June 27, 2010

Phil Watch: Will That Do, Dusty?

Weirdness continues in the world of Phil.

But the offices of Phil Watch on the North Side experienced a collective server meltdown after the last "Soriano is back and it's because of Rudy Jaramillo" column.

We're only partially back online and are now without two experienced employees after they walked out in a hissy fit after Phil wanted to give Ted Lilly three years and $39 million after his one-hitter against the Sox and Konerko three years and $36 million two weeks before.

They just couldn't take it anymore. Plus, I don't pay them.

So we're going back to an old favorite of Phil's. The Reds are in town starting Thursday for a four-game set and the Reds are led by a man that Phil loves to give hummers on command.

It's our first 'Sloppy BJ for Dusty' column of the year.

Let's get started (It's a long one):

CINCINNATI -- One did not have his contract renewed by the Cubs at the end of the 2006 season. The other was fired by the Cardinals after the '07 season.

Neifi Perez and Dennis Green?

Green was fired after the '06 season, Phil. Pfft!

Together, Dusty Baker and Walt Jocketty...


...have positioned the unlikely Cincinnati Reds to succeed at the expense of their former teams. They come to Chicago for a four-game series nine games over .500 and in first place in the National League Central.

And the Reds have played the second-easiest schedule in all of baseball, ahead of only the Cubs (doin' a bang-up job there, Cubbies).

Let's see how the Reds got to nine games over .500, shall we?


Well...to start...they've played 45 games at home and 33 on the road.

Their interleague schedule consisted of 15 games against the likes of the Mariners, A's, Indians and Royals.

They've faced the Pirates ten times already and Houston six times.

Add that up. That's 31 games comprising of 40% of their schedule against six of the seven worst teams in baseball by their record. Jocketty is petitioning the MLB for a three-game series against the Orioles for the All-Star break. It's only fair.

They damn well better be nine games over with that schedule if they're even a decent team, which the Reds are but aren't anything shiny and pretty by any measure...yet.

Baker was vilified by the media and fans in his last season with the Cubs.

And I never knew why. His name is Dusty, not Messiah.

BTW, read Joe Sheehan's awesome column on Dusty from last week over at SI.com.

Jocketty, the architect of the World Series winner in 2006, was more a victim of front office politics in St. Louis. But better to have feelings hurt than reputations.

Here's where Phil couples Jocketty and Baker together in order to bolster a stupid argument. Kinda like when "artists" go to a show of a real artist and talk about the similarity in their styles to the real stuff on the wall. Keep people in the same sentence and maybe something from the real guy will rub off on the crappy one.

Both Baker and Jocketty have as much class as stature. They aren't the stone-throwing kind. But you know they're enjoying success with a team that has had nine consecutive losing seasons, and would like it even more if they're ahead of their former teams at season's end.

"You always want to win,'' Jocketty said Wednesday. "But there's maybe a little extra incentive.''

With a payroll of $76 million, the Reds are a blend of veterans such as Scott Rolen, Orlando Cabrera and Francisco Cordero and talented young players, including Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Johnny Cueto. They have had five winning streaks of four-plus games in the first three months of the season, establishing themselves as legitimate contenders.

THAT establishes them as legitimate?

Let's look at those five winning streaks of four-plus games in relation to the competition:

#1 - April 25-30: Savaged the last game of a three-game set against the Padres, swept an abysmal Houston team at the time (now simply bad) and took one from the Cardinals, losing the next two.

#2 - May 8-12: Took the last two against the Cubs at home and then swept the Pirates in Pittsburgh.

#3 - May 15-18: Took the last two against the Cards and swept a two-game set in Milwaukee.

#4 - May 26-29: Took three of four at home against the Pirates and swept a two-game set against Houston

#5 - June 21-26: Swept a three-game series at Oakland and took two in Cleveland.

Do you feel a decided lack of goodness involved in those streaks as much as I do? Me thinks so.

Hey, good teams kick the crap out of bad teams. White Sox fans recently saw a ton of that. And the Reds are pretty decent. But...c'mon. How 'about they do it against some legitimate competition before we declare them legitimate contenders. Only 32 of their 78 games this year have been against teams with winning records (14-18).

So...45 at home, 33 on the road, cake-walk for interleague, only 41% of their schedule against teams over .500. The scales should be a-tippin' very soon. We'll know more starting today when the Reds start their first extended road trip with four against the Cubs and three each against the Mets and Phillies.

And it's not like they're recently hot. The Reds are 10-10 in their last 20 and 15-15 in their last 30. Which is what they are - a .500 team, 5-7 games over with a little luck.

Second baseman Brandon Phillips recently said it's time for the Reds to raise the stakes. He says the mission is no longer to compete, it's to win. That says a lot about where the franchise has come since finishing in the bottom half of the Central in six of the last seven years.

Well shit! If Phillips says it! The Reds will be in the World Series this year because Brandon Phillips says their mission is to win now. Done. Over. Why play the games?

Less than halfway through the season and the Reds have ritualistically washed themselves of their recent past according to Phil.

Baker has gone to the playoffs four times as a manager, getting to the 2002 World Series with the Giants behind Barry Bonds and just missing with the 2003 Cubs.

And he has a 503-531 record with one playoff appearance since weaving his managerial magic in '02. The job he did writing Barry Bonds into the lineup that year was the stuff of Gandalf, Harry Potter and the Smoking Baby all rolled into one.

He's still the 26th man,...

Excuse me while I go ralph (our next dog's name, BTW...maybe Floyd...yeah...Floyd)

...wearing his trademark sweatbands and looking like he's ready to pick up a bat and pinch hit, but he accepts his limitations.

"I don't care who you are,'' Baker said. "You can be Pat Riley or Phil Jackson. You can't win without quality players, quality people."

So...using that logic, managers don't matter. No "26th man" exists. Good players = good teams. "We landed on the moon!"

Baker worked for ESPN in 2007 before signing a three-year contract to manage the Reds. He didn't have the horses to compete until halfway through '09, when Jocketty made an unlikely trade.

With the Reds 9 1/2 games behind the Cardinals and in their customary fifth place — ahead of the Pirates and behind everyone else — Jocketty shocked baseball by trading at the deadline for third baseman Scott Rolen, who had helped the Cardinals go to the World Series in 2004 and '06.

And he was integral, going 0-12 in the 2004 NLDS and 0-15 in the World Series (great NLCS, though). And he was positively bat-tastic in the two series leading up to the 2006 World Series, hitting .182 and OPSing around .525 in his 32 at-bats (great World Series, though).

In the end, he had a .215/.309/.393 = .701 OPS line for the Cards in '04 and '06 post-seasons combined in 107 at-bats. Meh. Helped? Okay, sure. Some big hits here and there, I guess. Not exactly Tito Landrum-esque.

(...a bunch of stuff about Rolen being a good guy, gamer, crap like that)

...Reds outfielder Jonny Gomes says Rolen provides a textbook example of how to play – avoiding mental mistakes, hustling and never arguing with umpires. He's hitting .300, but Baker says Rolen's commitment to fielding has been just as important.

And he's having his worst fielding year in his career, currently sitting just below league-average according to UZR/150. He's been pretty great this year offensively, but we'll see. Rolen hasn't been offensively relevant since 2006, he's 35 years old and essentially has had a great two months. So did Troy Glaus.

Along with shortstop Cabrera, the seven-time Gold Glove winner has transformed the Reds into one of the best fielding teams in the majors. They've allowed only 11 unearned runs, the lowest total in the majors.

Oh, Moses smell the roses. Cabrera's been bad this year in the field. Good for the Reds. They haven't booted many meaningful balls, but how about calculating all the balls that position players didn't get to because of their sloth, bad angles and general badness at fielding. As a team, the Reds are a below average fielding group relative to the rest of the league.

"Our fielding has made our pitchers better," Jocketty said.

With rookie Mike Leake going straight from Arizona State to the big leagues, the Reds have had solid starting pitching. They lack a true ace, but that could change at the All-Star break.

Leake in his last four starts: 6.85 ERA with a .954 OPS against. He made it around the league and they now have a book on him. Arroyo is Arroyo. Harang and Bailey have ERAs over five. Cueto's been good against shitty teams, Leake has been shaky recently and everybody else has been meh to bad. So yes, solid. Absolutely. Solid as a rock.

Edinson Volquez, a 17-game winner in 2008, is finishing both his rehabilitation from elbow ligament surgery in August 2009 and a 50-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs.

He's your savior? He hasn't pitched in over a year!

Rookie Travis Wood makes his big-league debut against the Cubs on Thursday and $30 million Cuban free agent Aroldis Chapman may soon be on his way from Triple-A Louisville as a reliever (he threw nine pitches clocked at 100 mph Tuesday).

