Author Archives: Mark Smith

LaRussa v. Rasmus (2010)

Trade Rasmus

This won’t make Cardinals fans or sabermetricians happy. Rasmus, however, can bring a lot back. Want some starting pitching? What about another CF (TCM mentioned a challenge trade with LAD for Matt Kemp, but if Kemp can’t get along with Torre and Rasmus had trouble with LaRussa, I can’t see it working out. Still, that doesn’t mean Rasmus couldn’t go to Seattle for Franklin Gutierrez and a prospect)? You could get whatever you wanted. He could bring back several prospects or another good, young MLB player. People seem to think that getting rid of Rasmus involves releasing him because no one is talking about his potential to bring back awesome prospects and/or young players.

However, LaRussa will be gone somewhat soon, and the Cardinals would be losing a crucial building block because John Jay, his .376 BABiP, 18% LD rate, and below-average BB rate are not going to equal Colby Rasmus. They could trade Rasmus, but finding awesome, young center fielders is like trying to find a lost golf ball in the really thick crap—possible but nowhere near likely.…

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Race(s) for the Red(?) October

Atlanta Braves vs. Philadelphia Phillies

The only other division with a close division race is the AL East’s counterpart. The Braves sit 3 games ahead of the Phillies with 31 games left, and Philadelphia is only 1.5 games ahead of San Francisco with St. Louis, and to a lesser extent Colorado (it’s really hard to leapfrog 3 teams at this point in the season), a little farther back. Philadelphia might actually be in a better position, despite their 3 game deficit in the standings. All their stars are back, and a rotation with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels could easily see a team run off a seven game winning streak. Atlanta, on the other hand, is hoping Omar Infante can keep up his dream season and that Derrek Lee could be helpful again, neither of which gives me confidence. Regardless, the division should come down to the wire with the schedules being fairly similar (the Braves get the Pirates but also the Cardinals while the Phillies get the Brewers, a game against the Rockies, and a few more against the Dodgers), and luckily for the fans, the Phillies and Braves matchup 6 times in the last 12 games, including the very last three games of the season.…

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Race, Baseball, and Third Base Coaches

Racism didn’t end with Robinson’s entrance. African-American players still faced segregated hotels, discrimination from their own teammates and fans as well as the same from other fans, and barriers to other front office jobs. The situation improved, however, to the point where there are no segregated hotels or restaurants, teammates largely accept their teammates and opponents no matter the race, and minorities have greatly expanded access to upper-level jobs. Individual racism in baseball, like in most areas of life, is gone, but structural racism still exists. Players still face stereotypes. Latin Americans (who used to have to Anglocize their names—Vic Power was Victor Pellot before arriving in the US— even before Jackie Robinson and cannot be forgotten in this discussion) usually receive the stigma of being lazy or emotional (or in Yunel Escobar’s case, both), and stigmas are difficult to drop. African-Americans and Hispanics have to be “toolsy” players, usually with speed, to differentiate themselves. White players don’t need to be as “toolsy”, but they are expected to have intangibles.…

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Jeter’s Contract … Again … But This One’s “Fair”

Offensively, Jeter’s been basically league-average this season. His .276/.339/.387 line is good for a 99 OPS+, but league-average is pretty good for a shortstop. But that’s still a far cry from his .334/.406/.465 2009 season. What happened? The easiest thing to do is point toward his BABiP, but that’s a bit simplistic. For his career, Jeter’s BABiP is .357, but it’s only .311 this season, meaning his slash line is lower than it should be. But is there an underlying problem? Maybe. His O-Swing% is 28.9%, which is 6% above last season and 8.6% above normal, and that means that his plate discipline has regressed for some reason. He’s also making contact with those pitches more than usual, which may account for his ridiculously high GB/FB rate of 4.21 (for reference, that leads all of baseball by over 1 to second place Elvis Andrus, who has one of 2.92). Therefore, Jeter is swinging at more pitches out of the zone (losing valuable walks) and hitting more balls on the ground than normal, and to top it all off, he’s hitting fewer line drives.…

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With a Jump and a Tear

One of the hardest things to rip yourself from is the idea that one player makes a substantial difference. They just don’t. The best players add 7-8 wins to their teams over the course of the entire season, and most players add about 2-3 wins to their teams. It’s not much when you consider teams win 75-90 games, and the difference becomes diminished the farther into the season that you go. Let’s take a look at Chipper and the Braves for reference.

