Watch out for the White Sox meteorite

The White Sox are really bad now. They aren’t just crashing back down to earth. They’re streaking through the atmosphere, the heat shield isn’t holding up, and it looks like the ‘chutes aren’t going to work either. They’re going to make a giant-sized crater in the ground. But again, we’re not just going to say things and not provide evidence to support our claims. As usual, we’re going to use numbers.

The White Sox are in a 2-way tie for the fewest wins in Major League Baseball. They’re 29-42.

That about says it all. Teams with better winning percentages than the White Sox include the Pirates, Orioles, Nationals, and Devil Rays. Teams with lower winning percentages consist of the Rangers, Royals, and Reds. In 2005 they won the World Series. In 2007 they’re hanging out with the cellar-dwelling Royals. And GM Ken Williams is saying things like, "Something’s got to happen. I’m tired of watching this."

As a result, White Sox management has begun to make some rather peculiar choices regarding player personnel. Especially when it comes to Mark Buehrle. By all accounts, he’s a good guy, a clubhouse guy. Fan favorite. He did finish last year with an ERA circa 5. My opinion is that his arm is tired, as Buehrle has pitched more than 220 innings a year since 2001. He’s probably lost some life on his moving fastball. He’s a free agent after this year, but he was on record last year as saying he wanted to stay in Chicago. Sort of, we think. No one really knows what was being said. In any case, he is apparently trade bait. Why would you trade away a guy who you can really build something around? You know they’re not going to get anything in return. But they’re betting that they’ll get more prospects that, five years down the line, will be worth more than Buehrle to them. I think they’re underestimating Buehrle’s staying power in this league, and that he will remain a great pitcher for another 10 years. The trick is signing the guy, and that’s where they might be better off trading him away. Otherwise, they get nothing for him.

This string of loses was kind of predictable. Last year, Carl Everett accused GM Ken Williams of breaking up the team chemistry after he was traded away post-championship. Now, I’m certain that Carl didn’t factor into the teams’ chemistry as positively as he thinks. In fact, he thought the White Sox lacked leadership with him gone. Which is an interesting observation, as Carl Everett is currently a DH for the Free Agent squad, so he is now leading nobody. Everett also believes that we should implode Wrigley Field, and that even if we put every American child on ‘roids, we would still lose more kids in war then to steroids. I’m not sure whether to call that Malthusian wisdom or just idiocy.

But Everett does have a point. A lot of important guys were shipped off, and nothing was really gained in return. Aaron Rowand was shipped off for Thome, who, as predicted, has been like a walking test ground for physical therapist students. And the Sox get Luis Terrero patrolling Center. McCarthy is gone, as is Cotts, as is Garcia, as is Frank Thomas. And not one single decent player has been acquired in any of these deals outside Thome. So you took a championship team, and in order to improve it, you traded away two starters, a reliever, a stand up centerfielder, a loud-mouthed DH, and an aging and oft-injured slugger for an aging and oft-injured slugger*. Probably not the best example of "if its not broke, don’t fix it."

* – Jim Thome and Frank Thomas are also considered ‘similar batters’ according to baseball-reference.com, not just me.

Milton Bradley – Looking for Work

A_bradley_viKansas City, as we know, is not the epicenter of baseball activity. Let’s cut out the superlatives, they’re just really awful.

So, say you’re the general manager of the disaster that is the Royals organization. You’ve got no talent, you’ve got no money, and you’ve got no fans. Then, some guy offers you a veteran outfielder with a career average of .270 for the ridiculously low price of Leo Nunez, him of the 6.99 ERA and 67 career MLB innings. You’re going to want to take that deal no matter what, right? I mean, you can’t even rip someone off like that in fantasy baseball.

And this is exactly what happened when the A’s tried to ship off the ticking firebomb that is Milton Bradley to the Royals. Milton was perfect for this deal. He’s just the fire that KC needs. And we’ll get to that in second. The point is, Kansas City canceled the trade when they discovered Bradley had suffered an oblique injury. This is just nonsense. I don’t care if Milton comes to you with a fractured leg and he’s bleeding from his ears. You take the guy! He’s talent! He’s got to be better than 7 of the guys you’re starting now, easy. And what is your argument for this? That you need a player now, so you’re holding on to Nunez? Nunez isn’t even in the majors. He hasn’t pitched in MLB all year. So even if you have to wait 6 weeks on Bradley, which is generous, he’s still going to give you more than Nunez.