Wood is just a guy and Chapman was booted from starting because those 100 mph pitches never seem to find the same zip code as the strike zone. He's walked 41 in 70 innings with 11 wild pitches so far this year.

But Baker calls Volquez the "big bullet'' he has yet to play. He compares Volquez's recovery to one by the Braves' Tim Hudson, who is pitching better post-surgery than he did before it.

It's 19 innings against live competition. He's back!

Jocketty is open to dealing for an impact arm but will probably only add bench parts in July, due to both limited resources – first-round draft pick Yasmani Grandal, a switch-hitting catcher from the University of Miami will be an expensive signing – and the lack of urgency.

What are you talking about? They just signed Gary Matthews, Jr.! Relief is ON. THE. WAY!

Is there enough talent here to hold off Albert Pujols and the Cardinals?


Don't underestimate the motivation of the Reds' players, or the men who put the team together.

What did Dusty do to compile this team? And Jocketty didn't do much either. Tons more than Dusty but badness for nine consecutive years led to a shitload of very high draft picks which became major league baseball players, like Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, two guys NOT MENTIONED in this entire piece.

BTW, Dusty has led off Orlando Cabrera 40 times this year. Orlando Cabrera has a .285 OBP.

He's no Neifi Perez but who is?

May 26, 2010

Phil Watch: Fish In The Barrel

Gotta clean out the closet.

Here's a few nuggets from Phil's "Morning Phil" entries from the past week.

Let's get started.

1. Alfonso Soriano's contract is what it is -- a careless bit of flinging money at the wall. It's going to haunt the Cubs before it's over. But this might not be the year.

Soriano's performance in May (.362-6-16 in 20 games with a 1.160 OPS) suggests he may have a good season in him at the plate. The best thing about his totals is that he's put them up while getting frequent rests, and never once was he on one of those extended white-hot tears that helped carry the Cubs to the playoffs in 2007 and '08.

So..."extended white-hot tears" by definition here is 76 plate appearances in 20 games with six homers, 16 rbi and an 1.160 OPS.

Good? Good.

First 19 games and 91 plate appearances of 2009: .313/.396/.650 (1.046 OPS) with seven homers and 14 rbi.

12 games and 54 plate appearances at the end of July in 2009: .404/.462/.787 for a 1.249 OPS with five homers and 15 rbi. Cubs went 9-3 and gained 2.5 games on the Cards, leaving them 1/2 game back.

Much of May in 2008: 94 PAs - .356/.383/.759 for a 1.142 OPS, nine homers, 23 rbi. Team went 12-9.

Stretch run in 2008: 89 PAs - .325/.393/.650 for a 1.043 OPS, seven homers, 10 rbi. Team went 11-8.

And the famous June tear in '07: 105 PAs - .354/.400/.792 for a 1.192 OPS, 10 homers and 16 rbi. Team went 13-9.

I don't really get the reasoning here. "Never once was he on one of those extended hot tears that helped carry the Cubs to the playoffs in 2007 and 2008"? He's been on tears before. Soriano is a pretty good definition of a 'hot or cold' player. We've seen it firsthand here in Chicago. And the Cubs are 10-10 during Soriano's recent 'hot tear'. How is this tear any different than past tears? What's Phil's reasoning here? Why is this any different?

Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo is doing a good job with Soriano, and his left knee has come all the way back after surgery.

OH! It was a reason to tell us for the 84,975th time that Rudy Jaramillo is a genius.

Is Jaramillo some sort of shaman that magically healed Soriano's knee or did Soriano's knee have some time to heal itself and that's led to a little more confidence in the knee?

Seems to me the knee healed itself as...well...any body part that gets some time to heal tend to strengthen over time and then good things are more apt to happen after that.

Soriano is chasing fewer of those breaking balls too far off the plate to hit, forcing pitchers to more often throw him strikes. He always has been a good hitter when he locked in on the strike zone, and Jaramillo has him there.

Pretty much wrong. We have data on this type of stuff. The only really dramatic difference between Soriano this year and the Soriano of past years is that he's swinging and making contact on pitches OUTSIDE the strike zone (66.2% compared to a career 50.9%) with a little help from pitchers not throwing him first-pitch strikes (50.9% this year compared to a career 59.7%). And this is too small of a sample size to make any real judgment given the bad teams (thereby bad pitchers) the Cubs have played this year (4th-easiest strength of schedule in all of baseball so far in 2010).

But yes, Doctor Jaramillo is the reason Soriano is better this year. But it's not his fault that Soto's hitting .179 in May. And Theriot is OPSing .527 in May. Or that the team overall has a 328 OBP in May, good for 19th in baseball.

Can't have it both times. If Jaramillo gets the credit for Soriano, he gets the blame for the craptastic stuff as well.

But in reality, all sane individuals in the world understand that the hitting coach does little for grown-ass adults trying to work through the season. It's another set of eyes and maybe a few tweaks here and there. Nothing more.

1. It didn't take long for Roy Oswalt's friendship with Jake Peavy to cause the White Sox to enter speculation about a new home for Oswalt. It was raised by former Astros manager Phil Garner in an interview with FOX Sports' J.P. Morosi, possibly proving that Garner isn't going to move into the front office any time soon.

What? Like the time Phil thought the Rays should sign Barry Bonds because it would be neat to see him play in New York and Boston? Like that?

Or maybe like the time Phil thought the team that signed the most veterans, no matter how terrible and/or old they are, while losing the least won the off-season? It was Phil-Math and it was wonderful. Like that?

Given the White Sox's all-veteran rotation and standing as the fifth puniest lineup in the big leagues -- not to mention the stronghold on the 2010 race by Minnesota and Detroit -- Oswalt makes zero sense for the White Sox. If anything, Peavy's 5.74 ERA has to cut down Ken Williams' interest in any National League pitcher and hurt Oswalt's value with 13 other AL clubs. If Peavy could get treated so rudely, couldn't Oswalt?

Oh, Holy Hell! They are two different pitchers!

Peavy was a fly-ball pitcher (career 38.7% FB rate) prone to the long ball, something that was suppressed by the canyon that is Petco. Minute Maid, by contrast, is a long ball haven and Oswalt found a way to work with it while being more of a groundball pitcher (career 47.6% GB rate). There's a 10% difference between Peavy and Oswalt's FB/GB rate for their careers and in three-year splits. That 10% is the difference between being an overall good pitcher and someone who might be prone to bad things happening in tighter environments.

But again. Yes. Because Peavy was in the National League before, that means Kenny (or any other AL GM!) would not be inclined to pick up another National League pitcher.

I had a couple more but I'm done. This is just a stupid waste of time.

May 24, 2010

Phil Watch: Ichiro Is Overrated Because Casey Kotchman is Bad

I don't know why I continue to fixate on such an inconsequential writer.

But here's another nugget.

Phil was asked to name the "Most Overrated" hitter in baseball for the Four Corners segment, a infinitely dippy feature from four guys in the Tribune family.

The other three players listed by other writers were Carl Crawford (wha?), Jose Reyes and J.D. Drew.

Phil offers...Ichiro.

Single out Ichiro

What's the definition of "most overrated?" You could look at it just in terms of hitting ability, but in my opinion major league baseball is always about the money, so l'm going to consider it in relation to a hitter's value to a team. That makes this an easy question, as Ichiro Suzuki -- who you can argue is the best pure hitter in the game -- is clearly the most overrated.

Yes...clearly. He's been paid $87.5 million by the Mariners before this season since 2002. And he's had a total WAR value of $141.3 million. JHC! So if you have a great player on a bad team, it's mostly the great player's fault they're bad? That's F'in NONSENSE!

What do his 200-plus hits every season -- heavily loaded with singles -- do for the Mariners? He had a majors-high 225 in 2009 and they scored the fewest runs in the AL.

It gets you Phil calling Ichiro an MVP candidate in July of 2009.

He's again leading the majors with 58 hits (including 48 singles), and Seattle is 14-26. Singles hitters, even those with speed, need to be in deep lineups to realize their value.

Pussy slap-hitter. Take your .352 average and .362 wOBA and go home. You're the problem with the Mariners. Not the .195 average from Figgins and GM Z thinking Jose Lopez, Casey Kotchman and Milton Bradley will be reliable sticks in the middle of the order. He took a high risk-reward shot on a lot of guys and it's flamed out so far. But yes, the leadoff hitter getting on at a .395 clip is the problem. And the fact that GM Z didn't create a deep lineup after Ichiro is clearly Ichiro's fault.

The drop in power numbers in recent years makes the guys who do regularly drive the ball to walls, and over walls, as valuable as they've ever been. A singles hitter in a bad lineup is a hood ornament on a beater. These days, that's Ichiro.

