Category: AL Central

The I-70 Challenge! Four Games-Two Cities-To Quote Little Orphan Annie, “It’s a Hard Knock Life!”

By:  Jim Tsapelas

Jim McIssac/Getty Images North America

In a split four game Inter-League series, two games in Kansas City and two games in St. Louis, the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals faced off in what could have proved to be a costly series to both Missouri franchises.

The series featured two of the better catchers in MLB, today; Salvador Perez and Yadier Molina.  Perez has gone on record of speaking of his admiration and respect for Molina. Molina and Perez have appeared to foster a bonding, a friendship, that transcends the game of baseball and values all that which is good in the human spirit.

In Kansas City, the Royals and the Redbirds split the short two game home stand; with Kansas City taking the first game of the two game set.

Monday’s contest was highlighted for Royals’ fans with a six to two Kansas City win. Tuesday produced an eight to four win for the Birds on the Bat.  Royals right-fielder Lorenzo Cain sustained an injury as he attempted to leg out a ground ball in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s contest.  This was horrific news for the Royals, with Mike Moustakas, out for the season, and with Alex Gordon just completing a stint on the DL, the uncertainty of Cain’s injury loomed rather large.

Another by-product of the Cain injury was the reality that Kendrys Morales would start Wednesday for Cain as the series moved east to St. Louis; and the reality of no Designated Hitter in the National League park; Busch Stadium.

On Wednesday a MRI confirmed Cain with a strained left hamstring; and he was placed on the MLB Fifteen Day Disabled List.

Now playing right-field, Kendrys Morales“.  Morales had experience playing right-field, but that was quite some time and a broken leg ago.  In fact, Morales had played the right-field position a total of seventy-six times at the MLB level; the last being in 2008!

One of the hallmarks of the Royals this season has been their success in putting on the field a defensive oriented line up. You may remember Morales broke his left-lower leg on March 29, 2010-when as a member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, he engaged in a celebratory jump into home plate to punctuate his Grand Slam Home Run to give the Angeles a five to one win over the Seattle Mariners.  Since that time, Morales arguably one of the slower base runners in MLB, today, had only served as a Designated Hitter and a first-baseman.  To say Morales was an unknown defensive risk prior to Wednesday’s contest would be quite an understatement!  Defensively on Wednesday, Morales was brilliant in right-field and went three for four at the plate.

Wednesday’s contest in St. Louis was a twelve inning win for the visiting Kansas City Royals. The Royals featured a one to nothing lead in the eighth inning.  In the bottom of the ninth, Cardinals third-baseman, Jhonny Peralta, singled scoring Greg Garcia, knotting the game at one.  In the tenth, the Royals’ Whit Merrifield reached base on a fielding error; scoring Cheslor Cuthbert.  In the bottom of the tenth, the Redbirds’ Stephen Piscotty went yard with his ninth home run of the 2016 season.  In the top of the twelfth, Alcides Escobar doubled in the go ahead and winning run in the person of Merrifield.  St. Louis was unable to win in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the inning as the Royals’ Chien-Ming Wang enjoyed a one, two, three, inning striking out Tommy Pham and retiring Piscotty and Matt Adams.

Of possible concern for St. Louis on Wednesday, was an injury to Cardinal right-fielder Piscotty on a play where he made a long run ending in an attempted sliding catch.  Piscotty failed in what would had been a highlight reel catch; the ball bounced off his glove and wound up in foul territory.

Piscotty reported swelling in his knee and pain in his ankle.  Unlike the injury to Cain on Tuesday, Piscotty will most probably not spend time on the DL.  An injury to Piscotty would have been as costly to the Cardinals as the injury to Cain is to the Royals.  Piscotty was not in the Cardinals’ line-up on Thursday, as a precautionary measure.  Baseball is a hard knock life!

Thursday’s contest was another hard fought battle for the Baseball Bragging Rights of Missouri in this edition of the I-70 Series.  The Royals took the series with a four to two win.

The Royals have a stellar bullpen.  The Cardinals appear to collectively be a bullpen struggling, as of late, to affirm their identity.  Of concern to Cardinals’ fans is the reality the Birds committed ten errors in the four game set, to the Royals one error.

