Special Delivery Courtesy Of Hall Of Famer, Mr. Fergie Jenkins!!! I took part in a private signing with Fergie Jenkins in December. Through his foundation, I was able to ship my items in early before the event with the promise … Continue reading →
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2012 Topps ‘Mound Dominance’ Subset – Card #MD-3 – Sandy Koufax, Los Angeles Dodgers I really like the ‘Mound Dominance’ subset that Topps included in their 2012 base set. The cards are sharp, the graphics are solid, and I am … Continue reading →
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There's been a lot of discussion on Twitter today about the designated hitter rule, and whether the National League would benefit from instituting it instead of having pitchers hit. The article that led to this discussion came from Yahoo writer Anna Hiatt - here's an excerpt from her article:
Don't pay attention to decades' worth of howling from baseball purists. The DH doesn't ruin America's national pastime. Forcing pitchers to hit is essentially just adhering to tradition for tradition's sake. When the AL succumbed to reason in 1973, the rule change — which takes pitchers out of the batting lineup and replaces them with a designated hitter who doesn't play in the field — did baseball a world of good. Batting averages rose. So did attendance. The games were far more exciting. Baseball became less a battle of managers and more a competition of athletes.
Craig Calcaterra of NBC Hardball Talk then responded, reluctantly in agreement:
Though I prefer pitchers batting, I don’t believe the National League’s rules in this regard are objectively better. Indeed, when I take my personal preferences out of the equation and look at the matter rationally, I cannot escape the logic of the DH in today’s game and the futility of pitchers batting.
The DH vs. pitcher-hit debate has been fought ever since 1973, the year in which the DH was adopted in the AL, so these arguments are certainly nothing new. But it's a fun discussion to have nonetheless.
Personally, I think both situations are less than ideal. I don't like the idea of a player who does nothing but hit, but I also don't like the idea of a spot in the lineup that is basically useless. I will love watching baseball regardless of the DH rule, but in the end I think it's best for both leagues to have the same rules.
Recently on Twitter, someone asked my friend and fellow baseball writer Dan Szymborski how many people he’d enshrine off this year’s Hall of Fame ballot. I had to speak up. “Like 15,” I tweeted. It’s been a long time since the ballot has had this glut of talent, maybe 50 years if we go back to [...]
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When news of the Miami Marlins trade with the Toronto Blue Jays came out, I mentioned that I would boycott the Marlins and avoid providing financial support for the team as a way to show my lack of support for owner Jeffrey Loria. However, I also said that boycotting the team should not preclude fans from supporting the team via other means and watching the Marlins play.
As I mentioned, however, the Marlins should not go unloved, even in public. The boycott does not mean that you do not speak of the Marlins and their 2013 play, nor does it mean that you should not proudly wear the gear you already have. And while this boycott calls for you to forego all purchases of tickets in 2013, it does not mean that you should not watch the team via television or MLB.tv if you have the chance. By all means, you should support the Marlins in any way that would still keep you from spending a dime on this team and giving it to Loria. I know that I will be tracking the team via their telecasts, as a part of that money is already guaranteed centrally to the Marlins as part of a larger fund. The Marlins have their television deals set, regardless of what I do right now, so using the television or radio is the safest bet for you to follow your favorite team without supporting its heinous owner.
Over time, it seems that some fans are doing such a thing and being supportive without having any interest in supporting Loria, but others it seems are so enthralled with despising Loria that they are having a difficult time supporting the actual team. This is easy to understand, as humans often fall for the problem of transference in such a situation. For many fans, it seems as though the front office and ownership's sins are being transferred onto the Marlins' players and coaches, even though they had nothing to do with the team's current situation.
Much of the offseason in the past few months has been spent griping about the miserable season the Marlins had in 2012 and its sad state as a result of the moves made in November and December. It is very easy to enter a negative state and stay there when your team has decimated its roster and left little hope for contention next season. Those negative emotions can then very easily be transferred to the team itself, culminating in a lack of support towards this next group of Marlins.
But an important part of dealing with this conflict is separating the anger at the ownership from the emotions towards the team and moving forward past the 2012 fiasco. As Conor Dorney mentioned earlier, there are significant positives remaining about this new crop of Marlins. The team has a decent bit of financial flexibility and suddenly a lot of depth in terms of prospects. While it is certainly possible that not all of these players will pan out, the Marlins are now suddenly loaded with talent in the minors who could develop into quality major leaguers. If two or three players in the crop of prospects acquired can develop into contributors, the team will almost certainly be in good shape by 2015.
