Friday, November 25, 2011

Pirates Report Card, etc

I have not posted anything recently, but rest assured I did not stop writing. I simply took a small vacation to visit family and friends in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Bill Ivie allowed me to volunteer my work regarding the Pittsburgh Pirates and it was recently published. Please check it out:

The website was removed. The article can now be found here: Pirates 2011 Report Card

In more recent news, the St. Louis Cardinals still have not made any public progress with Albert Pujols, while the Pirates signed veteran shortstop, Clint Barmes, and offered Derrek Lee arbitration.

Typing on an iPod is not too fun, so don't expect another post until after my return to St. Louis next week.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pirates 2012 Offseason Outlook

This article was orignally posted by Mr. Bill Ivie on Baseball Digest until the website closed.

If you reference my 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates report card, then you should know they have plenty of room for improvement as they prepare for 2012. Their offense was among the worst in the major leagues with a serious lack of power, while their pitching was only marginally better in comparison. They actually have some money to spend this offseason after a big pick up in attendance this past season and since several players fell off their pay books.

The exact amount they have to spend on free agent signings this offseason will be dependent upon who the Pirates decide to tender in arbitration and how much. If they increase their payroll to $50M, which they previously reported, then they should have approximately $20M of flexibility. Pirates’ general manager, Neil Huntington, reported, "We’re going to non-tender some players that people don’t want us to non-tender. We’re going to tender some players that probably surprise some people." This worries me as this potentially means the team could bring back Ross Ohlendorf for another season who has been adequate at best, and we may lose Garrett Jones who had a fairly productive season while platooning at both first base and right field.

Team options were declined for Paul Maholm ($9.75M), Ryan Doumit ($7.25M), Chris Snyder ($6.75M), and Ronny Cedeno ($3M). The Pirates absorbed $2.2 million to allow them to walk along with their mid-season acquisitions, Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick. The loss of these key players caused the apparent necessity for a catcher, first baseman, shortstop, and at least one starting pitcher. The Pirates are lucky to have Neil Walker locked in at second base; Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, et al covering the bullpen; and Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, and company protecting the outfield.

There is no chance of Doumit returning as he recently signed with the Minnesota Twins for one year at $3M. The Buccos are not terribly concerned as they locked in Rod Barajas, former catcher of the Los Angeles Dodgers, with a one year contract to the tune of $4M with a $3.5M team option for 2013. Veteran shortstop, Clint Barmes, is the most recent free agent signing and is now reportedly under contract for two years at the cost of $10.5M. If these reports are accurate, then they filled their gaps at catcher and shortstop with about $10M to spare for other acquisitions.

The team still desires at least one starting pitcher with Charlie Morton probably beginning the season on the disabled list, Maholm gone, and Ohlendorf hopefully in Pittsburgh’s past. Otherwise they will be relying upon an even younger starting rotation than they used in 2011, which ended poorly as they ran out of steam going into August.

Management acquired Lee and Ludwick before the 2011 trade deadline with the hope to add a much needed power threat in their lineup, but they were riddled by injuries like the rest of the roster. Ludwick should not be pursued this offseason as there is already a major logjam in the outfield, but I bet everyone would love to have Lee back next season. He performed poorly while playing in Baltimore, but played with MVP-like caliber during his brief stint with the Pirates.

The outfield is chock-full of young talent with Alex Presley, Jose Tabata, and Andrew McCutchen as their trophy centerpiece. But it doesn't stop there. Starling Marte was protected from the Rule 5 draft and will be their regular center fielder for their Indianapolis AAA team to start 2012, but there are also younger options still developing like Robbie Grossman and Josh Bell who are not quite ready for the Big Show. It is almost mind boggling to realize the Pirates actually have depth at a position, so how do you make them all fit?

It is possible they will ask McCutchen or Marte to shift from center field, but it is equally feasible for them to trade Marte or Presley in an attempt to alleviate this traffic jam and try to strengthen a weaker position. If they somehow manage to retain all of them, then Joel Hanrahan is another possibility as a buy low and sell high trade candidate.

The only position not aforementioned is third base which should have been covered by Pedro Alvarez; however, he had a terrifyingly dismal season and spent nearly two months in the minor league. We can only hope it was his "sophomore slump" and the performance picks up again next season.

