Tagged: Alex Rodriguez

V-Mart, Abreu could join elite 30/.330 club

This morning, ESPN’s David Schoenfield mentioned that the Detroit Tigers’ Victor Martinez is baseball’s best hitter, leading all of Major League Baseball in wOBA (weighted on-base average) and wRC+ (weighted runs created plus), which measures a player’s offensive contributions after controlling for park effects. It’s a shame he won’t earn many American League MVP votes — I wouldn’t be surprised if teammate and former MVP Miguel Cabrera blindly earned more — simply because he contributes little to no defensive value.

Still, V-Mart is batting .337 with 30 home runs, setting him up to be part of an elite club. It’s not a popular one, mostly because it doesn’t have a flashy name or fancy title, but it is still very much meaningful: The 30-HR, .330-BA Club.

There have been only 62 such seasons in the past 50 years. There are repeat offenders, however, so the club actually consists of only 37  hitters dating back to 1964.

And the names in this club are not nobodies. Cabrera. Albert Pujols. Todd Helton. Frank Thomas. Vladimir Guerrero. Chipper Jones. The list goes on. It’s a group of men that consists of seven Rookies of the Year and three Hall of Famers (and more to come) and has collected 31 MVP awards and 244 All-Star nods. The inclusion of Martinez and perhaps Chicago White Sox first baseman and Cuban rookie sensation Jose Abreu, who currently sits at 33 homers and a .317 average, would add another six All-Star berths and possibly another Rookie of the Year.

This is nothing more than a cool historical footnote. It doesn’t really feel like we are witnessing history because fans have witnessed 39 such seasons of 30/.330 since 2000, and Martinez’s teammate Cabrera has achieved the feat each of the past three years on his own. Still, when we discuss seasons of truly amazing hitting — commending not only a player’s power but also his incredible plate discipline and coverage — Martinez’ (and Abreu’s) names should be included in the conversation. And maybe it’s just me, but given Martinez’ age and career trajectory, his inclusion on the list will certainly be surprising — and impressive.

The comprehensive list (1964-2013), with number of times each player achieved 30/.330, is listed below.

5 times
Albert Pujols

4 times
Barry Bonds
Manny Ramirez
Todd Helton

3 times
Frank Thomas
Larry Walker
Miguel Cabrera
Mike Piazza
Vladimir Guerrero

2 times
Gary Sheffield
Jason Giambi

1 time
Adrian Beltre
Albert Belle
Alex Rodriguez
Billy Williams
Bret Boone
Carlos Delgado
Carlos Gonzalez
Chipper Jones
Dante Bichette
Dave Parker
David Ortiz
Derrek Lee
Don Mattingly
Ellis Burks
Fred Lynn
George Brett
Ivan Rodriguez
Jeff Bagwell
Jeff Kent
Josh Hamilton
Lance Berkman
Matt Holliday
Mo Vaughn
Moises Alou
Ryan Braun
Tim Salmon (Salmon is the only player on the list without an All-Star Game appearance. He achieved the feat in 1995, hitting .330 with 34 HR and a 1.024 OPS. He won Rookie of the Year honors in 1993 alongside Piazza.)

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A look at international players’ value, or “Might as well give Tanaka his Yankee jersey now” (Updated Jan. 14)

Let’s avoid all talk about who’s right or wrong in the Alex Rodriguez debacle, spectacle, three-ring circus, what-have-you. I liked the White Sox as sleepers to win Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka‘s services this winter. Now that A-Rod is suspended for 162 games, though, the New York Yankees will have something like $24 million in payroll freed up for 2014.

Although the Yankees were allegedly among two or three frontrunners in the bidding war for Tanaka, it appeared to me their payroll would pose a huge obstacle if they truly wanted to obey the luxury tax threshold. But Rodriguez’s suspension blows everything wide open, upgrading the Bronx Bombers’ status from Possible to Probable.

Updated Jan. 14, 2014: The Angels are a distant third to the Yankees and Dodgers, and with Los Angeles looking to extend pitcher Clayton Kershaw… well, the deal is as good as done. Although, in defense of the L.A. teams, Tanaka has mentioned he wants to play on the west coast.

As for the White Sox… get ’em next time, boys. Keep looking for those good deals. I tell you what, every high-profile international signing in the past three years has been a winner.

