Vince Carter Makes A Lefty 3-Pointer

The Luckiest Fly Ball Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw

If you had Clayton Kershaw on your team, I'm sure you were pleasantly surprised. You probably didn't have to pay all that much or draft Kershaw very high to get a top 25 pitcher. But now that Kershaw has broke out, you're going to have to be competing for Kershaw with every member of your league as opposed to maybe just 2 or 3 in last years draft.

But let me point out some facts to you that I hope will affect your position and thinking of the young Dodger.

Last year, Kershaw was an extreme fly ball pitcher. 41.6% of Kershaw's hit pitches were fly balls. This made Kershaw the 15th worst in all of the MLB. However, not many of those fly balls went out for home runs. Kershaw had the best home run per fly ball percentage. Only 4.1% of Kershaw's fly balls went for home runs. Last year, only thee players had a HR/FB% under 5.0- the other two were Chris Carpenter and Zach Greinke.

So what does this all mean you ask? Well, first of all, it means Kershaw was really lucky last year that he didn't give up more home runs. On average, about 11.5% of all fly balls (from both a hitter that hits a lot of fly balls and pitchers that gives up a lot of fly balls) go for home runs. So the fact that Kershaw's hit fly balls was WAY under the average, means he got really lucky to have his under 3.00 ERA.

This also gives you an indicator of how Kershaw will perform next year. Sure, it's possible that Kershaw gets lucky again, but I wouldn't count on it. The better bet is that Kershaw's HR/FB will normalize and he'll give up more than 7 HRs. With Kershaw giving up more home runs, that means his ERA will spike as well. Even Gavin Floyd two years ago (who gave up 30 HRs but A LOT of them being single home runs. In fact, I remember a game where Floyd gave up four home run- all of them being solo homers) had a low three ERA. And comparing Kershaw to Floyd is generous. There's no guarantee that Kershaw's home runs will be solo- in fact- there's a good chance they won't be.

Now a fly ball pitcher could be acceptable if had an amazing outfield defense like Seattle last year. But Kershaw does not. Last year, the only Dodger outfielder that produced positive defense was Matt Kemp (3.2 UZR/150, 2.5 RF/9)- and just barely. Both both Manny (-15.4 UZR/150, 2.6 RF/9) and Andre Either (-17.7 UZR/150, 1.9 RF/9) are not good defenders by any stretch of the imagination.

The one saving grace is that Kershaw gets to play the vast majority his games in Dodger Stadium (ranked 25th last year in HR given up), PETCO (29th), and AT&T Park (19th). The average Chase Field (14th) isn't that bad either. The only concern is when Kershaw pitches at Coors (9th)- but that's minimal compared to everywhere else he pitches.

The parks Kershaw will mostly pitch in will absolutely help keep his HR totals low. However, Kershaw absolutely will not have an ERA under 3.00 next year and he absolutely will give up more HRs next year because of his extreme fly ball tendencies. Kershaw will still be good next year (he increased his K/9 from 8.36 in 2008 to 9.74 in '09)- and he still has the Dodgers line up so he's always good in line to get wins. But Kershaw's high propensity to leave guys on base (4.79 BB/9 which was a slight increase from '08) and high propensity to give up fly balls (which means more home runs) means Kershaw's WHIP and ERA will increase next year as well.

So just keep this in mind if you decide to draft Kershaw in your upcoming draft.

New "Baseball Board Bet" Page On GOI

Because we know you really care about our opinion and because we at GOI love to make bets about baseball, and instead of making a sister blog where only two members can contribute to the betting (deep breath in), we at GOI have decided to create a "Baseball Board Bet" page for all the board bets the GOI contributors decide to make with ourselves which can be accessed on the right side of the blog. Enjoy!

The Key To Winning The Best Supporting Actor Oscar

2008: Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men)
2009: Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
2010: Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds)

While, Waltz hasn't "technically" won the Best Supporting Actor nomination this year, I will bet anyone ALL the ad money I've made from this site that he does. (That's right, all five dollars of it)

Anyways, notice the trend in recent years? It's this:
Play one of the best movie villains of all time

OK, easier said than done, but the three recent Oscar winners have all put up such amazing performances that they almost rival each other as the best villain of all time.

Digitialdreamdoor.com ranks Bardem's character Anton Chigurh as the 14st best villain of all time and Heath Ledger's as the 16th (and my mom has the audacity to say Nicholas' Joker was better! Also, I recommend searching around digital dream door. They mainly do music lists but this site gives the best, most objective lists I've seen anywhere else).

Off of my side tangent. When No Country first came out, I thought Bardem's character was just absolutely phenomenal and one of the most villainous, evil roles I had seen in awhile. I mean, the dude used an air pump to kill people! How bad ass was that!

And then the second greatest action movie came along, The Dark Knight, and Heath Ledger blew everybody out of the water. You absolutely did not realize that the dude that just had sex with Jake Gyllenhall and was this menacing, evil psychopath. Ledger's Joker was pure evil. As Michael Caine said in the movie, "some men just want to watch the world burn." Ledger's Joker was just the epitome of pure evil. He didn't kill people because his wife got murdered or something and he was taking revenge on the world (i.e. Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze), he didn't do what he did for money or power (see, e.g. any Bond villain, Scarface), and he was more than your run of the mill douchebag (i.e. Gordon Gekko). The Joker wanted to kill people just to kill them. He wanted to cause chaos just to play an experiment. And he was damn good at what he did (Both Ledger in his role and The Joker in Gotham). In fact, I think he is the best villain ever. Yes, over Norman Bates (Psycho), Darth Vader (Star Wars), and Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs).

So, there was nothing anyone could have done this year to top Ledger like he topped Bardem, but Christoph Waltz played an amazing villain in Inglorious Basterds this year. For those of you who still don't know who Waltz is- he played Col. Hans Landa aka The Jew Hunter. That opening scene between Waltz and Denis Menochet (the French guy who owned the farm- Monsieur LaPadite) probably won Waltz the Oscar, but his entire performance was just amazing. He never really was menacing like Chigurh or The Joker was, and in fact, Waltz was mostly jovial throughout the entire movie. But that made his character that much more villainous because his actions of hunting down and killing Jews makes him that much more evil.

Sure Hans Landa is not in the same stratosphere as The Joker or even Anton Chigurh, but damn did Waltz give just a fantastic performance (in three languages no less) and damn was that character a great villain.

Shortstop Is One Player Deep

In fantasy, the shortstop position has always been extremely shallow. But in recent years, guys like Jimmy Rollins, Derek Jeter, and Jose Reyes has made it so everybody has at least gotten the opportunity to get a top tier shortstop. However, that is not the case in 2010 because there is only top tier shortstop and you're probably not going to be able to get him- Hanley Ramirez.

The problem is every shortstop that's going to be taken after Hanley has his flaws. Sure, by the time you take Ryan Theriot or Christian Guzman (which I did as like my last pick in the draft last year), then you know what you're expecting. But it's the shortstops that are being drafted as starters that are the problems. Sure, all the top 8 or so starters being drafted having great upside, but you're taking on a huge risk with them as well- especially for the early draft position you're going to have to take them at.

So here's a list of the top shortstops you're going to have to take if you want a "top tier" shortstop

2) Troy Tulowitzki (15.97 ADP)
As much as TBO wants to be naked with Tulo and do dirty things to him, and even though I will probably draft him, there's a lot of flaws in drafting Tulo. Although Tulo is young, I think people forget that Tulo only has three years major league experience, and his 2008 season was really bad. Sure, Tulo's the least risky because he's always shown speed, power, and a high batting average. But you do take on a little risk that his 2009 numbers regress closer to his 2008 numbers.

3) Jimmy Rollins (21.81 ADP)
Rollins' fantasy value has decreased tremendously from his "MVP" season a few years back. While he made great strides in the second half of last season from his awful first, he still is nowhere near even being the third best shortstop for next year. His batting average has steadily decreased the past three years, his stolen base numbers took a missive hit from 47 in '08 to 31 in '09 (also his SPD score has steadily declined the past three years), his ISO has taken missive hits (.235 in '07 to .160 in '08 to .173 in '09), and his home runs have taken massive hits (30 HR in '07, 11 in '08, 21 in '09; 10.7 HR/FB% in '07, 7.2 HR/FB% in '08, 8.5% in '09.)
The point is, while Rollins has improved from is dreadful 2008 campaign, he's not the same MVP Jimmy Rollins that you might think he is.

