Monday, March 20, 2006

End Of Day Thoughts/Rob Deer Pun Ahead

This has been the second biggest day in the history of my blog, after Johnny Damon day. Thanks. It's been very interesting to see people's differing opinions. Some love the trade, while I'm sitting here still thinking it really might be a practical joke. I know that projections have become a huge part of baseball stats, but, as someone who has yet to subscribe them at all, I just can't see why this trade was made.

How can we assume David Ortiz is going to teach this guy how to stop striking out? I'd love if Papi came right out and said "I'm supposed to do what now?" How do we know how he's going to do in pressure situations? How do we know how a dude who strikes out a lot is going to handle the fans of Boston? How do we know he's not going to get pissed when Tito uses someone else as a pinch hitter over him? The day projection stats start telling us this stuff in advance (as well as freak accidents, natural disasters, unforeseen illness) is the day it stops being fun for me. The players might as well just play out the games in video game-form at that point.

What we know about Bronson: Not a superstar, but a good pitcher, who can throw a lot of innings, will do what you ask him to, and loves to play here. Has pitched in the postseason, has become comfortable playing in front of the Boston fans and dealing with the media and with the biggest rivalry in sports. Is a great clubhouse guy, and great with the fans. Still has the potential to be a great pitcher. We have a lot of starters, yes. But with injuries, we may need another. Also, if Bronson had given us some more quality spring training starts, and some nice long-relief efforts, he could have been in the rotation.

What we know about Pena: Potential to be a star player. But, a lot of people have that. The guy played in 110 games two years ago. He hit .259 and struck out 108 times. The next year, in eleven less games, his average dropped five points and he struck out eight more times. Also, his OBP went from .316 to .304. This is all in the National League, mind you. I'm still confused as to why he still hasn't put up good numbers, with all this potential. I've got a little projection system of my own, and they say this dude started at shitty and is gettting shittier. Projection: Will get even shittier. I wouldn't judge him on major league numbers if he didn't truly have a chance yet. But he's got a lot of major league time under his belt. He does have good slugging numbers, I will give him that. But I don't think it's worth all the outs, many of which will come in key spots, and not many of which will advance a runner, unless it's on a sacrifice fly. And he's not very good in the field or on the basepaths, so I've heard, although he can play multiple outfield positions. (But so can Gabe Kapler, who hits 23 points higher.)

As I've said, I can see both parts of this trade being made, just not together. If we'd traded, say, another backup position player for Wily Mo, it would have made more sense to me. And if we'd traded the experienced Bronson for a few more pitching prospects, or a proven major leaguer, that also would have made more sense to me. The fact that we also sent cash to the Reds just makes me feel like somebody's got a Paul Epstein sex tape in their possession.

The weird thing is, Wily Mo is the player Theo taught me not to like. If I were ten years old, I'd be loving this trade. "A big dude who can hit bombs over the monster, sweet! I don't care if he only gets four hits all year, as long as they all go really far!" Then Theo came along and taught me the ways of pitching and defense. (But not stolen bases! That's National League and '98 yankees crap.) Now, all of a sudden, Theo's trying to tell me that young power hitters who K a lot will eventually stop striking out as much. I don't know about that, I think he's just making that crap up. Even if it's true, why is this guy different? This guy could cut down on strikeouts by a fourth and that would still be too much anyway.

I really hope I'm proven wrong. I hope Wily Mo turns out to be this great guy who suddenly develops into what everyone says he will. But I kinda think we got Rob'D 'eer.

Well, I guess I'd say that you've given up an okay long reliever for an absolutely fantastic platoon partner (Trot and Wily...better together than apart), as far as this year goes. If he can get better (and I'm guessing Theo knows more about this kinda stuff than I do with those PECOTA thingies saying Pena's ready for .280 in 300 AB's--though like you I've no knowledge of how reliable said thingies are), IF he can do that, that's a starter for a few years. If he can even hit .275 in the next year or two and hit 40 big ones...well, you know, a lot of guys would kill for that line.

