Old Man Yells At Cloud*

old-man-cloud*I’ve sprinkled several Simpsons references throughout. See if you can find each one! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Most of the baseball-writing media are past stat-nerd bashing, and are at least aware that they will receive some pushback. Those who cannot deal with the new reality are often either on the staffs of dying newspapers or on First Take where you have to actually bother to transcribe something if you want to rip it. I think Fire Joe Morgan was a big part of that and Twitter’s instant feedback drove it home, but every once in a while you still run into a writer who has apparently never heard of either of these things. This one is interesting because Scott DeSmit, of TheDailyNewsOnline which seems to serve an area around Buffalo New York not only watches The Simpsons, but also knows enough about Sabermetrics to put a fake qualifier letter in front of his fake WAR.  He calls it gWAR. I assume this is a tribute to GWAR, a high concept rock band who recently suffered the loss of their frontman Dave Brockie, who died unexpectedly at the age of 50.  Or maybe it’s because g is the letter after f. Let’s find out! He’s in bold. I am not.

“You made me love baseball. Not as a collection of numbers, but as an unpredictable, passionate game, beaten in excitement only by every other sport.”

-Lisa Simpson.

“I made baseball as much fun as doing your taxes.”

-Bill James, scientific analyzer of baseball who coined the term “sabermetrics.”

 

No one who likes the Simpson could be evil.

Computers have ruined baseball and “Sports Illustrated.”

Oh.

In fairness, we should mention that computers have ruined basically every magazine.

This is what I need to know and what I want to know: What’s the guy’s batting average, how many dingers has he hit and how many runs he batted in.

(Awkward sentence containing a list of statistics)

I want to know a pitcher’s ERA and his won-loss record. Maybe, if he’s Nolan Ryan, how many strikeouts he has had.

Ugh. “Has had.” Look, I make at least 3 spelling/grammar mistakes every time I write something as I’m afflicted by a disease which prevents me from effective proofreading before I hit the “post” button. It’s awful. And I’m generally pretty forgiving about such things, but reading that sentence hurt. The only thing worse than a win-loss record is a won-loss record.

I can read a box score.

I was genuinely surprised after the previous sentence to find that this didn’t read “I can haz read box score.”

AB R H RBI BB SO Avg.*

Wait, so now you do want to know about strikeouts? Or are those only the strikeouts that Nolan Ryan has had?

*Not the Contra code. 

Pretty simple. Derek Jeter went 2-for-4 and drove in three runs and scored once.

He’s now batting .280.

It’s so simple it tells you almost nothing! It doesn’t tell you is Jeter hit a double or a home run, it doesn’t tell you how the players scored, how he scored, and his batting average after the fact is almost meaningless. I like watching baseball and seeing how things happen.

When I read “Sports Illustrated” I want insight into the game, great stories about the game and its players.

Not this:

“A .296/.373/.489 hitting in the minors … and he was one of the top five prospects as rated by gWAR, a proprietary measure of a player value similar to Wins Above Replacement.”

Much is made of the Stats v. Scouts debate that no one is actually having. Baseball Prospectus, one of the first and most well-known advanced baseball stats sites is now as much about scouting as about numbers. WAR is never used to evaluate minor leaguers, especially to declare someone a top prospect in list form. To write parody actually requires an understanding of the subject. This reads like a 4th grader who didn’t do the reading cranking out an essay five minutes before class started.*

*Ivanhoe is the story of a man and his tool…

The pitcher was one of the best, “according to gERA or defense-adjusted ERA.”

God forbid we take a stat like ERA, which measures how many runs the team as a whole allowed (after making some asinine concession to the official scorer) and attempt to isolate what the pitcher himself was responsible for.

They actually have a yearly conference, a SABR Analytics Conference.

They all get together and rent out the basement of a GIANT convention center and play advanced dungeons and dragons and have LAN parties and they all get special pocket protectors and argue over whether Captain Kirk is better than Captain Picard while they talk about “analyzing” baseball.

I will now return to writing this article in which I try to uhm…analyze baseball.

Scouts are no longer gruff men with beer guts and a cigar dangling from their mouth but computer geeks who wouldn’t know a good baseball prospect if one came up and slapped them in the face with a Louisville Slugger.*

1. I’m quite sure some of them still are.

2. None of that stuff would qualify you to be a scout in the first place.

3. Scouts certainly use more numbers than before and it is probably a career-killer not to be familiar with technology, but by and large scouts are still out there trying to figure out how a guy will grow into his body, what his tools are, etc.