Holy Mother Of Crap! Somebody please make sense of that for me. Ichiro is a superlative singles hitter that gets on base four out of every ten times in front of guys whose job it is to drive him in. Ichiro does his job, the Casey Kotchmans of the world don't and that's Ichiro's fault?

Using Phil's logic, if you buy a beautiful piece of steak and cook it wrong, it's somehow the cow's fault.

A freaking great singles hitter is the most beautiful hood ornament you ever saw. Just because someone decided to put it on a beater doesn't take anything away from its inherent beauty. You just wonder why they put it on a Gremlin that is the rest of the Mariners' lineup.

Ichiro is overrated because he's not Albert Pujols. How dare he not be something he's not.

Easily the frontrunner for the dumbest thing Phil has written this year.

May 20, 2010

Phil Watch: Revising The Revised & Repeating The Repeated

I hate the feeling that I've told a story to someone before. I especially hate it when I realize it as soon as I start the story but I'm not 100% sure if I have, so I plow ahead just in case I'm wrong and then, right towards the end, I realize that, yes, I have.

It's an icky feeling when you have just repeated yourself and it's worse when the person hearing the story gives body clues early on that they've indeed heard it.. Nobody likes to be redundant.

Phil, apparently, doesn't mind such things.

I had a boss like this once. He also felt that if he said the same blather over and over again, it would someday come true and didn't care if anybody has heard it before.

Let's get started.

It's hard to find a silver lining in the cloud hovering over the White Sox.

Agreed. This is bad. It was a collection of guys put together that have had nice enough careers at fairly young ages that nonetheless collectively fell off the cliff.

Best-case scenario: You really have to use your imagination to get this Sox team to .500 given the way talent has drained away from the big-league club since 2008.

Um...okay. Just for the record, let's see who was on the 2008 team that could have helped this team, guys that are currently producing in 2010 that you could put on this roster over someone already there:

Orlando Cabrera: .265/.293/.364 for the Reds. Even the Twins found him annoying.
Joe Crede: Out of baseball
Nick Swisher: OPSing .915 for the Yankees. Bad return but Phil hated the original deal.
Jermaine Dye: No team in the majors thought he was an upgrade. Unsigned.
Jim Thome: Only DHing against righties on a good team.
Juan Uribe: Having himself a nice rejuvenation in San Francisco in a weaker league
Brian Anderson: Gave up hitting to become a pitcher
Ken Griffey: Ask Seattle fans about his current value
Javier Vazquez: Ask Yankee fans about his current value
Clayton Richard: Swapped for Peavy. Peavy wins.
Nick Masset: Brutal for the Reds in middle relief.
Jose Contreras: C'mon. I don't care if he's "closing" for the Phils.

So...I see Swisher and Uribe with a dash of Thome as possible contributors to this team. Swisher was an annoying clubhouse presence that needed to be shipped. He was a petulant child towards the end of '08 (terrible return, though). Uribe, after contributing for three seasons, fell off the cliff in 2007 and 2008 in terms of WAR. $2.3M total value in those years. Good for him. He found a home. The smart money said that wasn't going to happen. Thome? we've been over this.

The problem with this team, and it speaks to the larger point, was that Kenny finally gave Ozzie a National League-style team that Ozzie's been bitching about for years. Except that he didn't. Sure, they lead the league in stolen bases but there's a lot more to playing NL ball than stolen bases. There's hitting behind the runner. There's a crapload of hit-and-runs. There's putting stress on the defense by trying to take that extra base a lot. There's always trying to make things happen.

But even that's a myth now. Most good NL teams just bash their way to wins like their AL counterparts. The best teams doing it today are a few AL teams. The real question is why Kenny would concede to Ozzie and try to build such a team with The Cell being the definition of a bashing ballpark. It's a park that begs to build a team around homers. But yes, let's play small ball in a park where you play 81 games a year and gives you more homers than most any other place you play.

This season falls on Ozzie. If he's going to give "small ball" lip service, I'd like to at least see him fail trying. I'm not even seeing such stuff outside of stolen bases. When is the last time you saw Pierre swipe second and Pierzynski or Beckham try to hit it to the vacated second base spot? I don't recall it once. Heck, it seems that's stuff that can even help a guy get out of a slump. They certainly have shown an aptitude to ground out. Let's see if those potential ground outs can be productive.

The Sox have 27 games left against the Twins and Tigers, which isn't going to help. Those two American League Central opponents were playing .590 baseball through Tuesday, and it wasn't a fluke.

Um...we're going to see on that. The Twins have played the fourth-easiest schedule in baseball so far. The Tigers are in the lower half. The Twins are good. But it's Jon Rauch and Liriano is returning to Earth. He had a great three-start stint in April but has a 5.21 ERA in May and opponent are hitting .338 off him in that span. He's someone to watch (and hasn't given up a homer - change be a comin'). Justin Morneau is a career .280 hitter currently hitting .365. The Twins are a better team than the Sox. No doubt. I don't think they will catch the Twins. But top-to-bottom and given the players on each roster and their career arcs, I don't think they're 18 wins better like the early season projects out.

Worst-case scenario: The Sox were winning at a .421 pace through Tuesday. They shouldn't play worse but could continue at that pace, losing more than 90 games for the first time since 1989.

Agreed. That easily could happen. Watching this team is brutal. It's frustrating baseball. Everyone decided to be bad at once.

Gut read: Pitching wins championships but it doesn't carry a weak team. The White Sox are on pace to score 674 runs, 50 fewer than a year ago when it could point to Carlos Quentin's injury.


That team had Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome. The Sox replaced them with Alex Rios and Mark Kotsay, and swapped Scott Podsednik for Juan Pierre (the last guy most GMs would see as a winning player in the AL).

Rios is better than Dye in every facet right now. Thome hit .213 against lefties from 2007-2009. What do you do with that when he can't play the field? Scott Podsednik and Juan Pierre are the same player. Check the numbers.

Difference-makers: Quentin and Gordon Beckham. Quentin was locked in and killing the ball when the White Sox won in 2008. He has been anything but the last two seasons, battling plantar fasciitis and hitting a combined .227.

He's been awful. Agreed.

Beckham arrived with swagger last June, making a run at Rookie of the Year while learning to play third base. He should be more comfortable at second but is hitting .188.

He's also been awful. Agreed.

Blame game loser: General manager Ken Williams.

Um...what GM would have dumped those two? Seems at least partial blame rests on the two guys Phil just mentioned. They've been awful and that has led to less runs, also just mentioned. Throw in Pierzynski and Ramirez, a guy who hasn't seen a pitch he won't swing at and try to pull and poof! You have a team that can't score runs. That's where the blame lies, on guys that any GM would have put on the roster to play everyday that haven't produced.

Manager Ozzie Guillen, his coaches and players have been under almost daily review since the 4-9 start but those critiques ignore how the GM invested six pitchers, a promising infielder and a payroll commitment of $138 million over 15 player seasons to add Jake Peavy, Mark Teahen, Rios and Pierre since last July 31.

(Sigh) Certainly sounds like a big number. Decent amount of flexibility here. Check it out.

Just under $67 million committed for next year before arb raises. Only Danks should see a significant jump. Jenks will not be on this roster next year, Pierre might be swapped to someone looking for that last piece of the puzzle and, I hate to say it, but this might be the year that Buehrle goes to the Cardinals. They're looking beatable right now and one more pitcher might do it. If the Cardinals will take the salary (or at least a good chunk), Kenny might pull the trigger.

Williams, impatient with young talent and overly interested in putting a personal stamp on his team, sold Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf a 2010 team that came with a $106 million payroll, seventh in the majors.

This is Ozzie's team by every measure, Phil. Read your own paper.

The Sox have been below. 500 (256-269) since the start of '07. Williams has allowed a string of productive players to leave (bring back Juan Uribe!) and traded away inexpensive options from the farm system in Chris Young, Ryan Sweeney, Clayton Richard, Gio Gonzalez, John Ely, Chris Getz, Fautino de los Santos, Brandon Allen and Aaron Cunningham.

Here we go!

Chris Young: Phil feels like he can mention him again because he's off to a better start. Never mind that he put up a slash line of .235/.307/.438 in 1900 plate appearances before this in the majors. Oh, and struck out at a 26% clip...and had a TOTAL COMBINED WAR of 3.8 in four seasons before this year. Alex Rios put up a 4.7 in 2007 and a 5.4 in 2008 alone.

Ryan Sweeney: Light-hitting RF that fields well. Very well, actually. Who does he play in front of, Phil? Quentin? Rios? Maybe Pierre. I'll give Phil Pierre to an extent.

