Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bud Black is NL Manager of the Year

The BBA held it's post-season awards voting during the playoffs, and awarded Bud Black their Connie Mack Award as the best NL Manager in 2010.  Yesterday the BBWAA followed suit, naming Black the NL Manager of the Year.

As a baseball observer and Padre partisan, I felt this selection was self-evident.  Black took a team that lost 87 games the previous season and moved them within a game of the playoffs, finishing with a 90-72 record.  The BBWAA didn't think he had a slam-dunk case based on the voting.  I had not considered Dusty Baker as a viable candidate - I expected Bruce Bochy and Bobby Cox to get significant support - but Baker presided over a turnaround almost as big as San Diego's (Cincinnati lost 84 games in 2009 and finished this season 91-71).

Maybe that's because I could never decide if Cincinnati's division championship was a product of their superior play, or St Louis' collapse after 11 August.

At any rate, in the hour before the winners were announced I got into an interesting interchange with a Giants fan on Twitter (SFGiantsUSA) about who deserved to win.  First, it was nice to have a reasonable exchange with a Giants fan for once.  His argument against Black centered around their performance after 25 August, when the 10-game losing streak started.  My counter was Bochy had less to do with the Giants success last season than Brian Sabean did.  We argued according to form, perhaps.

But those positions weren't why it was interesting.  He asked if Black's perceived success was based on how the Padres were evaluated before the season started, and so why should he get credit because the prognosticators mis-evaluated the Padres (and how strong their pitching was)?

He makes a fair point.  Most every Manager of the Year award goes to a guy who is perceived to have gotten his team to over-achieve  Who sets the baseline from which that over-achievement is evaluated? The BBWAA, ESPN experts, experts, bloggers, and so on.  Manager of the Year should go to the man who performed the best regardless of how his team was expected to play.  I had not considered that position until he mentioned.

If we discount where everyone thought the Padres would finish (and I think universally they were picked to finish no higher than 4th in the NL West), does Black still deserve the award?  I think so, because of the overall talent level he had to work with.  Consider:
  • NL teams averaged 4.33 runs per game.  San Diego came in at 4.10.  Four teams were worse:  New York (4.05), Washington (4.04), Houston (3.77), Pittsburgh (3.62).  None of those 4 teams finished above .500 (NY was the closest at 79-83)
  • San Diego's raw OPS was third worst in the league.  Their park adjusted OPS+ was more middle of the pack, but still below the league average.  Concurrently, their team wOBA was also thirdworst.
  • All the above makes sense if you looked at their lineups over the 2010 season.  The only guy in the lineup that scared teams day-to-day was Adrian Gonzalez. Miguel Tejada did help after the trade deadline, but still - this was a below average lineup.
San Diego's pitching was superior, especially their bullpen, which made up for the lack of hitting all season.  Bud Black did a great job juggling his starting staff (specifically Mat Latos, Wade LeBlanc, Kevin Correia, Chris Young) and aggressively turning over the games to his airtight bullpen.

And his starting staff had holes in it.  Kevin Correia never really recovered from the untimely death of his brother.  Chris Young started the third game of the season, then didn't pitch again until September.  Mat Latos took a 'injury' related 15 days off in July.  Wade LeBlanc was effective, then not effective, holding down the #5 job. Jon Garland had a great year statistically but was maddingly erratic for stretches late in the season.

Other teams had issues, sure.  SF's lineup had no power in it for the first half of the season.  St Louis lost 40% of its rotation in a week and never fully recovered.  Philadelphia played 14 total regular season games with their Opening Day lineup.  But all those teams had much more margin for error, either because the rest of their roster was talented enough to survive the damage (STL, PHI), or they had the resources to make wholesale changes to their roster (SF, PHI).  No other team spent the season with the razor thin margin between success and failure Padres did, and the fact they stayed on the success side of that edge the virtually all season (and returned to it after falling off it in late August) is entirely due to Bud Black.

So no, I don't think pre-season expectations should drive who wins. But I think who did the most with the talent they had should, and Bud Black clearly did.  Congratulations Bud Black.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cameron Maybin to the Padres

On Saturday last the Padres acquired Cameron Maybin from Florida for "Home Run Ed" Mujica and Ryan Webb.  You may have seen this.

The first question I asked myself was why did the Padres trade some of their pitching depth for a guy at a position...where they have a lot of depth already?  So I took a look at some numbers.

Maybin has played most of his career, and all his time with Florida, as a centerfielder.  It's reasonable to expect the Padres plan to line him up in center for 2011.  That means Tony Gwynn Jr, Will Venable, and Chris Denorfia are probably looking for another position to play.  How good a CF is Maybin?  Well:

  • By UZR/150 (fangraphs):  -4.4 (2010), 13,5 (2009).  He played 8 games in 2008 and 15 games in 2007, so too small a sample size to use.
  • By Dewan plus/minus:  -7 (2010), +6 (2009).
  • By Range factor/9 (baseball reference):  3.11 (2010), 2.70 (2009).  League average was 2.59 and 2.60 respectively.
Tony Gwynn?
  • UZR/150:  32.9, 14.4
  • Dewan:  +23, +19
  • Range Factor/9:  2.12, 3.03.
Venable has played less than 30 games in center each of the last 3 seasons, so not much data to go on there.  Denorfia has played only 1 season with the Padres, and had 50 games in CF, but his UZR/150 is -15.7.  Remember that he and Venable were substitutes after Gwynn Jr got hurt, so really this is about Maybin and Gwynn.