It doesn’t take a baseball genius to understand that errors contribute directly to a loss, as well as extending an inning; thus forcing a pitcher to throw extra pitches.

To be honest, the Cardinals for what ever reasons are simply not playing their best baseball in 2016, at home. For the 2016 season the Cardinals are 15-23 at home.

The Royals began their hosting duties against the visiting St. Louis Cardinals enjoying the best home record in the American League.  The Cardinals went to “The K” with the best road record in the National League.

To be competitive in the Wild Card Race the Cardinals need to find the magic formula to begin a winning record at home.

With the loss on Thursday, the Redbirds have lost seven consecutive games at home.  This has been the longest Cardinal home losing streak since 1983.

In a post game interview following the loss on Thursday, manager Mike Matheny said it was a game of, “Missed opportunities.”  It is my opinion this series as well as this season has been one, thus far, of missed opportunities.  I continue to believe the Cardinals have a good team.  An issue I identified is the Cardinals, at times, fail to win as a whole unit.  The offense has at times, put up good to monster numbers, only to have another aspect of the game fail the team.  The pitching has been outstanding at times, only to not get support from the bullpen, defensive plays, etc. One departmentalized aspect of the team cannot sustain a winning reality.  It takes all parts of the team, starting pitching, the bullpen, the offense, and the defense to all be in tune with one another to grind out a victory.

Of Note:  Kendrys Morales banged out twelve hits in the four game set, including a home run.  Going yard for the Cards in the series were Matt Holliday, Matt Carpenter, Stephen Piscotty, Jhonny Peralta, and Brandon Moss.  The Moss home run was measured at four hundred and seventy-three feet and is the longest home run ever hit at Busch Stadium III!

Thanks for reading!

Jim Tsapelas is a featured author at A View From the Bench, an official affiliate of MLB.com. A View from the Bench is recognized in the Top 100 of MLB.com/blogs.

Mets Take Two From Royals, But Syndergaard and Cespedes Leave With Injuries; Familia Notches 40 Straight Saves

By Paul DiSclafani:

AP Photo / Kathy Williens

AP Photo / Kathy Williens

Fresh off putting together back to back wins against the Royals, the Mets (38-32) and their fans couldn’t even enjoy the moment. Both Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes were forced to leave today’s game with injuries.

With everything going on around them, all the bad news of injuries, all the talk about a possible Jose Reyes reunion and a workout scheduled for Free Agent Cuban star Yulieski Gourriel, the Mets managed to shake it off and win two against the defending World Series Champions.

The Mets bullpen, which was largely responsible for the World Series collapse considering they led in every game at one point, was spot on in these two games. After Colon got hurt on Tuesday after the first batter, they were called on to get the final 26 outs in a 2-1 win.

Today, after Syndergaard was unable to come out for the seventh inning after throwing just 91 pitches, they protected the 4-3 lead with three innings of one-hit ball. Jeurys Familia, who was charged with three blown saves in the World Series against the Royals, finished each game for his 23rd and 24th save of the season.  He now has saved a club record 40 consecutive regular season games.

With Juan Lagares already on the DL with a thumb injury and Steven Matz having elbow tightness, the Mets then found out that Zack Wheeler is experiencing tightness in his TJ elbow.

And now this…

Noah Syndergaard, one of the few Mets pitchers who has NOT had Tommy John Surgery, is experiencing tightness in his elbow. Sheesh.

Yoenis Cespedes, who is hitting .290, hit his 18th home run yesterday and had two hits in the game, left with a wrist injury.  “I don’t know what the issue is”, manager Terry Collins said about Cespedes after the game, “But I am certainly concerned about it.  He had a similar problem last fall with that left hand and he ended up tearing up the National league for a while.”

The Mets that could play, came to play today. Asdrubal Cabrera hit a home run, made a fantastic play behind second base, flipping a backhand throw to second for a force out and then scoring the first run of the game by avoiding a tag at the plate with a great inside slide, giving the Mets a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning.

Syndergaard (W, 8-2) has won six straight decisions, but he allowed a home run to Cheslor Cuthbert in the fifth to tie the game and the Royals scored again on a single, a sacrifice and two out single to take a 2-1 lead.