Clayton Richard: Good so far. He's pitching well in a monstrous ballpark in a weaker league and a weak-hitting division. Ahead of who on the White Sox? Garcia? Very big maybe and a "probably not". Richard has an entirely unsustainable HR/FB rate of 2.2% right now. That will change.

Gio Gonzalez: He's proven to be a fourth or fifth starter, Phil. We have a track record in the majors now. 5.22 BB/9 in 32 starts. He's just not that great. Cheap, sure. But the White Sox have some dough and he isn't better than anyone in the starting rotation. And if he was pitching for the Sox, the frustration meter would be through the roof.

I'm skipping Jon Ely. Four starts in the majors means anything and he would have no place in the rotation right now.

Getz? Really?

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have our first Fautino mention in a long time! Already had TJS. Started seven games in rookie ball last year and is now pitching out of the pen in A ball this year to the tune of three games and a 7.36 ERA. Hell yeah! He's an option for this year or anytime in the near future!

Brandon Allen: .216 at Triple A right now. Came up late last year and struck out 40 in 104 at-bats.

Aaron Cunningham: So good he can't crack the A's lineup. OPSing .645 in Triple-A right now.

I chastise Phil for repeating himself. Yet I'm doing the same thing. The difference might be, though, that I'm giving you actual numbers instead of saying the Chris freakin' Getz could help this team.
The Sox won in '05 because Williams struck gold with Jose Contreras, A.J. Pierzynski, Uribe, Bobby Jenks and Dye but lightning isn't striking the same place twice. The team's two cornerstone players, Paul Konerko and Mark Buehrle, were in place when Williams took over for Ron Schueler. Just how much loyalty does a World Series ring buy?

Ozzie goes before Kenny goes. I bet $500.

May 16, 2010

Phil Watch: Even Joe Morgan Asks For "Consistency"

The winds blow in baseball probably more than any other sport.

In the NBA, it's pretty much predetermined before the season begins who will be the last four teams standing. In the NFL, there's always a few surprises, but good is good and bad is bad for the most part.

In baseball, the season's long. Sure, there's always a few bad teams that play good for extended stretches and good teams that go in the crapper for a bit just like the other professional sports.

But due to the length of the season, it's the extended length of the good stretches/crappers in sheer number of days to overly analyze it that results in wildly stupid conclusions relating to "trends" and assumptions about "what it all means."

It also means that when it comes to individual players, since there are so many moving parts in baseball and so much verbiage about who could fit where and make an impact, things tend to get lost and the big picture gets obscured.

In short, a lot of people can say anything they want and that's okay. Because it's complicated.

Like Phil.

From this weekend:

...But because of Griffey's popularity and stature, they brought him back while letting their leading home run hitter, Russell Branyan, leave as a free agent.

The flagship Phil column this weekend is in the Dump Griffey vein. It's Phil's new thing. Waive Zambrano. Waive Bradley. Dump Griffey. Because they're not worth the trouble.

They always feel a bit rushed and somewhat out of character, like he's playing above his ability to take hard stances on things. Like he's trying to meet his quota of what sportswriters should do - take a detailed and nuanced position on something a few times a year. Except in Phil's case, it's rarely detailed and/or nuanced. It's usually drivel that tweaks what other people have already said.

To be fair, his Dump Griffey stance this time doesn't actually say that. He simply alludes to it, using the Mariners' unwillingness to resign Branyan as a comparable of "what could have been."

But this is what Phil said about Branyan in February:
Russell Branyan, who should have been more receptive to re-signing with the Mariners, whose general manager, Jack Zduriencik, gave him a chance to increase his at-bats.
And that was the case by all reports. The talk at the time was that Branyan wanted two guaranteed years at something like $5 million per as a bad-backed 34 year-old.

But in February, Phil puts it on Branyan's shoulders on why he didn't sign back with Seattle. Now, it's Zduriencik's fault.

Consistency. That's all.

Look at them now — last in the American League with 3.4 runs per game, dealing with the ugliness of teammates fingering Griffey for sleeping during a game and faced with the awkwardness of how to handle the Griffey story on a daily basis.

Can the M's see the future? It's not like he was Milton Bradley, a guy who you can predict some level of weirdness at some point during the season. This is Ken Griffey, Jr. He's been bad but never in a million years would anyone ever have predicted that the 'sleeping in the clubhouse' storyline would have happened.

If the Mariners simply had kept Branyan, giving him the two- or three-year deal he wanted, they might not have traded for the troubled Milton Bradley or hung on to Griffey. You have to think that would have seemed like a better option, even if Branyan, 34, opened the season on the disabled list with the Indians because of back problems the Mariners knew about.

And if I just would have known the lottery numbers from yesterday, I'd be rich today.

And THREE YEAR DEAL???!!! With a bad back? At 34? I'd love to see Phil as a GM. I can only think he's making this comparison because Branyan has three homers in 56 plate appearances this year for the Indians. I wonder if he also looked at his .245 average on a .375 BABIP and 45% K-rate, a number that is nearly 10% higher than Mark Reynolds' career K-rate, a guy that Phil questioned whether the D'backs to a long-term deal. I wonder.

Signing Reynolds, 26, to a long-term deal = iffy. Signing Branyan - 34, bad back - to a three-year deal = good.

This is why I love you, Phil.

Consistency. That's all.

You can argue the White Sox would have been better off if they had kept Thome and Jermaine Dye, as the Mariners surely would have been with Branyan and not Bradley. That might have kept the White Sox from dealing for Juan Pierre (a trade John Ely seems determined to make them regret).

First, along with Wilson Ramos (getting to him), Jon Ely is Phil's new hard-on. He's determined to find a Kenny Williams deal that blew up in his face. It's ten years now but when it happens, Phil will be there.

Second, I LOVE-LOVE-LOVE the "you can argue" line. Because it's limp-dick writing. Anyone can argue anything. Just listen to Score callers. It's the degree of coherence or stupidity in which the writing is ultimately judged. But if you put a "can" in there, the writer can wiggle out of being pinned down to anything. It then falls into the speculative category that doesn't require quantifying anything. Throw in Dye, a guy who hasn't played this year so there's no body of work to compare anything, and we can speculate away!

But Dye would have had to accept a cut from his $11.5 million salary and at least occasional stints as the designated hitter, and there's no indication he would have done that.

Holy crap! Then why write what was just written? If it was NEVER going to happen, then why is it a topic?

It's easy to see how ego becomes a problem when it is displayed regularly by the likes of Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds. But it's a factor in handling even the good guys at the elite level — such as Griffey, Thome and Dye.

So...wait a minute. I'm lost. Thome? Ego? He wanted to come back. But Guillen wanted to play a different brand of baseball. Thome?


By the way, the treatment of the Tacoma News Tribune's Larry LaRue, the reporter who broke the story about Griffey dozing in the clubhouse, is shameful. Players closing ranks against him is no indication he did anything wrong professionally.

And this, along with the Bradley trade, is why this is a topic. A member of the writer fraternity was wronged.

But I have a question. Why did the writer admit to prematurely posting the blog then?

I don't know the real details. Nobody seems to. But there WAS a tinge of piling-on to the story. I wonder if things were going good for the M's, would the story have been published? I doubt it, which displays to the players, however wrong and however nuanced the real truth is, what a certain writer might do if and when he gets an itchy trigger finger on the send button.

The Padres and Giants are looking for run producers but haven't reached out to Jermaine Dye. He could fit in left field in San Francisco but would be severely challenged by the open spaces of San Diego's Petco Park. …

BAH! Dye's in left field now in Phil scenarios. Third-worst outfielder in all of baseball over the last three years but "he could fit".

And "he could fit" in left field in San Francisco but not Petco? AT&T Park's left field dimensions are 339 ft. down the line and 382 in the left field gap. Petco's is 334 ft down the line, branching out to 367 ft. in the gap. So...AT&T has more open space in left. But Dye would fit there.

And both the Padres and Giants are winning with pitching. Part of that has been the good fielding that the pitching has received. Basic logic, really.

The Giants' platoon in left has been DeRosa, Bowker and Velez with UZR/150's of 20.9, 9.1 and 24.8 respectively so far this year. But yes. Let's sign a guy that has put up numbers of minus 21.6, minus 19.4 and minus 18.7 from 2007-2009.


After two strong starts in a row, John Ely is set to spend at least the next month in Los Angeles. Dodgers manager Joe Torre says he's going with the rookie from Homewood-Flossmoor until Vicente Padilla comes off the disabled list. Ely could start May 27 at Wrigley Field if Torre decides to skip fifth starter Ramon Ortiz in that turn through the rotation. Ely had a 23 mph difference in pitches Tuesday against the Diamondbacks, throwing his fastball 91 and his curve 68. …

Ely's a bit of a double-whammy. He's a local product and Kenny traded him. So he's a Phil guy.