There is plenty of talent developing down on the farm, as usually is the case in the Pirates organization, but the question of who we may see make their major league debut in 2012 is a little difficult to distinguish. Marte may make an appearance if a positional opening is made for him, Rudy Owens could fight for a spot in the rotation but it may be difficult if they take his down year in AAA into account, and Matt Hague who was also recently protected from the Rule 5 draft.

I sincerely expect Hague to make his appearance in 2012. He has experience to play first and third base, which may be quite helpful if anyone gets hurt or fails to produce. Hague hits for average with modest power and has incredible patience at the plate. If I had a comparison in mind, I would hope he turns out to become a player similar to Kansas City Royals’ Billy Butler.

The Buccos were a playoff threat and divisional leader this past July, which caused a few fans to regain hope and hop back on the bandwagon. Here’s hoping that 2012 is the year the Pirates once again become an above average team. Perhaps they can reclaim their dominance last seen by fans in 1992.

Pittsburgh Pirates 2011 Report Card
Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Offseason Outlook
Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Season Preview

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Plan C: Creatively Convert Craig

Cardinals fans everywhere would prefer Albert Pujols to return to St. Louis, but the emergence of a third "mystery team" could have the potential to spoil it. The market for an elite first baseman seems limited to several teams who could both desire and afford him, though a few have already explained they were not interested while others have remained quiet.
Chicago Cubs
Cleveland Indians
Kansas City Royals
Los Angeles Dodgers
Seattle Mariners
Washington Nationals

I mentioned yesterday how the only more affordable approach for the St. Louis Cardinals to win ballgames either with or without Pujols involved thinking unconventionally, well here it is.

I completely agree with William Tasker from the Flagrant Fan who wants Allen Craig to start every day. He is already 27 and accumulated a WAR of 2.6 over only 219 plate appearances. Just imagine those numbers over the course of a full season. It may happen if the Cards don't resign Pujols, but there is an alternative idea I considered which is identical to William's thought:

Let's start Craig at second base.

Bill James recently released his projections for 2012 and Jeff Zimmerman from RotoGraphs used it to analyze those available to play second base. Surprisingly, somebody requested he include Craig in his projections which ranked him 5th overall while comparing everyone as if they all would accumulate 600 plate appearances.

Although the majority of his defensive work came from the corner outfield positions since his major league debut in 2010, he has logged at least 20 innings at every position besides catcher and shortstop. The majority of his starts in the minor leagues came at third base, though his defense was quite poor and was eventually moved all over the field before settling on the outfield. FanGraphs indicates his UZR/150 was -26.5 in the 42 innings he played at second as a Cardinal and did not post a positive value anywhere besides the outfield, but that is a small sample size.

Rather than bash the notion of him playing second base due to his unproven incapability to defend, let's create some scenarios using the same methods as yesterday. Not only would this allow Craig to start full-time, but it would fill a weak position and allow them to concentrate on positions where there is more depth available in this year's free agency market, such as shortstop and the outfield.
I speculate a lineup with Allen Craig at 2B and Albert Pujols at 1B
If the Cardinals manage to retain Pujols, use Daniel Descalso at shortstop, and move Craig to second, then that ties up $56.6 million while providing a projection of 21 wins above replacement. If they then decided to sign either Ryan Theriot to start at short or Coco Crisp to cover center field over Jon Jay, then they would only benefit from a half of one win. They could potentially increase their winning probability by signing Rafael Furcal at shortstop and use an internal option as their backup outfielder, like Adron Chambers.

John Mozeliak, the Cardinals general manager, has previously mentioned they do not intend to greatly increase their offer to Albert. He also stated he would not pursue Prince Fielder if talks with Pujols fell through, so this could mean Lance Berkman or Craig could cover first base while the other would be in right field. But if Craig shifts to second base instead, then it opens the outfield to several possibilities.

I speculate a lineup with Allen Craig at 2B and Lance Berkman at 1B
Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes are arguably the best free agents available on the market behind Pujols and Fielder, so they would be the next best choices. The Cards also desired some depth behind Jay, but there are not many options besides injury-prone Grady Sizemore and Crisp.

The 4th scenario with Pujols would provide the most added wins while also being the most expensive due to the signing of Pujols as well as Furcal. The 1st scenario without Pujols presents the least costly option and cheapest cost per win as they only acquire Beltran and use internal options elsewhere.

