I’m not saying we could save you. But we could put you in a place where you could save yourself.
The Hold Steady
Following the first prolonged in season work stoppage in 1981 the off-season was highlighted by a plethora of signings that shook the baseball world, these include Reggie Jackson and George Foster signing with the Angels and the Mets. Throughout the game mumblings of dismay were heard from executives.
“The ever-increasing salaries are like lava coming down a mountain at us, It’s the worst salary explosion we’ve had. At some point things have to blow apart.”
I see an instinct for constraint(amongst the owners) but, we seem incapable of executing it.
A’s owner Roy Eisenhardt
This past week (a full 26 years since 1982) the Cubs signed outfielder Alfonso Soriano, to a eight-year, $136 million contract. They’ve spent $230.5 million this off-season on six players. The Soriano contract was the 5th biggest contract in MLB history. Oddly enough it was the same Cubs franchise that made the first big money move in National League history when they sold King Kelly to the Boston Beaneaters on Valentines Day 1887 for $10,000, this figure so astounded the world that he was often refer to as $10,000 Kelly.
Ten Thousand bucks in 1887 was a lot of jack, more then most folks could even fathom, in today’s world, in 1887 10K would be worth $211,822.13 which can’t even by you a AAAA type outfielder. As the Reds recent Bubba Crosby more or less proves.
Also on the radar is Houston, who signed outfielder Carlos Lee, to a six-year, $100 million contract. It was the biggest contract in Astros history. Also floating out there, and ready for a beating that would make a Piñata blush is the Dodgers inking of Juan Pierre to a 5 year 44 million dollar contract.
The fear that the game is spending crazy certainly is something that is not new by any means, as evidenced by the aforementioned Kelly incident as well as the quotes from the late Dick Wagner. So lets dig into some of these signings and see what type of players just got inked to contracts that might prove to be of value or perhaps the complete opposite.
Of course we have to start off with Soriano, an enigmatic player who posses speed, power and durability. Coming off a career season at the age of 30 Alphonso is poised to make 16 million dollars a year for the next 8 years, finishing up at the age of 39. To enrich the contract there is talk of moving Soriano to center field, stay tuned is all I can say regarding that subject. I think it’s best what Christina Kahrl wrote:
In the end, I think what you see is what you get-the problem is that even if you call him a center fielder and he eventually becomes one, is he going to hit well enough over eight years to justify the money, and there, the answer’s pretty much an automatic “not bloody likely.”
Why isn’t it likely? Some would say maybe he’s changed, others would retort, look at history. So lets look at where he stands with his peers historically. For his career Soriano has 3902 at bats and a batting line of .280/.325/.510/.836 with a RC/27 of 6.03.
Last season in 728 trips to the plate he had a line that looked like this: .277/.351/.560/.911 and a RC/27 of 7.06.
To see where he stands (and who he stands with) after inking an 8-year deal let’s look at the guys with similar rate numbers since 1900, we’ll filter out the guys over 30.
AVERAGE BETWEEN .275 AND .295
OBA <= .330 SLG <= .520
RUNS CREATED/GAME RC/G AVG OBA SLG Alfonso Soriano 6.03 .280 .325 .510 Andre Dawson 5.45 .279 .324 .476 George Bell 5.44 .286 .325 .486 Lee May 5.25 .275 .323 .489 Bill Bradley 5.11 .283 .328 .394 Garry Maddox 5.01 .289 .325 .425 George Hendrick 5.00 .279 .329 .453 Mickey Rivers 4.87 .291 .327 .398 Les Mann 4.78 .280 .329 .396 Willie McGee 4.74 .292 .325 .405 Brooks Robinson 4.69 .280 .330 .424 Chris Chambliss 4.67 .282 .328 .411 Claudell Washington 4.67 .279 .327 .420 Eric McNair 4.63 .281 .324 .402 Al Cowens 4.55 .277 .328 .403 Hal Chase 4.47 .284 .312 .364 Larry Herndon 4.41 .278 .323 .411 Rube Oldring 4.30 .276 .311 .371 Joe Dugan 4.11 .280 .316 .371 Lee Magee 4.10 .276 .325 .350
That’s the top twenty, one Hall of Famer, and his glove was a big part of that journey. Other notables are Dawson, Bell, Maddox, May and George Hendrix and a slew of other centerfielders (there’s that position mentioned again) One thing to note is that if I remember right Hendrix is the guy responsible for the low pants craze that owns the style of the major league game at this moment.
