Thursday, April 26, 2007

Welcoming Mr. Warden


The preseason blockbuster has become an annual event in Queens.

Before the start of Season 1, the Mets worked out a sign and trade with Seattle. The Mariners received 29 year old Harry Wilfredo (24-17, 3.26 in 70 career starts) and his 5 year deal worth $42.5M in exchange for 20 year old Ted Hogan (80 HR, 279 RBI, .296 AVG) making the ML minimum.

Season 2 saw the Mets orchestrate a salary cap saver with Pittsburgh. The Pirates got 35 year old Tomas Aguilera (15-14, 40/47 SV, 3.68 in 176 career appearances) who was making $9.5M at the time, 19 year old Al Martinez (110 HR, 389 RBI, .299 AVG in 3 years of MILB service), and 29 year old Jake Payton (51-31, 3.08 in 111 career starts) making $7.0M. Pittsburgh sent the Mets 28 year old Cliff Simms (54-25, 3.31 in 104 career starts) making $10.0M.

The Red Sox and the Mets swapped players before the start of Season 3. This time the Mets moved the NL's reigning Cy Young winner, 33 year old Bosco Jefferson (44-20, 3.06 in 81 career starts) making $6.5M in the final year of his contract along with AAA shortstop, 22 year old Mark Sugawara who is known more for his glove than his bat. In return the Mets took on a couple of "project" pitchers, Sal Flyod and Julio Saenz. In their first seasons in Shea Stadium, Floyd worked 185.1 innings over 34 starts while posting a 14-7 record working to a 3.11 ERA. Saenz worked 96.1 innings over 68 appearances, posting a 6-3 record, converting 6 of 7 save opportunites and compiling a 3.74 ERA to compliment his 1.05 WHIP.

And just the other day the Mets added another MVP canidate to their lineup. In terms agreed upon during the playoffs last season, New York acquires 29 year old left fielder, Joe Warden from Detroit in exchange for 3 highly touted yet unproven prospects (Grant Leary, Karim Rodriguez and Charlie Simas). Warden figures to bat 3rd in a scary Mets lineup featuring 4 members of the exclusive "85 Club".

The big decision for the Mets caoching staff will be: what to do with their extra outfielder? Joe Warden will play left field. That much is certain. And Eugene Betemit will most likely play right field. But that leaves Billy Brown and two-time Gold Glover Courtney Kennedy vying for time in center field.

Kennedy is in the final year of his 3 year contract and so his $6.0M salary makes him an attractive rental for a team looking for defensive help in center field. Brown is still making the ML minimum and will not arbitrate until Season 6. That's about as much value as you could hope for from a guy who played all 162 games last year while batting .304 before errupting in the post-season to the tune of a .417 BA while driving in 11 runs in 8 games. Defensively, Brown would be a downgrade if the Mets were to move Kennedy especially considering that Warden is not the defensive left fielder Brown is but the added offense provided by Brown's left-handed bat in the 7th hole might be enough to sway New York to move in that direction.

The other option would be for the Mets to find a new home for Betemit and let Brown patrol right field. Betemit has one more year of arbitration but his $4.1M raise this season has the Mets wondering if they'll be able to afford his .290/20/80 at the price he'll be seeking next year. Of course, Betemit has won a Gold Glove himself and he is a fan favorite in Shea where he ranks second in career plate appearances, at bats, home runs, runs batted in, hits and walks in a Mets uniform. So management seems a bit more hesitant to move him.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Hudler & Rizzo -- 3 Years Later

As we start into S4 of the GAP, it is time for all of us to analyze our franchises, sign, release, promote, and demote. It is also time to look back on how we got to this point, and how to move forward.

GAP was the first elite HBD world, with a dedicated group of owners who boasted proven track records. Out of the gate, all of us wanted to make a splash. I spotted two stud FAs that I decided would fill my gaps perfectly--Tony Hudler and Artie Rizzo. They were certainly the two prized FAs that all owners coveted, whether they could afford them or not.

