Wednesday, December 28, 2005

MLB.com runs this goofy story on how Gary DiSarcina is now eligible for the Hall of Fame. For instance:
Joining DiSarcina for initial consideration to the Hall are Rick Aguilera, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Alex Fernandez, Gary Gaetti, Dwight Gooden, Ozzie Guillen, Orel Hershiser, Gregg Jefferies, Doug Jones, Hal Morris, Walt Weiss and John Wetteland.
Yeah, those guys are thrilled to join DiSar, I'm sure.

I would also like to know just what the hell this is supposed to mean:
DiSarcina, who hit .258 over 1,086 Major League games, suffered mostly from being trapped as a key player at the wrong time. Not once during his tenure did the Angels make the playoffs and a fracture to his left forearm that he suffered after being hit by a bat during batting practice in spring 1999 helped his career end prematurely.
Okay, please exclude 1995 from what I'm about to say:

How was DiSarcina the one that suffered from being "a key player at the wrong time"? The way this passage reads, it's like he was this valuable player who played on bad teams.

No: he was a bad player that played on decent teams. Maybe, just maybe, the reason those teams never made the postseason is because they had a guy who put up on OPS+ of 66 for three years. 66. That's worse than Steve Finley was last year. And while DiSar was an excellent defensive player and I have every reason to believe he's a good guy and was a fantastic teammate, it's hard to win divisions when your shortstop is one of the worst-hitting regulars in the major leagues.

Okay, everything went to hell in 1996, so DiSar's pathetic performance didn't cost the team the division there. But in 1997, DiSar played 154 games and put up a beyond-awful 56 OPS+ (only two AL shortstops were worse). He was, by my calculations, 38 runs below average as a hitter. (If you check out his card at Baseball Prospectus, you'll find that Clay Davenport's ratings are much more generous, pegging him at -36.) That's a lot of runs -- that's nearly four wins. His defense was probably good enough to get a win back, maybe two. (I vaguely remember looking at his defense around that time at concluding he was about a win better than average.) The Angels lost the division by six games; roughly one-half of that deficit might be assigned to DiSarcina.

He was much better in 1998, rating at -15 runs by my reckoning. So he was probably only about half a win below average that season. The Angels lost the division by three games.

No, he didn't singlehandedly ruin those team's chances, but he sure didn't help. Yeah yeah, I know his teammates loved him, and he was considered a leader, but I never saw how that actually helped anything. It's not like his teammates would have become worse players had he not been around to inspire anybody.

Wow, sorry to go on a rant there, but in a previous life a debate about DiSar's merits as a ballplayer was a weekly occurrence. So when he is mentioned, my rankles are regularly raised.

But -- he'll always have 1995, which is more than a lot of people have. It's not that I disliked the man, it's just that I thought on balance he hurt his teams.

Sean, the sage of Purgatory Online, has called it quits.

We'll miss you, Sean, and I, for one, am sad about your impending loss of soul (i.e. attending law school). But best of luck to you ...

Friday, December 23, 2005

So, last year I tried signing off for the holidays, and a few hours later we signed Orlando Cabrera.

The hell with it, I'll tempt fate and try it again. Have a good Christmas everyone -- I'll see y'all next week, and hopefully we don't do anything stupid in the meantime.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

As you know, the Angel-Giant Suck Exchange discussed here last week has come to pass.

Edgardo Alfonzo is the newest Angel; he should slide into a role as a late-inning defensive substitute at third base and occasional starter at third or second against tough lefties. Neither Alfonzo nor Steve Finley came close to earning their contracts last year, but The Fonz still appears to have some defensive value, which means he should come a lot closer than Father Time in 2006.

I don't really have anything else to give you on this one. So I'll just give you my highly amateur projection for Alfonzo in 2006 (UPDATE: The playing time is based on his past performance, not my expectation of how often he'll play in '06):
 G   AB   H   2B  3B  HR  SO  BB  SB  CS  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS+
127 455 125 21 1 8 40 43 3 1 275 340 380 90

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Per Rotoworld, the Mariners want all of our southpaws to belong to them, as they have claimed Jake Woods off of waivers.

I don't know that Woods is going to be all that good, but he's only 24, so I'm not sure he wasn't more deserving of a roster spot than Esteban Yan, who sucks. Oh well, no biggie ...

Our man has the fever! He has dispatched The Indispensable Josh Paul to Tampa Bay, where he will continue his apprenticeship to Joe Maddon.

In return, we have been given something called Travis Schlichting. A fourth-round pick in 2003, this minor league infielder doesn't seem more than organizational filler. He hit 252/304/335 in the Midwest League last year at twenty-one years of age.


Rob links to an article about how the Angels are learning from the Indianapolis Colts.

Apparently, before every pitch next season, Jeff Mathis will emerge from behind the plate and gesticulate wildly, pointing to no one in particular, and in general flap around like a chicken. Our positional alignment will sometimes shift when this happens, and the batter will be horribly, horribly confused.

Oh, wait -- I guess that's not it. It's more about a cross-pollenization of scouting ideas. It's a great read, actually, so check it out.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

You didn't think we'd make it two straight days without a new rumor, did you? This one comes via an Oakland Tribune article linked to at Rotoworld:
Yet the [Giants have] more needs to fill, including a left-handed hitter who would play a significant outfield role when Barry Bonds and Moises Alou are on the bench.

