Those of you who watch NBC's The Office know that the company which the show revolves around, Dunder Mifflin, was recently saved from bankruptcy with a buy-out from a larger company “Sabre.” If you watched last Thursday’s episode you found that that company isn’t pronounnced “SAAB-RAY,” as the characters of The Office had been saying it, but in fact “SABE-ER.”
As a baseball fan this immediately strikes a cord in my mind, making me think of SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research. SABR of course is the driving force in researching and analyzing baseball in new lights that previous generations may have overlooked. The most notable 'sabrematricians' are Bill James and Rob Neyer who are constantly pushing the envelope with new statistical ideas and baseball principles.
Sabre, the company, is also an edgy corporation that in the latest episode comes into Scranton to try and change the way things are done, to make the company more efficient. Hilarity ensues.
This may seem like a silly coincidence, however I'm betting it's less of one than you might think. Some of you may remember, Fire Joe Morgan, an amazing baseball blog that ended last year. The blog relentlessly and hilariously defended Moneyball and Sabermetrics from bullying, and ignorant "old-school" baseball writers who would attack these new principles. Ken Tremendous (Michael Schur), was one of the wring leaders of the band of writers for Fire Joe Morgan, and was also an accomplished T.V. writer, and at a time the head writer for The Office. You know him better as Mose, Dwights creepy
Recently Schur has been writing for NBC's new show Parks and Recreation (a great show if you get the chance) but it's not ridiculous to believe that he still has some sway with the writers over at The Office. So is it a coincidence? I'll let you decide, but either way it's probably a good thing that the public will now associate the name SABR with Christian Slater...and not dudes in their parents basement.
Bill Ladson of MLB.com reported today that "The Nats are aggressively pursuing Wang." Silly headlines aside, when the giggles settle Wang could be considered the final veteran arm that the Nationals are looking for to complete their 2010 starting rotation. Ladson wrote:
"The Nationals are "aggressively pursuing" free-agent right-hander Chien-Ming Wang, according to a baseball source. It's not certain whether Washington has formally extended an offer just yet.
The source went so far as to say that Wang could make a decision within the next 10 days, and the Nationals are one of the finalists to acquire his services. Washington did not confirm it's interested in the 29-year-old hurler."
As recently as 2008, Chien-Ming Wang was the ace of the New York Yankees, a position he held for three years before injuring his foot and ending his 2008 season. For reasons that have escaped many, Wang never seemed to recover from the injury that ended his 2008 campaign. In 2009 he became the first player to throw a pitch in the new Yankee stadium, but things quickly fell apart.
The Taiwanese import went 0-3 in his first three starts with a 34.50 ERA capitalized by a 22-4 loss to the Indians on Apr. 18. Following the butchering by Cleveland, many in the Bronx tried to speculate what was wrong with the clubs former ace. Some believed he was favoring his injured foot, and some believed he had some serious mechanical issues; including a lowered kick, and an arched back on his drive. MLB TV pointed out that his release point was a whole five inches higher than it was in 2008. In July Wang was placed on the injured list after he elected to have season-ending shoulder surgery. He finished 2009 with a 1-6 record, 9.64 ERA, and a .365 BAA.
In December the Yankees opted to non-tender Wang ("tender Wang"...hold the giggles), and here we are with several teams pursuing CMW.
Looking at the numbers, what really has hurt Wang ("hurt Wang"...hold the giggles) has been the gradual decline of the effectiveness of his fastball. In 2006 his fastball was rated 18.8 runs above average according to FanGraphs. That value dropped to 13.0 in 2007, and only 8.6 in 2008. It fell off the table in 2009 when his fastball wasn't even at replacement value, rated at -16.4. As you can see, with Wang's fastball went his success:
2006: 19-6, 3.63 ERA, 3.91 FIP, 62.8 GB% (18.8 FB)
2007: 19-7, 3.70 ERA, 3.79 FIP, 58.4 GB% (13.0 FB)
2008: 8-2, 4.07 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 55.0 GB% (8.6 FB)
2009: 1-6, 9.64 ERA, 5.38 FIP, 53.3 GB% (-16.4 FB)
The most notable thing that jumps out when looking at those stats is how much Wang's ground ball percentage decreased in correlation with the value of his fastball. It appears that his fastball lost movement, causing his best pitch to no longer induce ground balls, but instead be sprayed around the ball park. In 2006, Wang's fastball was rated the fourth best in the majors, in 2009, it was one of the worst. For Wang, a ground ball pitcher, the ability to induce ground balls is absolutely vital. In 2006 his 62.8 ground ball percentage made him the best ground ball pitcher in the American League, however in 2009 he was merely average in ground ball percentage.
