Saturday, November 12, 2005

Danny Tartabull Regional - First Round

Check out an explanation of what is going

First Round Matchup: 1. SP Roger Clemens (1) vs. 16. C Brad Ausmus (65)

The National League Champion Houston Astros will have many difficult decisions to make this offseason. Luckily, that is up to them and not me. The only decision I have to make right now is between Clemens and Ausmus. I’ll be as nice to both guys as possible since I’m sure they are buddies and made up a very successful battery this year. So, in an attempt to maintain my niceness, let’s just say Clemens narrowly squeaks by Ausmus in this matchup. Deal?

VICTOR: Roger Clemens

Roger Clemens broke into baseball about 10 years too soon. Sure, he has made over $121,000,000 since breaking into the bigs in 1985, but can you imagine the kind of money he could have made, in his prime, in the mid to late 90’s marketplace?


Brad Ausmus is arguably the fourth best catcher on the open market this offseason despite his putrid offensive numbers of the past few years. He is still an above average catcher behind the plate and has a reputation of being one of the best in baseball at handling a pitching staff – Roger Clemens (oh the irony) has called him the best catcher he has ever pitched to. These are perfect qualities in a backup catcher. However, as previously noted, Ausmus is the fourth best catcher available. This says something about the state of catching in the game today. There are starting jobs to be had for a player like Ausmus for better or worse.

Ausmus actually had his best offensive season since 2000 putting up a .258/.351/.331 line in 387 at bats – the biggest surprise of the line has to be the 51 walks compared to 48 strikeouts. It is doubtful Ausmus can duplicate even his modest numbers of ’05 in 2006 as he is entering his Age-37 season and should be in full decline phase. The fact that he is a catcher and a good defensive one at that will keep him working, however.

Where Ausmus winds up will depend on where the three highly coveted catchers of the offseason decide on playing. Whatever team is left without the guy they really want will turn to Ausmus. Expect him to either resign with Houston for a year or rejoin the team he broke in with, the Padres.

Prediction: Signs with San Diego, 1-year deal worth $2.5 million

First Round Matchup: 8. CF Kenny Lofton (30) vs. 9. RP Rudy Seanez (33)

These 8-9 matchups are always the best. Lofton had a sensational year with the Phillies in 2005 at the age of 38. Rudy Seanez had a fantastic year out of the Padres bullpen in 2005 at the age of 36. I am sure I am a little biased because I got to see Lofton play every night, but I saw very few signs of him slowing down this year. He got better as the year progressed. Seanez is the more likely candidate to not duplicate his outstanding 2005 although I still see him as an above average relief pitcher going forward. Lofton’s recent track record (only one barely below average season in the last four) compared with the track record of Seanez (unsuccessful injury shortened years in both 2002 and 2003) help give Lofton an edge. Seanez is also coming off a career high in innings pitched at the age of 36. Lofton is coming off a year in which he played in 110 games – evidence that he has been kept fresh while also playing in two out of every three games. I’ll take the platoon outfielder over the middle reliever in this case.

VICTOR: Kenny Lofton

Lofton his .335/.392/.420 last year. He stole 22 bases in 25 attempts (88%). He had more triples (5) than hit into double plays (3). If his game was built on speed and contact, the man can still play. Lofton keeps his body in great shape (nagging hamstring injuries aside) and there is little reason to think he won’t at least be a productive platoon partner for somebody for another year. Plus, he was involved in one of the worst trades in recent memory. The Cubs stole Lofton and Aramis Ramirez from Pittsburgh for Jose Hernandez, Bobby Hill, and Matt Bruback. Ramirez is a star for the Cubs, but Lofton alone would have made the deal work. All he did was hit .327/.381/.471 in 208 late season at bats for Chicago. Lofton kept it up by hitting over .300 in the playoffs for a Cubs team that fell in Game 7 of the NLCS. To sum all that up – good trade Pittsburgh!