For that, the Giants have looked at an old flame — Angels outfielder Steve Finley. A major league source said the Giants discussed a salary swap at the July 31 trade deadline and again during the winter meetings that would have sent Edgardo Alfonzo to Anaheim for Finley. The Angels had lukewarm interest but asked Sabean to keep the offer on the table. It could be revisited in spring training.
Alfonzo, who was good once upon a time, has been a pretty big bust with the Giants. Over the three years of his contract, he's posted an OPS+ of 88. That would be fine if he were a Gold Glove second baseman making two or three million per year; as an aging third baseman who makes in excess of seven million per, that ain't too hot.

An Alfonzo for Finley swap last July would likely have put Alfonzo at third and Legs Figgins in center. No guarantees that anything good would have come out of that. There's nothing Alfonzo can really do at this point that's better than what other Angel backups can do.

Can Alfonzo out-hit Robb Quinlan? Q's OPS+ the last three years (his entire career) has been 109, clearly better than The Fonz's mark.

Defense? Well, he's likely a better defensive third baseman than either Ztu or Q. But that difference isn't likely enough to justify acquiring him.

As intriguing as dumping Finley sounds, getting The Fonz in exchange doesn't sound like the best use of resources.

Monday, December 12, 2005

No one has commented on this, and this apparently because it's not online, but the LA Times had a short little piece by Mike DiGiovanna yesterday (Sunday) about the possibility of the Angels being in the market for Miguel Tejada.

An unnamed Orioles official was quoted as remarking that The OC would be a sufficient defensive replacement for Tejada, and DiGiovanna went on to mull over who the O's might want in addition -- Darin Erstad and Casey Kotchman being the prime suspects.

Well, I was going to dive all into this today, but Rob links to this indication that Tejada no longer wants to be traded, or never wanted to be traded, or whatever. So I won't waste my time and yours trying to figure out if Cabrera and Kotchman are worth Mr. Swings at Everything.


Maya links to an interview with Joe Maddon at the Freakonomics blog. It's basically Maddon extolling the virtues of Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, and mentioning that Josh Paul recommended it to him -- and that he would read anything Josh Paul recommends.

This, of course, has nothing to do with the Angels anymore, but it certainly backs up the idea that Josh Paul is destined for a career in management when his "playing" days are over.


On the topic of Joe Maddon, I had thought that the Rays picking Steve Andrade in the Rule Five draft was an indication of Maddon and his pitching coach, former Angel minor league instructor Mike Butcher, believing in him and grabbing him for their own organization. Apparently not, though: the Rays have turned around and traded Andrade to the Padres. Well, I still wish him luck -- all along I've been campaigning for him to get a real shot at AAA, and here he is trying to make a major league roster.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Per Rotoworld, we've picked up JC Romero from the Twins for Alexi Casilla.

Casilla, who turns 22 in late July, would have started at short in Rancho Cucamonga in 2006. Obviously, he's buried below a treasure trove of Angel middle infield prospects.

As I mention below, I would expect Romero to be good for an ERA+ in the 120-range, which will be good enough to get him some playing time, and thus keep our other relievers alive throughout the season.

I think this is a fair move for both teams; neither team is getting anyone spectacular (though Casilla could develop well, he's likely three or four years away from being ready for the majors), the Angels address a need, and the Twins acquire an intriguing young prospect.

UPDATE: Confirmed at the Angel website ... also, I'm not sure which of Sean Rodriguez or Casilla would have been starting at Rancho this year, not that it matters anymore ...

UPDATE II: Am I the only person in the Halosphere who knew who Casilla was? Maybe I'm just a big Angels nerd.

AND ALSO: Anyone know how to delete comments? I just got hit with a spam comment for like the second time ever. How do I get rid of it?

- A number of new possibilities mentioned in today's LA Times, the most intriguing of which is an Erstad-for-Javy Lopez deal. The O's would insert The Punter at first base and the Angels would make Javy a DH and third catcher. Both players are in the last year of their respective deals, and are due to make $8.5M, so the financial side is a wash.

The baseball side, of course, favors the Angels. Lopez's OPS+ the last two years is 117, whereas Erstad hasn't even surpassed 100 since his alien-infested 2000 campaign.

One thing the Angels are mulling, reportedly, is whether or not Lopez would be a real improvement on Juan Rivera. Per the Baltimore Sun (via Rob), talks have already cooled, and the Angels are the source of the frosting. This would lead us to believe that the Angels have concluded that Lopez isn't worth $7M or so more than Juan Rivera at this point.

I'm bound to agree. Last year I fooled around a bit with a projection system for batters ... it turned out okay, if not great. Here are my projections for Lopez and Rivera:
Player   AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS+  
Lopez 458 133 26 2 22 31 82 291 342 496 117
Rivera 300 85 17 1 11 23 37 284 334 460 110
Though those should be taken with a mountain of salt, you can see that they project to be pretty close ... and part of Lopez's projection is his monster 2003, which I don't think he has a reasonable chance of repeating.

Of course, Lopez would just be replacing Erstad's salary, and he's probably a better use of that $8.5M unless Darin is still an unworldly center fielder with his glove. But Lopez wouldn't be a huge upgrade at DH and center would be weakened defensively if Figgins were to replace Erstad (which he'll have to do when Darin gets hurt, anyway). So I see why the Angels would be hesitant to pull this trigger.

- Two other DH candidates are mentioned -- Nomar Garciaparra, who has been oft-discussed, and Frank Thomas, who has been discussed heretofore only here, I believe. In the interest of completeness, and of making me look like an idiot come October:
Player   AB   H   2B   3B   HR   BB   SO   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS+  
Nomar 383 113 23 4 14 24 37 294 341 484 113
Thomas 276 69 15 0 20 55 65 249 379 526 134
I think a healthy Nomar (ha ha ha) could outperform that, and I'll set the over/under on Thomas' plate appearances in '06 at 200. But these are both intriguing guys, who could probably picked up for low cost but who could explode and reward their team with a high pay-off.