4) Jose Reyes (23.18 ADP)
Guy was a lock for 60+ stolen bases and a high average- until he suffered a leg injury that needed major surgery. As DME has shared with me, it's risky as hell taking a guy, who derives most of his value from steals, that had a injury that directly affects how he steals bases.

5) Derek Jeter (45.37)
Jeter will get the runs you want from him because he bats second in probably the best line up in baseball. And he'll get you about a .320 batting average like clockwork. But you can get runs and average essentially anywhere, you want Jeter to get you the 30+ swipes and the 15+ dingers like he got you last year. The risk you take on with Jeter, first of all, is that Jeter is 35 years old going on 36. There is a huge risk that Jeter gets injured. But that's not even the biggest reason Jeter scares, the biggest reason is that Jeter's numbers ballooned last year from his previous two years. His home run numbers the past three years: 12, 11, 18. His SB numbers from the past three years: 15, 11, 30. You can say Jeter's home run numbers increased because of New Yankee Stadium, but it takes at least three years to truly determine the impact a stadium has on players. Plus, the new park doesn't count for the tremendous jump he took with this stolen bags. When a player's numbers spikes this much with a player as old as Jeter, it worries me that he'll probably regress in 2010.

6) Ben Zobrist (55.55 ADP)
Now if you can truly get Zobrist this late, you probably got him where he should be ranked. But I have a feeling that MockDraftCentral has Zobrist this low because he only has 2B eligibility and he'll probably have 2B, SS, and OF eligibility in your league and thus will be ranked higher. Thus you will have to take him higher than you probably want to. The risk you take with Zobrist, is that, in all likelihood, Zobrist had a career year last year. But you're drafting him like he's going to put up 2009 numbers, when you should be taking him a round later or so because of his dipped, 2010 numbers.

7) Jason Bartlett (104.54)
For where you're going to take Bartlett realistically, you're not taking on as much risk as you are with Jeter or Reyes, but there's some risk nonetheless. It's the risk that Bartlett will not sustain his 2009 value. Before last year, Bartlett has only hit above .286 once (.309 in 2006), never hit above 5 home runs, never stolen above 23 bags, and never hit in over 43 guys before, and never scored above 75 runs (all in '07). Sure, it helps that Bartlett plays for a much better offense in Tampa Bay than he ever did in Minnesota, but I doubt that his stolen bags and home runs stay on pace or exceed his 2009 numbers.

The guys after Bartlett are Alexei Ramirez (108.96 ADP) and Stephen Drew (113.90 ADP) so if you draft those guys as your starters, you already know the downside you're probably going to get from them anyway.

Let me just clarify before I go, I'm not saying that all these shortstops will be bad. Jose Reyes' leg could be completely healed and he could get you 70+ steals. New Yankee Stadium might help Jeter go 15/30 again. Tulo could have another amazing year and his down year could just have been a fluke. But what I am saying is that you're taking on a lot of risk to get that shortstops upside, and that kind of sucks considering how early you're going to have to take these shortstops. Because you want your first seven picks or so to be almost guarantees and you're not going to get that with these SS.

Also, Hanley could get injured on the second game of the season so, you never know.

Andris Biedrins Makes 3 Million Per Free Throw














Yup, Andris Biedrins is batting 3-23(.130) from the free throw line. That would be a record.

Derrick Rose At Panera

Adrian Beltre Feels Your Pain

Is "Eurotrash" One Of The 7 Forbidden Words?



Mike Milbury is a proud Canadian and one of the most respected hockey analysts in the game. He was quite disappointed with the performance the Russian Olympic team game in their 7-3 thrashing by the Canadians. He basically called them heartless, dirty, and oh yeah...Eurotrash. At least that's what he called their performance. These Canadian announcers never miss out on a chance to prove how much better their players are, their people are, and their country is. Russia had defeated Canada 4 straight times in Olympic competition so it's not like Canada can look down on the former Soviets.

Although a small part of Russia is in Europe, the tern Eurotrash usually refers to the Western portion of Europe were the men wear shoes like this, with the end curved up, and live with their mothers till 28. These individuals can often be found on South Beach if you need first hand evidence.

I was born in Europe, the non-trashy part of Europe, and I still relate strongly to the region. I recall a Dean at one of my Med School interviews actually used the phrase "Eurotrash" and I was extremely put off. To the point where I couldn't imagine going to a school where the top Dean referred to Europeans as trash. I'm glad the other announcer called out Mike Milbury on air for that comment

Scott Van Pelt got OWNED



Dude could have pretended to be Brian Westbrook for like 5 straight minutes if he didn't go with the "worshiping the prostate of Howard Stern" blast in the first 30 seconds

The Skill And Health Distribution Of 2Bs And 3Bs

Fangraphs once noted that:
"At one time, second baseman and third baseman were both called the same thing – bad defensive shortstops. From there, they were separated into 2B and 3B pools, but the evidence suggests that the crop of players who end up at 3B are better overall players than their 2B brethren."
As the article notes, in 2008, the average MLB 3B hit .266/.336/.436 (.772 OPS), while the average MLB 2B hit .276/.338/.409 (.747 OPS). Both receive a +2.5 run positional adjustment to account for the difficult at fielding their respective positions; in other words, the two positions are historically equivalent in terms of fielding difficulty.

So why the disparity in hitting talent? Why the distribution of better hitters to third base?

It's surely not a distribution based on who is better with the "glove or bat." While MLB 3B hitters (min. 500 PA) over the past 3 seasons hit .270/.341/.438 (.779 OPS) and 2B hitters (min. 500 PA) over the same 3 season sample size hit .278/.341/.416 (.757 OPS), the average 2B (min. 1000 innings) had only a +0.6 UZR/150 compared to a +0.8 UZR/150 for 3B (min. 1000 innings).

Fangraphs postulated that players may be separated into different places on the diamond "based on things that have little to do with their actual skills, and more about a proxy for what kind of package those skills come in. Perhaps there’s a competitive advantage here for a team that’s willing to take a 6′3 or 6′4 plus defender and shift them to second base instead of third base."

Perhaps it is an issue of pure durability. The average 2B (min. 1000 innings) over the past 3 seasons started 277.3 games and played in 290.1. The average 3B (min. 1000 innings) over the past 3 seasons, however, started 263.6 games and played in 277.1. Despite the frailties of Ian Kinsler, Aaron Hill, Chase Utley, Howie Kendrick and Rickie Weeks, 2Bs, on average, saw more time on the field than did 3Bs. Then again, 3Bs have had their share of injured played over the past 3 seasons in Joe Crede, Adrian Beltre, Mike Lowell, Aramis Ramirez, Eric Chavez, Hank Blalock and Troy Glaus.

Any postulations as to the reason for the distribution? Is it, as Fangraphs suggests, something cosmetic, or is there something not quantified in the data at play? Does playing 2B, which requires a player to "go both ways" (more range) in making outs, require a more durable, athletic, healthier type at the helm than does 3B, which generally only requires a player to go to his left in making 80% of his plays? Does a stronger bat equivocate a stronger throwing arm?

Toss in your two cents in the comments.

Best Rap Lyric Ever - B.I.G.



At the 2:40 mark. "Super Nintendo Sega Genesis. When i was dead broke man I couldn't picture this"

Stick A Fork In Them! Westbrook and LT Are Done!

First up, we have LaDainian Tomlinson. TBO and discussed before the 2009 football season, LT was done. And what did he do- he put up career low numbers. Don't get me wrong, LT is a HOF player right now. But also at this exact moment, is a below league average player. His YPC has steadily declined from 5.2 in 2006, to a meager 3.3 in 2009. And logically his yards from scrimmage has declined steadily- not even reaching 900 this year. Sure, his TD totals have not declined, but as I've proven (as have many others), TD's are not a sign of a player's talent- they are just a sign of how good the team is at getting towards the red zone to begin with.

This decline should be no surprise. LT has just been a beast throughout his entire career and throughout most it, he's had not had a very good offensive line. This constant abuse on a RBs body just takes a toll. While I'm sure LT still has the same vision of which hole to hit and whatnot, he doesn't have the physical ability to use his speed to hit the hole like he used to. For anyone that has watched LT this year, they can tell you that he just looks slow and he looks washed up as well.

Next, we have Brian Westbrook. Westbrook is done for a different reason. He's not done because he can't produce anymore- he's done because he is so injury riddled. Westbrook has never played in 16 games in a season. Last year, he only played in 8. Most of those injuries was due to the two concussions- in the same week. Ask any doctor, or med student, or anyone who's seen SportsCenter during Westbrook' s injury- you know that having two concussions that close in a row probably means that Westbrook will develop early onset dementia. I'm not trying to be a jerk or insensitive, but the link between football players with a lot of concussions and diseases like early onset dementia and Alzheimer's are just staggering.

