Saturday, November 23, 2013

2013 Team Awards: Cincinnati Reds

In order to review the 2013 season, the crackpot staff of Off Base is handing out awards to each Major League team. Please send us $19.95 for the shipping and handling of your team's Hello Kitty stickers awards. Here are the Most Valuable Player, Least Valuable Player, Cy Young, Cy Yuck, Rookie of the Year and Reliever of the Year for the Cincinnati Reds. 

*Guidelines, prices and participation may vary by author*

MVP: Joey Votto

This wasn't an easy one. From someone who watched 95% of the team's games (only missing because I work during the week and couldn't skip out of work early for every mid-week businessman's special game), I think one of the damning qualities of the 2013 Reds may have been the lack of a true MVP. The numbers are there to please the sabermetrics crowd for Joey Votto (.305/.435/.491), but he honestly wasn't anything terrific in 2013. Let me rephrase; he wasn't 2010 Joey Votto, because that guy was an absolute menace for opposing pitching staffs. 

Votto had the nice 6.2 fWAR, but something seemed off. If I had to guess, he's still not completely back from knee surgery after the 2012 season. His lower half seemed to fail him - compare his ISO from the 2010 miraculous season (.276) and in 2013 (.186) and you see that it's a guy whose dip in power could completely be coming from a lack of torque in the lower half. Votto is still an amazing hitter without being at full strength; but for the Reds to take the next step and actually win a playoff series he's going to have to be more than just real good. That could happen, or the Reds could have someone else step up and carry the team, allowing Joey Votto to just be real good. As it stands the Reds have a bunch of 'pretty good' players but no one who was actually ELITE-ELITE. It felt that living and dying with them each night last summer. 

When the lights went out on their season, I drank a bottle of Sailor Jerry rum as I watched the outs melt away like sands through an hourglass. I didn't go into work the next day. I turned off my phone and didn't return text messages or calls. I needed that time for me. It was as if someone died and I needed the mourning period after the funeral. I am beginning to realize my allegiance to this franchise might not be a healthy habit in my life. To be a Reds fan with this current core, my one piece of advice would be to have a physical performed by your doctor to make sure you have a healthy functioning liver and kidneys. If he gets back to you with good news it's safe to proceed. 

LVP: Brandon Phillips 

I've always been a big Brandon Phillips supporter. I like the guy. He drove in a career-high 103 runs this past season. He made some jaw-dropping plays in the field. He played in 151 games. These are all things I appreciate as a fan. But we also saw the bad side of Phillips - like bitching about Joey Votto's contract in July. Or cussing out Reds beat writer C. Trent Rosecrans (and calling him the Pillsbury Doughboy). 

These things left a rotten taste in my mouth. When Phillips was complaining about his contract in comparison to Votto's, my question is why is this player doing this in such an important season? Why would someone who supposedly bleeds his team's colors in his veins creating a remarkable distraction in a season that the Reds needed to go deep in the postseason? The window is getting ready to close, and this guy is being a prick over money. I can live with a lot of things - but I'm starting to consider the notion of living without Brandon Phillips being a part of my favorite sports franchise. Let him go be a diva in a big market town. Let him go tell Mike Lupica to eat a bag of dicks out in New York. 

The Brandon Phillips who used to be a power/speed threat is no more. He stole five bases last season. He's slowly contributing to the Reds becoming a station-to-station National League club who sits around and waits for the three-run homer. Dusty Baker gets some blame in all of this, but in a division with the Cardinals and upstart Pirates, being a team in that mold is a huge problem. I think the Reds front office shares this same feeling with me, which is why you'll hear whispers of Phillips getting dealt in the off-season. Best guess is that Phillips talks his way into another chance with the Reds and they don't find the right price from a taker, but DatDude better change dem ways.

Cy Young: Aroldis Chapman 

I really can't overstate what it's like to have a lead and to send Aroldis Chapman into a game in the ninth inning. It's not that he converts every lead into a win - he's blown five saves in each of the last two seasons and when he's going to blow one you know it almost from his warm-up tosses. When bad Aroldis shows up, you're fucked. And it's painfully obvious. But I'm not sure I've ever seen a more dominating arm in my lifetime. I feel like getting to watch him his 105 MPH when I'm live at the stadium must have been what it was like to watch Michael Jordan in the old Slam Dunk contests. It's something you'll never see again no matter how long you live. 

Chapman posted a career high 15.83 K/9 in 2013. He was only worth 1.6 fWAR, but it's not his fault that his idiot manager petitioned the organization in Spring Training to leave Aroldis as a reliever. Even pitching coach Bryan Price (now Reds manager) was ready to make Chapman a starter where he could truly be a Cy Young candidate. But nooooooooo..... Dusty Baker and his status quo act had to step in and shit in everyone's birthday cake. 

I could have given this award to Mat Latos. But that just felt 'blah' to me. Aroldis Chapman is the best pitcher on the Reds roster. He has two 80-grade pitches. He just needs to be in the right role, and I think you'll see Aroldis as a starter in 2014.

Cy Yuck: Johnny Cueto

Now this will raise some eyebrows, but hear me out. Johnny Cueto was really good when he was part of the Reds rotation in 2013 (5-2, 2.82 ERA, 51 K, 18 BB) but the guy only appeared in 11 games. The injury bug that bit him in the 2012 playoffs continued to bite in 2013, leaving the Reds rotation in a constant state of flux due to the fact their 'ace' was rehabbing through the entire season. 