But back to the list, oddly enough both leagues 1987 MVP’s are on the list, right below Alphonso. Dawson came to the dish 10,769 times in his career, making an out 70.76% of the time and walking every 18.28 times he came to the plate. In 1987 he walked 32 times for a rate of 1 every 20.7 pa’s. He also had a on base percentage of .328, he however had 137 RBI’s and the adulation of the press and fans.
Meanwhile over in Toronto George Bell was walking every 17 time he came to the plate, lucky for him he was hitting .308 with a slugging percentage over .600. For his career he walked every 20 trips to the plate. Bell’s OPS would drop over 200 points in 1988 and Dawson’s 46.
Prior to becoming a NL player Soriano averaged a walk every 22 at bats, a rate worse then either Bells or Dawson’s. In 2006 r he averaged one every 11 trips to the plate, however 26% of these were intentional, pushing the rate for non intentional walks up to 1 every 16 trips to the plate, making Soriano more dependent on lifting his game with his batting average. For his career he now stands at a walk every 19 PA’s. For the next 8 years he’ll belong to the Cubs. If he produces just his career averages then he will be a member of this group. This will be with a minimum 3500 ab’s
AGE > 30 AVERAGE BETWEEN .270 AND .290 OBA < .330 SLG <= .520 RUNS CREATED/GAME RC/G AVG OBA SLG Jimmy Collins 5.29 .285 .327 .396 Andre Dawson 5.25 .279 .322 .489 Willie Davis 4.81 .288 .316 .425 Felipe Alou 4.72 .288 .328 .412 Elston Howard 4.68 .272 .324 .422 Cal Ripken 4.68 .271 .329 .424 Dave Parker 4.67 .274 .323 .442 Al Dark 4.59 .285 .326 .402 Bill Buckner 4.47 .282 .317 .413 Steve Garvey 4.30 .282 .314 .420
If you narrow the search to only outfielders it will churn out only Parker, Davis and Andre. If Soriano continues with his norms can he capture the Cubs fans hearts like Dawson did? One thing is for sure the Cubs are paying for the match with the last Soriano season, not his career norms.
AVERAGE BETWEEN .270 AND .290 OBA < .355 SLG <= .570 RUNS CREATED/GAME RC/G AVG OBA SLG Dave Winfield 5.78 .286 .354 .485 Andre Dawson 5.52 .283 .327 .498 Robin Yount 5.52 .283 .353 .430 Brian Jordan 5.38 .283 .336 .458 B.J. Surhoff 5.32 .287 .336 .442 Ben Oglivie 5.29 .272 .341 .446 Ken Griffey Sr. 5.16 .286 .344 .423 Devon White 5.16 .272 .331 .435 Dave Parker 4.94 .280 .330 .458 Bill Bruton 4.81 .274 .334 .402
What's the difference between hall of fame player Dave Winfield and on the cusper Andrea Dawson? Aside from good knees I'd bet it's the fact that Dave could coax a few more walks out of his career, his walk rate of 1 every 10 PA's pushed his lifetime on base average up above .350 while Dawson's lingered under .330. So for the next eight seasons I'll be keeping an eye out on Soriano and his walk rates, because they're the barometer to a big part of his success, and his 16 million bucks a year.
On to Juan Pierre, 5 years and 44 million bucks, that's a lot of cash in today's game for a player .57 below the league average in slugging percentage, especially if you are not Max Bishop. Pierre is an anomaly in today's game he's a clone of the Astro turf era center fielder, one built for speed only. He also comps out with very few players and his best comp is with a man who last played the game when whites only was the credo and getting any outright moronic payments for your services like the one just handed to Juan by Ned Colleti was deemed utterly impossible.
AGE <= 28
AVERAGE >= .290
OBA BETWEEN .345 AND .355
SLG BETWEEN .365 AND .395
STOLEN BASES >= 15 vs. the league average
RUNS CREATED/GAME RC/G AVG OBA SLG SB George Case 5.14 .290 .348 .370 233 Juan Pierre 4.97 .303 .350 .377 257 Darryl Hamilton 4.93 .297 .353 .384 63 Carson Bigbee 4.77 .292 .349 .377 70 Jigger Statz 4.72 .293 .347 .385 26 Nellie Fox 4.72 .294 .350 .375 17
If you turn the age from below 28 to above you get a shorter list, one that is topped by a hall of fame player, a guy who got there because of his legs, despite some protests for just that.
