Thursday, July 13, 2006

Unamusing Musings

  • I'm prepending this, because it's damn good stuff, but Federal Baseball takes a swing or two at each of the particulars involved in today's trade. It's today's Must-Read O' The Day, if only for his look at Lopez' defense. Apparently his weakness is moving to his right. I have a feeling that Ryan Zimmerman won't mind that one bit.

  • Just a few more odds and ends about today's big trade...

    The Primates are falling all over themselves trying to outsnark each other to describe how much the Nats fleeced the Reds (here and here). In that second link, Tim Marchman, a writer for the NY Sun, tries to defend the Reds, something I tried to do, too. My comment:
    There are two ways to look at it. One is defensible for the Reds, the other not.

    In terms of talent in and talent out, the Reds got hosed. Kearns and Lopez for two relievers and Royce Clayton is a bad trade.

    But when you look at the Red's roster, it's probably a better team now. They really needed the bullpen help, and Denofria is capable of stepping up and providing Kearns-like performance. Clayton's a downgrade on Lopez, but scoring runs hasn't really been the Reds' problem.

    It's certainly possible that the 25-man they have today is better than what they had, even as they gave away more talent than they took in.

    Blockquoting yourself is the height of arrogance, huh?

  • The Reds claimed to have made the trade, in part, because they wanted to upgrade their infield defense. Felipe Lopez is a pretty poor defensive shortstop.

    Last month, I wrote a review of the team's defense, using a sampling of various defensive stats. If you missed it, check it out, because I explain the stats I'm using in more depth than I'm going to here.

    Range Factor: Clayton (11/15); Lopez (14/15)
    Fielding %: Clayton, .970 (10/15); Lopez, .959 (13/15) That's only a difference of three errors though.
    Zone Rating: Clayton (9/15); Lopez (15/15)
    Rate 2: Clayton, 92; Lopez, 91
    Fielding Win Shares: Clayton, 2 (13th); Lopez, 1.5 (16th).

    No matter how you chalk it up, Lopez is a worse fielder than Clayton. Only Baseball Prospectus' Rate2 stats sees them as equal. Clayton might be a defensive upgrade for the Reds, but he's not going to be much of them.

    Much of Lopez' problem is his error rate. Last year, he made about 17% more errors than a league average shortstop, a pace he's roughly on this year. I wonder how many of those are throwing errors (anyone know a good source?) Generally when error totals are that high, it's because of the throwing yips. Then I think to the infield defense they have, where the Reds had Adam Dunn playing first for a bit -- and surehanded isn't one of the words anyone would use to describe him. I wonder, and yep, this is looking for the silver lining, if it is throwing problems, whether Nick Johnson, who does seem to do a good job of digging out throws, will be able to help.

    Despite his defense, he's a pretty good offensive player. His 2005 was a monster season. Park-inflated or not, .291 .352 .486 is a damn good line out of anyone, let alone someone who can pretend to wear a glove at shortstop. He's not hitting for the power or average he did last year, but his on-base percentage is still over .350, meaning he's an attractive option for the top of the order. He's been an excellent basestealer, going 23/29 so far this year.

    Contrast that to Royce Clayton's less-than meager .269 .315 .348 line, and it's a HUGE offensive upgrade for the Nats. Even with the defensive downgrade (which probably isn't going to be that much), that's an improvement of a win or two over the second half of the season.

  • I'm going to miss Gary Majewski. Despite some scuffles this year (which probably have as much to do with overwork and the spot of rotator cuff tendinitis he had earlier this year) he's still an effective workhorse. He didn't strike out many batters. He walked a few too many, but, man, could he keep the ball in the yard. He gave up 4 this year already, but that equals his total from the previous two seasons.

    Sent to the minors at the beginning of the year so Frank could have his second lefty, Joe Horgan, Majewski quickly got the call and pitched his way into the lead setup role once Luis Ayala went out at the end of the year.

    I'm trying to think of great Gary Majewski moments, and all I can think of is the three-run bomb he gave up to Wilson Betemit during the Sunday Night game earlier this year. It's sad that that's the chief thing I remember about him, but that's also sort of a testament to how effective he is. It's generally a good thing when you can't remember your middle relievers' performances. It means they're getting their job done without too many hassles. And, for the most part, that's Majewski to a tee.

  • Missing out on the next six years of Bill Bray is going to be tough, but to get quality, you have to give up quality. Bray should develop into a very effective reliever, but, like I said to an emailer earlier today, relievers are easy to find. Think back to last year, and how Majewski and Carrasco popped out of seemingly nowhere to be two cogs to our effective pen. This year, look at Rauch as an example.

    It doesn't take much to shake down relievers if need be. The Nats have a wonderful opportunity to test out some of the New Orleans arms. Is Roy Corcoran capable of filling the role? If not, you've got Kyle Denney. Or Kevin Grybowski (even if he's not a youngin'!). The point is that there are options, and the Nats can take this lost half-season to sort through them. If one becomes the next Carrasco, great. You go to next season with a leg up.

    If they all try and fail, then Bowden has another item to add to the grocery list in the offseason. But for now, let's root through the pantry and see if there's something yummy in there.

  • I'll add some other reactions to the trade here as I find them. Check the billion or so Nats Blogs in the column on the left for their reaction. I haven't weeded through them all yet, but I'm guessing that they're all pretty much supportive of the trade.

