Monday, January 03, 2005

Is This Malaise?

Arrgh! Not another damned meta-post! Why are bloggers so self-important?

My research to writing ratio has been at an all-time high recently. I don't think I've done much other than researching players and reading (and re-reading) older sabermetric work over the past few days. The thing is, I keep finding answers to the small questions but keep begging the bigger questions. For instance, I thought my Ishii finding about his platoon splits was remarkable, and it represented perhaps the high-point of my blogging career. I have no idea why that is, and it doesn't appear that anyone else has the same opinion. But all my finding did was leave me wondering: can starting pitcher's have completely different approaches against different kinds of batters, a la Mike Myers, or is my analysis a pipe dream in terms of practical application? And of course, I still hadn't answered the question that matters the most, posed by DodgerRoger in the comments: what does that mean overall for the Dodgers and their allocation of resources?

These questions chased around, and combined with countless other questions, all of which I've investigated at length. And there's a sense in which I still feel frustrated, because inherent in the choice of the presentation of the data as well as the summary and conclusion of the data are contextual starting points, and the "master plan" of DePodesta and company gets more opaque every moment. One moment I'm wondering why it's so chic to overlook that J.D. Drew and Adrian Beltre occupy the same part of the defensive spectrum, the next I'm wondering why the common sense understanding seems to be that Dodger Stadium helps groundball pitchers, the next I'm wondering if there's any reason to believe the Derek Lowe rumors that for no apparent reason refuse to die, and the next I'm running a bunch of different simulations on how many runs the Dodgers will score in 2005 while debating with myself for hours over what constants to plug in for Jose Valentin.

And I've reached a significant insight. It's much more important to me to come to a useful conclusion than it is to choose a conclusion, even while it's also very important to me to avoid thinking along the lines of "I guess we just don't know." As such, I'm very prone to doing a lot of work that doesn't come to fruition, and I'm very prone to doing a lot of analysis geared toward disrupting errant assumptions rather than putting forth "my take." So if you want my take on the latest move at any given time, it could be awhile, and I hope that's something you're willing to endure if you get a kick out of what I do. In the meantime, however, you can expect me to post some ideas.

Here's an example. I wrote "Articulation of the Big Trade," which fit into my paradigm of doing things geared toward coming up with a different way to view a problem/situation than with defending the absolute merits of it. When I wrote that, I wasn't really arguing that the proposed trade would have been a good thing (though that's apparently the overwhelming impression I gave and my analysis was without question geared toward defusing the many poor assumptions I saw being used to argue against the trade) because I conseidered it too dependant on a ton of other things - a J.D. Drew signing, yes, but also coming to an understanding of the relative value of winning in 2005 and a myriad of similar issues. I probably came off as arguing strongly in favor of the trade, which is my fault.

But it didn't stop there. Now, I think Rob McMillin is an excellent blogger, but his analysis of that trade was as offensive to me as a Myrow/Saenz platoon at third base ever could have been to him. I mean, to me the notion of using year-old PECOTA projections as one's primary source of data is amazingly objectionable. That doesn't mean it's wrong, but it does mean that it was very difficult for me to take his arguments seriously. So I got out my torches and rallied the townspeople, looked up Dr. Frankenstein's address on mapquest, and got ready to bring it. But the more I wrote, the less comfortable I felt writing, not because I felt I was wrong but because I sensed that I was looking at the data to find the things that matched up with what I wanted to say, and even though I looked for everything and tried to balance the arguments to evaluate them I still couldn't eliminate the bias, and that was the vary same trait that I had gotten me so riled up about Rob's write-up. There's a line between opinion and analysis, and though I'm not sure how fine that line is I know I was too close to encroachment for my comfort. I will try my best not to do that.

Fundamentally, if you want Dodgers news this ain't the place for you. What I think the Fourth Outfielder is about, fundamentally, is the search for those things that are not readily apparent about the Los Angeles Dodgers and the application of that knowledge. If that interests you, pull up a chair, because I'd love to share what I come up with with as many folks as possible. Right now, I've got a lot of material, and it will eventually get refined into something you can use and enjoy.

