Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Bowden's Blunders

This is a sampling of Bowden’s work this year – some good, some not so good, but as a whole I just don’t agree with his thinking as far as player talent evaluations go. Maybe he isn’t such a huge dope, but I do disagree with his general approach. Take that for what its worth.

FA Signings

Vinny Castilla – 2 years, $6.2 million
Christian Guzman – 4 years, $16.8 million

Castilla was a bad signing for many reasons, but Bowden was able to unload him for a pitcher after one year of the deal, so no need to even go into too much detail there.

Christian Guzman:

Career OBP - .298
Career SLG - .374

Nice things to say about Christian Guzman:

  • He has had one good year (2001) out of his seven in the majors – 1 good year more than I’ll ever have (although I had this one year in Little League where I must have hit .800).
  • He is an above average defensive shortstop.
  • He sends his mother a lovely bouquet of flowers every so often just to let her know he appreciates all she has done…(maybe?)

Trade Acquisitions

Juan Rivera and Maicer Izturis (to the Angels) for Jose Guillen (to the Nats)

On the surface this trade was a big win for Washington – Guillen was the only real power threat in the ’05 Nats lineup. However, Rivera might have provided similar numbers if given the chance at literally one tenth of the price. Rivera had an OPS+ of 106 this year. Guillen had an OPS+ of 118. Guillen clearly had the more productive year, but Rivera is two years younger, had less of an opportunity, and was (I really can’t stress this enough) paid one tenth Guillen’s salary. Izturis is a 25-year old infielder who provides very good defense at second, third, and short. Although he’ll probably never hit quite enough to hold down a starting spot in his career, I can all but guarantee Maicer Izturis will have a long, productive career as a utility guy. Truthfully, it is unfair to call this trade a failure in any way. Maybe I wouldn’t have done it, but it worked out well for Washington and Jim Bowden can be relatively proud of the swap.

Endy Chavez (to the Phils) for Marlon Byrd (to the Nats)

I’d rather not get into this one for personal reasons – it makes me too upset. I have no idea what the future holds for Marlon Byrd, but I am fairly certain it will be better than the future for Endy Chavez. Endy can’t hit. That might not be fair. Endy hasn’t given any indication so far in his career that he can hit. That’s better. He is a good bunter, plays very well at any of the three outfield spots, and, if you can remember that triple he hit right after the Phils acquired him, he can really run. He is a useful NL 5th outfielder at this point for these reasons, but I doubt he’ll ever be much more. There is still at least a glimmer of hope that Byrd could one day take over as a starting CF somewhere although time is beginning to run out. Byrd might have been an early peaker. It does happen.

One of the things I think people failed to realize at the time of the trade (I was guilty of this myself) is the fact that Chavez is about six months younger than Byrd. Not that it really matters as I tend to think the eventual future for both guys (this is the best case scenario) is that of a fourth outfielder. Call this trade a wash; in fact, it is probably fair to give a slight edge to Bowden here based on the chance Byrd rediscovers some of his minor league/rookie season magic.

After two trades, my earlier criticism of Bowden seems a bit silly. The FA signings were so awful that they do not nearly make up for the slight positives in each deal, but I am surprised at the results so far nonetheless. That’s what makes doing an analysis like this so interesting, I suppose. It’s nice to learn something new as I go.

Tomo Ohka (to the Brewers) for Junior Spivey (to the Nats)

I’ve always been a big Junior Spivey fan and I’m not really sure why. More for a personal liking than anything else, I suppose. He had a very, very good 2002 season (.301/.389/.476 with an OBP+ of 120) and an above average 2004. Beyond that, he hasn’t been nearly as productive. He probably has a future as a utility guy in the big leagues and he could develop into a very good bench player for somebody somewhere down the line.