The Mets got that one back and more in their half of the fifth when Cabrera hit a two run home run to center, giving the Mets a 3-2 lead. Not to be outdone, KC came right back the next inning with another two out hit as Paulo Orlando drove in Salvador Perez, who had doubled.  Tie game again.  But not for long.

Matt Reynolds, making his major league debut in the outfield, hit his first home run in the majors off Joakim Soria, giving the Mets the lead again, 4-3. When asked why he would put Reynolds into the outfield when he had never played there before, Collins said, “He’s making the most of every opportunity.  He’s never played the outfield in the big leagues.  He’s a baseball player.  There are those guys who will do whatever you ask.  He handled himself just fine.”

With Syndergaard unable to come out for the seventh inning, Jerry Blevins and Addison Reed did their job (2 innings, one hit) setting up for Familia.

Thursday is an off day as the Mets look for revenge in a weekend set in Atlanta.

POSITIVES: Blevins has now gone 21 straight appearances (13 innings) without giving up a run …Colon is still scheduled to make his next start ,,, James Loney RBI single in the fourth snapped the Mets 0-28 futility with Runners in Scoring Position.  Loney is hitting .289 … Cespedes was 4-6 with a HR and RBI against KC … Syndergaard beat KC in the second game of the season and had the only win for the Mets in the World Series, so he is 3-0 lifetime against them.

NEGATIVES: Rene Rivera is hitting just .180 … Wilmer Flores is just 1-14 since getting hit by a pitch on the wrist …

Santana, Napoli Combine to Defeat Boston

An off-season goal of the Cleveland Indians may have been to reduce pressure on Carlos Santana by bringing in an experienced middle-of-the-order bat.  Last night, that goal saw some positive results.

Santana launched a 3-run blast to the deepest part of Progressive Field in the 3rd inning last night and Mike Napoli added a game winning homer in the 7th to defeat the Boston Red Sox 7-6.  It was Napoli’s first home run with the Indians, coming against his former team.

The Indians signed Napoli to a 1-year, $7-million contract over the off season.  The signing allowed the Indians to reduce pressure on Santana by allowing him to be an everyday designated hitter and bat 5th in the lineup instead of cleanup.   Manager Terry Francona hopes these changes relax Santana and improve his overall production.

Santana’s home run lead the way for the Indians to open a 4-0 lead.  They lead 5-2 going into the Boston 6th inning but back-to-back Boston solo home runs by David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez brought the Red Sox to within one and chased Indians starter Carlos Carrasco.  Two defensive miscues with two walks sandwiched in between plated two more Boston runs giving them a brief 6-5 advantage.

The Indians came right back in the bottom of the 6th.  Yan Gomes walked to lead-off the inning, moved to 3rd on a single by Marlon Byrd, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Juan Urbie.

Zach McCallister (W, 1-0) held Boston scoreless in the top of the 7th. Napoli’s blast  off Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa (L, 0-1) broke the 6-all tie in the home half of the inning.

Bryan Shaw (H, 1) and Cody Allen (S, 1) held Boston scoreless through the 8th and 9th innings to secure the Tribe’s first win of the 2016 season.

Weather permitting, Danny Salazar will face off against Joe Kelly in the series rubber match.  First pitch is scheduled for 6:10pm.

 

 

 

And Now It Begins – Mets and Royals Pick Up Where They Left Off

By Paul DiSclafani

wright-cespedesThe beauty of Opening Day is that everyone gets to start at 0-0. Both the Mets and Royals are looking to put 2015 in the rear view mirror.  Well, the Mets more than the Royals.

The Royals are primed to celebrate their first World Series Title in 30 years with a flag raising ceremony in front on their home crowd on Opening night, followed by receiving their Championship rings two days later. Both ceremonies will take place front and center, with the Mets watching (or not watching) from the visitor’s dugout.

Captain David Wright addressed the mood of his team and how it will feel on Opening Night as the Royals open up old wounds as they celebrate with their fans.

“It’s impossible to simulate World Series atmospheres,” Wright said, “but with them getting their rings and raising the banner and things like that, I think it would give a little bit of motivation. But I also think they deserved it. They outplayed us during the World Series, no question.”