Determining the reason for the decline in Wang's fastball is still up in the air. Clearly, as seen above, his mechanics changed which likely caused his fastball to have less movement and less sinking action. But Why?
The answer is one of two things. Either Wang picked up some bad habits due to the nagging injuries which caused a shift in his mechanics and ultimately led to the shoulder injury, OR Wang was forced to adjust his approach because of his injuries, and he will no longer be able to regain the mechanics that produced all those ground balls several years ago.
For the Nationals, this could be a good gamble if it is the first scenario, but not so good if it's the second. There is a shift in the market towards attaining pitchers who can get ground balls, and if Wang can produce a GB% in the upper 50's again, he will be successful anywhere. All the Nationals would have to do is correct the previous problem and Wang should be good to go. However, if its the second scenario, thats some lousy Wang.
In what has become a weekly event, three Washington Nationals bloggers weighed in on this question for Hot Stove:
After failing to land Orlando Hudson, the Nationals instead settled on Adam Kennedy to play second base in 2010. What are your thoughts on this signing, and do you think the team should’ve stretched its budget a bit more and gotten Hudson?no comments
According to MLB.COM, shortstop prospect Ian Desmond could become an "all-purpose utility man" come spring. Bill Ladson writes that as a result of the Nationals landing free agent second baseman Adam Kennedy, the Nationals may use Desmond everywhere, including the outfield.
"Washington is thinking about making Desmond an all-purpose utility man -- playing all three outfield positions, shortstop and second base. Riggleman, however, wants to make sure that Guzman is healthy before putting Desmond in a utility role. Guzman is coming off right shoulder surgery and foot problems.
"It will be determined in Spring Training," Riggleman said Saturday. "We have to check out the health of Guzman. ... We anticipate that he will be our shortstop.
"Ian is such a good athlete. It would be fairer to him to try to get him some games in Spring Training -- mix in some games in the outfield, so it's fresher to him. If he were able to make the club and play both infield and outfield, Ian would be a nice weapon to have as a double switch. We also would give [second baseman Adam] Kennedy some days off and Guzman some days off. We would be able to use Ian as a pinch-runner."
Now this bring up an age old question. Would you rather have a young player getting lots of at bats in the minors or one bouncing around from position to position just to be a major league asset?
To me the answer is easy. Ian Desmond is not a prospect for his bat, he is a prospect as a shortstop. He has the unique opportunity to be an average to an above average major league shortstop, which is the hardest position on the diamond to play. Keeping him in the majors to have him play part-time outfield is a waste of talent, and possibly will make him a worse shortstop for the future.
Furthermore, the Nationals aren't in a position to be very competitive this season. They don't need to be "all hands on deck." If it's better for 2011 that Ian Desmond spend 2010 playing everyday shortstop in Syracuse, then so be it.
What do you think?
-Are the Nationals better off having Desmond in Washington and playing multiple roles? or is it better to keep Desmond playing short full time?
-What is the ideal middle infield situation?
1/30 - 0/3, 1 R
1/30 - 0/5
Talk about being a rebound...
Kennedy, 34, is entering his 11th year as a major league infielder, boasting career slash lines of .279/.330/.391, and hit .289/.348/.410 last season in 129 games for Oakland. Kennedy is best known for his World Series run with the 2002 Rally Monkey Anaheim Angels where he won the ALCS MVP. Adam batted a career high .312 that season, and was paired in the memorable middle infield combo with David Eckstein.
In 2006 the second baseman signed a three-year $10 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, but eventually parted ways with St. Louis in 2009 after poor performance had limited his playing time. Kennedy had demanded a trade, but St. Louis simply dropped him. Out of a job the only contract Kennedy could find was a minor league deal with the Tampa Rays. After batting .280/.366/.439 in only 23 games at AAA, Oakland made the move to trade for Kennedy.
Kennedy became an everyday utility-man for Oakland. He started 49 games at second, committing seven errors and posting a UZR/150 of -14.8, and started 78 games at third, committing 13 errors and posting a UZR/150 of -11.4. For his age, Kennedy still has impressive speed, stealing 156 bases in his career, including 20 last season. For the Nationals he will provide a solid upgrade above...no one...and should at least provide a little bit of stability to the infield.
