Drew Fairservice: November 2008 Archives

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The libelous and conjecture-filled offseason is in full swing and the Dutch Ovens are steaming! From every good Hot Stove comes a delicious Hot Knife, guaranteed to make your thinking hazy and unclear. There is a chance that Hot Knives will mess you up like a bad accident. The Old Knives Report is more like that episode of Roseanne where they found some old pot, got high and freaked out over how weird it was. Moral: the old shit still packs a punch.

We here at Walkoff Walk will pack the hole in our crystal ball with some gum and electrical tape and look beyond the Hot Stove. The Hot Knives Report will evaluate the on- and off-field impact of trades and signings (both real and conjured) to teams too busy with their new toys to worry about the cost.

Today we look to the future by looking to the past: which old buzzard will help your club become eligible for the post season and AARP assistance.

The first name on our list is Randy Johnson. He's first on our list because he is by far the best oldie still showing these whippersnappers a thing or two. Dave Cameron of Fangraphs sums his qualifications up thusly:

8.46 K/9, 6th best in NL | 2.15 BB/9, 11th best in NL | 3.9 K/BB, 3rd best in NL | 3.76 FIP, 15th best in NL |

Or, if you prefer, his closest comparable pitcher in the NL this year was Cole Hamels - their walk rates are nearly identical, Johnson's got a slightly higher K/9, and Hamels has a slightly lower HR/9, but the final product is almost exactly the same.

Johnson pitched 184 innings last year and called a very cozy ballpark home. In other words, Randy can still compete. Since no human alive can resist the promise of balloons and cake, you should know he's just 5 wins short of 300 and 211 Ks shy of 5000! Party time!

Unlike some scared little girls, he has no problem going to the American League and hosing down his driveway with the big boys. Any team with a hole in their rotation and a dream of competing could use the Big Unit. The Cubs have shown interest, as have the Dodgers. The Diamond Backs may keep his canasta group together, while the Jays and Rays could provide an indoor stadium to warm his joints and an outside shot at contending.

Even older guy Jamie Moyer is also a free agent, though the list of places he could land is much shorter. An area with high levels of smoke and/or mirrors is most suitable to his needs. Moyer won 16 games and a World Series title, but his K/BB rate was among the lowest of his endless career while his strand rate was among the highest. Apparently the man wants a multi-year deal, which is astounding. Only two tortoises are racing for Jamie's affections, with the Phillies holding a distinct edge over the Mariners.

The Ghost of Pedro Martinez is available and looking for work, and if your team is desperately low in the comic relief department, he might be a good fit. If you need someone to pitch though, dear God look elsewhere. Poor little Pedro, so mind-bendingly good for so long. The Ks are down, the walks are up, he can't keep people off the basepaths and the ball in the stadia. The Mets and maybe even the Astros are interested, which is really too bad. Retire with dignity Petey, you were one of the greats. Oh and Tiny Tim, watch very, very carefully what is happening to this man at this age.

A different kind of old guy is Trevor Hoffman. Only pitching one inning a night at the age of 40 may sound better, but there aren't too many teams looking to hand him the keys to the 9th inning. Most of Hoffman's numbers for 2008 look pretty good but one: home runs allowed. He allowed tater tots on 13% of his flyballs (up from 2% in 2007), better than 1.5 per 9 innings. The fitness fanatic still maintains good control, but all the long balls may indicate his stuff has abandoned him. Teams that would benefit from any new, warm body pitching the 9th (Mets, Tigers, Cardinals) have expressed interest in funneling royalties to the estate of Bon Scott.

Three of the baldest, whitest men in America may all hang up their cleats this offseason. Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Greg Maddux have all made noise about returning for 2009, with Smoltz considering a Roger Clemens-styled half season (having passed on the Roger Clemens-styled drug regiment and Roger Clemens-styled underage country starlet) and Maddux putting some thought into the Reg Dunlop-styled player coach. Glavine and Maddux show the same "not enough strikes, too many long balls" sign of age, but John Smoltz pitched damn well in limited appearances in 2008. If he's healthy, he'll certainly have a job either with the Braves or a real contender. Signing outside Atlanta for the first time in his career, uprooting his 35 year old son and all 12 of his grandchildren is something no Opa ever wants to do.

