the dump's sportslog - baseball analysis

2.08.2003

 
Didn't post yesterday, there's just not a whole lot of news at present. I've kicked around the idea of doing a more general season preview/prediction piece, and maybe that'll happen over the next month...just definitely not ready yet. The biggest story of the last 48 hours or so is the retirement of David Justice, so I'll try to cover that briefly here. In really exciting news, the A's and Mariners pitchers and catchers are reporting today.

Justice is done
As a Yankee fan, I mostly fondly remember David Justice as being a godsend during the 2000 season when he came over from Cleveland (in a ridiculously one-sided trade for Ricky Ledee) and took the team over offensively, posting a sensational .305/.391/.585 line in 78 games (317 plate appearances) and helping the Yanks win their third consecutive World Series title. Of course, he was nowhere near the same player when he came back for the his first and only full season as a Yankee in 2001, and stunk on wheat in the World Series that year against the Diamondbacks, so my last memories of his career in pinstripes aren't all that positive. Still, when I think of David Justice, I think of his success in 2000, all those playoff appearances, Halle Berry, and most of all, that home run he hit in Game 6 of the World Series in 1995 to clinch it for the Braves.

Much is made of the ridiculous number of postseason games in which Justice played, which is impressive...but of course it's counter-balanced by the fact that he was rarely the best player on his team and of course he's playing in an era when there are many more playoff teams than in years past. Additionally, there's a fair amount of luck involved...instead of being traded to teams like the Indians, Yankees and A's, he could easily have ended up in Milwaukee, Kansas City or Tampa. Regardless, 112 postseason games in an unbelievable number, and he's got two rings to his credit, both of which he had a pretty large part in winning.

It would have been nice to see Justice stick around, as he could probably have been a solid fourth outfielder/part time DH for another couple of years. His OPS+ numbers over the last two years have been pretty mediocre (100 in 2001, 106 last year) and there's no question he was in the decline phase of what's been an excellent career. I suppose he's aware of that and seeing as he hasn't got a contract, he wants to hang it up before he becomes worthless, and there's something to be said for that, especially since he's done just about everything a professional athlete can hope to (shy of winning MVPs and becoming a Hall-of-Famer). A quick look at his achievements:

1990 NL Rookie of the Year
Two-time All-Star (1993, 1994)
Top five finish in MVP voting twice (1993 - #3, 1997 - #5)
Two-time World Series Champion (1995 - Atlanta, 2000 - Yankees)
2000 ALCS Most Valuable Player
300+ career homeruns, 1000+ career RBI, 1500+ career hits
lifetime OPS+ of 128 over 1610 career games

That's a hell of a career...one of those guys who isn't a Hall of Famer and isn't real close...but one of the better players of his day who's not in the conversation. Speaking of conversation (not real conversation, but lots of typing and responses to what other people have typed) there's a lot of good information on Justice being bandied about over at baseballprimer.com on this thread, which is a pretty good read. There's some good information on postseason statistics as they relate to Justice over at Mike's Baseball Rants, and Aaron Gleeman's got some commentary on his career as well. All three are recommended if your Justice/retirement appetite isn't yet sated.

Anyone else think of Justice as a more talented, baseball-playing Rick Fox?

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2.06.2003

 
We've been omitting stories here and there, but hopefully I'll have a chance to catch up a bit this weekend. In exciting news for Dan and I, we've joined a Diamond Mind Baseball league which was recommended to us by our friend and blogger extraordinaire Aaron Gleeman. We're just first getting our feet wet and our roster in order, but we'll probably be letting our loyal readers in on some of the team's exploits throughout the season. In other news, I'm waiting anxiously for my Baseball Prospectus 2003, which was to be shipped out on February 1st. I ordered my copy through the quickest means possible (according to the BP site), direct from the warehouse, so it wouldn't have to go through a third party and I'd have it in my hands soon. It's February 6th now, and there's been no word anywhere on bp.com that the books have been shipped or anything at all really. Hope we hear something...or better yet, receive the book...before too long. On to baseball.