4. What Sabermetrics has changed more than anything is our valuation of certain baseball skills. Scouts might focus more carefully on different things now, but scouting is still done mostly by people. (For now).

5. So this section is just wrong.

*Oh, Kent, I’d be lying if I said my men weren’t committing crimes.

It’s one thing to have these statisticians, it’s another to write about them.

They know exactly where every pitch ever thrown has been placed.

Isn’t it cool? You can see Felix’s brilliance in more detail or see how a guy missed and allowed a game-winning home run…

“27 percent of his sliders hit the inside corner of the plate, providing the temperature is above 63 degrees and the wind is out of the south at less than 9 mph.”

Allow me to set this straw man on fire. It is perhaps possible to actually come up with this kind of information using PitchFX, but no one ever does, and no one would want to. It’s not interesting. This reminds me of this Colin Cowherd quote from the FJM classic “12 Minutes of Hell, with Colin Cowherd:

“The problem with the Hall of Fame – it’s become Nerd World. [ridiculous “nerd” voice] “Hey, if you look at his OPB — yes you know me — his OPS, if you multiply it using a sliding chart and you put some marmalade on your toes, he appears to be a 14th ballot Hall of Famer.” The Hall of Fame has become “Nerd World in Orlando.”

A sliding chart is not a thing, a 14th-ballot Hall of Famer is not a thing anyone cares about, and the way in which information is gathered and used by sabermetricians is not anything as strange as this idiocy.

PitchFX has been used to pick out pitchers in decline, it is the most important part of the revolutionary pitch framing research we’ve all been reading about, and it can pick out good umpires and bad umpires. Those are all useful things. Interesting things. It’s easy to make up your own boring garbage, just don’t go blaming other people when you have to move your town 5 miles over.

It has infiltrated every aspect of the game.

One of the reasons for this is because looking at data actually works, whereas relying on folk-wisdom leads to outbreaks of the mumps at Ohio State. Giant companies are attempting to win and make money, they can’t afford to rely on gut feeling.

Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown in 2012.

The Triple Crown is a series of horse races composed of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.  We sometimes apply this nomenclature to an arbitrary group of three somewhat terrible baseball statistics and say that a baseball player “won” it. While home runs are cool, we have learned over time that batting average is pretty terrible, and that RBIs tell you more about the guys hitting in front of you than anything else. But hey, it has a neat name! It’s sacred! It’s rare! It must be good.

And there was a debate as to who deserved the MVP.

Uhm, I mean, kind of. People argued about it. Mike Trout was pretty significantly better, but I suppose if we’re being generous…

Why?

I hate this new tradition of baseball people having spirited debates about things.

Sabermetrics, whatever that means.

You clearly read the wikipedia article since you mentioned that Bill James “coined” the term. So you totally know. Or, you at least know as much as Wikipedia tells you.

Just 16 players have ever won the Triple Crown.

Only Fernando Tatis has ever won the coveted “Biathalon” given to a player who hits two Grand Slams in the same inning. He’s the only one ever to do it! Yet he was somehow denied the MVP award that year. Shameful.

Cabrera bats .330, hits 44 home runs and drives in 139, you bet he deserves MVP.

I wonder if any other players played baseball that year, and if so, if any of them had similar, or even better batting numbers!

It wasn’t even a unanimous vote, thanks to Sabermetrics.

How dare not everyone haz agreed with my flawless logic.

Mike Trout deserved the MVP because of Pythagorean expectations, speed scores, ultimate zone ratings, VORP, wOBA and PECOTA, or Player Empiracal Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm.

I can’t believe we’re still doing this, but the case for Mike Trout was anything but complicated. The only thing that a baseball layperson might even have a slight issue with is park adjustment. Angel Stadium is typically very pitcher-friendly while Comerica is fairly neutral, and Trout gets a bump for that, but most of the case for Trout over Cabrera can be summed up as follows using no numbers at all.

1. Mike Trout was almost as good a hitter as Cabrera.

2. Mike Trout stole a ton of bases while rarely getting caught and was an excellent baserunner in general, while Miggy is slow, and a terrible baserunner.

3. Mike Trout plays a difficult defensive position well while Cabrera plays an easier position terribly.

That’s it. Trout does a lot of the stuff that old baseball men tend to love. He takes an extra base! He steals! he’s sound defensively. Funny how some anti-analytics people now sound like the Moneyball-era Athletics.

Think baseball was boring before?

No, I love baseball and want to learn more about it.

Grrrrr.

Spellcheck probably should have caught that.

Yes, baseball has always been stat-driven. That’s why I love reading box scores.

NEEEERRRRRRRRRRRDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD!  Did you get a load of the nerd?

But it’s also driven by gut instinct.

Maybe sometimes if it’s a close call, but it’s not really worth talking about, and where data is available data always wins.

Taking David Ortiz out of the World Series lineup based on Sabermetrics? Because the bench player had a better OPS/WAR against the pitcher on odd-numbered days and when the defensive lineup consisted of 38 percent Hispanic players with DRSes of .678 or above?*

Sabermetrics is totally racist, you guys.

Also, David Ortiz has played in 13 World Series games and he’s never had fewer than 4 PAs in any of them. Ortiz probably has been removed occasionally in NL parks for defensive purposes (Doug Mientkiewicz, everybody!), but no team would ever do something like this because David Ortiz is awesome at hitting. This is another example of Colin’s Toe Marmalade.

*Aw, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent.
Forfty percent of all people know that.

Blah blah blah.

Grrrrr.

You can have your computer-generated scouting reports.

Give me that kid who dives into second base headfirst stretching a single or smashes into the outfield wall leaping for a fly ball or hits 450-feet home runs or bats .320 and steals 50 bases

That guy’s name is Mike Trout.

and give me that pitcher who waves off his manager when he reaches 100 in the pitch count.

That guy blew out his UCL making the waving motion.

And I’ll take a Triple Crown winner over anyone.

I don’t care if it’s a cloudy day or not.*

I will list a series of things I like in a ballplayer and then just go with the Triple Crown because Sabermetricians care about the weather too much.

*And with that, a mighty cheer went up from the heroes of old-timey baseball. They had banished the awful lemon tree forever, because it was haunted. Now let’s all celebrate with a cool glass of turnip juice.

Fans Send Bad Message To – uhm – Fans

Jim Caple is mad. He longs for the days when cheating wasn’t strictly illegal and therefore a gentlemanly pursuit. He doesn’t understand why anyone would cheer for Ryan Braun, let alone give him a standing ovation. The one thing we do know is that music has something to do with it, so let’s get to it. He’s in bold.

On Opening Day in Milwaukee, Ryan Braun returned from last season’s 65-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs and received a loud standing ovation from the hometown crowd. On Tuesday night, a fan ran onto the field to try to high-five him. For those two games, Braun earned roughly $124,000 of a contract that guarantees him at least $117 million in pay.

Let’s start by conceding that Ryan Braun is probably not a very good guy. He’s probably a bad guy. You know what? A lot of baseball players are bad guys. A lot of athletes are bad guys. We don’t cheer for them because they’re paragons of virtue, we cheer for them because they’re good at their jobs and help our teams win. That’s it. I might also point out that on Opening Day most fans show up promptly at 9:00 am when the parking lots open (followed by the people who believe the lie about the lots opening at 10), drink for four straight hours, go into the stadium, drink for another 2 hours, and then hopefully not drive home.* On Tuesday the guy who ran out onto the field probably wasn’t sober. Citing the actions and opinions of a bunch of super-drunk people as some kind of indictment of society is asinine.

*I might also mention that the starting pitcher in that game, Yovani Gallardo, was arrested for DUI in the offseason, a sin 1000x times worse than anything Braun has done. The person who closed the game, Francisco Rodriguez, has a nasty habit of beating women and their parents which is unfathomably worse. 

So … that’ll really teach him not to do it again, huh?

That’s what the giant quasi-legal suspension was for.

At spring training, when Braun addressed the media about his use of PEDs, he said he made a “mistake.” That’s not accurate. Braun did not make a “mistake.” He cheated.

Look, I hate non-apologies. I hate the use of the passive voice in apologies. I sincerely doubt that Ryan Braun offered up anything that could be considered a “sincere” apology. BUT, this argument that past transgressions cannot be considered “mistakes” is simply wrong. Occasionally someone will actually learn a lesson and change their behavior, and in that instance it is not uncommon for that person to look back on their past actions as “mistakes.” Mistake can mean typing “they’re” instead of “there” but it can also mean past actions that one has come to regret. If you don’t believe Ryan Braun just say you think he’s an insincere asshole, you don’t have to make weak semantic arguments.

I’ve been more lenient than most on this subject when it comes to players such as Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds (who received a smattering of jeers at his Opening Day appearance in Pittsburgh).

And I completely ignore the transgressions of Willie Mays and Hank Aaron and anyone who took any foreign substances before guys got huge and started hitting giant home runs. And I don’t care about Gaylord Perry throwing spitballs either.