- As for lefty bullpen help, there is talk of JC Romero and Ricardo Rincon (maybe he will punch out Jim Thome!). Romero, in his four seasons of full-time relief, has an ERA+ of 153 in 275 1/3 innings -- a good number, but pushed up by a ridiculous 234 in 2002. He's probably a better bet for being in the 120 range, which is okay. He would cost the Angels a prospect, but not a marquee one, I would imagine.

Rincon, who perhaps the Angels could flip for Brian Giles, has been slipping the last few years, with his ERA+'s going from 131 to 127 to 104, a nice companion to a mediocre strikeout-to-walk ratio (1.45 the last three years). Like a lot of guys available this offseason, he's just kind of there, not terrible but not all that thrilling, either.

- The chances of the Angels acquiring Manny, which I never thought were high, are going down every day. With the BoSox in need of a shortstop and Miguel Tejada looking for a way out of Baltimore, it seems like there might be a match made in heaven for those two AL East clubs. Especially considering that, per the Times, the Sox asked the Angels for one of Escobar and Shields plus two of Brandon Wood, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, and another minor leaguer in return for their overpaid malcontent DH who can't run the bases. I understand where Boston's coming from -- they have a remarkable hitter and want good value for him -- but that's crazy, especially considering the Angels don't need Manny and, to be honest, Boston doesn't need to trade him, either.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Checking out the news at Rotoworld is a pretty good way to see what players were offered and not offered arbitration.

I thought I'd go through and see which of these guys might be of interest to the Angels. Almost none of these guys have been mentioned in actual rumors, but this is just an attempt to gauge who might be desirable. The positions I looked for were: middle relievers, fifth starters, center fielders, and right-handed power-hitting DH types. Here we go:

Cal Eldred
How he might fit: Middle relief
What he might cost: He's made less than $1M each of the last four seasons.
Pros: He's a solid but unspectacular middle reliever.
Cons: He's old and not exactly the healthiest guy in the league.
Recommendation: Well, I'd rather have him than Esteban Yan. He wouldn't be the worst choice to be the fourth or fifth guy out of the pen, but the Angels can probably do better.

Nomar Garciaparra

How he might fit: DH, occasional infield backup
What he might cost: I would guess the injury risk would knock him down to the $5M-$6M range, but I don't know.
Pros: It's unlikely that he's forgotten how to hit; as Rally Monkey points out, it's not out of the question for him to pull a Paul Molitor and thrive in a DH role.
Cons: He just can't stay healthy.
Recommendation: He's worth a phone call, at least. Probably not worth getting into a bidding war over, especially with Morales on the way to DH as soon as 2007, but he really could be a steal for someone if he can play in as many as 140 games at anywhere near the level he's shown us before.

Juan Gonzalez
How he might fit: DH/DL
What he might cost: Five cents.
Pros: What if he actually managed to stay healthy?
Cons: And what if Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were marrying for love?
Recommendation: Pass.

Jason Johnson
How he might fit: Fifth starter
What he might cost: $3M or $4M per for a couple, at best.
Pros: Eats innings.
Cons: Allows runs. His strikeout rate also took a big dive last season, which bodes ill.
Recommendation: Pass. He ain't that good.

Byung-Hyun Kim
How he might fit: Fifth starter or middle relief
What he might cost: Hard to peg, because of his odd history. Could make $4M or $5M per, could draw no interest and get picked up for a lot cheaper.
Pros: If he's healthy, he's lights out.
Cons: From the 2003 postseason on, he hasn't been healthy, and hasn't looked pretty.
Recommendation: He's an intriguing guy, because of his electric stuff, but whether he can harness it is a whole other question. The Rockies offered him arbitration, but as I write this it was unclear as to whether or not he'd accept. If he does, forget it, he's not worth the draft pick he gets to hang out in Coors Field and have his stats batted around for another year, driving his perceived value down even further. If he rejects arbitration, he's worth a call to see where the market it, and think about taking a chance if it's really low (he does not appear on the list of players whose loss would award his previous team with a draft pick). If not, pass.

Kenny Lofton
How he might fit: Center fielder and leadoff hitter; he could play center with Erstad in left and Kotchman at first, with Garret at DH and Figgins backing up everywhere
What he might cost: $3M per year max, and likely nothing longer than a two-year deal.
Pros: He can still reach base like nobody's business, and is a high-percentage basestealer. He's still an adequate defensive player.
Cons: Durability. He hasn't played in over 150 games since 1998, and has averaged 96.5 the last two years.
Recommendation: Polite interest. He's probably less valuable than Figgins at this point, but a lot of Figgy's value comes from his versatility. This wouldn't be my favorite thing, and there's zero talk of the Angels pursuing it, but it could be intriguing in my fantasy world.

Kevin Millar
How he might fit: DH, corner "outfielder" and first baseman
What he might cost: No more than $3M per year for a couple of years
Pros: He's an okay hitter.
Cons: He's 34 years old and really crashed last year.
Recommendation: Pass. There's nothing he can do that Juan Rivera and Robb Quinlan can't do better.