Westbrook could probably still play well if he's healthy and on the field. He still has a 4.5 YPC this year and still had 25 catches in 8 games (which falls right along with his career numbers). But the reason I say Westbrook is done, because for the sake of his long term health- he should retire.

With that being said I will leave you with a FJM-esque closing about what I heard two kids talking about at the gym yesterday
Dude, Matt Forte sucks. We need to have a veteran leadership in the locker room. We need to have a guy like LT to take the load off of Forte. I bet the Chargers just cut LT to make cap room and LT is still good and he just needs a change of scenery.

Even Steve Phillips have never made me angrier than this comment. Literally every single word was just wrong or utterly stupid.
1) Forte doesn't suck- his offensive line is bad (but I can see why people believe this after the season Forte had so I'll let this one slide)
2) Veteran leadership? Really? No, what the Bears really need are grinders and guy who wants to win!
3) Why do the Bears did a guy to take the load off of Forte? With that awful offensive line, is giving another RB- probably one inferior to Forte really going to help anything?
4) Even if you do believe in a two RB set (even though it's completely unnecessary- see last year: Tennessee, Jacksonville, Green Bay, Minnesota), having an old guy with no speed in front of an awful offensive line will not take the load off of Forte- it'll just be another player who gets two yards on a bubble screen
5) Yes the Chargers did cut LT to make cap room, because WHY PAY FOR A PLAYER WHO SUCKS!
6) As mentioned in point 4- LT does not need a change of scenery. He either needs to retire to keep his dignity in tact- or sign with a team like Indy or New England in hopes to get a ring sitting on the bench a la Adam Morrison.

NBA Team Efficiency: Possessions

I feel like I need to write something or i'll get kicked off the blog. So here is my half-hearted rant on basketball.

I have spent a great deal of time trying to prove to the world the importance of free throw attempts for teams and individual players, as well as breaking down how to analyze scoring efficiency for individual players. However, basketball is a true team sport and no one individual will his team to victory, except MJ of course. The premise is quite simply. Disregarding the efficiency of a team's offense or defense, a crude way to predict their success is simply through the number of possessions a team generates relative to their competition. Basically a +/- system of possessions. It can be surmised that the team with more possessions will have more chance to score and all else being equal should win more games than they lose. Obviously, this is not the whole story, because being able to make shots, earn free throws, and excel defensively factor into the equation.

So how can a team go about getting more possessions than their opponents? The rules of the game ensure that after one team scores, the other team gets the ball, but it is still possible to gain possessions or better yet steal possessions from the opponents. The combination of a few stats from any box score can usually indicate which team won without even looking at the final score
  1. Difference in field goal attempts - If one team takes 90 shots an the other takes 80, that is a good sign, but no the end of the story
  2. Difference in free throw attempts - You can assume every 2 free throws is equal to 1 possession, so it has to be factored into difference in field goal attempts
  3. Difference in turnovers - If one team forces 5 more turnovers than the opposition, that is basically a 10 possession difference
  4. Offensive rebounds - Rebounding your own missed shot adds an extra possession, allowing for the opportunity to score more points.

Don't Be Down On Matt Leinart... Just Yet

With the recent retirement of Kurt Warner- there's a very good chance that former USC QB Matt Leinart will be the starting QB for the Arizona Cardinals this year. My roommate was mentioning how much Leinart sucks and how crappy the Cardinals are going to be in 2010. While having Leinart start next year will be a downgrade for Arizona, I'm not convinced that the statement "Matt Leinart sucks" in true.

Guess these QBs

QB A: first 16 GS, 57.1 Comp %, 6.5 YPA, 2.4 TD%, 3.4 INT%
QB B: first 16 GS: 56.7 Comp %, 6.5 YPA, 4.5 TD%, 4.9 INT%
QB C: first 11 GS: 52.9 Comp %, 6.0 YPA, 3.1 TD%, 6.1 INT%

OK, time's up, did you guess them? QB A is Matt Leinart, QB B is Peyton Manning, and QB C is Troy Aikman. Leinart has the better completion percentage, the best YPA, and the best INT% throughout his first 16 GS than the Hall of Fame Troy Aikman and the future greatest QB ever Peyton Manning

Now let me clarify, I am not saying that Leinart will be a hall of famer and a great like Manning and Aikman. I'm not even saying he will be good. That 2.4 TD% is really low and probably won't cut with his INT% being higher than his TD%.

But what I am saying is that Leinart needs to be given a solid chance before we truly judge his talent. Like most athletes, quarterbacks need time to develop. Very rarely do you see guys become studs in the league their rookie year and sustain it. Sure, it happens, but just because it doesn't happen, like with Leinart, doesn't mean the QB "sucks"

Take a look at Jay Cutler and Vince Young. Young, Leinart, and Cutler were all drafted around the same time in 2006. Both men improved (yes even Cutler) since there rookie season. But both guys have started more games and have gotten much more consistent playing time.

I don't mind the decision that Leinart will become a full time starter. I actually think he does possess the skills needed to become a really good QB- but he needs playing time and practice to get to the next level and develop.

So let's wait and see how Leinart performs consistently for the next couple of years before we see if he "sucks" or not



More People Are Looking Forward To The NFL Draft Than Opening Day Of Freakin Baseball? You've Got To Be Kidding Me America!

Inexplicable Baseball Moves: The Curtis Granderson Trade

In an earlier article where I evaluated Curtis Granderson's offensive prospects for 2010, I said the following of Curtis Granderson and Johnny Damon:
"...Curtis Granderson's luck-neutralized 2009 line, if he played for the Yankees rather than the Tigers last season, would have been .277/.364/.522 (.886 OPS). By contrast, Johnny Damon, eight years Granderson's senior, hit .282/.365/.489 (.854 OPS) with 24 homers. It is also worth noting three additional points. First, Damon's UZR/150 last season was -12.1 in LF, while Granderon's posted a +1.6 UZR/150 in CF. Second, Johnny Damon has not once played in even 150 games since 2004. Granderson, by contrast, has played in 155+ games in three of his four major league seasons (he played in 141 games during his injured 2008 season). Finally, Curtis Granderson is owed $25.75 million through 2012 (including a $2 million buy out for 2013), while he can be had for an additional $11 million in 2013. On the other hand, Johnny Damon was paid $13 million last year and is looking for his last lucrative major league contract before he is too old to command a contract of both satisfactory length and pay. Even if Damon was willing to take a pay cut to come back to the Yankees for three years, $30 million, Granderson is the better, younger, and cheaper player."
In a separate article evaluating the blockbuster deal between the Tigers, Yankees and Diamondbacks, I concluded the Tigers "won" in the deal, despite trading away "one of the games best value players (Granderson) who plays a mean CF in terms of both offense and defense," because "[t]hey shed payroll, replaced semi-expensive players with cheap replacements, filled bullpen holes and upgraded their starting rotation."

But then the Tigers did something crazy. Despite the poor economy and state of the team's prospective future finances, they started spending. First they brought in Jose Valverde, a relief pitcher who has not posted a +1 WAR season since 2007 and whom CHONE projects as being worth +7 runs above average in 2010, a 2-year, $14 million deal. Even if 31 year old Jose Valverde, who has never been worth +2.0 WAR in a single season, is worth +3.5 WAR cumulatively across the next two seasons, it will come at the cost of an additional $250,000 than it would have cost the Tigers to keep Curtis Granderson for the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Curtis Granderson has been worth at least +3.4 WAR each of the past four seasons.

Now, according to MLB Trade Rumors, the Tigers have signed Johnny Damon to a 1-year, $8 million contract. Now do not get me wrong, Johnny Damon, who CHONE projects as a +9 bat and +10 glove in left per 150 games (or, with the -7.5 positional and +20 replacement level adjustment, +3.2 WAR), is a good value at $8 million. However, this deal cannot be looked at in a vacuum. It must be analyzed in its full economic context. Curtis Granderson is owed $36.75 million through 2013 if his 2013 club option is exercised. Despite being worth "only" +3.4 WAR last season, he did so with a .275 BABIP -- the lowest of his career. Granderson's xBABIP was .301; his luck-neutral slash line (assuming all additional hits would have been singles) was 268/.353/.486. Granderson's career BABIP is .321. Assuming that Granderson's line comports with his 2009 xBABIP and not his career BABIP in 2010, he looks to be a +4.0 or better WAR player. There is absolutely no reason why Granderson cannot post +3.5 or better WAR seasons through the end of his contract (age 32 season).