The Mets have had all offseason to lament their performance in the World Series, falling to a far superior Royals team. Although they had a lead in every one of the five games, they managed to win only once.  But the theme of both training camps seemed to be that it’s time to turn the page.

”A lot of guys here were not in the World Series. At some point, you turn the page and get ready for 2016, and for us that was this spring,” Wright said. ”It stinks to fall a little bit short, but it was a heck of a run. We just can’t keep talking about last year.”

Even KC manager Ned Yost, who has guided his Royals to two consecutive World Series appearances, cautioned that it is not as easy as it looks. The last time a team made it to the World Series three consecutive years was the Yankees (1998-2000) and before that, the Oakland A’s (1972-74).

”It’s extremely difficult to maintain that, and just to get there,” Yost said. ”Our focus in spring training was getting off to a good start, and at the end of the year, having an opportunity to fight our way back. Because it is, it’s a fight. Everyone starts the year with those aspirations and dreams of making it to a World Series, but it’s very difficult to do.”

For the first time in baseball history, the two teams that met in the World Series will meet again on Opening Day.

If the Mets want to learn from their mistakes in the 2015 season and win the World Series for the first time in 30 years, all they have to do is look across the field at the Royals and follow their lead. The Mets road back to the World Series begins right where it left off in 2015.

THE SERIES:

The Mets (90-72) and the Royals (95-67) meet for two games on Sunday Night and Tuesday afternoon at Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City.   The Mets finished 2015 with a 41-40 road record, while the Royals were an impressive 51-30 at Home.

THE STARTERS:

Matt Harvey (13-8, 2.71) will start Opening night for the Mets against Edison Volquez (13-9, 3.55). Harvey had a medical scare earlier in the week with a blood clot in his bladder, but he has been cleared to make this start.  Volquez and Harvey met in Game 1 of the World Series, but didn’t factor in the decision as the Royals prevailed in 14 innings.  Both gave up three earned runs in their six innings.  They hooked up again in Game 5, another extra inning game that they Royals won, this time to take the World Series Crown.  Harvey was brilliant for 8 shutout innings and Volquez was poised to be on the losing end, having surrendered just two runs, one earned.

Noah Syndergaard (9-7, 3.24) was set to face the newest KC starter, Ian Kennedy (9-15, 4.28 with San Diego), but a hamstring injury may force former Met Chris Young (11-6, 3.06) to start instead. Syndergaard was the only Mets pitcher to win in the 2015 Fall Classic, winning Game 3 of the series.  Syndergaard started the game by throwing the first pitch over the head over leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar and the Mets responded with two home runs in a 9-3 win.

WHAT TO EXPECT:

Nobody really knows. The Royals are the World Champions, playing in front of their home crowd for the first time since winning the World Series almost 1,200 miles away in Citi Field.  Obviously, there will be plenty of emotion and pride as they raise their banner and receive their Championship rings.  The Mets have had a difficult spring as far as results on the field are concerned, failing to win in 14 straight “games” at the end of the Spring and although everyone insist that they don’t count (and they don’t), there were a couple of red flags.

Understanding 100% that the “results” of the games in the Spring are bogus, individual performances over the course of an entire Spring need to at least be considered.

Consider this: The Mets hit just 17 home runs in 25 Grapefruit League games, seven of them from players who didn’t make the Opening Day roster and one  came from the backup catcher.  David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda hit one each – and they played a combined 45 games and had 125 AB’s.  Add in Michael Conforto, who hit two HR in 49 AB’s, and that’s just 5 HR in 174 AB’s.  Not exactly the type of numbers that will light up the Mets Home Run Apple.

A little more concerning are the relief pitching individual numbers. Antonio Bastardo pitched nine Spring innings, but gave up 8 runs (7 earned) and 10 hits.  Remember, relief pitchers are only charged with runners they put on base that scored.  Addison Reed surrendered 9 hits in his 8.2 innings (3 earned runs) and Jeurys Familia 8 hits in his 7.1 innings (also 3 earned runs).  Granted, pitchers admit to “working on things” during the Spring, but it is still a little disconcerting.