Bronson was cheap and reliable, but I think we've got at least a couple of minor leaguers who could take his place tomorrow. I don't think we have anyone who could so effectively (for average--.300+ and .290+ against lefties the past couple years) and powerfully (homers, homers, homers) platoon with the Trotman.
You're overstating the negative value of a strikeout. It's no different than any other kind of out. Take Adam Dunn- one of the better hitters in baseball- leads the league in Ks every year.

He needs to cut down on his outs, period, no matter how they are. If he has a SLG over 500, and an OBP over 330 this year, he can K out every out he makes for all I care. Wouldn't make a difference.
good point about him being the kind of player a 10 year old would like.

i dont know why we would give up a decent pitcher when we always seem to need pitchers for a middle of the road outfielder when it seems like middle of the road outfielders are a dime a dozen.
You could never get me to agree to that. So many more good things can happen when you make contact than when you don't. You'd rather have him K with a guy on third and less than two outs? I'd take my chances with a deep fly ball. Same thing with advancing runners. This is a key reason why the yanks haven't been able to win it all in the last few years: a bunch of long ball hitters swinging for the fences instead of Brosius-ing and Knoblauch-ing a runner from first to second.

I know we didn't get the guy to move runners over. But if the situation calls for it, these guys should learn how to do it.
I was referring to BSM's comment, not gagknee's.

I agree with gagknee.
Also, the last thing I meant to imply is that those who agree with the deal have the knowledge of a ten year old. I just meant I grew up rooting for homerun hitters...
Well, there have been studies on this. As an out, Ks and contact outs are really a wash by way of their relative run prevention. Contact outs CAN move runners, but they can also, often, lead to double plays. Ks never lead to double plays- but never advance the runners.

In fact, the all the studies I've read indicate the value of a K out is marginally better for a team's chances on the whole than a contact out.

But either way- they're essentially a wash. Which was why, for instance, Mark Bellhorn's K-out propensity was a great way for him to be undervalued at the time.

Manny is routinely among league leaders in Ks. They're not, at this level, a harbinger of bad things, necessarily.
I love this back and forth. Good for you Jere. But I do not agree with you on this one, and yes, time will tell us who was wrong or who was right. And when did Big Papi become our hitting instructer? Papa John, patience, and this kid (he's only 24) could become what Ortiz has become. After all, the Twins gave up on him, and look what happened. I think the platoon with Trot will work well for both palyers. Trot looks bad against lefties, and cannot play 130 games any more. So come All Star break, we'll take this up again. Until then, there's so much to look forward too, here, and at Fenway.
I'd be interested in seeing those studies. Link 'em if ya got 'em.

Even if you hit a double play ball, they still have to turn it.

Granted, you could strike out and get to first, too. But never in a DP situation. Wow, I just really confused myself., if it's DP situation, it's better to hit the ball, I think. Because then there's a good chance that either nothing bad happens, or one out happens, like on a K. But with a K, it's a guaranteed out, but with almost no chance of two outs. Maybe the study could help me with this.

Are we talking K's per AB or K's per out? Because I think I'm talking about K's per AB. This is really confusing.
Once again, I was talking to BSM there, hadn't seen Peter's comment when I wrote that one.

So, Peter, there just seems to be this idea that because he'll be hanging out with fellow-Dominican Ortiz, he'll learn how to be more disciplined at the plate.
I kind of disagree with BSM on this one in that Bellhorn or Dunn aren't exactly fair comparisons. A large number of Bellhorn and Dunn's K's come from extreme pitch selectivity. Both draw large number of walks to go with their K's, and they both have the ability to make contact when they need to. Even the Deer comparison is unfair because Deer drew a lot of walks too.

