Thursday, November 22, 2007


I just made this post at BTF, reflecting my current feeling on the deal:

The more I think about it, the better I feel about this deal:

1. Hunter is probably good for a +5-+10 season above average, offensively.

2. Hunter is, at worst, an average defensive center fielder, and quite possibly +5 or +10.

3. Add it all up, and he's like 3-4 wins better than replacement. If wins above replacement are really close to $5M as guys like Tango and MGL are saying, his contract isn't out of line.

4. Ceteris peribus, Orlando Cabrera-for-Torii Hunter is an upgrade, possibly of 1.5-2.5 wins.

5. This doesn't really afffect the value of Matthews; sure, he gets the positional knock moving over, but he'll also get a gain in defensive value, which will likely balance out.

The potential problem isn't years 1 and 2, but years 4 and 5 (the same is true of the Matthews deal). In five years, Hunter may be a below-average hitter who can no longer handle CF, and then what are you doing with your $16M? In year 4, both he and Matthews will be in that boat (though Hunter will probably be better while Matthews is cheaper). And during this span you need to re-sign Vlad, Lackey, (hopefully) Howie, Kotchman, etc. ... I'm worried about tying up that much money in two guys in their 30s.

But I do think the Angels are better this week than they were a week ago, and I have to believe that one of the Miguels is on their way.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Torii Hunter? Really? What the hell is going on?



Earlier this week, I tried to crack the riddle that is Jon Garland. Let's take a moment to look at what we've lost in Orlando Cabrera, and what we have in-house to replace him.

I was skeptical of the Cabrera signing when it happened (we'll explore the whole 2005 Shortstop Carousel next week -- I initially had a big comparison in this post before realizing it was way off-point, even for me, so I'll put it up as its own thing later), but I grew to like him as a player and as a personality on our team.

Offensively, even last year, he was no great shakes. He had an 89 OPS+ for us over the past three seasons; AL shortstops were at 88 last year and 92 in 2006 and 98 in 2005. He was -25.2 batting runs against league average over the three years, and also probably a bit below average as a shortstop -- though this largely due to his poor 2005. His defensive numbers were always solid, no longer spectacular, and this matched my visual observations. He was excellent on the basepaths (though I recall a few gaffes last season), and Mike Scioscia considered him one of the smartest players he's ever been around; finding residue of this sort of thing is forbiddingly difficult, but it's certainly possible that Cabrera's knowledge helped young infield defenders learn their craft.

All things considered, I'd guess that Cabrera was an average player for us. There were 26 shortstops who played 300+ games over the past three years; Cabrera's OPS+ ranked 17th amongst them. Add in his defense and baserunning, and I think it's probably right around the middle of that group.

The way I see it, there are two in-house options for April of 2008, and it's clear which one is better -- or, at least, which one has been better so far. Regardless, the LA Times implied yesterday that the Angels do not agree with me, with Mike DiGiovanna writing, "As of today, [Cabrera] will be replaced by slick-fielding 23-year-old Erick Aybar." He does add the following: "Utility player Maicer Izturis also can play shortstop, and Scioscia said the Angels are considering moving [Brandon] Wood from third base back to shortstop next spring."

Okay, let's just take Wood out of the equation for sec; he's not ready. The decision comes down to Aybar versus Izturis, and I just have no idea how you can look at those two and decide on Aybar. Looking at their respective major league performances thus far:
Player    PA   AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS+  SB  CS    BR   BR/600
Izturis 1104 273 340 386 90 34 10 -14.2 -7.7
Aybar 251 239 274 295 50 5 4 -18.0 -43.0
Okay, okay, that's not fair to Aybar. He's young, he's been hurt, played irregularly, etc. How about minor league track records?