So what can we expect for this Opening Series between the best teams from 2015 in each league? Both teams think they have a lot to prove after their success / failures in the postseason and both teams want to get out of the gate quickly, but frankly, who doesn’t?  Both teams are all saying the right things and the Royals backtracked on their supposed “revenge” on Syndergaard’s opening pitch of Game 3, but one thing remains…

The 2016 Mets want to be the 2015 KC Royals, a team that returned to the World Series and finished the job. The 2015 Royals started last season sweeping the Chicago White Sox at home and went on to win their first seven games, making a statement to everyone in the American League that their 2014 appearance in the World Series was no fluke.  Let’s see what the Mets can do behind Harvey and Syndergaard now that everything “counts” again.

You can also read my full 2016 Mets preview: Final Observations and Predictions or my compact season preview: Opening Day Countdown.

Hall of Fame, Hall of The Very Good or Hall of Cheaters?

1936 hall of fame

The first Hall of Fame inductees in 1936 including Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb

 

By Mike Moosbrugger

I originally wrote this article in January of 2015 shortly after the Hall of Fame voting and the announcement of the players to be inducted. I am reposting this article to bring to your attention a very big change in who will be permitted to vote from now on to enshrine players in Cooperstown. Look at the four changes that I call for in how the voting is done. The second one listed has in fact been changed for the 2016 voting! There will be 100 less “writers” allowed to cast a ballot this year. The Hall of Fame has decided that if you have not actively covered baseball for the last 10 years then you lose your right to vote. It is no longer a lifetime privilege. Good job by the Hall of Fame Committee because that one issue really needed to change. The 2016 Hall of Fame inductees will be announced on January 6th 2016. Ken Griffey Jr. is a lock to get elected. Trevor Hoffman may have to wait another year or two.  

It was a lot easier in 1936 when the BBWAA ( Baseball Writers Association of America ) first got together to vote in the first class of hall of famers. Those first 5 inductees were Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner and Walter Johnson. The term “no brainers” comes to mind so you would think that the first class of inductees and the voting that elevated these fine players to HOF status would be without controversy. I looked at the voting for that first class and managed to have a raised eyebrow at what I saw. Cy Young failed to get in by only garnering 49% of the vote? Young had 511 wins pitching over a 21 year career, a record that will never ever be broken. What does a guy have to do to get a little respect? Cy Young was later inducted of course and the award given out each year for the best pitcher in each the National and the American League was named after good old Cy after the 1955 season. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson received two votes on that first year ballot even though he had already been banned for life from the game with no eligibility for reinstatement or election to the Hall of Fame. This was as a result of Jackson’s alleged involvement in the 1919 Black Sox scandal. The scandal implicated 8 players on the Chicago White Sox that were believed to have been losing intentionally and being paid off by gamblers to do so. Joe Jackson was a .356 career hitter during the “dead ball” era and hit .375 with 1 homerun and 6 RBI’s in the 1919 World Series. There have been issues and controversies nearly every year since the voting the Hall of Fame started over 70 years ago.

The 2015 class of Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio is a good one for the most part except for Smoltz. John Smoltz is a first ballot hall of famer? I don’t even think he is a hall of fame worthy player at all but to put him in on the first ballot? He had one very, very good season when he won the Cy Young Award in 1996 going 24-8 with the Atlanta Braves. Other than that Smoltz had a very good career not a hall of fame career. When they change the name of the building to the Hall of The Very Good then Smoltz should be a first ballot inductee. Mike Piazza is one of the top hitting catchers of all time and it looks like he won’t get in until his fourth year of eligibility next year. I will get back to the Piazza issue in a moment. Biggio has been labeled a “compiler” by his detractors but I have an answer for that as well. Let’s not diminish a player’s career that included durability, versatility, longevity and productivity over 20+ years because he did not hit 30 homers a year. What Biggio did is very hard to do make no mistake about it. Only 27 other men that ever played the game have reached 3000 hits. I for one will not diminish any of those players careers.  What Biggio did is hard to do, it is unique and it is Cooperstown worthy, case closed.

The biggest problem facing the voters the BBWAA is how to handle the steroid era and the players that put up video game type stats during it. It is a conundrum of major proportions but I know what I would do if I had a vote. Players that have steroids attached to their names should be separated into 2 categories.

