Friday, March 04, 2005

D-Back 2005 Preview: Shawn Green 

Shawn Green was acquired by trade
From the Dodgers for whom he had played
Five pretty good years
But observers have fears
That his skills have greatly decayed

That Shawn Green is a decent guy, there seems to be no question. The question from most fans was why the D-Backs would want to spend $30 million ($20 million if you count the $10 million they got from the Dodgers) for 3 years of declining production from an injured player when they could potentially get the same production (particularly in 2006 and 2007) for pennies on the dollar with Carlos Quentin and Conor Jackson.

BP 2005 and ZIPS have slightly different takes on Green, I think. BP thinks he'll have an OPS of about .850, but project his VORP at 24.7. ZIPS, on the other hand, projects an OPS of about .890 and puts his total Runs Created at 20th in baseball and Runs Created/27 outs in the top 30.

The optimist in me says his uptick in production at the end of the 2004 season means he'd finally recovered from shoulder surgery in the 2003 offseason and that he might just come close to producing enough over the contract's lifetime so that the $20 million net cost to the D-Backs isn't laughable. I mean, he just raked in 2001 and 2002; anything near that, and we'd be very happy. So I choose to go with ZIPS.

The pessimist hopes Carlos Quentin and Conor Jackson are more patient than I would be, because he's going to be hitting .250 with 20 home runs and a .750 OPS, plus below-average defense, for the next 3 years.

D-Backs-White Sox, Game 1 

I realize that today's game is well underway, but here's the wrap from yesterday's game, along with the stats for the players who aren't one of the 19 essential locks for the 25-man roster.

Santos (SS) 0-1
Abercrombie (PH) 0-1
Myers (PH) 0-1
Williams (LF) 1-2, RBI
Jackson (1B) 0-1
Kroeger (RF) 0-1
Green (3B) 1-1 (double)
McCracken (LF) 0-1, RBI
Hairston (LF) 0-1, HBP
Snyder ( c ) 0-1
Stinnett ( c ) 0-1
Quentin (PH) 0-0, Run

Halsey 2.0, 0 H, BB, SO
Gosling 2.0, 2 H, 1 BB, 2 SO

Thursday, March 03, 2005

D-Back 2005 Preview: Russ Ortiz 

Ortiz’ signing led the whole nation
To blame the D-backs’ for free-agent inflation
What were they thinking?
His K rates are sinking --
Four years he’ll be in our rotation

Russ Ortiz pitched for Leo Mazzone
He and the Braves made his stats look quite tony
But his lack of ground balls
In Turner's deep walls
Made his win numbers look a bit phony

For a pitcher whose signing seemed to put the Hot Stove League into near-apoplexy, I thought it appropriate to compose two poems. (A rare occurrence, I assure you.) Now, from a D-Backs' perspective, I thought the criticism was a little over-the-top, as if the Ortiz contract had pricked a little blood in the free-agent waters and led to the feeding frenzy that followed. "Overpaid" contracts would have happened this winter, regardless of the Ortiz signing.

None of which is to say that it wasn't a ridiculous contract. $8 million/year for a pitcher who, at best, is a #2 starter. (BP 2005 calls him the "quintessence of a tolerable third starter.") A four year contract for a pitcher who, though durable (averaging 200+ innings for the past six years), will turn 31 in June.

Even worse, the trends don't look good.

Year GB/FB WHIP BB/9 K/9
2001 1.09 1.27 3.75 6.96
2002 1.29 1.33 3.95 5.75
2003 1.03 1.31 4.32 6.32
2004 1.09 1.51 4.93 6.29

And those were set while he pitched for San Francisco and Atlanta, two teams with pitcher's parks. BOB, of course, is not a pitcher's park.

BP and ZIPS are both projecting ERAs of right around 5.00. I'd like to think they've underestimated Ortiz's durability (and, apparently, a small chip on his shoulder), but I can't say I'd be terribly surprised if they were right.

Random Notes: Statistics and Other Lies 

"Defense is huge in this game. One error will lose you a game a whole lot more than one homer will win you one." -- Troy Glaus, sabermetrician (or not)

Don't know if Troy was quoted out of context, but I'm much more concerned about his homerun totals than his error totals…

But not in Spring Training games, which officially start at 1 PM (Phoenix time) today for the D-Backs. Mindful of Jon's pledge, I'm not going to bother with statistics for any of the 19 players essentially guaranteed of a roster spot.