He's been mentioned by Phil at least eight times since the Pierre trade. I can only imagine if he was traded to the Twins and he pitched with Wilson Ramos catching, the catching über-prospect for the Twins that Phil posited should stay up with the big club, even with Mauer catching.

The theory goes that Gardenhire could find at-bats for Ramos by giving Mauer time off from behind the plate by DHing him a couple times a week and slotting Ramos into the DH role (presumably) another couple times a week. I don't know how Mauer would feel about that given he just signed a monster deal with the Twins to catch and I don't know how Thome and Kubel would feel about losing...well...pretty much ALL their playing time with that DH rotation.

Only Phil knows.

But for right now, with this roster, the Twins know...

The Twins sent catcher Wilson Ramos to Triple A because manager Ron Gardenhire didn't think he could find enough at-bats for him with Joe Mauer healthy again. They would have to be absolutely overwhelmed to trade him, however. …

Please, please, please! Seek a career change, Phil. The world needs you as a GM.

April 26, 2010

Phil Watch: Morning Phil In More Ways Than One

The 1,000-strong staff here at the North Side offices of Phil Watch in Chicago has been sitting around, playing old PlayStation games, eating Doritoes and drinking Mountain Dew for a few months now.

There just hasn't been much to report. Phil has been merely borderline baseball offensive since the season started. Our fearless leader, Mr. Giggity has been keeping up with Phil's ruminations, though.

But when he writes two pieces in a week about the Twins (human resources at the Star-Tribune is aware of your application, Phil), tells us that Jason Heyward is going to be good (another news flash - people like sandwiches) and seems to have a hard-on this year for the Nationals, telling us Matt Capps is resurrected (8.1 innings is now the benchmark for revitalizing a career in Phil's world - Mitch Talbot is the next Lincecum then), it's just been too damn boring and redundant to analyze it line by line.

So...Phil's wins in a way. He's won this early-season battle by boring us into submission.

But Phil's been doing a sort of blog himself with his "Morning Phil" segment that has essentially replaced the now-defunct Hardball blog over at the Trib, releasing his reactionary thoughts on the world about three (-ish) times a week through the Chicago Breaking Sports sub-site.

It's what I expect from Phil. Here's the latest.

Talking baseball while enjoying sweeps on both sides of town:

1. Sitting behind home plate at the White Sox game Sunday, listening to the U.S. Cellular crowd serenade Paul Konerko in the familiar fashion, it was easy to get ahead of oneself.

I feel like I'm there! Narrative nonfiction at its best!

And this is akin to the kind of people that tell me they just got back from Italy two seconds after I greet them at my restaurant. Keep it to yourself. Nobody cares.

Konerko is in the final year of that sweet five-year contract he received after hand delivering the ball from the final out of the World Series to Jerry Reinsdorf. There has been no indication from either side that the parties are working to keep Konerko off the free-agent market after the season. But it is genuinely difficult to imagine the White Sox without Konerko.

Oh, I don't know. Things change in life. I loved my Honda Civic but I'm glad as hell I don't have it anymore. Great in its prime but gradually declined to the point where I would have had to put about a thousand dollars into it to get it back to an acceptable level of goodness.

Hey, Konerko, while off to a fast start, is kinda like that. .824 OPS over the last three years before 2010 (good, not great). It wouldn't be a bad move resigning him with the 2011 first-base free agent class being of the underwhelming sort to say the least but if the question for how much. I like Pauly. How can't ya?

Along with Mark Buehrle, he is in so many ways the heart and soul of a team that in his era has had more ups than downs. He's older, sure, but at 34 he's still pretty much the same player he has been throughout his 12 seasons on the South Side -- a reliable run-producer and excellent first baseman who plays through troublesome injuries every season.

He's fine. Reliable run-producer is rather dubious. Hasn't driven in 100 runs since 2006 so I don't know what that means even if RBIs from the cleanup spot as a measuring stick is a rather dubious one in itself. Excellent first baseman? No. Definition of league-average since signing the five-year deal after the World Series.

Konerko has been a bargain at $12 million a year, and the White Sox should offer him another two years guaranteed at that price with a third year that can vest depending on his performance in 2012. He's a cornerstone piece of what has been a good team and you don't want to make a change there before you have to.

Bargain? Nope. Not even close. He's been paid $48 million from 2006-2009 and he's been worth $39.1 million relative to the rest of the market. In fact, he hasn't had a value at $12 million or above since 2006. But yes, let's give him a contract worth that to cover his age 34 to possibly 37 years. Let's!

And Konerko, if he were offered a third year vesting contract, he would make sure it was based solely on plate appearances...because he's not stupid. It wouldn't be as stupid as the Ryan Howard deal two days ago but history has proved that playing around with a slow power hitter in their mid-30s years is a gamble to say the least. They tend to fall off the cliff and fast.

Cuban Dayan Viciedo has switched from third base to first base with Triple-A Charlotte but no one knows if he is going to develop into a big-league hitter, let alone one of Konerko's caliber. The White Sox would be taking a big gamble by allowing Konerko to reach free agency or entertaining trade talks at mid-season, if they've fallen too far behind Minnesota (Boston could turn to him if David Ortiz is washed up, as it appears). These scenarios should be eliminated by getting a deal in place sooner rather than later.

What about Ian Gac at Kannapolis? Or Seth Loman (Biff!) at Winston-Salem? Love the names.

If the White Sox had questions about whether Konerko would maintain his level of play, he has answered them.

He's hitting .290 with a majors-leading eight homers and 14 RBIs in 18 games. His game-winner off Brandon League in the eighth inning on Sunday finished a sweep over a Seattle team that only the truly nostalgic could love. Don't play with fire. Get him signed before he moves into the market.

19 freakin' games and he's answered them!!!!???? Jose Guillen has seven homers. The Royals should give him another $50 million deal (wait, don't say that. Moore's been weird enough that he might). Vernon Wells has seven as well. His ridiculous contract is now a bargain.

Dope. It's 75 at-bats. And it's called a "contract year." And it's called 75 at-bats. Did I mention that?

2. Yes, Adam Dunn is a load in right field. That's why the Nationals have made him their regular first baseman after a season as their primary right fielder. But imagine how different -- and better -- the Cubs would look if GM Jim Hendry had overlooked Dunn's weaknesses to sign him, and not Milton Bradley, two winters ago.

I'll imagine. The Cubs would have won .2 more games. That's with a point. Dunn was worth 1.4 wins while Bradley was worth 1.2. Why? Because Dunn plays the field like a man with no arms. -37.9 UZR/150 in the outfield and -6.9 at first last year. That means he cost his team over four wins last year because he looks like a monkey humping a football out there.

The over-sized slugger -- a good enough athlete that he was in line to play quarterback at the University of Texas -- wanted to come to the Cubs badly. He also would have loved to have signed with the Astros, his hometown team. But it was Washington that offered him a two-year contract, so he took it and has become a significant part of the Nationals' turn-around.

Yes. A good enough athlete to never improve his fielding or learn to run the bases. He's a DH and the sooner he gets to the AL, the better. And "turn-around"? I like the Nats as well, even kinda pull for them, but let's cool our jets here a bit. It's 20 games and they're 10-10. All Nats optimism comes from Strasbourg and Storen, not Dunn.

He'll be at Wrigley Field the next three days, posing problems for the Cubs' pitching staff. It's not clear how Lou Piniella would have mixed Dunn, Kosuke Fukudome and Derrek Lee together but it seems obvious that they would have been a much better team if he had that challenge.

Bah! Dunn in right and Soriano in left! That would have been awesome!

And consider the following the dumbest part of today's Morning Phil. Even mentioning Lee as a potential platoon for anything is mind-numbingly stupid. He's one of the best-fielding first basemen in baseball.

Fukudome would probably be the center fielder, and Marlon Byrd probably wouldn't be on the roster.

See. Now that's an outfield I would have paid money to watch. Soriano-Fukudome-Dunn in the outfield. He would have hit a ton of homers...and he would have given up even more doubles in right. See how that works?

Hendry would have had more money to address other issues, including his bullpen.

Gonna need details on those calculations. Dunn essentially fell in the market to the Nationals, primarily over concerns about his defense. Dunn visited the Cubs fairly early on in the free agent process late in 2008 and was seeking something VERY close to what the Cubs signed Bradley for. Hendry opted for Bradley, Manny started to express real interest in returning to the Dodgers and Dunn was left with slim pickings, signing with the Nats at 2/$20 million because he had little leverage.

It's called Google.

Hendry crossed him off for two reasons -- he can't make the tough plays in right field and he had been blinded by Bradley. The Cubs would have scored a lot more runs with Dunn in the lineup, which would have camouflaged some of the issues.