That’s because when players of that era used or were accused of using, baseball had no hard and fast rules in place regarding PEDs. (It’s not cheating if it isn’t against the rules.) Milwaukee’s welcoming response for Braun angers me, though, because he was caught after PEDs were firmly and officially banned, not just frowned upon. And he’d already narrowly averted a previous ban due to a technicality.

1. Drunk people on opening day are THE BEST at making highly technical moral distinctions regarding baseball rules.

2. In the end he didn’t actually avert the ban. The incidents were connected.

If we — media, fans, players, the league and teams — truly want to rid the game of PEDs,

A lot of us don’t care. Like at all. I like watching games and being entertained.

then we must thoroughly punish players when they are caught breaking the rules. That means in addition to serving suspensions, players who are caught should not be placed on a team’s postseason roster, as the Tigers did with Jhonny Peralta last October.

The idea that the Tigers pulled some scam here…I mean, Peralta was done serving his time. He served his suspension and was allowed to rejoin the team.  The team isn’t required to keep punishing a guy forever, that’s Bud Selig’s job, apparently.

Baseball addressed this last week by toughening the punishments for PED cheats, including banning them from playing in the postseason in a year in which they are suspended. Which is good, but we also should not then reward them with four-year, $52 million new contracts, as the Cardinals did with Peralta over the winter.

And we should not welcome them back by standing and applauding their return.

The story of how baseball players fought and eventually won free agency is a good one, and ultimately many people* will tell you that most of this steroid nonsense mostly serves to give ownership back a chunk of the power they’ve ceded over the years. Most of Caple’s “reforms” here mainly help management, hurt players, and condescend to fans. In short, I’ll cheer for whoever I damn well please, and in free agency teams will pay for players if they think the players will help them. St. Louis had a dumpster fire sitting out there at short last year. They probably were not willing to forego a 3-4 win upgrade to prove some obtuse moral point.

*Joe Sheehan, most loudly.

As long as players know that even if they’re suspended, they still will receive multimillion-dollar contracts and the adoration of their hometown fans, what is the incentive not to cheat?

Here’s a better question: Given this scenario, what is the incentive to punish cheaters?

Last week’s changes to MLB’s drug rules increased the initial suspension from 50 to 80 games and a second from 100 to 162 games. And that’s fine. But it still doesn’t address the larger problem: A suspension really accomplishes little beyond giving a player a couple of months off during the summer.

The idea that a suspension is not a punishment is laughable. Most of these guys want to win. If they are caught, they then have to be around a bunch of guys they let down. They don’t get paid. But yeah, I’m sure Braun cares much more about getting a standing ovation than losing a couple of million dollars.

I don’t believe first-time offenders should be banned for life, but I want them to truly get the message that PED use is not tolerated. Here’s how to send it:

I’ve been waiting for this part. This is the crazy part. Are you ready for the crazy part?

• Get caught cheating, and not only are you suspended without pay (as is currently the case), but your current contract should be voided.

There is zero chance that this could ever happen. It would have to be negotiated with the union and there are no circumstances under which they would ever agree to such a thing.  But it gets so much worse…

• When you return from the suspension, you should also lose whatever negotiating leverage you’ve accrued. You should not reach free agency until at least one full year after you would otherwise be eligible.

When I read this the first time I assumed he meant by magic. Like everyone should forget how valuable the player is so they have no leverage. What I think he actually means is that you will go back to the equivalent of a first year of team control. If you were in your arbitration years you lose arbitration. If you’re about to become a free agent you lose that. Functionally what that means is that you’d make the minimum or sit out. Oh, but it gets crazier still…

• So that your team, which might have looked the other way at rumors of your PED use, does not benefit, it should not retain rights to your service beyond when it normally would. If that time frame expires before you are eligible for free agency, you should go into a “cheaters’ draft” in which each team, in reverse order of record, can pick you or not. Teams could only choose one cheat per winter. Hopefully, there never would be occasion for a second round of the cheaters’ draft.

CHEATERS DRAFT! It raises so many questions! If you have a 5-year contract what happens? Anything? Does this only apply to players in their first 6 years of service? So if say Jean Segura failed a drug test, when he reached his free agent year he could instead be drafted by the worst team in baseball and play for the minimum? What if it’s still the Brewers? It might still be the Brewers. Would opposing teams start spiking beverages? Would Jeff Luhnow sneak into the Angels’ locker room and pop a few steroid gummy bears in Mike Trout’s Gatorade?

And I’m sure we all know the true winners of the Cheaters draft. ESPN!* They’d televise the shit out of that. I assume it would be at Madison Square Garden and that all draftees would arrive in orange jump suits. Bud would greet them at the podium with a new cap and a urine collection kit.