From just looking at the numbers, I don't see that with Pena. However, PECOTA says his comparables are Jesse Barfield, Willie Stargell, Pete Incaviglia, and Frank Howard. Most players don't get those types of comps. If Pena turns out anything like Stargell, Howard, or Barfield, this is an absolutely gigantic win. If he turns out like Incaviglia, it's probably a push if DiNardo can fill Arroyo's role successfully.

Right handed power is so rare these days that I don't see how this trade is bad. I like the fact we didn't get boxed into a corner with an injury to Crisp/Nixon/Ramirez before we went out and did this - the Sox dealt from strength on this one.
Well why not Seanez then? Need more? Wells? Need more? Graffanino. Is that enough for a platooning .248 hitter? Do you guys need some extra cash? How about a cadillac? I can getcha cadillac with a pink slip. I can get crystal meth.

It's not the players, Peter, it's the trade.

(Not, you, Peter*, that was a Ghostbusters reference).
Jelly's got it- the K rate in a vacuum isn't what you worry about- you worry about the BB rate. My point being that if you can improve the BB rate, the K rate is irrelevant. An out is an out.

Between his ceiling for improvement and DiNardo's ability to better even Arroyo in the future, this looks like a steal today, though anything can happen.
Nice pun, too, btw.
I knew the quote Jere.....Ghostbusters is an all-time fave an an annual watch on DVD.
BSM continues to make most of the points for me, but just wanted to respond on two things:

Bronson Arroyo just turned 29 years old. At this point, there's really no chance that he'll ever be a great pitcher as you claim. He's league average at best, and I would be very concerned about him declining some based on last season. I wish the best for him, but frankly I can see him really getting knocked around in that ballpark in Cincy...I watched Eric Milton implode there, and it wasn't pretty.

I also don't get the obsession with Pena's batting average. It has to come up, of course, but what's vastly more important is that his walk rates, and therefore his on-base percentage, improve. It's very encouraging that he seems to understand this and seems willing to work hard to improve. If you go to baseball-reference, you can see the list of most comparable players through age 23 including the following:
Jesse Barfield (976)
Rocky Colavito (955)
Pete Incaviglia (949)
Bobby Bonds (947)
Dave Kingman (946)
Willie Montanez (946)
Billy Conigliaro (944)
Willie Horton (943)
Harmon Killebrew (941) *
Roger Maris (939)

I guess you could say that Incaviglia was the Italian Rob Deer, but frankly I'd be thrilled if Pena progresses like Colavito, Bonds, Horton, Killebrew, or Maris. Especially Killebrew or Bonds. There's risk here, but there's also very tremendous upside.
Thanks. BS--that's still banking on two things to work out, with DiNardo and Pena. I do think Lenny's gonna be great, and I do realize Wily has potential.

And I still say there are good outs and bad outs. For all the other reasons I said (almost nothing good can come from a K, but lots of good can come from hitting the ball in play, even if an out is recorded) plus the fact that it's gotta be tougher on a player who keeps striking out than one who makes consistent contact but still makes outs. And it's also more frustrating for everybody to see a guy strike out a lot. Not that that's part of my argument, but, I'm just saying, fans will notice a glut of Ks more than they will a guy with a so-so average who makes contact, which leads to booing, which leads to more frustration, etc. So I guess it is part of my argument.

Are you implying, sir, that there is no such thing as a productive out?
Again, was takling to BSM before AJM's comment came up.

What I doon't get is how you are saying the OBP is more important, but then I look at that, and his numbers are shitty there, too. His OBP is almost in the 200s. I did see that list, and I even clicked on Killebrew to see how they could possibly compare the two. And Killebrew's average was higher in his first few years.
AJM, you said, about Bronson: "there's really no chance that he'll ever be a great pitcher"

and about Pena's average: "It has to come up, of course"

I don't know how you can say these things without a flux capacitor and 1.21 gigawatts.
I'm not arguing that Pena's current OBP is adequate; he clearly needs to improve there significantly. Rather, I'm jsut saying that I'm much more interesting in seeing progress there than in his BA, even though both should come up.