Mike Piazza
How he might fit: DH, sometime catcher to relieve Mathis
What he might cost: It's hard to imagine him making a whole lot
Pros: There's a chance he might recapture his old offensive magic; marketing.
Cons: He's probably toast. His OPS+ the last two seasons is 106, he's 37 years old, and his body has been bashed from years of catching.
Recommendation: Pass.

Jeff Nelson
How he might fit: Middle relief
What he might cost: He made the minimum last year.
Pros: Though he's dropped off the past few years, he's still been decent, posting a 111 ERA+ the last three seasons.
Cons: He's old, increasingly inconsistent, and has not pitched a lot of innings the last couple of seasons.
Recommendation: Last resort.

Reggie Sanders
How he might fit: DH and corner outfield
What he might cost: He's never made more than $4M in a year, so a one-year at around $3M might be doable.
Pros: He can still hit (a 121 OPS+ the last three years) ...
Cons: ... when he's healthy (a max of 135 games in that span).
Recommendation: Given how good a hitter he's been at times, and how injury-prone he's been, it's odd that no AL team has just handed him a DH job to see what would happen. He's 38, but didn't show any signs of slowing down last year ... there are actually a lot of things the Angels could do worse than give Sanders $3M to DH for a year and then let Kendry take over. I guess the question is: will he out-produce Juan Rivera? I think he might, but it's close.

Rudy Seanez
How he might fit: Middle relief
What he might cost: I can't see him getting more than $1M or $2M per year; San Diego had him at just above minimum last year, though he pitched very well and that might push his price tag up.
Pros: He can pitch; since an injury-shortened 2003, he has a 140 ERA+ in 106 1/3 innings, along with 130 strikeouts and 41 walks.
Cons: His arm could always blow up again.
Recommendation: The guy has always been able to pitch when healthy. He'd likely surpass Donnelly as the team's #3 reliever, and if you can get that cheaply, it's not a bad chance to take.

Julian Tavarez
How he might fit: Middle relief
What he might cost: Probably in the $2M-$3M per range for a couple of years.
Pros: He's pretty good; he has a 137 ERA+ since becoming a full-time reliever (again) over the past three years. He has solid peripherals as well.
Cons: Should you really spend that much on a middle reliever?
Recommendation: If the Angels want to go outside the organization to shore up the bullpen, and aren't targetting a lefty, Tavarez might be one of the better choices. But I wouldn't pay him over $3.5M per for two years, and even that's the high end.

Brett Tomko
How he might fit: Fifth starter
What he might cost: A max of $3M-$4M per for a couple of years
Pros: Can throw close to 200 innings and be league average.
Cons: Mediocre at best.
Recommendation: He's less than thrilling, but if signed cheaply he might be okay. He practically has no upside, though, so what you see is what you get.

Rondell White
How he might fit: DH and corner outfield
What he might cost: Probably around $3M-$4M per for a couple of years
Pros: Not a bad hitter.
Cons: Not a great hitter, either.
Recommendation: Pass. Juan Rivera's better, and can play defense.

As you see, there might be a few cheap options for the Angels to shore up the bullpen and maybe even the DH position. Still, finding cheap guys who are demonstrably better than Rivera might be tough; the only guy in that above list who I think has a good shot at outperforming him is Reggie Sanders, and even then it's close, and you still have Sanders' durability to worry about. Nomar certainly could do very well, but his health is the hugest question of all.

Looking at the pen guys, Rudy Seanez might have the best combo of upside and cheapness, as long as the Angels aren't looking specifically for a lefthander. The LOOGY free agents are uninspiring guys like Alan Embree and Buddy Groom; the Lads are likely better off just giving the job to Jake Woods.

- As you certainly know by now, the Angels have declined to offer arbitration to Bengie Molina and Jarrod Washburn. Though this is no surprise in relation to Wash, this is a turnabout on Bengie, as the Angels were expected to offer him arbitration.

Seitz is pretty upset about this, and, well ... Seitz has a point. Offering Bengie arbitration would have brought him back for one year and one year only. He likely would not have been too expensive. He likely would have accepted arbitration, as all of his likely suitors (Mets, Orioles, and Diamondbacks) have already acquired catchers. And this would have allowed Jeff Mathis one more year of maturation, which I think he likely needs. It seems like the ideal situation -- but, alas, 'twas not to be. Hopefully Jeff and Jose Molina can pick up the slack.

- Rob links to this (registration required) Riverside Something article that basically says Kotchman-for-Sweeney ain't happening and was never going to happen and that Darin Erstad is likely to return to center. Let's hope so.

- There will be one less player on the roster as Erstad Injury Insurance, in that case, as -- sorry, Maya -- Jeff DaVanon has been designated for assignment and is expected to be released. Jeff was a solid back-up for a couple of years there, but his average and power bottomed out last year, and he found himself losing playing time to Juan Rivera. With Chone Figgins and Steve Finley both able to (theoretically) play center field, DaVanon's one back-up niche is basically gone. Anyway, I wish him well -- back-up outfielders can bounce around from year-to-year because of their relatively scarce at-bats, and I wouldn't be shocked if he managed to help out someone as a fourth- or fifth-outfielder next year.

Does this also mean that Nick Gorneault may get a shot at making the team? Maybe ... but there's not really anything he can do that Rivera can't do better, so I wouldn't count on it, so long as everyone is healthy.

- It is also reported that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays might be interested in trading for Josh Paul. I guess Joe Maddon needs someone to do his laundry.

