Thursday, December 23, 2004

J.D. Drew Walks

Two paraphrased statements:

Statement A: 5 years, $55 million for injury-prone J.D. Drew? DePodesta has lost his mind.

Statement B: How could DePodesta only offer Beltre $10 million per? That's crazy for a young player in his prime who is MVP-caliber.

There's a lot of people who have more or less made both of the above arguments. I just don't see how that's possible.

J.D. Drew has major injury issues. He's missed a lot of games in his career due to injury. Last year that didn't happen, and his in-season trend was positive (8 of the 17 games he missed were before May7, and most of the rest were in late September when the Braves were resting their players).

Adrian Beltre has major effectiveness concerns. He's been unproductive a lot in his career. Last year that didn't happen, and his in-season trend was positive (his only non-outstanding month was in May).

Why does Drew's history of losing time to injury make him a terrible risk while Beltre's history of not being very good is easy to overlook? Why is one a corner which can be neatly turned in the span of a season while the other isn't?

If Drew misses a lot of time to injury while Beltre continues to play as he did in 2004, then Beltre is obviously the better deal. But if Drew stays healthy while Beltre reverts to his 2001-2003 self, then Drew is obviously the better deal. But if Drew and Beltre both repeat their 2004's Beltre only has a slight edge and if Drew continues his injury problems while Beltre regresses then Drew has a slight edge.

Consider this: despite missing a lot of time to injuries, Drew produced more runs above replacement than Beltre in each season from 2001-2003. Moreover, if you're going to take your chances on a risky player, it's a lot better to do it in the outfield where decent fill-ins are more readily available than in the infield.

I won't try to speculate on what Drew's injury chances are. Will Carroll indicated there was reason for optimism, and he gave a yellow-light to both Drew and Beltre. However, Beltre's still a player who doesn't walk much and whose success in 2004 came mainly from converting strikeouts into home runs. As I've written extensively before, there aren't really any seasons that compare to Beltre's 2004, and the only one that looks pretty close - Rico Petrocelli's in 1969 - proved to be a fluke. In the end, I like Beltre's chances going forward, but he's still a large risk. Drew, on the other hand, has seen his offensive segments stay pretty consistent over the years with the two changes being that in 2002 he struck out a lot and in 2004 he drew a ridiculous amount of unintentional walks. Everything I've learned about baseball leads me to believe that the odds of a player repeating a sudden spike in walks are much higher than the odds of a player repeating a sudden spike in home runs.

The point is, two players with shaky performance records were signed to expensive long-term deals, and there's no reason to assume that the success of each in 2004 only alters the prognosis for one of them.

A lot of people are criticizing DePodesta for not coming through with big deals. That's just bitter rationalizing combined with selective sampling. Jeff Kent and and J.D. Drew and the Penny/Choi trade don't count, but Adrian Beltre and the two unfulfilled Diamondbacks trades do? I really don't get why DePodesta should be tarred and feathered for not offering more than he was willing to offer. I don't think DePodesta has done a perfect job as a general manager, but I can't point to anyone else who has either. And if Peter Gammons' account is correct, I think anyone castigating DePodesta for pulling out of this trade is either a jerk or clueless.

I don't like being characterized as a "DePodesta apologist." Simply stated, I think baseball analysis is both easier and insightful when you empathize with the actors involved rather than blindly criticizing them. If you take the time to figure out why a decision was made, you can then evaluate both the goals the decision sought to address as well as how effective the decision should be in accomplishing those goals. I'm not trying to apologize for DePodesta. I'm trying to cut through the veil of opaque quotations, planted rumors, and entrenched reputations that the media provides us in order to look at the purpose of the moves that baseball teams make and how effective those moves are. How successful I am in doing this is subject to a number of limitations, but I'd like to think that examination of evidence is a much better way to go about this than reacting based on one's gut.

Comments:
Though you may not consider yourself an apologist for him, you have yet to criticize a move of his, barring your throwing up your hands that the future is hard to predict. This is the third injury prone Georgian we've given a multi-year contract to. Won't we ever learn?

Yes Drew has had a better career than Beltre, but it's close. He's also THREE YEARS OLDER. We would assume, following the normal progression of an athlete, that he would be better at this point. The fact that he is injury prone, past his prime, and more aged than Beltre points to a worse chance of success than Beltre. Having knees that bother you, with a diseased patella is a far worse injury than mere bone spurs, and an accidental appendicitis. It means a terminal condition. And now he wants to move other players around in the outfield. We got ourselves a winner.
 
1) It's possible to argue (as some of the M's bloggers have done) that Beltre suffered from side effects of the 2001 appendectomy year through the 2003 season. I'm not sure that's reasonable, but one clue we do have is his walk rate is still very low.

2) Drew has a history of injuries and is older. Beltre has a history of playing hurt, still being effective, and is three years younger.

Argue if you want that Beltre just had himself a career year in a career full of all-too-frequently unfulfilled promise. I can see that; so did Joe Sheehan.

As to Kent not counting -- good grief, the man is going to be 37 on opening day. He's an injury -- or just plain old age -- waiting to happen. PECOTA shows him to be a 1-2 win player over the rest of his career. Penny/Choi doesn't count because neither of those players have made any significant contributions to the team -- and given the Drew signing, Choi now amounts to tradebait. (And that's even admitting I liked the trade at the time.) Who's being selective now?
 