Given these eight scenarios, I would prefer the 1st scenario with Pujols but would accept the 3rd scenario without Pujols.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Plan B: Beyond Pujols

I previously asked how much Albert Pujols was worth. Based upon my results, his next contract should range between $17 and $35 million per year. That's an average possibility of $26 million per year. Whether or not you believe he deserves the amount he receives does not matter at this time because it is inevitable. You can blame the lack of a salary cap, but that is something to debate on another day.

The only questions left about Pujols this offseason regard his contract length, location, and if his decline will continue. If you are the St. Louis Cardinals, then I have two more questions for you: Is Albert the best option? If not, then what is the next best choice?

Ryan Campbell from FanGraphs suggested it may be more beneficial to upgrade second base and shortstop, which would allow Lance Berkman to shift to first base and allow Allen Craig to play full-time in the outfield along with Matt Holliday. The Cards may opt to sign cheaper talent or use internal alternatives (Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene) for their middle infield over Ryan Theriot and Skip Schumaker if Pujols is signed, which would have potential reward as an added possibility.

Roger Hensley from stltoday asked several people, including Larry Borowsky from Viva El Birdos, "If Albert Pujols were to leave the Cardinals via free agency, what area of the team do you think the Cardinals would most focus on improving with the money saved?" The majority of them suggests upgrades over their middle infield options, though Borowsky adds the necessity of center field depth to assist Jon Jay.

In a bizarre world where Pujols was no longer a Cardinal, Larry specifically chose Clint Barmes for second, Rafael Furcal at shortstop, and Coco Crisp in center. He goes on to say, "If Albert does sign elsewhere, I hope the Cards won’t feel compelled to throw money around just for appearances’ sake. If they can’t acquire players who actually make the team better, they should just let the payroll drop for a season or two and set the money aside until a worthwhile target comes along."

FanGraphs and Viva El Birdos speculates a lineup without Albert Pujols
I agree with Larry's opinions, especially regarding his final statement. The free agent market is weak this offseason and the money saved from not signing Albert could be better spent on the possibility of a more talented crop of free agents next year. Failure to sign Albert would be a devastating loss to the fans of Cardinal nation, but they should not feel obligated to sign a free agent just for the sake of signing somebody.

If the projections made using FanGraphs, Cot's Baseball Contracts, MLB Trade Rumors and Bleacher Report are accurate, then FanGraphs' second scenario without Pujols actually would provide more wins at a cheaper value when compared to his scenario with Albert, while Viva El Birdos' suggestion would provide the cheapest cost at nearly the same cost per win, $2.55/WAR.

I attempted to create my own scenario, but failed to find a more affordable cost per win without thinking creatively or unconventionally.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Matheny is La Russa's Successor

Last week the St. Louis Cardinals had six candidates for their managerial position which opened when Tony La Russa retired. Today Mike Matheny, former catcher, was formally announced as his replacement.

I was not a part of Cardinal nation when Matheny was a part of the team, so I do not have a firsthand appreciation for him. He is described as a great leader and answered questions with surprising eloquence during this morning's press conference, but will he be a great manager? Of course this is difficult to determine because John Mozeliak decided upon the only candidate with no previous managerial experience, though he was a special assistant in player development last year and a minor league instructor the year beforehand.

Cards Diaspora had an interesting list of the candidates and I thought the most interesting possibility was Ryne Sandberg. Why on earth would the Chicago Cubs overlook a Hall of Famer with managing experience in the minor leagues? Terry Francona was the most seasoned option, but may have been overlooked due to his affiliation and recent affinity toward newfound Cubs president, Theo Epstein.

We will find out if he succeeds during the next regular season, but I am wondering about the immediate repercussions. For example, Albert Pujols would supposedly resign with the Cards if Jose Oquendo were elected to be the manager, so did those odds decrease? Oquendo was not selected for the position he interviewed, so will he quietly continue as their third base coach? Will the other coaches and trainers choose to be his subordinates even though a few were actually his superiors years prior?

One offseason question is finally answered, but it causes several other questions.

Friday, November 11, 2011

What is Pujols Worth?

Albert Pujols is a free agent. As a St. Louis Cardinals fan, hearing that may be difficult to swallow, but I finally came to the realization he may not be back next season after hearing he will be visiting with the Miami Marlins.