Based on the defensive numbers above I would argue Gwynn Jr is a better defensive CF than Maybin.  Only Range Factor/9 favors Maybin, which interestingly enough was quoted in the SDUT article announcing Maybin's acquisition:

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Maybin last season had the highest range factor of any National League center fielder who played at least 70 games. Maybin had a 3.10 score per nine innings. By comparison, Tony Gwynn had a 2.12 score.
Was the trade about improving the offense?  Doubtful.  For the 2010 season, Maybin's .234/.302/.361 (.299 wOBA) line was not much better than Gwynn Jr's .204/.304/.287 (.276 wOBA).  I thought perhaps Maybin would be the leadoff hitter the Padres need to find, but based on that OBP he is no improvement at all.

Over 610 PA Maybin has posted a .246/.313/.380.  Over 1054 PA Gwynn Jr has .244/.323/.314.  We can say Maybin has more power based on the slugging percentage, but otherwise they are the same hitter.  So this isn't about the offense.

Was the trade be about salary?  Maybin has just over one year major league service time (according to Cot's Baseball Contracts and my extrapolation), and Gwynn Jr has just over 3.  Again according to Cot's, both are arbitration eligible for 2011 (note:  I may be reading the data on Cot's wrong, so apologies if I have indeed misinterpreted it).  I don't understand how Maybin is arbitration eligible with only 1 year service time, but that is what the data says.

Based on the arbitration status for both, this probably isn't about the salary.  Both players have above-average gloves but below-average bats, so their arbitration cases would be very similar.

Maybin is 4+ years younger than Gwynn.  Maybe that's what this is about.

Sometimes I wish I had access to the analytical tools the Padres use to evaluate players, because from my perspective, they acquired a new starting center fielder with no appreciable upside from their current starting center fielder.

Complicating things is the Padres already crowded outfield.  Besides Gwynn Jr, Venable, and Denorfia, San Diego also has OF Kyle Blanks, Ryan Ludwick, Aaron Cunningham, Luis Durango, and Scott Hairston to choose from (and what about Matt Stairs?)  Clearly the club can't carry all those players, so someone or several someones are not going to be playing in SD next season.  If I was a betting man, I'd suspect Gwynn Jr, Hairston, and Stairs are gone, Blanks goes back to first base, Cunningham to the minors, and the Padres keep Ludwick, Venable, Durango and Denorfia.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Chris Young, Ted Simmons, Podcasts, and Transitions

Hey it's been a week since our last post.  Some catch-up, and an announcement.

- Padres declined Chris Young's option for 2011.  The club would have paid him $8.5M for next season.  This move comes as no surprise, and Young was quoted last week saying he'd like to come back as a Padre if the financial details can be worked out.  As I discussed last week on the Podcast, it's definitely conceivable Young could return.  He's an extreme fly ball pitcher, and Petco is built to maximize his strengths.  He has missed significant time due to injury the past 3 seasons, making him a high risk acquisition by another team; which also means the market won't really be there for his services, so his price should be relatively low despite his experience and success (he was an All-Star in 2007).

With only 3 of their rotation slots spoken for in 2011, re-signing CY makes a lot of sense.

- Ted Simmons has joined the Seattle Mariner front office, after two years as Bud Black's bench coach. Today the Veterans Committee for the Hall of Fame announced Ted will be one of the players they consider for induction.  Simmons' career WAR (50.40) is better than Jorge Posada's (46.00), a guy a certain segment of the baseball world is trying to tout as a first-ballot HOF.  Simmons finished in the MVP top 20 seven times from 1971-1982.  He's certainly worthy of consideration for the Hall, and good luck to him.

- Podcasts:  My stated intentions with the Podcast is to do one if any interesting Padre news breaks during that week.  That said, let's be realistic - two of the next 3 shows fall on Federal holidays, and you've probably got more important things to do those nights.  So the 18 Nov show is the next scheduled on we'll do.  That time may change to earlier in the night, but we'll discuss that next week.

Finally, a note on transitions.  The Bureau of Naval Personnel approved my retirement request; I'll leave the USN next summer after 20 years of service.  There's a lot of personal satisfaction on the job done, and some trepidation on what's to come.  I've worn the uniform in some capacity for over half my actual life and all of my adult life.  Not only do I now have to find a color other than khaki to wear to work every day, I have to find a job, plus all the normal check-out items that need to be completed before I leave active service (of which medical is probably the most important).

Why am I telling you this?  Because in preparation for that transition this blog will necessarily become a lower priority for me.  So, it's going to go dark this winter for extended periods of time.  I plan to post when appropriate, and I am writing weekly over at I-70 Baseball if you need to a 'Mike fix', but will be concentrating on other things.

