January 31, 2009
Colby Does Not Love PECOTA
Posted by Lucas at 12:22 PM
PECOTA Does Not Love Texas
Baseball Prospectus just released its first run of PECOTA ratings for 2009. I’m not going to print their subscription-only data, but I have performed a quick analysis to answer the question of what PECOTA thinks of the Rangers this season.
Answer: not much.
Before I divulge the results, some background. PECOTA estimates plate appearances and innings pitched for all players, but it doesn’t attempt to justify them on a team level. Many of their predictions read as “what ifs” (for example, what if Martin Perez pitched 99 innings in Arlington?). Thus, the team-wide sums are preposterous (in Texas’s case, 8,700 PA and 2,600 IP). To correct this “problem” for my purposes, I made my own estimates of plate appearances and innings but still used PECOTA’s rate estimates verbatim. I also chopped Texas’s unearned runs to 75 (a little worse than the league average) from last year’s 107.
Offensively, PECOTA understandably thinks poorly of Elvis Andrus and Omar Vizquel. It also predicts Taylor Teagarden will bat .209 (albeit with ample walks and power). The more pressing issue is the regression toward the mean for most of the established hitters. Only Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler merit OBPs in excess of .350. The less said about Michael Young, the better.
PECOTA, as always, hates Texas pitching. The only hurlers with sub-5.00 ERAs are relievers Frank Francisco, C.J. Wilson, Josh Rupe and Warner Madrigal. PECOTA really thinks ill of Matt Harrison, and folks like Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz aren’t projected as saviors yet.
My team-level use of PECOTA predicts Texas will score about 790 runs and allow 920. That’s worth 69 wins. Ugh.
Big caveat: One potential problem with my analysis is scaling. That is, I could do this with every team and discover that the MLB as a whole has a net deficit in runs scored versus allowed, which of course is impossible. If, for example, I discovered that the “average” team had a net deficit of 30 runs, I’d have to add about three wins to every team’s total.
You might recreate this exercise with different results, but I think the general theme is clear. PECOTA forecasts a significant decline in Texas’s offense with only modest improvement in pitching. I look forward to BP’s own team-wide PECOTA-based predictions.
Posted by Lucas at 11:52 AM
January 27, 2009
Posted by Lucas at 10:44 AM
January 25, 2009
Texas Rangers Prospects 55-63
In parentheses are position, age as of 4/1/09, highest level attained, and ranking by Jamey Newberg:
63. JUAN POLANCO (OF, 18.7, Dominican Summer, Jamey’s #69) – As a 17-year-old, Polanco slugged .455 and hit eight homers in a league where precious few show much power. Polanco spent most of his time in right with a smattering of games in center. Another intriguing youngster with a long way to go. Bound for: Rookie league.
62. MICHAEL SCHLACT (RHP-starter, 23.3, AA, Jamey’s #67) –Schlact pitched a little better than his 5.23 ERA, but not enough to earn a spot on the 40-man roster. Many of his starts ended badly (4.96 Run Average in Innings 1-4, 7.38 afterwards), but in 2007 the reverse was true. It’s money time for the 81st pick of the 2004 draft. Bound for: I’d say Frisco again, with the opportunity to advance to Oklahoma City.
61. EVAN REED (RHP-starter, 22.0, AA, Jamey’s #57) – Reed earned some buzz with two fine starts in Clinton and five scoreless innings in Frisco to begin 2008. Then, Bakersfield happened. Reed struggled with his control all season and never enjoyed an extended stretch of success. That said, he was a 3rd-rounder from 2007 and will be given time to grow. Bound for: To start the season, probably his least favorite locale. Later, Frisco.
60. COREY YOUNG (LHP-reliever, 22.3, short-A, Jamey’s #36) – Texas used the former Seton Hall starter out of the bullpen. He walked or plunked over 20% of opposing batters through July, nearly as many as he struck out. Thereafter, he issues only two free passes and fanned 16. Lefties hit .105/.244/.132 against him. Bound for: Maybe Bakersfield. Certainly no lower than Hickory.