- Also via Rob, this here be the results from the Rule 5 Draft. A couple of former Angels pop up -- the Padres selected former Halo first-round pick Seth Etherton from the Royals, and from the Blue Jays the Devil Rays have picked ... wait for it ... STEVE ANDRADE!!! That's right, the Chronicles poster boy who has been dominating AA since the Carter Administration gets a chance to skip right up to the majors. This is a good pick for the Devil Rays -- I smell the hand of Joe Maddon in this one -- as it's no-risk and a potentially high reward. This guy has 2002-2003 Brendan Donnelly written all over him, and he deserves his shot. STEVE ANDRADE IS FREE!!!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Don't you just love this time of year? Let's just jump into this rumor-heavy LA Times article:

- According to a Times source, Kansas City has demanded Casey Kotchman and Brandon Wood for Mike Sweeney. This indicates to me that Allard Baird (A) is a raging idiot, (B) has no intention of trading Mike Sweeney, (C) takes the Angels for suckers and is going to try to get all he can, or (D) some combination of the above.

With his salary and durability issues, Sweeney isn't worth either one of those guys straight-up, much less in combination. It seems that the Angels realize that, but the article ominously notes that our Lads "are believed to have told the Royals they might consider a deal for Sweeney if Kansas City settled on a lesser prospect than Wood."

- Interesting news on the Manny Ramirez front. While heretofore the BoSox have asked for Ervin Santana and Arizona (part of a rumored three-way that would result in Troy Glaus going to Fenway) has coveted Scot Shields, Boston has now reportedly asked about Orlando Cabrera. This would be in prelude to them dealing Edgar Renteria to Atlanta, who seeks a replacement for Rafael Furcal.

The Angels, in turn, would put either Maicer Izturis or Legs Figgins at shortstop until one of the Wood/Aybar set is ready, which would presumably be in 2007. There is also talk of, if these things happen, the Angels pursuing Rich Aurilia to complement Ztu as an infield reserve.

Trading Cabrera would partially defray the costs of Manny, of course, and sticking Chone in the infield would pretty much necessitate putting Erstad in center, assuming Kotchman was not part of the trade (the nightmare scenario being Kotch traded, Erstad kept at first, and Steve Finley in center). I consider this by far the most intriguing Manny rumor we've heard yet, as it has the singular distinction of not being thoroughly awful. Aurilia would likely be good for an OPS+ in the 80-90 range, not bad for a fifth infielder, and I think Figgins could handle short if given the opportunity. Still, whether or not such a deal would be worthwhile depends on who else we would be giving up, so we'll reserve judgment for now.

- According to his agent, Matt Morris has received "marginal" interest from the Angels. Morris has been a solid pitcher over the course of his career, with a lifetime 116 ERA+ mark in nearly 1,400 innings, and superb 2.68:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Of course, a lot of his dominance came when he was young; in his first four seasons, I estimate that he was around 119 runs above replacement (total), whereas over his last four seasons the figure is around 62.

I think there's a good chance that Morris will get more money and years than he's worth at this point. His last few seasons haven't been as good as Paul Byrd's, for example. So I'd say "marginal" interest is just about right.

- Bill Stoneman says he has been "more focused on pitching" at these meetings, and of course very few rumors we've heard address that. So it will be interesting to see what happens.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

- As an anonymous commenter noted on my most recent post, it appears that the Angels had an opportunity to secure Paul Byrd to a one-year deal, and missed out. Per today's LA Times:
Byrd, who went 12-11 with a 3.74 earned-run average and pitched superbly in the American League championship series, said in late September that he was so happy with the Angels he would return under a one-year contract, and his agent, Bo McKinnis, traveled to Anaheim in an attempt to reach a deal with General Manager Bill Stoneman before the season ended.

"They were not interested [at the time] in getting anything done," Byrd said.
At the end of the negotiations, Stoneman pretty much matched Cleveland's two-year, $14M with a third-year option offer -- but also gave Byrd a deadline. Uncomfortable with being forced into a decision, The Wyrd went in another direction.

Why was a deadline imposed, reportedly? Because the Angels didn't want to miss out on Hector Carrasco.

If this works out, and Carrasco is a capable fifth starter or valuable reliever, this will be a big feather in Stoneman's camp. But given their track records, and the fact that we would likely still have Byrd had Stoneman acted in November, it is a gamble.

- Via Rob, Ken Rosenthal alleges the Angels are looking into a deal with Tampa Bay for center fielder Joey Gathright and catcher Toby Hall.

I suspect that such a deal might not really get going until the Bengie Molina situation is settled. With the Mets trading for Paul LoDuca (marking the second time in his career LoDuca has replaced Mike Piazza -- interestingly, the only three teams the two players have ever been with are Chavez Ravine, the Florida Marlins, and the New York Mets, and they all played on those teams in that order), the market for Bengie and Ramon Hernandez has shrunk just a bit. The Angels are expected to offer Bengie arbitration tomorrow; if Bengie accepts, we'll have him for one more year while Jeff Mathis gets one more year to mature in AAA.

Bill Stoneman is on record as saying that he thinks Mathis is ready, which would make his pursuit of Toby Hall somewhat curious. Hall is in his arbitration years, and it looks like he has two left. He's actually an okay, if not thrilling, choice to keep the position warm for Mathis; his career OPS+ is 80 (Bengie's career mark is 84), he has thrown out a solid 38.5% of basestealers in his career, and he'd likely be paid somewhere in the $2M-$4M range.