Category 1 – The users and abusers

These are the guys that have either failed a drug test, admitted using or have such overwhelming evidence against them that it can’t be ignored. The most notable ones are Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Roger Clemens. Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez will be eligible in the future and are in the category as well. These players changed the game and its statistical records so much that they have altered the game in a way that can only be fixed by vacating the stats which will never happen. They made the millions and took the health risks and now have to live with the results. No Hall of Fame for these players, ever.

 

Category 2 – The locker room whispers

The players that come to mind are Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Gary Sheffield and Jeff Kent. These are the guys that players, fans and writers whispered in corners of the room about but no hard evidence ever came forward. There is a 5 year waiting period after a player retires before he is eligible for Hall of Fame. If the evidence did not present itself during a players long career plus the 5 years after then I have to measure the player based on his performance on the field and steroids does not enter into my thought process.

 

In addition to deciding what players should or should not be on the ballot there are big problems with the the Hall of Fame voting process. It is riddled with issues that need to change. Here are the main ones that I would like to see changes in:

  1. Members of the BBWAA select players that are eligible to be on the ballot from a list of all players that have been retired for 5 years. This is done via a “special screening committee”.

I can’t explain how these writers could put Aaron Boone, Tom Gordon, Brian Giles, Tony Clark or Darin Erstad on the ballot with a straight face but they did. No disrespect intended as these players had nice baseball careers but in no way shape or form should they even be considered Hall of Famers. This process needs to be a little more transparent to the public so the fans know how these players are being justified to appear on the ballot.

  1. Members of the BBWAA that have been a member for 10 years and covering baseball then have a ballot that they can cast. They are permitted to vote for up to 10 players each year.

Some of these members have not been covering baseball for a very long time but once you become a voter it is basically a lifetime job. This makes little to no sense to me. If a writer is no longer actively writing about baseball I think his credentials should be reviewed each year to ensure that the guy voting is qualified to do so. Voting for the Hall of Fame is a privilege not a right. The 2015 voting results revealed that Troy Percival, Tom Gordon, Aaron Boone and Darin Erstad all had support. Each received 2 votes except for Erstad who only received 1. I don’t know if it was 7 different writers that cast these ballots but whoever it was he should no longer have the ability to vote in my mind.

  1. The board of directors at the Hall of Fame decide how players are elected. Currently and since 1936 they have relied on the BBWAA to vote on players.

It is not 1936 anymore so I think with all the media outlets in our lives today it makes more sense to open up the voting to others. Broadcasters and website writers come to mind. Although there has been some progress on allowing certain website writers gain eligibility to vote I do think more is needed. My real issue here is the broadcasters. Vin Scully has been broadcasting the Dodger games since the 1950’s. The man has met Babe Ruth for crying out loud. He has probably watched more games live and in person then any member of the BBWAA. Scully is a good example of a guy that I feel should have a vote. Others that come to mind here in New York where I live would be Michael Kaye or Howie Rose. Kaye is a Yankees broadcaster and Rose is a Mets broadcaster. I would trust that these gentlemen would take the vote serious and do the due diligence before casting a ballot. It is time for new voices to enter into the process.

  1. Players stay on the ballot for 15 years and must get at least 5% of the votes each year to remain on the ballot during the 15 years. After that time has passed the only way a player can get in is via the “veterans committee”.

This committee is all living Hall of Fame players and they vote every two years on players that are no longer on the ballot. This is how players such as Bill Mazeroski and Phil Rizzuto got inducted. They both had decent careers but in neither case are they Hall of Fame worthy. Rizzuto should be in as a broadcaster but not as a player. I think it is a dangerous thing when players start to vote on other players. The players and the voters get older and start to get more and more nostalgic about a player’s career which can start to cloud good judgment. I would eliminate this committee. 10 years should be the max amount of time that a player should be on the ballot.

These are just a few of the changes that I would make. The board of directors of the Hall of Fame have to decide what kind of hall of fame they want as well as who should be voting on the inductees. I have visited the baseball Hall of Fame numerous times over the years and it is a great place to recall some of the great players and moments in the history of the game. It is just time to review the entire process to ensure that only the best and most deserving players are being honored.

 

WAR – What is it good for?

By Mike Moosbrugger

Chicago Cubs Introduce Jason Heyward

Jason Heyward after signing an 8 yr. / $184 million contract with the Cubs. Photo by Yahoo Sports.