59. ZACH PHILLIPS (LHP-starter, 22.5, high-A, Jamey’s #37) – Even at his best, Phillips has been hittable. His .339 opposing average on balls in play during 2007 is his career low to date. Phillips is always stingy with the long ball, so when he limits his walks (as he did in ’07 but not last year) he’s still tough to beat. Phillips finished 2008 with some dubiously effective numbers: just one earned run in 17.2 innings but also 12 walks. Bound for: He already repeated Clinton. Will he repeat Bakersfield? Not the full season, but some of it, probably.
58. JARED HYATT (RHP-starter, 24.9, AAA, Jamey’s #41) – In two seasons, Hyatt has made 22 starts and 16 relief appearances and pitched at every affiliate but Spokane. I watched his lone AAA start, which was a microcosm of his season: a barrage of soft flies and pop-ups. He’s oddly effective and has shown dramatically better control out of college. Bound for: Can hang in Oklahoma City, but the volume of upper-level pitchers could put him in Frisco for a while longer.
57. JOEY BUTLER (COF, 23.1, short-A, Jamey’s #56) – Noted by Baseball America as one of Texas’s best late-round selections and athletes from 2008, Butler enjoyed a solid debut at the plate (.301/.417/.434) while roaming the outfield corners. He’s got some Johnny Whittleman in him: 36% of his plate appearances ended with a walk or strikeout. Bound for: Likely Hickory, outside shot at Bakersfield.
56. JOSEPH ORTIZ (LHP-reliever, 18.6, low-A, Jamey’s #42) – Only four 5’7” pitchers have appeared in the Majors during the past 20 years. Two were Rangers for a while: Fabio Castro and Danny Ray Herrera (who reached the summit with Cincinnati). Ortiz more closely resembles the harder-throwing Castro. Bound for: A repeat of low-A. Certainly there’s no need to rush him.
55. RENNY OSUNA (MIF, 23.9, high-A, Jamey’s #33) – After a lackluster 2007, Osuna hit .360 with 21 doubles in just under three months in Clinton. He relinquished some of his newfound power and patience in Bakersfield but remained impressive. Osuna has played first and third on occasion. Bound for: Well… depending on what happens to Elvis Andrus (and to a lesser extent, Joaquin Arias), he could begin 2009 where he finished ‘08. He’ll see plenty of Frisco, though.
Posted by Lucas at 11:31 AM
Texas Rangers Prospects 64-72
In parentheses are position, age as of 4/1/09, highest level attained, and ranking by Jamey Newberg:
72. BRIAN GORDON (RHP-reliever, 30.6, Majors, not ranked by Jamey)) – Yeah, I listed a 30-year-old converted outfielder as a prospect. Gordon can hit 90-91 with his fastball, reach down to 68 with his curve, and throw a slider and change for good measure. Texas converted him to starter in Oklahoma City, but his likely future in Texas (if there is one) is as a long reliever. I can see him filling in capably for Josh Rupe if the need arises. Bound for: AAA.
71. TAE KYUNG AHN (RHP-starter, 19, no pro experience, not ranked by Jamey) – Ahn is as much an unknown as anybody on this list. The Rangers inked him last August for $275,000, their first big signing in a nascent focus on Asia. Ahn doesn’t throw terribly hard (yet) and had a tepid finale to his high-school career. He’s already a big boy (6’3”, 220). Ideally, he tells everyone back in Korea how awesome the Rangers are. Bound for: Depends on what he shows between now and June. Probably rookie league.
70. JONATHAN GREENE (3B, 23.5, low-A, not ranked by Jamey) – Greene has played catcher, left field and third during the past two years with Texas and in college. Defense isn’t his forte. He trailed only Mike Moustakas in the Midwest league with 21 homers and set a league record with 36 HBPs, the highest total in all of professional baseball in at least four years (and perhaps longer). Bound for: Bakersfield.
69. LEURY GARCIA (SS, 18.0, rookie, not ranked by Jamey) – 5’ 7”, 155 pounds, batted .209/.250/.279 in rookie ball. None of that sounds very prospect-o-licious, but Garcia earned an invite to last fall’s Instructionals and won the overall points competition. Bound for: Spokane, or another round of rookie ball, or a little or both. Who Texas drafts at short in June might affect his placement.