With that potentially bright future, Marlins fans could have a lot about which to cheer in a few years. But it is important that said Marlins fans not lose sight of the current Marlins crop by looking back at just how poorly the team did in 2012. The negativity surrounding 2012 should not poison the fresh start the team has in 2013. Many of these players have nothing to do with the most disappointing season and year the Marlins have ever had, so none of them deserve the transferred scorn they may receive from a certain subset of (understandably) disgruntled fans. These players, particularly the young ones like Rob Brantly, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Jacob Turner among others, should get our full support when spring training rolls around.
The Marlins put their fans in a tough position this year as they have in many seasons before them. They have sold off pieces en masse before, but it never felt like such a betrayal as it did this season. But for us Marlins fans to remain fans, we need to look forward rather than back at the disastrous 2012 year. This 2013 season promises a lot of losses, but the team still deserves fan support, and true Marlins fans will provide the support, even if it is not from the stands. We should not punish the Marlins' young players for the mistakes of their bosses. Just like in 1998 and 2006, we should move on and look forward to the growth and development of a potentially competitive group.
- Placido Polanco will bring a lot of leadership to the Miami Marlins next season. He may not be same player anymore, and he might not even be an asset defensively as he used to be, but the fact that he is with the team is huge. Along with Juan Pierre and Tino Martinez (hitting coach), the Marlins at least have a few guys that can be leaders to the amount of youth that will be present. Make no mistake about it, these are good baseball people.
- The Miami Marlins are going to sport new batting practice caps. However, the team will keep the current batting practice jersey. See what it will look like here.
- Guess who has returned back to baseball after serving jail time? Ugueth Urbina is playing in his native Venezuela. He served time for an attempted murder. Read more here.
- The Marlins have been down this road before. They are embarking on another season with a very young team. A new coach will lead them. And the fan base is not happy. Hopefully we will have some excitement during the course of the year.
Around The League
- The Cleveland Indians and Brett Myers have agreed to terms on a one year deal with a club option for 2014. Will he be a reliever or a starter?
At Fish Stripes
- Mr. Jong shares his New Year's Resolutions for the Miami Marlins. Among them is to forget about 2012. Good luck with that. Marlins fans will be talking about Ozzie, Loria, and Reyes for a long time.
- The Miami Marlins have cited a team policy for listening to trade offers for Giancarlo Stanton. Its not a right or wrong. But the team will listen to what people think about their right fielder. Stand by.
This is the second in my series on possible extensions for the Braves' young core players. In the first post, I projected that Martin Prado should get a bit more than Dan Uggla got for his extension, or around $12.5 million per year (the TC readers' consensus: about $12M/year, give or take a million).
Chipper Jones has played his last game in a Braves uniform (*sob*). Which means that, for the first time in almost 20 years, there's an opening for the Face of the Franchise. With uncertainty surrounding Brian McCann's future with the franchise, the most obvious candidate is Jason Heyward.
Despite a down year in 2011, Heyward's production through his age-22 season (he turned 23 in August) places him among some elite company. He's just entering his first arbitration season, so he's under the Braves' control through 2015, but now is the right time for the team to extend Heyward beyond that year. Heyward's 2012 rebound should give the team confidence in his long-term future, while the recency of his 2011 slump-year could keep his price at reasonable levels.
In this post, I'll use the same three criteria from the Prado post to project a "fair" value for a six-year contract, including three free-agent years (through 2018, Heyward's age-28 season).
Let's start with the simplest of these questions:
It is difficult to predict a market-value for a player who hasn't yet had a salary determined through the arbitration system. Barring an extension, Heyward will get his first arbitration salary soon, though. MLB Trade Rumors projects that he'll get around $3.5 million for 2013, but there's a lot of uncertainty in that figure (I think that's quite low, personally).
That leaves us with on-field statistics. Here is what Heyward has averaged over his first three MLB seasons:
Those are obviously excellent numbers, but they seem even more impressive in context. For a player who is a great baserunner and perhaps the best defensive right-fielder in baseball, that level of offense indicates tremendous value. His Wins Above Replacement (WAR) totals so far back this up: 14.2 by Baseball-Reference's reckoning, and 13.7 by FanGraphs'. That works out to around 4.7 WAR per year, which is All-Star-level production.
Using $4.5M per win as a baseline for a player's free-agent value, Heyward's 4.7 WAR/year average is worth an average annual salary of around $21M. Obviously, Heyward won't get an extension with that kind of yearly salary at this point; he's still 3 years from free agency and extensions typically represent a discount over free-agent deals anyway. But we can use that $21M figure to get a sense of what that six-year deal might look like.