The Cardinal Virtue and Fungoes pointed out there is a limited market for a premier first baseman, but there is still a gap between the 9 year $200 million the Cardinals had allegedly offered and the 10 year $300 million contract Pujols supposedly wants. The Cards got a bargain when he agreed to his previous 7 year $100 million contract, that's for certain, but it will not and should not play any role in these current negotiations.

Sabermetricians have been tinkering with the discussion of whether a player's value is linear or exponential. Dave Cameron from FanGraphs wrote about it once in February and again in November. CC Sabathia recently signed a 6 year $142 million extension and Cameron showed in his most recent calculations the possibility of it being justified. His linear dollar-per-win model assumed a decline of 0.5 WAR per season from a 5.5 WAR starting point and 5% inflation in the dollar per win rate each year, which actually hit the value almost exactly: 6 years $142.12 million.

Using the same linear concept, perhaps I can predict Albert's next contract, but it is more complicated than just a simple mathematical plug and chug. Interestingly enough, Pujols and Sabathia made both their major league debuts in 2001, so it is somewhat easy to compare them against each other even though they play different positions.

Albert Pujols (red/blue) versus CC Sabathia (navy/white)
Pujols has been an outstanding player ever since he first appeared in the Majors in 2001 and has been superior to Sabathia every season aside from 2011. He has performed fairly consistently over the course of his entire career, though you can see a steep decline since 2009 (since 2008 if you really want to argue a difference of WAR from 9.1 to 9.0 is really a decline).

He has averaged a seasonal WAR of 8.0 over the past 11 seasons, but there is a slight downward trend. Sabathia started slowly, as does most players do in baseball, but has since improved to one of the best pitchers in the game. His average WAR is 5.2, so Cameron's initial projection starting at 5.5 in 2012 makes sense.

So how should we value Pujols? It depends on if you feel he should be judged from his average (8.0) or current WAR (5.1). In other words do you feel his production will be similar to Jose Bautista or Matt Holliday? Both are still excellent results, but a difference of three wins is still pretty significant. Just ask the Red Sox or Braves.

Albert Pujols WAR Projections (Max/Min)
Albert Pujols Salary Projections (Max/Min)
Year $/Win Max WAR Max Value Min WAR Min Value
2012 5.00 8.0 $40.00 5.1 $25.50
2013 5.25 7.5 $39.38 4.6 $25.50
2014 5.51 7.0 $38.59 4.1 $24.15
2015 5.79 6.5 $37.62 3.6 $22.60
2016 6.08 6.0 $36.47 3.1 $18.84
2017 6.38 5.5 $35.10 2.6 $16.59
2018 6.70 5.0 $33.50 2.1 $14.07
2019 7.04 4.5 $31.66 1.6 $11.26
2020 7.39 4.0 $29.55 1.1 $8.13
2021 7.76 3.5 $27.15 0.6 $4.65
- - 57.5 $349.01 28.5 $166.63

A linear regression starting from 8.0 compared to 5.1 is substantial, to say the very least. The total maximum WAR and salary is over twice as high compared to the minimum WAR and salary. A 9 year $200 million contract falls closer to the minimum projection with a 5.8 WAR starting point, while the 10 year $300 million contract Pujols is seeking would be comparable to a 7.2 WAR introduction.

I am not sure exactly why he would seek a salary so outrageously high except to prove he is the best baseball player of all time. In other words, if he nets a more expensive contract than Alex Rodriguez (10 year $275 million), then everyone will know he is the best. I honestly hope my way of thinking is wrong because I do not want to see a charitable human being like Pujols classified with a symbol of greed, like A-Rod and the New York Yankees.

What is Pujols worth? If he nets a 10 year contract, then he should earn somewhere between $166 and $349 million. I apologize for the non-definitive answer, but it depends on how harshly you judge his decline to "sub-stardom."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

New Pirates Catcher Signed

The Pittsburgh Pirates landed a new catcher today in former Los Angeles Dodger, Rod Barajas. He signed a one-year contract valued at $4 million with a 2013 team option worth $3.5 million. I have to be honest, he was not on the top of my list, but I certainly prefer him over Ryan Doumit or Chris Snyder.

Over the past three seasons, Barajas had the second worst BB/K rate (0.27) among all the free agent catchers, walk percentage (4.8%), and on base percentage (.275). However, he also had the second highest slugging percentage (.424) and second most home runs (52). He has logged the most innings behind home plate among them all (2483.2) and earned the second best Total Zone score (6) with a respectable .994 fielding percentage to boot.