Let's pretend that Granderson's 2013 contract is not exercised and he is instead paid the $2 million buy out. That would be $25.75 million owed to him over the next three years. Assuming Granderson posts a meager +3.5 WAR per season for the next three seasons, he will be getting paid +10.5 WAR at less than $2.6 million per win (market value this offseason was ~$3.5 million per win).

The Tigers brought in Johnny Damon and Jose Valverde for a total cost of $22 million. The two will probably provide a total +5.5 WAR for the Tigers, best case scenario. Max Scherzer, one of the game's top young talents, seemingly keeps this whole situation balanced in Detroit's favor, it is important to note that the Tigers also gave up Edwin Jackson (+3.4 WAR last season, perhaps +3.0 WAR next season) in the process. Phil Coke and Daniel Schlereth are nice guys to have, but even the most talented relief pitchers provide teams with minimal economic value. Austin Jackson hasn't shown himself to be anything but a 4th outfielder to date.

At best, the Tigers offseason was a wash. The team's big mistake was the expensive addition of Jose Valverde at a whopping $14 million. There goes all the money the team was trying to save to lock up Verlander long term, while keeping Miguel Cabrera around while providing leeway for the mistake know D-Train's contract and for allowing Magglio's ridiculous $18 million option to vest. Maybe the Tigers can just not give Magglio 500 PA in 2010. That would save them some cash next offseason, though I'm sure Dombrowski will find some way to pointlessly spend it.

Ed Wade Gets An Extension For Being Awful At His Job

According to MLB Trade Rumors, Ed Wade, the GM of the Houston Astros, has been inexplicably received a contract extension through the 2012 season. Why inexplicably? Let's evaluate his time in Houston. Since taking over the GM position in Houston towards the bitter end of the 2007 season, Wade has made the following moves (courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors) of significance (all contract data is courtesy of Cot's Contracts):
  1. Signing Kaz Matsui to a 3-year, $16.5 million deal. Matsui has been worth a cumulative +2.5 WAR through the first two years of his contract. 117 players, including 18 second basemen, were at least that valuable last season, according to Fangraphs.
  2. Extended Brian Moehler to a 2009 contract worth $2.3 million. Moehler was not even worth +1 WAR last season. Given the market value of a win in 2010 (~$3.5 million) this signing -- an undeniable waste of limited resources -- could have been worse I suppose. Why bother paying for less than a single additional win when you're a sub-.500 team? It's not like Moehler's +1.2 WAR 2008 lit the world of expectations on fire...
  3. Signing Pudge to a 1-year, $1.5 million deal. Despite Pudge's sub-1 WAR 2009 season, I actually like this deal. The Astros got a good defensive catcher on the cheap. Pudge only played 2/3 of a season and Fangraph's WAR system does not take in to account Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAR) due to the difficulty in calculating it, but CHONE pegs Pudge as a +3 run defender next season. I see Pudge more as 1.5 WAR catcher full time and you really good do worse considering the scarcity of talent at the position (see Mets, New York).
  4. Trading Brad Lidge and Eric Bruntlett to his former team, the Phillies, for Michael Bourn, Geoff Geary and Mike Costanzo. Michael Bourn alone made this deal a win. Despite a poor showing in 2008, Bourn was worth +4.2 WAR in center last season, thanks to an above average balance in fielding and hitting ability. Lidge on the other hand, despite the no-blown-saves bounce back season in 2008, was only worth +2.2 WAR in 2008 and a below replacement level -0.7 WAR last season. Geary is awful (+0.1 WAR since 2008) and Costanzo is a non-factor who was traded to the Orioles in the Tejada deal. Bruntlett is also pretty bad, for what it's worth (-1.1 WAR since being traded).
  5. Traded Juan Gutierrez, Chad Qualls and Chris Burke to the Dbacks for Jose Valverde. It is important to note that RPs are traditionally overvalued. They get a very limited innings load, limiting their value, and its hard to judge their true talent level. No reliever was worth +3 WAR last season and only ten were worth even +2 WAR. Qualls has been worth +3.3 WAR since the trade, has a year left under team control, and has been paid less than $4 million over the past two seasons (he will make ~$4.2 million in 2010). Gutierrez made his team debut last season and was worth +1.5 WAR. He's is not arbitration eligible until 2011. No one cares about Chris Burke. On the other hand, Valverde was not worth even +1 WAR in either 2008 or 2009. He was cumulatively worth +1.5 WAR for the Astros, or what Juan Gutierrez did last season. On the other hand, whereas Juan Gutierrez was paid something in the ballpark of $400,000 in 2009, Jose Valverde was paid $12.7 million during his stay in Houston.
  6. Traded Chad Reineke for Randy Wolf. 2008 was not a good year for the Padres selling low on players (see Edmonds, Jim). Wolf posted +1.1 WAR part-season in a meager 70 innings for the Astros. On the other hand, not even Oakland or San Diego can house the flyballs Chad Reineke serves up.
  7. Traded Luis Bryan, Robert Bono and Jorge Jimenez for Matt Lindstrom. Lindstrom is an average RP talent who has posted +1.4, +0.8 and +0.0 WAR seasons in the past three seasons. He is getting paid ~$1.6 million in 2010 and who knows how much money through his next two years of arbitration -- probably more than the $3.5 million market value per win. Fangraphs doesn't think too highly of any of the three prospects (especially Bryan, who drew 0 walks in 111 minor league PA's) Houston traded away -- largely because the Houston farm system doesn't have any prospects to trade away -- but I disagree with the conclusion that "at such a low cost, this move makes a lot of sense for Houston." Lindstrom is turning 30 with decreasing control and largely succeed in 2007 and 2008 with sub-3% HR/FB rates. That's abnormally low, even for a relief pitcher. The average relief pitcher's HR/FB rate last season was 8.7%.
  8. Traded Luke Scott, Matt Albers, Mike Costanzo (see #4), Dennis Sarfate and Troy Patton for Miguel Tejada. Tejada was worth a quality +5.7 WAR during his stay upon the Astros. He was also handsomely rewarded, getting paid $26 million in the process. Turns out Tejada, like many other Dominican players, lied about his age -- not that that was the Astros fault. What Ed Wade got was a player at "market value" at best. Eleven other SS were worth at least +5.7 over the past two seasons, but none of them were acquirable through free agency. Luke Scott has hit 48 HR since moving to Baltimore (cumulative +3.7 WAR in just over 1,000 PA) to Tejada's 27 and has cost Baltimore less than $3 million in salary (and he will make just over $4 million in 2010, while remaining under team control for 2011). Albers has provided the O's with +1.0 WAR of value over the last two seasons and the rest of the players have not (nor will they do) jack for Baltimore. It seems like Houston took on a lot of salary for just +1 WAR of value, while the O's saved a ton and filled that 1 WAR gap by signing Cesar Izturis (+1.2 WAR last season for 2-years, $5 million. In terms of absolute value, the Astros managed a fine trade, but from the economic perspective -- that of the marginal valued added in respect to the cost -- the Astros get screwed. Between Albers (who was just as valuable as Moehler was for $2 million less) and Scott -- collectively worth +4.7 WAR over the past two seasons -- the Astros added +1 WAR in Miguel Tejada at the cost of $22 million of payroll.
What you may notice here is a good trade for Michael Bourn and Randy Wolf (though Wolf ultimately provided limited value for the Astros, who let him go to the Dodgers for peanuts last season) and a handful of really bad moves -- in terms of both monetary value and production value. If you peruse through the Excel sheet, you will find plenty of other pointless trades that did nothing for the team. You can even look back to his days on the Phillies and evaluate his success record there on your own.

Regardless, what stands is the following. Ed Wade has not been very good for the Astros. He's made his fair share of bad trades and free agency signings (such as this offseason's signing of Brandon Lyon to a 3-year, $15 million deal, despite having only once in his career -- 2007 -- been worth even a win above average). Despite some signs-of-hope draft picking, Wade's tenure in Houston has been at an optimistic best, a wash. The Astros are a .500 team (166-166) since Wade took over. They've finished 3rd and 5th in the division each of the past two seasons. CHONE projects them to finish dead last in the NL Central this year. Wade has made the team less white in the past two seasons, but with an average age of 28.1, the Astros are still the fifth oldest team in baseball. Even the Yankees are younger.

Can't imagine any Astros fans being too excited over this move.

Is This A Judd Apatow Movie?