I'll spare you the numbers, but Aybar has actually out-produced Izturis at each age, which appears to be true even when you account for their ballparks. That doesn't mean Aybar will develop just as Ztu did, of course. But Izturis' age 23 season, at the major league level, was roughly equivalent to what we saw from Aybar last year:
Player    PA   AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS+  SB  CS    BR   BR/600
Izturis 121 206 286 318 53 4 0 - 8.1 -40.2
Aybar 211 237 279 289 50 4 4 -14.6 -41.5
Izturis made his offensive leap in the minors that year, hitting .338 at AAA, but would not make his major league jump until his age 25 year. I suspect Aybar may have a similar leap within him, but I suspect that it may not happen in 2008, and as a result I suspect that the better alternative, offensively, for next season is Ztu. I'd expect him to be around -5 runs against average; Aybar could be as bad as -20.

How about defense? So far in their careers, Ztu has a .820 zone rating and a .770 revised zone rating (in very, very small sample size) while Aybar has a .754 zone rating and a .720 revised zone rating (in an even smaller sample size). That doesn't tell us anything. I'm suspicious of Izturis being able to handle shortstop, but I doubt he'd be terrible. Aybar is quite possibly better, but I don't know if the gap is large enough to overcome the offensive deficiency.

In fact, there's a chance that Izturis could outperform what we got from Cabrera the past three years. We haven't seen him hit every day, and maybe he would get exposed in that situation, but I think he would project to be a roughly league-average shortstop, overall. I don't think Aybar's bat is ready to get him to that level.

Hopefully, DiGiovanna was just speculating, and if we go into spring training without making any further moves, the job will be open for competition and won't just be handed to Aybar. Of course, I doubt there will be no more changes.

Next week, I hope to look at which Miguel would be a better fit, and what cost we draw the line. For now, have a great Thanksgiving.

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Monday, November 19, 2007


Honestly, I'm so shocked by this that I don't even know how to start analyzing it. First of all, it appears that major league baseball teams have the ability to exchange players with other teams. Did you know this?

Joking aside, for the second time, the Angels have traded for pitcher Jon Garland. (Recall that before the 2002 season, a deal was in place to trade Darin Erstad for Garland and Chris Singleton, which was smacked down by Tony TavaresPaul Pressler). This time, the bounty is Orlando Cabrera.

Did anyone see this coming?

Anyway, so now we have Jon Garland in the rotation. I'd like to tell you about Jon Garland, but the fact is I haven't been able to understand him for years, and I'm not about to start now.

What do I not understand? For one, how does this guy get people out? Over the last four years, he's only struck out 12% of the batters he'd faced; the AL K'd 17% of batters last year, so he's been consistently below-average in this regard. Last year, despite pitching over 200 innings, Garland only whiffed 98 batters: this was the fourth-lowest strikeout total in baseball for any pitcher that pitched so much.

Yet, somehow, Garland succeeds. Over the last four years, he has an ERA+ of 111, and has been approximately 38 earned runs better than average. (He did give up an immense number of unearned runs last year, but that's been out of his norm. We'll get to that at some point, I'm sure).

Is Garland an extreme groundball pitcher? Honestly, I had thought he was, but his groundball-to-flyball ratio was only 55th out of the 80 major league ERA qualifiers last year and his groundballs allowed as a percentage of balls in play ranked 19th. However, this was his lowest groundball rate ever, as well as his highest flyball rate (see it all here).

As a groundball pitcher, his success may be highly correlated to how the defense behind converts his groundballs into outs. Let's look at his past four seasons:
2004 .122 .082 .037 .275 97
2005 .128 .052 .029 .267 128
2006 .124 .046 .029 .311 105
2007 .111 .065 .022 .285 112
2006 and 2007 provide an interesting contrast; Garland struck out less people and walked more, but did manage to cut down on home runs. That HR improvement is tantamount to roughly 6 HR; assuming 1.4 runs per HR (the linear weight value), that's a savings of .37 points of his ERA -- which would have left his ERA+ at 103, very similar to his previous year's performance. It appears that the frequency by which Garland allows home runs is even more important than the batting average he allows on balls in play behind him; the correlation between his HR/BF and ERA+ (-.49) is slightly stronger than the correlation between his BABIP and his ERA+ (-.43).