(A big case of super-secret Coke Meconium to the sleuths at MLB Trade Rumors for their valuable conjecture)

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The libelous and conjecture-filled offseason is in full swing and the Dutch Ovens are steaming! From every good Hot Stove comes a delicious Hot Knife, guaranteed to make your thinking hazy and unclear. There is a chance that Hot Knives will mess you up like a bad accident.

We here at Walkoff Walk will pack the hole in our crystal ball with some gum and electrical tape and look beyond the Hot Stove. The Hot Knives Report will evaluate the on- and off-field impact of trades and signings (both real and conjured) to teams too busy with their new toys to worry about the cost.

Today, the top two right handed free agents on the market. Do you want your team to sign Ben Sheets or A.J. Burnett?

That all depends, how is your heart? Can it take a good breakin'? Signing either of these two will ensure you're never bored. As far as pure stuff goes, you can't do much better. Both pitchers are throw as hard as anyone, with Burnett throwing the 5th fastest fastball, while Sheets ranks 22nd. A.J. Burnett is also lucky enough to one of the best curveballs in baseball. Basically, they are the same guy. Look at them, all side by side in the Pitching Runs Created column. They're so cute.

Just like an angered lobster baby, they are cute but deadly. Ben Sheets misses more starts than a NASCAR fan asleep on the infield. A.J. Burnett hates work also, but dont' forget his additional value: he's a total flake! Blue Jays fans have long learned to recognize the signs of Burnett's blow-ups a mile away. Hmmm, he's not getting calls and just gave up a long, loud double. Looks like its time to hatefuck a fastball right down the middle. And there it goes, and here comes the statline-distorting big inning/bad outing. Add his bizarre proclivity for mid-game dabbling and a wife with a thing for limo rides, and you've got yourself a handful! Not to mention you'll have yourself a 32 year old power pitcher with a history of arm troubles! All for the low, low price of $16 million a season. You might as well get two!

And two you could have, if the front office of your local baseball 9 decides to sign Ben Sheets too! Ben Sheets is younger than Burnett and though he's missed big stretches of time, most of his injuries have been to everything but his arm. Inner ear infections, hamstring strains, strained labia, back issues all sidelined him before a torn elbow muscle brought his 2008 season to a close.

If your team is really making a move for 2009, A.J. could be your man. Don't be thrown by the alarming uptick in his performance during contract years, that is merely a coincidence. Bill James figures he'll have a slightly worse than 2008 but still respectable season in 2009. Beyond 2009, what you'll get is anyone's guess. Potential suitors include the Yankees, Cardinals, Braves, Mets, or a hometown discount for the Blue Jays. The U.S.S Mariners suggest Seattle as a potential home for Sheets, thanks to his relationship with new GM Jack Zdruriencik and his great love of umbrellas. The Rangers have also expressed interest in Sheets, but will have to outbid everyone to entice a right handed pitcher into that graveyard.

While the money these players receive isn't yours, you don't want either of these two on your team moving forward. Pain, agony, shouldas and couldas are all you will experience. The flashes of brilliance mixed into the missed starts, the gross negligence and the weight of being an ace will only increase your dissatisfaction.

Hotassknives.jpg

The libelous and conjecture-filled off-season is in full swing and the Dutch Ovens are steaming! From every good Hot Stove comes a delicious Hot Knife, guaranteed to make your thinking hazy and unclear. There is a chance that Hot Knives will mess you up like a bad accident.

We here at Walkoff Walk will pack the hole in our crystal ball with some gum and electrical tape and look beyond the Hot Stove. The Hot Knives Report will evaluate the on- and off-field impact of trades and signings (both real and conjured) to teams too busy with their new toys to worry about the cost.

Today: Matt Holliday. Specifically, what on Earth does Billy Beane have up his devious sleeves?

No matter what Billy Beane is plotting, this is an exciting turn of events for A's fans. A big name in the prime of his career on the way in to Oakland? A measure of success that can only be matched by the dizzying heights of a Cakie binge.

