Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday Lightning 1.10.2010

  • General Managers beginning 2010 on the hotseat:

Last week I discussed the managers who were beginning the 2010 season on the hotseat; now in what I think is an even more interesting subject, here are the general managers who are under fire. With the way GMs are high-profile, prominent, romanticized and judged, they're more in the crosshairs than most managers because the buck stops with them and the job itself isn't seen as an "insiders only" club any longer.

The GMs are more touchable and easily assessed with the availability of tools to determine exactly what it is they're doing. (I was about to write "and why" as a conclusion to the previous sentence, but there are still many GMs who do things without any viable explanation as to "why". We'll edit that word out.)

Let's take a look:

Dayton Moore, Kansas City Royals:

Moore came from under Braves boss John Schuerholz and had an excellent reputation for scouting and development. He did some impressive things when he got the Royals job. He cleaned out the scouting staff; made maneuvers that appeared as if he was rebuilding the farm system; and hired a manager with an impressive resume in Trey Hillman.

But it's been a disaster since then. The Royals are strangely constructed and run as if they're throwing darts at a dartboard hoping that they hit on a strategy that works. The ridiculous signings and acquisitions are adding up. Jose Guillen, Kyle Farnsworth, Willie Bloomquist, Yuniesky Betancourt, and now Scott Podsednik are all Moore imports with no viable use on paper or in practice. Any other organization would've fired Moore after last year's 65-97 debacle, but for some unfathomable reason, Moore was signed to a 5-year contract extension. Continuity is only smart if things are working and things in Kansas City aren't working.

It's hard to see Moore getting fired as he's starting that contract, but the arrows aimed at him are coming from all sides with increasingly deadly accuracy. If the Royals again have a 90-plus loss season, one would have to think that team owner David Glass would re-think the partnership with Moore. It's unlikely, but possible.

Billy Beane, Oakland Athletics:

Surprised that the "genius" from Moneyball is suddenly being examined with a jaundiced eye and under heavier fire for his strange and ineffective maneuvers over the past few years?

Don't be.

As much of a farce as Moneyball was----and Beane is bailing from the book's portrayal like he's escaping the Titanic; Billy first, women and children second----Beane is still a smart guy. That said, there won't be too many people saddened by his demise if his free-fall continues unabated.

The time of excuses are just about over. The statement of, "well the man must know what he's doing" is no longer cutting it with anyone other than the hardest of the hard core stat zombies (the DePodesta Defenders as it were) or those that have something financially or personally invested in Moneyball being seen as having "worked".

This has not been a good off-season for Beane and the A's. The AL West is a nightmare with three teams that are far superior to the A's on paper before the season even starts. They have a lot of young pitching, but their offense is toxic wasteland and one of the main tenets behind Moneyball was plugging numbers in to find players cheaply and score runs----and the A's offense is an embarrassment.

Beane's biggest acquisition this winter has been Coco Crisp. That alone should say it all.

If things spiral as badly as I think they will, the A's and Beane could very well move on from one another. Of course, Beane's ego won't tolerate a firing. He'll be allowed to resign and will get another GM job elsewhere.

The final act of Moneyball is underway and it won't be a storybook ending.

Well, it won't be a storybook ending for Michael Lewis and Billy Beane, but for me it will be. Find the bright side is what I say.

Frank Wren, Atlanta Braves

No one knows how much influence/interference club president John Schuerholz is inflicting on the decisions made by Wren; nor can Wren be entirely blamed for the budgetary constraints that caused him to scour the bargain bin for the likes of Troy Glaus and Eric Hinske when the Braves needed a Miguel Cabrera to contend for a championship. They instead acquired Melky Cabrera from the Yankees in exchange for Javier Vazquez, one of the best pitchers in the National League last season.

Wren is not well-liked by the players or the manager and the Braves high hopes for the season have taken a dramatic hit with the series of absurd moves made over the past month. Schuerholz is not too old (69) to re-take the reins and while he has undoubtedly contributed to the Braves series of gaffes, don't be stunned to see him move back into the GM chair and replace Wren.