At Chipper’s best, he was worth 7-8 wins, and he was worth that in four separate seasons. In four other seasons, he was worth 6+ wins, and last season was the only one in which he’d been worth less than three wins. But what is he now? Last season, he was worth 2.9 WAR, but his BABIP was 30 points below his career norm. In all, he is probably worth 3-3.5 wins right now, which is good but no longer All-Star level.…

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A Grand Canyon in the Lineup

He’s shown better plate discipline in the past, and usually, that gets better with age, not worse (meaning that should improve back to at least normal). And the lower fastball run count could be mostly due to that O-Contact%, which coincided with that precipitous drop in BABiP and fastball run value (though let’s not let correlation equal causation here). Another piece of good news is that he’s still hitting line drives (his 22.8 LD% is the best of his career), which may indicate that his bat speed and hand-eye coordination haven’t completely forsaken him. Forgive me for saying this, but I don’t think Granderson is as bad as it seems. His peripherals don’t suggest that he’s completely fallen off the cliff from other successful seasons as his BABiP seems to be the main difference (along with some regression in plate discipline). Random variation is just that, random. Usually, we expect things to swing back (in this instance, we expected Granderson to have better luck this season because he had bad luck last season), but in truth, it was just as likely that he was to be unlucky as he was to be lucky.…

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Rethinking Trades

The first thing we need to do is find out why these trades don’t work for the selling team (I’m essentially going to stick with selling teams, but as Yankee fans, you’re interested in the buying teams. Guess what? You win. What? You were expecting something different?). The original theory is a nice one. You turn one really good player into several good ones, and in the swap, you switch out future value for present value. However, the idea is flawed. The theory assumes that the 6-win player traded brings back 2 or 3 4-win (the numbers don’t exactly match up, but you get the point) players, but in practice, the 6-win player continues to be the 6-win player while the prospects never make it or turn into 2-win players or worse. So how do we change this?

One, start demanding top prospects back when you can. I’m going to use the Oswalt trade for the rest of the piece to illustrate my points.…

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The bEAST

The four teams left kept swinging in May. Tampa had increased their lead between them and the Yankees to 2.5, and the Blue Jays and Red Sox switched it into another gear to not only maintain their deficits but actually get closer to the top two teams. The difference between the Rays’ ERA and FIP hadn’t begun to catch up to them yet, Longoria was still hitting, and Ben Zobrist had a quietly awesome month (.914 OPS).The Yankees didn’t slip too far despite Nick Johnson (Surprise!!) and Curtis Granderson going on the DL and Derek Jeter’s swoon because Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez enjoyed good months, Francisco Cervelli shocked the world (at least anyone paying attention), Vazquez began to rebound, and AJ hadn’t collapsed yet. In Boston, Kevin Youkilis turned into the deity of your choice incarnate (1.204 OPS), Adrian Beltre remembered what it was like to square up a ball (.932 OPS), and Jon Lester got over his typical April swoon to go 5-0 while dropping his ERA by 2 points.…

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Edwin Jackson and Unwritten Rules

When Hinch was asked to explain the high pitch count, he mentioned Jackson chasing history. He tries to save himself a bit by adding the close score of the game, how well he’d been throwing, and that he had checked with Jackson to make sure he was okay. I’m sure we can all parse some holes in his logic for the reasons in the second sentence (fresh relievers give you a better chance than a tired starter his third or fourth time through a lineup, tiring may hinder future innings’ performances, and no starter usually wants to come out of the game), but that first one might give us all pause. Can you take a pitcher out of a no-hitter?

Here’s why I’d criticize Hinch, or baseball tradition–Jackson’s no-hitter wasn’t that special. If he had given up eight hits, he would have been out of that game long ago. If he had given up two hits, he would have been taken out long ago.…

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