68. CARLOS MELO (RHP-starter, 18.1, Dominican Summer, not around when Jamey mde his list) – Melo reached 96 MPH and fanned 28% of DSL batters as a 17-year-old, which is to say he has the potential to make Guillermo Moscoso the “other guy” in the Gerald Laird trade. We won’t know for several years. Bound for: Rookie league.
67. JARED BOLDEN (1B/COF, 22.0, short-season A, Jamey’s #70) – Baseball America’s Jim Callis described Bolden as one of Texas’s best “pure hitters” of the ’08 draft. Mostly a pitcher and 1B in college, Bolden never hit lower than .355 in three years at Virginia Commonwealth and slugged .674 as a junior. That performance didn’t translate to Spokane (.263/.361/.387), but don’t worry yet. Mitch Moreland didn’t hit in Spokane, either. Bound for: Hickory.
66. JOSE FELIX (C, 20.8, low-A, Jamey’s #53) – Texas signed Felix out of the Mexican League last January, and the then-unknown 19-year-old ended up catching the majority of Clinton’s games. Like Manny Pina until 2008, his offensive game consists primarily of avoiding strikeouts, which only goes so far. He’s needs time to grow at the plate and behind it. Bound for: Hickory at the start (though I wrongly expected the same of Pina last year).
65. RICHARD BLEIER (LHP-starter, 22.0, short-season A, Jamey’s #62) – “Tall and left-handed” is a sure-fire way to make a prospect list. Texas drafted the 6’3” Bleier in last year’s 6th round from Florida Gulf Coast University. He proceeded to post decent, if not awe-inspiring, numbers in short-season Spokane. His extreme grounder tendencies will come in handy at the upper end of the minors. Bound for: Hickory.
64. MIKE BIANUCCI (COF, 22.8, short-season A, Jamey's #50) – Baseball America ranked Bianucci the #19 prospect in last summer’s Cape Cod League not long after he signed with Texas. Bianucci delivered contact, power and walks in college, and his debut in Spokane went well (.316/.386/.535) until ended by a broken wrist. He’s not going to win a Gold Glove. Bound for: Hickory.
Posted by Lucas at 11:28 AM
January 23, 2009
Hurley Dissected At Beyond The Box Score
Harry Pavlidis at Beyond The Box Score has used my PitchF/X-related posts from 2008 as a starting point for some very detailed analysis of Eric Hurley's early starts and awful, final start.
Check it out.
Posted by Lucas at 07:02 PM
January 11, 2009
First Take On Young Situation
In case you missed it...
1. I expected this to happen around January 2010, not now.
2. Here's what I wrote about Young a month ago for the upcoming Hardball Times Season Preview 2009. Consider it your sneak preview: "A broken finger and other nagging injuries resulted in six-year lows in average, OBP, and slugging percentage. He should rebound, but even if healthy, he’s not the .331/.385/.513-hitting marvel of 2005. In a strange coincidence, he won a Gold Glove just as discussion of a potential move to a less demanding position heated up. Young is popular, works tirelessly, leads by example and supplies intangibles by the bushel. Unfortunately, he’s also 32, not that far above-average at this point, and is just beginning a five-year, $80 million extension signed in 2007."
3. Elvis Andrus's Minor League Equivalency is .236/.279/.289. In terms of what that portends for 2009, I think that's pessimistic, but not by much. He's just 20, and his career line in full-season minor leagues is .272/.338/.357. 2008 was his best year for contact and his worst for walks and power. He could be worth 20 runs in the field and -20 at the plate in 2009.
4. Given the above paragraph, this situation indicates just how little Texas thinks of its internal options and the free-agent market at third, even as stopgaps. Or, it indicates how much Texas wants to get out from under (some of) Young's contract. Or some of each.
5. Being limited to about 35-40 players, I couldn't justify a Hardball Times entry for Elvis Andrus. Ah, well.
Posted by Lucas at 11:49 PM
January 10, 2009
Ranking Texas’s Top 72 Prospects, a/k/a Confirming Your Insanity In Writing
(Cross-posted from The Newberg Report)
Following the 2005 season, Jamey Newberg increased his list of Texas’s top prospects from 60 to 72. When he hired me to replace Mike Hindman in 2007, I decided to create my own list. It’s a bit of a fool’s errand, albeit an entertaining and hopefully informative one.