Rick,

On what planet is 29 past one's prime? Last time I checked, the best player in baseball (even if he is a cheater) was 40.
 
Rob,

Just because Green may play first this season certainly doesn't mean that Choi has to be trade bait. He's getting paid next to nothing (relatively speaking, of course) and can be an adequate back-up/LH pinch-hitter.

With Drew, Werth, Bradley, and Green out there (all guys who've had injuries in the past), he'll likely be needed to start some games at some point. If he does well this season, the job is his next year.
 
Icaros -- re your first comment: I never said he's past his prime at 29. But that literal caveat aside, I seem to recall James did a study indicating most players peak before 30, not in their early 30's as seems to be the received wisdom. This does not account for outliers like Bonds.

As to Choi -- yes, that could happen, but depth at first doesn't strike me as a Dodgers priority, unless said depth can mash. Choi has had nice half seasons but nothing consistent and certainly none in Dodger blue. The jury's out; and DePo, who seems to have an itchy trade finger, needs pitching a lot more than he does another player full of potential.
 
Icaros -- oops, sorry, just realized that first comment was directed at Rick.
 
Icaros you don't understand stats do you? Bonds is the exception to the rule. Most athletes in baseball peak around 27.
 
Rick,

You don't seem to understand much at all, sadly.

If Bonds is the exception to the rule, an exception would have to made for Moises Alou as well, correct? He had a career year (one of his best, anyway) last year at 37.

What about Steve Finley last season? He had a career high HR total at 39.

We don't even need to mention pitchers like Clemens, Schilling, and RJ, who are still the best in the game in their 40s.

Where are the stats that I don't understand? Oh wait, you're just talking out of your ass again. Sorry.
 
Icaros those are exceptions to the rule. Troy Glaus, Shawn Green, Alex Cora, Paul Lo Duca, there are hundreds more players who peaked before age 30. Learn stats. I recommend Bill James Historical Abstract as a start.
 
Also Mike Piazza, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, and the vast majority of full time major league players. The players you named are a very small minority, and in the case of Barry Bonds, used steroids as an aide. Think before you speak.
 
Rick,

I think quite a bit before I speak (or write), thank you. Let's try to keep things civil for the hoildays, shall we? I assume we're both Dodgers fans.

I apologize for the offense toward you in my previous post.

As for the age argument, I think with modern medicine (not including illegal steroids), advances in surgical practice, and an increased focus on physical training for most of today's athletes (not including David Wells--who's still going, somehow), the days of the late 30s/early 40s impact player are becoming more normal than exceptional.

A few of the players you listed are from an era long ago, back when most players had day jobs in the offseason. I remember just 10-15 years ago when major arm surgery meant that a pitcher would come back a shell of his former self (Orel Hershiser, Frank Tanana, etc.). Today, guys come back throwing as hard as they did before surgery (Kerry Wood).

Do you really think Drew won't produce because he's 29? Beltre will be 29 before his contract with Seattle is up. Does that mean he'll only be an effective player for the beginning of his contract?

Drew will be 33 when his new contract is up. I think if you look, you will find many players in the modern era who are having excellent seasons in their early 30s.
 
I like to leave a little “wisdom” to jolt your into thinking about goals you may have set over the past few years, months and days, after a good blog read.

Not earth shattering by any means, and you have read this before, but have you
actually practiced it lately?

You know – gnitteS laoG

Jot down a few new ones today or visit a few old ones that would make you a better person, better business person or a better provider.

I dare you!

Today’s tidbit…

There is a difference in setting your goals and setting them effectively. Anyone can set a goal, but doing it effectively means that it will actually get done.

There are so many things that you can do to better your life, but if you don't know how to go about it you are stuck.

The following guidelines will help you to set effective goals and help you manage your time in an efficient manner that will cause those goals to become reality.

State each goal as a positive statement

Express your goals in a positive way. That is a key component to setting goals that you can attain.

How often have you been excited to accomplish a goal that didn't even sound good when you brought it up? If you are not comfortable or happy with the goals that you have set, the likelihood of you succeeding is pretty low.

If you want to express your goals in a positive way, you simply have to first think of a goal that puts a smile on your face when you imagine it completed. Why would you want to set a goal that made you frown, cringe or cry?

When you are beginning to set your goals it helps when you are talking about them to others in a manner that states your actions as positives because it will have others seeing it as a positive as well.

That will garner you a great deal more support. In the end, don't we all need a little support when we are trying to do something positive in our lives?

Be precise

Set a precise goal that includes starting dates, times and amounts so that you can properly measure your achievement.

If you do this, you will know exactly when you have achieved the goal, and can take complete satisfaction from having achieved it.

Being precise in setting your goals is no more than setting them with exact details. It is easier this way because then you can follow a step-by-step format. That's all there is to it.

Set priorities

When you have several goals, give each a specific priority. This helps you to avoid feeling overwhelmed by too many goals, and helps to direct your attention to the most important ones and follow each in succession. Setting priorities will force you into the step-by-step format above.

By doing the most important first and moving to the least important in succession, you are enabling each task to be easier than the last. It causes the accomplishment of each task to get easier and easier which will encourage you to complete your goal.

There’s a few more “tidbits” for you at effective goals

Enjoy your day – And have a GREAT one!
 
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