And now Milton is out of luck. No one else is going to take him because he’s about as volatile as jet fuel over an open flame. Only the Royals need talent that bad, and Kansas City is about as small a market you can get, where you can just reasonably hope that when he screws up, no one will notice care. So this was a great deal. But hey, Milton is a full 29 years old, and you never know when he might be a worse bet in the outfield then Emil Brown or David DeJesus. Or any of the 9 guys on your DL. Mark Teahen (RF) can actually hit, but you can always send him back to 3B and kick out Alex Gordon. But now, for fun, let’s explore the dangerous world of Milton Bradley:

  • April 2004: Indians trade Milton Bradley to make room for Coco Crisp.
  • June 2004: Ejected by Terry Craft, Bradley leaves his equipment in the box and returns to chuck a bag of balls on the field. Suspended 4 games.
  • September 2004: Fan throws plastic bottle on field. Bradley responds by throwing plastic bottle violently at man nowhere near original launch site. Suspended 5 games.
  • November 2004: Police pull over Bradley’s "friend." Bradley stops alongside his friend on the highway, and approaches police yelling, "why did you stop my friend." Officer: "Return to your vehicle." Milton: [Hands behind back] "Arrest me." Officer: "Alright, let’s go to jail." Served 3 days in the slammer.
  • August 2005: Calls Jeff Kent a racist.

So, yeah. There’s really no telling when Milton is going to strike next. Or where, for that matter. And the Royals canceled on their chance to get a hold of this gem of a guy? Why?

You know, you guys should go visit Ballhype

Fine folks over at Ballhype, really. And I’ll tell you why. Not only have they developed this way for everyone to get advertising for free, but now I can bet on sports games at the same time, but with not real money. Let me explain how it works. It’s a points system. You simply select the winner of the game, and then if your pick loses, you lose 1 point. All those points are then added together, one point is added, and the result is distributed to those who picked the winning team. Nine people pick the Braves to win. Five pick the Tigers. The Tigers win. So everyone who picked the Tigers gets 2 points. Most points at the end of the week wins a t-shirt and feature spot.

Maybe this is just the kind of thing Pete Rose needs, since he clearly cannot help himself.

Rick Ankiel is still hitting the ball

Remember when Rick Ankiel broke down and admitted that he didn’t have pitcher stuff? Instead, he had outfield stuff, and he was going to do that instead. It must be nice to have so much talent that you can switch positions.

We checked back with him last year, and he was doing pretty well for himself. And now, the guy who struck out 19.7 batters/9IP in his senior year of High School is looking like he is a right fielder for good. On June 16th, he had 3 homers in one game. He now has 19 on the year, along with 52 RBI. (I began writing this piece on June 20th. Since then, Ankiel has gone 0-13.) Not bad, Rick. And he turns 28 in a month. How insane would it be if, having led the Cardinals to the NL Central title in 2000, he comes back in 2007 to replace the old and decrepit Jim Edmonds? As I mentioned before, I like Jim, but it might be time for him to launch a preemptive strike of the "you can’t fire me, I quit" variety. The Cardinals probably have the most lopsided drama-to-wins ratio of any team besides the Astros. And maybe the Orioles. Anyway. Rick’s problem is that he can only play right field, apparently. This is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Sure, the ball comes off the bat differently to left or right. But have you ever looked in a mirror? It’s the same effect. They’re basically the same position. Center, you can’t learn – you just have to be an athletic guy. But left and right are dopplegangers. It takes time to adjust, but the Cardinals have the entire 2007 season to play with. This whole year is already one big training exercise, except all the ‘trainees’ are really old. I submit that Juan Encarnacion’s "success" in right shouldn’t keep Ankiel out of the bigs, as La Russa says. The only real problem is that he has no options remaining. And the Cardinals can’t afford to give up any more outfielders for no reason. So they want him to develop, and they don’t think he can get good playing time in the Majors yet. So he’s still down in the minors.

In fairness to the Cards, this is probably the right decision. Ankiel is only batting .270 in the AAA PCL league. So he isn’t setting the world on fire, by any means. So one argument is to give the guy some limited MLB experience while the stakes are low, and risk losing him to another team if he has to get sent down again. Or you leave him in the minors to develop at a 4AB a day pace. Basically a wash.