Hudler was the most interesting one. At 33, he was a big risk. Would he be able to maintain his ratings for several years? This was the key, because with all the bidders, he was certainly going to get a five-year deal. And with the price being driven up and up, owners had to ask themselves if he would be worth eight figures at age 37.

His ratings were sexy, however. 32/81 meant he could go every fourth game, 6 or 7 innings per game. Add in the 81/94 splits, 91 control, and 93 GB numbers, and there was a lot to like. But one ugly number--52 health. The bidding went higher and higher. When the smoke cleared, it took $90,000,000 across five years to get him. The one failsafe I built in was a team option for S5. If he broke down early, at least I'd be able to cut my losses by the tidy sum of $15,000,000 at the end.

Meanwhile, Rizzo was the best bat available. I liked my franchise's ML-ready options, but the missing cog was a slugging 1B, so Rizzo was a perfect fit. His health was an issue as well (62), but a risk worth taking for 93/93/73/79/90. Especially for the Royals, who were weak against RHP. Rizzo ended up cashing in for $75,500,000 while scoring a player option for S5. At 31, it seemed more likely he'd have something left by then, and what player is turning down a max contract to go to the market? That was the thought process anyway.

I was hoping to get both guys, as I budgeted the money I thought it would take to pull it off. I had to drive up my offers, and had to do it by back-loading the deals as much as I could. The end result is that by S3, I would be paying a combined $38,250,000 to two players.

When the smoke cleared, I had them both. The message board lit up with a wide variety of opinions from astonishment for the bold strategy or admonishment for the stupid strategy. I was convinced I had a two-year window, maybe three, to get a title with these guys.

The question now--Was it worth it? From a postseason-success standpoint, maybe no. Everyone has heard my whining about missing the postseason two straight years on tiebreakers. But 92 and 96 wins is nothing to sneeze at. Finally in S3, I pulled away down the stretch and almost grabbed a first-round bye. After dispatching the Yankees in the opening round, my Royals got swept by the Red Sox in Round 2. Then it was an agonizing week or two watching two teams with fewer regular season wins than my Royals advance to the WS.

Hudler and Rizzo have been very successful, however. They are two of only five GAPpers to make all three all-star squads. Hudler is 53-25 with a 3.57 ERA. Meanwhile, Rizzo won the S3 MVP, three silver sluggers and a gold glove while hitting 132 HRs while putting up a 1078 OPS.

There is a twist at this point in the story, however. The window might not be closed yet for KC. Tony Hudler got better. Yep, at age 35, Hudler improved from an 83 overall to an 85. His DUR and STA both inched up a point, while his CTRL, vLH, and P2 each went up 2 points or more. Rizzo is dropping but doing so fairly slowly, so he appears to remain a top-notch starting 1B for the remainder of his contract as well.

At the same time, I've been able to bring some young players along (with those big contracts, did I have any other choice?) who are moving into their prime. Theo Haney, now 22, led the MVP race until the final two weeks when he rested. He did lead the GAP in runs scored with 151. He made another big jump in S3, and is now an 87 overall, up from 64 when the world began. 24 y/o 3B Pedro Jose won the AL ROY while hitting 44 homers. SP JR Vosberg was in the ROY race as well, winning 19 games for KC.

The other key piece to the puzzle is the unique talent that is Gabe Brooks. With a 32/48 dur/sta back in S1, Brooks seemed like a tweener. I bounced him around to several different roles in S1 That 91/83 split, 98 control, and 80s and 90s throughout his pitching ratings made him appealing, but I couldn't figure out how to maximize him. Finally in S2, I decided to make him a closer. That's the spot for him although he struggled in S2. He settled in during S3, saving 38 games, winning 10 more, and putting up a 2.53 ERA while winning the AL Fireman award. The beauty in Brooks is that he often pitches two innings, or can go two or three days in a row with no trouble. 63 appearances and 89 innings is a nice combo to have at the back end of games. Brooks, now 35, is another guy who is getting better in his old age. His 91/84 split is now 94/88, with other numbers on the rise as well.