If you can't make heads or tails out of the jumbled paragraph of facts and statistics, then let me lend you my explanation. Barajas is not a very disciplined hitter. He should not reach base nearly as often as Doumit or even Snyder, but he has the capability to hit the ball over the fence at least a few times every season. His defense and longevity sets himself apart from the rest of the pack.

Top Five Free Agent Catchers in 2011, via FunGraphs
Top Five Free Agent Catchers over 3 Seasons, via FunGraphs

Many other Pirates bloggers and analysts would have preferred Ramon Hernandez, obviously because he was the superior choice out of them all, but would have cost them a draft pick as a Type A free agent. I would have stayed away from Jorge Posada given his age, horrendous performance at the plate, and lack of appearances behind the plate last season, though it would have been quite hilarious if we ended up signing him since it would have been a tale of rags to riches, only reversed, and I do enjoy it when a previously successful Yankee succumbs to poverty. I would have still preferred Kelly Shoppach as my catcher, but he may not have been as affordable.

Barajas must have some pretty reasonable defense and slugging to offset his otherwise poor hitting in order to rank himself so highly in this group, third highest WAR this past season and fifth highest over the last three seasons. His price tag was much more cost effective than Doumit and Snyder's options, so I am pretty satisfied by this decision.

To end this post, I want to share this animated gif of Rod Barajas from earlier this season extracted from Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness. This alone makes me excited to have such a crazy, weird guy on my team.
Rod Barajas treats Dee Gordon like a baby

Pirates 2011 Report Card

This article was orignally posted by Mr. Bill Ivie on Baseball Digest until the website closed.

The Pirates ended 2010 practically on rock bottom with a 57-105 record. It was their worst season over the course of their 18 season losing streak. Management made a couple promising moves over the offseason, then entered 2011 hoping to rebound from an atrocious season. They started unusually strong and ended July not only above .500, but also in contention to claim the NL Central division. Optimism would be replaced by excitement when they acquired Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick before the trade deadline. Excitement quickly turned into the same despair which Pirates fans have experienced over the last two decades as they suffered from multiple injuries and fell to end the season 72-90. Although the Buccos clinched their 19th consecutive losing season, we saw a ray of hope which caused many fans to hop back on the bandwagon.

Rotation: C-
The opening day rotation consisted of Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton, and James McDonald. Ohlendorf strained his shoulder in April which moved Jeff Karstens up from the bullpen. Injuries in August to Correia and Maholm allowed Brad Lincoln and Jeff Locke to each make a few starts.

Correia was acquired over the offseason and signed to a two year deal. He did extremely well in the first half which earned him a questionable spot on the All-Star team, but was miserable after the break and while pitching at home. Maholm actually had one of his best seasons, though you wouldn’t realize it by looking at any conventional statistics. Karstens, Morton, and McDonald each had reasonable seasons, but they were unable to pitch deep into many games. Only McDonald managed a K/9 rate above the league average, but he was also inaccurate with a high BB/9 rate. These pitchers could blame the offense for their lack of run support, but I blame their lack of efficiency.

Bullpen: B+
Joel Hanrahan was the designated closer entering 2011 and he took over the role quite well. He earned his first All-Star selection and ended the season with 40 saves. Evan Meek was weighed down by shoulder tendinitis throughout the season. Jose Veras, Chris Resop, Daniel McCutchen, Tony Watson, and Jason Grilli (obtained from Philadelphia) gobbled the most innings among the Buccos relief pitchers. Each of them posted a K/9 above 8 except Daniel. Amazingly, Resop, Grilli, and Veras were among the top 30 relievers in regards to their K/9 rates at 10.21, 10.19, and 10.01, respectively. Joe Beimel, Daniel Moskos, and Chris Leroux also made their share of appearances throughout the season, though Beimel was not very effective.

Insufficient outings by the Pirates' starting pitchers inevitably overworked their young bullpen and caused the team to falter toward the end of the season.

Catchers: D+
The Pirates' backstop position was plagued by injuries this season as they cycled through the use of Ryan Doumit, Chris Snyder, and Michael McKenry. McKenry was acquired from Boston in June and received the majority of the innings behind homeplate, which was disappointing considering Doumit and Snyder combined for a salary over $11 million, about 20% of the team’s payroll. Doumit provided the best offense among the three, which is typical for him, but he just can not stay healthy over long periods of time while playing as the catcher anymore.