    MLB Trade Rumors: "I tried to defend Wayne Krivsky a bit at first, but this trade just looks bad. The more I dig in, the less I like the players he acquired."

    Baseball Musings: "If Cincinnati is really going to play Clayton at shortstop, it may negate any help they get in the pen. This is a nice deal for Washington."

    Ken Rosenthal: "Upon learning of the deal, one rival general manager was dumbfounded...

    The GM went on to explain, "Relief pitchers are risky. Their performance is risky. One year, they're great; the next year, they're mediocre. They're the hardest players to evaluate. Position players are the easiest. And the Nationals got two premium position players in their 20s."

    Church of Baseball: "The deal was definitely good for the Nats, but I'm not sure that the Reds got enough for Kearns and Lopez. If the Reds make the playoffs this year, I won't second guess the trade, but if they don't, we all can wonder if we could have gotten more for these two."

    NatsAtBat: "I really thought the plan going forward was to build up the farm system. Instead, we got 2 proven starters that are 26 years old–something that could help us soon instead of the later that the farm system approach would give us."

    Nats320: "WHY DO WE HAVE TO GIVE UP BRAY!! I understand that you have to give up something to get something back, but Bray has CLOSER POTENTIAL and is just 23."

    Rotoworld: " This looks like a complete and total steal for the Nationals. Lopez is a huge upgrade at shortstop over Royce Clayton"


    • By the way, Lopez's agent is Scott Boras. While you probably have a real good chance of locking Kearns up long-term, Lopez will bolt as soon as possible...

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/14/2006 6:42 AM  

    • We get at least two years of FLop. I'm not too worried. If he plays well, there's no reason the Nats can't sign him.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/14/2006 8:46 AM  

    • "relievers are easy to find"
      Yes, relievers are easy to find, but quality relievers are difficult to find. A lot of relievers who have good seasons just get lucky and are not really good (like Carrasco probably). Quality left-handed relievers (those not of the Mike Stanton-type) are very difficult to find; I can only think of a few in the entire league. Bray hasn't proven this yet, but I see no reason not to think he is a quality left-handed reliever. I do not think he can be replaced easily at all. We could go 10+ years without seeing another pitcher like him. (Or it could turn out that Bray is just another lousy reliever and nothing special.) I'm not saying this is a bad deal, but I think you undervalue Bray.

      By Anonymous sw, at 7/14/2006 9:20 AM  

    • No, I'm not undervaluing Bray. His slider is impressive. Worst case scenario, he turns into BJ Ryan. But he's not going to be to that level for a few years.

      If you ignore Clayton and Thompson (non-factors, really), the trade becomes Majewski and Bray for Lopez and Kearns. No matter Bray's promise, he's still just a reliever. What's more valuable to a team? 50 IP or 500 ABs?

      Don't forget that we picked up a reliever with promise in the deal, too. Wagner's having a rough year, but if it really is a mechanical issue, there's a chance that the dropoff from Bray to him won't be as sharp as we fear.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/14/2006 9:23 AM  

    • Sorry for the anon (I'm sometimes "Marc" over among the Yudites). I think Chris hit it right on the head. Which do you want, 50 IP of setup-man quality lefty or 450 Plate Appearances from an above-average SS and RF? IF Bray develops into a strong pitcher (and they jury's still out on that), he's a good setup man, or maybe a decent closer. And even if Lopez's D produces 5-10 more errors per year than Clayton, his offense more than makes up for it. No question Bray has talent, but ultimately we picked up not one, but two above-average, under-club-control starters for Bray and some stuff we had in the garage.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/14/2006 10:17 AM  

    • To answer the question, of Lopez' 14 errors this year, 9 were throwing errors. Month by month:

      April: 5 (4T/1F)
      May: 6 (4T/2F)
      June: 3 (1T/2F)
      July: 0

      Wish I could give a single source, but it was slogging through game logs.

      By Anonymous Ben, at 7/14/2006 11:32 AM  

    • Wow! Thanks for doing that.

      If that many were throwin errors, it makes me wonder what kind of effect that NJ can have on him. If he can cut 1/3 of those, many of Lopez' defense problems (especially with Zimmerman on his right) go away.

      And that .350 OBP is going to look nice!

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/14/2006 11:34 AM  

    • FWIW, in glancing through the game logs, the Reds appeared to make a LOT of throwing errors, and it didn't seem to matter whether Dunn, Hatteberg, or someone else was at 1B (a strictly non-empirical observation).

      "Moneyball's" praise for Hatteberg notwithstanding, you have to think that NJ's an improvement over all of Lopez' targets in Cincy.

      By Anonymous Ben, at 7/14/2006 2:53 PM  

    • 95% of Lopez's errant throws couldn't be caught by Yao Ming with Keith Hernandez's fielding skills....

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/14/2006 5:53 PM  

    • Enjoy the productive outs, and the 'steadying' defense. ;)

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/14/2006 5:55 PM  

    • Even if Clayton turned out to be as bad as Lopez defensively, it's only for 2&1/2 months. Brandon Phillips will take over shortstop next year.

      You guys will see what I mean about Lopez real soon...

      and I'm still a little frustrated we had to give up Kearns...

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/14/2006 8:19 PM  

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