Thursday, October 20, 2011

Jed Hoyer to Cubs: My Two Cents

Rumors have been floating for two weeks that Theo Epstein will leave Boston and become a Senior VP with the Chicago Cubs.  I could not care less about that.

The last few days have seen the start of, and intensifying reporting on, rumors Jed Hoyer or Josh Byrnes are going to Chicago as GM under Theo. Today it seems all but a done deal that Hoyer is gone.  I care a little more about that.

The San Diego Padres currently suffer from a lack of offensive talent on the major league roster.  The reasons why can be distilled into three parts - the trade of Adrian Gonzalez to Boston, the low team payroll, and a farm system bereft of offensive talent.  The Gonzo trade and the low payroll go hand-in-hand IMHO - ownership has artifically restricted the size of the payroll, and decided it did not want to pay Adrian what he was worth.

The other problem is systemic and needed to be fixed anyway for the long-term viability of the franchise.  One of Boston's claims to fame has been their ability to identify, develop, and promote prospects into contributing members of the Red Sox.  The best two examples of that success are Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury.  Since Hoyer worked in the front office that did that drafting, it made a certain amount of sense to hire someone with a strong player development background.

To that end he brought Jason McLeod with him from Boston and significantly expanded the player development department.  San Diego still has a bottom-half farm system but is at least working in the right direction.  This is a good thing.

Now Hoyer is reportedly leaving to go to Chicago.  Maybe he chafed under the small payroll he had to work with in San Diego.  Maybe Josh Byrnes' relationship with Moorad made things awkward in the Padre front office.  We don't know, and probably won't know.  What we should care about is that the Padres continue to aggressively draft premium talent and get them to the major league roster.  What we should also care about is that McLeod stays in the San Diego front office.  What we should also care about is that Moorad takes the austerity measure handcuffs off the team payroll and allow it to grow.  Not to a number that starts with a "5", but something more reasonable, like a "7" or "8".
Hoyer, Byrnes, Kevin Towers, Daffy Duck, Ivan Drago, Optimus Prime, Mel Zeb, me, you ... it doesn't matter who the Padres GM is.  It does matter that the payroll budget get bigger.  And, it really matters the organization continue to draft good offensive prospects and get those guys to the majors.

I don't care that Hoyer's leaving.  I will care if McLeod follows.

UPDATE:  This story has gained all sorts of momentum.

Item:  The Cubs asked for Josh Byrnes first but Padres said no.
Item:  Hoyer offered to stay in San Diego for a 5-year extension and was told no.  Honestly this one is funny to me.  It would appear Hoyer tried to leverage his impending departure into a pay raise.  A little corporate blackmail, perhaps.
Item:  Jason McLeod is also almost out the door.

All that can be found in this story at ESPN.

It pisses me off.  I appreciate the loyalty Moorad is showing Byrnes, but these developments piss me off.  He's letting the architect of the Padres minor league revival walk.  He's letting a GM with a plan walk.  And for what, in return?  Nothing.

I don't care that Ricketts and Moorad are friends.  Owning a baseball team is like being a sovereign country.  Owners don't have friends - they have INTERESTS.  It should be in the INTEREST of Moorad and the Padres ownership to build and bring a championship to San Diego.  It is not in the INTEREST of the San Diego Padres to let two bright young minds, who are under contract, leave without compensation.

Moorad traded away the best position player San Diego had since Tony Gwynn retired.  Now he allows the core of his front office to walk away.  If he's trying to build a fan base that's the wrong way to go about doing it.  I feel for the Padres ticket sales staff - how do you sell this product?  Related, get ready for hordes of visiting team fans to descend on the ballpark next year - they may be the only ones who go in large numbers.

Assuming, of course, YOU go.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

BBA Topic - Walter Johnson Award

After each regular season, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance votes on the best manager, rookie, relief pitcher, starting pitcher, and most valuable player in each league.  Today we discuss the best starting pitcher - aptly named the Walter Johnson Award.

The BBA ballot requires three names.  For the National League, the three names are easy.  The hard part is deciding in what order they should fall.  Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw, and Cliff Lee were the best three pitchers in the National League this season, and they threw virtually the same number of innings (Halladay 233 2/3, Kershaw 233 1/3, Lee 232 2/3), so one can compare their numbers without applying any correction factor.

So let's compare them.  Here are their season numbers, per Fangraphs.