You see what I mean? You think have something (oh, he's a groundball pitcher, he's heavily dependent on his defense), then you take a deeper look and it's, like, no, you really have no idea what makes this guy tick.

Anyway, there's no doubt that having a good defensive shortstop would be an aid to Garland, and quite frankly I have no idea if we have that right now. I mean, I know we have Erick Aybar, but can Aybar hit? We have Maicer Izturis, a league-average hitter, but can he handle short defensively at this point? Or even maintain that offensive performance over a full season. Brandon Wood's a year away, we're not going to rush him, are we?

Not knowing what is to come, it's hard to evaluate this move. Does this mean Miguel Tejada will soon be wearing red? Let's see what happens.

But one thing I'll say for Tony Reagins -- he sure knows how to surprise us.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007




Player             Runs    Runs/365
Ryan Zimmerman 35.8 32.8
Pedro Feliz 25.4 27.2
David Wright 19.3 18.6
Aramis Ramirez 16.4 19.4
Mike Lowell 16.1 18.2
Brandon Inge 15.8 15.1
Adrian Beltre 13.5 13.6
Melvin Mora 13.4 16.2
Joe Crede 9.6 31.0
Alex Rodriguez 8.9 9.8
Scott Rolen 6.7 8.5
Troy Glaus 5.2 8.1
Chone Figgins 4.1 7.8
Maicer Izturis 4.0 15.3
Ramon Vazquez 3.2 7.8
Morgan Ensberg 2.2 5.0
Hank Blalock 1.6 7.4
Chipper Jones 0.6 0.8
Travis Metcalf 0.6 1.9
Nomar Garciaparra 0.2 0.6
Eric Chavez -0.1 -0.2
Abraham Nunez -0.8 -1.5
Akinori Iwamura -1.0 -1.4
Wilson Betemit -1.9 -7.2
Chad Tracy -1.9 -7.2
Jack Hannahan -2.5 -9.5
Alex Gordon -3.2 -3.6
Wes Helms -3.4 -10.2
Greg Dobbs -3.4 -10.8
Mike Lamb -4.6 -14.6
Nick Punto -5.0 -7.4
Edwin Encarnacion -5.6 -6.5
Ty Wigginton -7.7 -14.4
Mark Reynolds -9.9 -17.4
Kevin Kouzmanoff -10.8 -13.4
Josh Fields -14.0 -23.4
Jose Bautista -17.6 -18.9
Casey Blake -21.0 -21.8
Ryan Braun -22.4 -34.2
Miguel Cabrera -25.4 -25.7
Garrett Atkins -38.0 -39.3

Monday, November 12, 2007



Player             Runs    Runs/470
Brandon Phillips 34.6 36.8
Chase Utley 17.4 21.1
Orlando Hudson 17.2 19.6
Robinson Cano 16.8 15.5
Ian Kinsler 15.2 16.3
Mark Ellis 15.2 13.2
Aaron Hill 13.6 11.4
Ronnie Belliard 10.9 15.9
Josh Barfield 10.8 13.3
Kaz Matsui 8.6 12.5
Placido Polanco 8.2 9.5
Jose Lopez 7.8 7.8
Jose Valentin 6.4 20.5
Esteban German 4.5 19.0
B.J. Upton 3.9 10.8
Howie Kendrick 3.8 6.7
Luis Castillo 3.4 4.3
Mark Grudzielanek 3.2 4.9
Tadahito Iguchi 3.1 4.2
Mike Fontenot 2.4 7.6
Alexi Casilla 1.8 6.0
Geoff Blum 0.9 2.3
Dustin Pedroia -0.2 -0.3
Brian Roberts -0.3 -0.3
Kevin Frandsen -1.2 -4.9
Danny Richar -1.8 -5.6
Jamey Carroll -2.5 -7.0
Felipe Lopez -4.3 -15.1
Adam Kennedy -4.7 -8.5
Freddy Sanchez -7.4 -9.0
Aaron Miles -8.3 -20.1
Mark DeRosa -8.7 -17.4
Kelly Johnson -8.7 -9.7
Brendan Harris -11.0 -41.5
Jeff Kent -13.1 -16.6
Marcus Giles -14.3 -17.6
Rickie Weeks -14.7 -21.5
Ray Durham -18.0 -24.5
Craig Biggio -19.1 -29.1
Dan Uggla -21.3 -21.5


As I mentioned in the shortstop entry, please use caution in comparing these to anything before 2005; I'm not actually sure when David added "distance" as a parameter for outfielders, so perhaps even 2006 is the only year one can really use as a comparison.