When ranking prospects, one can consider age, age relative to league/level, height, weight, handedness, current position, likely future position, tools, progress in developing those tools, statistical performance, intelligence, maturity, desire/tenacity, injuries, and other factors. Some of those attributes are concretely measurable, some inferable, and some complete unknowns. Then comes the issue of upside. Some prospects have a pretty good chance of drawing a consistent Major League paycheck but little chance of being an All-Star. Others have a better chance of being an All-Star but a much higher probability of flaming out in A-ball. Whom do you prefer?
Maintaining internal consistency is darn near impossible. Jamey generally ranks his players in terms of who he’d least prefer to be traded. That’s a good system, but even it breaks down for me eventually. I have a few players with limited upsides ranked ahead of some intriguing teenagers, because I think those in the former group are more likely to contribute marginally at the Major League level. But, I’d much rather trade one of them than the intriguing youngster with a 1-in-200 chance of catching fire.
So, why bother making a list? Because I like to see how my list compares to Jamey, to Baseball America, to Kevin Goldstein, to Jason Cole, to the folks at Baseball Time In Arlington, to Mike Hindman. Because it’s a way to test my knowledge and analysis, and to learn from mistakes. Because it’s fun.
Keep in mind that prospect values tend to decrease quickly and then flatten out as you move down the list. Here’s a hypothetical example of the relative talent/upside levels of a team’s prospects:
There’s a much bigger difference in trade value between #1 and #10 than between #40 and #70.
With all that said, I’m leading out with 28 players who didn’t make the Top 72. They aren’t ranked, and they aren’t necessarily prospects #73 through #100. They’re just more players who deserve a little of your attention in 2009.
I’ve included a guess of where they’ll begin 2009. Constructing potential rosters for the full-season teams isn’t especially difficult. For the pitchers, it’s tough bordering on impossible, the “downside” of having so much depth. Texas has about 60 slots available for the Rangers and its full-season teams, and at the moment I count 72 pitchers in-house with full-season experience. That doesn’t include hurlers from Spokane (or lower) who deserve promotions. Injuries and extended stays in Spring Training will ease the logjam to an extent, but the folks in charge still have some very tough decisions ahead.
Player ages are as of April 1, 2009. If Jamey had the player in his Top 72, it’s noted.
JUAN GRULLON (LHP, 19.1 years old, DSL) – Grullon’s last seven appearances: 19 innings, three earned runs, .155 batting average, 6 walks, 32 strikeouts. Bound for: Rookie ball in the US.
BEN HENRY (RHP, 20.0, low-A) – Henry is the guy who threw three scoreless innings with a 50% strikeouts rate. He’s also the guy who threw two wild pitches in five different outings. Still learning how to pitch. Bound for: Spokane.
MICHAEL KIRKMAN (LHP, 22.5, low-A) – Injuries in 2006-2007 limited Kirkman to 74 total innings. 74 extremely frustrating innings (22% walk rate, 22 wild pitches). Healthy at last, Kirkman got the ball over the plate and resumed showing the promise that made him Texas’s 5th-round pick in 2005. Bound for: Bakersfield.
ANYENIL MENDOZA (RHP, 20.3, DSL) – Dominican Summer League manager Jayce Tingler lauded Mendoza in an interview with Scout.com’s Jason Cole. Mendoza displayed pinpoint control and precision against righties (10-to-1 SO:BB ratio) while losing his aim against lefties (1.33-to-1). Bound for: Rookie ball.
TANNER ROARK (RHP, 22.5, high-A, Jamey’s #71) – Texas’s 25th-round selection handled a July promotion from rookie ball to high-A with aplomb. He struck out 27% of his Cal League opponents and maintained a 2.48 ERA until allowing four runs in his final appearance. On the downside, he allowed five homers in 30 innings. Bound for: Probably some more innings in Bakersfield.
GLENN SWANSON (LHP, 25.9, high-A, Jamey’s #59) – Drafted as a fifth-year senior, Swanson was already 23 when he made his pro debut. Then, Tommy John surgery in mid-2007 limited him to 53 innings last year. His command was as good as ever, but he allowed seven homers in 33 innings in Bakersfield. 2009 is a critical year for him. Bound for: Possibly a brief stint in Bakersfield again, followed by Frisco.