I left their W/L/WAR numbers off deliberately.  Innings Pitched we've already discussed.  Wins/Losses have become less relevant to measuring a pitcher's worth in the relief pitcher era, and WAR?  Well, WAR has become too simple an answer for me (that's a topic best left to a future post).

So what do we have?  Halladay issued the fewest walks, allowed the least number of HRs, got the most groundballs, and had the best Fielding Independent Percentage.  Kershaw struck out the most per nine innings, had the lowest percentage of balls in play turn into hits, and the lowest Earned Run Average.  Lee stranded more runners then either two, and had the lowest Expected Fielding Independent Percentage.

Doesn't really help, does it?

Let's try again.  The fact that Kershaw has the lowest ground ball rate (so conversely, the highest fly ball rate) of the three matches his lowest BABIP of the three.  Fly ball pitchers tend to have a lower BABIP.  Using that logic, it would explain why Halladay's BABIP is slightly higher than Lee's.

Some folks have argued part of Kershaw's success is based on his home ballpark.  Dodger Stadium is a pitcher-friendly ballpark, Citizen's Bank is a pitcher-neutral one.  Kershaw giving up fewer HR than Lee can be explained by the ballpark factor, but Halladay gave up fewer than either while pitching in the same home ballpark Lee pitches in.

Lee's strikeouts per nine, strand rate, and expected FIP are better than Halladay's.  Halladay, however, has fewer walks, HR, a lower ERA and FIP than Lee.  I think ultimately that places Halladay ahead of Lee.  Kershaw has a higher walk rate than Lee, but in the other categories (K/9, HR allowed, ERA, FIP) he's better.

Cliff Lee becomes the #3 NL pitcher.

How to split Kershaw and Halladay is tough - very tough.  They are virtually even everywhere, and the one area where they do differ (HR's allowed) I believe has more to do with Halladay being a ground ball pitcher in a park where fly balls fly out than in any real difference in quality between the two pitchers.  Roy Halladay has been consistently brilliant for years, and is the reigning Walter Johnson Award Winner.  Clayton Kershaw is only 23 years old and may just be starting to realize his enormous potential.

I've tried to be objective.  Let's be arbitrary.  Halladay had fewer bad days than Kershaw did.  Roy Halladay had only one 2011 start in which he gave up more than 5 ER. Kershaw had four.  Halladay was more consistently brilliant than Kershaw.  We'll make that the straw that broke the camel's back.

The Padres Trail 2011 Walter Johnson Award Ballot:

  1. Roy Halladay
  2. Clayton Kershaw
  3. Cliff Lee
As always, thanks for reading and your comments are welcome.

UPDATE 10/22: I neglected to make the ballot 5 deep, which is the BBA requirement.  So, hurriedly, I've added these two names:

  • 4.  Ian Kennedy
  • 5.  Jair Jurrjens
 Kennedy pitched extremely well for the Arizona Diamondbacks throughout the 2011 season, and tied for the league lead in wins (21).  Jurrjens had a fantastic first half of the season before getting hurt and missing all of September.  If I've missed someone deserving, post it in the comments.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Team Leaders

Ryan Ludwick does not exist.  He never existed.
If you go to the Padres official website, about half-way down you'll find a section labeled '2011 team leaders'.  It lists Nick Hundley, Cameron Maybin, and Will Venable as the team HR leaders with 9 each.  It also shows Jesus Guzman, Chase Headley, and Venable as the team RBI leaders with 44 each.

Ryan Ludwick's 11 HR and 64 RBI as a Padre are conveniently forgotten.  For some reason this really offends me.  It's as if the team does not want to acknowledge his contributions to the 2011 effort.

I got into a psuedo-argument about this on Twitter last night.  The reasons given for why he's not listed included 'he was traded' and 'its more about who's on the current roster'.  Fine.  Then don't label that section on the website '2011 Team Leaders'.  Call it something else - Active Padres Leaders, or Current Roster Leaders, or The Best We've Got Left As The Season Ended.

Ludwick's stats didn't cease to count just because he was traded to Pittsburgh 15 minutes before the trade deadline.  He was still the most productive Padre in these two areas during the 2011 season.  It's ridiculous to pretend he wasn't.  Besides, what good does it do to present the data in this way?  Ludwick is still listed on the sortable stats page as a Padre (as he should be), and if one sorts by HR or RBI guess who's name sits at the top of the list.  Go to the 2011 San Diego Padres team page on Baseball Reference, and guess who's still listed there?  Ludwick!  Of course B-Ref has him as the everyday LF, but that's because he played more games in LF than any other Padre in 2011, which is how B-Ref organizes their data.