Infield: C-
The Buccos were either injury prone or inconsistent across the infield for the majority of the season. Their only cornerstone was second basemen, Neil Walker, who had a decent all-around season. Ronny Cedeno had an average season at the plate by his standards, which is still quite bad, though his defense at shortstop did improve. Both players received nominations for a Gold Glove, though neither won.

Pedro Alvarez was dubbed the starting third basemen on opening day, but he just could not find his swing and spent the majority of the season struggling, hurt, or in the minors. In his absence, Brandon Wood and Josh Harrison each had equal opportunity in the hot corner. Wood provided better defense, while Harrison was a more consistent hitter. Chase d'Arnaud also logged some time to back them up as well as Cedeno, but he was equally disappointing both on and off the field.

Lyle Overbay and Garrett Jones platooned at first. Jones had a decent season and recorded the second most homers for the team. Overbay did a great job fielding at first, but had a poor year at the plate. He was released soon after Derrek Lee was acquired from the Orioles. Lee would have been the offensive power the Pirates were after, but he hit the DL and only played 28 games. His WAR was equal to Jones (0.9) even though he played a fraction of his season with the Pirates.

Outfield: B+
The situations in left and center field were originally handled by Jose Tabata and Andrew McCutchen, respectively, but Tabata spent nearly two months nursing an injured quad. Right field consisted of another platoon with Jones and Matt Diaz. McCutchen had another great season, even though his batting average did sink a little; Jones did fine filling in roles at first and right; Tabata did well while he was healthy; and Diaz left much desired offensively and on the field. He was eventually traded after acquiring Ryan Ludwick.

Ludwick hit the DL shortly after he was obtained and did not make the same impact as Lee. Xavier Paul and Alex Presley did their share of playing the corner outfield once it was realized Diaz could not play and Tabata was injured. Both played the field well, but Presley trumped Paul with better offense.

Top Offensive Player
Andrew McCutchen easily led the Pirates offensively with a WAR of 5.7. He ended the season as the team leader in practically every offensive category: home runs, runs, RBIs, and stolen bases. Although his batting average was down and his strikeout rate was up compared to previous years, his on base percentage stayed about the same due to an increased walk rate. An increased slugging percentage and isolated power rating may indicate we could expect more homers from him in seasons to come.

Top Pitcher
This may be arguable, but I believe Joel Hanrahan had the greatest impact on the mound this year for the Pirates. Not only do the conventional statistics support his performance (40 saves, 1.83 ERA, 1.05 WHIP), but so do the advanced metrics (8.0 K/9, 3.81 K/BB, .282 BABIP, 2.18 FIP, 2.73 SIERA, 2.98 xFIP). His 2.0 WAR ranked 7th among qualified relief pitchers, 4th among team closers behind only Craig Kimbrel, Jonathan Papelbon, and Mariano Rivera.

Pittsburgh Pirates 2011 Report Card
Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Offseason Outlook
Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Season Preview

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

AATH_Baseball on Twitter

I did something today I told myself I would never do...

Analysis around the Horn is now on Twitter.

The link can also be found in the Twitter tab below the logo.

All are welcome to join and encouraged to share with your friends.

MLBTR Free Agent Prediction Contest

I invite anyone who participated in MLB Trade Rumors Free Agent Prediciton Contest to share their predictions. All choices are now locked, so I wanted to share mine with the world.
My MLBTR Free Agent Predictions
I came close when I tried to predict the outcome of the World Series and guess what team would win each game, but it was only a 1 in 70 chance, so I'm not expecting much from this contest. Why? If you weigh all the possibilities equally, then there are 1,600 options or a 0.0625% chance of choosing all 50 selections correctly. Granted, it is highly unlikely a player like Albert Pujols will sign with the Pirates, Prince Fielder will retire, or Jose Reyes will go to Japan.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cardinals Offseason, Operation: Sign Albert

Before I start to exhaust the topic on the St. Louis Cardinals' payroll, let me just post this lovely graph from Beyond the Box Score.
Progressive Likelihood of World Series Victory, via Beyond the Box Score
Wonderful. That should quiet all the nay sayers. Let's move on to the matter at hand. I must apologize for this being a near cookie cutter repeat of the Pittsburgh Pirates post, but I wanted to make sure this post was published as close to the deadline as possible.

