The changing game
Ben Cherington of the Boston Red Sox is in the conversation for GM of the year after passing on the Big Club, Big Bucks profile and instead signing reasonably priced players with a big league record of some success to realistic-length contracts. Players like Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, Koji Uehara and others have helped Cherington to define a paradigm shift in free agent values—away from high albatross factors and toward realistic, fair-market price considerations.
This has not gone unnoticed and is forcing clubs to reassess what represents value and a fair return on their investment in acquiring both free agents and surrendering trade chips. In the coming off-season, players like Jacoby Ellsbury and Hunter Pence are going to be viewed through a new prism compared to how they might have been evaluated in the past off-season. There will be some new terms used at the winter meetings and on the phone with agents and GM’s. Someone will say “we don’t want to marry him, we just want to use him for three years!” or “Ten years?! I’d get less than that for manslaughter, don’t tempt me!” An epidemic of common sense probably won’t break out, but there will no doubt be a few cases occurring. Hey the Yankees are having a problem with the Luxury Tax…who knew?
As has been noted fairly well this season, there is an increasing awareness that the game is changing. Scoring has been going down along with the prevalence of Monster Mashers. Whether this has to do with chemical intolerance by MLB or just the fickle finger of fate matters not; scoring is down. The Old Time Religion of small ball is being heard again in the land. Long lost awareness of things like bunting, stealing, hustling and simple competence is being discussed openly. The Pittsburgh Pirates have rocketed past .500 to the playoffs for the first time in a mini-eternity on the back of increasing their Defensive Runs Saved—getting on close to 150 more runs saved this year compared to 2010. That helped them a lot; count on people taking notice. Shift Happens will be appearing at a ballpark near you shortly. Hey, if The Commish can go along with TV replays then anything is possible.
The third part of the trifecta of change coming to the professional game is the shrinking free agent market. Good young players are being recognized as such and offered financial security for them and theirs for life before they even reach arbitration eligibility. For those players who have grown up not financially favored, numbers with $__0,000,000 after them that are guaranteed—even if they slip on a banana and never play another day—can not be easily dismissed, no matter what The Boras Corporation says. Especially when they know they can still go for the really, really big money around the time they turn 30-years old. They and the clubs get it; its one of those win-win deals everyone loves, except maybe Scott Boras. The result is the shrinking free agent market and it is going to increasingly affect the game. The Steinbrenners of the game can no longer count on going out and plugging holes in their team with just money. The Dodgers and everybody else have that now, too. The fact that teams are going to have to sign and develop their own stars because they can’t go to market and buy them anymore is really going hurt the albatross aficionados of yore. The teams that have learned to thrive on a lean financial diet and those who have learned how to find, farm and grow talent have a head start. Some of the others still don’t understand the problem. They will; they are not stupid, just a little slow.
Baseball Best Practice
Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has written a very insightful and informative article on the Pirates organizational conversion to maximize their defensive capabilities. The full article is well worthy of a read by anyone interested in the game, as it points the way to the future of baseball defense. (It can be found here.) Sawchik states that: “The Pirates have 49 defensive runs saved this season through Sept. 6, according to Baseball Info Solutions. The Pirates posted a -25 mark in 2012, a -29 mark in 2011 and a -77 mark in 2010. Catcher Russell Martin was the only significant offseason defensive addition. There are no Gold Glove candidates outside of Martin. Yet only Cincinnati had converted more batted balls into outs in the National League. ‘Are we the most gifted at each position? Probably not,’ Manager Clint Hurdle said. ‘But collectively as a group, with a system in place, we’ve been very good.’ ”
So they said
Buster Olney on Brendan Ryan: “I’d bet NYY will work to keep him for 2014, as a safety net for Jeter. Says he loves it with NYY.”
“I don’t think we have enough ready arms to step into this rotation. We have lots of candidates. But are these guys ready to turn you around? I don’t think so. They can fill some spots. But everyone is looking for pitching, and we’re no different than any other organization.” Ron Gardenhire to Rhett Bollinger at MLB.com
“It’s important to look past the numbers for Mike Zunino. He’s going to be an everyday catcher in the big leagues for a very long time.” Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com
“I think it helps when I do that, go up in the zone and get guys to swing. I’ve got that angle kind of going down in the zone and then; they’re not expecting me to come up in the zone. So, I try to spend most of the night at the knees so when I do come up, I think I kind of catch them off guard a bit.” James Paxton via Geoff Baker at Seattle Times
Mariner’s potential off-season targets
The Phillies will most likely have five left-handed hitters in their lineup next season: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and Cody Asche, according to Todd Zolecki at MLB.com. He notes that, “The Phillies need at least one right-handed bat with pop. There is some buzz about free-agent Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu, but one source said he does not seem to be a fit. Abreu is not a candidate to play the outfield, which is a likely requirement for a few reasons.”
Mets reliever LaTroy Hawkins says he’s “not at the end of his career,” according to a piece by Brian Giuffra of the North Jersey Record. He is still able to throw his heater in the mid-90’s and the 40-year old right-hander has thrown 65 2/3 innings, with a 3.15 ERA, 10 saves, 7.1 K/9, and 1.4 BB/9. “Certainly, if he wants to come back … it would be nice to have him around,” said Mets manager Terry Collins, who explained that Hawkins is a beneficial presence for the club’s younger arms. There have been some opinions expressed that the Mariners could use an effective veteran to solidify their bullpen.
Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that, “the Giants are keen on acquiring a power bat for 2014, “somebody who can drive the ball,” manager Bruce Bochy said. In a market that will be extremely thin on that commodity, they might not have the luxury of restricting their shopping list to left fielders. It was also suggested that the Giants could move Brandon Belt to the outfield and go after a free agent first-baseman such as Kendrys Morales, Mike Napoli and Cuban defector Jose Abreu.
By the numbers
Tim Lincecum earned his 10th win to join Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry and Kirk Rueter as the only San Francisco Giants to record double-digit win totals for six consecutive seasons. He struck out six to move two shy of 1,500 career strikeouts Saturday against the Dodgers.
89% of Philadelphia Inquirer reader’s think Ryne Sandberg should become the Phillies permanent manager. 53.9% think that the team should resign Roy Halladay.
“Tigers have the most hits in MLB, 56 more than the Red Sox. But they’ve scored 43 fewer runs than Boston. Why? Lack of speed on bases.” Jon Paul Morosi
Left-hander Joe Saunders leads the American League with 26 grounded–into-double-plays after recording two twin killings in Monday’s 4-2 loss to the Tigers. Greg Johns at MLB
Since the Fourth of July the Rangers are 9-23 against winning teams. Top starters Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Matt Garza are 1-10 in their 18 starts since Aug. 13. Tom Verducci at Sports Illustrated
Since the start of the 2012 season, Kyle Seager ranks third among AL third basemen with 110 extra-base hits, behind only the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera (155) and Rangers’ Adrian Beltre (127). Greg Johns at MLB
Opponents are 1-for-10 with four strikeouts and two grounded into double plays against Iwakuma with the bases loaded this season. Ryan Divish. Ryan Divish at TheNewsTribune