And then in true Dusty fashion, they throw Cueto out there for the one-game Wildcard Playoff in Pittsburgh because he looked good in a couple tune-up starts against a teams who were ready to start their golf game (the Astros). 

Cueto's wind-up might be causing the durability issues. And he looked completely rattled in Pittsburgh in one of the biggest games in modern franchise history. Everyone has an off night where their stuff just isn't there, but it was obvious from the opening moments of that game that Cueto's focus was off and the ferocious Pittsburgh crowd ruined him. I don't want that from my ace. And the Reds continue the trend of starting the wrong guy in the postseason (remember when they led with Edison Volquez)? What the hell are they trying to do to me. If you're keeping score at home, Cueto was worth a sparkling 0.6 fWAR in 2013. It's amazing that the Reds were able to win as many games as they did getting this minimal amount of output out of their number one (thank you Tony Cingrani).

Reliever of the Year: Aroldis Chapman

(Imagine Bart Simpson writing this on the chalkboard at the beginning of a Simpsons episode):
Screw you Dusty Baker.
Screw you Dusty Baker. 
Screw you Dusty Baker. 
Screw you Dusty Baker. 
Screw you Dusty Baker. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Rudy Stein?!

So, first day of practice for the Bears and Rudi Stein volunteers to pitch. Though he seemed quite eager to pitch, jumping off the bleachers to inform Buttermaker of his desire to be the team's ace, he was just that: a volunteer. No one else in the yellow and brown wanted to be the hurler that would inevitably give up 27 runs and take seven comebackers off the shins per game. No one wanted to be the face of that team, and my goodness did that team have some faces.


There just weren't many options on day one of spring training:

* Engleberg is eating candy through the bars in his catcher's mask

* Lupus is getting hay fever out in RF

* Tanner Boyle falls down every time he does anything

* Ogilvie is in a windbreaker and jeans, didn't even bother to bring a glove

* Buttermaker is already nine beers in

* Kelly Leak is still weeks away from joining the team

* They've got a left-handed third baseman in a velvet jogging suit who is afraid of the ball

It's a mess of a first day of practice, and there's no one else to get on the mound and take the daily shellacking, so Stein volunteered, and that's fine for a non-serious little league where the kids and coaches are getting some fresh air and having fun.

But this isn't just any little league. The players have a genuine hatred for each other. The coaches are either drunks or psychotic (I seriously was hoping they'd release a new Bad News Bears DVD with extras where in one of the deleted scenes the Bears come back and beat the Yankees and Ron Turner is shown having hung himself in the dugout while Cleveland sobs in front of the body).

Anyway, Stein of course gets lit up. He's historically bad - bouncing pitches, can't field his position, throwing to the wrong bases, accidentally swallowing whole the rosin bag while attempting to field a bunt.

The Bears struggle. But Buttermaker finds Amanda Whurlitzer in a lawn chair handing out maps and remembers "this kid's got a curveball and I used to have sex with her mother. Maybe I can somehow get her t......." (passes out on the side of the road).

Soon the Bears have an ace: tons of innings, putting wear on her right arm, sure, but she's dominant and the best pitcher in the league. The Bears pass everyone into second and get a shot at the Yankees. Unfortunately Whurlitzer gets hurt in the championship game.

Buttermaker has to go to the pen.

Who does he turn to?

Rudi Stein.


He goes right back to Rudi Stein?! There's no one else?!

At no time during the season, during practice, did he see if ANYONE ELSE could pitch? Ogilvie is the team statistician, refuses to play, he just wants to count foul balls and chart pitches. He couldn't at one point say "hey, Buttermaker, I know Amanda is pitching great, but let's say she gets know, STEIN is the only other pitcher we have. Want to try to see if anyone else can pitch?

Maybe Ogilvie tried and Buttermaker was sunbathing nude in right field, who knows. But I still put this on Ogilvie - he should've done something.


And now we're in a tie championship game in the late innings, and Stein gets the ball again.

Ahmad Abdul Rahim?

Either of the Agular brothers?

The lefty they moved from 3rd to 1st? He can't give it a shot? Sure that might've meant bringing Jose Agular back to first, and we saw how poorly that went in the first practice.....but they're not going to even see if the lefty can get some people out?

Hell, give Boyle a shot. He may have been 3'4 and a horrible racist and bully, but he MUST'VE BEEN BETTER THAN RUDI STEIN.

If the fans are yelling out for anyone, EVEN THE RACIST, to pitch instead of the kid you currently have on the mound, you might have the wrong kid on the mound.

Kelly Leak can't pitch? He's the best athlete in the area and he can't pitch?! Why the hell not?! This kid is all-area and he's stuck in the outfield for the entire season?!

The Bears deserved that runner-up trophy.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Yankees Still Not Interested in a $300MM Robinson Cano

It looks like the Yankees are still not willing to give-in to Robinson Cano's and Jay-Z's demands that Cano get a 10-year $310MM contract. And I can't say that I blame them.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Bill Ballou Doesn't Value Mike Trout

After Miguel Cabrera crushed Mike Trout in 2012 AL MVP voting, it was clear that Trout wouldn't stand a chance at winning an MVP unless his Angels were playoff bound. And while Trout got better in 2013, the Angels got worse. Trout led all of baseball in Wins Above Replacement by a healthy margin again, general awesomeness and questions about whether his neck is a neck or just more shoulder. But he was doomed to finish second in AL MVP voting behind Cabrera for a second straight year. And finish second he did.