Despite the horrible stink of Coors Field Effect that lingers on everything Dan O'Dowd touches, Matt Holliday is the real deal. Dave Cameron of Fan Graphs points out that his fancy ballpark-adjusted numbers (WPA/Li) are excellent, ahead of sluggers like Chase Utley and Carlos Quentin. That doesn't mean Holliday won't rue the day he passed on a big contract extension, because agents love big sexy home run totals. But Matt Holliday will certainly contribute in Oakland, either endlessly crushing doubles into those vast power alleys or slamming his chin into cheap beer at 924 Gilman Street. First one to punch Jello Biafra wins!

The contract extension that never was brings us to the real reason Billy Beane made this bold move: Holliday is a free agent at the end of next year. While Beane swears he won't flip Holliday like a cavalier homeowner now drowning in negative equity, he will be in a good situation to move Holliday as the trade deadline approaches, if not the before the season even begins as Jeff Blair coyly suggests. Should the A's compete for a playoff spot, Holliday stays and turns into valuable draft picks when he signs with the Red Sox.

Could the A's get their shit together and make a run at the playoffs? They scraped together a 75 win season in 2008 with a lineup of random and faceless replacement-level players that wouldn't look out of place at Burningman. Strong pitching and defense (i.e. stuff that comes cheap) that won't be hampered by the loss of one of their dozen soft-tossing lefties (Greg Smith), out-of-favour closer (Huston Street, who is somehow only 24) and a promising young center fielder (Carlos Gonzales). But their offense was so piss poor, even the addition of Holliday's 4 wins doesn't get them to .500. Rumours of Athletics ownership increasing payroll to the $80 million dollar range could bring another bat to partner with the plentiful cheap pitching.

As for the Rockies, they get younger and cheaper. They figure to send Street's pointy toes and chin pubes on their way before he even plays a single game in Denver, likely for someone else younger and cheaper. The Rocks hopes and dreams are tied up in Troy Tulowitzki and Manny Corpas, signed to long extensions after their rookie seasons. Carlos "Niko Belic" Gonzales projects as an every day player in the National League, using his speed to roam the ample acres of Coors Field.

This trade makes plenty of sense of Billy Beane and his cadre of soulless pencil pushers. Hopefully it will give loyal A's fans a reason to take part in joyful acts in the upper deck, even for just one season.

golden-toilet.jpgAs anyone not named Rafael Palmeiro knows, the Gold Glove awards are an utter joke. Everybody knows this, and everybody complains about it. Rob took umbrage with Michael Young's selection , Geoff Baker took shots at the entire sham, the Drunk Jays Fans went apoplectic over Nate McLouth's award and so on and so forth. Everybody hates it, everyone knows it's a joke. Hopefully nobody takes it too seriously.

As an unapologetic fielding nerd and saber-dabbler, this drives me mad. I really, really want to take it seriously. I want them to matter like I ignorantly thought they did in the pre-intertube days. Sure, there are Silk Gloves and Fielding Bibles, but what beats an actual golden glove?

There is one reason we can't take the Gold Gloves seriously: they are voted on by the coaches and managers in each league. That's right, 75 ex-ballplayers and professional seed chewers decide who gets a faux-prestigious award. How many cumulative minutes do we think went into the league-wide voting? 15 minutes? Maybe 20. The current wave of incredible metrics and systems grow out of the tall foreheads pouring over game footage and formulating the most objective way to assess the skills of defensive players.

How many National League bullpen coaches considered Albert Pujols excellent +20 plus/minus rating or his superior by 150 points revised zone rating before deciding to follow their gut and vote for Adrian Gonzalez? Nate McClouth rated as the WORST defensive center fielder in baseball, yet he now owns a gaudy statuette. If he doesn't make two key plays during the All Star game, does he even get a single vote?

So here you go, these are the Walkoff Walk Gilded Leather Awards, named after a comment by our very own Honeynut Ichiros. Your panel is me, Lloyd the Barber and nobody else. I watch plenty of baseball, I look at reams of stats. But I'm no robot, I've got a heart, too. I am gladly swept away by the artistry of...fuck it, make with the listicle!