Based on this poster, this movie has all the makings to be a Judd Apatow movie and thus will probably really really funny.

1) This poster, with the lead actor's face centered on it, looks similar to Steve Carrel on 40 Year Old Virgin and Seth Rogen on Knocked Up
2) This movie stars Jay Baruchel- the star of a former Judd Apatow TV show, Undeclared. And just like Seth Rogen and Jason Segel, both guys who starred in Undeclared and Freaks and Geeks (Judd Apatow's two shows) as well a Judd Apatow movie, this could possibly be Baruchel's movie.

But here's the kicker- this movie doesn't have Paul Rudd in it and therefore it is not a Judd Apatow movie. And after seeing the trailer- it looks awful and really dumb.

Are SB Overvalued?

As recently as a decade ago, steals were a "rare" commodity. With big, bulky and slow OBP/SLG guys en vogue, the prevalence of athletic speedster types dwindled. In 2000, only thirteen players with 300+ PA stole 30 or more bags and only six stole 40 or more. In 2003, the number of players who stole 30+ bases dwindled to eleven and the average player (300+ PA) stole 7.7 bases. The result? Guys like Scotty Pods, Alex Sanchez (who?) and Dave Roberts -- one category guys -- became quite valuable. Despite their minimal offerings, the shortage of stolen bases made a 40+ bags guy like Scotty Pods desirable; if you offered an additional category such as a .300+ average to boot, like Juan Pierre did, you were that much more valuable.

Speed was rare and you had to pay to get it; quality steals (more than one category guys) were even rarer.

But in our progressive age, in the year 2010, has anything changed? With the re-valuatuation of defense and "athletic types" (albeit ones who get one base), are steals still rare? If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we put more stolen base guys on first?

Last season, seventeen players stole 30+ bases. For the first time in their careers, Ichiro and Hanley were not one among them (next year Ichiro probably will be, Hanley I am not so sure about). The average player with 300+ PA stole 8.8 bases. Guys like Michael Bourn, Nyjer Morgan, and Rajai Davis were aplenty and provided sufficient fantasy value to render early round picks upon guys like Jacoby Ellsbury and Ichiro as "wasteful."At least economically.

2008 was a similar story. Sixteen players stole 30+ bases and the average player stole 8.5 bases.

What does this mean? I think it means fantasy owners overvalue stolen bases. In the last several years, the prevalence of SB guys has increased, but the value tags upon them has not. With players like Brett Gardner, Denard Span, Julio Borbon, Eric Young Jr. and Juan Pierre wading around past pick #100, why spend a top 50 pick on Ichiro or Ellsbury? SB are aplenty on the waiver wire -- when players get called up, they want to show their teams they can contribute in any and all ways possible and this usually translates into a plethora of SBs by even the fattest of minor leaguers.

There is absolutely no reason to spend big on Ellsbury (projected to hit .302 with 48 SB, 8 HR, 52 RBI, 84 R next season) when a player like Julio Borbon (projected to hit .297 with 35 SB, 6 HR, 47 RBI, 77 R next season) is going a full 100 picks later. CHONE projects fifteen players to steal 29+ bases next year and another six to steal 29. Almost all of them offer good value in Runs and many in Batting Average. There is absolutely no reason to waste your early round picks on "quality steals."

White Sox Defense: CHONE

According to CHONE projections, here is what the 2010 White Sox starting line up defense looks like per 150 games:
C-A.J. Pierzynski (-4 runs)
1B-Konerko (+0 runs)
2B-Gordon Beckham (+2 runs)
SS-Alexei Ramirez (-2 runs)
3B-Mark Teahen (-7 run)
LF-Carlos Quentin (-3 runs)
CF-Juan Pierre (+4 runs)
RF-Alex Rios (+0 runs)

That's a -10 run defense at the starting lines; meaning the Sox defense will lose 1 game per every 150 just based on their defense. That's an upgrade over last season, where their starting 9 posted a collective fielding value of -45.5 runs (largely thanks to the departure of Jermaine Dye)

Why The White Sox Won't Win The AL Central In 2009

Let me preface this article by saying I'm a huge White Sox fan. I'm not some guy trying to be a hate-ah and I'm definitely not a Cubs fan trying to be a douchebag (aka being a Cubs fan).

The highlight of the team is their pitching. Individually, I think their top four starters (Peavy, Floyd, Buerhle, and Danks) are top five in the league and I'm a big fan of the back end of their bullpen with Putz, Jenks, and Thorton. We sabermetricians (yes, I'm considering myself a sabermetrician) love to analyze how a pitchers stats would look using data like FIP (for Matthew Berry, Nate Ravitz, and everyone out there, FIP stands for Fielding Independent Statistics). And it's this very concept that sabermetrics fails to realize- teams play games with defenses. Just like economists assume people are rational, sabermetrics seem to assume we play games with no defense.

Sure, once the ball is hit off the bat, where that ball lands is completely and utterly random. However, a better defense with a greater range will be able to cover more ground so that random spot where the ball lands will end up being in a pitchers glove. Not only that, pitchers can control, over a full season, whether they are a ground ball or play ball pitcher. A guy, like Mark Buerhle for example, is a ground ball pitcher. He hopes for contact and most of the time, when the ball is hit, it goes on the ground. The best infield defense will be able to pick up that ball on the ground and get that player out. However, when you pitch for contact, you rely on your defense to get outs and the crappier your defense is, the more guys you allow on base before you get three outs.

You hear the old cliche, no not "offense wins games, but defense wins championships"- the other one- "pitching and defense". The reason it's not pitching alone, because a pitcher can't strike EVERYBODY out (even Nolan Ryan and Tim Lincecum need their defense SOMETIMES). And the crappier pitcher you are, the more you need to rely on your defense (Although even the the Brewers defense won't make Jeff Suppan good).

Which brings me to my central thesis: the White Sox defense is so bad that it will negate their pitching talent so as to not win the division.

Last year, Jayson Nix was an amazing defender. In 52 games at 2B he had a 14.5 UZR/150 and a 4.8 RF/9. (He also helped out a bit at third posting a 4.9 UZR/150 and a 2.2 RF/9 in 12 games). So despite walking 9.7% of the time, a .249 BABIP, and great defense- the Sox reward him by taking him out of the lineup. While it's a good thing they didn't replace him with Chris Getz (-6.7 UZR/150 and 5.0 RF/9 in 106 games), they still did replace him with a crappy defender- Gordon Beckham.

At third base, Beckham had negative defensive value with his -2.0 Fielding Value (maybe fangraphs need to be a BIT more creative with their stats). He had a -2.8 UZR/150 and a 2.8 RF/9 in 102 games. While this is a very small sample size and the dude is INCREDIBLY young and played SS in college, I am not optimistic that Beckham will produce positive defense playing at a harder defensive position.

But even as bad of a season as Beckham had last year, the brilliant Kenny Williams decided to upgrade with the fabulous Mark Teahen.(I guess the sarcasm on the page doesn't come off as well as it does in my head). Here's Teahen's UZR/150 for the past four years: -10.9, -23.9, 0.4, and -17.6 at 3B. Teahen's total UZR/150 at third is -10.1.

Now we move on to the infield that actually produced. First, we have Alexei Ramirez. Probably the best proof that Gordan Beckham can be good defensively. In 2008 Ramirez posted an awful -12.5 UZR/150 and a 3.9 RF/9 to a +2.4 UZR/150 and a 4.4 in 2009.`This shows positive signs that Ramirez will still have positive defense, he's still only a league average SS defender. Last year, Ramirez was the 18th best SS defender. I know I should be happy that the hardest defensive position produces positive results, but it's still disappointing to see Alexei be just one step above being negative.

Lastly, we move to the Paul Konerko. Last year was Konerko's best defensive season posting a +3.2 UZR/150. However, this was inconsistent with Konerko's previous seasons. He has never had a positive UZR/150 above .08 and four out of the past eight years, Konerko had a negative UZR/150 so the chances that Konerko's defense will even be positive is pretty low.

However, I am optimistic about the White Sox outfield next year. Sure, they're stuck with Carlos Quentin's -14.1 UZR/150 and 0 RF/9 in 223 games in the OF, but adding Juan Pierre is a HUGE upgrade from Jermaine Dye and Alex Rios had an uncharacteristically awful year last year. Last year, JD had a -24.5 UZR/150 and a 2.0 RF/9 so Juan Pierre's career 5.6 UZR/150 should be a big step up. Also, Alex Rios has a career 12.3 UZR/150. Plus here's his OF UZR/150 for the past four years minus 2009: +9.7, +13.7, +9.2, +27.5. His his -5.8 UZR/150 is extremely out of the norm for him and even is he return to his floor (about a +9.0), he should be MUCH better than what he was last year and what DeWayne Wise and Brian Anderson were.