*employer of JIM CAPLE.

It gets crazier.

As for the fan response? Fans are always happy to boo a returning PED cheat with an opposing team. (Just wait until those fun-loving Fenway fans get their crack at Braun this weekend.) But fans also will boo an opponent who wins the Triple Crown and donates his salary to Habitat for Humanity. It’s how they regard their own team’s players that is at issue.

Boston fans are totally in a great position to boo steroid users.

Obviously, fans can’t be forced to behave a certain way or instructed not to cheer.

“Dear University of Wisconsin Student Section. Please Stop doing the E@T Sh*T, F^CK Y0^ chant. – Chancellor X

Student Section – (Increases volume 800%)

But there are rules that could be enacted so that a returning cheat doesn’t feel as welcome as Braun and others have.

We can have RULES that STEER you to cheer PROPERLY, like the Bark Board at Bucks games. Everyone likes the Bark Board.

No walkup or entrance music for his at-bat or relief appearance.

That’ll learn him. How would Erig Gagne get fired up without Welcome To The Jungle?

In fact, no introduction whatsoever.*

This would definitely not lead to more standing ovations as a fanbase started to feel unjustly persecuted. They’d all totally stay silent during the intro.

*”Programs! Get your programs! You won’t know who the roiders are without a program! Because we’re not going to tell you!”

For at least one season, the player should have to take his position to official silence on the home team’s part.

“Attention Fans! Per Major League Rules we will be OFFICIALLY SILENT during Ryan Braun’s introductions. Please do not cheer wildly to fill the void as it would appear a bit gauche of television. Thank you for your cooperation.”

Let that silence be a reminder that he cheated.

“And now a moment of silence to remind us all of our sins.” – World’s worst baseball game.

If the fans still want to cheer him, so be it. But teams shouldn’t encourage an environment for applause.

Also, Braun should be forced to play in a hairshirt.

I would include a Hall of Fame ban, but any player who tests positive for PEDs isn’t going to get 75 percent of the BBWAA vote anyway.

Yeah, they don’t get elected to the hall, they just coach hitting for the Dodgers and present awards in Pittsburgh.

Sure, there are flaws in these suggested measures.

I agree with this 100%.

For one thing, there would need to be some ways to prevent teams from manipulating the rules just to get out of an expensive contract.

I’m sure no team would ever abuse these rules to not pay millions of dollars. If there’s one thing we know it’s that giant multi-million dollar corporations always act in the best interest of everyone.

But that and other issues could be ironed out. At least it’s a starting point for getting serious.

Let’s get serious. Ban music!

I’m all for giving a player a second chance after he makes “mistakes.” But to really discourage the use of PEDs, players must also know that when they come back, all will not be forgotten, all will not be forgiven, and life in baseball will not be the same.

Hester Prynne didn't make a "mistake", she was a DIRTY WHORE.

Hester Prynne didn’t make a
“mistake”, she was a DIRTY WHORE.

Let’s just put a god damn scarlet A on his jersey.

The Brewers: A Major League Preview

Doug Melvin: Well if Ron’s gone, and I’m still the GM, who were you thinking about for manager?

Mark A: I was thinking about Lou Brown.

Image

Spring Training

Lou: These guys hit a ton, how come nobody else picked up on them?

Doug: Duke, throw Juan a curveball.

Zach Duke: (Nods)

Image

Lou Brown concerned.

Lou: I see.

Doug: Kyle, throw Mark a fastball.

Kyle: OK then.

Mark Reynolds:

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Lou: Oooooooohkay. Son, why did you try to swing at that and not just get out of the way?

Mark: It looked like a strike.

Doug: And he’s probably the better hitter.

Lou: What about Davis here.

Doug: Oh, he can hit. No issues there.

Lou: So what’s his problem?

Doug: Khris! Hit the cutoff man!

Khris Davis: (Throws ball)

Ball: (flutter flutter flutter…bounce…………bounce……..bounce…..bounce…bounce..bounce.bounce.bounce)

Lou Brown concerned.

Khris Davis: (Runs up to ball, picks it up, throws again.)

Lou Brown: Can he play first base?

Doug Melvin: He cannot.

Lou Brown: Can he play left field?

Doug Melvin: Well, sort of.

Locker Room

Braun Locker

Brandon Kintzler: Ryan, what’s all that shit in your locker?

Ryan Braun: Antler powder, Vagisil, Oxygenated blood, any one of them will…

Brandon Kintzler: Wait, Vagisil?