For center fielders:
Player             Runs     Runs/395
Coco Crisp 22.2 23.2
Ichiro Suzuki 21.3 21.4
Curtis Granderson 15.7 15.5
Andruw Jones 7.7 7.9
Juan Pierre 6.9 7.6
Carlos Beltran 5.9 6.1
Jacque Jones 5.6 11.8
Felix Pie 5.2 18.4
Willy Taveras 5.2 10.0
Gary Matthews Jr. 3.9 4.3
Josh Hamilton 3.1 7.5
Mike Cameron 3.1 3.4
So Taguchi 2.8 9.6
Darin Erstad 2.8 10.8
Ryan Church 2.6 9.1
Nook Logan 2.0 3.3
Johnny Damon 1.6 5.2
Dave Roberts 1.0 1.7
Norris Hopper 0.6 1.9
Torii Hunter -0.1 -0.1
Alfredo Amezaga -0.6 -1.2
David DeJesus -0.7 -0.7
Jim Edmonds -1.2 -2.0
Rajai Davis -1.3 -4.0
Hunter Pence -1.4 -2.2
Ryan Freel -1.6 -4.5
Chris Duffy -1.6 -3.6
Aaron Rowand -2.1 -2.1
Mark Kotsay -3.2 -8.6
Melky Cabrera -3.3 -3.7
Jerry Owens -3.5 -6.4
Vernon Wells -3.8 -4.6
Marlon Byrd -4.1 -13.6
Nick Swisher -4.3 -11.7
B.J. Upton -4.5 -8.4
Grady Sizemore -6.1 -5.9
Nate McLouth -6.4 -16.7
Chris Young -7.4 -8.0
Elijah Dukes -7.4 -31.8
Kenny Lofton -8.5 -16.7
Corey Patterson -12.8 -16.9
Bill Hall -14.2 -17.8

Thursday, November 08, 2007


David Pinto has started posting his Probabilistic Model of Range figures for teams and individuals, starting the individuals off with the shortstops. Here are the conversions (there's an explanation in the relevant section of the sidebar to your right, as well as figures from past seasons):
Player               Runs      Runs/490
Troy Tulowitzki 38.0 33.0
Tony F Pena 23.0 25.1
Rafael Furcal 20.9 23.0
Jason Bartlett 16.9 18.7
John McDonald 12.6 21.0
Jimmy Rollins 12.4 11.8
Jack Wilson 9.7 10.4
Jhonny Peralta 7.3 7.1
Omar Vizquel 4.7 4.6
Orlando Cabrera 3.8 4.1
Julio Lugo 3.7 4.2
Yunel Escobar 2.7 9.9
Adam Everett 1.8 4.1
Alex Gonzalez 0.0 -0.1
J.J. Hardy -0.3 -0.3
Cesar Izturis -0.3 -0.6
Bobby Crosby -0.6 -0.9
Stephen Drew -0.9 -1.1
Mark Loretta -1.0 -2.7
Eric Bruntlett -1.4 -5.0
Ryan Theriot -1.6 -2.5
Marco Scutaro -1.6 -6.4
Royce Clayton -2.1 -5.0
Hanley Ramirez -2.2 -2.4
Yuniesky Betancourt -2.7 -2.8
Khalil Greene -2.7 -2.6
Edgar Renteria -3.1 -4.2
Jeff Keppinger -4.3 -15.4
David Eckstein -6.5 -8.9
Josh Wilson -7.8 -25.3
Miguel Tejada -7.9 -10.3
Juan Uribe -8.6 -8.1
Jose Reyes -9.0 -8.6
Cristian Guzman -10.5 -39.4
Felipe Lopez -14.1 -18.3
Carlos Guillen -14.4 -17.2
Brendan Harris -14.4 -27.9
Michael Young -21.8 -21.1
Derek Jeter -30.6 -32.5
A few points:

1. David, along with the individual totals, listed the team totals, which also means that we have the major league-wide totals. This is great; one concern with the first couple of years of these conversions was that I had to guess at what the league average really was in any given season, as David was using multi-year probabilities. This led to weird happenstances where every third baseman was "above average", which makes no sense, so I had to guess at what the average really was. The last two years, David seems to be using one-year probabilities, and in fact major league shortstops were "predicted" to have made 15,904 outs last year when they really made 15,913. This is a negligible difference, and the predicted DER and observed DER are the same for several decimals. (The MLB total also allows me to properly state the number of predicted outs a SS would have in 150 games, which is 490 [actually 491, so sue me for rounding], and what the second column represents.)

2. At some point I need to go back and re-code the various PMR models, but David is using something called the "smoothed visitor model", which is I believe the second version of PMR. He did this last year, as well.

3. As such, use caution when comparing these figures to years before 2006. I believe the smoothed visitor model was introduced in 2005, so it's the same version -- but my "re-center" of the MLB average was an estimate and not an absolute. This caveat will apply for every position.

4. In 2005, we saw, in addition to these figures, groundball-only figures for infielders. For the past two seasons, the figures have been for every kind of batted ball. Zone rating and MGL's Ultimate Zone Rating do not account for popups and line drives, so, again, use caution when comparing these figures to runs generated by or estimated from other systems.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Over the past couple of weeks, I've been posting about the possibility of the Angels acquiring Alex Rodriguez. Recent developments, long-rumored, present us with another potential option for improving the Angel offense.

The Florida Marlins are reportedly willing to put Miguel Cabrera on the market.

Miguel Cabrera is a young hitter of astonishing quality and achievement. He doesn't turn 25 until April; here are some stats of Cabrera and two other hitters through the age of 24:
Player     PA  OPS+  HR  AVG  OBP  SLG
Player A 3173 145 140 .316 .365 .543
Cabrera 3072 143 138 .313 .388 .542
Player B 3156 142 165 .298 .380 .552
Player A is Hank Aaron.

Player B is Frank Robinson.

There are, however, certain negatives to Cabrera:

1. His defense.
By all accounts, both anecdotal and statistical, Cabrera is a bad third baseman. Per the Baseball Info Solutions data at the Hardball Times, he was approximately 15 plays below the league average on balls in his zone last year, worth over 10 runs (he also had an unexceptional total of plays made outside of his zone, though this doesn't necessarily mean anything). He was approximately -8 plays, or around -6 runs, below average in 2006.

2. His conditioning.
Miguel Cabrera is progressively becoming a fatter and fatter bastard. This bodes ill for his conditioning, long-term health, and his ability to play defense and run the bases.

3. He will cost a fortune -- in players.
The Marlins are allegedly seeking a young third baseman, a young pitcher, and a center fielder.

It just so happens that the Angels can offer such a package: Brandon Wood, one of Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana, and -- though he may be older than what the Marlins are looking for -- Chone Figgins.

This is a steep price, even for a hitter of Cabrera's talents. But while Brandon Wood is looking like the next Dean Palmer (not a bad thing with good glove at either of his potential positions), Cabrera is a sure bet.

Of course, trading one of Saunders and Santana would mean we'd have to go out and get a starting pitcher. Intriguingly, Florida is also looking to shop Dontrelle Willis. Would Florida accept a package of Wood, Saunders/Santana, Figgins, and maybe one more mid-level prospect (not Adenhart) for Cabrera and Willis? I suspect they'd think about it. Should the Angels?

Let's break this down:

- Is Miguel Cabrera a step up from Brandon Wood? Almost certainly.