Also, thanks go out to geoff for the comment the other day. I forgot about that, because I forgot that you guys posted comments. Because you stopped posting comments. Anyway, it looks like we have found a new home at http://ballhouse.blogspot.com. Nothing concrete yet. Right now, we’re calling ourselves the Ballhouse. Not sure I like that name, in fact I’m pretty sure I don’t. Best suggestion for a new name gets a prize. Send it to me at reidksmith at hotmail. Include your business in the subject line, or I might delete it along with the payment due notices from Discover.

Statistical proof that Andruw Jones has stopped hitting

Mendozajones_1 A while back, we made note of Andruw Jones’ decreasing effectiveness at the plate after he struck out 5 times against the Red Sox. Well, at that point, Andruw’s average was a comparatively stellar .212. He is now batting .199. Now, I know we have all moved on from using batting average as the sole statistical judge of a player’s ability, but in this case it’s really all we need. He isn’t hitting the ball, he isn’t getting on base, and when he does make contact, it’s not very good – his slugging percentage is .383. To show just how bad this is, consider this. Since his last multi-hit game on June 9th – just his tenth this whole year, all but one of which have been 2-hitters – Jones has gone a depressing 2-39. So that’s a .051 average. However, his season average has dropped only 26 points, from .225 to .199. And, as I will always point out, A. Jones has not exactly dropped in
the batting order. Inexcusably, he has been batting 4th or 5th in
almost every game. Cox dropped him to sixth on the
18th and 19th, only to
throw him back in the 4-hole on the 22nd. Is it
that he just can’t help himself? Is Cox going senile? It’s one thing to stick with
your player when he slumps, but this guy has no business within sight
of the 5-hole, as we will demonstrate.

 

Take a larger sample size; consider the entire month of June. Jones has exactly 10 hits in 79 AB’s, for a .127 average. I’m sure many of you are thinking, ‘but the walks count too – he’s getting on base.’ Ok. Fine. He has just four walks. Lets give him four more singles in four more at bats. He is now batting .169. He has not reached base on error or a fielders’ choice once, and therefore his OBP is also .169. Meanwhile, he has 18 strikeouts. In other words, his strikeout average for June is .217. Jones is more likely to strike out than he is to reach base by any means. Let’s go further. He has 3 homers, and has scored 5 runs and has 6 RBI. He has 21 total bases. So his basic runs created (TB x OBP), is at 3.549, for you sabermetricians out there. 20 games in June; that gives him .177 runs created per game. Fellow outfielder Jeff Francoeur, who is also struggling – a .262 OBP through June – has 6.288 runs created this month in just one more AB. Catcher Brian McCann, playing hurt (.238 OBP) and with just 3/4 as many AB’s, has produced 4.522 runs. Therefore, even by his struggling teammates’ standards, Andruw Jones is a curse at the dish this month. Edgar Renteria, who is not struggling, and making $4 million less, has created 15.17 runs.

So now we know – not only is Andruw struggling at the plate, but he is hurting his team as well. We’re not just blindly throwing his average out there and saying he’s a crummy player. The truth is, the guy is really hurting the team. And he either doesn’t realize it, or he doesn’t care. I don’t think he’s pouring over his splits with a calculator, but he has to have some self-awareness. But Jones just brushes aside these criticisms. "I’ve never been an average hitter. Average isn’t a big deal to me." Alright. But is scoring a big deal to you? Is getting "market value" next year a big deal to you? "I just go out and play the game. Everybody struggles. I’m just getting pitched good." Andruw, you’re not just getting pitched good. I don’t think we should be looking for a tell in Jones’ stance anytime soon. You’ve been in the bigs for 11 years. People aren’t just now figuring you out. But let’s be real. You can’t take anything this guy says to mean anything. He knows he’s hitting .199. He doesn’t need guys from the papers asking him why. He doesn’t know why, and they know it. So he gives them something to print, they print it, etc.

And another interesting note. Chipper Jones is playing hurt. And he’s peeved. He’s the short story.

Reporter: Chipper, do you feel you are rushing to return from your most recent injury, which was to your… groin?
Chipper: "Probably. But I feel backed into a corner. Let’s just say there are people who don’t believe me. Let’s just say that and leave it at that."