S4 shapes up to be at least one additional season in contention for Kansas City. I feel like a man living on borrowed time, and maybe, just maybe, this is karma evening out the score for the bad luck dealt to me in S1 and S2!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Philadelphia Season 4 Preview

AP (Philadelphia) -- In a press conference held today, Phillies ownership stated they need to rebuild. Big shocker. The owners went on to say that the first three seasons in the GAP have been a disappointment and pledge to tighten the reins and make better decisions with personnel. A person close to the situation who talked based on anonymity stated that no job was safe and all areas of the team from the coaches to the “jock strap” holders (as he put it) would be reviewed and improved.

The ML team has 4 players; yes 4 players under contract for the upcoming season with only 18.025 million allocated in salary next year. Here is a breakdown of what players they have. (If you can call them that.)

Mario Smith 28 SP 7.0 Million

This overpaid player was brought over from the A’s in a season one deal. This has to be a top 10 worst trades in the history of the franchise. A combined 18-44 in 95 career starts with a 5.37 ERA.

Dion Perez 33 3B/1B 6.25 Million

A veteran, who has been with the team since day 1, Dion signed a two-year extension last off-season. He’s a .290 hitter that looks to be moved from 3B to 1B next season.

Giomar Colon 32 OF/IF 3.8 Million

A FA pick up. He is a slick fielding player who played at 6 different positions last year. With the roster up in the air he may look to crack the starting lineup (god help us)

Wilfredo Tavarez 30 IF/OF 1.2 Million

A FA pick up, Willie is another player with great defense skills. He will be used as a back-up/spot start player. His lack of hitting is keeping him from playing more. A career .151 hitter in 98 ML games.

The Phillies have a bunch of young guys who are arbitration eligible or have less then 3 years of service. The club has not stated whom they plan to bring back. Here is a look at the list.

Arbitration Eligibility

Artie Webster 24 CF .266 last year with 53 SB in 55 attempts
Cecil McGowan 28 C .252 last year
Sean Darwin 28 SP 12-11 3.65 ERA
Jimmie Cruz 28 RP 1-5 6.70 ERA
Billy Forrest 28 SP 7-17 6.23 ERA
Vic Alcantara 27 RP 2-5 5.16 ERA
Chili Carver 27 RP 0-0 9.19 ERA
Zephyr Starr 26 RP 1-2 4.64 ERA
Earl Rhodes 25 SP 9-10 4.34 ERA

Less then 3 Yrs ML

Andre Black 26 CF .275 last yr
Benny Bennett 25 C 22 games
Ryan Slocumb 26 SP/RP 6-4 4.40 ERA
Bartolo Vega 23 Closer 15 of 16 Saves 3.66 ERA
Greg Waters 23 RP 46 Games 6-4 4.57 ERA
Ernest Mattingly 22 RP 51 Games 1-5 5.81
Dustin Hill 24 SP 17 Starts 6-9 3.80 ERA


More stats. This time, a list of players who made at least two all-star teams. Just five guys have made all three.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

486 Games

Up next in my stat roll, a list of all the guys who have played in all 486 games so far. One interesting note about a guy not on the list: Detroit superstar Joe Warden played in 162 games this year, but that wasn't his best. In Season 2, thanks to a well-timed trade, Joe played in 163. Put that on his GAP HOF plaque in about 15 years!

Monday, April 2, 2007

500 Hit Club

Apologies to Vancouver's Denny Moore. In the Mounties' turn-around season, he piled up 166 hits to boost his career total to 499. Thought it'd be nice for Vancouver to get a little ink!

Historical Division WL

The NL South, with its strong Season 3, has taken over as the best division in GAP History:

Franchise W-L and RS-RA


100 HR Club (updated)

If you have or know of any players with 95+ career HR not listed below, please let me know.