Trout trailed Cabrera by over 100 points (385-282) in 2013, which was a bigger margin than 2012 (362-281) when Cabrera won the frigging Triple Crown. So what changed this year? Well, Trout cut his 21.8 K% to 19.0% while raising his 10.5 BB% to 15.4% and raked an impressive .323/.432/.557 slash. Cabrera hit .348/.442/.636 in 64 fewer plate appearances while playing a very different version of third base than Manny Machado played. I could further detail how Trout was the much more valuable player than Cabrera but the Tigers made the playoffs and the Angels did not. And isn't that the definition of value? How well the rest of your teammates play or how your team's roster was constructed by people independent of you? That's how the BBWAA slides the numbers on their abacuses.

Trout not winning the MVP was a foregone conclusion. By how much, now that's where it was going to get interesting. And, holy shit, Bill Ballou hates Mike Trout. Mr. Ballou was lucky enough to be given an AL MVP vote by the BBWAA for his work at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, which I've been told is not a publication about Morse code and baby antelopes. Ballou, a member of the Boston chapter, had an interesting MVP ballot. Trout was listed on all 30 AL MVP ballots but managed to only reach seventh (7th!) on Ballou's punch card. Ballou (quick google search says he is not, indeed, Salvador Dali's pet ocelot) had Chris Davis, Cabrera, Josh Donaldson, Robinson Cano, Adrian Beltre and Dustin Pedroia ahead of Trout. Trout's 10.4 fWAR (Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement) was two full wins more valuable than NL MVP Andrew McCutchen's 8.2 fWAR and some bigger math number than Donaldson's second best AL mark of 7.7 fWAR.

Ballou wasn't the only offender. Trout also received three third place votes and one fourth and one fifth place vote. Ballou was just the most egregious relunctator to the Trout MVP party this year. His reasoning echos that of others of his ilk. From a Sep 22 article...

If the award were Player of the Year, Mike Trout probably would be the winner. As an all-around player, Trout's abilities are
unsurpassed. He is both sides of the offense-defense equation. However, how valuable could he have been for a team
that is going to finish well out of contention? The Angels could have missed the playoffs without him

How valuable could he be for a team that didn't make the playoffs? Oh, 10 full wins valuable. His value counts regardless of whether the rest of his team is any good. Gas is going to cost the same whether you put it into a Cadillac or a lawn mower. There is a value for it. Unfortunately for Trout, the Angels have been less Escalade than John Deere for the past two seasons. If you wanted to get seriously literal about the term Most Valuable Player, Trout would win in a landslide considering he made less than half a million compared to the $21 million Cabrera made. But that would be giving voters way too much to consider.

Ultimately, it's all going to be on Trout to make the players around him better. He'll never win those individual awards unless his teammates step it up. Jerks.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Scheduled Alex Rodriguez Hearing May or May Not Happen

The countdown is ticking toward zero-hour for the Alex Rodriguez Biogenesis/PED/General Douchebaggery hearing that is scheduled for next week. Except now, it appears that the meeting could be canceled. That, of course, is terrible. Simpy because it means that this whole daytime soap opera is going to dragged out even longer than it needs to be.

I admit that I have gone out of my way to avoid this whole mess. I hate it. Hate hate hate hate it. Largely because it involves two people in baseball who annoy me more than a human being should be allowed to annoy another human being without physically doing anything to that person. Those people are Alex Rodriguez, and Bud Selig.

But I did get a laugh at what, apparently, is the wording used for the penalty against A-Rod. Cue the blockquote:
MLB said the penalty was for "use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone over the course of multiple years" and for "engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the office of the commissioner's investigation."
Engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the office of the commissioner's investigation. Did Rodriguez egg your house, Bud? Make prank calls? Loiter at your local liquor store? Threw a rock through your window? I am upset that the phrase "Git offa mah lawn" was not used once in that statement. Not. One. Time.....Damnit.

I, obviously, am 100% OK with Rodriguez getting a 211 game suspension. I am also OK with anything that adds a few inches to the waistline - and costs a few inches at the hairline - of Bud Selig.

What I am trying to say is: In the span of the of 30 minutes that I spent writing this post, I have become a fan of the shenanigans that is this investigation. The whole thing is regressing into nonsense and will likely provide plenty of things for me to write about. So, thank you, Alex Rodriguez and Bud Selig *vomits* for giving me news that isn't actually news but is incredibly easy to make fun of. I kind of appreciate it. *vomits again*

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Kershaw, Scherzer Dominate Cy Young Voters Too

After the dust settled, the only thing left to do was tally the first place votes not given to Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer. Three. There were three voters who didn't participate in the Kershaw and Scherzer landsliding by the rest of the BBWAA. Anibal Sanchez, Chris Sale and Adam Wainwright supporters ruined the unanimanoty for the 2013 Cy Young winners.

I'm fine with the voting since I had Kershaw and Scherzer in my BBA ballot. And they also led baseball in Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement with a 6.5 fWAR for Kershaw and a 6.4 fWAR for Scherzer. So even most of the protractor wielding baseball fans can't complain too much. Plus, Scherzer led baseball with 21 wins and Kershaw led the same baseball with a 1.83 ERA. My grandfather nods approvingly of those stats while feeding a murder of crows that I'm sure will do his bidding soon. That's why I let him believe pitcher wins do matter.

