Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Domin-Chen in One Game Playoff

Ken Rosenthal greeted us this morning with what I find to be an incredibly intriguing bit of rumor. The Red Sox are interested in acquiring a starter for a potential one game playoff against the Rays. At the top of their list? Bruce Chen.

The Rays of course have struggled at times this season against Left Handed pitching and by bringing a starter the Red Sox could avoid using Wakefield or Lackey on just three days rest.

To be blunt the Red Sox are desperate. They are in the midst of one of, if not the, worst September collapse in baseball history. With that being said I don't feel like a trade for Bruce Chen would be as desperate as it would seem on the surface.

Bruce Chen is going to be a type B free agent at the end of the season. As we have seen in the past couple of seasons teams are really starting to understand the true value of compensation picks. Last winter the Blue Jays traded for Miguel Olivo just so they could net a comp pick for him.

For this reason the Royals should absolutely demand at least the equivalent of a 2012 draft Sandwich selection. Quite frankly they should demand just a little more considering, Bruce Chen would be getting the opportunity to salvage the Red Sox season in a one game playoff.

If the Red Sox are willing to pay this price the Royals should absolutely do the deal. Then they could bring back Bruce Chen next season AND receive value for him. As opposed to if they elect to hang on to him, only being able to receive value OR bring him back. You can't get the compensation pick if you resign the player.

Personally I can't see the Red Sox offering the value necessary to make this deal worth it from a Royals perspective. I think they are hoping the Royals don't value the potential pick highly enough and trade Chen for a lottery ticket.

Obviously Chen is slated to be on the hill for the Royals tonight, so the Red Sox better get to work if they truly want to Red Sox nation to be screaming C'mon Chen against the Rays in a couple of days.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Looking back on Moneyball

With Moneyball being released this week many are offering their takes on the subject and hot button topic that was once Michael Lewis's book Moneyball. Scouts vs Stats. On base percentage vs batting average. Billy Beane vs the World. But what strikes me is that here we are eight years later and the whole Moneyball concept still seems widely misunderstood.

Moneyball isn't about loading a lineup with on base percentage. It isn't about abandoning defense. It isn't about figurehead managers, and it isn't about finding misplaced toys. More than anything else Moneyball is about one thing: exploiting market inefficiencies.

At the time of the book on base percentage was a huge market inefficiency and the fact that the A's found it first enabled them to field a team that was able to compete with the big boys. That is how big of a market inefficiency on base percentage was.

The truth is that since Moneyball, other teams have become much more open to trying new things. To expect the A's to strike Moneyball gold again would be naive. The true legacy of Moneyball will be carried on by small market teams as a whole, with the torch being passed from one or two successful teams to the next one or two teams. But as the baseball as a whole grows wiser this torch becomes fainter.

Baseball America's Casey Tefertiller published his take on Moneyball and the A's p.m. (post Moneyball) which you can read here. While I agree with most of the article, especially Tefertiller's take on how Moneyball has benefitted other teams more than the A's I still feel like he is failing to grasp Moneyball in all aspects of the organization. I'm speaking specifically on the draft.

Throughout a majority of the article Tefertiller is clearly someone who gets the Moneyball concept. He realizes that Moneyball is about exploiting inefficiencies and not necessarily about the specific strategies the A's implemented, that is until he touched on the A's draft strategy.

Tefertiller talks about how the A's draft strategy was a failure and how even the A's themselves abandoned the rules of 2003 and went in the face of their former philosophy when they drafted high school pitcher Trevor Cahill in the first round of the 2006 draft.

At last check though do the A's still not steal bases? Do they still put players like Jeremy Giambi in the outfield? Are they still on base dependent? No they are none of these things, because the strategy of Moneyball is inefficiencies and trying to find a better way to conduct business. They have evolved in other aspects of operations. Their draft strategy was a failure, but that doesn't make the Moneyball concept a failure.