Ryan Braun: …give you 5-10 more MPH off the bat. Got them from my buddy in Miami…

Brandon Kintzler:  But Vagi….

Ryan Braun: They’re doctors and everything.

Brandon Kintzler: Ryan, I think someone might be having some fun with you.

Ryan Braun: We’re not all young kids Brandon. When you get to be my age you need to use any edge you can get. Some day you will too.

Brandon: Yeah, probably not on the Vagisil.

Back Outside

Rickie Weeks: Lou, I want to talk to you. My contract specifically says I do not have to do any calisthenics I feel are unnecessary.

Rickie-Lou-BrownLou: And by the looks of things you’ve been diligent about exercising that clause.

Rickie: (Speechless)

Lou: Look Rickie, if you don’t start getting to more balls or at least hitting, I’m going to have to go another direction. Kid, get Rickie a bat.

Scooter Gennett: I’m not a bat boy sir.

Image

Lou: Sure kid, what’s your name?

Scooter Gennett: Scooter.

Lou: Can we get this kid a jersey with “Scooter” on the back? We got one for that dog. I like this kid.

Scooter: I already have a jersey with my last name on it. I play 2nd base! I’m competing with Rickie.

Lou: Kid, I hope Rickie plays another ten years so that when you’re twenty-one you can realize that dream.

Pitching Practice

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Johnny Hellweg

Image

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Lou Brown concerned.

Lou: Where have you been pitching?

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K-rod: Florida penal league.

Doug: So, can you work with this?

Lou-Brown1

Lou: My kind of team Dougie.  My kind of team

May 15th, 2014

bob-uecker

Uecker: Just a reminder, fans, comin’ up is our “Die-hard Night” here at the stadium. Free admission to anyone who was actually alive the last time the Brewers won a pennant.

Pitching for the Brewers is their #5 starter, his name is…uh, looking…ah Christ I can’t find it. To hell with it.

How much do teams cost in Baseball Reference Sponsorship Money

Here at Ron Roenicke Stole My Baseball we use Baseball-Reference.com a ton, for everything from looking up stats about Yuni Betancourt, to looking up stats about sacrifices, to looking up stats about attempted sacrifices, to scowling at Scooter Gennett’s page. Since we make such great use of this incredible free service we decide to give back a little every year by sponsoring a page. This year we got this guy.

Anyway, every player on B-Ref has a price for sponsorship. I’m fairly sure the price is based solely on the web traffic a player sees, and so it’s not really predictive of much besides popularity, but I thought I’d take a look at the 40-man rosters of everyone in the NL Central to see how much it would cost to sponsor the whole lot of them. One caveat – if a player is already sponsored I can’t tell how much he cost, I will instead note how many players are taken for each team, and you can adjust how you see fit.

First, here are the NL Central rankings by B-Ref money:

Cardinals – $4425, 7 sponsorships taken

Pirates – $3290, 2 sponsorships taken

Reds – $2470, 2 sponsorships taken

Cubs – $2055, 2 sponsorships taken

Brewers – 1900, 0 sponsorships taken

The Cardinals are far and away the most expensive B-Ref team in the division, and those 7 guys would probably push them well above $6000 and possibly even $7000 if they were available. I was surprised to find the Pirates 2nd just because of market size, but Andrew McCutchen is enough of a star to draw national attention and provides a solid $680 base. I was likewise surprised that the Cubs fared so poorly. Sure they’re bad, but they’re in the biggest market in the division, they have a pitcher who played football at Notre Dame, and I figured people would be visiting Starlin Castro’s page just to examine the high-profile train wreck. The Brewers are just sad.  In theory Braun should provide a McCutchen-like base but (I suspect) due to his suspension and subsequent inactivity last year he fell out of consciousness a bit. Taking a closer look:

Cardinals

Taken players:  Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Pete Kozma, Shane Robinson, Allen Craig.

Top 10:

  1. Jhonny Peralta – $650
  2. Yadi Molina – $535
  3. Matt Holliday – $505
  4. Matt Carpenter – $425
  5. Peter Bourjos – $390
  6. Matt Adams – $275
  7. Shelby Miller – $240
  8. Lance Lynn – $200
  9. Kolten Wong – $190
  10. Mark Ellis – $175

The best team in the division is not shockingly filled with high-profile talent, bolstered by the additions of Peralta and Bourjos. If not for Andrew McCutchen, Jhonny would be the most expensive player in the division.

Worst bargain – Probably Jon Jay at $170.

Best bargain – Jaime Garcia at $60.