Rudy Seanez is coming off of a stellar year with San Diego. Seanez went 7-1 with a 2.69 ERA and an ERA+ of 143. It was, by any statistical measure, a dominating year. He struck out 84 guys in 60.2 innings while only walking 22 batters. Seanez will be a hot middle relief/setup option for any team needing bullpen help. An injury history that plagued him in the early part of his career will now end up benefiting him – his arm has been preserved over the years and still has a lot of mileage on it. It would be foolhardy to expect similar numbers to his standout 2005 season, but Seanez is a candidate to be a significantly above average reliever for the next year or two. He is a real sleeper amongst the free agent class of 2005 – his overall ranking of 33 is higher than you’ll see him ranked anywhere else. Many teams will call and offer him some interesting deals (more money for a one-year deal or less for two and a club option third), but I believe his Southern California loyalties will win out.

Prediction: Re-signs with San Diego, 2-year contract worth $2.6 million

First Round Matchup: 4. RP Octavio Dotel (14) vs. 13. Joe Randa (49)

Octavio Dotel is a guy that I have higher than most. His injury concerns worry me, but short of that I see nothing but upside. He is heading into his Age-32 season and hasn’t had anything short of a significantly above average year since his conversion to the bullpen began in 2001. Joe Randa is entering his Age-36 season and is on the downside of a very nondescript major league career. Nondescript isn’t meant in a mean way here either – the guy has lasted 11 seasons so far as an all around average third baseman. An average third baseman at his peak is not going to be a hot commodity now that he has hit his decline phase. Dotel, injuries and all, wins out.

VICTOR: Octavio Dotel

Dotel has been very good pitching under the radar for the past few years. It seems that being a closer can sometimes do that – successes are downplayed while failures are replayed over and over and over and over…you get the idea. We’ll call 2005 a wash due to injuries (he only pitched 15.2 innings) and look at other recent years to explain his value. Dotel struck out 122 batters in 85.2 innings in 2004 while only walking 33. Those numbers help explain his breakout season of 36 saves.


Randa has been discussed at length here, so there isn’t much more to be said. That is actually a bit of lie since I really didn’t go into too much detail on Randa in that previous post. The real reason why there isn’t much more to say about him is because it’s Joe Randa. He can still hit .270/.330/.425 for you so he isn’t an awful player, but most teams look for more out of that from their third baseman. The market for third baseman figures to be a slow one this offseason, so Randa will more than likely have to settle for another 1-year contract. He also could be faced with the decision of choosing less money and playing time for a contender (St. Louis as Rolen injury insurance? A platoon with David Bell in Philly? One year stopgap in Minnesota?) or the possibility of a starter’s job on either an improving team looking for a veteran presence (Milwaukee – he’s a native) or a mismanaged team willing to make a dumb decision (how about the newly crowned most mismanaged franchise in sports – it pains me to say it – the Los Angeles Dodgers).

Prediction: Signs with Milwaukee, 1-year contract worth $2.25 million

First Round Matchup: 5. RP Trevor Hoffman (17) vs. 12. D’Angelo Jimenez (46)

D’Angelo Jimenez is another player who has been discussed at length – you can find that here. Ideally, he is a super-sub on a contending team. A very useful player, to be sure, but not a difference maker like a star closer can be. Even at 59 years old, Hoffman is still a legit closer in the big leagues. This gives him the edge.

VICTOR: Trevor Hoffman

Hoffman has 436 career saves and could overtake Lee Smith as the career leader with a big year (he needs 42 to tie). He rebounded strongly from injury 2 years ago to post back to back 40 save seasons. I’d personally expect more than a .121 batting average out of a converted outfielder though.


Jimenez is really an underrated player. He isn’t a superstar, but he can be a valuable asset of the bench and is a better option at second for some teams out there. He should come cheap after his problems in Cincinnati and, assuming those problems are cleared up, would fit in nicely on any big league bench. Jimenez was last seen as a starter in the majors in 2004 when he hit .270/.364/.394 in 563 at bats. He has big league experience at third, short, and second and has even pitched 1.1 innings of perfect ball. Teams that might be willing to take a shot include Atlanta, San Diego, Oakland, or Toronto. Whether or not he gets a chance at a starting gig depends on how the offseasons shake out for a number of teams. Whatever team signs him would be wise to just flat out tell him to stop running – he has 34 steals in 55 attempts, good for a success rate of 61%. Ouch.

