Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Rex Hudler Regional - First Round

Check out an explanation of what is going on........here.

First Round Matchup: 1. SP A.J Burnett (2) vs. 16. 1B Travis Lee (63)

A.J. Burnett will get the biggest free agent contract for a pitcher this offseason. He’ll be 29 this season and has a career record of 49-50. Travis Lee will be 31 (where does the time go?) and is without a doubt one of my least favorite players to ever play the game. Burnett is a highly thought of guy (with my own personal high seed representing it), but could be victimized by an upset somewhere down the line. Travis Lee isn’t the guy to get the job done.

VICTOR: A.J. Burnett

Burnett is coming off a season when he posted a 3.44 ERA, won 12 games, and struck out 198 guys in 209 innings. He is a strapping lad who measures in at 6’5’’, 205 pounds and will be 29 years old going into the season. He also could have added value to teams seeking ground ball pitchers – he had a 2.11 GO/AO ratio this year.


Travis Lee – where to begin? He is an exceptional fielder, quite possibly the best defensive first baseman in the game. Lee and Rico Brogna were the two best defensive first basemen I’ve seen in my 13 seasons following the Phillies (Brogna is number 4 on the list of comparable players for Lee by the way). That’s the good news. The bad isn’t even all that bad to be honest. Lee was a victim first and foremost of high expectations. He was the number two overall pick in 1996, but became a free agent through a draft loophole and signed a huge deal with the new franchise in Arizona. After a strong rookie year in 1998, Lee disappointed for the D’Backs for a season and a half before being the centerpiece in the Curt Schilling trade from Philadelphia. High expectations again. His first full year in Philly wasn’t bad and there was plenty of room to grow (waiting for those doubles and his gap power to turn into homers and real power), but Lee regressed and proved to be an awful fit playing in a town that actually cares about things like winning, losing, and watching million dollar athletes actually play like they give a shit. Travis Lee is talented. He just doesn’t care. He is motivated by the huge paycheck he gets every other week and is satisfied in doing just enough to keep his bank account fat. His last two full seasons in Tampa have been better than league average, so maybe he is beginning to figure things out at a later stage than most. I don’t really know, nor do I care. So long as I don’t have him as a member of the team I follow and pay good money to watch, I am okay with him coasting through life like the dog that he is. I hate this regional. It is chock full of guys that I just flat out don’t like.

Prediction: Re-signs with Tampa, 1-year deal worth $1.75 million

First Round Matchup: 8. SP Matt Morris (29) vs. 9. OF Reggie Sanders (36)

This matchup comes down to money – Morris will get a ton, Sanders won’t (relatively speaking). Simple as that. If money was no consideration at all, Morris is the better bet at this point in his career. But part of the whole point of this is to factor in potential contract offers and that’s where Morris is hurt. Sanders beats his old teammate in a minor upset.

VICTOR: Reggie Sanders

I’m as big a Reggie Sanders fan as you’ll find. The guy really is a consummate professional. He is incredibly consistent (5 straight years and six out of seven with OPS+ over 100 and 13 of 14 seasons with OPS+ over 99), has a career OPS of .835, and had one of the better under the radar seasons in the past decade in 1995. Reggie had 280 total bases that year, hit .306/.397/.579 good for an OPS+ of 155. He also hit 28 homers and stole 36 bases while playing a consistently strong outfield throughout. Sanders was also involved in two of the more intriguing, star filled deals of the late 90s. Cincinnati dealt him to San Diego in a trade involving Greg Vaughn and then, ten months later, the Padres traded him (along with Wally Joyner and Quilvio Veras) to Atlanta for Bret Boone and Ryan Klesko. And his full name is Reginald Laverne Sanders. I don’t know much, but I do know this: never mess with a guy named Laverne. You are only asking for trouble.