Grinder watch – Pete Kozma is sponsored because of course he is.

 

Pirates

Taken players:  Jeff Locke, Jordy Mercer?

Top 10

  1. Andrew McCutchen – $680
  2. Francisco Liriano – $310
  3. Pedro Alvarez – $255
  4. Russell Martin – $235
  5. Gerrit Cole – $230
  6. Edinson Volquez – $155
  7. Starling Marte – $140
  8. Neil Walker – $115
  9. Mark Melancon – $100
  10. Charlie Morton – $90

A solid group of 3-digit players, but you can see the stark drop-off from the Cardinals. I suspect Martin gets a boost from his stints with big-market teams.

Worst bargain – Clint Barmes at $80. Yeesh. You can get Grilli for 5 bucks more.

Best bargain – Wandy at $70. People notice Wandy. His name is Wandy. Wandy.

Best names – Andrew Lambo, Stolmy Pimentel

Worst name, possibly ever – Brandon Cumpton

 

Reds

Taken Players: Billy Hamilton, Skip Schumaker. It is worth noting that Skip’s sponsorship was paid for by the same org that sponsors Pete Kozma, and is therefore a grinder-appreciating bunch of Cards fans.

Top 10

  1. Joey Votto – $475
  2. Brandon Phillips – $355
  3. Aroldis Chapman – $185
  4. Jay Bruce – $175
  5. Homer Bailey – $130
  6. Mat Latos – $120
  7. Brayan Pena – $110
  8. Johnny Cueto – $100
  9. Ryan Ludwick – $95
  10. Todd Frazier – $85

I actually feel like this is a microcosm of the actual Reds. The perceived gap between the super-valuable Votto and the hugely overrated Phillips should be much greater. Aroldis is probably overrated compared to the starters and position players beneath him, Bruce looks too low, Brayan Pena is a career .258/.292/.359 hitting catcher so what the hell is he even doing here, and Ludwick is pretty high for missing most of last year.  Like the Pirates they have a very solid group of triple-digit talent anchored by the uber-talented Votto, but nothing compared to the Cards.

Worst bargain – Phillips and Ludwick are a close second/third to Brayan Pena. C’mon.  Manny Parra and Jonathan Broxton both will cost you $40, which I found interesting. I figured Broxton’s name would have him higher. 

Best bargain – Probably Votto, a relatively cheap superstar. Bruce is also reasonable, but the biggest bargain is probably Tony Cingrani at $75.

 

Cubs

Taken Players:  Travis Wood, Hector Rondon…Ooooooookay.

Top 10

  1. Jeff Samardzija – $230
  2. Starlin Castro – $210
  3. Anthony Rizzo – $190
  4. Junior Lake – $135
  5. Edwin Jackson – $120
  6. Nate Schierholtz – $110
  7. Jake Arrieta – $105
  8. Donnie Murphy – $95
  9. Jose Veras – $90
  10. Darwin Barney – $85

The Cubs lack star power more than anyone else in the division. Castro and Rizzo haven’t developed as hoped (yet) and former Brewer Jose Veras is gracing their top 10. That said, lurking on the 40-man there are a few guys not yet eligible for sponsorships (Jorge Soler, Mike Olt, Brett Jackson, Arismendy Alcantara) who could shoot up the charts with even a little success. I was pleased to see Darwin Barney not only not sponsored but also not terribly expensive.   It’s scary to think what this would look like had Samardzija not played football at ND.

Worst bargain – Edwin Jackson at $120. Boooooring. You’re boring. Stop being boring. Why do you have to be so boring?

Best bargain – Getting in on the ground floor of their minor leaguers is probably the way to go. There aren’t any huge bargains really. Maybe Castro if he can turn it around, maybe Junior Lake if you believe in him more than I do.

Former Brewers: Jose Veras at $90, George Kottaras at $75, and Carlos Villanueva at $35.

 

Brewers

Taken: None. That’s right, not a single player on the Brewer 40-man roster is sponsored by anyone.

Top 10

  1. Carlos Gomez – $255
  2. Ryan Braun – $230
  3. Aramis Ramirez – $150
  4. Jean Segura – $135
  5. Kyle Lohse – $125
  6. Khris Davis – $110
  7. Scooter Gennett – $95
  8. Rickie Weeks – $80
  9. Yovani Gallardo – $75
  10. Juan Francisco – $65

Well that’s just stupid. First of all, the biggest bargain should be readily apparent.  Brayan Pena costs $110 bucks and Jonathan Lucroy can be had for a mere $60? Sign me up. It’s safe to say that if you have two 2nd basemen in your top ten, or Juan Francisco in your top ten, or some late-season SSS heroes in Davis and Gennett in your top ten, that maybe you have some trouble.  And even the Cubs had 7 triple digit players.  Braun will probably climb higher as he sees more time, so at least the star will (probably) be there, but man, Juan Francisco…

Worst bargain – Obviously it’s Juan Francisco, which is good because it saves me from having to mention Rickie. Hell, our searches are probably the reason he’s at 80.