Kershaw has been the best pitcher in baseball over the past few years and he was close to sweeping the first place votes. Over the past three seasons, only Justin Verlander has accumulated more fWAR than Kershaw (19.1-18.5) but Kershaw has led the Majors with a 2.21 ERA by a good margin during that span. The lone Wainwright first place voter was a Cincinnati beat writer. Which is fine but, at least, a little puzzling considering Wainwright gave up 29 hits and 19 earned runs in 22.0 innings against the Reds. His 7.77 ERA was, by far, the worst ERA Wainwright had against any team.

Scherzer crushed second place Yu Darvish by 110 points in voting. Darvish and his 432 pitch arsenal didn't garner a single first place vote but his baseball leading 11.89 K/9 landed him 19 second place votes. Scherzer was second with a 10.08 K/9, if your GM was wondering and considering trading for him since he's apparently available.

Hisashi Iwakuma finished third in the AL while his teammate, and better pitcher, Felix Hernandez finished eighth. ROY Jose Fernandez finished third in the NL, Matt Harvey finished fifth and the ghost of Christmas 2010, Francisco Liriano, finished tenth.

Phillies Gonna Philly; Sign Marlon Byrd

In true Ruben Amaro Jr. fashion, the Phillies GM struck quick during the GM Meetings in Orlando, FL, signing Marlon Byrd away from the two's of teams that may have been interested in the 36 year-old outfielder.  Byrd will presumably be taking the spot that was vacated by last year's big signing, Delmon Young. The two-year, $16MM deal - that was reportedly drawn up in red crayon while Amaro attended a tea party with stuffed animals - makes Byrd the sixth highest paid player on the Phillies roster. I'll let that one sink in for a moment.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

2013 Team Awards: Chicago Cubs

In order to review the 2013 season, the crackpot staff of Off Base is handing out awards to each Major League team. Please send us $19.95 for the shipping and handling of your team's Hello Kitty stickers awards. Here are the Most Valuable Player, Least Valuable Player, Cy Young, Cy Yuck, Rookie of the Year and Reliever of the Year for the Cubs. 

*Guidelines, prices and participation may vary by author*

MVP: Most valuable player for the Cubs? Well let's just take a look at the roster and......ahhhhh!!!! Run!! The Cubs roster is after us!!

Seriously, though, the Cubs' MVP was probably Anthony Rizzo. The great-great-grandson of Antonio Rizzo, great-grandson of Anthony Rizzo, grandson of Anthony Rizzo and son of Anthony "Tony" Rizzo hit 23 home runs and had a team-high 2.3 WAR.

Chicago's second-best player was.....Nate Schierholtz (.470 slugging, 21 HR)?

"Our second-best player
was Nate Schierholtz."

LVPs: Starlin Castro & Darwin Barney

If you lead your league in at bats (666) and play shortstop, you should probably have better numbers than Castro's .245/.284/.347 and -0.6 WAR.

And Barney's 2013 season was somehow worse as he hit .208/.266/.303, which is like slapping Wayne Tolleson in the face and shoving him down to the ground while he's popping up a bunt in foul territory.

But despite the rough season, the Cubs' second baseman still led the National League in several categories:

* Most home runs by a Darwin (7)
* Best stolen base percentage by a Darwin (67%)
* Best ERA by a Darwin since Darwin Cubillan's 5.40 ERA in 2004 (0.00)
* Easiest name to turn into Barwin Darney

Cy Young: Travis Wood

The southpaw was one of the few bright spots on a team that lost 96 games, compiling a 3.11 ERA in exactly 200 innings pitched.

Cy Yuck: Edwin Jackson

The Dodgers' Edinson Volquez exists, so we can't call Jackson the NL's worst starting pitcher. Volquez had the worst ERA (5.71) and WHIP (1.59) of full-time starters, while Jackson was second-worst in both categories (4.98, 1.46). Jackson led the league in losses with 18, so Volquez was denied in his bid for the Leaf Crown.

ROY: Blake Parker

Reliever of the year: Pedro Strop

The Cubs had a handful of good relievers, including Strop, who came over from the Orioles in a July trade and pitched to a 2.83 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in Chicago, and Parker, who had a 2.72 ERA and nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings in his first full season.

After his excellent rookie season, Parker was rewarded by the team, who told the 28-year old that his face would be the new Cubs' logo starting in 2014.

2013 Team Awards: Philadelphia Phillies

In order to review the 2013 season, the crackpot staff of Off Base is handing out awards to each Major League team. Please send us $19.95 for the shipping and handling of your team's Hello Kitty stickers awards. Here are the Most Valuable Player, Least Valuable Player, Cy Young, Cy Yuck, Rookie of the Year and Reliever of the Year for the Philadelphia Phillies. 

*Guidelines, prices and participation may vary by author*

MVP: Cliff Lee

There is snow in the forecast, so of course I am writing about a team where a pitcher was it's most valuable player. I wanted to write Chase Utley's name in here along with his 3.9 fWAR and 126 wRC+, but I just couldn't do it. I do get a bonus though whenever I mention Chase Utley in a blog post though. So, Chase Utley Chase Utley Chase Utley Chase Utley. There, that should earn me some brownie points with MTD, maybe even actual brownies. 