You know what? I understand that these guys have to be in peak shape to go to work every day. I get that if they aren’t at least 90%, they’re not effective at work. But can you imagine this conversation happening?

Reporter: Weekend Athlete, do you feel you are rushing to return from your most recent injury?
WA: You know, I didn’t want to come out today. But the boys said I had to. I told them I was hurt, they didn’t believe me.

Most of us get paid to do things with our heads, not our bodies. If your brain is at 90%, do you call in sick? No. So Chipper, maybe you don’t want to play. Maybe you feel hurt. But you’re getting paid to play baseball. So when Bobby Cox tells you to play baseball, you play. Once you take that paycheck, it’s up to Bobby. If you’re really hurt, he won’t play you. If he decides that he wants you to play, he know that he’s risking a re-injury. He’s judged that risk to be less substantial than the risk of playing without you. So go out there and do your job.

"Andruw Jones tells us about the bad days" – May 21, 2007.

Sorry about the downtime. I lost a friend of mine this week in a skateboarding accident. Parents, kids, please – wear your helmets. Just because it hasn’t happened to anyone you know doesn’t mean it can’t.

A.J. Burnett will beat you in a foot race

A little while back, we wrote A.J. Burnett a letter of apology. Basically for calling him a waste of $55 million. In the letter was a well-hidden clause, stating that "a reversion back to your early-season form will result in immediate rescindment of this letter." A.J. left his very next start with a sore shoulder. And now he’s on the DL. In all fairness to A.J., this DL stint might not be 100% his fault. Itmight be the guy that threw him out for 118, 103, 103, 125, 117, and
130 pitches in his previous 6 starts. Way to go, Gibbons. But the dude is still looking to compete, and we can’t knock him for that. First place finish too, clearly.

More Steve Phillips fun with numbers

It’s no secret that, even as far as baseball analysts are concerned, Steve Phillips is not the brightest of the bunch. I’m not exactly sure how he ended up with ESPN. He served as the Met’s GM from 1997 to 2003. He is ‘credited’ with bringing in David Wright and Jose Reyes. But it’s not like he went out and scouted the guys. After he was fired in 2003, it doesn’t seem like he was gainfully employed until ESPN came knocking. And yes, I’m going to assume that ESPN came to Phillips and offered him a job before the 2005 season, not the other way around. What do you think Phillips’ response was to that inquiry? "Why in the world do they want me working for them?" Back to the issue. We know have something to add to Phillips’ crazy predictions:

  • 2006: Jose Reyes will have a coming out year, hitting 30 triples, and steal 35 bases.
  • 2006: Corey Patterson will hit 40 HR and get 140 RBIs. From the leadoff spot.
  • June 19th, 2007: Alex Rodriguez will have the greatest season of any Yankee right-hander, and will negotiate a new 10-year contract for about $35 million a year.

Alright… where to start… so Reyes would be fast enough to bust Chief Wilson’s 1912 record of 28 triples, but not fast enough to get anything more than a mediocre number of steals. Actually, Reyes had 17 triples and 60 steals. Both league-leading numbers. And Corey Patterson got sent to AAA-ball. Whoops.

But this morning was something totally different. It’s interesting that Phillips’ actually tried to stay within his field of ‘expertise’ with this Alex prediction. But Alex is about to turn 32 in July. What kind of idiot is going to give this guy $35 million to play as a 42-year old? Ignore, for a second, the fact that a 10-year contract to anyone over 30 is a bad decision. You’re going to take the most well-paid athlete in the world and give him a 40% raise, just as he reaches his pinnacle of performance? The fact is, no team is going to give Alex that kind of money, except, maybe, the Yankees. This is how that negotiation will go.

Scott Boras: Alex wants $35 million a year. 10 years. He’s that good.
Cashman: Um, no. We’ll give him $20 million. 4 years. Club option for x.
Boras: That’s not good enough. He deserves more.
Cashman: Dude, only one other guy in MLB is making more than $20 million a year.
Boras: I have no leverage. No other team can afford to give me more than $15 million a year.

Stop it, Steve. Do you even listen to yourself?

"Are Steve Phillips and John Kruk stupid?" – April 11th, 2006