Best Bargain – Braun is criminally underpriced for his talent and uhm, search-ability, but there’s a good reason for it. Lucroy though, I mean:

NL Central Catchers:

Yadi – $535

Pena – $110

Martin – $235

Wellington Castillo – $65

George Kottaras – $75

Lucroy – $60

Come. On.

Bargain Shopping – Some guys aren’t available for sponsorship if they haven’t played a big league game yet, but for those who have, the Brewers have the most players who cost under $25 in the division by a good margin. They have 16. The Reds are the next highest with 10. So if you have a spare 25 bucks lying around (or in many cases less) you can sponsor anyone of the following:  Jimmy Nelson, Jose de La Torre, Jim Henderson (closer!), Caleb Gindl, Will Smith (name recognition!), Sean Halton, Logan Schafer, Elian Herrera, Donovan Hand, Rob Wooten, Mike Fiers (bounceback potential!), Brandon Kintzler (closer potential!), Alfredo Figaro, Jeff Bianchi, Martin Maldonado, and for only 10 bucks you can have Hiram Burgos.

Finally, I will leave you with the horrifying fact that Yuniesky Betancourt, at $60, costs the same as Jonathan Lucroy.

And now what you all came to see, LEN and Savage Garden!

 

 

 

Quick and Dirty Analysis of Will Smith

I was in favor of trading Aoki. He’s popular and still provides some value at a reasonable cost, but he’s older, his skills are unusual for a corner outfielder, and they are likely to degrade sooner rather than later. Since he didn’t display the same power in 2013 as in 2012, you could make a decent argument that this was already happening to some extent.

I’m not here to talk about Aoki. I’m here to talk about Will Smith. I’m not a fan of Will Smith. I actually watch a fair number of Royals games. For various reasons they sort of became my AL team of choice. Part of this is reading a lot of Joe Posnanski and Rany Jazayerli. Part of it is their similarity to the Brewers. Part of it, more recently, is the number of former Brewers they employ. Anyway, I’ve seen Will Smith pitch a bunch.

What I’m worried about here is the Brewers not seeing through the superficial improvement that Smith showed last year moving to the bullpen. First let’s establish what smith is. Here’s his player comment from the BP annual last year:

In the move to the majors, Smith left his pinpoint control in Triple-A. While trying to adjust, he started leaving too many pitches in the middle of the zone. He comes by that BABIP honestly: 23 percent of all balls in play were classified as line drives. Control will continue to be key to any success as his fastball struggles to hit 90 mph and he lacks a plus pitch that can cause hitters to swing and miss. If he eventually sticks in the majors, it will be in the back of the rotation, although he could be used out of the bullpen as a long reliever and emergency starter.

So many red flags. Lots of hard contact, no strikeout pitch, average-at-best velocity, low ceiling. All of these strike me as pretty dead on.

The thing is, Smith pitched out of the bullpen last year and his superficial stat-line looked pretty good. He put up a 3.24 ERA in 33 and a third innings. Perhaps most impressively, he struck out 43 batters in just 33 innings while walking just 7. For a guy who has struggled to miss bats consistently that’s impressive. It was also a bit of a sham.

Smith was doing mostly LOOGY work last year, and while he did have 43 Ks in 33 innings, 27 of those came against lefties. He undeniably dominated southpaws, striking out exactly half of the lefties he faced. He had a 13.5 K/BB ratio against them. He managed to keep righties in check (they hit .235/.273/.412 against him), but there’s definitely some luck in those numbers. Righties his liners off Smith 18% of the time (13% for lefties) but his BABIP still stuck at a low .245 against them. That low BABIP kept his BA and OBP artificially low against righties, though you can still see that hard contact in the .412 SLG.

It is entirely possible that the Brewers see something here that they can develop and this will work out fine. I am, after all, just some guy on the internet. But what I see is a lefty with bad stuff who currently looks better than he actually is because he got to dominate lefties out of the pen over a very small sample size. I don’t think he’ll make it as a starter.

I didn’t expect to get a top-tier prospect for Aoki. I did expect them to get more than a low-ceiling LOOGY.