Monday, March 31, 2008

2008 MLB Predictions

East: New York Mets
The Braves will push them until September. Fortunately for the Mets, Tom Glavine plays for the other guys this year.
Central: Chicago Cubs
Jim Hendry should not give up the farm system for Brian Roberts. They can win without him. If Kerry Wood can stay healthy that entire bullpen will fall into place, and it looks very scary.
West: Arizona Arizona Diamondbacks
They gave up too much for Dan Haren. Nevertheless, youngsters like Upton, Young, Drew, and Jackson will make up for it with another year of maturity a the plate.
N.L. Wild Card: Cincinnati Reds
I can't believe I'm choosing a team managed by Dusty Baker, but what are predictions without a few risks? I can't help but to think the N.L. East will beat up on each other and the Reds and and Cubs will emerge in a weak N.L. Central (Yes, I think Ben Sheets will get hurt again).

East: New York Yankees
There are too many questions surrounding the Red Sox starting rotation for me to choose them. The Yankees have more pitching depth this year than I can remember in any year's past, and suffice it to say, there will be no Roger Clemens signing come July.
Central: Cleveland Indians
This division comes down to bullpens. Edge: Cleveland.
West: Seattle Mariners
For years people have been raving about the Angels farm system, and we have yet to see it's fruits. The Mariners may have sacrificed the long-term health of the franchise by trading Adam Jones, but they now have the best 1-2 in the majors, and a nice bullpen. So, what the heck.
A.L. Wild Card: Boston Red Sox
Ultimately prognosticators have to leave one of the following four teams out, Tigers, Indians, Red Sox, and Yankees. I do not like the current make-up of the Tigers, especially Todd Jones. They are old and I believe they will be plagued with injuries, rendering their lineup much less potent than projected.

N.L. Champs: Arizona Diamondbacks
A.L. Champs: New York Yankees

World Series Champs: New York Yankees
With that farm system replenished, do not be surprised if September call-ups make the difference.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Joe Nathan Deal: Harbinger for 2010

Recently, the Twins signed Joe Nathan to a four year, $47 million dollar deal. Twins blogger Aaron Gleeman did a good job of breaking down the Joe Nathan deal. Local columnists Jim Souhan and and Kelsie Smith predictably differ on their opinions. Below are my thoughts.

Market Value
To accurately assess the Joe Nathan deal we need to look at the closer market. Below are closer contracts that compare to Nathan's in order of the date they were signed. In brackets is each closer's approximate age when they signed their respective contracts.

Jason Isringhausen (2005) 4 yrs./$33.75 mil. [33 years old]
Mariano Rivera (2006) 3 yrs./$45 mil. [36 years old]
Trevor Hoffman (2006) 3 yrs./$21 mil. [38 years old]
Billy Wagner (2006) 4 yrs./$43 mil. [34 years old]
Francisco Cordero (2008) 4 yrs./$46 mil. [32 years old]
Joe Nathan (2008) 4 yrs./$47 mil. [33 years old]

When comparing Nathan's contract to those of his peers who signed at a similar age, it is a very fair deal for the Twins, especially considering Nathan's record setting 160 saves since 2004. Not only that, the market only seems to be inflating. Any one who thinks Francisco Cordero and Joe Nathan are comparable needs to take a closer look at the numbers. In his four seasons as the Twins closer, Joe Nathan has compiled a 1.94 ERA. In those same four seasons Cordero's ERA sits above 3.

Why Not Johan?
In the immediate aftermath of the contract extension many people second-guessed why Twins management would invest in a 33 year old closer rather than putting that money towards locking up Johan Santana, a 27 year old two-time Cy Young winner. The reality is that Joe Nathan may be a less risky investment than Johan Santana. Rarely have large, long-term contracts like the Mets gave to Santana worked out (i.e. Mike Hampton, Denny Naegle, A.J. Burnett). Even though, Joe Nathan's contract will make up somewhere between 12-15% of the Twins payroll throughout the deal, it is much more likely that his performance will be worth it, throughout the deal. This cannot be said for Santana, whose skills will probably decline dramaticaly in years 5 and 6 of his contract with the Mets. There were indicators of such decline last year, as Johan did not have his typical second half surge, and gave up a career high in home runs. Being in the National League may stall the inevitable for Santana, but Joe Nathan has showed no signs of decline, and should prove a bargain in years three and four of the contract.

What About Trading Nathan?
Some believe the Twins would have been better suited not signing Joe Nathan to an extension and trading him at the deadline. Not true. Bill Smith, once again would have been held hostage, like he was in the Santana negotiations, with no leverage, unable to extract high level talent from other teams because Nathan would have been viewed as a rental. I believe Joe Nathan is still very much on the trading block. However, now that he's signed to a four-year deal, he does not need to sell at the trade deadline in July. He can wait. He can wait for teams' bullpens to crumble, and then raid their farm systems. The contract is a very trade-friendly contract too. It comes with a no-trade clause that allows Nathan to block block a trade with three teams each year. I am sure that Smith agreed to pay Nathan more money up front in exchange for as few teams as possible in that no-trade clause.

So, G.M. Bill Smith has taken another step towards building the Twins toward becoming contenders in 2010. Carlos Gomez has already showed us flashes of brilliance on opening day. Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, and Joe Mauer are locked into long-term deals. The Twins acquired former Rays #1 pick Delmon Young in the offseason and head into June's draft with 4 of the first 61 picks. In the Nathan signing Bill Smith has obtained leverage for the trade deadline that he did not have during the Santana negotiations--he doesn't have to make a deal if the prospects offer do not satisfy his demands. He may not trade Nathan this season, but don't expect Nathan to finish this contract in the new balpark. This contract extension is a means to an end: Restocking the farm system

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Picture is Worth 4,000 Lives

A mosaic of 4,000 American soldiers killed in Iraq.

by Nico Pitney

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I hate Duke

So, pictures like this hold a special place in my heart.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Peter Gammons on Torii Hunter

Two excerpts from Peter Gammons' most recent blog post (click here to read it) really impressed me.

First on Torii Hunter's character,
When Hunter's agent, Larry Reynolds, told Angels owner Arte Moreno that Torii's social dreams had to be a part of the contract, the Angels built Hunter's Hundred into the contract so that not only will 100 underprivileged children go to every game, but the team also will invest in and work with agencies of Hunter's interest.

Hunter and his wife, Katrina, already have The Torii Hunter Project, which donates huge amounts of money to Little League and youth programs in depressed areas. They sponsor 14 teams to go to Williamsport, Pa., and other areas of the country, and work with the RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program.

"I can't stand hearing people complain that 8 percent of major league players are African-American," says Hunter. "I say, 'Do something.'" When asked about the funding for his project, he says "some comes from corporate sponsorships, some comes from other players, and whenever we need more, I pay for it. I can afford it."
As always, looking for a way to link baseball to it's cultural context, Gammons draws a parallel between Hunter's clubhouse presence and American politics,

The Angels know who they got in Torii Hunter -- a man who drips energy and preaches hope and potential. There are numbers that will quantify what Hunter is or isn't worth, just as there are politicians who try to tell us that "experience" is far more important than the foundation of hope and potential.

Those numbers don't matter as much as Hunter's ability to energize and inspire his teammates, with character that cannot be quantified...
It is a joy to read Peter Gammons. I wonder who he'll vote for?