With that in mind, I want to point out something that's been on my mind for quite some time, which I hope provides whomsoever is reading with a better understanding of the Dodgers' plans. If you're reading this, you're probably aware that every December baseball has what's called the Rule 5 Draft. Any player who has a certain amount of service time - 3-4 years, depending on the age at which the player was signed - is eligible to be drafted by another team if that player is not on the 40-man roster of the organization that owns her/his rights. Now that I've told you that, care to take a guess what this next list of player's represents?

Joel Guzman
James Loney
Greg Miller
Jonathon Broxton
Andy LaRoche
Michael Megrew
Zachary Hammes
Matthew Kemp
Brett Dowdy
Jamaal Hamilton

Those are players who would be first-time eligible for the Rule 5 Draft next season. There are, of course, more, but those are the ones I could easily think of who figure to be have a shot of sticking around if drafted. Now, maybe those last four guys don't profile as impact players, but there's a lot to like about each of those first six names, and I can't conceive of any of them being made available in the Rule 5 Draft. Now the Dodgers are on the cusp of acquiring Dioner Navarro and William Suarez, both of whom would have to be protected on the 40-man roster (as would Marcos Carvajal and Matt Merricks, if they're returned, and they would belong on the above list). Minor league players aren't an atemporal commodity; the Dodgers farm system would probably be the consensus pick as strongest in the mid-minors right now, and that depth can't just be held on to until it reaches the majors. And while I would expect to see maybe one of those players as a regular in 2006, it's unlikely that more than one or two of them could be regular contributors at that point and to force them into backup roles would be a waste of development time and would start their service clocks earlier than necessary.

So the Dodgers have a ticking clock on these player's development at the same time that their only potential free agents for 2004 are Jose Valentin, Jeff Weaver, and Darren Dreifort as well as Elmer Dessens and Kaz Ishii, each of whom has a club option. As currently constituted, there's not a whole lot of chaff on the Dodgers' 40-man roster. That means that three things can happen: 1. Valuable players will either be cut, lost in the rule 5, or promoted in ways that minimize their value. 2. Further along prospects will be traded for younger prospects with less service time. 3. Dodgers prospects will be traded for major leaguers.

My feeling is that the third option is both the most likely option and the most valuable option. Keep that in mind when wondering what the Dodgers next move after trading Green will be.

***

One more note: I don't know when it happened, but at some point Jay Jaffe of Futility Infielder added a link to me on his sidebar. Jay's been one of my favorite bloggers since the time I started reading baseball blogs; a link to his blog has been on this site since the beginning, and the name of his blog was the main inspiration for the name of this one. Consider me very much honored to have been linked to, and I urge anyone who enjoys this blog to check out Jay's site. His JAWS system for analyzing Hall of Fame candidacy is an excellent one, and I highly recommend that anyone scratching their head tomorrow when the final results come out checks out the work he's done.

Comments:
Tom, you remind me of...Paul DePodesta in Moneyball. If he's smart he'll offer you a job and the Dodgers will be the richer and we the poorer. Great stuff! I hadn't considered the rule 5 possibilities. But like you, I've got to believe DePo is gonna cash in some combination of minor league pitchers/3B for a big league arm at loggerheads with his team over a contract. Possibilities I've heard include AJ Burnett, Oliver Perez but I'm sure there are others. Although, does the team actually need to call up a player for him to be on 40 man roster? If not, then it seems your top 6 should be included no problem.
 
Regular reader and enjoyer; rare commenter. Keep it up!
-- sam
 
using year-old PECOTA projections as one's primary source of data is amazingly objectionableUntil BP publishes the 2005 numbers, it is what we have; and for various reasons, I like it better than ZiPS.
 
BTW, the Anon above was me.
 
fantastic job as usual.
 
thanks for the insight into your methodology/raison d'etre of the blog.

