Thursday, January 28, 2010

Padre Open House

Some Photos from tonight.

The Author and Joe Thatcher.

The Mrs. and Everth Cabrera.

Boy Kyle Blanks looks bored, doesn't he?

Jeff Moorad

Jed Hoyer sporting the new Padres Military Logo. I like it.

Uh-oh, the press box was left unlocked...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lots of Things To Discuss

I've not a lot of time and lots to talk about, so let's dive right in.

- Padres sign Jon Garland. I'm reserving reaction until I have a chance to look more closely at his statistics. Garland has bounced around since leaving the White Sox after the 2007 season. I remember he was on my AL-only rotisserie league team in 2007, threw a lot of innings, didn't strike out a lot of guys, and usually kept his team in the game - except for those starts (seemingly all after the All-Star break) when he didn't have it and he got HAMMERED.

He is a pitch to contact guy, so working in spacious Petco Park will no doubt help him.

- Gonzalez Sports Academy Opens. You may have heard about this on XX1090 over the last day or so. I took the family to see it. First, it's just off Otay Lakes in the same old warehouse that holds the Chula Vista YMCA Gymnastics equipment and classes. Lots of fake green grass, 4 batting cages, free weights, two blue lanes for sprint workouts I suppose, and 3 volleyball courts (the net height was set to the women's height when we were there today). I have no pictures because I forgot my camera, and wasn't smart enough to ask my wife to use her iPhone. Spending all your brain power keeping little kids entertained will do that do you.

I liked the look of the Academy. I especially liked the volleyball court set-up and the synthetic floor they laid down for those courts. I've played on that stuff before, and it's great - not hard on your knees, and not hard on your elbows if you need to dive for a ball.

Plus, I got to shake Edgar Gonzalez' hand and wish him well in Japan. Edgar is slightly shorter than I, and I'm physically a bigger man than him. So for him to use his gifts and make the majors, well, my respect for him went up today. Not to mention that in person he's a good-looking dude, better looking than one would expect from watching the Padres on Channel 4.

(wife: "OOH, he's CUTE!" Me: "Who?" (sees Edgar) "You know, I gotta give you that one.")

Adrian was there, too, and looked exactly like he does on TV, despite not wearing a Padres uniform. I didn't get a chance to say hello. Also in attendance: Adrian and Edgar's dad. He is a big man. He must have been a stud as a younger man.

- Podcast. The inaugural Padres Trail Podcast will be tomorrow night at 2200. We'll discuss the Garland and Stairs signings, plus various topics from around the diamond. Here's a link to the show, feel free to chat or dial in (347) 637-2949 to talk to me. The show should run about 30 minutes. I'll be running a Podcast every Thursday at 10pm local time, except next week when the show will be on Wednesday night.

- Ted Williams Chapter SABR Meeting. Saturday is SABR day in America, and all the SABR chapters are meeting to talk a little baseball. San Diego's chapter is named the Ted Williams Chapter, since Teddy Ballgame is from here, and will be meeting at 0930 in the 4th floor auditorium at Petco Park. You can see the complete agenda here, but highlighting the discussion will be Josh Stein, Padres Director for Baseball Operations.

- San Diego Padres Open House. I will be attending the Open House tomorrow night from 1800-2000 at Petco Park. Padres CEO Jeff Moorad, 'Padres Players' (not released yet who exactly they will be), President/COO Tom Garfinkel, and new Padres GM Jed Hoyer are scheduled to attend. We will discuss this event during the podcast tomorrow. I expect it to be packed, so I doubt I'll have a chance to tell Mr. Hoyer why I'm the best candidate for the 'Director of Coffee Supplies for the Baseball Operations Department' job, but it should be fun regardless.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Padres sign Matt Stairs

San Diego signed Matt Stairs to a minor-league contract on Saturday. No additional terms were disclosed, at least not on the SD U-T website, but I think we can safely assume Stairs' contract includes an invitation to spring training.

Why sign a major league veteran to a minor league contract? Apparently, it's so they don't have to clear a roster spot for that man, and can send him to the minors if need be without passing him through waivers first. I didn't know that until tonight.