Travis Lee to Tampa?
I haven't seen any terms bandied about at this point, but I'm going to assume we're not talking about big money here. While we can all agree that Lee's not lived up to the very high expectations the Diamondbacks had for him when he was signed to that mammoth $10 million bonus, he's not been totally brutal either...he's at least played well enough to keep his job in Philly up until this year. Travis Lee is not the starting first base on a championship-caliber team. However, the Devil Rays are nowhere near a .500 team, let alone a championship one. Before this move, the likely scenario would be infield corners of Aubrey Huff (not terrible) at first and Jared Sandberg (yes, terrible) at third. If this comes to pass, Huff can move back to third, Lee can take over at first, and Sandberg can whine some more about not being handed a job. This is really a situation where you've got to select the lesser of two evils. It's possible, at 28 (as Lee will be next season) that there's some improvement left in him, and when your alternative is putting Jared ".229/.305/.444" Sandberg out there on a regular basis, this is very defensible. For right now, I like this for the Devil Rays and for Lee, who probably realizes that Tampa is one of the only places he can get regular playing time.

I've just spent a moment looking at Lee's entry at baseball-reference.com, and his most similar batter (with a similarity score of 956) is Randy Milligan. I haven't been on this planet watching baseball for all that long, but I clearly remember Milligan, a pudgy first baseman best known for his reasonable success in Baltimore over the four year span between 1989 and 1992. I'm about a decade late on this...but man, Randy Milligan was really a pretty decent player, significantly better than Travis Lee has been thus far. That said, there's a pretty significant age discrepancy at work, as Milligan was 27 by the time he got any real shot in the majors, where Lee has been facing big league pitching since 1998 (age 23) in Arizona. Partly because I don't know that we'll ever get back to him, I'm going to run down a few of Milligan's very solid numbers.

Age 27 (1989): .268/.394/.458, OPS+ 143 (124 games)
Age 28 (1990): .265/.408/.492, OPS+ 155 (109 games)
Age 29 (1991): .263/.373/.406, OPS+ 120 (141 games)
Age 30 (1992): .240/.383/.361, OPS+ 108 (137 games)

split between Cincinnati (83 games) and Cleveland (19 games):

Age 31 (1993): .299/.423/.434, OPS+ 131

What happened to this guy? That age 30 year isn't great and the slugging percentages at the end there are low for a first baseman, but Milligan could hit and had real good plate discipline. Let's compare him to another light hitting first baseman of today, Doug Mientkiewicz (who is unquestionably a superior fielder).

Age 25 (1999): .229/.324/.330, OPS+ 66 (118 games)
Age 27 (2001): .306/.387/.464, OPS+ 123 (151 games)
Age 28 (2002): .261/.365/.392, OPS+ 104 (143 games)

Randy Milligan's a better hitter by a substantial margin. This is not meant to knock Mientkiewicz by any means, I was just trying to come up with as close a comp (offensively) as I could for Milligan who's active right now...a first baseman who doesn't post real high slugging percentages. Another relatively close comp according to similarity scores is Marlins first baseman Derrek Lee.

Age 22 (1998): .233/.318/.414, OPS+ 94 (141 games)
Age 24 (2000): .281/.368/.507, OPS+ 122 (158 games)
Age 25 (2001): .282/.346/.474, OPS+ 113 (158 games)
Age 26 (2002): .270/.378/.494, OPS+ 131 (162 games)

Some nice seasons here, and pretty close to Milligan in terms of value, albeit in more playing time and substantially younger. But if Randy Milligan was even close in value to a guy like Derrek Lee (which our numbers indicate he was)...why was he out of baseball so quickly? His career ended after a poor 42 game stint in Montreal in 1994, at the fairly young age of 32. If any of our readers have any background on this...I'd really like to know what happened to Randy Milligan.

Finally, a familiar numbers presentation for the man who should be the centerpiece of this entry, Travis Lee. Based on these, he really looks like the worst player of the bunch, and he probably is. It'll be interesting to see how Lee's career develops from here, whether he and the Devil Rays are able to come to terms or not. I think it'd be the best move for both parties at this point.

Age 23 (1998): .269/.346/.429, OPS+ 102 (146 games)
Age 24 (1999): .237/.337/.363, OPS+ 80 (120 games)
Age 25 (2000): .235/.342/.366, OPS+ 78 (128 games)
Age 26 (2001): .258/.341/.434, OPS+ 101 (157 games)
Age 27 (2002): .265/.331/.394, OPS+ 98 (153 games)

As always, thanks for taking a little time and visiting the dump's sportslog. If you've got any comments or questions, please drop us a line.

EDIT: The deal's apparently done, so Travis Lee will indeed be in Tampa next season.

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2.05.2003

 
Okay, that took a bit longer than I hoped it would.