But I will try to keep you updated on the battle for the 5th spot in the rotation, the rest of the bullpen, and the final position bench spot by tracking the statistics.

Finally, Baby Backs - The Next Generation comes out of hibernation with a brief look at Spring Training and Baseballtopia, which I'd briefly put on my links then removed when it appeared it had been abandoned, is back. It will be returned to the links list momentarily.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

D-Back 2005 Preview: Chad Tracy 

At first is left-handed Chad Tracy
Born 1980 in N-C
But we hope that cliches
From his playing days
Won’t be what he learns from our Gracie

Chad Tracy takes over first base from Shea Hillenbrand and (tantalizingly briefly) Richie Sexson, with little of Hillenbrand's lack of patience, but not much of Sexson's power, either. His defense at third was none-too-stellar, but first base is easier to play, of course, and there could be worse teachers at the first base position than Mark Grace. BP 2005 expects Tracy's 2005 line (OPS .750) to be virtually identical to his 2004 line (OPS .750, with different components). ZIPS, on the other hand, has him pegged at .810.

My generally optimistic nature leads me to believe that he'll exceed his 2004 line, if only because he didn't show any of that fade new players often show as they make their second or third trip through the league. Here's his OPS by month:
Mar/Apr: 1.035 (only 33 TPA)
May: .701
June: .694
July: .764
August: .742
Sept/Oct: .753

Tracy seemed to adjust well in 2004, which indicates to me he'll improve in 2005. His ability to adjust means I hope he'll be given the chance to hit against lefties on a regular basis, rather than automatically defaulting to the switch-hitting Tony Clark (who did no better against lefties than Tracy did last year).

Tracy's problem, of course, is that a .750 OPS is a little on the low side for a first baseman whose defensive prowess is as yet undetermined. With three sluggers with injuries in their recent past plus Conor Jackson knocking on the door, Tracy could find himself as the odd man out at first.

D-Back 2005 Previews: An Introduction 

Over the next month I'll be rolling out my previews of the 2005 Diamondbacks. Armed with my copy of BP 2005 and the vast resources of the internet, I now have just enough knowledge to be dangerous.

Rather than writing dry summaries of the players on the 25-man roster, I thought I'd spice up the narrative. And since baseball is the most poetic of sports, what better way to celebrate the start of a new season than by using that most tired of poetical forms, the limerick?

Think of this not as impersonating the Score Bard (whose poetry is actually good); rather, think of this as an homage.

And feel free to offer up suggestions of your own.

Meanwhile, I'm glad Jon Zeringue won't make the squad this year, otherwise you'd be treated to a poem that includes the Latin music of meringue as well as the fever known as dengue. Maybe next year, though...

Random Thoughts: Projections 

John Sickels has a "Young Pitcher Symposium" on Brandon Webb. He doesn't give his projections for Webb (these are more of a "Discuss" entry), but mentions the weirdness that is Webb. As one of the commenters points out (and Webb himself has suggested), it's possible his K/9 and BB/9 ratio failings in 2004 were due to a lack of confidence in his cement-gloved defense. We shall see, no?

After repeated checking of the UPS tracking page on my part, my copy of Baseball Prospectus 2005 arrived yesterday. I've only skimmed through the front of the book (oddly enough, Scott Boras is thanked twice in the acknowledgements) and haven't had a chance to read the player sections or essays in the back. I'll be using the book to aid in my player reviews which, though not terribly enlightening, should hopefully be slightly entertaining. You shall see soon. Also, Jonah Keri will be at Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe this Sunday night. Your intrepid blogger will be unable to attend, as he has other social obligations that evening that are impossible to wriggle out of (namely, we're having people over for dinner).

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Career Moves 

Jerry Gil will be sidelined for up to four months to have arthroscopic surgery Friday to repair a torn medial meniscus in his right knee. He twisted his knee last week and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Actually, I have no idea how he got to the hospital, but he certainly didn't walk there.

[Rim shot.]