What about O-Dog?
While at one point this week it seemed immanent that Orlando Hudson was going to sign with Washington, the gold-glove second baseman decided that the Nationals were just refusing to put enough money on the table for his services. After hearing offers from Cleveland and Minnesota, Hudson eventually took Washington off of his short list, and last night signed a $5 million deal with Minnesota, only $1 million more than the Nationals were offering.
With Minnesota, Hudson will likely bat in front of reigning MVP and batting champion Joe Mauer, and he will likely be in the playoff hunt. Washington could only provide the opportunity be fist bump buddies with Tony Plush. There will be no fist-bumping in Minnesota. Can you blame Orlando though? In the end, it sure seemed like it was about the money, but for a second basemen entering his 30's, I'm pretty sure I'd rather go with hitting in front of the MVP and push towards the playoffs.
Ask not Adam what Kennedy can do for the Nationals, but ask what the Nationals can do for Adam Kennedy
While Kennedy appeared to have a resurgence in 2009, the numbers are a bit troubling in some cases. Yes, his batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging all went up from previous years, but his BB% and K% stayed relatively close to his career averages. His BABIP however was up from a career mark of .317 to .329, which leads to the assumption that maybe Kennedy was just getting lucky, or maybe the slap hitting Kennedy was reaping the benefits of a spacious A's ball park.
Before we get too cynical, Kennedy did steal more bases in 2009 than he had since 2003, so maybe being cut by the Cardinals motivated him to come back in great shape. Improved speed can help raise your BABIP, but by 20 points in one year at the age of 34? Not sure about that...
At the plate, Kennedy swung at more pitches outside of the strike zone than in his career, but at less pitches inside the strike zone. This combined with his walk rate of 7.7% does not lead me to believe he will be a patient hitter in the Nationals line up.
Defensively the court is out on Kennedy. While the metrics say he didn't fair so well in 2009, they say he faired very well in 2008 with a UZR/150 of 21.8 (it should be noted he only played 84 games). Also, some scouts seem to believe his defense has improved, despite the metrics...
The bottom line is that while he will not be the hitter that Orlando Hudson could have been, and wont be a force at the top of the line up, there is a very real possibility that he will be just as good a defender as Hudson. For a team that needed defense, this was a good move. Terms have not been announced yet, but I'm optimistic that the deal was for less than $2 million.
Here are his projections for 2010:
Bill James - .270/.332/.373, .311 wOBA, 44.4 wRC
CHONE- .264/.323/.378, .313 wOBA, 50.9 wRC
Marcel- .268/.325/.382, .313 wOBA, 56.5 wRC
To get Washington fans ready for the coming baseball season, all spring (err...and Winter) I will be interviewing a blogger from each team in the league. To continue our journey I talked with Randy from Over The Monster, one of the top Red Sox on the net. The Red Sox are always re-arming for next season, and are perpetually one of the most interesting teams in the league. Let's see what Randy had to say.
The Nats Blog: Clay Bucholz has been considered the arm of the future for the past several years now, will this be the season he finally puts it together?
Over The Monster: I think we saw Buchholz put it together at the end of last year. He seemed to finally become the pitcher the Red Sox have been waiting for in the last stretch of the season. Obviously he's going to improve with time, but it seems to me he made that "Jon Lester turn." I don't think we need to worry about if he's got the makeup or the stuff or anything like that -- now it's just a matter of how good he'll actually be.
TNB: With the slow decline of David Ortiz, and the loss of Jason Bay, will the Red Sox have enough offense to top the Rays and Yankees in 2010?
OTM: The Red Sox's offense won't be as good as it has been the last few years, but the good thing is that they don't need it to be. With the improved defense and starting pitching, the Red Sox offense will need to do less work to gut out victories. There shouldn't be too many 11-10 games in Boston this year. They should be more like 2-1, 3-2. With the defense improving so greatly and the rotation adding an ace in John Lackey, the offense doesn't need to be as strong as in the past few years. With that said, General Manager Theo Epstein has said if the team needed a bat at the deadline, he'd go out and grab it.
TNB: What will the Red Sox do with Mike Lowell after a voided trade and a thumb injury? Where will he fit in? If at all.