I’ve always been an even bigger Tomo Ohka fan – this guy always seemed to give the Phils fits when he was an Expo. It seems like he has been around a long time, but always as a young, raw pitcher with filthy stuff and a lot of upside. That makes it all the more difficult to believe he is turning 30 next March (the 18th by the way). I was ready to write about how great a fit he’d be on the Phillies staff since he throws his sinker/splitter so effectively he must be a great groundball pitcher. And groundball pitchers play very well in the Phils ballpark - moved backed fences or not. All good logic, right? Turns out he allowed more fly outs (76) to ground ball outs (65) this season and has only a very slight groundball tendency (1.16 groundball to fly ball ratio) throughout his career. Go figure. Anyway, he always seems to kill the Phils (on second thought, I could be completely wrong about that too, but it’s more work to check on that than the GB/FB ratio so maybe I’ll look that up another day) and he has been a better than league average major league starter consistently throughout his career. Ohka has been proof that Won/Loss record is incredibly overrated; baseball is just too much of a team game and there are too many uncontrollable variables for the pitcher to have that much of an impact on the outcome. Ohka has a career ERA+ of 114, but a W-L record of 44-53. For easy comparison purposes, imagine Ohka as a better version of Brian Lawrence.

One last note on Ohka that I couldn’t fit in with all that other stuff – he was involved in a 2001 trade deadline deal where he went from Boston to Montreal. The object of the Red Sox desires in that deal – UUU himself, Ugueth Urbina. One other last note – Ohka’s number one comparable through age 29 is Terry Mulholland. Interesting they are so similar through age 29, but somehow I doubt Ohka is still throwing in the majors at age 42 (and he’ll be 43 at the start of next year when many think he’ll still have a bullpen job somewhere – my advice to parents everywhere: get your child throwing lefty right out of the crib, it’ll pay off down the line).

Anyway, this was a very bad deal on paper and Bowden more or less admits as much in his own analysis. He also points out the extenuating circumstances behind the deal; Ohka had a major blowup with manager Frank Robinson and Jose Vidro, the Nats starting 2B, had just gotten hurt yet again. There were better replacement second base options within the organization (I’m a big Brendan Harris fan and he would have filled in nicely, if/when he gets a shot in the bigs he’ll be a very good utility infield type – mark my words) and, if the organization really felt they had to move Ohka, I have to believe they could have gotten someone more useful than Spivey. Bad trade, Jim, bad trade.

Zach Day and J.J. Davis (to the Rockies) for Preston Wilson (to the Nats)

Zach Day is a guy with a ton of promise (traded straight up for Milton Bradley when he was more of a hot prospect), but, at the ripe old age of 28 (next June) he’ll have to deliver or risk being a “can’t miss” type prospect who missed. I still like him as a reliable back of the rotation starter (his career numbers really aren’t that bad), but pitching in Colorado might mask any of the progress he has actually made. He is a classic wait and see type player. J.J. Davis is one of the toolsy, outfield types that Bowden lusts after (I know he trades him away here, but he did acquire him in the first place), but Bowden made a good move in dumping him seeing as I don’t think the former Pirates first round pick (8th overall in 1997) will break out any time soon. If he gets any at bats in Colorado, his power numbers could get a slight artificial boost, but I think Davis is more of a case of a great athlete masking as a baseball player more so than anything else.

So the Nats gave up little to get an established, former All-Star outfielder – must be a good deal, right? Not so fast. I tend to side with those who rely on statistics more than those who choose to ignore them more often that not and statheads everywhere scream “overrated” when Preston Wilson is brought up. I think he is overrated by many baseball observers. His low OBP is my main complaint, he is but still definitely a better than average ballplayer. So I’m not arguing he is bad when people say he is good, I’d rather argue he is merely good when people think he is in fact better than that. Not of this really matters though when discussing the trade. Bowden swung the deal to get another bat in the lineup. The problem with this thinking is obvious when looking at the numbers. He acquired a good hitter for the lineup at the expense of playing time for an even better hitter. Ryan Church was benched after the acquisition of

There is more, but this is getting out of hand. Too much time and space has been devoted to the Nationals on a Phillies website. Check out the second half of Bowden’s self-analysis from the Washington Examiner. I touched on the free agents signings earlier (save Loaiza, but that was in fact a good one – it should be interesting to see if a team overpays him this year) and the rest is some relatively minor transactions. Losing two pitchers with decent features ahead of them (Kim and Vargas) to protect Tony Blanco sees questionable at best, but the Carrasco waiver pickup worked out well. I think Bowden is a tad too complimentary over the Stanton pick up, but that’s not that big a deal anyway. All in all, I still think he is a bum as a GM. My argument could have been stronger, I’ll admit, but Christian Guzman and Vinny Castilla – seriously what was he thinking?


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