The mysterious stat known as Wins Above Replacement or WAR as it is more commonly referred to. You hear about it more and more every day in baseball circles as another way of determining a player’s value or impact to the teams win total. MLB sabermetric supporters, writers and analyst are using this stat to judge players more so it seems then using the traditional statistics that have been around since the first pitch was thrown in the 1800’s.  I have been trying to understand the relevancy of this “new” statistic for quite some time now and I still have a hard time judging a player using this method. First let’s all get on the same page with a short and not so simple definition of what WAR is.

WAR – “A single number that represents the number of wins a player added to a team above what a replacement player would add.” I will use Jayson Heyward as my example since he was my inspiration for writing this article. Heyward had a WAR of 6.5 in 2015. He was 10th in MLB and Bryce Harper was 1st with a 9.9 WAR. Keep in mind that Kevin Kiermaier had a 7.3 WAR  ( good for 7th in the majors ) in 2015 and he hit .260 with 10 HR’s and 40 RBI’s. The caveat here is that the replacement player would be a minor leaguer not a free agent that hit 40 homers or won 20 games last year. It is a player that would replace the player “at minimal cost or effort.”  A more detailed explanation of WAR can be found by going to the Baseball-Reference.com website www.baseballreference.com/about/war_explained.shtml

The calculation of WAR is where the fuzzy math starts to kick in for me. I am a firm believer in a player having more value than what his traditional stats are. Some players provide significant contributions in many areas where we, the fans, just can’t go on line and look at a stat for it.  The best that I can figure out about WAR is that the stat revolves around runs produced on offense by a position player and runs prevented on defense for the same player combined. More emphasis is placed on defensive play at key defensive positions such as catcher vs. first basemen. In the case of a pitcher it would be more about runs prevented obviously. Sounds great, the problem is that the calculation methods look more like rocket science to me. You or I would not be able to take out our IPhone and use the calculator to figure out a player’s WAR while sitting at the ballpark on a Sunday afternoon. We can figure out a players batting average pretty quickly and sometimes without a calculator. If you want some mind numbing formulas to look at then here is the link to the Wikipedia page where they “clearly” show you how some of the calculations are arrived at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wins_Above_Replacement

How does all this relate to Jayson Heyward? Heyward recently signed an astounding 8 yr. / $184 million contract with the Chicago Cubs. While I was watching the analyst on MLB Network break down the contract one of them indicated that Heyward’s WAR stat may have played a role in the Cubs being so high on him. Let me just say I have no issue with Jayson Heyward’s career or play thus far in baseball. He is a nice player but his stats are not exactly eye popping. He has played 6 seasons in the majors and has averaged .268 with 16 HR’s and 58 RBI’s. He has never driven in over 90 runs in a season. He has only hit over 20 homers in a season one time. He does not score a lot of runs and has only exceeded 90 runs scored once. He does have a .350 career on base percentage and steals around 20 bases a year while playing good defense. His WAR average is 5.18 over the 6 seasons which puts him in the “All-Star” category for the WAR statistic. The WAR status categories are as follows: 8+ is “MVP”, 5+ is “All-Star” and 2+ is “Starter” and 0-2 is “Sub”. Freddie Freeman came up in Atlanta about 1 year behind Heyward and both players will turn 26 in 2016. Freeman averages .285 with 21 HR’s and 85 RBI’s per season with an On Base % of .366 while playing a good first base. He signed an 8 yr. / $135 million contract prior to the 2014 season. His WAR average per season is 3.14. Hmmm, that is only “Starter” status. Could this be the difference in the $50 million gap between the two players? I tell you what I think. I think I would rather have signed the Freddie Freeman deal. He is a better contributor in the key categories and it is far less risk and a lot less money. Keep your wins above replacement I will take the additional HR’s and RBI’s at a big discount thank you so much.