And if you go to this link:

You can see that Killebrew hit .238 from the start of his career through age 23, compared to Pena at .248 (albeit with an OBP 30 points higher). I wouldn't expect Pena to have Killebrew's career, but that does represent his upside potential.
I don't know how you can say these things without a flux capacitor and 1.21 gigawatts.

Well, regarding Arroyo, I shouldn't say there's "no chance" that he'll become a great pitcher, but at age 29, given his track record and his stuff, I would say that there is an extremely small probability that he'll ever become a great pitcher...if forced to guess, I'd certainly put the probability at under 5%. Take a look at what baseball-reference says are his best comps through age 28:
Mike Harkey (978)
Kevin Foster (975)
Chris Codiroli (974)
Rodrigo Lopez (974)
Sean Bergman (972)
Art Ditmar (970)
Ted Lilly (969)
Brett Tomko (968)
Chad Ogea (967)
Scott Sanders (967)

And I think you misread me on Pena's average...I wasn't guaranteing that he will improve, just saying that he will have to improve in order to have a successful career.
I looked at Killebrew's first five years and saw that he never played more than 44 games in any one year. I threw those out, and I throw out Pena's stats from before '04. I count Pena's stats from the last two years because he played about 100 games each year.

In Killebrew's first 6 full seasons, he hit about .260, 40 + homers, and a much better OBP. Pena's had two near-full seasons and is well below that level. No matter how you look at it, Killebrew became Killebrew, and we don't know what Pena's going to be.
Pena's OBPs are poor, but you're ignoring his bizarre learning curve, and the likelihood that a 24 year old will improve on that. In the meantime, he has tremendous power.

There are good outs and bad outs- ie, there are good Ks and bad Ks, and good contact outs and bad contact outs. They're all a wash. A strikeout is absolutely not more damaging than a contact out, on the whole.

Fans will definitely be more frustrated by Ks- as I learned with Bellhorn in 2004. But that doesn't mean they're worse hitters. We need to worry about Pena's BB rates- he's going to strike out, and he's going to do it a lot. That's just one of the facets of his game.

OBP is the most important offensive stat, followed by SLG. He has the SLG in spades- due to inconsistent playing time and not enough time in the mL, he's had very little ability to work on pitch selection, discipline, etc. If he can improve it even into the 330 range- not out of the question, especially considering his comps- he'll be a star, period.

On his way to doing that, he'll provide us a lefty killer this year. Perfect fit.

Again, on BA- Mike Schmidt never had high BA, neither did Killebrew and a number of other great hitters. A player's BA is a stat that's fun to look at, but is pretty far down the depth chart when it comes to determining value.

Killebrew and Schmidt are stratospheres better than what Pena is, and are way, way better than what he'll likely become, but they are instructive that BAs don't tell nearly the whole story.

I think the comp that hits me most is the Frank Howard one. Lots of power, low BAs, but eventually, decent OBP. If Pena can mature to that level, it will be an all-time trade, isntead of just a really good one.
I hope you're right. But it would still be crappy if he gets to, say, 75 per cent of his potential, is getting key hits, but we're still losing due to not getting good pitching in equally key spots. And then looking over and seeing that Bronson is having even a slightly above average year.

And about the who affinity to Bronson thing, well, as we all know, there's nothing wrong being the type of fan that strictly says "I'd rather have this guy because I like him more." In this case, there is some of that, but I think the trade is close enough to going either way (hey, the Reds made the trade, didn't they?) so that arguing for the guy who helped us to a World Championship doesn't make me crazy. Not that anyone said that about me.

I realize we can't reverse the past, and I will be rooting for Wily Mo as hard as I rooted for Bronson. I just wish right now that the two players had nothing to do with each other.
I think Bronson will have a better year for the Reds than he would with the Red Sox. I'm not sure his performance in the NL really translates equally over to how he'd be doing in the AL East.

PS The flowers are still standing.
Nice shootin, Tex.

