Friday, July 14, 2006

Move It
By Ben Valentine

As David mentioned earlier, it was quite an interesting day in the baseball world. As often happens during the all star break, some roster moves and trades came down. And like David said, when I learned of the Reds/Nationals eight player swap, I was speechless. That would have been a great haul for Alfonso Soriano or Nick Johnson. But for two middle relievers? Jim Bowden ripped someone off. Jesus, did I say that? Bowden… ripped… some… one… off… Speaking of Jesus, wasn’t he part of this trade going to Cincinnati? More on that later however, as we first begin in the Bronx.

It’s been known for about two weeks now that Shawn Chacon was a dead man walking. So when the move finally happened officially today, I was only going to be surprised if the Yankees managed to find someone worse than Chacon to pitch. I mean, was that even possible? Probably not, as he had a K/BB below one, (.97) and a GB/FB ratio of .71. Even if the Yankees had picked up Scott Elarton, it would have been a lateral move.

So does that mean picking up Sidney Ponson makes sense? I still say no. The Yankees are settling for a destitute man’s Chien Ming Wang. Ponson’s peripherals are terrible; a 4.33 K/9, 1.14 K/BB with his lone somewhat redeeming quality being a GB/FB of 1.95. Mind you, that last number is still a full point lower than Wang’s 3.24 mark. So if Wang’s 1.30 WHIP is barely saved by that outrageous ratio, which allows him to maintain a mediocre 4.00 ERA, what the heck will Ponson’s ERA be like? Also add in that he’s moving from the National League to the American League, where you get at least two less free outs per game and you just wonder how come the Yankees couldn’t find anyone better.

For example, Phillip Hughes.

He’s in AA, and at the age of 20, is still very young. But he’s got a 2.75 ERA, 9.50 K/9 and a 3.03 K/BB mark there. This after dominating high A in 30 innings, striking out an even batter per inning while walking just two. It would be rushing him, but the Yankees have never hesitated at doing that before. It’s also not as if the Yankees care about when his arbitration clock starts ticking with their bottomless funds.

Why not give him a call up and see what he can do? If he stinks, no harm done. You send him to AAA or back to AA. At his age, he’s got time. And I doubt it would hurt his trade value, if the Yankees are looking in that direction. On the other hand, his upside is high. What’s Ponson’s? He hasn’t been a decent major league pitcher since 2003, and remember, that was the only time in his career he’s been able to make that claim.

As I said with the Mets and Mike Pelfrey, starting pitching isn’t out there on the trade market and certainly is not on the waiver wire. If a team wants help, it has to come from within. The Yankees’ best chance to solve their rotation woes is to roll the dice with Phillip Hughes.

How many starts will Ponson have to get bombed before they figure that out?

Seeing Red

Now that I’m no longer speechless over this Reds trade, let’s break down G.M. Wayne Krivsky's masterpiece. To begin, we’ll look at Felipe Lopez stats from this year; .268/.355/.394./.749 Are those numbers impressive? Nope, not at all. But a look at his OBP suggests things were due for a turnaround. Last year, despite a .291 clip, Lopez’s OBP was just .352. That’s right, his on base is higher this year than last. So if he’s walking more, and he’s on pace to nearly double his base on balls total from last year, then it stands to reason eventually his average will rise. Look at Jose Reyes; when a guy is getting himself out less, common sense says he his average will either maintain or go up, because he has to be making better contact when he does swing. The power may never repeat from last year, but it was not unreasonable he could hit 20 homers again had he stayed in Cinci. He also has 23 steals this year in 29 chances, which is a nice 79 percent. At the age of 26, he should still be improving as well.

Now Austin Kearns. After being sent back and forth between AAA and the majors over the last couple of years, Kearns finally earned a place in the lineup. He had splits of .274/.351/.492/.843 this year, which is solid. Granted those numbers were at Great American Ballpark, but Kearns has an OPS of .857 on the road this year. Plus, while those numbers are solid but not spectacular for a corner outfielder, Kearns could play center. It’s likely free agent to be Ken Griffey Jr. will be gone next season, so Kearns would have been a nice replacement. Instead, he’ll be patrolling center for the Nats for the foreseeable future.

Ryan Wagner has fallen apart since the Reds attempted to make him their closer last year. He’s even been lit up at AAA to a tune of a 6.34 ERA in 38.1 innings pitched. He’s struck out 28, walked 14 and surrendered 55 Hits! Those numbers are not pretty, but it was just a year ago that people though Wagner would be a dominant closer in the league. Heading to pitcher friendly Washington, he might get a chance as a setup man sometime soon.

What did the Reds get back? Middle relief help. And their savior.

What you mean Gary Majewski is just a son of a man, not the son of man? You could have fooled me. Well he hasn’t fooled hitters all that well this year, with an okay 3.58 ERA but 1.34 WHIP in 55.1 innings. Majewski’s K/9 is just 5.35 and his K/BB is 1.36, which even for a reliever, isn’t anything to write home about. His saving grace is his 1.75 GB/FB ratio, and he’ll need every one of those ground outs if he’s going to survive in Great American Ballpark. I’m not so optimistic. Also throw in to the equation that Majewski has already thrown all those innings, (he threw 88.1 last year) and he could easily be shot by mid August. Nothing to love here except, I guess, that he’s just 26.