Same old, same old. It isn’t that I dislike Morris, I just think he is better suited for a spot in the middle of the rotation than at the top. His 2005 featured a disastrous second half that has led many to doubt him as a top of the line free agent starter. They should doubt him, but not solely because of a weak second half. The big question surrounding Morris is his health. Not only is he healthy enough to pitch, but is he healthy enough to pitch like his capable of. His homerun numbers have been funny – 20 in 2003, huge jump to 35 in 2004, back down to 22 in 2005. If you can tell me what to make of that, I’m all ears. Morris is an extreme groundball pitcher who set a career low in BB/9 innings (1.73). His WHIP in what was perceived to be a disappointing 2005 season was 1.28; his WHIP during his 22-win 2001 season was 1.26. Without doing all the research on it, it seems safe to assume the Cardinal offense helped Morris out a good deal more in 2001 than in 2005. People are so conditioned to judge a pitcher on wins and losses (See AL Cy Young vote, 2005) that they forget to realize how much really goes into winning a ballgame. Morris didn’t allow a significant increase of men on base in 2005 than he did in 2001 – isn’t that all the pitcher can do when he is out there? Sure, when you put guys on and when you don’t within the context of a game plays a large part in that stat, but I have to imagine something like that does even out over the course of 200 innings. I’ve sold myself on Morris a bit by writing this and, although I think he’ll be overpaid, I do think he could be one of the best second-tier starters available (basically anyone non-Clemens/Burnett). I’d go as far as to say Morris could topple A.J. Burnett if he would have survived Reggie Sanders. Oh well.

Prediction: Signs with San Francisco, 3-year deal worth $22.5 million

First Round Matchup: 4. SP Jeff Weaver (13) vs. 13. SP Tony Armas (52)

Jeff Weaver ain’t a kid anymore – he’ll be 30 years old in August. He is coming off a mediocre 2005 campaign and hasn’t the kind of year that a guy who will soon be paid very handsomely should be having consistently since 2002. It isn’t so much that I dislike Jeff Weaver as a ballplayer, it is more that I think he’ll be well overpaid over the course of his next contract. Tony Armas will not be overpaid. Get that boy healthy and I think he could equal Weaver’s production for a fraction of the cost. Upset?

VICTOR: Tony Armas

Tony Armas will be 28 next April and has only had one good year since becoming a big leaguer. He has only pitched over 100 innings 3 times. Despite this, I like him. And because of this, he'll be a relative bargain. More to come on Tony Armas, but, since I can't really think of too many nice things at the moment, we'll get to him later (and yet I still like him - baseball is weird).


Weaver had a thoroughly confusing 2005 season. His WHIP was a career low 1.17, but he saw a huge spike in homeruns allowed (career high 35, up from 19 the year before). His wild pitch totals (maybe these aren’t all too important, but strange nonetheless) dropped from a career high 9 in 2004 to tie a career low with 2 in 2005. The lowest WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) of his career is directly related to Weaver posting his lowest BB/9 ever (1.73). He also put up career highs in K/BB (3.57) and K/9 (6.31). There are a lot of positives to take from that. Statistically, Weaver could be in line for a bit of a successful run even though he has passed his theoretical peak years. With Weaver, however, stats tend to be ignored by scouts and baseball fans always ready for that breakout year. It may be unfair to use Weaver as an example for this as there are many guys that fit the mold of inconsistent stats vs. excellent scouting reports, but he really is a good example and he is convenient seeing as we are talking about him, so he’ll have to deal with it. Weaver will get paid like the frontline pitcher that scouts have always believed he could be. Teams will pay him for what he might do rather than what he has done. Normally, this is a sound strategy. In Weaver’s case, it’ll be a big budget risk that will either boom or bust (Wow 250 words and stupid statistics telling me that Jeff Weaver will either be a good signing or a bad signing with some random team currently in the majors, thanks that’s very informative – fine, I tend to think he’ll fall victim to the trap of a decent pitcher getting paid too much like a star and then getting criticized for only being decent in the first place – happy?)