How...exactly...do you camouflage issues? They would still be issues, right? And big issues at that. Oh, wait. He means fans wouldn't have to think about it because of all the pretty homers and thinking is hard. I like Dunn. As a DH. He would be a God. But players in the NL play the field. And Dunn plays the field badly.

And Cub fans would have fallen in the love with the guy, because he is a sweetheart.

I have never seen a guy so infatuated with the sort of "Face Of The Franchise" crap as Phil.

February 20, 2010

Phil Watch: Nothing To Report

It's been quiet here at Phil Watch for the last two weeks.

And there has been good reason for it.

Phil's been wandering into the world of 'acceptable' of late.

And I'm still picking my jaw up off the floor after reading his offering last week when he mentioned Fangraphs.com to support his analysis of Kyle Farnsworth moving to the rotation!

Read that again. Phil mentioned a Fangraphs piece to support his argument.

He knows it exists! And he's using it!

Now, today, he lists the best and worst fielders in the game using John Dewan's Fielding Bible and UZR (and not Range Factor!) as the sole determiners. Sole...as in only.

It's a good list. A right list. A proper list (with only minor bumps).

This is a monumental achievement, a game-changer, an earth-shattering temporal shift in the space-time continuum.

If this trend continues, I fear the raison d'être of Phil Watch may become moot.

Très triste.

But, as always, this could merely influence our understanding of future stupidity. He must continue to follow the trend.

If he doesn't, we return to this moment in time - the place where Phil knew certain things and decided to ignore it. Ignorance, in many ways, can be forgiven. Willful neglect is an entirely different ball of wax.

But for now, kudos to Phil. The Tribune had some stuff in the sports section over the last two weeks that may have contributed to a better understanding about baseball-type things.

February 06, 2010

Phil Watch: Slim Pickings

When you're picking your kickball team and you get down to the last two people, it usually doesn't take much thought.

You just take a guy and get on with starting the game.

What you don't do is treat the decision like it's the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

They're the last two left for a reason.

Let's get started.

Potential difference-makers still on the baseball market

The Angels signed Bobby Abreu, the outfielder the Cubs and so many other teams passed on, one year ago Friday. He proved to be a difference-maker, helping Mike Scioscia’s team to a first-round victory over the Red Sox [team stats] after winning its fifth American League West title in six years.

Wild exception to the rule. Try to name another. And if you say Kyle Lohse, I'm going to crap my pants. My gastrointestinal health is in your hands.

The Angels gave him only a one-year contract worth $5 million.

And then went out and signed the 36 year-old, bad fielding outfielder to another 2 year/$19M deal. Couple that with signing Matsui and the Angels are doing everything they can to harken back to the Gary Gaetti/Von Hayes days. Ain't gonna be a fun year for the Angels and, by extension, the North Side offices of Phil Watch.

There are similar deals to be made in the 2010 market, even as equipment trucks start to head out for camps in Arizona and Florida. The Twins’ fine-tuning has been impressive — the additions of Orlando Hudson and Jim Thome solidified them as the AL Central front-runner

— but here are some more players available who could have even more impact:

Johnny Damon, who last was seen helping the Yankees win the World Series.

Damon fell to the last few guys to be picked for kickball for a lot of reasons.

1. Scott Boras
2. Turned down a 2 yr/$14M deal from the Yankees
3. Didn't respond to a one year/$6M deal from the Yankees
4. He's 36 years old.
5. He plays brutal defense.
6. Fourth-worst outfield arm in the game last year.
7. Can't play center anymore, lowering his value even further if put at a corner relative to the league.
8. If put in the DH slot, he's essentially a replacement-level player relative to the league
9. Bill James net baserunning from 2006-7 = +70. From 2008-09 = +28
10. Hit 24 HRs in a stadium with the highest HR park factor in 2009. Teams after him now were in the bottom half.
11. His Win Value in the last four years: $13M, $13M, $13M and $13M. He was paid $49.6M for $52 M worth of production. At 36, while he's a candidate for sustaining for such just-above-average success, he's also a candidate for seeing a decline.

I like Johnny Damon. He could easily still be a guy who can contribute...something, I guess. But at $8M per, a number that seems like what he's holding out for, I'd probably move on as well, especially since in-house options on every team mentioned in the Damon rumors can put up similar numbers at a fraction of the cost (except maybe the Tigers, a team Phil doesn't mention at all).

Jermaine Dye, whose disappointing second half in 2009 has caused talent evaluators to act as if his rock-solid 2008 totals (.292-34-96) were put up in 1998.

I like Dye as well. But he's also 36, has become a bit lumbering, plays atrocious defense and has a .334 OBP the last three years.

Oh, and those talent evaluators are probably very aware about something else related to the last three years and his atrocious defense.

Dye, from 2007-09, was the third-worst defender in the league when evaluating ALL positions in the game according to UZR. Only Brad Hawpe and Adam Dunn were worse.

Russell Branyan, who should have been more receptive to re-signing with the Mariners, whose general manager, Jack Zduriencik, gave him a chance to increase his at-bats.

Word is that he was very receptive to returning to the Mariners. It was the Mariners that quit talking to him after the Winter Meetings, when they decided to acquire Kotchman instead.

He wants two guaranteed years for the first time in his career. At 34, it's reasonable to want that after hitting 31 homers last year, bad back or not. Seems to be a critical time for Branyan, a guy that has never played on a full-time basis in his career before 2009. He wants a payday while getting enough contract time to prove he can still be relevant. It may be asking for a bit much but I can see the thinking. Won't get it but I can see the thinking.

Damon, seen by MLB executives as a victim of agent Scott Boras’ high demands, is surprised he still doesn’t know where he’s going to camp.

"I’m coming off one of my better years," the 36-year-old left fielder said in a recent radio interview. "I feel wherever I go, I’m going to help the team win more games and (have) a great shot to be in the playoffs and win the whole thing,"

Well, I'm wrong. Damon said he can still play. Line starts behind the Yankees, fellas.

Damon hit .282 with a .365 on-base average for the Yankees and scored 100-plus runs for the 10th time.

Phil needs to tell the world how much Damon'a ability has to do with runs scored instead of his place in the batting order and, most importantly, who was hitting behind him.

Please tell me, cuz I need to know. Jimmy Rollins scored 100 runs last year and he had a .296 OBP.

He clearly had lost a step, however, as his stolen base total dropped from 29 to 12. He looked exposed throughout the playoffs, as if he was going to miss a fly or make a baserunning mistake, but he made all the plays.

Just a thought here. Damon has lost a step. We've established that with his Bill James numbers. But another reason for the low SB total, and I'm just spitballin' here, could be that he played in a lineup that scored a league-leading 915 runs in 2009 and hit ahead of Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez the entire year. Why attempt to steal a base?

The guess here is he can make enough plays to make a difference in 2010. He appears headed to the Tigers, but the White Sox ought to stage an intervention.

What's "a difference?" This is what I hate most about writers like Phil. They throw out vague terms like that. Quantify it.

Imagine Damon in the Sox leadoff spot and Juan Pierre as the No. 2 hitter — or the other way around. Can a rotating DH including Mark Kotsay, Andruw Jones, Omar Vizquel and Jayson Nix outproduce Damon? And what would be the harm in having 23-year-old Jordan Danks spend time with Damon? They seem to be the same kind of player.

Danks throws like a girl as well?

Dye’s continuing unemployment relates to an unflattering statistical analysis of his outfield skills and his reluctance to accept a role as a DH or extra outfielder (the Cubs pursued him before turning to Xavier Nady).

Cripes! You just answered your own White Sox question! If he won't DH or be a fourth outfielder, then who are the Sox going to dump? Quentin, Rios or Pierre?

He’s not even coming up in rumors these days but could help several teams, especially the Reds (their top left field option is left-handed-hitting Chris Dickerson)...

And what's wrong with Chris Dickerson? He was repeatedly named the best athlete in the Reds' organization by Baseball America, walks like crazy (13% walk rate in the minors and majors), plays great defense, swipes bases at an efficient clip and has a little pop. He's nothing special but at $400,000 and Wladimir Balentin backing him up (also at $400,000), the duo could easily outperform Damon at 1/10th of the cost. CHONE has Dickerson at a 2.0 WAR for 2010 (exactly average - and "average" is a more rare thing than perceived) and Balentin at 2.4 WAR. Damon's at 3.2 WAR according to CHONE and is asking for $8M or a multi-year deal.

Fangraphs has one Win worth $3.65M for hitters in 2010. You do the math.

