Archive for December, 2006

Friday: 12.22.2006

Finally, Some Time To Breathe

After about a month of 12-hour days, the holiday rush is finally over. For those of you that don’t know (or care), I sell computers for a living at Dell and the past month has been a whirlwind of action. Mandatory overtime three hours a day, short lunches, difficult customers and non-stop flow of calls have all finally ground to a halt with Christmas just three days away. Now, I enjoy the next three days off before heading back on Tuesday without knowing what to expect. Will there really be much demand for new systems? Well sure, there’ll be people who asked for some money from everyone to put it all together to get their own computer, but I imagine that the bulk of the calls will be related to customers unhappy with their orders and wanting something free, irate about unshipped orders that didn’t make it in time to get under the tree and those just looking to return their systems. As such, I’m sure the company goals will be adjusted accordingly.

Enough about that, though, this is a baseball blog after all. I realize to those (maybe one or two) that have been coming here regularly, posts have been infrequent. The rant found above is the sole reason why. Though I’ve stopped posting, the baseball world hasn’t stopped producing a steady stream of news as the hot stove continues to burn in full force. Some big names remain unsigned, namely Barry Zito, while plenty of trade rumors crop up daily. Today alone produced a bevy of news involving two of the most prolific power hitters of the modern age. Sammy Sosa is working out his body in hopes for a return to the game this season. Sosa endeared himself as one of the most likable characters in baseball during the home run chase of ’98, but a drop in production buried in allegations of steroids abruptly derailed the tail end of his career. Last season, he received barely a nibble on the open market and chose not to play at all. He likens his 2006 absence to those of Ted Williams, Barry Bonds and Frank Thomas. The former missed time due to war, while the latter two battled through injuries to return after a lengthy period of time off.

Speaking of time off, Ken Griffey Jr. is already injured. The painfully unlucky slugger broke his left hand in an at-home accident that will leave him in a cast for three weeks. His spring training status is uncertain as of now. Maybe he’s using his injury time early this season so he can play more games for the Reds. All joking aside, it really does suck to see such a great player continually fall prey to series of maladies. Junior has topped 155 games just four times in 18 seasons and has yet to top 145 games since joining Cincinnati in 2000.

Detroit Tigers news has been scant since my last posting almost three weeks ago. Jeremy Bonderman and Brandon Inge were both locked up and Jose Mesa joined the club. Let’s take a look at the three moves in order. There was a bit of talk about Bonderman being moved at the outset of the off-season to get some legitimate power hitting in Motown. Once the Gary Sheffield trade was completed, it looked a lot less likely that Bonderman would leave. After a four-year deal worth $38 million dollars was completed, his fate is sealed. Bonderman enjoyed a career-year during the dream season in Detroit with career bests in win percentage (.636), ERA (4.08), WHIP (1.30), K/9 (8.5), and strikeouts (202) while pitching a career-high 214 innings. Bonderman, who turned 24 shortly after the postseason, was the prize of the Jeff Weaver deal with the Oakland A’s and New York Yankees despite being the player to be named later.

Inge has made tremendous strides all around since joining the big league club in 2001. Once regarded as one of the worst offensive players in baseball, Inge has solidified himself as a power-threat with slick glove work down at the third base making him an integral part of the Tigers’ future. His sweeping improvements have been rewarded with a four-year deal that netted him $24 million dollars. His fielding received rave reviews all summer long as opposing announcers constantly made comparisons between Inge and some of the most renowned third basemen to play the game. He did still make 22 errors, second-most in the American League (Alex Rodriguez, 24), but drew the praise from his ability to make plays the rest of the third basemen weren’t even getting to, as evidenced by his major league-best 3.45 range factor and .825 zone rating.

The departure of Jamie Walker to Baltimore left a void that needed filling. Mesa fills the roster spot, though not the role as he is right-handed. Instead, it appears as though Wil Ledezma will become the lefty set up with Mesa in more of long-relief role. He was fair in Colorado a year ago posting a 3.86 earned run average in 72.1 innings. He struck out 39 and walked 36 batters.

Saturday: 12.2.2006

Analyzing The Off-Season

It’s been some time… too much time if you ask me, but with the 12 hour work days and the recent holiday, I haven’t had much time to for writing. Detroit’s trade for Gary Sheffield set off what has so far been an electric off-season with plenty more to come. Several signings have taken place and even a few other trades have transpired since the Sheff acquisition. There has been money to burn, too, primarily in the Windy City as the Cubs landed the biggest fish to date with their Alfonso Soriano signing. There has been some outcry regarding the money Soriano got, $136 million over eights years. It’s been compared to the Carlos Beltran deal because of it’s similarity in the figures, but I don’t think it is completely apples to apples. I do think the Beltran deal was a smarter investment, but the context of each is different because of the teams that made the moves.

The Cubs planned to make a splash in this off-season from the outset. It started with hiring of Lou Piniella, then the inflated signing of Mark DeRosa ($13 million, three years) and continued with the Soriano deal. They have been rumored to be after ace starter Jason Schmidt as well. Frankly, they needed to maybe over pay a little bit to land someone like Soriano. Despite the fact that the Beltran signing is better on many levels (he is younger, a markedly better fielder and a better hitter), Soriano is no slouch.

Even when you remove his intentional walks (16), he still increased his walk total by 55% during his remarkable quest into the 40-40 club. Defensively, he came a long way from refusing to go out to his new position during a spring training game. He racked up a very impressive 22 base runner kills, the best amongst all left fielders in baseball. His fielding percentage (.969) left plenty to be desired, but he had the best zone rating of all left fielders at 2.28.

The 2006 Cubs posted an anemic .268/.319/.422 line, thus a bat like Soriano’s was in high demand this November. I don’t like to argue that just because the Cubs had the money means they should throw it away, but I also think this a case where spending a little extra to ensure you get your guy is a solid move. As a Tigers fan, I know plenty about overpaying to get the name you need to start something. The Cubs haven’t been nearly as bad as the Tigers were in their down period, but things haven’t worked out as planned for some time in Chicago.

The spending spree hasn’t been confined to Chicago. Gary Matthews Jr. robbed the Los Angeles Angels blind signing a five year deal worth $50 million dollars. I won’t deny for a second that Little Sarge had one helluva year for the Texas Rangers, especially out in centerfield with highlight plays almost nightly, but I can’t figure out what made the Angels think that he was worth $10 million dollars a year for the next five years at age 31.

He set career highs in at-bats (602), home runs (19), runs batted in (79), runs (102), hits (194), doubles (44), average (.313), on-base percentage (.371) and slugging percentage (.495). My biggest hang up here is the age factor, plus his overall defense is slightly overrated. His range factor was 11th among baseball’s centerfielders and his zone rating was 2nd worst at .847. I just don’t see the value in a five year deal worth that much for a 31-year old.

I like Soriano deal quite a bit based on a need-to-cost ratio, but I’m vehemently against the Angels dropping that much money on Matthews. I’ll take a look at a few other moves this off-season in my next post as well.