"So the Dodgers have a ticking clock on these player's development at the same time that their only potential free agents for 2004 are Jose Valentin, Jeff Weaver, and Darren Dreifort as well as Elmer Dessens and Kaz Ishii, each of whom has a club option. As currently constituted, there's not a whole lot of chaff on the Dodgers' 40-man roster. That means that three things can happen: 1. Valuable players will either be cut, lost in the rule 5, or promoted in ways that minimize their value. 2. Further along prospects will be traded for younger prospects with less service time. 3. Dodgers prospects will be traded for major leaguers.

My feeling is that the third option is both the most likely option and the most valuable option. Keep that in mind when wondering what the Dodgers next move after trading Green will be."

One thing that should be elaborated on (upon?) is how this works out in the context of budget (aka "limited resources"). I've noticed that lately, a lot of teams are willing to "pay for" prospects... as in, they will trade you a player AND pay for part of his contract in exchange for a prospect or two. Do you see this trend continuing? Also, how does this year's profligacy play into DePo's plans? I personally think that a lot of this year's big spenders *coughmarinerscough* will find themselves sellers at midseason. I wonder (hope) if DePo is hording prospects in anticipation of, say the Mets no longer wanting to pay Beltran, etc., or is this just random?
 
I'm so glad I found this blog. It's great because it combines Sabermetrics and the Dodgers, two of my favorite things. It's like a Dodger blog for baseball nerds. Keep up the good work!

(however, if you ever say something along the lines of "Wow, Simer's really hit the nail on the head!" I'm leaving.)

here's some other possible ideas to explore:
1. how will the decrease in foul territory effect the park factor?
I'm not sure exactly what amount of foul territory we've lost and if there is a comparable park in terms of foul territory, but I'd speculate that: AVG, OBP, SLG all go up, doubles and triples go up marginally. I think playing in a more neutral park may take away a bit of a homefield advantage but probably helps our team overall. We should certainly be more balanced.

2. Is it better to spread your resources like the dodgers and have 6 or 7 guys that can get on base and hit 20-30 dingers or have a couple power guys like the giants.
I speculate there has already been work done on this.

3. How much will Lowe benefit by playing in dodger stadium with our defense behind him? His DIPS is not bad, but I'd imagine Lowe would THRIVE here. He doesn't give up homers and DS hurts doubles and triples. The defense behind him last year was lousy. He walks too many tho.
still, I bet there is a way to refine pitching projections based on the park a pitcher pitches half his games in and accounting for the actual defense behind him. If such and analysis is possible, then you could sign Lowe to a longer term deal and trade him off after building his value up.
 
The Dodgers have changed out virtually all of their infield over the last year, save Izturis. Will the D be nearly as good? I don't know, but I'll definitely want to see it in action before judging its quality. Kent won't be as much of a dropoff as you might think -- in fact, maybe even an improvement -- but I haven't looked at Valentin.
 
How in the world can Kemp and LaRoche be on that list ? They were just drafted in 2003. Guzman and Loney ? Are you serious, they will be on the 25 man roster before the rule 5 draft of 2005 comes around. Hell after the 2004 season Guzman had, how can you have him on that list ? Greg Miller ? What the hell, if the Dodgers will protect Kuo,Chen and guys like that I don't think Miller or any one on your so called list will be given up on any time soon.
 
Kemp and LaRoche were over nineteen when drafted; that means they're eligible for the third Rule 5 Draft after they're drafted-- 2003, 2004, 20005. Maybe you're right that all of those guys will be ready for regular action in 2006, but none of them has stepped foot in AAA yet so I'm not holding my breath. My point wasn't that the Dodgers won't protect them; I think they will. My point is that there will need to be room for them, and there's only 15 slots to protect at any given time, and some of those slots have to be given to players who can be called up as injury replacements.
 
I am very interested in watching kent and valentin field next year. According to UZR (ultimate zone rating) kent was the top 2b and valentin was the top SS.
 
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