Joey Gathright ... gee, I don't know. He's well-regarded because he's faster than blazes, but he hasn't really come around as a hitter yet. His AVG/OBP/SLG line in 275 career major league plate appearances is 271/316/340, for an OPS+ of 72. That lack of power is no illusion, as his highest slugging percentage in the minors was .407 in AAA last year. He drew walks in the minors at a higher rate than his major league play so far, but his lack of power indicates to me that pitchers will challenge him more and more as they learn his bat can't really impose major damage.

As befits a guy with speed, Gathright has had solid defensive numbers in his short major league time. I guess the high concept here is Gary Pettis, if Gathright can re-find the walks. Pettis was a marvelous defensive player who kept his offense above water with a lot of walks and great stolen base rates. Gathright might develop into such a player, which wouldn't be bad.

Still, there's a reason he won't be taking a job away from Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, or Jonny Gomes. A Gathright-Hall package is not gonna be worth a collection of our top prospects.

- Also via Rob, there's an AP report that says the Angels are talking to Jeff Weaver. Weaver is a league-average pitcher, and if he eats a lot of innings, that's worth something, though certainly not as much as he's made in the past (in excess of $9M last season). Maybe the Angels want him to smoke out with Jered on airplane flights.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Indians have signed Paul Byrd to a two-year deal worth $14.25M with a $8M optional third year ($250,000 of that is a buyout if the option isn't picked up).

Remember, the last reported offer that the Angels made to Byrd was two years for $11M, an offer the Angels withdrew when they acted to sign the hot property that was Hector Carrasco.

I think there was a cost at which Paul Byrd became too expensive; I'm not sure where that point is. Having him for one year in the $6M-$7M range would have been fine, and two years, think would have seemed acceptable. So I think the deal Cleveland signed him to is near the top of what he should have been paid.

Byrd reportedly turned down a three-year deal from Kansas City, probably because he wants to play for a competitive team. Would he have made more had the Angels not publicly announced they were dropping out of competition for him? It's hard to say. It appears that the Angels may have been able to sign Byrd to an affordable deal, though that is not certain.

No point in crying over spilt milk. As it stands, we'll be going into Spring Training with a competition between Hector Carrasco, Joe Saunders, and Jered Weaver for the fifth spot in the rotation. No matter who comes out on top in that competition, we are likely looking at a decline from that rotation spot -- in fact, our rotation will likely decline a little bit across the board (except for Ervin Santana and maybe John Lackey) compared to last year, regardless. They'll still be good, but I don't think it's reasonable to expect them to be as sterling as last season.

Anyway, I thought The Wyrd was tons of fun to watch in 2005, and I wish him well in Jacobs Field.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The AP story I linked to about the Carrasco signing has been updated since I last read it. It now contains the following passage of doom:
The Angels finalized the agreement with Carrasco shortly after withdrawing their offer to retain free-agent right-hander Paul Byrd. Free-agent left-hander Jarrod Washburn, another starter, also won't return.

"We're dropping out of the Paul Byrd chase," Angels general manager Bill Stoneman said in a conference call.


"We envision Hector as having a shot at our rotation," Stoneman said. "All that will be determined in spring training. Our scouts had good reports on him and they suggested him, in particular as a starter."

Manager Mike Scioscia, also on the conference call, said: "We think Hector is a guy who can step up and helps us and be a candidate for our rotation. There's a little risk in anything you can do, but we're confident our rotation is going to be of championship quality."
I can't even ... like, my brain won't allow this information to exist inside of it. Carrasco has started six games in his entire frickin' life. Five of them were last year.

He actually pitched fairly well in those five starts, notching a 2.03 ERA in 27 2/3 innings, striking out 27 against 13 walks. But ... one of those starts was in Shea Stadium (in a great pitchers' park against a mediocre offensive team), one was at San Diego (a ridiculous pitchers' park), one was in Washington (another great pitchers' park) against a mediocre San Franciso team, and another was at Florida (guess what? pitchers' park). In the fifth start, he pitched poorly in Washington against the Phillies.

I don't know what the Angels see in this guy that makes them think he can be a reliable fifth starter. I mean ... I see how the market for Paul Byrd might be getting out of control, with offers of three-year deals and everything.

Apparently Carrasco added a cut fastball or something to his repertoire last year, and that may have accounted for the success he had. Though pitchers can make jumps when things like that happen, the idea that a 36-year-old who's been a mediocre reliever for 80% of his career is all-of-a-sudden gonna turn into a legit starter strikes me as crazy-talk. Why not put Scot Shields in the rotation and try to find another set-up man?

Anyway, I'll be shocked if this mediocrity gets more than a few starts. You'd have to think that Joe Saunders or even Jered Weaver will be able to beat him out for a job. I'm not sold on Saunders, and I don't think Weaver's ready (groundballs -- can you induce them?), but, jeez ... I just don't see how Hector Fricking Carrasco is the solution to any damned problem the Angels have.

In this year's Annual Esteban Yan signing, the Angels have signed Hector Carrasco to a two-year deal worth $6.1M.

Facts about Hector Carrasco:

1. Hector Carrasco is 36 years old.

2. The 195 ERA+ he put up last year screams fluke, as his previous high was as a 24-year-old rookie when he had a 185. In the many years in between, he managed a highly substandard 92.

3. Hector Carrasco's career strikeout-to-walk ratio is worse than two-to-one.

Well, I guess he will likely prove more reliable than Esteban Yan, who sucks. And he should be able to eat up a few innings. I guess.

We've let many better relievers leave the organization in the last couple of years than Carrasco, however. So count me as less than thrilled.

With the huge game between UCLA and the University of Second Choice just over twenty-four hours away, many may ask themselves: who is having the better season, Drew Olson or Matt Leinart?