I think he would have had a good year with us, too.

But Wily Mo, he hit .248 in the NL with one billion strikeouts, so he'll do GREAT here.
As with the other thread, I'm pretty much just nodding along with BSM here... with one exception. Patience, which Pena needs, has been shown to be extremely difficult to teach. You learn it really young - like low-minors young - or you don't learn it. Pena hasn't learned it, and I'm not at all convinced he can now. To be a great hitter, like a lot of people are projecting him to become, he'd need to either improve the patience or improve his resluts vs. righties. The chances of either of those things happening to the degree they'd need to to make him OMG WILY MO are pretty slim. Even at his current value, he's probably marginally better than Arroyo; still, I have to temper my enthusiasm about him in terms of future development.

And, 24 is young, but it's not THAT young, comparatively.
Oh, and since we're doing this:

NO-body steps on a church in my town!
Oh, and Jere - in general, a switch to the NL theoretically has virtually no effect on a hitter, just a pitcher. Pitchers numbers look better almost exclusively because of facing the pitcher 1/9ths of the time, so there's no correlary drop in hitting numbers.

In other words, .248 with one billion strikeouts in the NL is likely to be .248 with one billion strikeouts in the AL (without considering park factors or specific divisions, etc.)
with one exception. Patience, which Pena needs, has been shown to be extremely difficult to teach. You learn it really young - like low-minors young - or you don't learn it. Pena hasn't learned it, and I'm not at all convinced he can now.

This is true, and in no way do I think Pena will ever be considered anything like a "patient hitter." However, his limited mLs show at least a passable ability to get on base, which will raise his OBPs to something like league-average. This, compiled with his power, is where the optimism lays. In other words- I don't think he'll "learn" plate discipline- just that with more consistent playing time over the next few years, he'll raise to whatever his true ability level is; I'd consider what has gone on in his major league service time to be below what he's capable of in terms of strict on base ability as a result of poor player development resulting from contract status.

Meanwhile, Bronson will continue to be unable to get any lefties out, will probably show a long term spike in ERA due to a below-break-even-K rate, and will see his peak season(s) grow smaller as they fall farther in the rear view mirror. If Arroyo improves a bit on 2005 in Cinci, it'll be from a strong opening to the season from hitters unfamiliar to his stuff. But by July, he'll be facing lineups full of lefties that have been told to sit back and wait on his mediocre fastball.

To be fair.
A point about Wily Mo's splits which hasn't been raised yet. Wily Mo against lefthanders:

2005: 110 abs .291 BA .345 OBP .536 SLG
2003-2005: 250 abs .276 BA .347 OBP .536 SLG

combine his .883 OBP over the last 3 years against lefties with Trot's .955 OBP against righties over the same time period...that certainly looks like a tremendously effective platoon, especially if Pena progresses. Hopefully Trot can do better than his .847 OBP against righties last year.

I like this trade a great deal.
And yes, I know that's a small sample size of ABs...but his major league career to this point is basically a small sample size.
BSM - I can see the point, but minor league comps have a way of breaking down pretty severely when it comes to big power/low-contact guys. For every Adam Dunn there's a Jack Cust. Usually, the difference comes in that patience level, and a .50 IsoD just doesn't cut it for someone that strikes out that much. It'll be an interesting development to follow with Pena. I completely agree that Bronson was about to see a pretty major regression; chances are he staves it off a little in the NL, but he gave us what we were going to get from him. My only criticism of Pena is that my enthusiasm for him is somewhat more blunted than others I've seen, both because I just don't see his skills, track record, and age lining up that well. At worst, though, AJM is dead right: he'll make a fantastic platoon for Trot. And hopefully more.
My comment about the NL does kind of come from the fact that I consider it a lower-class league. And I just feel like everything about the AL is "better."
FYI: anytime jere references something as "National League" it tends to be a put-down. He would say that about capris pants if he wanted to insult them.

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