So maybe it's just the cynic in me, but I just don't see the defense as a whole being all that good. 1B, 2B, 3B, and LF will all probably have negative UZR/150. So even though the OF will be much improved and the SS will be positive, I feel the defense as a whole will be below average- thus negatively affecting the pitching staff and thus losing enough games to not win the division.

Although I hope I'm wrong.

NOTE: I wrote this post thinking that Rios and Pierre would be really bad defenders and to my dismay and already halfway done, I realized they will be huge upgrades to the 2009 OF. So maybe that OF will help the pitchers a lot more than I thought but I still contend the Sox stay close all year and either the Twins and Tigers win it. That's just the cynic in me.

Who Wants To Throw A Tiger Woods Announcement Party?


Seriously, I could not be more excited about seeing and hearing Eldrick Woods speak tomorrow for the first time in 3 months. The most famous athlete in the world has managed to not be seen by a single person for 3 whole months. That sort of dedication is what makes him great, as well as led to all of his problems. When you have everything, it is still not enough. Greatness is never satisfied, and it looks to feed off the next challenge. This quality is what makes Tiger so admirable, yet so disdained by those who could never understand what it's like to be him.

Tomorrow at 10am, central time zone, Tiger will host a short presser in front of selected friends and media personal explaining where he has been the last 3 months and what led him to betray his friends, family, and sponsors. I'm giddy with excitement to see how Tiger handles being in such an uncomfortable situation. Yes, sinking a clutch 30 foot put takes a lot of machismo, but facing the world after one of the greatest scandals will require much more than testosterone. It will require planning and preparation. Two qualities that Tiger has perfected in his life. This is why I don not expect to see any emotional tears from him tomorrow, a la Arod, Big Mac, or Kobe Bryant. This will be a supremely orchestrated, practiced retinue to come off as sincere as possible, in the fakest way possible. He may be apologetic to his family and sponsors, but I doubt he feels any obligation to the public masses yet will try to win them back by blaming an addiction and claiming that he is human and makes mistakes just like everyone else. Maybe, just maybe, if his mother is in attendance and Elin sitting by his side, that will be enough to get under his skin and expose his inner id

The odds that anyone will come away from the press conference satisfied with what they heard is highly doubtful, yet it will still be gratifying to see the Tiger come out of hiding. I'm anxious to go to bed tonight just so tomorrow morning will come quicker. No chance i'm going to class, this is much more important

Chicago Cubs Roster Heading into Spring Training

The Chicago Cubs are starting spring training today with pitchers and catchers reporting. I figured I would preview the roster on how it looks now to see which positions are still open and which players need to make an impression this spring to have a chance to make the roster.

The Cubs have not added many players this off-season. They only added two players of significance in center fielder Marlon Byrd and 4th outfielder (possible platoon partner with Fukudome is he struggles again) Xavier Nady. Then they signed Chad Tracy and Kevin Millar to minor leagues deals with invitations to spring training. I liked the Tracey signing to replace Hoffpauir’s role as a left handed bat off the bench, but he has more flexibility than Hoffpauir if he can play third base and be the primary back-up for Ramirez. On Wednesday Piniella announced that Andres Blanco and Sam Fuld will make the team. This announcement made it clear how the position players look heading into the season, and pretty much was bad news for Tracy, Millar, and Hoffpauir who now have a slim chance to make the team unless there is an injury.

Position Players
1.Derek Lee-1st base, Lee figures to bat three for the Cubs and continue his gold glove defense.
2.Jeff Baker-2nd base, Baker will battle with Fontenot for the second base job. We may see a platoon between the two of them all year unless one thrives while the other struggles. Last year at the end of the season Baker performed well while Fontenot struggled. If that happens this year then Baker would have a good chance to be the everyday second basemen.
3.Ryan Theriot-SS, Theriot needs to continue to do well and take his game to an all new level with Starlin Castro waiting in the wings. Theriot seems to start strong and tail off towards the end of every season; He needs to be consistent the whole year. Theriot plans to be at the top of the order for the Cubs this year batting two or leading off. If that is the case he needs to revert back to his form from two years ago, and not last year where his walks decreased and his strikeouts increased.
4.Aramis Ramirez-3rd base, He needs to stay healthy and he is the most consistent run producer on the team. The key with him is health.
5.Geovany Soto-Catcher, Soto came into spring training loosing a lot of weight and in great shape. Lets hope that helps him revert back to his rookie campaign and not last year’s very disappointing sophomore slump.
6.Alfonso Soriano-LF, Soriano needs to play more than 117 games for the Cubs this year and accept his new role as a run producer, not a leadoff hitter. Last year after he was demoted from the leadoff spot he was moved to batting 5th. This year Byrd figures to bat 5th, so Soriano needs to accept batting 6th without problems and prove he deserves to bat higher.
7.Marlon Byrd-CF, He has a good bat, but seems big and not smooth for a center fielder.
8.Kosuke Fukudome-RF, Fukudome has started strong the past two years and then stops hitting and become a non factor. This year the Cubs have some depth in Nady if he struggles.
9.Mike Fontenot-2nd base, Fontenot has to prove he is an everyday player and challenge Baker for second base. The Cubs need him to perform like he did in 2008 and not last year.
10.Andres Blanco-2nd base & SS, Blanco is a defensive wizard who can’t hit. Hopefully the new hitting coach will help him with his swing.
11.Koyie Hill-Catcher, A strong defensive back-up catcher who calls a good game.
12.Xavier Nady- We need Nady to play right field everyday if Fukudome continues to struggle like the past two year.
13.Sam Fuld- A light hitting good defensive center fielder who plays with heart.

On the Bubble
The position players seem locked unless someone gets injured. Here are the three players who seem on the outside looking in, but you never know.
•Chad Tracy- A veteran they signed to a minor league deal. He is a left handed hitter who can play thirdbase, first base, and some corner outfield if needed.
•Kevin Millar- A veteran they signed to a minor league deal. He can provide some pop. He can play first and corner outfield.
•Micah Hoffpauir– He had a great cup of coffee with the Cubs in 2008finally making it to the Majors. Last year he had a chance to be a left handed pinch hitter of the bench and he did’t perform well. He seems destinated to be headed back to the minors with Tracy in camp who is the same type of player and can play more positions.

Pitching Staff
14.Carlos Zambrano-SP, He lost weight and needs to show he is the ace of the staff we paid him to be.
15.Ted Lilly-SP, He may start the season injured but is trying to be ready for opening day. He is nicknamed the “Bull Dog” for a reason.
16.Ryan Dempster-SP, He needs to pitch like he did in 2008 and be an innings eater for this pitching staff.
17.Randy Wells-SP, Wells needs to continue to take strides in his second season in the majors. Last year he made the team because of injuries and ran away with the job. This year the Cubs are counting on him to be the 4th starter, or 3rd starter until Lilly is ready.
18.Tom Gorzelanny-SP, the leading candidate to be the 5th start until Lilly is healthy.
19.Carlos Silva-SP,He came over in the Bradley deal and we will have to see if he can contribute.
20.Carlos Marmol-Closer, Marmol needs to drastically improve on walking less people and be the dominant closer he can be.
21.Angel Guzman-RP, Last spring training Guzman looked liked he would get cut because he was out of options. He turned out to be the most consistent pitcher out of the bullpen last year. This year he is counted on to be a setup man.
22.John Grabow-LHP, Why did we pay so much to re-sign him?
23.Sean Marshall-LHP, The Cubs best left-handed option out of the bullpen.
24.Jeff Samardzija-RHP, He will have a chance to start, but will be in the bullpen unless he continues to struggle.

On the Bubble
There are some questions marks about Silva and Samardzija, so if they struggle in spring training then one of these pitchers could have a chance.
•Jeff Stevens- He could be a good reliever for the Cubs and I think he is ready now. He came over in the DeRosa trade.
•Justin Berg- He has a chance to make the team as a reliever, but he needs to continue to develop.
•Mitch Atkins- He has a chance to make the team as a reliever, but he needs to continue to develop.
•Esmailin Caridad- A starting pitcher who still needs to develop.
•David Patton- A rule 5 guy who can now go back to the minors and try to put it together. A impressive spring may remind the Cubs why they took him.