I expect to be back full-force for spring training.

Thanks to all of you who've commented here, or just stopped by to read what I've written.  A special thank-you to Gaslamp Ball and Ducksnorts for the many links during the 2010 season. Remember:  I'm not going away, just turning down the wattage for a while.  See you around.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Garland, Gonzalez, Torrealba Options Resolved

The Padres picked up Adrian Gonzalez's 2011 option yesterday.  As if there was any doubt.

According to Baseball Reference, Gonzalez had the highest NL WAR for position players not named Albert Pujols, and 4th highest overall (fangraphs is not as enamored; they rank Gonzo 13th in the league).  Gonzalez's value by Fangraphs came in at $21.1 million; his actual 2011 contract option is for $5.5 million.

Two other options were reported yesterday by XX1090 during the drive home.  Jon Garland exercised his player option and declined to return to San Diego in 2011.  He receives the $300K buyout.  Yorvit Torrealba also declined his $3.5 million option for 2011, and he receives a $500K buyout.

Gonzo gets a $750K raise.  The Padres spent $800K and cleared $10.25M off the books for 2011, making $9.45M more available to sign players in 2011.

I'm a little surprised Torrealba declined to return, however, 2010 was his best season in the majors.  He had the most PA he's had since 2007, and he put up his best-ever WAR (2.4, again by Fangraphs).  He's 32 years old.  Perhaps he thinks he proved himself this past season, and believes he can find an everyday catching gig on the free agent market.  That's certainly possible.  I love an optimist, so best of luck Yorvit.

I'm not all that surprised Garland is leaving.  He seemed irritated at how he was used by Black, especially towards the end of the season.  There were a couple of games (against the Giants in early September, against the Cubs the last home game of the season) where he either was visibly upset at being lifted, or verbally indicated he was miffed in the post-game interview.  Garland professed to really wanting to pitch at Petco when the Padres signed him in the off-season; things must have gone sour indeed for him to leave after only one season. 

Garland had the best K/9 rate, and the second-worst BB/9 rate, of his career in 2010.  His xFIP was the seocnd-lowest of his career, so he pitched about as well as he could; yet his WAR was the lowest it had ever been when throwing 200+ innings (and his lowest since 2001, his second year in the majors).  His 3.47 ERA was the best of his career.

How crowded would the Padres rotation have been in 2011?  Latos, Richard, and Stauffer return.  Young has an $8.5M club option.  Correia is a free agent.  LeBlanc is probably done as a starter.  There was room for Garland here in 2011, had he opted to stay.

Well Jon it was fun while it lasted.  Wish you could have stopped that 10-game losing streak before it reached 10 games.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bruce Bochy, Tim Flannery win a World Series

Wouldn't it have been better to write that headline while both were still members of the Padres organization?  Yes, yes it would.

I was asked in conversation who I would root for in the playoffs, and although I did not pick a team, I did state I would root for the NL representative to win the World Series.  Even if that rep was the Dodgers.  I believe the only professional league in the world still playing baseball like it was meant to be played is our league, the National League, and I want to see it succeed.  Mission accomplished, and congratulations to the San Francisco Giants.

I couldn't watch the post-game celebrations without thinking what might have been for San Diego.  I doubt any Padre fan could.  San Diego was the better team head-to-head, and had a better interleague record; but the Giants were 32-22 against the rest of the NL West, and the Padres were 26-28.  That was the difference.  San Fran was a 1/2 game better against the NL Central and 3.5 games better against the NL East than the Padres.  Still, San Diego had a chance to win the division on the last day of the season.

Which leaves one to wonder:  How far would San Diego have gotten in the post-season?  I don't think anyone can really say; after all, what predictive software program had the Rangers knocking off the Yankees?  I do think that the Padres would not have had enough offense to survive a first-round matchup with Atlanta or Philadelphia.  The Giants got contributions and power up and down their lineup:  Renteria, Ross, Posey, Burrell, Uribe, the list goes on.  San Diego didn't have that outside of Gonzalez and Tejada.  Pitching-wise, San Diego's rotation was not nearly as deep as San Francisco's, although our bullpen is their's equal.

I think the Padres, had they qualified, would have bowed out in the LDS round, and there would have been no shame in that; after all, this team was picked to finish last by most.

With the Giants win we close out the first decade of the new millennium, and what a decade it was for the World Series.
  • Arizona, Anaheim, Colorado, Houston, Tampa Bay, and Texas all made their first World Series Appearance, with Arizona and Anaheim winning their first ever championship.
  • We saw long streaks end - Boston ended a 90 year drought; the White Sox an 88 year drought; San Francisco a 56 year drought.
  • Only the Red Sox won multiple titles.
  • The old guard teams continue to dominate, though.  The Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies, and Cardinals won 40% of the league titles (2 each) in the decade.
So other than the end of season awards, that wraps up the 2010 baseball season.  Now our attention turns to Adrian Gonzalez's contract negotiations, and the club options for Jon Garland and Chris Young.