Omar Minaya, New York Mets

Had Minaya not received a contract extension through 2012, he might've been fired after the 2007-2008 collapses and the 2009 disaster. While the spate of injuries can't be blamed on anyone in particular, an angry Mets fan base wanted blood, but Minaya survived.

The farm system is weak and the repeated controversies with Tony Bernazard and the loony allegations against NY Daily News writer Adam Rubin of conspiring to get Bernazard's job made Minaya look like a clown.

The team is still spending money and with the returning stars and the acquisition of Jason Bay, they're expected to win. More money is going to be spent on a catcher and at least one starting pitcher, so there won't be any excuses this year, injuries or otherwise. If the team slumps into mid-season, Minaya's going to be gone.

Jim Hendry, Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are a disaster waiting to happen and with a new ownership in place, they'd better win with their current group this year or a housecleaning will begin.

The contracts the Cubs have doled out to the likes of Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd, Kosuke Fukudome, Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster will hinder their efforts for years to come. Bad trades, bad contracts and capricious decisions overall will doom Hendry unless the Cubs rebound. And they won't.

Ed Wade, Houston Astros

Just because he's Ed Wade and works for Drayton McLane puts Wade's job in jeopardy. The Astros are a bad team with a rotten farm system; they're hard for other clubs to deal with and they overspend on the likes of Brandon Lyon for no reason whatsoever. McLane meddles in the club's affairs, but Wade is the GM and he'll get the boot if the Astros are as bad as they look like they're going to be.

  • The latest signings:

The free agent chips are falling into place. By the end of the month, most of the still available "big" names will start to find homes. A few already have in the past few days.

Astros sign Brett Myers to a 1-year, $5 million contract:

One would assume that Myers is going to start for the Astros given their desperation for starting pitching. The number or relievers with closing experience still available----Kevin Gregg, Jose Valverde----put Myers in an untenable position if he was looking for closer money to be a reliever. That he didn't pitch very well after returning from labrum surgery on his hip didn't help either.

I see Myers as more of a reliever than a starter, but he's better than what the Astros had before and if he's healthy, he can pitch serviceably as a starter. This is a cheap, worthwhile risk for the Astros.

Royals sign OF Scott Podsednik to a 1-year, $1.75 million contract:

Um. Okay.

It's not an expensive signing, so that----if nothing else----makes it a non-entity of a deal. If they intend to play Podsednik in center field regularly, the Royals should consider the fact that White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was never impressed with Podsednik's play in center field.

Aside from one year with the Brewers, Podsednik hasn't played very well away from the White Sox. It's a cheap deal, but how this helps the Royals is a mystery.

Rangers sign Vladimir Guerrero to a 1-year, $6 million contract:

Guerrero can't play the outfield anymore, but his bat will certainly appreciate the friendly confines of Rangers Ballpark. He's a .394 career hitter there with 14 homers in 50 games. This is a great deal for the Rangers because Guerrero can still hit.

The Rangers are going to be a very interesting club this year. They've done very little aside from trading Kevin Millwood and replacing him with the injury-prone and gifted Rich Harden; they signed long reliever Darren Oliver; and now Guerrero.

They're somewhat hamstrung by the financial uncertainty of owner Tom Hicks, but have so much young talent that they're a major threat in the division and possibly the whole American League if things go well. This is a good, cheap signing for the Rangers to bolster their offense.

  • Viewer Mail 1.10.2010:

Jeff (Underboss) at Red State Blue State writes RE the MLB Network:

Speaking of the MLB Network, Prince, I remember a long time ago you mentioned you'd never watched it and didn't desire to watch it. I'm curious why you feel that way.

Personally, I love the MLB Network. There has never been anything like it; and every time I turn it on I am entertained. It's become a part of my daily routine.

I think the main reason I don't watch it is that I forget about it; but without sounding like a pompous jerk, I don't have much use for roundtables and "analysis" that takes place during the Hot Stove shows and I've never been much of an interview-watcher. To me, there's very little reason to tune in.

Do I need to be watching Harold Reynolds in any circumstance other than if he's in close proximity to me when I'm on a date?