Prediction: Signs with Baltimore, 3-years worth $24 million

First Round Matchup: 5. OF Rondell White (20) vs. 12. SP Jamie Moyer (45)

Since this is a new regional I can probably get away with talking incessantly about the crowded free agent outfield picture for about the 10th time if I wanted to. I’ll spare you the usual routine, but I will say this – given the choice of one year out all the second tier outfielders available this offseason, I’d take Rondell White. He’ll be 34 and it’s a well worn 34, but the man can still hit. I’m higher on White than just about anybody else.

VICTOR: Rondell White

Rondell White hit .313/.348/.472 with 12 home runs in 374 at bats in 2005. Those numbers are very much in line with what should be expected of White at this point in his career. He has been incredibly consistent (except for in the whole games played department, some guys are just followed by injuries no matter they go) with his only real blemish of a 13 season career coming in 2002 with the Yankees. I’ll personally forgive anybody for having an off year while in New York. I’d like to think he was working an overt inside job trying to take the Yanks down from within. Probably not though. He has rebounded since then with three above average seasons and is a good bet to put up another solid year in ’06. Rondell (I saw White play in AA Harrisburg in 1993, so I’ve been a fan for a long time. Why is that important? I think I take for granted how cool a name Rondell is. Anybody else know anybody named Rondell?) stole one base in one try this past season. Big deal, right? This is the same guy who once stole 50 bases in the SAL in 1991, 42 bases in the FSL in 1992, and stole 25 of 30 bases in 1995 with the Expos. Obviously things have changed since his younger years, but it always astonishes me how much these big league athletes are capable of. White is a bit worn down these days, but I’ll never forget the talents he possessed youngster. Very, very talented ballplayer. Anyway, assuming he doesn’t re-up with Detroit, he’ll be playing on team number seven this season.


Jamie Moyer is one of two major leaguers to come out of St. Joseph’s University. He turned 43 just last week (November 18th) and has expressed an interest of at least playing another season, maybe two. I’ve said it before and I promise I’ll say it again - the best thing you can do for a young kid is to get him or her using that left hand as much as possible. Moyer has been very durable in his career, a fact made more impressive by his durability since he become a grandpa (quick clarification: he isn’t actually a grandpa) - beginning at the age of 38 he has rattled off 5 straight seasons of at least 200 innings pitched. It definitely has something to do with how consistent Moyer is each year without every being outstanding, but it still seems silly to me that he has only ever made one All-Star team. That’s all in the past. In 2005, Moyer had his lowest strikeout total since his abbreviated 2000 season. That’s worrisome as a declining K rate is often a pretty good indicator for a diminishing skill set. Seattle really is the perfect fit for him and the idea of making him a “home starter” is an intriguing one. Moyer can hang back in Seattle, pitch only in home games, and enjoy spacious Safeco Field (nice fit for a flyball pitcher).

Prediction: Re-signs with Seattle, 1-year deal worth $4 million

First Round Matchup: 3. SP Kevin Millwood (10) vs. 14. OF Jeromy Burnitz (55)
Millwood is a good pitcher with good career statistics coming off his second best year as a professional. Jeromy Burnitz will be 37 this April and he is likely done as a regular in this league.

VICTOR: Kevin Millwood

In eight full seasons, Millwood has had 2 absolute standout years, 1 excellent year, and 4 either average or slightly above average years. That is an impressive track record for a big league starting pitcher. Oh and of the roughly $35 million Millwood has made in his career to this point, he can thank the Phillies (and the arbitrators) for about $21 million of that. That’s 60% of his career earnings. For…..what? A no hitter? (This was supposed to be a positive, complimentary look at Millwood for his hard earned win over Burnitz - oh well)


Jeromy Burnitz is sitting on 299 career homers so whoever signs him this year will have the great thrill and honor of Burnitz hitting 300 in their uniform. That’s not a big deal you say? Well, you’re right. Burnitz has had a very good career and remains a solid OBP guy, but there are better, younger options out there at this point. Maybe a desperate team will find a starting job for him (doubt it), but he can still find work as a reserve outfielder/pinch hitter if he wants it.