RYAN TATUSKO (RHP, 24.0, low-A) – Pitching much better now than in college, and better than his 4.46 ERA indicates. Peripherals improved significantly when converted from reliever to starter. Bound for: Likely Bakersfield, though a roster crunch could force him to Hickory for a while.
KENDY BATISTA (RHP, 27.7, AAA) – Despite his advanced age, Batista has a grand total of just 227 professional innings (excluding winter ball) because of a five-year gap in his career. A June arm injury ended his season. Batista began exhibiting control problems upon promotion to AA, and he’s fared no better in that respect this winter. Bound for: AA or AAA.
REINIER BERMUDEZ (RHP, 23.8, DSL, Jamey’s #72) – A little old for the Dominican League and a little short for a stormtrooper, Bermudez nonetheless made a name for himself by throwing mid-90s cheese and posting a 36% SO rate. Righties hit .092/.200/.147 against him. Bound for: Spokane or even Hickory.
CHRIS DENNIS (RHP, 25.2, high-A) – Dennis took an absolute beating in Bakersfield (17 baserunners allowed in 4.2 innings), then went scoreless in 30 of 39 appearances in Clinton. He also stranded 12 of 16 inherited runners. Bound for: Swimming or sinking in Bakersfield.
RYAN FALCON (LHP, 24.6, high-A) – Falcon doesn’t throw hard but has managed to strike out over a quarter of his opponents during the past two years while displaying impeccable control (5% BB rate). Bound for: Bakersfield or Frisco.
JUSTIN GUTSIE (RHP, 22.2, short-season A) – Gutsie’s fastball can touch 95, but results were mixed in Spokane. Lefties had his number (.341/.431/.455), righties cried in despair (.196/.283/.239). Bound for: Hickory.
MARK HAMBURGER (RHP, 22.2, low-A, Jamey’s #48) – The return for Eddie Guardado was quietly effective in Clinton after striking out 26% of Appy League opponents. Literally signed out of a tryout camp with the Twins. He features a nice fastball/slider combo. Bound for: Hickory or Bakersfield.
KEA KOMETANI (RHP, 26.3, AAA) – Fearsomely effective after converting to relief in ’07, Kometani became one of 2008’s big disappointments. His rate of homers allowed tripled, his strikeouts declined, his walks increased, and his ERA suffered the consequences. A nice rebound candidate. Bound for: Oklahoma City.
A.J. MURRAY (LHP, 27.0, MLB) – Amazingly, still a rookie as defined by Baseball America (under 50 MLB innings). Quite effective in AAA, hot and cold in the Majors. Perpetually injured, but don’t write him off just yet. Bound for: Oklahoma City if healthy.
RYAN SCHLECHT (RHP, 23.7, short-season A) – Schlecht offered arguably the best statistical performance in Spokane, striking out 26% of his opponents and holding them to a line of .181/.253/.215. In his last 43 batters faced, he walked none and struck out 13. Bound for: Hickory, though I wouldn’t be shocked if he debuted in Bakersfield.
RYAN TURNER (LHP, 24.1, low-A) – The soft-tossing lefty had the lowest Fielding-Independent Pitching score of any stateside Ranger. Turner didn’t surrender a homer in 68 innings and walked just one of every 23 batters. Righties hit him pretty hard (.298/.323/.420). Bound for: Bakersfield.
DOUG HOGAN (C, 24.5, short-season A) – A homer-hitting catcher who provided more raw power than John Mayberry, Ben Harrison and Chad Tracy (relative to their respective leagues). Alas, he also batted .225. Known for capable defensive skills, Hogan gunned down 36% of would-be stealers but allowed 16 passed balls. Bound for: Hickory, though it’s conceivable he could be a backup or job-sharer in Bakersfield.
EMERSON FROSTAD (C/1B/3B, 26.2, AAA, Jamey’s #68) – Frostad moved from catcher to first after 2006, then third to start 2008. By late June, when both Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez had moved on, Frostad resumed regular catching duties. He shot down a respectable one-third of potential base stealers after a layoff of over a year. Frostad started white-hot (.308/.378/.542 on May 10th) and finished cold (.230/.310/.349 thereafter). Bound for: Frisco or Oklahoma City in a multi-purpose role.
