MLBRT… October 23… Moneyball, GM hot stove strategy… and… November baseball

Soon, the 2104 winner of MLB’s World Championship Tournament… aka the Playoffs… aka the World Series… will be done and one team will stand supreme over all of MLB… then the Hot Stove League will begin in earnest. So… the Round Table Four dish on some Moneyball… GM strategy… free agents… a Prince’s possible future… and… how long is the season gonna be in 2015? 

 

MLB Roundtable

 

1) Since Billy Beane has become GM of The Oakland A’s in 1998 the team has been in the posts season 8 times… lost the LDS 6 times and the ALCS once and lost 2014’s wild card billy-beaneplaying game. So, for all the ballyhoo surrounding Beane’s so-called Moneyball system has it been a success or a failure?

Archie: Only 1 team can win the WS. When Atlanta made their streak of 14 consecutive division titles (records do not include the ’94 season) they only had 1 WS win. They based their club on pitching first. I know that  might be a little different than money ball , however, a philosophy is a  philosophy. The fact that Billy’s philosophy or approach has gotten his club  into that many playoff appearances speaks volumes and I would have to deem it a successful run.

The only aspect of the whole “money ball” thing that I don’t get is why they have to scrimp and scrape for dollars? They are in like the 4th or 5th largest market of all the teams.

moneyballJoe: I’m old school… I still believe in looking at the stats… power numbers aka slugging percentage, RBIs, how a guy hits with runners in scoring position, speed, OBP, and the using of scouts to go out and beat the bushes for talent. Go see the kids playing at the various levels and make decisions based on what you see and then doing your homework to find out what’s behind the scenes or the playing field as the case may be… how a dude works, his character and by that I mean is he a team player, how does he respond to coaching, does he sort of keep his head out of the clouds and isn’t full of himself and is he respectful in how he deals with people… I am not nor do I understand all these sabermetric numbers or whatever the hell they are called.

Now… that being said… while Beane has gotten the Athletics into the postseason with those sort of strategies and his moves, I am not so sure his methods will ever get the team much further than anywhere they have already gotten… in English… I don’t see them making the World Series any time soon. And, since he has had 16 years already to prove his system is the answer to getting the A’s to the Holy Grail… aka World Series… and, has not done it, then maybe it’s time for the owners to move on.

money baseballSandy: I wouldn’t say its a complete failure, maybe the post season hasn’t been kind to them, but, a lot of teams would change places with them. They were better than 10 other teams in the AL.

I am not a fan of the play-in game, its just a money maker and the team that wins the #1 WC should not be put in a position to end their season on 1 game. It’s a long season, so, if a team gets to the playoffs it’s not a failure if they don’t get to the WS, or, if they lose the WS. 

Stephan: So logically, Moneyball has been successful. A team that can appear in the post season consistently like the Oakland Athletics has to be considered a success story .

It is not the regular season that the A’s have to be ashamed of. It is their performance in the playoffs. This year, after getting Lester, I thought this was going to be the year that they get over the hump and at least appear in the World Series.

So yes it works, but it is proven that it only works in the regular season. 

2) The arguably three biggest pitching free agents going into the 2014-2015 offseason are all over 30-years-old…. Max Scherzer (agent/Scott Boras) is 30, James Shields (agent/not Boras) is 33 and Jon Lester (agent/not Boras) is 31… if you are a GM looking to sign one, or more, of them then who do you go after and what’s your offer?

Jon Lester, Max Scherzer & James Shields
Jon Lester, Max Scherzer & James Shields

Archie: I am looking at this from a Braves’ perspective only, I would go after Lester. Braves need someone on the left side of the mound to be a dominate starter. Minor has never panned out to be that guy. If, Lester could  be had on a long term contract of no more than $14.5 – $15 mil a year, I  think the Braves would do great to get him. However, I am pretty sure he  will draw closer to $17-$18 a year from someone.

Joe: I am repping the Yankees… Scherzer is gonna cost too much in dollars and years… that, essentially, makes him a “no deal”. I’ll do my due diligence and make an offer but unless he miraculously lowers what I expect his contractual demands to be… the Yanks are not interested. 

That leaves Shields and Lester. 

Shields almost always is in double figures wins per year; ERA is usually between 3.00 to 3.50; a sure bet to be

James Shields
James Shields

around, or over, 200 innings per year and will almost always go 6.5 or over 7 innings a game. Strikeout to walk ratio is 3.6 to 1. Shields won/loss percentage is a decent, but unspectacular,.559.