First off, let's apply a 20-30% extension discount. (This is more than the 10-20% I used for Prado because Heyward has two extra years of team control.) That brings the value of Heyward's free-agent years down to $15-17M each. Using the 40/60/80 arbitration rule*, Heyward should be worth around $6M in 2013, $10M in 2014, and $13M in 2015.
* This rule of thumb states that a player gets around 40% of his free-agent worth in his 1st arbitration year. This goes up to 60% in the 2nd year and 80% in the third year. I applied the "extension discount" before the arbitration discount because otherwise it'd project a 2013 salary of $8M+, which is quite unlikely.
Combining all those numbers, we get a six-year contract in the $75-80 million range based on present value. However, Heyward's youth gives us reason to be believe that he has not yet hit his peak. If we expect him to improve in the coming years, he should be worth even more.
Like I did in the Prado analysis, I looked for comparable players to find a baseline for our future expectations. This was quite difficult, however, for the simple reason that very few players have ever been this good at this young of an age.
Consider this: by Baseball-Reference's value measurements, Heyward has been worth 42 runs above average with his bat and 50 runs above average with his glove in his career. In baseball's integration era (since 1947), just 5 players have been worth even 25 runs above average in both categories through their age 22 seasons:
That's the whole list. Three inner-circle Hall of Fame outfielders, Heyward, and Giancarlo Stanton. (Throw in Bryce Harper and Mike Trout and you can see that baseball fans--especially those in the NL East--are enjoying a remarkable golden age of potentially historic young outfielders.)
Granted, that's not really a suitable group for comparison, as it's too small and too weighted toward players who are better hitters than Heyward. So I broadened the net a little bit to include all players with at least 5 runs above average in both batting and fielding through age 22 (min. 1200 PAs). I stopped at 2007 so that I could have at least 5 later seasons to evaluate (this eliminates Stanton as well as Justin Upton from the conversation; more on Upton later).
The result is a list of 21 players ranging from Hank Aaron to Claudell Washington (full list here). The 21 players include 9 Hall of Famers, two players (Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey, Jr.) who are certainly worthy of induction, and several more with good cases. In other words, it's an impressive list.
Here are the average totals that the 21 players complied through their age-22 seasons. I've added Heyward's numbers for comparison. The 3 right columns pro-rate the WAR and run totals to 600 PAs (roughly a season's worth).
Overall, the comp group was almost exactly identical in terms of batting value. Heyward did add about an extra 10 runs (1 win) per year in fielding value, although some of that was offset by Heyward's relatively easy-to-play position. In all, this seems like a very comparable group of phenoms.
So how did the comparison group fare in their age-23 through age-28 seasons? Here are the same stats for those six-year periods:
The comparison group did quite well, improving by around 0.5 WAR per season on average. They increased their OBP and SLG by small but significant amounts, which more than offset a couple-run decline in fielding. You can see each player's numbers here.
Below, I've divided the players into 5 groups based on their average yearly (per 600 PAs) WAR in each period. The "Broke out" group is for players who improved by at least 1.5 WAR/600, while the "Cratered" group is for a decline of at least that amount. The "Maintained" group is for players who stayed within 0.5 WAR of their previous levels.
So 10 of the 21 players improved by at least 0.5 WAR per season, while another 7 more or less maintained their previous (excellent) performance. Only 4 players declined by much, but even those players weren't bad. In fact, two of them (Andruw Jones and Vada Pinson) were still very much above average despite their dropoffs. The only truly catastrophic fall was that of Claudell Washington, who was barely above replacement level (0.3 WAR/year) thanks to horrible defensive numbers.
This tells us that there's a ~20% chance that Heyward will break out to become a perennial MVP candidate (like Hank Aaron or Alex Rodriguez) and a ~25% chance that he improves by a smaller amount. There's about a 35% chance that he stays at his current levels, and about a 20% chance that he declines somewhat--though even if he declines, he should still be a useful player.
In other words, there is every reason to believe that Heyward will at least maintain his current performance going forward, or perhaps increase it slightly. The only worry--though it is a big one--is the impact of injuries. Heyward can have a year like 2011 every few years and still provide good value, but he could also fall into the Rocco Baldelli abyss.
If we assume that Heyward will improve by 0.5 WAR/year going forward, he'd be worth around $23M per season in free agency. That bumps his total projected contract up to around $82-86M. How would that compare to some recent contract extensions?