IAN GAC (1B, 23.6, high-A, Jamey’s #64) – Gac’s power has increased prodigiously over the years. He terrorized Hawaii in the winter of 2007 and was the Midwest League’s most feared hitter for two months, hitting 15 homers and reaching base at a .448 pace. Improvement in his batting eye continues to elude him. Upon promotion to Bakersfield, Gac hit another 13 homers but drew only 17 walks versus 96 strikeouts. Despite his still-young age, he’ll be a six-year free agent after 2009 unless protected on the 40-man roster. Bound for: Bakersfield (primarily as a DH if Justin Smoak is there) or Frisco.
EDWIN GARCIA (SS, 18.1, DSL) – Signed in 2007, the youngster showed impressive contact and patience in his pro debut. Bound for: Rookie ball in the US.
MIGUEL ALFONZO (COF, 20.9, low-A) – Alfonzo skipped Spokane after a solid US debut in rookie ball. Alfonzo struggles mightily with strikeouts (98 in 89 games) but did show a little more pop in the second half. Bound for: Probably Hickory, perhaps Bakersfield.
ERIC FRY (COF, 21.6, short-season A) – In terms of performance to date, Fry has been analogous to German Duran: not great at anything, but not bad at anything. He has some power upside. Bound for: Hickory.
BEN HARRISON (COF, 27.5, AAA, Jamey’s #61) – Harrison endured a miserable 2007 after suffering a shoulder injury the previous winter. In 2008 he resumed hitting as if the previous year hadn’t occurred. Harrison stood almost no chance of being taken in the Rule 5 draft, as too many free agents of similar age, position and caliber were available. Known more for power, he’s surprisingly Kinsler-esque on the bases (18 stolen and only two caught in ‘08). Bound for: A potentially crowded AAA outfield.
DUSTIN MAJEWSKI (OF/1B , 27.6, AA) – Okay, he’s 27 and has yet to reach AAA. He’s also able to play first or any outfield position while providing 10-15 homers and a .380 OBP. A sergeant among organizational soldiers. I’d praise him even if he’d gone to Texas A&M. Bound for: AA or AAA.
STEVEN MURPHY (COF, 24.9, AA, Jamey’s #65) – Murphy followed 2007’s power outage with a career-high 20 homers. The roadblock continues to be his batting eye. Bound for: Three-peating AA isn’t out of the question.
DAVID PAISANO (OF, 21.3, low-A, Jamey’s #66) – Paisano didn’t hit a lick in 2007 and was dropped last June from Clinton to Spokane, where he showed moderate improvement. In light of his formidable defensive skills, Texas likely will continue to be patient. Bound for: Hickory.
GUILLERMO PIMENTEL (OF, 19.4, DSL) – Gifted, raw youngster who hit .300/.440/.411 in the Dominican Republic. Bound for: Arizona.
Posted by Lucas at 02:06 PM
January 01, 2009
Texas signed reliever DERRICK TURNBOW to a minor-league contract.
Turnbow will receive $925,000 if he makes the team plus $325,000 in incentives. After doing little for Anaheim, he was selected off waivers by Milwaukee in October 2004 and proceeded to save 57 games over the next season-and-a-half. Since then, he's been pretty terrible. After a rough July 2006, Milwaukee relieved him off his closing duties by acquiring Francisco Cordero from Texas. Turnbow deserved better than the 4.63 ERA posted in '07, but in '08 he fell off a cliff. Turnbow was outrighted in May, went unclaimed, and toiled for AAA Nasville in order to retain his $3.2 million salary.
Here's Turnbow's line since July 1, 2006, including the minors:
Yes, Turnbow has walked or hit nearly one of every four batters faced during the past two-and-a-half years. Last year's rate was 36%. He also largely abandoned his breaking pitch (83% FB) and lost nearly three MPH off the velocity displayed during his heyday. That said, Turnbow may still be useful if he can pull his freebie rate out of the stratosphere. He generates plenty of ground balls and pop-ups (career .274 BABIP, .348 slugging percentage). Not a bad signing as long as his evaluators are clear-eyed and cold-blooded in assessing whether he has anything to offer.
Posted by Lucas at 06:14 PM