Prediction: Signs with Kansas City, 1-year deal worth $2.5 million

First Round Matchup: 6. SP Kenny Rogers (23) vs. 11. 1B Kevin Millar (42)

Two of my absolute least favorite players going – Kenny Rogers and Kevin Millar. Personal feelings aside, I still think Millar can hit and I am less sure that Rogers can still pitch. Millar’s power disappeared in 2005 and that is a major concern heading into 2006, but I have far greater concerns over Kenny Rogers 87 strikeouts in 2005. Rogers is due for a disaster of a season while Millar could be a relative bargain with an improved ‘06.

VICTOR: Kevin Millar

Millar is the best player ever to come out of renowned baseball factory Lamar University. He has exactly 3000 at bats as a major leaguer. The players most similar to him through his Age-33 season are all very intriguing comparisons: Raul Ibanez, Jeff Conine, Greg Colbrunn, and Marty Cordova. Ibanez, Conine, and Millar all might as well be the same guy to me. That’s not a bad thing.

Kenny, Kenny, Kenny. So much to say about you - it’s really been one interesting career, hasn’t it?
- 190 wins, 400 starts, and 687 games pitched - not bad for a 39th round pick
- 28 career saves? It’s true. Kenny broke in as a reliever and pitched in 274 games in his first four seasons out of the pen with good success. Way to go Kenny!
- Career postseason line: 20.1 IP (9 games, 5 starts), 20 ER, 32 H, 16 BB, 0-3 record, 8.85 ERA
- Very similar to the aforementioned Jamie Moyer through their respective Age-40 seasons (again, if you have a young kid get him or her throwing lefty - now!)
- Played a big part in the ascension of the Yankee dynasty of the mid to late 90’s - traded with cash to Oakland for 3B and “true Yankee” (makes me ill to write that, but some people really do believe it) Scott Brosius
- I always forget his 2003 season - he pitched for Minnesota? Always slips my mind for some reason when I think of him. Maybe its me…
- July 28th, 1994 - Perfect Game - I watched the highlights from a hotel room in Baltimore. Good times
- Enjoys pushing over defenseless cameramen and then acting perfectly indignant when reprimanded even though the penalty is pathetic and does not fit the crime. He makes me so mad I resort to run-on sentences and incoherent rambling
- Big-time groundball pitcher who has always had a strong, durable left arm. He is coming off his best season since 1998 to boot. Absolutely frightening strikeout total - 87 K’s in 195.1 IP? That’s a 40 K drop off from 2004. Another dip remotely similar to that (or even if his strikeouts remain below 100 or so) and I think he is done. The pitcher has complete control over only one outcome - strikeouts. Strikeouts are all on the pitcher. If you can’t strike guys out, you’d better be special because eventually the law of averages will do its part and batted balls that were once outs will begin to drop in. This isn’t always the case and is a very complex subject, but the general thinking behind the idea is sound (if I do say so myself).

Prediction: Signs with Los Angles Dodgers, 2-year deal worth $10.5 million

First Round Matchup: 2. RP B.J. Ryan (7) vs. 15. SP Scott Elarton (58)
Ryan is a notch below the true top-tier closers in the big leagues. Elarton is just about a notch above AAA. Elarton in an upset? No.


Ryan has had three very good seasons in a row. His ERAs over that span were 3.40, 2.28, and 2.43. 2005 was his first year as a closer and it was a good one - 36 saves in 41 opportunities. His K/9 innings tell the real story with his success. 11.26 in 2003, 12.62 in 2004, and 12.80 in 2005. Those are some eye popping numbers. For comparison sake, Mark Prior led all starters in K/9 with an impressive 10.15. Billy Wagner, renowned strikeout artist, hasn’t posted K/9 numbers like that since 1999 (he was at 10.08 last year and 10.99 in 2004). Ryan is good.