The St. Louis Cardinals are now in the midst of the free agent frenzy. MLB Trade Rumors covered the Cards possibilities yesterday. The team extended a lot of their key players from the current roster before the season ended, so there are fewer holes to fill. Rafael Furcal and Octavio Dotel's club options were declined, so they will hit the free agent market along with Albert Pujols and everyone else.
Cardinals Attendance vs. Payroll, 2007-2011

The attendance and payroll data were collected from Baseball Reference and Cot's Baseball Contracts, respectively. The Cards' attendance has dropped every year since 2007, the year after they won the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. I have to assume their payroll will continue to trend upwards in 2012 since they won the World Series again.
Cardinals Current 25-man Roster Projection for 2012, MLB Depth Charts

MLB Depth Charts reports the Cardinals should be looking for a first baseman, shortstop, and left-handed relief pitcher. Lefties are pretty hard to come by out of the bullpen, especially when you look at the free agents available this offseason, so they may have to get creative. If I look at the payroll information available on Cot's Baseball Contracts and use MLBTR's projected arbitration salaries, then I come up with $96.61 million. This only leaves a $13 million gap to last season's payroll. No one has publicly reported how much the Cardinals are willing to spend, so we are not sure just how much higher it will go. Attendance should go up with another World Series title, but it may plummet even further if Pujols leaves.

Will they be able to sign Albert?
Can they sign any of their other free agents?
How high will their payroll become?
Will they need creative solutions?
Cardinals 2012 Payroll Estimate

I chose Furcal and Dotel simply because they may accept a cheaper salary to stay with the Cards, thereby keeping the team's payroll down as much as possible in order to sign Pujols. He was originally offered a contract prior to last season that amounted to $200 million over nine years, but declined supposedly because he wanted to beat Alex Rodriguez, whose contract is currently the most lucrative at $275 million over 10 years. If the Cards already offered him that much, then perhaps they would be willing to go a bit further. Matt Holliday may assist with the financial burden by diverting some of his contract to Albert.

As an Albert Pujols fan, I am hoping $22 million would be enough to lure him back next season. My proposed contract is $276 million over 10 years ($22, 22, 30, 30, 30, 32, 32, 32, 24, 22), which would be the new record and likely keep Pujols a Cardinal for life. It would be wise to add stipulations to the contract in case he gets injured, unlike A-Rod's contract with the New York Yankees.

I understand Albert is probably the best baseball player of all time and probably deserves the biggest contract of all time to match, but I doubt he would leave the Cardinals because of money. I believe he is far too charitable of a human being to stoop to the level of greed. Let's hope he remains the best St. Louis Cardinal since Stan Musial.

Pirates Payroll Speculation

The Pittsburgh Pirates have less than four hours before the surge of free agent signings should begin. MLB Trade Rumors covered the Pirates possibilities on October 19th, so the information is now slightly dated. The team has a few holes to fill and many areas which they could improve upon after declining club options for Chris Snyder, Paul Maholm, Ryan Doumit, and Ronny Cedeno.
Pirates Attendance vs. Payroll, 2007-2011
I gathered the attendance and payroll data from Baseball Reference and Cot's Baseball Contracts, respectively. The Buccos attracted more fans this year than they have in the last five years and are reportedly expected to enter 2012 with a payroll above $50 million. This is moderately encouraging as this would be the most they have dedicated to their players' payroll since 2003. I would be more excited if there were more options available on the upcoming free agent market or trading table.

Pirates Current 25-man Roster Projection for 2012, MLB Depth Charts
MLB Depth Charts reports the Pirates should be looking for a catcher, first baseman, shortstop, corner outfielder, and starting pitcher. I mostly agree with them, but think we have enough depth in the outfield. I would prefer a backup third baseman in case Alvarez does not recover from his sophomore slump. The amount of money the Pirates have to throw around this offseason depends upon where you read. Bucs Dugout predicts a minimum of $33.4 million is already allotted to the current roster, Pirates Prospects suggests $30.16 million, and Raise the Jolly Roger estimates $25 million. If I look at the payroll information available on Cot's Baseball Contracts and use MLBTR's projected arbitration salaries, then I come up with $31.99 million.