Yoenis Cespedes is a free agent and has yet to sign with a club. The Cuban defector is 29 and has played 4 seasons in the majors. His average seasons look like this: .271 with 26 HR’s and 92 RBI’s. He has driven in 100 runs two times and is widely considered a major force in any lineup. He single handedly changed the Mets offense this past summer. He has an incredible arm in the outfield as well so he contributes on defense also. However, his WAR is only 3.95 which is “Starter” status and not the “All-Star” status that Heyward has. It looks like Cespedes will sign a deal for much less than Heyward did age notwithstanding. There are a few questions that you have to ask yourself. Which player do you think would have more of an impact in your lineup between Heyward and Cespedes? Which player has the ability to carry a team for a few weeks? Which player changes the way the others are pitched to around him? For me this is a no brainer. I will take the big bat of Cespedes and the traditional stats he produces over the Wins Above Replacement that Heyward produces every time. So what is WAR good for? Absolutely nothing in my mind.

Mike Moosbrugger

 

The Price Is Right for Park – The Tale of Two Teams

By Mike Moosbrugger

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Yesterday David Price signed a 7 yr./ $217 million contract with the Boston Red Sox.

Yesterday the Boston Red Sox signed free agent pitcher David Price to a $217 million contract over 7 years. That is a mighty big splash in the free agent signing world. Another player was signed yesterday as well. The announcement of that signing was more like a ripple than a splash. The Minnesota Twins signed Korean Baseball League star Byung Ho Park to a 4 year / $12 million contract. Dollar for dollar when it is all said and done I suspect that the Twins will be very happy with what they paid and the production that they receive. The only way the Red Sox will be satisfied with the contract that they signed Price for is if they get lucky. Hope is not a business plan as we all know. I outlined the dangers of large contracts like the one Price signed and talk about smarter moves like the Twins made in a previous article titled Money Haul.

First let’s look at the Red Sox signing. $31 million a year is a lot of cabbage and a pitcher entering his 30’s is a lot of risk. I believe that Price has some good seasons left in that arm but the likelihood of him fulfilling this contract to full expectations is nearly impossible. I will give the Red Sox credit for one thing though. They are not afraid to climb back on that horse when they get thrown off of it. This time last year the Red sox were announcing the signing of free agents Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval to a combined $183 million. Sandoval was a complete bust in 2015 and it is likely he won’t be around for long in Boston if he flops early in 2016. Ramirez continued his decline as a baseball player in 2015 to the point where The Red Sox would love a “do over” on this contract as well. Those two disastrous contracts coupled with the $95 million they gave below average pitcher Rick Porcello and the $72 million thrown at their very disappointing Cuban player Rusney Castillo are enough to make anybody a little hesitant. The Red Sox are all in with the Price signing even though history tells us that this deal will bite them on the fanny eventually.

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The Twins signed Korean League star Byung  Ho Park to a 4 yr./ $12 million contract yesterday.

The Twins on the other hand have done what I think is the more prudent move and the one that has a much higher probability of being successful even if Park does not hit as well as expected. Imagine that a scenario could be deemed a success even if the player does not fulfill expectations. That is a novel concept indeed if I do say so myself. Park hit .343 with 53 HR’s and 146 RBI’s last year in the Korean League. He just had back to back 50 homerun seasons. I think it is safe to assume that half of that production is what the Twins would be looking for. A .280 hitter with 25 HR’s and 75 RBI’s for $3 million a year is a pretty good deal. If he hits .250 with 15 and 60 it is still a good deal. If he hits .240 with 10 and 40 then you got what you paid for and you are not crippled financially. What happens if he hits 40 HR’s and drives in 100 runs? I will tell you what happens. It softens the blow a bit of paying Joe Mauer $23 million a year to play 1B and hit 10 homers and drive in 66 runs. These are the types of business decisions that small market teams like Minnesota have to make to compete. If the transition of Jung Ho Kang to the major leagues last year from Korea is any indication, then I think the Twins will be in good shape. Kang was signed by the Pirates last year to a deal similar to Park’s and he also was a slugger in Korea. He was hitting 40 homers in the Korean League and finished last year with a .287 BA with 15 HR’s and 58 RBI’s in 467 at bats before he injured his knee and missed the remainder of the season.

The strategies and navigation of a major league payroll are ever changing. The big contract signing will never go away. The GM’s and owners just can’t help themselves. The TV contracts, the luxury boxes and the ridiculous ticket prices need to be justified especially in places like Boston, NY, L.A. etc. However there is always more than one way to get the job done. The Price was right for Park and now only time will tell which team made a better business decision.