Aside from the Utley-love that resonates around these parts, it was Cliff Lee that was the driving force for the underwhelming Phillies in 2013. His 5.1 fWAR led the team, and I personally have never seen a pitcher who's ERA, FIP and xFIP (2.87, 2.82, 2.78) were so close together. Lee may very well be the perfect pitcher, unfortunately, his 14-8 record isn't going to get much love with the BBWAA crowd. Don't worry, Cliff, you're still loved by those who pay attention (And those who are suckers for smooth lefties).

[Ed: If you'd like to argue Albert Pujols should have won the MVP in 2006 or 2007, we don't have to have a problem. But if you wanted to give a Phillie the MVP in 2006 or 2007 and chose Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins over Chase Utley, then I'm blocking you, reporting you as spam and turning you over to the NSA]

Max Scherzer is on the Block, Because, Cy Young

It looks like the Detroit Tigers are going to borrow a page from the New York Mets game plan and attempt to trade their Cy Young winning pitcher, Max Scherzer. Yes, I am fully aware that Scherzer has yet to actually win the Cy Young, but let's not try to kid ourselves here. He went 21-3, posted a 2.90 ERA, a 2.74 FIP and struck out a rather absurd 10.08 hitters per nine innings. His 6.4 fWAR paced the American League, and he has two different colored eyes. He's a shoo-in.

But we have seen this script before. Last offseason, the Mets placed 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner, R.A. Dickey, on the block. obviously, Dickey generated a butt-ton of interest and was eventually dealt to the Blue Jays so his knuckleball could be neutralized while playing in a dome. Physics can be silly sometimes.

Joining Scherzer on the block is his rotation-mate, Rick Porcello. Porcello would himself be a fine pickup for most teams. He's a solid 2-3 win pitcher according to Fangraphs, but let's not fool ourselves, he's a consolation prize after Scherzer.

Back to the R.A. Dickey comparison.

Other notable pitchers to be traded in the offseason after winning a Cy Young Award


Yeah, I can't think of anyone either. And, no, Johan Santana is not one of them. He was traded two offseasons after winning the Cy Young.

What surprises me most about this report, is that the idea is even being considered. Dickey was one thing. He throws a knuckleball, he's in his mid-30's, he has no Ulnar Collateral Ligament. Basically, he's as unpredictable as my six-year old wielding the sword that came with his Halloween costume.

Scherzer, on the other hand, is 29 years old and in the middle of his prime. He's gotten better each year, and high strikeout pitchers who both limit baserunners and pitch deep into games should be coveted, not given away like silly bands at an eight-year old's birthday party. It's just interesting that a team would want to use one of their Ace's to bring in young players. Of course, this is the Tigers after all. The team built on the "We don't care about infield defense" model.

It all just seems very odd to me. Maybe trading him will make the Tigers better. Maybe they are more concerned with Miguel Cabrera's next contract than with locking up Scherzer. Maybe the meaning of life can be found in the center of a jelly donut. Whatever it is, one the first day of the GM Meetings, this was one of the stories to come out or Orlando. Buckle up, baseball fans, this could get interesting.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Welcome to Defending First Base Joe Mauer

The Minnesota Twins have decided to move the face of their franchise to a more upright defensive position for 2014 and beyond. Joe Mauer will give up catching, where I assume he talked trash to opposing hitters about their sisters' promiscuity, to stand around first base and chitchat up opposing players about their thoughts on the walleye on a stick. The final straw to break Mauer's proverbial catching back was probably the season ending concussion he suffered on a foul tip October 19. The news of the position switch came through, you guessed it, Twitter...

The move comes three years into the mammoth 8-year/$184MM deal Mauer received in 2011 and is likely three years too late. Of course, Mauer was blocked by a permanent move to first base previously due to the presence of Justin Morneau, otherwise known as one-half of the least dynamic duos of MVP awards in 2006 with Ryan Howard. Morneau was sent to the glue factory Pittsburgh late in 2013 to open up the position for Mauer while leaving a gaping hole at catcher.

It's not like the Twins or anybody else couldn't see this coming. While catching 7,883 innings for the Twins since 2004, Mauer suffered nearly as many back and knee injuries as Baskin Robbins has flavors. Injuries might be hard to predict, unless you have your starting small forward crouching behind a plate all day everyday. Mauer is 6'5. Squatting is not a position that promotes health for tall individuals. General Mills never had the Jolly Green Giant pick all of that corn and that's why he's still a relevant cartoon character 85 years later.

Mauer does already have almost 500 innings logged at first base. And don't worry, fantasy players, his .323/.405/.468 career slash line will help out at first even if he never comes close to those 28 homers he hit in 2009. Mauer is still a very special player who deserves a long MLB career. He'll turn 31 on April 19th and, you know what, it would kinda be cool if he can still walk when he turns 51. Good for Joe, good for the Twins.

Now, how is Minnesota going to fill the catcher vacancy currently being held by a mesh screen with a happy face drawn on it?

Oh, NOW the Dodgers Want to Save Money

Running for cover
The Dodgers officially became the Yankees of the West when they signed Zack Greinke before the 2013 season. They got the ball rolling when they traded for Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Nick Punto and seven cups of New England's finest clam chowder in 2012. Now it seems that they wouldn't mind dumping a little bit of their $223MM payroll. Just a thought, maybe they should have thought of this before they handed out contracts that may be impossible to move.