- With Reggie Willits around to caddy Gary Matthews Jr and Garret Anderson, with the payroll flexibility to bring Juan Rivera back to support the corners, and with Maicer Izturis providing roughly league-average production as a infield backup, is Chone Figgins expendable? I like the guy, and he's coming off a big year, but I can't help but answer "yes".

- Is giving up one of Saunders and Santana and getting Willits an upgrade or downgrade, and if it's the latter, is it enough to negate the improvement made by adding Cabrera to the lineup?

By BB-Ref's linear weights figures, Cabrera has been +46.3, +56.6, and +45.7 runs above average, offensively, in each of the last three years; he's a good bet to be +50 or so in the next couple of years. Dock 10 runs for his D, he's still a +40 player, roughly 4 wins above average. Chone Figgins, whom Cabrera would be replacing in the lineup, over the past three years has been +1.8, -13.4, and +13.4 (these figures include basestealing, but not other baserunning). Even with his defense, I'd guess that Figgins in 2008 projects to be roughly average, maybe just a bit above.

So we're looking at maybe a 35-40-run difference between Cabrera and Figgins.

It is obvious that the difference, in the short term, between Saunders/Santana and Willits will be far less than 40 runs. Let's look at their totals the past four years, which of course for the Halos is only a couple of years (PR is Pitching Runs, or Earned Runs Prevented Above Average):
Pitcher    BF   K/BF   BB/BF   HR/BF   H/BF   ERA+   PR   PR/IP
Willis 3725 .165 .077 .022 .241 113 +28 +.032
Saunders 816 .152 .082 .025 .257 97 - 3 -.016
Santana 2104 .174 .083 .030 .235 92 -20 -.041
As you can see, Willis has been better over the past few seasons than the two Angel youths. However, somewhat like Santana, he's coming off a bad season where he pitched well below-average.

I'll spare you the details, but looking at Willis' batted-ball stats, we can see that he allowed home runs more frequently last year on flyballs than at most other points in his career, which could have been a big part of his struggles. Whether or not that's a fluky thing or a sign of a change in his skill level, I don't know. If he's healthy, I have trouble believing that he just forgot how to pitch or something.

My preference would be to only give up Wood and Figgins -- that does open a shortstop hole in 2009, but we don't know that Wood would fill it, anyway, though if we still have him in 2008 I'd love for him to return to that position at AAA -- for Cabrera. I think there's a good chance that both of Saunders and Santana will be at least as productive (and cheaper) than Willis in the next few years (based on their component stats and relative ages), so I don't know that I'd like to exchange one of them. But I can see talks moving in that direction, and, despite the money, Willis is probably a solid bet to shore up the bottom of the rotation.

As for the question of Cabrera vis-a-vis A-Rod, the question is really "What are we more willing to part with -- players or money?" I don't know what Arte's answer to this would be. From a roster construction standpoint, the ideal would be to sign A-Rod and hold on to all our chips; Wood can be bred for short, Saunders and Santana can develop, and we still have Figgins to play or be traded for a pitcher if we don't trust in the tykes.

Even re-signing Cabrera and/or Willis in future years would likely cost less (combined) than A-Rod would -- though of course that's a few years down the road -- so that's obviously a more cost-effective solution in terms of dollars (though adding a shortstop to the payroll -- or re-signing Orlando Cabrera -- in lieu of the bargain Wood is another financial cost to consider in that scenario).

I do think these are the best two alternatives of which we're aware; there is occasional talk of Miguel Tejada, but Tejada's on the wrong side of 30 and is not a hitter of the caliber of either Rodriguez or Miggy, and may well demand a package of similar value (to the Cabrera package) in exchange.

So, money or players? I don't know.

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Orlando Cabrera has won his second Gold Glove, first with the Angels. The last Angel to win was Darin Erstad at first base in 2004.

To tell you the truth, I'm not convinced he deserves it, not for 2007, anyway -- but I'm not convinced he doesn't, either. Based on BIS' zone stats, Tony Pena, Jr may have been the best choice, but The OC has likely deserved awards in the past that he hasn't won, and the award has no credibility, so there's no point complaining.

Congrats to Orlando Cabrera.


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