Matt Leinart, who is taking one "class" at U$C, is the one getting Heisman attention, but his cross-town counterpart is college football's highest-rated passer. Of course, $C has had a slightly more difficult schedule than has UCLA.

Here is how each quarterback has performed against common opponents; the Passer Rating I use here is the NFL Passer Rating, not the bizarre inflated college figure. (Though technically the NFL Rating caps off at 158.3, I've gone ahead and left it unfettered here, which only applies to a couple of games for each QB.)
                         Olson                                Leinart
Opponent Com Att Yd Pct TD Int Yd/A Rtg Com Att Yd Pct TD Int Yd/A Rtg
Washington 29 44 287 .659 2 2 6.52 80.4 20 26 201 .769 4 0 7.73 149.7
Cal 17 33 225 .515 2 0 6.82 93.6 20 32 246 .625 0 1 7.69 73.2
WSU 31 43 338 .721 5 1 7.86 124.0 24 34 364 .706 3 1 10.71 122.7
Stanford 24 35 293 .686 2 0 8.37 113.2 22 28 259 .786 4 0 9.24 153.7
Arizona 22 38 232 .579 2 0 6.11 93.3 26 40 360 .650 2 1 9.00 100.0
ASU 22 27 510 .815 5 0 18.89 210.4 23 39 258 .590 0 0 6.62 78.8
Total 145 220 1885 .659 18 3 8.57 114.3 135 199 1688 .678 13 3 8.48 109.5
We see that their performances against common opponents are pretty equitable. Though that might seem in large part due to Drew's cartoonish game against Arizona State, well ... that game happened. It counts. And, in terms of rating, Drew outperformed Leinart in three of the six common match-ups. (I would say that their respective performances against Washington State are basically a tie.)

How about performances against other opponents? Both QB's had games that I would consider to be their "exhibition" season:
                         Olson                                Leinart
Opponent Com Att Yd Pct TD Int Yd/A Rtg Com Att Yd Pct TD Int Yd/A Rtg
Rice 18 25 296 .720 3 0 11.84 151.4
SDSU 10 15 152 .667 0 0 10.13 99.9
Arkansas 18 24 381 .750 4 0 15.88 186.3
Hawaii 18 24 332 .750 3 1 13.83 146.5
Total 28 40 448 .700 3 0 11.20 132.1 36 48 713 .750 7 1 14.85 166.4
Leinart has the advantage in the exhibition season.

How about against "good" non-common opponents?
                         Olson                                Leinart
Opponent Com Att Yd Pct TD Int Yd/A Rtg Com Att Yd Pct TD Int Yd/A Rtg
Oregon St 16 24 262 .667 6 0 10.92 186.5
Oklahoma 28 38 314 .737 3 0 8.26 124.2
Fresno St 22 33 200 .667 1 0 6.06 93.1
Notre Dame 17 32 301 .531 0 2 9.41 59.5
Oregon 23 39 316 .590 3 1 8.10 99.9
Total 28 40 448 .700 3 0 11.20 132.1 62 104 817 .596 4 3 7.86 85.3
Though Olson has the better numbers, it is immediately apparent that (1) Leinart faced tougher opponents and (2) Leinart had to play tougher opponents more often.

Let's look at their opponents more carefully.

Here is every non-UCLA opponent Oklahoma has played this season, and how they fared in the passing game:
                     Oklahoma Defense          
Opponent Com Att Yd Pct TD Int Yd/A Rtg
TCU 24 45 287 .533 1 0 6.38 80.5
Tulsa 24 36 246 .667 0 1 6.83 74.5
Kansas St 14 29 226 .483 2 1 7.79 83.4
Texas 14 27 241 .519 3 0 8.93 119.5
Kansas 11 30 86 .367 0 3 2.87 2.9
Baylor 20 44 228 .455 3 0 5.18 84.3
Nebraska 26 46 267 .565 3 2 5.80 77.0
Texas A&M 12 35 158 .343 2 1 4.51 56.6
Texas Tech 24 37 232 .649 2 2 6.27 77.8
Okla. St 10 27 126 .370 0 1 4.67 37.0
Total 176 356 2097 .503 16 11 5.89 70.6
You can see we're starting to chase our tail a bit ... did Oklahoma have a marvelous pass defense, or did they face a large number of poor passing teams? Or a little of both?

Either way you cut it, you can make the argument that Drew Olson had the best game of any passer against the Sooner defense this season. The one guy close is -- no surprise -- Vince Young, who bests Olson in Yards Per Attempt but falls short in every other category. (Remember, I'm looking at passing only, not rushing exploits.) Texas Tech QB Corey Hodges, who threw for over 4000 yards this season, had a comparable day statistically against Texas (42 of 64 for 369 yards, 2 TD to 1 Int, and a 84.7 passer rating) to the day he had against Oklahoma. I'm willing to say that the Sooners had a good pass defense, and Olson deserves credit for putting up the day against them that he did: he was the only opposing QB to rack up more than 300 yards against them and the only to complete more than 70% of his passes. Aside from leading in yards and completion percentage, his game ranks first in passer rating and second in Yards Per Attempt.