Per the SB Nation post above - and the Ken Rosenthal report that it links to - the Dodgers are trying to move a member of their highly overcrowded outfield. Which, of course, to this blogger, sounds impossible.

Matt Kemp is the big name, but he hasn't played a full season since 2011 and is still owed $126MM. The Dodgers have a better chance of getting the Hollywood sign relocated to the left field bleachers than they do moving Kemp without eating a significant portion of that contract.

Carl Crawford had himself a nice bounce back season after drowning in the media fishbowl that is Boston, MA. He triple slash'd .283/.329/.407 and put up an fWAR of 2.9. He's still owed $82.5MM through 2017, and has already proven that when the going gets tough, he goes into a coma.

Andre Ethier is owed $67.5MM through 2017 with a player option for 2018 (an option that vests with 550 PA in 2017). But, like the other two, there's a bit of an issue with Ethier. He can't hit lefties. Like, not at all. His platoon splits are so obvious that he should be duct taped to the bench when a lefty is on the mound. How much of a split is there? How about a 140 wRC+ against righties and a wRC+ of 73 against lefties. Good start?

A better move? Trade Yasiel Puig.

Whoa. What? That's crazy-talk.

Yeah, I know, but hear me out.

Puig is as exciting a ballplayer as you will find in baseball. He's just as likely to hit a home run as he is to steal the mustache off of Al Hrabosky's face and Velcro it to his forehead.

In 104 games he posted an fWAR of 4.0 and a wRC+ of 160. He's good. Very good. He's so good at the plate that the other 29 teams in baseball will be happy to overlook his fielding inconsistencies and dump Brinks trucks full of prospects on the front lawn of Dodger Stadium.

This is also probably the reason why most Major League Baseball teams refuse to return my calls. Either way, the Dodgers have an over-abundance of outfielders, but they have handed or traded for contracts that don't look as good now as they did when they were written. If the goal is to move payroll - my guess is that that does not happen. If the goal is to fill an area of need through trades - then they are using the wrong players as bait on the trading block.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

2013 Team Awards: Seattle Mariners

This is the Mariner Moose doing...well...I don't know what the hell he is doing. 
In order to review the 2013 season, the crackpot staff of Off Base is handing out awards to each Major League team. Please send us $19.95 for the shipping and handling of your team's Hello Kitty stickers awards. Here are the Most Valuable Player, Least Valuable Player, Cy Young, Cy Yuck, Rookie of the Year and Reliever of the Year for the Seattle Mariners. 

*Guidelines, prices and participation may vary by author*

MVP: Kendrys Morales

Kyle Seager led the offense with an fWAR of 3.4 thanks in large part to his defense, but the Cuban Missile was one of the few Mariners players who not only knew what he was doing with a bat in his hands, but also knew how to hold it correctly. In 156 games he hit .277/.336/.449 while hitting 23 home runs and driving in 80 from the Designated Hitter spot. He still runs like his ankle is held together by chewing gum and flash frozen silly putty, but that was never a big part of his game anyway. 

Happy Birthday, Mevs

Clintoneous Mevolanate Evans was born in a small town in Ohio. His parents made an honest living. His mother worked hard as a part time teacher and full time mother while his father slaved away in the harsh Ohian coal mines so young Clint could watch baseball on the teletube.

Okay, so, most to all of that is untrue. Or so I assume. In the age of social media, people just meet people and become fast friends like me and that Saudi Arabian prince who owes me several hundred thousand dollars and precious gem stones.

Clint is the mastermind behind the underrated baseball blog, Diamond Hoggers, and the fantastic, but hibernating, podacast The Baseball Show. I was lucky enough to be invited to The Baseball Show by our mutual friend, Mike Rosenbaum of Bleacher Report fame. After my first podcast with them, they made me a regular and had to deal with way more than they expected. Derwood even got some airtime on the podcast. If you listen closely, you can still hear him eating pretzels during recordings.

Despite having never met each other in person, Clint is one of my best friends and I can't figure out what to get him for his birthday after my Yasiel Puig impersonator got deported. And I spent so much time teaching him the Icky Shuffle.

In lieu of getting Pseudo-Puig to show up, here are my birthday wishes for Clint:

1. Bryce Harper shows up and demolishes a pinata filled with Bryce Harper memorabilia

2. Clint's little boy learns how to switch hit. His little boy is a bulldog puppy

3. Jay Bruce squares one up and hits a home run from New England to Old England

4. Billy Hamilton steals at least 80 bases for the Reds and one Ferrari for Mevs

5. Fudgie the Whale Ice Cream cake (seriously, Carvel, send me free cake by now)

And for no reason whatsoever, this is the image I use for Clint around these parts...

"that-sah spicy birth-day!"

Pretty sure he isn't even from Mexico.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

2013 Team Awards: Colorado Rockies

In order to review the 2013 season, the crackpot staff of Off Base is handing out awards to each Major League team. Please send us $19.95 for the shipping and handling of your team's Hello Kitty stickers awards. Here are the Most Valuable Player, Least Valuable Player, Cy Young, Cy Yuck, Rookie of the Year and Reliever of the Year for the Rockies. 

*Guidelines, prices and participation may vary by author*

MVP: Troy Tulowitzki
Even the most cynical of baseball fans have to feel sorry for the Rockies. A little? Maybe not. Haters gonna hate. (Haters Gonna Hat is the name of my punk barber shop quartet) The reasons are twofold why I feel bad for Rockies fans. 1. Coors Light 2. They have two of the top 25-or-so best position players in baseball but they can't stay on the field.