"Charles" Bronson Arroyo claimed by the Red Sox
Going to a high school in New York with many kids of foreign descent, I noticed the very odd trend that many of them had typical American last names as their first name. For instance, a good friend of my brother's is named Johnson. That's his first name. I had classes with a kid named Williams. Not William...Williams. You see this a little bit in the baseball realm as well, with young guys like Jackson Melian banging around the minor leagues. My assumption has always been that people moving to the United States (or who just dream of being able to do so at some point) want their children to be able to fit in with American society, and they figure that if they give their kids what they think of as an "American" name, that'd help. Of course, because they're in fact last names, it sounds kind of stupid, at least to me. I could be totally wrong about the motivation here...I just can't think of any other explanation for it.

Of course, there are American-born, American-bred people with last names for first names too though. Every so often you'll hear about someone named Lennon or something like that. Generally, this is done to honor someone who the parents admire a great deal, just as you might name a child after a relative to pay respect to them. I like to think that this is the case for Bronson Arroyo, who hopefully is named after cinematic legend Charles Bronson, most notably the star of the Death Wish series of films (one of my all-time favorites).

So that's enough intro. This doesn't cost the Red Sox anything, other than the cost of the waiver claim, as Arroyo doesn't make much. This is a good risk and exactly the kind of thing I'd like to see my team doing rather than signing guys like James Baldwin. While he hasn't had any sustained major league success yet, he's also only 26 heading into the 2003 season, and if he spends the entire year filling out the AAA roster...so what? If he never pitches for the Red Sox, the only thing lost is time in the minors (significant only if he were blocking the non-existent Red Sox pitching prospects in the minors) and his minimal salary. This is an extremely low-risk pickup that may well turn out to be nothing...but it could also pay off for the Red Sox if he turns into a viable fifth starter should Fossum falter, or long man out of the bullpen.

I should note that Arroyo posted really nice numbers at AAA Nashville (Pirates affiliate) last season, where he pitched in 22 games (21 starts), allowing 126 hits, 28 walks and 57 runs (47 earned) over 143 innings. Over that span, he struck out 116, threw 3 complete games (2 shutouts) and was 8-6 with a 2.96 ERA. Nashville's not Boston, but numbers like those are an indication that the guy's got some ability to get hitters out. It's notable that he's improved his strikeout rate over the past several years, posting a pretty decent rate during his brief stint with the Pirates last year as well, striking out 22 over 27 innings (7.3 K/9 IP) as compared to his previous and less successful major league showings (4.0 K/9 IP in 2001 over 88.1 innings, 6.3 K/9 IP in 2000 over 71.2 innings). Perhaps this is a sign he's doing something different and bodes well for his success going forward...but I'm no scout, so I don't know. I do know that this is the kind of smart move that'll help the Red Sox going forward.

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2.04.2003

 
There'll be more stuff up here before too long, but I wanted to get something posted to whet the voracious appetite of our readers. We'd like to call to attention that we're now linked at baseball.mywebportals.net, which appears to be a pretty comprehensive baseball link site run by a gentleman named David Bloom. We appreciate the assistance in growing this site's readership. Be back with some real content (on the Red Sox claiming Arroyo, among other things) soon.

EDIT: We're now also linked at clutch hits, which should be a big step in increasing the traffic and visibility of this site. Those of you who are coming here from there, welcome...we hope you enjoy what you read and come on back. If you've got any feedback or suggestions for us, please let us know. Thanks for visiting.

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2.03.2003

 
Here's some more. If you enjoy this site, let other people know about it.

Another Glavine and a Butler join the Mets organization
Didn't the Mets already sign Glavine? Yes...that was Tom Glavine, a borderline Hall-of-Fame pitcher who will be one of the team's top two starters this coming season, along with Al Leiter. What I'm talking about here is the signing of 30-year old first baseman and professional brother Michael Glavine to a minor league contract. Man, I really wish my brother could hook me up like that. According to the article that I've linked at the top of this entry, Brother Glavine played 23 games at AAA Richmond (in the Braves organization, of course) where he hit a whopping .136 with four RBIs. Last season, according to the same article, he played in the Independent Atlantic League with the storied Somerset Patriots, batting .273 with 21 homers and 66 RBIs in 125 games. This is terrific. I'd love to be able to do something like this for my family. Rather than supporting him with his millions (which may happen anyway), Tom's hooking his brother up with a job he presumably loves but would have no shot at persuing professionally in under any other circumstances. No, there's no real point to posting this piece of "news", but who doesn't like little nepotism here and there? Oh, unless you're the guy who doesn't get a spot on a roster because it's occupied by Mr. Glavine.

