Baseball Articles to Think About

A few baseball things on a Thursday Night

I am not normally a reader of the New Yorker magazine, but a friend sent me this link:

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/06/billy-beane-oakland-as-new-moneyball.html

The upshot is that the As, who had a few good years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, which launched Moneyball, saw their advantage wain (can I point out that it didn’t hurt that Tejada and Giambi were both MVPs and both…appeared in the Mitchell Report). Then 8 years of what we might gently call “Colorado Rockies” baseball.

The past 2.6 years have been pretty good, to right now great. The article does point out the influence of revenue sharing and before anyone says, “The Monforts are cheap, they just pocket the money” the Rox payroll is higher than the As, they got Brett Anderson precisely because the As could not afford to keep him unless he was going to be the Anderson they used to have (in a way similar to how the Rox dealt away Dexter. Oh, and the money from revenue sharing went to a) Tulo b) CarGo c) new faciltiies in the D.R. and d) signing bonuses both in the U.S. and internationally. Do the Monforts lose $ on the Rox? Of course not, but if you are saying they should lose money to bring a winner, well, what business can long-term lose money and be successful (the Yanks and Dodgers can spend all that $ and still be profitable because of the huge local area TV rights and other ancillary products).

Anyways, that aside, the focus now in Oakland is on platooning and really, its just going back to the past. There is the great story of Mickey Mantle’s dad telling him that platooning would be the norm in baseball and that is why he taught the Mick to be a switch-hitter. Platooning is how teams, in the days before huge bullpens, dealt with the reality that its hard to find a full team of great players.  But with the As its back, and can I say, more power to them. I look at players like Stubbs and Dickerson and Barnes and Blackmon (who yes, has played okay vs lefties, but…why play him at if you can bring a righty out), and think the Rox should be doing more of the same. It would help if their utility man in the infield was a lefty, allowing the team to perhaps get an advantage against tough righties at 2nd or 3rd. And of course we all know that near All Star season as it might have been, Morneau shouldn’t play against most lefties at this stage of his career.

The team broke with 6 outfielders, all of whom I think have added value, and it allowed them to play the platoon split in a lot of cases until the double-whammy of losing Cuddy and CarGo being cut into a shadow of himself and then also going DL. Can the Rox find a left-handed hitting catcher who is decent either with the bat or glove? Sadly their top 3 options in terms of prospects are all righties (lefty catchers are hard to find). Cristhian Adames is an interesting player at AA as a switch-hitting glove man, but a .709 OPS doesn’t exactly scream – “hey here is a good platoon option.”

So, platooning – can the Rox do it knowing they usually need that one extra arm in the bullpen (well, maybe not if the starters can be better in 2015).

The second article is one that I think we all need to keep in mind:

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/they-cant-all-be-george-springer/

Over the next few years we are going to start seeing more and more of the team’s best prospects. By 2016 I would be surprised if the group of Story, Dahl, McMahon, Parker, Grey, Butler, Anderson and probably some others I forgot are not playing at Coors. With the success of players like Harper, Springer and on the mound Fenandez (Marlins) and Ventura (Royals) make us think a player who isn’t awesome immediately isn’t a prospect.

Remember the careers of both Matt Holliday and Carlos Gonzalez. Both were not exactly world-beaters when they first got to the major leagues. We have seen some pitching prospects come to Coors and do great immediately, but almost all of them were long-term busts. Look around baseball and you will find many pitchers struggle their first 2 years or take until their age 26-28 years to gain traction. I give you Colin McHugh and Corey Kluber as two examples of players who are pitching right now as their team’s #1s but stunk at the age when Fernandez and Ventura will already have had their TJ surgeries and be on to riches.

So, as we see the parade of solid to potentially great talent come here, we all need patience.  We already have had it rewarded with Corey Dickerson who was okay last year and now is on his way to becoming a middle-of-the-order bat, hitting very hard (and like Springer and many of the best young power hitters, striking out a ton).

Butler didn’t light it up in start #1 (both Bergman and Matzek were far better in their first games, but both have more professional experience). Grey – and as I wrote earlier today, don’t get to hung up on his stats right now, they want him throwing pitches in certain places to work on becoming the best pitcher he can be, if he wanted he could probably strike-out more and get outs instead of hits against his 3rd and 4th pitches they have him focusing on – is going to have ups and downs. Both Butler and Grey are the real things. We know that because when the called both the Cubs and the Rays about their aces they are both mentioned as must-haves. Anderson and Freeland, the kid they just drafted are not going to be aces, but can become Jeff Francis, and that is not bad. But like Jennings and Francis, their early seasons will have rough patches.

Should Monfort be Drawn-and-Quartered for His Fan Comment

I am a known Monfort defender.  Yes, I want a winner here. But they have been decent owners, willing to spend at certain times, sticking with a plan at others, and thankfully willing to make sure the facilities at Coors, Arizona, and the D.R. are clean and fan-friendly. Yes, a lot of that does represent the work of the late Kelly McGregor,  and he has been missed. But I don’t think they are any worse than Pat Bowlen, who if it were not for John Elway I still think would  have driven the Broncos back to their woe-days. Winning is what we want…and its what they want.

But yes, his comments as he said were dead wrong. He is frustrated, we are frustrated. Heck, I quite watching baseball for a month for the first time in a month! Monforts need help in the day-to-day running. As I said the other day, they need a person who can keep the various parts of the club connected and running, someone who can run gap analysis (where are we falling short…and are we able to cover that shortage or do we need to cover it some other way), communicate with fans not weekly but everyday via articles, texts, tweets and the such. And while a Tony LaRussa might be that kind of a person (I have my doubts, as we have seen in sport after sport, Manager/GMs don’t work long-term, and whether LaRussa can understand the connection between business, fans, and on-field remains to seen), they just need someone who understands the game, understand business, and knows how to hire a good team. I would love to work for such a person. The Monforts need that person. I think that O’Dowd and Geivett are useful parts of an overall team management, but neither has the gift of connecting the various parts of the organization or of communicating. They need that person – being good in one business, as they have been, doesn’t make you good in other businesses necessarily.

Baseball requires new talents, and varied talents, far from the pitcher’s mound, and while that person wouldn’t have helped when we were down to looking on Craig’s List for pitchers and 3B help, they can help this team not just find success, but maintain it. McGregor was there when this team had its run from 2007 to 2010 of on-field, financial and fan success. Finding that person needs to be a priority!

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Agbayani
Agbayani
6 years ago

Thanks for the tip Dr. C. I’ll have to read that New Yorker piece. I agree with you: O’Dowd actually put together some good platoon pieces this year, but injuries to Cargo and Cuddy destroyed that plan. And as you mentioned, it’s tougher to do the strict platoon in the NL because you carry more relievers and fewer position players. So we were headed in the A’s new Moneyball direction, although (as is typical for the Rockies) in a half-assed… Read more »

Agbayani
Agbayani
6 years ago

Dr. C., thanks for the minors update. I agree: Bryant and Gray are clearly looking like the prime position and pitching prospects from last year’s draft. Sometimes it pays to have a really high pick. Sometimes it also pays to pick 2nd and 3rd so somebody else picks off the “polished” (Appel) prospect and leaves you with the higher upside guys. There is young talent (almost all of it pitching talent) in our system; that’s what makes it frustrating to… Read more »

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