Saturday, December 18, 2004

The Apocalypse Nears!

Let's play the match game:

Actual 2004 Stats
Reliever A: 144 ERA+, 4.71 FIP, .168 LD%
Reliever B: 167 ERA+, 3.59 FIP, .195 LD%
Reliever C: 110 ERA+, 4.30 FIP, .162 LD%

2005 ZiPS Projections
Reliever A: 132 ERA+, 3.50 FIP
Reliever B: 116 ERA+, 3.51 FIP
Reliever C: 109 ERA+, 3.76 FIP

And while I'm at it, let me throw in a couple more:
Reliever D: 160 ERA+, 3.47 FIP
Reliever E: 140 ERA+, 3.29 FIP

And keep in mind, when looking at those FIP's, that Relievers A, C, D, and E all pitch in parks that heavily increase offense in general and home runs in particular while Reliever B pitched in a park that in 2004 substantially reduced the number of walks issued (and all of the ZiPS projections are based on them remaining in those ballparks).

None of them is head and shoulders above the others.

Reliever B is prodigal son Yhency Brazoban in 2004. Relievers A and C are former prodigal sons Damaso Marte and Mike Koplove, respectively. Reliever D is Koplove's career prior to 2004 and Reliever E is Marte's career prior to 2004; Koplove is 28 and Marte turns 30 in February.

It's possible that Brazoban will soon become a dominant major league pitcher. But he also walked 4 batters per 9 innings in AA this season. He should be a productive reliever for years to come, but so should Koplove and Marte. Moreover, Koplove and Marte are both coming off of seasons where they underperformed expectations, and they both had dominant seasons in 2003. Even though there's reason to believe that the true performance level of each is higher than what they did in 2004, both are apparently not thought of highly by their current team. Meanwhile, because of the circumstances surrounding Brazoban's call-up, as well as some luck and outstanding fielding behind him, he's being hailed as the next sliced bread.

Now, I don't know about you, but I think the notion of buying low and selling high has some currency. There is a lot of frustration being expressed by Dodgers fans right now that the team is making moves for the future at the expense of the present, but the sentiment toward trading Brazoban is overwhelmingly negative. These sentiments are difficult to reconcile in the face of objective analysis; Brazoban's value relative to the others lies mainly in his upside, not in his immediate impact. Brazoban looks, to me, like an overvalued commodity while Marte and Koplove look like undervalued commodities.

Again, I'm not saying that the proposed trades are all roses. But the simple truth remains that one must trade talent in order to receive talent, and it's very unlikely that Paul DePodesta is acquiescing to trades without studying their ramifications. The very fact that the proposed trades appear, at first glance, to be to the detriment of the Dodgers is, to me, evidence of their intelligence (evidence, not proof). If a trade looks one-sided, it is probably because the common sense understandings of the value of the different players involved are inaccurate in light of the actual data.

This cuts both ways, of course: if you realize that a player's perceived value outstrips the player's actual value, you may begin to undervalue the player. That's certainly something to consider, and it is a criticism which has merit in light of the Lo Duca trade. That being said, if your gut reaction is that something looks bad, that doesn't mean it is bad and it might indicate it's actually very good. In any event, it certainly doesn't mean that you should toss your hands up in disbelief, refuse to even look up the relevant data, cancel season tickets, and take your ball and go home.

And one more thing: anybody who calls Dioner Navarro and Eric Duncan "a couple of minor-leaguers" or says they're "overhyped Yankees prospects" looks pretty silly in my book. C'mon, folks, these aren't kids who are inflated by the Yankee hype machine and impressionable scouts filing overexcited reports, this is a catcher who hit .341/.388/.471 in AA at 19 years old and a third baseman who placed 18th among minor league hitters according to the Future DT's. If anything, I would argue that, by virtue of being in the Yankees system and all the attendant baggage that brings, they are more likely to be undervalued. This is especially true of Navarro, who's already being treated as if he were a failed prospect by virtue of one disappointing season playing against much older competition - he was 20 last season and split it between AA and AAA. Navarro might not have very good sceondary skills offensively, but neither did Paul Lo Duca and y'all liked him just fine.

Comments:
While I love Dodger thoughts your stuff is the best. Keep it coming.
I don't beleive the White Sox are going to flip Konerko/Marte/Garland for Vazquez but I'm glad we'll be getting Koplove and all were adding to the deal is Weeeden.
Let's get this 1st deal done and move on.
Arizona is taking on so much risk this year.
Glaus-Shoulder/10 Mill
Green - Shoulder/16 Mill and whatever he gets in an extension
Penny- nerve damage-arbitration
 
I too enjoy your site.... I am not a stats guy but I don't feel unwelcome here.... Regarding Marte, I have seen him quite often when he was in the Mariner system in Tacoma and even a little bit in Seattle... He has great stuff but he can be very wild at the most inopportune times... He is not a guy I would want to rely on in a tight spot... I saw Konerko when he played in the minors for the Dodgers.... He played third and the outfield.... If the Dodgers can get him I would have him play third... If Choi does not hit, he could always be moved to first later... An infield of Konerko at third, Valentin at short and Kent at second would be a major step down defensively from Beltre, Izturis and Cora.... I would be willing to wager though that Konerko, Valentin and Kent would provide more power than the Beltre, Izturis and Cora combination of 2004... Also, Konerko, Valentin and Kent are very slow baserunners...

Stan
 
Great site. A breath of fresh air. I'm with Molokai! One thing that has yet to be definitively cleared up though, is whether, in fact DePo extended a competitive offer to Beltre. I've heard $60mln/6 years from the Beltre side to $70mln/6 yrs. The first, clearly would not be competitive and could be classified as a lowball offer. The second, though inferior, is at least in the ballpark.

Re the relievers- my thoughts exactly. But you say it so much better. I'm all for the 3 and 4 way proposed blockbuster. What would you pay Drew? Also, like previous commenter, I think ideally, we'd see Konerko playing 1st with a productive Valentin at 3rd. But if Choi starts producing, I think Konerko at 3rd makes some sense.
 
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