RUNS CREATED/GAME RC/G AVG OBA SLG AB Lou Brock 5.25 .298 .352 .394 6083 Bob Boyd 4.97 .298 .354 .392 1697 Bip Roberts 4.92 .297 .351 .372 1764 Matty Alou 4.82 .307 .345 .381 3098
So that's a total of 5 comps to his career so far and 4 in his future. One can look at the list and say that Juan Pierre could comp out with Lou Brock. I'd reply that Lou Brock had a slugging percentage above .400 from age 25 to 32, Juan has topped it twice, with a high of .413... in Colorado, Brock slugged .418 in 1968 which was his low in that span, and we all should know about hitting and 1968. An incredible amount of money is being thrown around this off-season, the Pierre contract confirms that many GM's are the types I don't want playing blackjack next to me in Vegas.
Now for the quick ones.
The Astros inked Carlos Lee a fielder of limited quality and only one year removed from an OPS of .811 to the richest contract in team history. This in the shadow of the recently ended Bagwell drama seems ill placed, especially when you consider that Lee Has some holes in his game, aside from the defense issues he might face in the quirky right field of whatever Houston calls that place now. He'll have to face questions about his weight and health. Simply put, Lee is in a very tight spot with his new expensive contract and his weight. At 6'2 Lee is listed at 235, if we were to a search for players older then 30 and possessed that makeup we'd find a very short list of guys who compiled a significant amount of at bats over the age of 30.
AT BATS AB HT WT 1 Bob Fothergill 1245 5'10" 230 2 Steve Bilko 680 6'1" 230 3 Shanty Hogan 66 6'1" 240
Fothergill was known as "Fatty' and was quite the hitter, unfortunately for him his health was affected by his thirst for both food and beer, he died of a heart attack at age 41.
So keep your eye out on that and look out for press generated by the Astros about Lee's workout regime.
Wayne Krivsky has a fetish, he can't help it, he likes left hand pitchers, ones with experience evidently. The Reds recent signing of Mike Stanton banks on Mike producing, he has an escalation clause that is triggered by game appearances and at the age of 39 he has a long row to hoe when it comes to game appearances. Below is the all time appearances by left handed relievers who made less then 1 start at the age of 39 and older.
ERA vs. the league average displayed only--not a sorting criteri INNINGS PITCHED IP ERA RSAA GS Jesse Orosco 218 0.49 6 0 Woodie Fryman 195.2 0.59 13 0 John Franco 148.2 -.10 -4 0 Rick Honeycutt 120 0.56 5 0 Diomedes Olivo 107 0.73 9 1 Al Brazle 84 -.11 0 0
If you push the age down to 38 you get this list
INNINGS PITCHED IP ERA RSAA GS Jesse Orosco 323.1 0.83 22 0 John Franco 245 0.50 8 0 Tom Burgmeier 221.1 1.55 40 0 Rick Honeycutt 200.2 0.70 12 0 Dan Plesac 155 1.00 18 0 Chris Hammond 141 0.42 5 0 Harvey Haddix 124 0.97 15 0 Tony Fossas 122.1 0.24 2 0 Mike Stanton 110.1 0.17 1 0 Diomedes Olivo 107 0.73 9 1 Bob McClure 100 -.56 -7 0 Mike Remlinger 98.2 -.50 -4 0 Rheal Cormier 95.1 0.21 6 0 Tug McGraw 93.2 -.03 1 1 Buddy Groom 93.2 -.31 -1 0 Grant Jackson 82 -.73 -8 0 Bob Patterson 79.2 -.19 1 0 Dennis Cook 69.2 0.26 0 0 Joe Hoerner 62 -1.34 -8 0 Bobby Shantz 60.2 0.42 4 0
Stanton makes Cormier redundant, especially with Bray in the pen, unless of course Bray is going to be converted to starter. Otherwise something will have to shift or the Reds are going to be overtly left handed.