I dunno, maybe I'm being a little intransigent, but I get my information from the internet and newspapers and come to my own conclusions. It also doesn't help that when something big happens, the MLB Network is always showing some game from 1975 rather than covering it with immediate break-ins.

It may also be a bit too close to MLBlogs for my taste. You and I both know up close and personally how that entity is run. I'm still waiting to see the promised "MLBlogger involvement" on the MLB Network that never happened and never will as long as it's still (mis)handled as it currently is.

Joe at Statistician Magician writes RE Bert Blyleven and win totals:

You say you are going to use a "non-stat zombie" approach, and then give us stats to support Blyleven's case. And why use win/loss record at all? Even you know that is a garbage stat.

Why is win/loss a "garbage" stat when all these other ridiculous numbers that pop up out of some stat zombie's ass justifying the signing of Marlon Byrd over Jason Bay aren't "garbage" stats?

The win/loss records are used as a tool to explain why Blyleven should've had more gaudier stats than he did. The easily misinterpreted number of wins and losses work both ways. A pitcher can't be judged if he loses and appears as though he got shelled by giving up five runs in the first inning, but still stayed in the game; settled down; got his six or so innings in and saved the bullpen from being burned out. If his team rallies and comes up short and he gets the loss, his loss isn't as bad as it would've been had he gotten yanked and blown out the pitching staff.

What if a pitcher guts his way through and hangs around long enough to win? Is that a garbage stat that tells you nothing about the man? Bronson Arroyo finds a way to hang around in games and win his 15 games a year. Is that a garbage stat if he wins? You have to put things into their proper context and that includes looking at his win/loss total. People defend Daisuke Matsuzaka because of his gaudy numbers when he's very protected by his team and isn't any better than a mid-to-back of the rotation starter.

Blyleven became a different pitcher as he grew older and his comeback from arm injuries and masterful 1989 season is judged by his gaudy win/loss record of 17-5. His Hall of Fame career has much to do with his numbers; but also much to do with how he reinvented himself and rejuvenated his career in a stunning fashion when he could've been seen as finished in the early 80s. Stats don't reflect what it was that Blyleven accomplished in and of themselves.

Who would you rather have at your back in a dark alley? Rich Harden or Erik Bedard with their flashy across-the-board stats despite injuries without giant win totals? Or an Arroyo/Mark Buehrle who you know is going to do everything in his power for his team without concern for his arm or out-of-context numbers?

I'd take Arroyo/Buehrle any day of the week. Their win totals are what they are because they play for the team rather than for their next contract. Like a knockout in boxing, it's anaccumulation of punches rather than one lottery shot that happens to connect. Their teammates appreciate them immeasurably ; the win totals are a reward for doing what they have to do to win rather than what the numbers indicate would make them valuable. Discounting or counting win totals without examining them deeply is as bad as dismissing them entirely as a "garbage" stat.


She-Fan said...

The Rangers' signing of Vlad sure does make the AL West interesting, especially with the reconfigured Mariners. I'd be concerned if I were an Angels fan.

Gabriel said...

I agree with you, Boss, in that there are not "garbage" stats, they can all be useful when looked in the right context.

I've got an off-season topic for you: your dream team, and your movie dream team (players from baseball movies, if you like them, that would make a championship franchise, the Princes of NY).

Jeff said...

Understood on the MLB Network stuff. Makes sense. Though I do have to stand up for them a bit and say that they are always on the ball with the live look ins. I have too and will have about 8 games going on two different computers, watching everything at once, and the MLB Network always cuts to the game/situation with the most interest. I kept tabs on them last year, to see how it would work. If you don't have a Direct TV or MLB.TV pass, then watching "MLB Tonight" for a few hours would make you feel like you've been watching or keeping up with all the games.

Oh yeah, and I wonder if it's possible for the people of Houston to fire McLane. Can a people fire an owner? Haha.

Joe said...

Every front office relies on the numbers, to some extent. If a front office uses "wins and losses" to determine who is a good pitcher, in any context, then they are a terrible front office. So why should we rely on a stat that is simply garbage?