As far as comparable players who signed extensions with at least 3 years of team control remaining, I see five possibilities: Justin Upton, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gonzalez, Jay Bruce, and Nick Markakis. All got six- or seven-year deals with 3 or 4 years of team control remaining. All but Upton gave up at least three years of free agency in their deals (Upton gave up 2). Let's compare the deals and the players' stats at the time of the signings (WAR, again, is the B-Ref version):
^ This is the player's age during the last season before the deal.
* Plus a team option for the next season; Markakis can void the Orioles' option if he forfeits the $2M buyout.
As you can see, Heyward has accomplished more at this point than any of the other players had accomplished when they were signed. In addition, he's younger than all but Upton were. That tells us that it's likely going to cost much more than $60M to sign him long-term. (One caveat is that a good bit of Heyward's value comes from his defense, a skill that is often undervalued.)
You may have noticed that Gonzalez cost a lot more than the other players--much more so than would be warranted by his performance. The key is that Gonzalez put up a huge year just before signing his extension, driving his price up. Now, the Rockies are paying him for his 2010 production when it's quite likely he'll never be that good again.
By signing McCutchen before the 2012 season, the Pirates locked him in for a much cheaper price than they'd have paid if they'd signed him a year later. The result is around $30M in savings. That's what the Braves should hope to accomplish by signing Heyward now. If they wait another year, they may end up paying for an MVP-level player rather than just an All-Star level player.
Based on the above comps, you'd have to think that any Heyward extension would have to cost more than all of the above deals except maybe Gonzalez's. Heyward has a good case that he's better than all of those players and, thanks to his age, less likely to decline over the course of the deal.
I think the $80M that Gonzalez got is a good goal for Heyward to shoot for. He may not get it, but he should be able to get close. As I discussed above, he's already proven that he can be worth that much, and there's a good chance that he'll be even better than he's shown so far.
Putting it all together, I'd project something like this:
That works out to a total of $81M over 6 years. If I were Frank Wren, I'd do that deal in a second, though any deal of that size is obviously a big risk. About half of Heyward's past comparables are Hall of Famers; when you have a chance to lock up a player with that kind of potential, you do it.
Jason Heyward is the type of player that you build a franchise around, and a fitting heir to Chipper Jones. Keeping him in Atlanta is worth the risk.
One week from today, Hall of Fame inductees will be announced. Of course, there are more than a[...]
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This offseason has involved quite a bit of risk-taking, from Dayton Moore going all-in, to Walt Jocketty moving Aroldis Chapman to the rotation.
Jim Bowden of ESPN Insider looked at some of the biggest risks($):
To win a World Series you have to take some risks. And this offseason, plenty of contenders have been taking them. Here are the biggest risks I've seen this winter.
In short, his five biggest risks were the following (I encourage you to click through and read his reasoning, and everything the Jim Bowden writes):
The Aroldis Chapman risk has been detailed by many, but I personally like the move. Chapman has the stuff to pitch in the rotation, and that is always more valuable than a good reliever.
The Choo-risk has not been talked about as much, and I think Bowden raises an excellent point: Can he really play center field?
His -2.7 career UZR/150 in right field would seem to suggest otherwise. I wonder if Cincinnati is just hoping his offensive value at the position outweighs the potential defensive struggles.
2.) Detroit putting Bruce Rondon at closer.
Won't get much argument from me here, what do you guys think?
3.) Tampa Bay starting Wil Myers in Durham.
This one was pretty well-documented by DRaysBay in today's Sabersphere. This may be reliant on whether or not he signs an extension.
4.) The Yankees "Senior citizen strategy."
This one has been well-documented as well. Should the Yankees have decided to go over the luxury tax threshold?
1.) What do you think of all of these risks?
2.) What risks do you think Bowden missed?
With the new year upon us, host Blake Murphy spoke to eight different guests about their favorite moments from 2012 and what they're most looking forward to in 2013. In no particular order, their twitter links and affiliations are after the audio link below. Please give them a follow. And a Happy New Year to all, on behalf of myself and BTB.
Follow Blake Murphy, BTB writer and podcast host, and of a bunch of other, non-baseball places.
Follow Glenn DuPaul, of BTB, The Hardball Times and Baseball Info Solutions.
Follow Spencer Schneier, of BTB.
Follow Alex Kienholz, of BTB.
Follow Bill Petti, BTB alumnus now of Fangraphs and Clubhouse Confidential.
Follow Matt Hunter, of BTB.
Follow Lewie Pollis, of BTB and Wahoo's on First.
Follow Bradley Woodrum, of Fangraphs.
Follow Drew Fairservice, of Getting Blanked and host of the Getting Blanked podcast.
Follow the podcast, which can now tweet because it has become self-aware.