National League
  1. Albert Pujols - 1B
  2. Chase Utley - 2B
  3. Jimmy Rollins - SS
  4. Blake DeWitt - 3B
  5. Chris Young - OF
  6. Carlos Beltran - OF
  7. Randy Winn - OF
  8. Yadier Molina - C
  9. Greg Maddux - P
American League
  1. Lyle Overbay - 1B
  2. Mark Ellis - 2B
  3. Mike Aviles - SS
  4. Scott Rolen/Adrian Beltre - 3B
  5. Carl Crawford - OF
  6. Carlos Gomez - OF
  7. Nick Markakis - OF
  8. Kurt Suzuki - C
  9. Kenny Rogers - P
Chase Utley lost out for both the Silk and Gold Glove awards, despite making an whopping 30 extra plays over Brandon Phillips. His heads up play during the World Series likely won him the Gold Glove next year, so Chutley don't despair. Randy Winn gets credit for playing right field in vast and windy Phone Bill Park, despite his noodle arm. Blake DeWitt lead the NL in +/- in limited time at third base, and he doesn't play for the Mets so he gets my vote. Turns out Greg Maddux actually is that awesome.

Lyle Overbay may seem like a homer pick, due in large part to his being a huge homer pick. Overbay gets the nod over Pena for having a much higher RZR, starting so many more wonderful 3-6-3 double plays, and making Alex Rodriguez feel shame. Mark Teixeira is penalized for playing only 400+ innings in the American League and the mind-blowing riches he will receive in the next few weeks. The AL didn't have a standout shortstop in 2008 so Mike Aviles' +15 is good enough to earn him gilded leather. Scott Rolen and Adrian Beltre will have to share the award for the deepest position in either league. Nick Markakis' strong arm shoves him into contention over the rangy but flaccid Franklin Gutierrez and the credibility-crushing gazelle Alex Rios. Kurt Suzuki is one of the finer defensive catchers in baseball, matching an excellent wild pitch + passed ball rate with a strong caught stealing percentage. The goopy crap on The Gambler's glove apparently helps him be a great fielder, even as an old man.

Carefully calculated amounts of Coca Cola to the glorious Hardball Times and Bill James Online for the free sortable stats.
scumicane.jpgCan you believe the luck of the baseball writers of America? Forced to endure the foul weather of early fall in Southern California, then they must contend with public enemy number 1: Scott Boras. He has the audacity to, walk into a room and answer their questions. It is all the ink-stained wretches can do to keep track of the hilariously preloaded sound bites, throw the quotes around the phrase "Boras holds court" and make it to the tee by 1pm.

I understand, as Geoff Baker said, that winter meetings are boring to cover, especially the GM meetings which are generally more about rules and policy changes than player movement. So when Scott Boras orchestrates his kangaroo court, the reporters come running as the Seattle Times' Larry Stone describes:

One of my favorite rituals of winter and GM meetings is the strategic arrival of super-agent Scott Boras in the lobby. He plants himself in the middle and waits for the influx of reporters to surround him -- and it doesn't take long.

We just had that magic moment -- and considering that Boras represents Manny Ramirez, Mark Teixeira and Derek Lowe -- among 16 free-agent clients -- it was the usual feeding frenzy.
So the reporters crowd around the agent-come-brand, squeeze in a question about a local player to form the body of an article (Willie Bloomquist? He's a 30-team type player. He can help any club!), type it up and head back to the hotel for the night. The editors get their column inches, Boras' clients get their name in the paper (over and over again) and the fans get to curse Boras' name while the rest of the players line up for his representation.

Why are the beat writers complicit in this boring charade? Of course Boras is going to say ridiculous things about Manny being iconic, or that TOO MANY teams are interested in Mark Teixeira. I'm doubt any writers or the GMs he baits believe a single word that comes over his forked tongue and out of his mouth. He's an agent! His job is to convince people that they can't live without his clients' valuable and/or market-adjusted services!