Back in October Fangraphs' R.J. Anderson took a look at the 2009 pinch hitters, displaying values for the average leverage index of their pinch hit appearances, the number of pinch hit appearances they had, and their OPS in those appearances. I've re-printed the graphic here:

Of the 20 players with the most pinch hit appearances, Stairs was 4th in OPS. He was also 13th in leverage index, meaning he appeared in less stressful/critical/crucial at bats to the outcome of the game than most of this list. I don't think that necessarily means anything, other than Charlie Manuel may not have picked Stairs as the first bat off the bench late in a tight game. Means nothing as to how Bud Black will use him.

One comment from the SDUT article struck me as odd, though:

Stairs, who turns 42 next month, gives Bud Black the left-handed bat off the bench the manager has sought. Stairs also gives a young club a needed veteran presence (emphasis mine).

'Needed veteran presence'? What? Dave Eckstein has led the league in grit for 10 years, and Chris Young and Gonzo have been in the majors for five, most of that with the Padres. After all the platitudes last year about Eckstein's clubhouse leadership, why would the Padres have a need for a veteran presence? How much difference does 4 veterans make over 3? Is the difference between 16% of the roster being 'veteran' and 12 percent that critical? Is that 4 percent what separates the playoff team from the also-ran?

Bill Center could just have stated the Padres needed a left-handed bat off the bench, and we all would have nodded appreciatively. Seems odd he felt the need to add that throw-away line.

Monday, January 18, 2010

It's Raining Hairstons

Catching up on things after the long weekend. And, since the Chargers apparently decided they didn't want to play football anymore this January, there's not much else to talk about locally.

We discussed Heath Bell in the last post. On Friday the Padres pulled the trigger and sent Kevin Kouzmanoff to Oakland for Scott Hairston and Aaron Cunningham. San Diego included AAA second baseman Eric Sogard in the trade.

You will no doubt remember Scott Hairston started last year as a Padre, but was traded mid-season to the same A's for Sean Marshall, Ryan Webb, and Craig Italiano. Webb and Italiano are both minor leaguers, as is Cunningham. Since the club got Hairston, using the commutative property (I come for the baseball but I STAY for the math) this trade is actually:

SAN DIEGO - Gets Marshall, Webb, Italiano, Cunningham
OAKLAND - Gets Kouzmanoff, Sogard.

Two big arms in Webb and Italiano, an OF (Cunningham) that new Padres CEO Jeff Moorad was very high on when the kid labored in the Arizona organization (he went to Oakland as part of the Dan Haren trade), and Sean Marshall (a Cub burnout). Okay. For that we give up a good glove/decent power third baseman, and a utility infielder prospect.

It will be years before the winner of this trade is known, but right now, I like what the Padres did here.

The immediate aftermath. Chase Headley becomes the Padre third baseman. Kyle Blanks is the heavy favorite to play left. I view both of those consequences as positive ones for San Diego. Headley showed a prolonged flash of why the team ranked him their #1 prospect in the month he played third last season while Kouzmanoff was hurt. Blanks has big-time power. I think this team is better now, certainly at the ML level, than they were before the weekend.

I mean no disrespect to Kevin Kouzmanoff. I bear no ill will to him and wish him nothing but success in Oakland. I think, however, getting Blanks everyday at bats outweighs the loss in production that Headley represents when compared to Kouzmanoff.

Tonight the Coach John Cantera reported on XX 1090 the Padres had signed Jerry Hairston, Jr to a one-year deal. Hairston played for the Yankees at the tail end of last year. Hairston's biggest strength is he can play all over the diamond -2B, SS, 3B, LF, CF, RF. He's the uber-utility guy. In a world where most teams carry 12 pitchers, meaning only 4 position player spots on the bench, having a guy who's competent at several positions is a huge benefit.

I couldn't help but smirk at the Padres acquiring/signing both Hairston boys in the span of 3 days. No reason.

