth in the league in Davenport's runs above replacement for position, who also gave him a good projection going forward. Over at Future Angels, Stephen Smith points out that Aybar out-hit what Miguel Tejada did in the Cal League at the same age. So there is a lot of promise here, though we need to see how he adjusts to AA.

All of these guys show promise, but none of them have "can't miss" written all over them. It will be very interesting to see which of these guys breaks away from the pack in the next two or three years. Can Eck hang on that long? I don't think so, actually ... but Figgy will be around, so the Halos can count on solid but unspectacular results from short for the forseeable future.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

K-Rod will replace Percy.

Fantasy owners, start your engines ...

Here is an article on the AL Gold Glove winners, announced today.

Here is the list of AL second basemen ranked by zone rating.


Anyway, congrats to Darin Erstad ...

Monday, November 01, 2004

       G   AB   H  2B  3B  HR  SO  BB  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS+  EqA  ZR(CF)

2004 108 285 79 11 4 7 54 46 18 3 277 372 418 118 .292 .837(9)
Car. 108 277 73 12 3 10 57 38 14 4 263 348 428 107 .280 .878
Pro. 87 228 62 10 2 7 43 33 13 3 273 360 428 109
(For an explanation see here. The career column is prorated to the number of games played last season.)

I can't remember if I've mentioned this in this forum before, but did you know Jeff DaVanon was such a good basestealer? I mean, 18 stolen bases isn't shaking the world or anything, but 18 for 21 is an excellent rate, and he has a 75.5% career success rate in 49 attempts. I honestly had no clue about this. Can you remember him ever stealing a base? Does he seem like a particularly graceful runner to you? But it works.

You'd think that, given his excellent walk rate and the stolen bases, DaVanon would scream top of the lineup. However, DaVanon played only eight games in the 2-hole last season; when Eckstein led off, Figgins batted second (during and after Erstad's injury), and when Figgins won the lead-off job, Erstad returned to second. Most of DaVanon's plate appearances last year came from the six spot.

DaVanon and Figgins are well-suited to the number 2 slot, but is Darin Erstad? Though DaVanon has been much better at reaching base the last two years, they actually have similar career numbers: Erstad has a .344 OBP to DaVanon's .348.

Erstad and DaVanon are an odd match of players, actually.

Career    PA   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS+   DOB 

DaVanon 874 263 348 428 105 12/8/73
Erstad 5010 289 344 424 98 6/4/74
Erstad was a number one pick in 1995 and a ballyhooed prospect. DaVanon was a 26th round pick that same year. Erstad ripped through the minors, playing only 114 games before reaching the majors, and hitting 328/392/488. DaVanon has 601 minor league games under his belt, in which he has hit 300/403/467. And yet, it appears that on a rate basis DaVanon has been at least the equal of Erstad as an offensive player in the major leagues.

Of course, Mike Scioscia has turned DaVanon into a platoon player; he rarely gets a chance to hit against left-handers. However, in the last three years, he has an OPS of 796 against RHP and 729 against lefties -- that's only a 9% difference.

Darin Erstad, by contrast, has a 722 OPS against righties and a 674 against southpaws over that same period -- a similar difference, 7%. But note: DaVanon's OPS againgst LHP over the three years is higher than Erstad's!

But where The Punter is considered an indispensable part of the everday lineup, DaVanon will have to fight for playing time. He will be in the mix in center and DH for 2005, and there are a few scenarios that provide for him to be a starter:

1. DaVanon could win the starting CF job (with The Punter at 1B).
2. Casey Kotchman could win the 1B job, putting Erstad into either CF or LF and Garret Anderson at LF or DH, with DaVanon taking whichever spot is left open.
3. The Angels can sign Carlos Beltran to play CF, Kotchman might get sent back to AAA, and DaVanon and Anderson would take over LF/DH.

Of course, if the Angels were to sign Beltran and Kotchman won the 1B job, Erstad would end up in LF and Anderson would DH, and DaVanon would go back to being an excellent fourth outfielder.

If the Angels signed Beltran, that makes the decisions quite a bit earlier. But what if Beltran ends up in pinstripes? Who else might be available? Examine the free agent list here; here are CF highlights:

1. Carlos Beltran
2. J.D. Drew
3. Steve Finley

That's it.

We all know about Beltran; J.D. Drew finally realized his potential last season, staying healthy and having a fantastic year. But his health has been a humongous question over his career, and even listing him as a center field option is speculative: though many say he could handle the position, he has been a right fielder for most of his major league career. (By the way, did you know that Drew's name is "David Jonathan Drew"? Why the hell does he go by "J.D." when his initials are "D.J."? What is that about?)

Steve Finley was excellent in 2004, but is roughly 398 years old, and has been on a defensive skid for years.

I still believe that the opening day center fielder for the Angels in 2005 will be either Darin Erstad or Carlos Beltran. Unless the Angels pick up a CF for Jose Guillen, I just don't see them starting the season with DaVanon out there. DaVanon is a valuable reserve, and might even be the best fourth outfielder in the majors, but I don't think his glove carries him in center, and I don't think his bat carries him as a corner outfielder or DH -- especially considering the fact that he'll be 31 next year, and his peak is likely behind him.

The only other in-house CF option is Legs Figgins, who will have spell Adam Kennedy at second for an undetermined amount of time.

If the past is truly prologue, the fact is we're going to see quite a bit of DaVanon in the starting lineup in 2005. The Angels have a number of notably fragile players, and DaVanon has a good spread of skills to fill in gaps. He's been a productive and valuable member of the Angels, and I expect that to continue in 2005, whatever role he ends up filling.

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