Summary
As you see there is one open roster spot. A position player like Tracey or Millar could grab it, or one of the relievers could get it. We will have to see what happens in spring training…………………………………………………

Fantasy Watch: Jair Jurrjens

Jair Jurrjens is apparently on the mend, with an MRI schedueled later today in order "to determine the cause of soreness in his right shoulder." Despite pitching a career high 215 innings in his age 23 season, Jurrjens only received a 27.1 innings bump compared to 2008, safely within the theoretical "Verducci Effect" threshold, while falling outside the top 30 abused arms label (he was #48 in total Pitcher Abuse Points last season, not bad considering he was top 20 in innings pitched last season). What this means is the Jurrjens injury, provided it is nothing serious, should not scare off prospective drafters/bidders. Though he's not as good of a pitcher as his ERA would indicate last season, he is a legit mid-to-upper 3's ERA guy with a serviceable 1.30ish WHIP and a slightly above average K/9 rate to boot. Worthy of a round 10-12 pick? I would say so. Just not much higher, given the general depth in pitching.

Regardless of the long term impact this temporary setback may have on Jurrjen's 2010 campaign, the short term consequences upon another young star may be significant. If Jurrjen misses a start or two at the beginning of the season, this would open a temporary spot in the rotation for Kris Medlen to spot start. Despite the rusty beginnings as a starter last season, Medlen showed a lot of potential out of the pen. Medlen has 3 quality offerings (changeup-fastball-curveball) with identical release points and vastly different levels of break. Medlen could be a real fantasy bargain in 2010 if he succeeds in a starting role and sticks with it.

I will be keeping an eye on this situation.

Stolen Goods: 2010 UZR Projections

Three months ago, Jeff Zimmerman of Beyond The Boxscore calculated regressed and age-adjusted 2010 UZR/150 projections. With baseball season on the horizon (I promise to stop saying that after Thursday...), I think readers might be interested in how their team's fielding is reasonably projected to fair. The data is available in a sortable excel spreadsheet here.

BTB's Projected Top Defenders By Position:Position Name Projected UZR
Position Name Projected UZR
1B Albert Pujols +5.5
2B Chase Utley +11.0
3B Evan Longoria +11.0
SS Adam Everett +8.6
RF Austin Kearns +8.3
CF Franklin Gutierrez +14.8
LF Carl Crawford +9.8

BTB's Projected Bottom Defenders By Position:
Position Name Projected UZR
1B Mike Jacobs -5.6
2B Kelly Johnson -5.2
3B Ryan Braun -12.4
SS Yuniesky Betancourt -9.7
RF Brad Hawpe -19.3
CF Jacoby Ellsbury -9.0
LF Adam Dunn -13.4

Unemployment Watch: Felipe Lopez

With all pitchers and catchers reporting in less than 48 hours, almost every free agent middle infielder has settled into a new (or old) home. In a market where Marco Scutaro (+4.5 WAR last season, signed a 2-year, $12.5 million deal with the Red Sox), Placido Polanco (+3.1 WAR, signed a 3-year, $18 million deal with the Phillies), Orlando Hudson (+2.9 WAR last season, signed a 1-year, $5 million deal with the Twins), Miguel Tejada (+2.6 WAR last season, signed a 1-year, $6 million deal with the Orioles), Jamey Carroll (+1.5 WAR last season, signed a 2-year, $3.85 million deal with the Dodgers), Pedro Feliz (+1.3 WAR last season, signed a 1-year, $4.5 million deal with the Astros), Adam Everett (+0.9 WAR last season, signed a 1-year, $1.55 million with the Tigers), and Orlando Cabrera (+0.6 WAR last season, signed a 1-year, $3.02 million deal with the Reds) were all able to find themselves decent contracts, three middle infielders remain unemployed: Pablo Ozuna (35 years old, -0.6 WAR last season), Chris Gomez (39 years old, -0.4 WAR last season), and Felipe Lopez (30 years old, +4.6 WAR last season).

That's right. Felipe Lopez, age 30, coming off a +4.6 WAR season, which was tied with Ian Kinsler for 4th best amongst ALL major league 2B last season, is stuck looking for a job with two aging backup players. Lopez is coming off a season in which he boasted a +13.1 bat and +7.8 glove at a premium position; in terms of 2009 WAR, Lopez was the absolute best middle infielder on the free agency market this offseason. And yet, he is still unemployed. This is certainly why he fired Scott Boras a few days ago. All this considered, why is Lopez still unemployed? Let's dig into the numbers.

Before we analyze Lopez's 2010 prospects, let it be noted that another "mediocre-career-turned-great-season" player, Marco Scutaro, was able to secure a sweet deal with Boston...however, the Sawks have a history of overpaying shortstops (see also Renteria, Edgar).

Felipe Lopez is a career .325 wOBA hitter (3% below league average) with an average glove at second (+2.6 UZR/150 career) and poor glove at short (-11.2 UZR/150 career). In 4078 PA since 2002, Lopez has accumulated +11.4 WAR to his name -- that interpolates to +1.7 WAR per 600-650 PA. A +1.7 WAR player up the middle wouldn't be all the bad to fill out a roster with holes, but when you consider that he has only twice in his career even posted a 1.7 or greater WAR, you have to question his reasonably contribution in terms of WAR value.

Last season, Lopez hit .310/.383/.427 (.810 OPS, .356 wOBA) with 9 HR to boot against a career slash line of .269/.338/.400 (.738 OPS). Lopez had a career year in terms of strikeout rate, BA, OBP, and BABIP, while posting a career low in speed score. Such does not bode well for sustainable future forecasts. His .360 BABIP was a full 24 point higher than his .336 xBABIP. If we adjust his season hits totals to reflect his luck-neutral batting line (and generously assume that all hits that were luckily gained were singles), then Lopez's batting line falls to .291/.366/.409 (.775 OPS). Still quite good, but we are assuming that all additional hits gained vis a via luck were singles and that Lopez will maintain his strikeout rate. Compound this with a history of inconsistent hitting, and you begin to see why most teams have avoided Lopez's services.

Even with a depressed, luck-neutral batting line of .291/.366/.409, Lopez would be posting career highs in BA, OBP and BABIP. When you considered the declining speed score, this batting line looks more like the upside than the baseline for Lopez's 2010 projections. CHONE projects Felipe Lopez as a -3 run bat and +1 run glove per 150 games next season, which -- after adjusting for position and replacement -- comes out to a +2.2 WAR season. Not too shabby -- again, that is until you consider the peripheral signs.

A team signing Lopez on a cheap with a 1-year, $4 million deal would be well worth the inherent risks of such a signing. However, anything above $5 million, given the free market value of a win ($3.5 million) and Lopez's history of inconsistency and hitting impotency, seems excessive and unworthy.

Very few teams are in need of a starting middle infielder to justify the cost/risk of a Lopez signing. The Cubs could conceivably use Lopez at 2B for the right price, but Hendry seems set with a Baker/Fontenot platoon. Maybe the Reds? Perhaps Toronto? Longshot in St. Louis? It will be interesting to see if and where and for how much Lopez ends up signing. Any bets on whether he or Jermaine Dye finds a job first?

(all contract information is courtesy of Cot's Contracts and does not include signing bonuses or option money)

FJM: Sebastian Janikowski

I could probably just leave the title at that. This commentary is not meant to attack the writer of the article as it is meant to attack the stupidity that is Al Davis- the owner of the Oakland Raiders. The LA Clippers look like the New York Yankees compared to how the Raiders are being run. Can we just put Al Davis as the worst GM- it's close enough...