He’s’ coming off a contract where he averaged 5.53 million a year. He is on record as letting it be known that he expects to get “paid” by whoever gives him his next contract. However, he will be 33 in December. The longest contract I would offer is 4 years solid… no way I would offer more in terms of years. Money-wise… start off with 48 mil (12 mil a year) and I would push it to 72 mil (18 mil a ear) Unless ownership pushed/forced me to offer more, that would be my limit.  

Lester is a slightly different story… he’s young… ok, younger… 31 in January. Also,

almost always in double wins for the year but his win/loss percentage, at .634, is a lot better than Shields. Part of the reason is Lester has been on teams with better offenses, but, still, it is not a number to be ignored. His ERA is slightly higher at about 3.20 to 3.70 per year (Interestingly, he had a 2.46 ERA in his just completed 2014 contract year!) His strikeout to walk ratio is 2.67 to 1.

The Red Sox reportedly offered him 70 mil for 4 years that he turned down. After some preliminary BS negotiations just to see what’s shaking ,I would offer him 72mil (18 mil a year) for 4 years. Maybe, push it to 80 mil for four years, and, if it looked like that was going to be a problem or sticking point… give him an extra year on the contract length.  

Jon Lester
Jon Lester

If neither guy bites… then it’s time to move on and hope the young pitchers who showed promise in 2014 get

even better in 2015.

Bottom line is… both free agent pitchers are worth going after, but, if, I had my druthers I would rather go after Lester.

Sandy: I’ll go with Jon Lester, he’s still the best of the 3. Shields had the highest ERA of the 3. Lester had the best ERA at 2.35.

Max Scherzer
Max Scherzer

Even though all are in their 30’s I think most pitchers can be effective into their mid 30’s.

I’d offer Lester $75M over 5 years, the 1st 3 guaranteed and the 5th year would be a player/team option.

 

Stephan: Give me Max Scherzer any day of the week.

Cy Young award winner last season, and, seemingly just as dominant in 2014. He won’t win the Cy Young award this year, but, should be in the top 5 again.

I could do without his agent, but Scherzer is definitely a guy I want on the mound for my team. As I will explain in the next question.

3) Continuing the offseason GM game… you are your favorite team’s GM what is the one move you must make before the 2015 season begins?

bravesArchie: From the Braves front office: “GM Archie Williams announced today  the trade of IF Tyler Pastornicky, OF Joey Terdoslavich, P Juan Jaime and Luis Avilan along with starting OF B.J. Upton. The details of the trade have not been completely released but it appears the Braves will add CF Ben Revere and right hand reliever Pat Neshek to their 25 man roster. Also they announced they would only tender an offer to current FAs Emilio Bonifacio and Gerald Laird.

Williams stated that for the current short range target they would be focused on improving the abysmal offensive woes and that they would “in no way” seek out another player that habitually strikes out over 125 times a season. When asked to clarify Williams stated, “We already have enough players on the team that swing for the fences on every at bat that too often comes up empty. We need to add an On-base type of guy to the  roster.”

Williams also went on to state that the Braves were anticipating the return of starters Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to the rotation next season and have hopes that once superb reliever Johnny Venters will be able to return to the bullpen as well.

nyyJoe: Again, I am the Yanks’ GM… at least one proven starter. I totally subscribe to the theory, or old adage, you can never have too much pitching and as far as I am concerned the Yanks still don’t have enough regardless how some of their young kids did in 2014. Also, I am not convinced CC Sabathia is ever going to return anywhere near the big time pitcher he was and may not even return to be a serviceable number 3, 4, or 5 in the rotation for that matter. The team needs an ace or near ace to bolster and solidify the starting five.

As the team is presently comprised, the Yanks 2015 starting five would probably look like this: Mashiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Shane Greene and Ivan Nova or David Phelps.

If, I were the Yanks’ GM, after I was done wheeling and dealing, I would like the rotation to look like this… Mashiro Tanaka, Jon Lester (Free agent signing), Brandon McCarthy (Free agent signing; convince him to re-up after his decent 2014 second half with Yanks), Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia… if Sabathia is not ready or just craps the bed, then, choose one from the mix of Ivan Nova, Shane Green or David Phelps.

If McCarthy goes elsewhere… which I think he will because I don’t see the Yanks offering him more than 3 years @ 14 or 15 max per year and someone will likely offer him more than that (years and/or money) which he will most likely take… then move everybody up one spot in the rotation.

dodgersSandy: That’s a tough one, because my favorite team (Dodgers) needs a lot of fixing.