This means the Pirates management has a little bit of wiggle room to upgrade at least two positions, hopefully four. If the Buccos maintain a payroll above $50 million, then that leaves $18 million or more for the offseason. Let's see what's available and what they can do.
Free Agent Targets: Catcher
Free Agent Targets: First Base
Free Agent Targets: Shortstop
Free Agent Targets: Starting Pitcher
First and foremost, the likelihood of the Pirates signing a caliber player like Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes, or C.J. Wilson is extremely unlikely unless they accepted payment in Heinz ketchup or Yuengling. It is also fairly unlikely they will surrender a first round draft pick for a type A free agent.

Doumit could be offered arbitration, though any of my other three suggestions would be a nice change. Sure, his offensive numbers may have been more impressive overall, but he has not been a full-time catcher since 2008 and his eyes creep me out. Any one of these options could cost somewhere around $3 to $8 million.

The Pirates acknowledged their lineup was power deficient in 2011, so it would be wise to select a big bat to play first base. Prince Fielder, Michael Cuddyer, and Pujols are all type A free agents, which should make the other three choices more available. The Chicago Cubs may not let Carlos Pena go if they are unable to sign a replacement for themselves. I would expect the Pirates to devote $6 to 9 million to first base.

Cedeno is gone. If the Pirates offer him arbitration, then it will probably cost them more than his original $3 million club option. If you disregard Jimmy Rollins and Reyes, then everyone but Nick Punto are type B free agents and should cost anywhere from $3 to $10 million.

The Buccos currently have a starting rotation full of right handers with the loss of Maholm, so picking up a lefty for next year is vital. Signing Wilson is extremely unlikely, but one can dream. Mark Buehrle or Edwin Jackson would be great additions to an otherwise inexperienced staff, but both are type B free agents and will probably be on the expensive side, possibly $8 to $15 million. Chris Capuano and Jeff Francis would be interesting options, hopefully on the more affordable side, maybe $4 to $8 million.

Pirates 2012 Payroll Estimate
In my fantasy world, the Pirates would acquire Kelly Shoppach, Punto, and Capuano while resigning Lee. The signings would cost the organization $20 million next year, disregarding the possibility of multi-year contracts, for a total payroll of approximately $52 million.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Autumn has its stranglehold upon the trees, the temperature is dropping, and my muscles feel stiff. Baseball season is officially over.

I feel a little sad today, which is depressing because it is actually my birthday. Perhaps my subconscious finally realizes it can no longer experience the intensities of a September playoff race, nor hear Written in the Stars advertising the Postseason, nor ride emotional roller coasters while I watch a baseball game, nor enjoy the delicious ballpark franks and nachos.

The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 90 games this season and fans may have been disappointed, but they showed great strides of improvement, which was not difficult after such a poor season in 2010. Their performance up to July was almost as amazing as their second half was devastating. Still, management proved last year they can come up with creative solutions that fit their budget. Some worked, most did not, but you may have to take some risks when you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The most exciting part of the Pirates' season was when they acquired Ryan Ludwick and Derrek Lee before the trade deadline, which proved to me management is not afraid to make a move. They announced their priorities will be at catcher and first base.

This is my first year with the St. Louis Cardinals in their hometown and they did not disappoint me. The ultimate baseball high is followed by rock bottom, especially with the uncertainty surrounding Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa announcing his retirement. Luckily the Cards have Lance Berkman locked in for next year, which would allow him to shift from right field to first base, just in case the worst case scenario occurs. Management tied up most of their major loose ends aside from Pujols, shortstop, and now the manager position.

In my past offseasons as solely a Buccos fan, this would have marked the beginning of my hibernation from baseball. This changed after the 2011 season and with a projected payroll increase to over $50 million next season. If you couple that with the anticipation of the moves the Cards will surely make, then I should be quite active this offseason.

Why so glum?

Offseason Entertainment:
 MLBTR has a free agent prediction contest here.
 Their predictions can be found here for comparison.
 ESPN "predicts" the next 25 World Series champions here.
 Two Out Rally, Baseball MMORPG: here.
 World Series Superstars on Facebook: here.
 Baseball Mogul 2012: here.

Personal Offseason Projects:
 Pirates Payroll Speculation
 Cardinals Payroll Speculation
 Payroll Win Efficiency
 Analyzing my Fantasy Baseball Teams
 Preparing for the Next Fantasy Baseball Season
 League Realignment Proposal
 League Expansion Proposal
 Playoff Expansion Proposal

 The math on my World Series Probability post was corrected. There are 70 possible outcomes, not 72.