...and Giants (they have Mark DeRosa in left and Nate Schierholtz in right). He could help the Red Sox as a fourth outfielder and insurance policy behind David Ortiz [stats], but it’s not clear how interested GM Theo Epstein is.

So where does DeRosa go? They just signed him!

Branyan, like Damon, could improve the White Sox’s DH spot. He strikes out a ton but delivers long balls — 43 in 563 at-bats the last two seasons — and the Sox haven’t added power after sliding to sixth in the AL in homers. He could fit on almost any team in a bench role but fits best in the AL, where he would be an instant upgrade for the Indians, Athletics and Rangers.

One by one:

Sox - they have 12,000 guys already rotating through the DH slot right now and Ozzie doesn't want a DH-only guy. Konerko's at first. Didn't Phil hear? It's been in the papers. Like, recently.

Indians - Cleveland's rebuilding. Hafner's at DH and LaPorta will play first, a guy that would have been a #1 prospect in most systems (and was in the Brewers' system) if not for Carlos Santana.

Athletics - Barton starts at first with Jake Fox backing him up, both making $400,000 and both can only play first without crapping all over the field. Jack Cust is DHing, a guy who's hit 84 HRs and walking 309 times over the last three seasons. He re-signed for $2.65M.

Rangers - Chris Davis at first, also playing for $400,000. Vlad at DH. Bit more upside with Vlad, don't ya think?

There. See. If Branyan signs with someone, someone else loses at-bats. Who gets jettisoned?

Why would any of these options be a good one for Branyan? No at-bats to be had. And why would any of these teams sign him?

Phil seems to have this idea that Branyan can't field. He can, especially at first. Good enough anyway. How about a NL team? $20 bet he signs with the Marlins.

His .340 OBP over the last three years is serviceable. His .238 average is not given he's struck out at a 32% clip as well over that span. Basically, he's a much like walky Jack Cust with a bad back.

Branyan could be a good buy-low opportunity like last year, just not with ANY of the teams Phil mentioned.

Then there's Whispers - ear to the ground...or Google. Six of one...

It’s amazing the Yankees haven’t gotten more questions about Derek Jeter’s contract, which expires at the end of 2010. New York players and reporters trust general manager Brian Cashman, who has told everyone it will be dealt with after the season, as the Yankees handled the Alex Rodriguez situation two years ago. . . .

Before this, Phil included Jeter's name along with Pujols, Howard, etc. as guys that will be seeing huge extensions soon.

When the Yankees discuss an extension for Jeter after the 2010 season, he will be going into his age 37 year. Um, Jeter will not be getting a "huge extension" at 37. Sorry.

Second baseman Felipe Lopez might be as confused as any free agent. He hit .310 with 38 doubles for the Diamondbacks and Brewers last season and has gotten the cold shoulder. Are the Cubs better off with Jeff Baker, Mike Fontenot and Andres Blanco?

Lopez hasn't signed because, for the most part, GMs aren't stupid. Lopez was atrocious at the plate and in the field in the three years previous to 2009. It's called at contract year.

Another guy hit .317 in a 2008 contract year. His name was Aaron Miles.

. . . Diamondbacks third baseman Mark Reynolds is discussing a lucrative, long-term contract after shattering the single-season record with 223 strikeouts last season. Joe DiMaggio had 369 strikeouts in 13 seasons. .. . .

First, both sides are looking at only a two or three-year deal. Nothing huge.

Strikeouts are bad, according to Phil. Reynolds strikes out a lot.

Reynolds has struck out at a 37% clip over the last three years. But Russell Branyan is a desirable chip for oodles of teams according to Phil even though he strikes out at a 32% clip. In fact, Branyan struck out 149 times and didn't play after August 28.

3.9 WAR for Reynolds last year at age 27 with the deal being talked about to cover the rest of his arbitration years. No dollar numbers have been publicly bandied about but two and $16-18M or three and $22M would be a bad thing for that production?

Because he strikes out a lot?

January 17, 2010

Phil Watch: Dusty And Crede Updates

Why do I do this to myself?

Why spend this much time going line by line, countering the ramblings of a baseball columnist the likes of Phil?

The short answer is I don't know.

Today we get our first updates on Dusty Baker and Joe Crede with sprinkles of Scott Rolen for 2010.

If I were asked to name favorites from this weekend's offering, I don't think I could. It's just chockablock with Philisms and utter wrongness. Wrongness even when compared to what Phil wrote just a week ago.

Let's get started.

Cincinnati Reds make shrewd move signing Cuban pitcher

Aroldis Chapman could make them a contender under Dusty Baker

Some think the Reds just took the biggest risk in franchise history. I think they made the shrewdest acquisition of the offseason.

Um...every reaction I read kinda congratulated the Reds for landing Chapman with a few reservations about the reported overall size of the contract. Then people pretty much congratulated the Reds for the structure of the deal when the details came out:
Chapman gets $1.5 million of his signing bonus when his contract is approved by Major League Baseball, $1.5 million each Nov. 1 from 2010 to 2013 and $1.25 million each Nov. 1 from 2014 to 2020.

–Chapman gets annual salaries of $1 million this year and next, $2 million each in 2012 and 2013 and $3 million in 2014. Within five days of the 2014 World Series, he must decide whether to exercise a $5 million player option for 2015.
Flexibility abounds year to year with those annual commitments.

So...these "some people" Phil is talking about allude me.

Cuban lefty Aroldis Chapman, signed away from the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Angels and other suitors at a cost of $30 million, is a difference-maker, and there were darn few of those available on the free agent market.

Whoa! Let's cool our jets a bit here. He's 21 and hasn't pitched in the minors let alone the majors yet. Rave about his potential, sure. But let's keep it in the potential realm until he actually does something.

Give general manager Walt Jocketty and the team's owner, Bob Castellini, tremendous credit for investing so heavily in a guy who would have been ranked 1A to Stephen Strasburg if he had stood alongside North American talent in last year's draft.

Gonna need a source on this one.

One of baseball's most veteran scouts told me in March, immediately after the World Baseball Classic, that Chapman was the best pitching prospect he had seen. And Chapman had not been sharp for Cuba in Mexico City.

Well hell! If one scout says so! A ton of scouts, not just one, said Billy Beane was the next Mickey Mantle. Scouts are known to exaggerate.

Chapman has a triple-digit fastball, a power slider that whispers Steve Carlton and a verified passport that shows he turns 22 next month. He walked away from the Cuban team during a tournament in Europe over the summer.

And the body of a young Marlon Brando with the swagger to match!

Geesh. Clean up after yourself, Phil.

Jocketty has made a strong career out of finding bargains, first as an assistant to Sandy Alderson with the A's in the Bash Brothers era...

Bah! Recent events tell us much about the Bash Brothers era. Jus' sayin'.

...and then with the Cardinals...

Bah! Bah! Strike two!

...where his deals for Chris Carpenter and Jeff Suppan put a World Series ring on Albert Pujols' finger. He was able to do the Chapman deal because it required only $1 million in salary in 2010, the rest coming from a budget for amateur scouting and the payroll flexibility that will be created when Aaron Harang comes off the books in the fall.

I know! Jocketty compiled a spectacular team in 2006 that bulldozed their way through the NL Central with an 83-78 record. One team was above .500 outside of the Cardinals in the division that year with the Astros at 82-80. I tip my hat to the Cardinals for winning the World Series, but...it was a bit of a fluke.

Under Jocketty, the Reds already had made more progress than most realized. Their 27-13 mark after Aug. 22 was the best in the National League last season, and it was done while ace Edinson Volquez was out after Tommy John surgery.

I LOVE that he used the "after August 22" date because the Reds just lost two straight to the Pirates on August 21 and 22. And the fact that they lost three of four to the Nationals just a week before.

But let's look at the Reds opponents "after August 22".

40 Games (27-13 record):

Pirates - 11 games - 10-1 record
Astros - 6 games - 5-1 record
Rockies - 4 games - 0-4 record
Marlins - 4 games - 2-2 record
Brewers - 3 games - 3-0 record
Braves - 3 games - 3-0 record
Cubs - 3 games - 1-2 record
Dodgers - 3 games - 1-2 record
Cardinals - 3 games - 2-1 record

So...10-1 against the 99-loss Pirates. 5-1 against the terrible Astros. That's 15-2 against two unmitigated disasters of teams. Take that out and the Reds went 12-11 against the rest of the schedule. Oh, and the Padres were the second-best team in the NL during that team with a 23-14 record. The Padres were and are a bad baseball team.

In another context: 18-2 against teams that finished over .500 and 9-11 against teams over .500.

They're gonna be awesome!

Jocketty said in November he felt the Reds were "close" to being able to contend against the Cardinals and Cubs (and maybe the Brewers) in the NL Central. It's not far-fetched to think Dusty Baker will make that happen in 2010.