In fact if you believe like I do that Moneyball is about exploiting inefficiencies then there is another team that has found the way to do so in the draft. That team is the Kansas City Royals. Of course the Royals weren't the first team to take advantage of the inefficiency and it seems at this point that the inefficiency has reached on base percentage levels and becoming less of a potential advantage for the teams looking to exploit it.

Obviously the inefficiency I am talking about is the slotting system. I know that by suggesting that using scouts and putting the Dollar sign on the Muscle is an example of a Moneyball concept I am risking the flipping of the Earth's axis, but here me out.

Moneyball and Sabermetrics are not the same thing. Now most of the time the two go hand in hand. But as I have stated numerous times, Moneyball is about exploitation of inefficiencies. While Sabermetrics is purely the creation of advanced statistics to learn more about the game. It is clear that Sabermetrics are often the best and easiest ways to find a market inefficiency and thus they go hand in hand with Moneyball, but Moneyball as a concept should not be limited to statistical analysis.

Without exploiting the slotting system, there is no way the Royals would have the top farm system. Without taking advantage of this opportunity to nab superior talent in later rounds of the draft, the Royals' and their fans wouldn't be counting the days until April 6, 2012 and they wouldn't spend their afternoons daydreaming about October 2013.

So while it may sound ludicrous, the Royals may be the holders of the Moneyball torch. Whether they know it or not, or whether their administration would be happy about it or not, the Kansas City Royals by exploiting a market inefficiency are now in position to be the next small market team to take swings with the big boys. Wasn't that Michael Lewis's whole point?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pieces in Place

There are three spots in the batting order that traditionally have been viewed as having more importance than any of the others. Dayton Moore and company have on multiple occassions expressed their belief that if you can field a quality leadoff, three hole, and clean up hitter the team can consistentely provide quality offense.

For the first time in the Dayton Moore era we can safely say that the Royals have found answers for each of these three spots. But instead of a persuasive essay to convince you, let's just look at how the bottom of the 9th unfolded last night.

Leading off the bottom of the ninth for the Kansas City Royals number 4. Alex Gordon.

After falling down in the count 0-2 against hard throwing lefty Matt Thornton, Alex did what any good leadoff hitter would do in that situation, he battled back.

95 mph fastball. Foul (0-2)
81 mph slider. Ball (1-2)
96 mph fastball. Foul (1-2)
96 mph fastball. Foul (1-2)
83 mph slider. Ball (2-2)
97 mph fastball. Ball (3-2)

Finally on the ninth pitch of the at bat, Gordon found a pitch that he could do something with and ripped it in between the first and second basemen into right field.

There are two thngs that didn't happen in this at bat that should be noted. First, Gordon laid off the slider in. Up until this season the slider from left handed pitchers was Alex Gordon's biggest and most glaring weakness. The pitch seemed to consistently find the hole in his swing, when time and time again he would show the inability to lay off the pitch and would instead find nothing but air with his swing.

Second, Gordon's stayed agressive throughout the entire at bat. In the past Gordon would often get deep into at bats by taking a passive approach and then eventually this passiveness would do in him, in the form of a called strike three. Now, Gordon is always looking for the right pitch to hit and with his natural pitch recognition abilities is able to work counts, while also not being vulnerable for the called strike three.

Stepping to the Melky Cabrera.

One pitch, one perfect sacrifice. Gordon to second with one out.

Now batting the designated hitter, number 16 Billy Butler.

The White Sox made the smart tactical move and intentionally walked Butler. First and second, one out. Of course unlike in the past the White Sox were forced to pick their poison as opposed to walking the three hitter in order to get to an obviously weaker cleanup man. Finally that leads us to...

Up for the Royals, the first baseman, number 35, Eric Hosmer.

On the second pitch of the at bat, Eric Hosmer did what he does best when he laced a Matt Thornton fastball over left fielder Juan Pierre's head for a game winning double.

The Royals have the pieces in place in the three most critical spots of the lineup for at least the next two seasons. If we can extend Gordon, maybe even we can have those pieces in place for the next four seasons. Either way the Royals could finally have an offense that for the next several years will be a force in the American League Central.