The Oakland Raiders and Sebastian Janikowski reached agreement Tuesday on the richest kicking contract in NFL history.
You know how you can tell it's a Quentin Taratino movie just watching a scene? Well, that's the same thing as Al Davis, you can tell something's an Al Davis dealing when the term "richest kicking contract" is in the sentence.
It also removes arguably the top kicker from the free-agent market. Other notable free-agent kickers are expected to include Cincinnati's Shayne Graham and the New York Jets' Jay Feely.
Shit. Now what are teams going to do about their open kicker situation? it's not like they can't pull guys off the street or take the 10 open guys who won't get drafted this year because it's dumb to draft a kicker (same in fantasy football too!)
In 10 seasons, all with the Raiders, Janikowski has scored 1,000 points, converting 78.4 percent of his field-goal attempts (229 of 292) and 313 of 316 extra-point attempts. He scored 95 points in 2009.
Also, among active kickers he's: 13th in Extra Point Percentage, 27th in Field Goal Percentage, and 14th in total Field Goals made. Those numbers just SCREAM amazing contract don't they?
Janikowski is coming off the best season of his 10-year career. He made 26 of 29 field goals, with his only misses coming from 45, 57 and 66 yards. He made six kicks of at least 50 yards, including a 61-yarder that was the fourth longest in NFL history.
OK, I won't be a complete hate-ah, those are pretty good numbers. But this article won't go downhill will it?
Janikowski also had 17 touchbacks on 58 kickoffs for the sixth-best mark in the league last season.
Hmmm, how do you say "slippery slope" in Al Davis' world? "6th best" doesn't really go hand in hand with a blockbuster deal, does it?
The Raiders used a first-round pick to draft Janikowski in 2000, making him the first specialist in 21 years to go in the first round. Janikowski did not emerge as the game-changing kicker owner Al Davis hoped for at the time.
Oh right, I forgot, Al Davis doesn't know how to properly value kickers at all. Because even though no team would ever draft a kicker before the 6th round, Al David decided to waste a first round pick on Janikowski. Of course this new Janikowski deal makes sense. Dude was a first rounder! WOAH!
He missed 10 field goals as a rookie, and connected on only 76 percent for his first three seasons. But he has been very consistent the past two seasons, making 41 of 44 kicks inside of 50 yards. He became the all-time leading scorer in team history in 2008.
This article doesn't really point out the other seven years where Janikowski was also crap between his rookie season and these past two seasons.
The Raiders have traditionally done a good job keeping their own free agents.
They also do a good job of losing games, poorly evaluating talent, having a head coach more times that a crack head smokes up, and running a beloved franchise into the ground.
They gave record deals last February to keep Pro Bowl punter Shane Lechler and star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and also gave a big deal to keep defensive tackle Tommy Kelly in 2008.
Like we needed any more proof that Al Davis probably has had Alzheimer's for the past few years
The focus now turns to defensive lineman Richard Seymour. Oakland traded a 2011 first-round pick to New England for Seymour before last season. He had four sacks, but two of the them came in the season opener. If Oakland cannot sign Seymour to a long-term deal by Feb. 25, the team is expected to use the franchise tag to keep him for next season. Seymour, a five-time Pro Bowler, would be guaranteed $12,398,000 with a franchise tag.
What's with this crazy hypothetical that they might not throw a lot of money at a washed up player who won't perform well for their team? Did this guy just read his own post?

This article is from ESPN.com. Also, sincerest apologies if I offended anyone with my Alzheimer's comment.

Olympic Hockey

Sorry folks for not writing more in the last month, but there aren't enough hours in the day to keep up with med school, let alone writing about sports on a blog.

But, it is the winter olympics, and they do only come around every 4 years. The only event that matters to me is the hockey. No disrespect to curling, but if your sport requires a broom, i'm not overly interested.

The hockey in the olympics never disappoints. All-star squads from 12 nations competing at the highest level for national pride. Pretty sweat if you ask me. With the rosters being announced several weeks ago, it is not hard to handicap who are the favorites and who is short on talent.

United States: For those of you hoping for a "Miracle on Ice" repeat this year, keep waiting. It's pretty shocking just how short on talent the American team is. The roster favors the younger players, with legends like Mike Modono and Jeremy Roneick being left off the roster. The majority of the roster is made up of "solid" players who bring great leadership and intangibles to the team, but not the elite talent. The most tangible players are Kane, Parise, and Perry, but once you get past those few the talent gets short and the defensemen are undersized

Canada: Canada is the favorite to take the gold, and anything short of top place will be a disappointment to the home town nation. The Canadians can put together 2 full squads that could contend for the gold, thats how stacked they are. Crosby, Heatley, Iginla, Nash, and Thornton are all top 15 players in the NHL, and even the reserves would rank as top players on any other nations roster. The defensemen are giants who can skate led by Pronger, Weber, and Seabrooke. I would give them the gold, but I believe there is one nation that will dominate these olympics and get the gold...

Russia: The Russian team may not have the incredible line depth of the Canadians, but the top tier talent on the team is undeniable. To say these guys can score would be an understatement. Ovechkin, Kovalchuck, Malkin, Semin, Datsyuk. You have to be kidding me how sick that is. The top 2 lines are unmatched on this team with Malkin and Datsyuk centering the 2 lines with the worlds greatest snipers on either side. The defense is the weakest point on this team, but if they are able to put up 5-6 goals per game that may not matter in the end. I'm rooting for the Russians to take back the gold!

The best of the rest:
Sweden has the talent to compete for a medal, even goals if things go their way. Alfredsson, Backstrom, Forsberg, and the Sedin twins up front providing way more talent than the American squad. They may also have the best blue line in the olympics being led by the great Nick Lindstron. They did take the gold in Turino 2006 so I wouldnt overlook this squad

Slovakia has top tier level on the top line but very little depth from the rest of the team. Having both Hossa brothers to go along with Demitra and Gaborick will provide instant offense, but the rest of the team will bring them down

Fun Fact: When one of the members of the Miracle on Ice American team from 1980 was asked how many times the US of A would have won if they played the Russian team again 30 times. His response "Honestly, zero"

Drinking The Juice: Jon Lester

With Pitchers and Catchers reporting this week, baseball season is in the air.

Those who know me know that I do not believe in high risks when it comes to fantasy. I believe in modest upside with low-to-no downside. I draft for value, not speculation. When my fellow league members will invest their fantasy dollars in subprime mortgage like gambles, I will be focused on the consistent performance stocks. My motto is not "reach for the stars." Especially when it comes to the early rounds of baseball, the name of the game is expectations. You can't generally win a league with your first seven picks, but you can lose it.

With this motto in mind, let's turn to one of my favorite 2010 starting pitchers; Jon Lester. Just 26 years old, Lester is entering the early years of his prime as much more than a feel-good baseball story a la Disney's The Rookie.

In four seasons, Jon Lester has gone from highly touted prospect to bonafide stud. The K rate is improving (from 6.64 per nine in 2007 to 9.96 in 2009) and the BB rate is shrinking (from 4.76 per nine in 06 to 2.83 in 2009). The groundballs are piling up (from 40.6% in 2006 to 47.7% in 2009), his secondary pitches are improving (his curveball has gone from -1.27 runs per 100/pitches in 2006 to +1.07 last season) and his cut fastball has become downright nasty (from -5.29 runs per 100/pitches in 2006 to +1.96 -- top 5 in the AL last season amongst starting pitchers).

The results? A decreasing contact rate (from 81.3% in 2006 to 74.6% in 2009) with an increased ability to get hitters to chase his pitches (his O-Swing% of 21.3% in 2006 has increased to 26.7 %). All signs point to "yes" when we ask "can Lester sustain his improvements."

Last season, Lester posted a 3.15 FIP and 3.13 xFIP. His 3.41 ERA last season, though still quite good, was largely inflated by a 5.67 ERA (and .370 BABIP) through the first two months of the season. From June through September, Lester was one of baseballs best pitchers. Even in April and May, Lester still piled in K's (74 in 65.1 IP) and tossed players a handful of wins (four, to be exact). Even if Lester regresses a bit in the strikeout department next season, the 3.41 ERA should be seen as the baseline, not the expectation.

Let's say Jon Lester pitches 200 innings next year. Assuming that Lester maintains the GB tendencies he's advanced and maintained in each of the past two seasons, even if Lester regresses to an 8.0 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 (even though it was 2.83 in both 2008 and 2009...) and even if he allowed a hit per inning, his FIP would be 3.65 with 177 Ks and a 1.33 WHIP to boot. That would be my low-end prediction for Lester. I expect a K rate closer to 9 per nine and a hit rate closer to 8.4 per nine. Such would put Lester in the 3.45 FIP, 1.25 WHIP range. Combine this with Boston's stellar and upgraded defense and I would project Lester's numbers as being even better.

Like another fantasy Man Crush of mine, Jon Lester has a quality 4-pitch mix built for success -- a mid-90s four-seam fastball, a high 80's cut fastball, a two-seam fastball, a mid-80s changeup, and a solid mid-70s curveball. Each is thrown at roughly the same arm slot and each has a variable level of horizontal and vertical break. Lester's weakest pitch, the change-up, is a tick above league average (+0.21 runs per 100 pitches). With such a deadly arsenal, Lester is able to effectively fool hitters and keep them off balance. There is absolutely no reason that he cannot repeat his fantasy 2009 season in 2010, if not find room to improve thanks to an improved defense and improving skill set. Say we start the bidding at $20?