Seriously, I wish Gil the best of luck in his surgery, but the man made Shea Hillenbrand look like a model of plate discipline (no, I'm not above stealing my own jokes). No walks at all in his nearly 90 plate appearances last year. And although he's 3rd on the D-Back shortstop depth chart now, he could easily be 3rd on the Sidewinder shortstop depth chart by August if Stephen Drew signs and Sergio Santos continues to make progress. I hope he'll take some time during his enforced layoff to consider the rumored switch to pitcher.


And another (ex-)Diamondback makes a career move of a different sort, as Matt Williams becomes the official Jack Of All Trades for the Diamondbacks. Well, technically, his title is "Special Assistant to the General Partner," but in aiding the baseball office, doing TV/radio broadcasts, and hosting a TV show, he's certainly getting around. All this for a team who tried to trade him, bad-mouthed him when he refused the trade, and cut him less than 24 months ago. From the outside looking in, this shows that Moorad's taken over more than any other move he's made since joining the team.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Effort and the D-Backs Fan 

There's a school of thought that says when you're having fun doing something, the task at hand is effortless. "Flow," it's called, and it can be achieved while running, playing with your kids, or even doing mundane tasks such as weeding the lawn. If you're focusing on the task in front of you, it's easier to enjoy doing that task for its own sake. I can't say I achieved much flow while weeding my lawn on-and-off over the past few weeks, but I understand the concept and could see how weeding could be fun.

But I also can't say I achieved much flow at FanFest on Saturday. I went because it sounded like fun (and, frankly, because I knew I'd get a blog entry out it). Part of the problem, flow-wise was that my daughter and I didn't get down to the plaza until after 11 AM. I wanted to walk around a bit, but my daughter saw the "wheel-of-fortune" spinning wheel and wanted to spin it. I said, "Sure, but we need to get in line." A little long, but it appeared to be no more than maybe 10 minutes' long.

I think you know where I'm going with this.

45 minutes later, my daughter finally got to spin that #@$%$! wheel. Her prize (or my prize, technically speaking, as the Diamondbackers member in our pair) was what I ended up calling a "baseball necklace" (a Diamondbacks lanyard with a plastic ticket holder). Anticlimatic, perhaps, though the little one seems to enjoy it for now. But after that wait, it was nearly noon, and everyone was closing up shop. So home we went with a happy and hungry daughter and a slightly cranky and hungry daddy.

I was disappointed, however, that the ballpark itself wasn't open. Other teams -- the Twins, for example -- open up the entire field for their FanFest. They were selling tours (for charitable donations), but I can't imagine that it generated much interest (I didn't see any, in any case). If the D-Backs are serious about trying to get 20,000 people to attend instead of the 2,000 that actually did (see above link), perhaps more tours and fewer doohickeys would help.


Speaking of flow, reading Bill James is usually a highly flow-ing experience. The secret, of course, is that James isn't a stathead who struggles to communicate numbers to others; he's a writer with an abiding interest in questioning long-held truths and figuring out the statistical tools to answer those questions. It's his words, not his numbers, that make him worth reading (though his numbers are good, too). Rich at Baseball Analysts has the first of a three-part interview with James that's a good read. (And is there any baseball blog out there which has had a strong an initial outing as Baseball Analysts? Sure, it's not quite a new blog, but still... great stuff in their first couple weeks.)


Finally, for those interested in the business side of the Diamondbacks, a couple articles of note from the Republic. Of primary interest: the D-Backs say they will have $202 million in deferred contracts and deferred compensation starting this season, of which most of the $168 million of the deferred compensation component will be paid off in 6 years.

Of course, that article also says that the team's net payroll will be less than $60 million, net after $12 million in payments from the Yankees, Dodgers, and Devil Rays. Now, that would imply a $72 million payroll, a figure that is completely foreign to me unless they're adding in things like the rest of the 40-man roster, benefits, and the rest of the front office. Who knows...

And finally, if you can figure out a more redundant process for approving personnel decisions than the one Kendrick, Moorad, and the rest of the team has set up, please keep it a secret. I can understand the desire to get more input after the general feeling by the general partners that Jerry Colangelo kept them out of the loop, but this process -- Garagiola, then Dozer, then Moorad, then Kendrick, then the partners -- does seem excessive.