The other part of this article is about long time major league centerfielder Brett Butler, who retired in 1997. He's been out of professional baseball since then (apparently recovering from some post-career surgeries in his shoulder), but has done some very low level coaching and has a jones to get back to the bigs. Is it just me, or are a hell of a lot of guys expressing interest in becoming managers (or general managers) who have no real experience other than having played? Between Cal Ripken (who wanted the Orioles GM job), Gary Carter (who's expressed interest in managing) and Butler, it's stood out to me. Anyway, for the time being, Butler will operate as a minor league instructor...I can't see how having a guy with as much experience as he's got could hurt. I'll always remember Butler for his distinctive, angular face...the man has a hell of a jaw, if I'm remembering him right. Kinda like Willem Dafoe. It's annoying as hell to look up information/pictures of this guy as he's got the same name, ridiculously, as that awful woman comedian. I'll never forget hearing about Brett Butler getting a television show as young boy and being totally confused, wondering what he'd done to get a show and if it wouldn't conflict with his baseball schedule. Good to see he's healthy and back in baseball.

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Just shameful. The lack of updates over the past couple days has been a result of a convergence of not much news and being occupied with other things. I realize a lot of baseball blogs don't update over the weekend, but as we're trying to bust into this field and get some consistent readers, we're trying to be as content-laden as possible and update a lot. So here we go.

Burrell signs six year, $50 million extension with Phillies
First of all, Pat Burrell is worth this kind of commitment, so good for the Phillies for being able to recognize that and lock him up for awhile (he'll be 32 by the time this deal is up in 2008). The structure of the contract is bizarre, as it's extremely heavily backloaded for some reason...perhaps to offset the cost of Kevin Millwood this season, which is going to run the Phillies almost $10 million. Anyway, Burrell gets paid just $1 million in 2003, $4 million in 2004, $7 million in 2005, $9.5 million in 2006, $13 million in 2007 and $14 million in 2008 (according to espn.com). While this is obviously going to get a little bit hairy in 2007 and 2008 (as he may not be worth $13+ million a season), his average salary each year over the life of the contract is about $8.3 million, which strikes me as pretty reasonable for a guy like Burrell. Just looking at his raw offensive numbers from 2002 (only his second full season in the majors), he posted a line of .282/.376/.544, which is pretty damn good. While he's not a terrific outfielder, he hasn't been one all that long and is only 26, so there's some room and time for improvement. In any case, his offensive abilities more than outweigh his defensive deficiencies. Taking a quick look at guys similar (along with their similarity scores) to Burrell at his age as of the end of the 2002 season, courtesy of the indispensible baseball-reference.com:

1. Jesse Barfield (946)
2. Carlos Lee (938)
3. Albert Belle (938)
4. Mike Marshall (936)
5. Fred McGriff (933)
6. Richie Sexson (933)
7. Willie Stargell (932)
8. Paul Konerko (931)
9. Richard Hidalgo (929)
10. Greg Walker (928)

There are some pretty good names on that list, and Burrell's got a shot to be as good as any of them (I'm referring to the good ones, not Greg Walker or Mike Marshall, and they weren't all that bad either) over the next 10-15 years if he can continue to improve his plate discipline. He's shown the ability to improve, as his walk total rose dramatically (from 70 to 89) last year as his OBP rose 30 points (.346 to .376), which is a really good sign. This contract locks Burrell up through much of his peak and seems a wise investment for the Phillies, who are doing a nice job of solidifying some major cogs in their lineup for years to come in Bobby Abreu, Jim Thome and now Pat Burrell.

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Baseball Writers awards ceremony

Nothing really to note with this, but I wanted to get some content up. This was probably an amazing night with lots of fun stories and awkward moments.

There was a lot of talent, and there was Bobby Bonilla.

"Bonds received the NL Most Valuable Player award, and was presented by his former teammate Bobby Bonilla."

If there was one guy who was just a little out of place, I'd have to say it was him.

The other players there, Bonds, Randy Johnson, Barry Zito, John Smoltz, Billy Koch, plus managers and Sandy Koufax all must have been wondering what Bobby Bo was doing there.

Of all the guys in the world to present an award, how do you come up with him?

Can you imagine how Bonds feels when he sees Sandy Koufax giving an award to Randy Johnson and then when he gets up there its Bobby Bo? There's just a little bit of a disparity there, and I guess its good of Bonds to not make an issue about it.

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