It isn't news, it isn't factual. It's a sales pitch printed in the newspaper. Consider this gem regarding Jason Varitek:

"When the Red Sox win," Boras said, "they make a lot of money and the franchise and network (NESN) increase in value. Jason Varitek's largest role is about winning."
A money quote like that is entertaining, but that doesn't keep it from being complete horseshit.

Photo via Lenny Ignelzi/AP by way of MLB.com
Hotassknives.jpgThe GM meetings are in full swing and the Dutch Ovens are steaming. From every good Hot Stove comes a delicious Hot Knife, guaranteed to make your thinking hazy and unclear. There is a chance that Hot Knives will mess you up like a bad accident.

We here at Walkoff Walk will pack the hole in our crystal ball with some gum and electrical tape and look beyond the Hot Stove. The Hot Knives Report will evaluate the on- and off-field impact of trades and signings (both real and conjured) to teams too busy with their new toys to worry about the cost.

Today: CC Sabathia. Specifically, is signing CC Sabathia to a big money deal good for your team?

Firstly, what are you getting for your $125+ million dollars? A former Cy Young winner coming off a career season. Abetted by a switch to the National League, Sabathia went crazy during his contract year, setting career highs for Ks, innings pitched, complete games and shutouts. He's 28 years old, tall, fat (which apparently bodes well for his career longevity) and motivated. A true power pitcher that has only made fewer than 30 starts once during his 8 year career.

Despite what his Baseball Reference career similar players list says, CC Sabathia is a stud. Alex Fernandez? Jack McDowell? BARRY ZITO? Sabathia's much higher K rate and improved control mean he isn't the type of pitcher who's numbers will diminish rapidly. Most power pitchers hit the wall at 32, which is still 3.5 years away for CC, so teams won't be shy to sign him to a 6 or 7 year deal.

Who's Holdin'?

When signing a player to a deal of this magnitude, GMs and empty suits alike must join together and break it down. Firstly, they ask themselves "Are we the New York Yankees?" If they find that they are not, they move to the next question. Is our operation based in the state of California? If they answer no to this question too, there is really only one real question remaining: "Who are we kidding?"

There are very few non-Yankee, non-Golden Seal teams with enough cash-in-hand to make a deal this size. The Brewers have made an initial offer, but as Rob pointed out, they are more than one player away. Were they to sign CC, the rotation moves to Yovanni Gallardo and then falls off a cliff. The Brewers 2008 payroll was just over $80 million dollars, even with a bump to $100 million, they can't justify giving 25% to one player. Especially since he doesn't want to play there and their offer was for optics only. You do not want this Brewers fans, you would just have to trade him for kids in two years anyway.

CC Sabathia is from the great state of California, and he appears keen to return there. One GM surveyed by ESPN's Jerry Crasnick believes the Dodgers can afford to sign CC because of their cheap young players at many positions. Their young squad could grow around the big ace, assuming they don't retain a very, very expensive position player. Is CC in the Dodgers best interests? With two rotation spots set to open up, they have the need. Sabathia would love the chance to stay in LA, where he could hit Roscoe's whenever he felt like it and the occasional in-game tater tot. You very much want this Dodgers fans, too bad they won't be able to compete with a team bidding against itself.

The New York Yankees are the only team that can think to itself: "We are indeed the Yankees. Let us put down our chalices of virgin's blood, reach deep down into the void where our soul should be, pull out $300 million dollars and make a deal!" The Yankees' new ballpark coupled with the owners madness from a baseball-free October mean the Yanks deep pockets will only deepen.

Ah yes, the new ballpark. The new version of Yankee Stadium that features the identical dimensions to the old Yankee Stadium. The historic building that was long a boon for pitchers, who like CC, throw with their left hands in defiance of God's will. So ownership willing to do whatever it takes; plus ideal fit between player's skill set and team's needs; plus a bottomless pit of cash. That adds up to an odds-on favorite. You feel very much entitled to this Yankees fans.

For CC Sabathia to sign anywhere but New York, he will be leaving substantial money on the table. It is really that simple. Should he choose to play in LA or Anaheim of Los Angeles or Milwaukee, it will be a wholly personal decision. The kind of decision players in their prime earning years rarely make.