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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Do teams have plans?

Jon Lester chooses Chicago Cubs
Updated: December 10, 2014, 6:22 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

The deal is for six years and $155 million ...  It includes a vesting option for a seventh year that could bring Lester's total take to $170 million ...

The Red Sox's offer was for six years and $135 million with no vesting option

Jon Lester finally got off the pot and a selected a team.  Lester rejected his original team, the Boston Red Sox, which is a lucky break for their rival, the New York Yankees.  But what kind of plans do these teams have, the Cubs, Red Sox, Yankees?  What plan do the other less prominent teams have, the teams whose general managers and field managers take turns being interviewed throughout the day on the Bud Selig MLB Network, complete with high school level jocularity?

Jon Lester: July 31, 2014: Traded by the Boston Red Sox with Jonny Gomes and cash to the Oakland Athletics for Yoenis Cespedes and 2015 competitive balance round B pick.  Source: baseball-reference.com

After the season the Red Sox, who were already loaded with outfielders, signed Dodger shortstop Hanley Ramirez to a fat four year contract with the intent to move Ramirez to the outfield.  Supposedly the Red Sox were loading up on assets to use in trades, primarily for starting pitchers whom they desperately need.  Maybe the Red Sox thought that they were really clever and could have both Cespedes and Lester and were counting on Lester's loyalty to them to re-sign as a free agent.  But the Red Sox would not match the offer from their former boy genius general manager who now runs the Cubs.  Lester's loyalty seems to have been to the most money.

What are the Cubs up to?  They fired their manager when they learned that Tampa's manager had an opt out and hired him.  The Cubs should be able to compete for a wild card tournament spot since all that requires is about 84 wins, not to qualify but to be within about three games with a week to go.  That's enough to fool fans who have not had a championship team in more than 100 years.

The Red Sox won only two years ago in 2013 but had the good sense to realize at mid season 2014 that they could not win so they traded Lester and another starting pitcher John Lackey.  Lester was 2-0 in the 2013 finals, Lackey 1-1.

John Lackey: July 31, 2014: Traded by the Boston Red Sox with Corey Littrell (minors) and cash to the St. Louis Cardinals for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly.  Source: baseball-reference.com

Both sides of the ball: Yankees need lefty power AND lefty pitchers in the Stadium.  Saturday, December 6, 2014

Let's take an anecdotal look at big name Yankee lefty starters:

Herb Pennock born Feb. 10, 1894; Yankees 1923-1933; Hall of Fame 1948
Lefty Gomez born November 26, 1908; Yankees 1930-1942; Hall of Fame 1972
Whitey Ford born Oct. 21, 1928; Yankees 1950, 1953-1967; Hall of Fame 1974
Ron Guidry born Aug. 28, 1950; Yankees 1975-1988
Andy Pettitte born June 15, 1972; Yankees 1995-2003, 2007-2010, 2012-2013 ...

In 2015 who will be the big Yankee southpaw?  CC Sabathia pitched only 46 innings in 2014 and will be 35 in July.  Jon Lester is the big lefty free agent pitcher.  He is probably second only to righty Max Scherzer among free agent starters; ESPN had an article that documented that Scherzer has thrown substantially fewer career pitches than Lester.  The Yankees need to sign at least one of them.  There are two reasons to sign Lester:
1. Prevent him from returning to Boston, which would be double trouble for the Yankees.
2. The Yankees need to play both sides of the ball and have at least one dominant lefty starting pitcher.

If Lester signs with a National Conference team, the Yanks are at least relieved of issue number one.  Signing Max Scherzer would then be compelling.

Which brings us to the one general manager I will name: Brian Cashman of the Yankees.  It would seem that the Steinbrenner Kids, if they are not too busy, could sue Cashman for dereliction of duty and void his brand new three year contract, which extends his 16 year tenure as Yankee GM.  The Yankee plan seems to be to expect high priced bad signings of the past, who will be another year older in 2015, to play up to their contracts.

I found that the 1947 Yankees won the old World Series with no left handed starting pitchers.  None.

1SPAllie Reynolds30198.7043.20343031742241.220794862312312940810451104.241.3667.
2SPSpec Shea26145.7373.07272331331178.212763611089894007341153.791.2096.
3SPBill Bevens30713.3503.82282331110165.01677970137777110725924.011.4799.
4SPSpud Chandler3995.6432.46171601320128.01004135441680125191442.801.1027.
5SPBobo Newsom3975.5832.8017151620115.21093836830422004751263.501.2028.
6SPVic Raschi2872.7783.8715140610104.2894745113851102436914.011.2137.
7CLJoe Page*29148.6362.48562440017141.110541395721161015841422.861.2526.
* throws lefty

Joe Page Baseball Digest
front cover, January 1948
via Wikimedia Commons
"Closer" Joe Page, a lefty, started two games in the regular season and lefties Bill Wight and Tommy Byrne each started one.  But in the 1947 WS the Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers 4 games to 3 and got only 13 lefty innings: Joe Page in four games, all in relief.  I wonder how many teams, especially the Yankees with their skewed home park, have won the championship without a significant lefty starter.  In 2014 the San Francisco Giants had lefty Madison Bumgarner preforming heroics.  In 2009 the Yankees won their most recent championship led by lefty CC Sabathia. In 2015 Sabathia will be six years older and coming off an injury shortened 46 inning 2014 season.  Is Cashman's plan for Sabathia to be the significant Yankee lefty starting pitcher?

Billy Beane is tearing down his tournament team in order to rebuild it back into a contender but not championship caliber team to then start the process over again.

Should Oakland have fired the manager and kept its best player, Josh Donaldson?  Tuesday, December 2, 2014

I compared actual regular season wins with the number estimated by Pythagorean winning percentage...

Oakland As 88 99 -11

The eleven game gap between expected and actual Oakland wins was by far the biggest deficit of any 2014 tournament team.  Such a gap usually suggests bad luck and/or bad managing.  Either way you would stay with your players.

Beane may be a bit too full of himself ...

The lesson I learned: never trade a somebody for a bunch of nobodies.  Josh Donaldson was somebody in Oakland.  And who was the manager and who will remember the manager's name in two years?  Billy Beane, I guess.

Beane is wrecking a team that did not appear to need wrecking.

Washington has a really good team, built to win now but it is supposedly into Billy Beane wreck before you win mode: let's dump these players as they reach their peak and start over.  Cincinnati seems to be in a similar mode of operation.  Kansas City, with fewer than two million in attendance, is in major delusional mode.

And what of Cashman, another GM too full of himself?  One year ago Cashman could not make bad decisions fast enough.  One was signing 30 year old catcher Brian McCann to a five year contract at $17 million per year.

2014 Most Shifted Players
by Jeff Zimmerman - December 9, 2014  fangraphs.com

Batted balls into Shift
David Ortiz 369
Ryan Howard 318
Brian McCann 311

Number three.  Nice signing, Cashman.  McCann did have the most home runs by a catcher: 23.  But McCann's OPS+ was 94.  McCann hit 19 of his 23 homers at home, 19 while playing catcher, not 1B, DH, PH.  A year ago the Yankees wanted to finally get under the soft salary cap but signed McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran to put them at the limit, then signed Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, which put them over.  This year, with the team hopelessly over the cap, the Yankees are refraining from spending big.  What?  That's a plan?  For what, driving fans away?

The willy nilly nature of GM activity is being shown on TV in real time during the winter wonderland meetings in San Diego on the league's own TV network.  Listening to these GM and learning of their transactions makes it all seem pretty much random and pointless: fan loyalty be damned.

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