Just a few days ago, Phil declared the Cardinals the "Class of the Central" and have a "Huge Edge" after the Holliday signing. This was the now-famous Win Shares argument that has become legendary at the offices of Phil Watch. He lists the Cardinals with 230 Win Shares, the Brewers with 180 and the Cubs with a "meager" 166. The Reds are never mentioned.

The Reds are never mentioned because the Reds, using Phil's formula of combined WS for the eight starters in the field, four starting pitchers and the four best relievers are as follows.

Let me reiterate. This is Phil's system used to make the case only one week ago that the Cards are the class of the NL Central and uses only 2009 numbers to do so. I don't see why we can't:

Votto, Phillips, Janish, Rolen and Herandez - 24+19+4+5+11 = 63

Dickerson (the best in WS), Stubbs and Bruce = 7+9+5 = 21

Harang, Cueto, Arroyo and Bailey = 7+7+13+5 = 32

Cordero, Masset, Rhodes and Herrera = 13+10+7+5 = 35

Total = 151

I'd say that's more "meager" than the Cubs' 160. You?

Remember that the Cardinals were at 230 and the Brewers at 180.

So...in Phil's world, for 2010, the signing of a 21 year-old guy who hasn't thrown a single pitch yet on American soil, the only move the Reds made this off-season, will be worth at least 59 Win Shares, a number (210) that would put them exactly in the middle of the Cardinals and Brewers, thereby "contenders."

Albert Pujols led the majors last year with 39 Win Shares.

Zack Greinke had 26 Win Shares and Tim Lincecum had 22.

Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto were solid for 30-plus starts last season.

Arroyo had a 5.38 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP in his first 18 starts. Bad.

Cueto had a 6.72 ERA and a 1.62 WHIP in his last 17 starts. Real Bad.

But yes. "Solid."

Homer Bailey, who like Cueto is 23, stoked the imagination by going 6-1 with a 1.70 ERA in his last nine starts, a night-and-day reversal from previous form (6-12, 7.05 ERA in his first 28 starts).

4-0 with a 2.13 ERA against the Pirates in those nine starts. Bailey was good to finish the season. He seemed to figure something out. But I'm gonna need a little more before declaring Bailey even a league-average ML pitcher.

Before those last nine starts:

6-12 with a 7.07 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP in the majors
12-12 with a 3.85 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP in his last two seasons in the minors. Not exactly stellar.

With Chapman, Volquez and 2009 first-rounder Michael Leake, a huge winner at Arizona State, the Reds may have the best stable of young pitchers in the majors.

They certainly have pitching. At least in an ideal world. For 2010 - which is the premise of this column - they do not have a good collection of starting pitching. Chapman will probably not initially break with the club out of Spring Training. Volquez had TJS and isn't expected back until late summer. Cueto was fucking abysmal for the last four months of the season. Bronson Arroyo is Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang's time is over, my friend. We discussed Bailey.

The Reds were 11th in the NL in scoring last season but hope to improve with Scott Rolen at third base. Joey Votto and Jay Bruce should be hitting their big league strides and Chris Heisey, a high-energy player who could fill holes in left field and at the top of the order, could provide a huge lift. The bullpen is already the best in the Central.

Rolen? Oh, I forgot. Phil loves him sum Scott Rolen. He said in 2008 that the acquisition of Rolen by the Blue Jays made them a contender.

Heisey is a name to watch. But let's look over that offense. I count four players in Hanigan, Stubbs, Heisey and Janish that are poised (hey, I used a Phil term) to grab starting positions in 2010 that haven't even seen 350 major league at-bats in their careers.

Good. Luck. With. All. That!

This is a solid team, and Chapman proves its commitment to get better.

If you were going to make an argument that the Reds are going to contend in 2010, here's how you do it (and it has nothing to do with Dusty).

Check out the Reds' individual UZR/150s. Third in baseball behind the Mariners and Rays. That's just absolutely stellar. They catch the ball. Couple that with what should be a decent enough rotation and a good bullpen and the Reds will stop people from scoring runs at an above league-average rate.

It's too bad they'll score runs at a below league-average rate. That smells like a .500 team to me. Five games over with a little luck and a couple of breakout performances. Five to ten games under with a couple of injuries. In other words, exactly what they were last year.



Catch the ball, please: There's a lot of talk around Boston about the Red Sox's newfound emphasis on fielding, thanks in part to the increasing ability of senior adviser Bill James and others to quantify defensive performance.

Mike Lowell's lack of range and poor health has made third base a weakness since 2007, and there's no doubt Adrian Beltre will be a huge improvement. Beltre has averaged a plus-18.4 Ultimate Zone Rating the last two years, compared with Lowell's minus-14.4 last year.


(Three hours later) Eeeh, my head. What time is it? Seems like I've been unconscious for days.

The last thing I remember is reading Ultimate Zone Rating in a Phil Rogers column. What that real?

...Holy Crap! It was!

Well then. I'll ask. Why wasn't that mentioned in his "Reds Are A Contender Now" instead of chronicling the gross inexperience of the offense and the injured/previously bad/fluke year/hasn't pitched in America - ness of the rotation relating to 2010. Well...I did that while Phil said they will be good because they're young, full of energy and scrappy. That's really it.

I should point out, though, that Phil only almost got it right. UZR is context-neutral. It only shows what one player did over a season no matter how many innings he played at a particular position.

UZR/150 takes that number and extrapolates it out to a full-time season (150 games) at the position, making it able to compare between two or more players.

BUT...Lowell isn't a slouch at third. Last year, his defense was obviously affected by his glove thumb injury as he put up a 15.6 UZR/150 in 2008 and had numbers of 8 and 7.7 in the two years before that. Beltre's better, maybe historically better. He might be one of the top-three best third basemen to ever play the hot corner according to some.

The Red Sox also believe they will get a huge lift with Mike Cameron in center field and Jacoby Ellsbury in left. It's hard to believe given Ellsbury's athleticism, but the Red Sox ranked last in the majors in center field UZR last season. The Red Sox were 25th in left, where Jason Bay was the regular.

And Phil's Whispers. Ear to the ground and all that crap.

The Orioles are talking to Joe Crede -- a curious development given they already have two right-handed-hitting third basemen in Ty Wigginton and Garrett Atkins and a solid DH option in Luke Scott . They're trying to move their surplus for relief pitching. ...

Who does Phil think is playing first base?

Wigginton or Atkins will with the other playing third - both badly, BTW. Atkins has a career minus-5 UZR/150 at third while Wigginton has an abysmal minus-16.4 (Crede - career 10.4).

And both are iffy in every sense of the word, offensively. Crede could easily be plugged into the mix because of that. His back's made of glass but it could be a good fit on a part-time basis at a minimal commitment (Crap! That's two Philisms!).

The Phillies are taking former White Sox reliever Ehren Wassermann to camp. Brad Lidge's knee surgery could help him win a job out of spring training. ...

Ehren Wassermann update?

A Christo update along the same lines. Today, I had meatloaf for lunch. It was the first time in six months that I've eaten meatloaf.

Why do teams hate the arbitration process? The Diamondbacks' Conor Jackson is getting a raise after hitting .182 in 2009.

Jackson dealt with Valley Fever all year, making only 110 plate appearances.

In each of his three years before 2009, Jackson had an above - .800 OPS. In fact, in 2008, his Wins Above Replacement (3.4) was valued at $15.4 million, squeezed between Justin Morneau (3.5) and Ryan Howard (3.3) for the leaders among first basemen. He was paid $400,000.

He was given a $50,000 raise over 2009, from $3.05 million to $3.1 million, basically the absolute minimum raise a guy could get if he went to arbitration.

A player, if he goes to arbitration, can only see a decrease in salary worth 80% of his previous contract ($2.44 million). That's the floor.

The D'backs avoided going to arbitration because Jackson had a very good chance of seeing a bigger raise than he got, probably a ceiling of $3.8 million given it would have been his second arb year (he avoid arbitration last year as well and had a potential ceiling of $3.65 million then). His three-year comparables to the rest of the league were somewhat favorable to Jackson.

With this sentence, Phil believes that a player who unfortunately catches an infection that utterly saps your body of strength and hangs around for a prolonged period of time should see a dramatic decrease in salary no matter what he's done in the past when healthy. I'd hate to see how Phil would run a health insurance company (Christo gets political!)

That's the only conclusion I can come to given the raise was a measly $50,000 and the D'backs probably saved a few dollars by not going to arbitration.

That or Phil simply was being Phil and didn't do any research.

Probably a fusion of the two.

There are plenty of reasons to hate the arbitration process (i.e. - a player becomes bad instead of sick/injured).

Jackson is not one of them.