Scott Elarton was the first prospect I was wrong about. Many of come since, many more are sure to follow, but I really loved Scott Elarton and thought he’d be a major league star. His minor league numbers were always excellent, he was always young for the leagues he was competing in, and he had great stuff with the classic righthanded power pitcher frame to boot (maybe not classic per se - being 6’7’’, 240 makes him a bit larger than the norm). Why hasn’t Elarton panned out? Well, I have no idea. The first statistical things that jump out are two major discrepancies between his minor league numbers and his major league numbers. Elarton struck over 1.5 batters more per 9 innings while in the minors. This is a very significant number. His homerun rate is also stunning. In the minors, he allowed 0.36 HR/9 - that’s a very low number. In the majors, he has allowed 1.54 HR/9 - that’s a rather large number. What makes this all the more peculiar is his early major league success. Elarton was excellent in his first three seasons. His K rate was still superb, although his HR rate was already beginning to climb. He is a flyball pitcher after all, maybe that plays into it. I don’t know. Arm injuries haven’t helped his development any and there is very little hope that he’ll ever become anything more than what he has shown himself to be over the past few years. Elarton is a borderline major league starter with a career ERA over 5.

Prediction: Signs with Cincinnati, 2-year deal worth $5 million

First Round Matchup: 7. RP Tom Gordon (26) vs. 10. RP Todd Jones (39)

I think both of these players will disappoint whatever teams sign them this offseason – neither are equipped to be big time closers anymore (yes I realize the year Gordon had in a setup role and yes I also realize the outstanding year Jones had actually closing in 2005). Don’t pay them for their 2005’s; pay them for their 2006’s and beyond. Remember that rule? Jones had a fluke year in 2005 and won’t get close to the same results no matter where he goes or what role he is in once the 2006 season rolls around. Gordon has been the better, more consistent pitcher over the last few years. I think, under the ideal circumstances anyway, Gordon can be a decent option to close.

I mentioned a dislike for Rogers and Millar earlier. You can add Todd Jones to that list. He is probably tied for the bottom spot in my heart with Kenny Rogers (grown man still going by Kenny?…..ok). I’ll ruin the suspense of the next round by saying that no matter who wins here (it’s a toss up really) is only going to get slaughtered by B.J. Ryan.

VICTOR: Tom Gordon

Gordon is another guy who has had one interesting career. He definitely has gone against the grain throughout his major league run - successful in late inning relief, starting, and closing while being the rare smallish righthander to make it in the first place (he is only 5’9’’). Gordon celebrated his 38th birthday November 18th (Moyer too, popular birthday I guess) and is on a run of 5 very, very good years capped off by excellent seasons in 2004 and 2005 with the Yankees. On track record alone, he is a great buy. There are other questions beyond track record, however, so enthusiasm about Gordon should be tempered until we get more into his downside next round.


Jones will also be 38 next season and is also coming off an excellent 2005. He has not had the same kind of successful run that Gordon has had over the past half decade though - average in 2004, awful in 2003, a bit above average in both 2002 and 2001. As mentioned earlier, Todd Jones has some eerily similar numbers to Bob Wickman. I think he is a better player than Wickman and a better bet to repeat on his 2005 success, but I’m not completely sold on Todd Jones in 2006 in beyond. His arm has a lot of mileage on it and it would be a tough sell for me to give him anything more than a one year deal as a setup man. Guys just don’t have career years at age 37 and follow up with sustainable successes. It’s very rare. I’d rather have Gordon than Jones from a pure baseball standpoint. But, as I’ve mentioned before and should mention again, I hate Todd Jones. I think I have been fairly objective, but even so you should take everything I say about this with a grain of salt.

Prediction: Signs with Atlanta, 2-year deal worth $9.5 million


Post a Comment

<< Home