Prediction: Signs with San Diego, 1-year contract worth $1.1 million

First Round Matchup: 3. SS Rafael Furcal (11) vs. 14. Matt Lawton (56)

Furcal is one of the more controversial, polarizing free agents out there. Some people love him; others think he is incredibly overrated. He’ll only be 28 and will be in hot demand as teams with holes at SS, 2B, and maybe even CF pursue him. Matt Lawton, on the other hand, will be 34, and comes with a free 10-game steroid suspension to start 2006 for any team that signs him. Lawton is without a doubt an underrated player perhaps picked on over the years for the unreasonable contracts teams signed him to. He should be a bargain this offseason and is a great option as fourth outfielder on a contender or even a starter on a needier, outfielder depleted team. Bargain or not, the matchup doesn’t look good for Lawton. A premium shortstop entering his prime is hard to score an upset over. The bad news just keeps on coming for Mr. Lawton.

VICTOR: Rafael Furcal

Rafael Furcal expects a $50 million deal. More power to him for shooting for the top, I say. Furcal has good pop, great speed, a cannon for an arm (not literally), and shows signs of improving plate discipline. There is a lot to like from him as he enters his year 28 season. His number one comparable: none other than Mr. Jimmy Rollins.


Matt Lawton probably could use a hug. He was booed everywhere he want last year (mostly New York down the stretch) and that was before he tested positive for steroids. It was not a good year for the guy. If I were to mention his house being destroyed by the hurricanes would that be just considered adding on to his misery? Well whether it is adding on or not, it is true – this guy had one bad year. All of this makes him a nice option as a buy low guy. Lawton has hinted at retirement, but it is doubtful it comes to that. He’ll need some extra cash for the rebuilding of that house. What’s that you say? He has earned over $35 million in his career so far? Well I still think he’ll be back. He’ll be 34 and coming off a year that was not nearly as bad as people want to claim. Hmm, high OBP guy whom the market will devalue due to the steroid suspension and lack of pop in 2005 – sounds like Billy Beane could be all over this in his attempt to exploit a new market inefficiency.

Prediction: Signs with Oakland, 1-year deal worth $2.8 million

First Round Matchup: 6. SP Jarrod Washburn (24) vs. 11. SP Brett Tomko (43)

These guys are similar pitchers except for the fact that Washburn is younger and better. He’ll be paid more and will probably be overpaid, but the fact remains he is a better option for a team looking for quality starting pitching. Too bad this matchup wasn’t between Jeff Weaver and Brett Tomko. Their career numbers are very, very similar (Weaver’s awful season as a Yankee was his big outlier while Tomko has been consistently below average).

VICTOR: Jarrod Washburn

Washburn has been a winner throughout his Angels career. There are so many other factors that go into winning a baseball game that wins by a pitcher has become the most overrated stat in baseball. Washburn has the wins and other good numbers to back up his success. A career ERA under 4 and an ERA+ of 114 for a starting pitcher with 183 starts under his belt is bound to be a hot commodity in 2005. Washburn is coming off his second best full season as a starter. He is also arguably the best player (definitely the best pitcher) to come out of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Gary Varsho, a proud Titan, should be proud.


Brett Tomko’s career began with such high expectations. I thought for sure he was a future stud pitcher. Good body, good stuff, always seemed to have his head on his shoulders. Something just went wrong along the way. Tomko will be 33 next season and is now officially what he is going to be – a back of the rotation innings eater. This may even be a generous assessment considering he has only had one above average year (ERA+ of 110 in 2004) since his sensational debut in 1997. Tomko is a fly ball pitcher so it would be wise for teams with tiny ballparks to pass him by. He could be tempting to a number of teams – Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Detroit to name a few potential destinations. I see Tomko being reunited with Jim Bowden (if he is still there) in Washington. Pitching in RFK could even bump Tomko up to league average. But I doubt it.