Tulo is a monster at the plate, .312/.391/.540 slash, .400 wOBA in 2013, but he's also an elite defender at short. Good luck proving me right or wrong, though, since he rarely plays enough to qualify for leaderboards. Which brings me back to the problem. Tulo was 17th among position players with a 5.6 fWAR in 126 games in 2013. Carlos Gonzalez's 4.9 fWAR would have been good for 27th had he qualified but he's a topic for another post. Tulowitzki has played in 150+ games twice since he became a full time player in 2007. His injury history has more options than a Chinese food menu. The tight thigh is delicious with duck sauce.

Tulo's 7-year, $123MM extension kicks off in 2014 and rumors have swirled about his tradeability but he's not going anywhere if the Rox intend on making a push anytime soon.

LVP: Todd Helton
Look, I don't feel great about naming Helton the least valuable player for the only team he's ever played for during his fringy Hall of Fame career on the year he retired. BUT. His .314 OBP in 442 plate appearances in 2013 was 100 points lower than his career .414 OBP. Instead, let's focus on his career highlights like that time he almost killed Clint Barmes with deer meat. Happy retirement and happy hunting, Todd.

Cy Young: Jhoulys Chacin
Jorge de la Rosa put up a comparable season to Chacin's but threw 30 fewer innings. I also deducted points after finding out de la Rosa has no affiliation with De La Soul. I just assumed there was a connection and can only blame that on Me, Myself and I.

Cy Yuck: Drew Pomeranz
Remember Pomeranz? His 21.2 innings of 6.23 ERA Major League service this year might be forgettable but he was the Rockies number one prospect going into the 2012 season. He was the Indians number four prospect going into 2011 before he was the headline PTBNL in the Ubaldo Jiminez deal. And if something doesn't change in a hurry, he might be your beer league softball team's best prospect going into the 2016 season.

Cy Sorry: Rafael Betancourt
The 39-year-old Betancourt underwent potential career ending Tommy John surgery after the Rockies failed to trade him at the 2013 deadline. His 2014 option was not picked up. A terrible situation for everybody involved. Hopefully, Helton will just mail him some deer meat.

ROY: Nolan Arenado
For a guy supposedly destined to move to first base, Arrenado provided a ton of his value from his 22.6 UZR at the hot corner. Baseball America had Arenado as Colorado's number one prospect and he was their best rookie. Pats on the back for everybody. Okay, his .267/.301/.405 clearly needs some work but, you know, he's not Garrett Atkins or Ian Stewart. Yet.

Reliever of the Year: Rex Brothers
If the 1.74 ERA or 10.16 K/9 don't do anything for you, just do like I do and pretend Rex Brothers is actually the twins from Double Dragon.

2013 Team Awards: Oakland Athletics

In order to review the 2013 season, the crackpot staff of Off Base is handing out awards to each Major League team. Please send us $19.95 for the shipping and handling of your team's Hello Kitty stickers awards. Here are the Most Valuable Player, Least Valuable Player, Cy Young, Cy Yuck, Rookie of the Year and Reliever of the Year for the Athletics. 

*Guidelines, prices and participation may vary by author*

MVP: Josh Donaldson

Donaldson followed up his rookie campaign in 2012 by posting a .301/.384/.499 slash line in 2013, contributing to his 7.7 fWAR which was good enough for second in the American League, and probably seventh or eighth in the AL MVP voting. He is walking proof that you can move almost anybody to third base after switching to the position in the beginning of 2012, improving on his 5.5 FRAA from last year, and posting an FRAA of 10.0 this season. I'm also pretty sure that he is the love-child of Woody Harrelson and Hunter Pence...

I can't be the only one who sees the family resemblance, right?

2013 Team Awards: Minnesota Twins

In order to review the 2013 season, the crackpot staff of Off Base is handing out awards to each Major League team. Please send us $19.95 for the shipping and handling of your team's Hello Kitty stickers awards. Here are the Most Valuable Player, Least Valuable Player, Cy Young, Cy Yuck, Rookie of the Year and Reliever of the Year for the Twins. 
*Guidelines, prices and participation may vary by author*

MVP: Trevor Plouffe

No, only kidding, it was Joe Mauer. The Twins' catcher had another outstanding season - .324 average, .404 on-base in 113 games - and was the only bright spot on an offense that scored just 614 runs. Well, unless you count Brian Dozier and his 18 home runs as a bright spot, but please don't.

"The Twins struck out nearly three times as much as they walked (1,430 K, second-most in baseball & 533 walks), but take away Eric Fryer's 3 K, 3 BB season and it's only 1427 to 530."

- Damion Pettigrew, Eric Fryer fan club member #289

LVP: Pedro Florimon

After being claimed off waivers from the Orioles, Florimon hit .219 in 43 games for the '12 Twins. Management had seen enough and made Florimon the everyday shortstop for 2013, and he did dissapoint, hitting .221 with a .281 on-base percentage, though his 115 strike outs were only fourth-worst on the team.