Let's get to $C's opponents. Here's the ridiculously overrated Notre Dame:
                    Notre Dame Defense          
Opponent Com Att Yd Pct TD Int Yd/A Rtg
Pittsburgh 20 35 220 .571 1 1 6.29 73.5
Michigan 19 44 223 .432 1 1 5.07 57.3
Mich. St 16 27 327 .593 3 1 12.11 123.5
Washington 25 37 327 .676 1 0 8.84 104.2
Purdue 33 58 350 .569 2 1 6.03 79.0
BYU 26 45 317 .578 2 2 7.04 75.9
Tennessee 13 32 187 .406 1 2 5.84 44.7
Navy 4 10 75 .400 1 1 7.50 58.3
Syracuse 9 22 78 .409 1 1 3.55 47.2
Stanford 23 35 347 .657 3 0 9.91 126.7
Total 188 345 2451 .545 16 10 7.10 80.5
Amongst Notre Dame opponents, Leinart's game against them ranked seventh in completion percentage (out of eleven), sixth in yards, third in Yards Per Attempt, and eighth in passer rating. It's hard to argue that Leinart's performance in that game was exceptional, relative to other QB's that faced off against the Irish.

How about Fresno State, which put quite a scare into $C? Well, I could run the whole chart, but it's a really, really pathetic set of opponents, aside from Oregon. Jumping to the chase: Leinart's game ranks third in yards, tied for third in completion percentage, fifth in Yards Per Attempt, and third in passer rating amongst the Bulldogs' eleven opponents. In other words, a very solid effort.

As for the non-conference "good" team schedule, Olson had arguably the best game of anyone against Oklahoma, and Leinart has around the third-best game against Fresno State and a very middle-of-the-road game against Notre Dame. Who gets the edge there? It's close, but I think that edge goes to Drew.

The other "good" opponents were a matched-pair of conference opponents, as you can see above. Oregon is a considerably better team than Oregon State, and Leinart had a good game against them. Drew Olson's game against the inferior Beavers was outrageous, and I think those games are basically a push.

Their performances, to this point, have been quite close, though, and I think you could make an argument for either one, but I doubt you could make an argument that would convince a skeptic.

There is, of course, one more game that will help sort out this matter, and that happens tomorrow. We can expect both quarterbacks to be at the top of their game, and hopefully we'll all be able to witness a Bruin victory for the ages.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Mike DiGiovanna in the Times explores today the options the Angels have now that they have missed out ondodged signing Paul Konerko.

From the horse's mouth:
Konerko's decision will send Stoneman back to the trade market, where he is expected to explore deals for Boston slugger Manny Ramirez, Kansas City first baseman Mike Sweeney, Texas second baseman Alfonso Soriano and possibly Arizona third baseman Troy Glaus or Seattle third baseman Adrian Beltre.

The Angels might also look into free-agent infielder Nomar Garciaparra or free-agent catcher Mike Piazza.
Incidentally, I like how Manny Ramirez's position is defined as "slugger."

Anyway, going through these one-by-one:

1. I think we all agree that Manny would be desirable if, and only if the price weren't too steep, and if he were brought in to DH on a nearly exclusive basis, only taking the field in case of emergency. I think the odds of such a favorable arrangement materializing are small, even given the fact that Boston may feel they "have" to move him.

2. I have spoken about trading for Mike Sweeney recently; in summary: boo.

3. Alfonso Soriano? Um, okay ... my only guess it that the Angels would take him to either DH or convert him to center (as a good athlete but poor defender at second, Soriano has long been rumored to be a good candidate for a conversion to the oufield). Either way, this doesn't excite me very much; Sori's got some pop, but isn't really all that great a hitter. Don't get me wrong, his bat is more than enough to cover a decent center field defense, but who knows if he could provide that. Would he hit at his best as a DH, just concentrating on hitting? I don't know. But he would command around $8M and probably cost us one of our top middle infield prospects, so this option doesn't seem particularly appealing or likely.

4. Troy Glaus. Now, this is interesting. He would have to DH ... he'd be a good one, just like Manny would, but he would likely cost a top prospect or two. The Snakes are loaded at corner infield, so they likely wouldn't be interested in Casey Kotchman, which means we would be facing a positional logjam in a year with Glaus-McPherson-Kotchman-Morales-Garret. And Troy has a pricey contract. I love the guy ... but this doesn't strike me as all that desirable or likely, either.

5. Adrian Beltre? Adrian Beltre? What the hell are you talking about? Come on.

6. Nomar. Hmm ... his health is a huge risk, his offense has been in decline the past few years, and he doesn't have a defensive position. Maybe you could get him to a cheap incentivized contract, and just see what happens. He's a local product too, and one who was oft-linked to the Angels in rumors during his last few Boston seasons. Though this mention seems like DiGiovanna making stuff up, this might be a dark horse candidate. Whether or not the risk is worthwhile would be wholey dependent on the terms. Not my favorite option, but not as disastrous as some of the other mentioned possibilities.

7. Mike Piazza. I think he's done, after a 108 OPS+ two years ago and a 103 last year. He's 37 years old, and has beat up his body with years of catching. I guess the plus would be that he could be Mathis insurance, but still ... this doesn't excite me.

8. Frank Thomas. Yeah, DiGiovanna doesn't mention him. But I do.

The article goes on to say: "If Stoneman can't acquire a middle-of-the-order bat to bolster the Angels' inconsistent offense, he said he would be 'comfortable' with Kotchman and Juan Rivera again sharing DH duties. Kendry Morales could also emerge as a DH candidate next spring."


(Sorry, but it has to be said. Maybe some Angel front office staffer will stumble across this blog when Googling "Alfonso Soriano" "center field" or something. Or "Jeanne Zelasko", from which I get a bizarre number of hits.)

Anyway, that's where we are today. Hopefully Bill Stoneman won't squander where we'll be in tomorrows yet to come.

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