Prediction: Signs with Washington, 2-year deal worth $8.5 million

First Round Matchup: 2. OF Johnny Damon (8) vs. 15. Pedro Astacio (59)

Damon scares me a little bit – he’ll be 32 this upcoming season and his defense (a controversial subject – some defensive metrics say it’s good, some bad) is questionable at best. The man is a bona fide major league leadoff man and that is a quality that goes a long way in today’s market. Astacio was a personal sleeper of mine last season. The Rangers picking him up for $800,000 was a pretty decent move. This season the secret is out and some team might be silly enough to guarantee at least a million dollar deal longer than one year and open up a rotation spot for the guy. That seems like a big risk on a 36-year old starter. Damon may have his question marks, but he is still a potential impact player in a year in which there are few (I know, I know – I’m a broken record, but it’s true).

VICTOR: Johnny Damon

Johnny Damon is still a very good leadoff man. He is coming off back to back good years with Boston and is known for his ability to get on base (.353 career OBP) and good power for a leadoff guy (130 career homeruns). His base stealing decision making improved drastically in 2005 as Damon stole 18 of 19 bases. Injuries hampered Damon all season long, but he should be back healthy and ready to go in 2006.


I liked Pedro Astacio more as a reliever last year and my opinion on him hasn’t changed. His success (and failure) in 2005 was predictable. Put a fly ball pitcher in Texas, disaster will ensue (74 ERA+). Put him in San Diego, and things will go much smoother (122 ERA+). Where he signs this year will play a large part in determining his value. Similar teams that pursue Brett Tomko could also pursue Astacio. Astacio does have some wear and tear on his arm – he’ll be 36 this season and has thrown over 2100 big league innings. I consider a return to either San Diego or Colorado as possible scenarios for Pedro Julio Astacio Pura.

Predictions: Re-signs with San Diego, 2-year deal worth $5 million

First Round Matchup: 7. RP Kyle Farnsworth (27) vs. 10. Juan Encarnacion (42)

Farnsworth has the arm to be a big-time closer in this league, but does he have the head? Sounds like a question that has asked about this guy since he was converted to the bullpen full time in 2000. Farnsworth had his breakout in 2005, but there were some other factors that may have played into it. Encarnacion is coming off his best year ever (.287/.349/.447), but has still not matured into the player scouts expected. He is turning 30 this season and time is running out on that ever happening (if it hasn’t already). He is still a solid player capable of hitting in various spots of a lineup. This is as close a matchup as there has been. Two 30-year old guys with unrealized potential – the success of each is largely dependent on where they wind up. Going on the general rule of pitching over hitting, Farnsworth takes it.

VICTOR: Kyle Farnsworth

Farnsworth finished 2005 with an ERA at 2.19 and an ERA+ of 198. Those are some serious numbers. He struck out 87 in 70 innings and only walked 27 batters. His homeruns allowed were cut in half from 2004 and, in his first year getting even semi-regular save opportunities, he saved a career high 16 games. He is also one big, scary guy when on the mound.

THANKS FOR PLAYING: Juan Encarnacion

Encarnacion is a really interesting player. As are many players with unrealized potential, he is a regular walking contradiction. His power numbers jump out as underwhelming (when put in context with the big expectations he once came with), but he has played his prime years in big ballparks (Florida and Los Angeles). His career OBP has been dismal, but his 2005 OBP was .349. Nothing came close to that previously and it represented a whopping 50 point jump from 2004. I always considered Encarnacion to be an interesting comparison to Bobby Abreu. More as in a “what if” kind of way. Maybe in some alternate universe in a galaxy far, far away, Encarnacion is the 5-tool player (hey he won a Gold Glove) that Abreu is in this universe. His list of comparables is an interesting one (no Abreu obviously). It does include Jose Guillen (a very similar match), Torii Hunter, and Jacque Jones. Encarnacion has a plus arm, above average speed, and some power – even at 30 there is still some hope for him to put it together for a couple years. Some players do peak later than others. There are a lot of similar outfielders out there this year. Encarnacion could wind up as the best investment of all the second-tier guys. Teams with some cash and in need of OF help such as Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Houston could all come calling.

Prediction: Signs with Texas, 3-year deal worth $15.75 million


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