The other big part of this trade, 23 year old lefty reliever Bill Bray, looks like he has a future in the league. He’s got a K/9 this year of 6.26 and a K/BB of 1.78 so far in 23.0 innings this season. He’s also posted a 1.64 GB/FB mark, which is solid. Clearly he’s the best player the Reds are getting back in this deal, which is downright pathetic.

Speaking of pathetic, Royce Clayton and his .663 OPS are headed to the Reds. If they thought Lopez and his 749 mark was a disappointment, what do they expect from the 36 year old Clayton? The answer should not be much; Clayton’s best season in Texas in 1999, he posted an .791 OPS. That was the only time in his career he got the mark over .750!

Maybe 21 year old Daryl Thompson ends up being something down the road. However, I tend to doubt that. Brendan Harris is a backup middle infielder at best. I mean did Krivsky decide that with the Reds having played this well, he had a secure job and should throw Bowden, who's on thin ice, a bone? This is as close to a welfare check as you're going to see in terms of the personnel movement in Major League Baseball.

So, kudos to Jim Bowden, who for the first time in this space, will get props. It’s about time Bowden realized on base guys are the ones to fill out a lineup in that park and with Kearns and Lopez, both of whom had OBP 70 points higher than their average, the Nats have helped themselves out big time.

In fact, that lineup could be really something the rest of the way. Just think about it, Soriano, Kearns and Guillen in the outfield. Johnson, Vidro, Lopez and Zimmerman on the infield and Schneider behind the plate. If they ever managed to keep Soriano next season, they could be a playoff contender. That is, if they sort out their pitching. The primary reason I don’t give them much of a chance the rest of the way this year is because right now with John Patterson essentially shelved for who knows how long, they’ve got no reliable starter in that rotation. And don’t tell me about Livan Large. He has been awful.

One team got a lot better today; the Washington Nationals. And while they’re a division rival, I couldn’t be happier.

Finally, someone else makes a trade worthy of as much contempt as Kazmir/Zambrano.

4 Comments:

Blogger Joseph P. said...

Just a couple of Yanks-related comments.

There is zero chance the Yanks bring up Hughes this year. He has a history of injuries, and is on a strict pitch count this year (left a game a week ago after 4.2 innings of no-run, eight strikeout ball). They're being extra careful, and to call him up would be counterintuitive.

As far as Ponson...I'd MUCH (and I'd add more emphasis to that if I could) rather see Chacon try to work through his problems than see Ponson's fat ass on the mound. In fact, I think I'd rather see Hideo Nomo, but I might be entering the land of hyperbole with that one.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

No chance? I agree it might be a month or so before they call him up, but supposing they don't get desperate and deal him for Barry Zito, I think there's a decent shot he gets a chance before the end of the year. If Ponson does get bombed repeatedly, then he won't be lasting 4.2 innings. They'll probably Hughes can't do worse.

However, you are right. I actually believe the Yankees when they say they won't deal Hughes just because of how differently they've treated him than the Melky Cabreras and Eric Duncans of the world.

Chacon is awful. As I said, he and Scott Elarton are neck and neck for the worst pitcher in the AL this year. I was actually surprised by just how bad he's been. The Yankees made the right move in cutting him; they just made the wrong move in bringing in Ponson. They'd have been better off going with someone like Kris Wilson and seeing what he can do.

Or maybe they can steal Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo from the Reds for Colter Bean and Ron Villone.

11:12 PM  
Blogger Bryan Koch said...

Wang's "mediocre" ERA was significantly above average last year, and is again this year. I know you've got a vendetta against all players donning Yankee uniforms (sans Alex Rodriguez), but you need to accept that Wang is an above-average pitcher. His FIP is 14th-best among AL starters this season.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

Bryan-
I still refuse to buy into Wang. I think his ERA should be higher than it is, and I'll refer to the pitchers currently ahead of him in GB/FB ratio. First Wang's #s.

3.26 GB/FB, 4.00 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 3.00 K/9, 1.36 K/BB.

Brandon Webb: 3.80 GB/FB, 2.52 ERA, 1.11 WHIP 6.95 K/9, 4.91 K/BB- Webb's been one of the best pitchers in baseball this year, but that's because this year he's added control to go along with his sinker.

Derek Lowe: 3.60 GB/FB, 3.98 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 4.69/9, 1.65 K/BB- Despite pitching in the NL, and having better peripherals in every catagory than Wang, Lowe's ERA is 3.98, is just .02 points lower.

Aaron Cook- 3.41 GB/FB, 3.59 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 3.73 K/9, 1.77 K/BB- Cook's got a much better ERA, but he has better peripherals (K'ing almost a batter more per game)and pitches in the NL. It is impessive at Coors, but all the Rockies pitchers have done well this year, so it isn't quite the feat it normally is.

Jake Westbrook- 3.31 GB/FB, 4.19 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 4.81 K/9, 2.07 K/BB: Westbrook is better in every catagory, yet has a higher ERA.

Even for an extreme ground ball pitcher, Wang's lack of K's is pushing the limits of effectiveness. Notice, at best these guys are all average pitchers. And that's at best. Webb is an ace, but his K/9 and K/BB are lightyears better than any of these guys.

I probably short changed Wang when I called him a border line major leaguer. But right now he's a fourth/fifth guy. He could be a three, if he can improve those K's a little. But considering they're dropped this year that doesn't seem likely.

12:19 AM  

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