I know they should get younger, but, with so many massive contracts with their veterans they will have a hard time getting too young and I’m not sure their minor league options are great right now. For me ,the one glaring need is the bullpen, and, improving even that is going to be hard to do. Personally, I’d try to buy out a few bad contracts, and, then try to find some good middle relief that can be used on consecutive days. 

bravesStephan: I am the Atlanta Braves GM, (hey it could happen since they don’t have one yet), and, I sign Max Scherzer to a five year 100 million dollar deal. He is the real deal, and with the Braves always having injuries to their best pitchers, they could use a number one guy to compliment Julio Teheran.

Then, I work hard on the offense to get their heads out of their asses.  
 

baeball & snow

4) MLB has announced its tentative schedule for the 2015 season with 1 game to be on ESPN on April 5 and a full Opening day schedule to follow on April 6 and the regular season to end on October 4, which is later than usual. The later start and finish to the 2015 season means Game 6 and 7 of the World Series, if necessary, would be played in November. Good, bad or indifferent?

Archie: Definitely Bad! MLB has began letting TV control too much of the schedule; IMO. There is no other reason, other than TV’s schedule, that should keep the first game from being played on the previous weekend, and, all teams getting started on the 30th of March.

Also, to the same issue; why in the hell did we have to wait almost a week to get the WS underway this year? They all bitch and complain about finishing too late in the year, yet, when given a chance, MLB still lets TV control the date in which the WS will start.

We should be into game 3 already.

Opening DayJoe: Bad. I don’t like the 162 schedule and I don’t like how MLB starts in early April and potentially could end in early November now.

It will not happen anytime soon, if ever, but I have always advocated going back to the 154 game schedule… then I would require mandatory single admission Sunday doubleheaders, which would also help to shorten the season in terms of days required to complete the regular season schedule.

And, if, the season finished earlier due to those changes, then, the first round of the playoffs could be extended to 7 games and MLB could return back to having Opening Day fall between baseball game in snowApril 12 and April 15. 

Sandy: I’d say it’s only bad if the teams playing in the WS are cold weather teams without domes.

It can get mighty cold in Minnesota in November or the North East, but, for warm weather teams it wouldn’t make much difference. But, I guess I would be indifferent since I’ll be warm either way. 

Stephan: Game 1 being four days before the rest? I don’t like it. I don’t mind having Baseball in November as if you ask me it could go all year and I would be happy. But I think they need to have everyone start on the same day, or if you want a “true” opening game, do it on a Sunday night, and have the regular season start on Monday. 

5) The 2014 season was Prince Fielder’s first unsuccessful season in MLB. Before succumbing to a neck injury that led to season-ending surgery, Fielder only managed three home runs in 42 games in the hitter-friendly Ballpark in Arlington. What’s his future look like going forward?Prince Fielder

Archie: Man, this is hard to say. IF, he is able to return to form, then, of course, no problem.

Fielder was the epitome of consistency prior to his injury. Neck and back problems have a way of becoming chronic or persistent.  I can see where the Rangers will try him at mainly DH going forward.  Although, the power in his swing and how that effects his previous injury will be the key to it all.

Joe: I don’t think it’s great… Prince, despite concerns about his big body, had an ability to stay healthy. Prince was an above average to an elite player every single year from 2006-2013.  In those eight seasons, Prince hit between 25-50 home runs, scored between 82-109 runs, and drove in between 81-141 runs with a batting average between .261 and .313. Then 2014 happened.

Neck surgery is very serious because few, if any player will be the same after the surgery.  If he is lucky he can be to achieve a comeback in baseball comparable to what Peyton Manning did in football. But understand that Peyton not only beat the odds he defied them in an almost supernaturally manner.

Assume that Prince Fielder recovers 100% from his neck surgery and is physically unaffected by it, players still begin to decline in their 30’s.  Fielder will turn 31 early into the 2015 season. Plus, sorry, but the bigger they are the harder they will fall. Prince as mentioned already is not a small dude.

In my opinion, I don’t think he recovers 100% from the surgery and he starts having more and more nagging little injuries and his numbers will decline. Not the hell in a hand basket kind of decline but probably, at first, to about 20 to 25 HRs and the mid 80’s to 90’s in runs and RBIs. Now, that ain’t chopped liver but it is no longer above average to elite.

princeSimply, I see steady decline due to that neck injury, as well as his weight and age.

Sandy: I wouldn’t read anything into his slow start this season, he’s still a very good player and depending on how successful the surgery was, I think he’ll bounce back next season.

I think his future will be fine, and, hopefully, he’ll be back to clobbering the ball. 

Stephan: Fielder will be fine. He had a tough year battling injuries. I think he made the right move in not coming back this season, and, taking the season off to recoup.

The Rangers had one of their most pathetic seasons of all time, and I think he will bounce back just fine next season. I expect Prince to hover around .300 next year and have 25 plus Home Runs. 

 

 

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