I wouldn't be surprised if Jerry Hairston Sr becomes a coach or something before spring training starts. His kids say he could still play 50 games at the ML level. Kids are great, aren't they? Stroking the old guy's ego. I hope my kids do that for me. Although they'll probably just ask me for money.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Padres Re-Sign Heath Bell

I've advocated, both here and at Baseball Reflections, trading Heath Bell away. The team has positional needs, and Heath is one of the few chips they have to acquire players to fill those needs.

On Friday, the team announced re-signing Bell for 1 year at $4 million. So now that they've resigned him, is it a good signing?

Bell made $1.255 million last year (plus a $25K bonus for making the All-Star team), and posted a 2.0 WAR. His WAR made him the 6th most valuable Padre overall and second most valuable pitcher behind only Kevin Correia. Among relievers, he was fourth in the NL (behind Broxton, Brian Wilson, and Rafael Soriano), and 1oth in the Majors. Fangraphs calculated his worth last year at $8.8 million. So based on that, Bell's deal would appear to be a good one.

The going rate for wins above replacement, well documented at various sites around the web, is $4.4 million. While Bell might not be an elite closer in 2010, there are no indications he'll regress badly next season - he should still be above average. Conservatively estimating his worth for 2010 at 1 WAR, the Padres paid less than the going rate for his services. So based on that, Bell's deal would appear to be a good one.

I took a look at Closer salaries for 2010. Unfortunately, not all teams have settled on their closer for this season. By my count, 11 of the 30 teams had their closer's contract expire at the end of the 2009 season and haven't renewed that particular pitcher's terms. So, for those teams I took a look at their salary for 2009. The average salary for a closer at the moment is $5.28 million, which means the Padres have paid less than the going rate for a closer in 2010. So based on that, Bell's deal would appear to be a good one.

Finally, consider the closers who put up comparable numbers to Bell in 2009 (based on WAR):

Jonathan Broxton - $1.83M (2009)
Brian Wilson - $0.48M (2009)
Andrew Bailey - $0.4M (2009)
Rafael Soriano - $7.5M (2010)
Mariano Rivera - $15M (2010)

Bell's deal puts him right in the middle of this pack. The Padres' deal for Heath Bell is a good one for the club.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Padres interested in Khalil Greene?

Monday was back to work day. Which means driving to and from downtown, but it also means being in the car for Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton's afternoon radio show. Hacksaw, during his 'greatest 15 minutes of radio' schtick, casually mentioned the Padres appear interested in bringing Khalil Greene back.

I smirked. That CAN'T be right. One of the major bright spots in 2009 was the rapid development of Everth Cabrera at short. I know this because the SDUT writers and Padre announcers constantly talked about it.

Why would Jed Hoyer even consider this? Khalil, dealing with anxiety issues and depression, went in the tank on the field. Cabrera was much better at the plate:

45 points of wOBA is pretty significant, in my opinion, in Cabrera's favor. So is 31 points of ISO in Greene's. But Greene had a bad year in 2009. How do his career numbers stack up with Cabrera?

Almost identical wOBA, but Greene walks 4% less career than Cabrera did last season and only trailed Cabrera by 6 wOBA points. A HUGE advantage in ISO for Greene. Granted, Greene nosedived badly in 2008 and 2009. There's risk, but if he could reprise something close to his career numbers...that'd help, wouldn't it?

Defensively, Greene was always solid (at least, that was his reputation), but wasn't Cabrera as good or better? Let's look:

Cabrera was god-awful at short last year. His WAR is solely a function of his bat. Greene, despite his reputation, isn't a very good defensive shortstop either. His UZR numbers, however, are better than Cabrera's. His Dewan plus/minus is worse. So call it a wash - neither one is very good.

There's been no discussion, either in the paper, on ESPN, or any other sites I frequent, regarding possible Padre interest in Greene. No where other than in Hacksaw's sports summary. So how much credence can be given to this seemingly preposterous rumor us unclear. But a back-of-the-napkin look indicates it's not as crazy as it seemed at first blush.

Which is the exact opposite of what I thought going into this line of inquiry.

Of course, the Padres would be taking a pretty big risk, betting that Khalil Greene could approach his 2007 season production when all recent data says those days are gone, never to return.