Other things Florimon did fourth-worst on the 2013 Twins:

* Fourth-worst audition for the Ron Gardenhire-directed one-act play Dances With Foul Poles during batting practice on May 17th
* Fourth-worst impersonation of bullpen coach Nate Dammann at the post-season team picnic
* August 5-11 road trip - Fourth-worst job of brushing his teeth

Florimon leaping over a Texas Rangers player during happier times (card value: 11 pistachio shells)

Cy Young: Glen Perkins

Perkins was excellent in the closer's role - 0.92 WHIP, 2.30 ERA, 36 saves - and struck out over 11 batters per nine innings (seventh among AL relievers).

Cy Yuck: Scott Diamond

Diamond was a pretty good starter for the Twins in 2012, so I'm assuming another solid season was expected of him in 2013. Instead, the southpaw faced 576 batters and didn't get many of them out, or least didn't get Lorenzo Cain out that much on August 1 (two walks and a single for anyone retroactively charting fantasy statistics). Diamond won six games, but four of them came against the Whitesox (3) and Mariners (1), so Diamond won two games.

Rookie reliever of the Year: Caleb Thielbar
ROY: Josmil Pinto

Here's the thing about the 2013 Twins: about six players were valuable. That's out of 319 who wore the uniform during the six-month season. So there seems to be more awards than people. Perkins was the top pitcher and reliever, which makes the left-handed reliever Thielbar the top rookie after being called up in late-May and pitching to a 1.76 ERA in 49 games. 

Pinto played in just 21 September games, but we can't give the ROY to Chuck Knoblauch because he was a rookie in 1991, and we can't give the ROY to Ernie Fontana because he is an imaginary player, so it's Pinto (.342/.398/.566 in 83 plate appearances).

Thursday, November 7, 2013

2013 Team Awards: Cleveland Indians

In order to review the 2013 season, the crackpot staff of Off Base is handing out awards to each Major League team. Please send us $19.95 for the shipping and handling of your team's Hello Kitty stickers awards. Here are the Most Valuable Player, Least Valuable Player, Cy Young, Cy Yuck, Rookie of the Year and Reliever of the Year for the Indians. 

*Guidelines, prices and participation may vary by author*

MVP: Jason Kipnis
As a long time fan of Kipnis (say three-ish years), I can't say enough good things about him. So why even bother starting. Terry Francona was a very close second for me. After two World Series Championships and one infamous Popeyes chicken and beer 7-20 September collapse, Francona spent one year killing it as analyst for ESPN before joining the Indians as manager for 2013. The Indians went from 68-94 in 2012 to 92-70 in 2013, including a brief appearance in the one game playoff. While I believe a bad manager makes a bigger difference to a team than a good manager, Francona has to deserve some credit for the turnaround. He's one of the more progressive thinkers as far as managers go and one of the handful of difference makers in the skipper ranks. While I'm back-patting, let's give Francona and his staff credit for polishing a turd into Scott Kazmir 2.0 (two point oh?).

LVP: Lonnie Chisenhall
Chisenhall, like Kipnis, debuted for the Indians in 2011. Chisenhall, like Kipnis, was a top prospect for the Indians in 2011. In fact, Chisenhall was the Indians' top prospect in 2011 according to Baseball America, followed by Alex White and then Kipnis. Chisenhall, unlike Kipnis, has yet to live up to his lofty former ranking. With a 0.5 fWAR, Chisenhall wasn't the worst player on the Indians. This is a team that gave Mark Reynolds 384 plate appearances and over 300 innings at both first base and third base. Reynolds can barely field a clean inning at DH. But Chisenhall hit a paltry .225/.270/.398 in 308 plate appearance and even got shipped to Triple-A for almost a month in mid-May. He just turned 25 in October so I guess there's still time for him to be less-not-so-good.

Cy Young: Justin Masterson
As much fun as it would be to write about Ubaldo Jiminez's big bounce back season or Danny Salazar's electric rookie debut or even challenge myself to write something nice about Scott Kazmir, Masterson was the ace of the staff and turned in a fine performance. His 3.45 ERA and 3.35 FIP were improvements over his 2012 numbers (4.93 and 4.16) but it was his strikeout rate that jumped drastically from 6.94 K/9 in 2012 to 9.09 K/9 in 2013. I doubt the strikeout rate is sustainable but that's why I get fun nicknames like "Debbie Downer" and "Your beard makes you look homeless."

Cy Yuck: Brett Myers
Yes, Chris Perez was awful. According to Fangraphs, Perez was worth -$4.7MM in 2013. Quite the bargain for only $7.3MM. But Perez at least stretched his negative value over 54.0 innings. Brett Myers consolidated his terribleness to three starts and one long relief appearance in April. In those 21.1 innings, Myers gave up 29 hits, five walks, 19 earned runs and 10 home runs. Myers got $7MM of his own which I assume he's already used on Kleenex and therapy. His 2014 club option is probably in jeopardy.

ROY: Yan Gomes
There's no way he can show up on ROY ballots, right? He's not ROY eligible but that hasn't stopped voters before.

ROY: Danny Salazar
Salazar dazzled in his debut striking out seven Blue Jays in 6.0 innings. Then he struck out 10 Tigers in 7.2 innings. He finished with an 11.25 K/9 and 3.16 FIP in 52.0 innings. So, there's some reason for excitement.

Reliever of the Year: Cody Allen
In 70.1 innings, the 24-year-old posted a 2.43 ERA and 2.99 FIP with an 11.26 K/9. With Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano giving the back of the bullpen a flavorful smell of eggs cooked in hot garbage, Allen is a name for fantasy players to file away. Steamer is already projecting 28 saves for 2014.