So who are we trying to fool here - the fans?  That's insulting to all fans everywhere.

There are other ways to sell the current roster.  Highlight Maybin's success in 2011.  Talk about how Hundley recovered from his first half injuries to become a force at the plate after the All-Star Break.  Mention Anthony Bass' development, and how (according to what I've read) he's continuing to progress in the Arizona Fall League.  Hype Cory Spangenberg.

Just don't tell me the team leaders in HR and RBI were guys who fell 2 HR and 20 RBI short of a player that left via a team decision 7/31.

In case you think I'm being unreasonable (and you might), consider this.  In 1990 Willie McGee was traded, at the end of August, from St Louis to Oakland.  At the time he led the NL in batting average (.335).  Even though he spent the last month of the season in the other league, he had accrued enough at bats to qualify for the NL batting title.  At seasons end, no other NL hitter had caught him, so McGee won the NL batting title ... despite no longer playing in the league

If Major League Baseball, that stodgy organization, could recognize McGee for his performance in the NL before he was traded, why can't the Padres do the same thing with their '2011 team leaders'?  Who are they trying to kid.

Pretending Ludwick's numbers don't qualify as a team leader because he was dealt at the trade deadline is dishonest.  The Padres are wrong to present the 2011 team leader stats without including him.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

BBA Topic - Connie Mack Award

Each year, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance member chapters vote on their post-season awards.  Some awards are similar to those voted on by the BBWAA, and some are unique.  The Connie Mack award is given to each league's top manager.

The San Diego Chapter gets two votes for each category. You can read Left Coast Bias' selections here.  Mine are below.

Manager of the Year is tough, because it seems the odds-on favorite for the award typically manages a team widely expected to suck before the season started.  Which then means the award goes to the team that did the best job proving the prognosticators wrong.  I don't have a snappy, simple solution for fixing that; I just point it out.

With that said, whom to vote for?  I need to narrow down the field, so let's make it easy - I'll eliminate all teams that finished below .500 this season.  The only team I slightly regret dropping from consideration this way is Pittsburgh.  Clint Hurdle did a fantastic job (or was the NL Central just that mediocre) keeping them in contention until the end of July; but after that the Pirates collapsed, finishing 18 games under.  So it's a slight regret.

That leaves Philadelphia, Atlanta, Milwaukee, St Louis, Arizona, San Francisco, and Los Angeles as the contenders.  Atlanta is out; you blow a 9.5 game lead, you get no votes as the league's best manager.  San Francisco gets dropped; the Giants faded badly after the trade deadline.  That takes us to five.  Five is a manageable number.

The Padres Trail ballot for Connie Mack is:
  1. Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks - Yeah, I'm in the 'vote for the team that most exceeded pre-season expectations' category.  Gibson took a Diamondbacks team widely expected to challenge the Padres for NL West basement occupancy and instead led them to the NL West Title.  Granted, most of the rebirth in Arizona is the handiwork of several GMs, including Kevin Towers' rebuild of the bullpen.  However the Diamondbacks have had one of the more talented rosters in the league for several years, and never played to their talent.  Gibson got that talent to shine.
  2. Charlie Manuel, Phillies - The amount of pressure placed on the manager of a team widely expected to be the best in the league is immense.  Many buckle under it.  Manuel led his team to the best record in the league.
  3. Tony LaRussa, Cardinals - He lost his best starting pitcher in spring training, and his early bullpen was a mess.  And yet, he found a way to motivate his team and get them into the post-season. 
  4. Ron Roenicke, Brewers - Another manager with the weight of expectations.  Prince Fielder is widely expected to play somewhere else next year, so the Brewer management went all in for this season, and brought in a new manager to lead the troops.  Additionally, he lost one of the off-season prizes, Zack Grienke, for 6 weeks due to injury.  A torrid August secured the NL Central for Milwaukee.
  5. Don Mattingly, Dodgers - The Dodger organization is a mess.  Everyone knows about the McCourt scandal and legal death match with MLB.  All that drama affected the major league team. It took them about 4 months to successfully deal with it, but they finally got it together, closing with a 41-28 kick and getting into third in the NL West.