It is commonly accepted that each win a player provides in value (a “win above replacement,” for those just piecing two and two together) has a market value of about $5 million, although Lewie Pollis at SB Nation argues it is closer to $7 million. Even using the quick-and-easy (and lower) $5 million as a benchmark, the value (by means of WAR) of the 2013 performance of every notable international player in MLB exceeded the average annual value (AAV) of his contract:

Yu Darvish: 5.0 WAR ~ $25 million (AAV: $18.62 million)
Hisashi Iwakuma: 4.2 WAR ~ $21 million (AAV: $7 million)
Yasiel Puig: 4.0 WAR ~ $20 million (AAV: $6 million)
Hyun-jin Ryu: 3.1 WAR ~ $15.5 million (AAV: $6 million)
Leonys Martin: 2.7 WAR ~ $13.5 million (AAV: $4.1 million)
Yoenis Cespedes: 2.3 WAR ~ $11.5 million (AAV: $9 million)
Norichika Aoki: 1.7 WAR ~ $8.5 million (AAV: $1.65 million)

Let’s note here that the AAV for all the players listed above exceeded their actual 2013 salaries. For example, Martin made $3.25 million last year, and Ryu made $3.33 million. Thus, even Cespedes, with his disappointing production compared to 2012, still managed to be a boon for his team, and he should only improve from last year.

It’s a small sample size, but hey, the results seem pretty substantial so far in the post-Dice-K era. Don’t be surprised when my fantasy team has Jose Abreu, Alexander Guerrero and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez on it.

Today, Joe Girardi is the greatest manager of all time

New York Yankees skipper Joe Girardi is persistently pursuing justice for third baseman Alex Rodriguez for the bean ball thrown at him the other night by Boston Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster. Girardi’s probably the world’s biggest crybaby in the last two days if you ask someone from the anti-Yankee or anti-A-Rod crowds (read: almost everyone). Buster Olney of ESPN defends Girardi, a manager who is simply managing his team — which is, by the way, in playoff contention:

“… his job is to manage and he is managing a situation for which there is no script, no training, by being positive and direct and by separating what’s important from what’s unimportant …”

But I think it goes beyond that. He’s not handling the A-Rod plunking solely as a tactician. He’s separating not only what’s important from what’s not important, but also objectivity from subjectivity. In an atmosphere clouded with hatred for Rodriguez and any person, place and thing associated with him, Girardi has refused to cave in to the media frenzy and perhaps his own intuitions, ethics and morals. For all we know, every part of him could hate Rodriguez for using PEDs and lying about it. Perhaps it doesn’t faze him whatsoever. But he’s a strong manager, and man, for not letting his own values cloud his judgment or actions, and for not succumbing to the psychological bias of siding with the great majority (read: almost everyone) caused by the social pressures of the media.

It’s easy to dismiss this with the argument that it’s Girardi’s job to be the manager; it’s his job to stand up for his players. But that argument oversimplifies things.

It underestimates the difficulty of being the manager of the New York Yankees, MLB’s unofficial three-ring circus.

So, kudos to you, Joe. I don’t think I, nor many other people, could be as good a manager as you in this moment.

(Also, the title of this post is a playful jab at Rickey Henderson. I by no means wish to fuel an argument about greatest managers of all time. But today? You mean, only today? Well, sure, I’ll let Girardi borrow the title until tomorrow.)

Selig, PEDs crusader, makes a once-dry slope slippery

In a previous post, I explained the direction I think the conversation between MLB and the players’ union should take: move toward longer bans and stricter penalties for first-time abusers (“cheaters”), and possibly consider a clause mentioning ways to void contracts (if the lifetime ban is not pursued).

I didn’t say it explicitly, but any movement toward stricter punishments should happen in the offseason.

Because as happy as I am, as a proponent of ethics and a clean sport and butterflies and rainbows, about New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez‘s lengthy ban, I’m equally disappointed and anxious.

Disappointed because Commissioner Bud Selig levied an arbitrary punishment based on what could legitimately be perceived as arbitrary evidence. Anxious because the MLB has set a precedent, and while I hoped any severe crackdown on PEDs would be the crest of an uphill battle, it seems we’ve detoured down a slippery slope.

The more Selig denies cementing his legacy — one I, a younger baseball fan, have learned is fraught with fraudulence — the harder I have to resist thinking he is just as delusional as A-Rod or Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun.

(I concede to my bias and human fault that I assume A-Rod and Braun are guilty. There is still no true evidence against them — at least this time around for A-Rod — but the admissions of Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz and San Diego Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera don’t help their cause. So when I read about A-Rod and Braun playing the victim, I can’t help but feel the same way as most others have remarked: they are delusional.)

Anyone who says he doesn’t care about his legacy is, very simply, a liar. I care about my legacy. I hope to one day be respected in whichever field I work, if not by premier experts in my field then at least by the three colleagues with whom I will one day share a cubicle. Is it so wrong to desire a favorable epitaph? Even people who don’t care about their legacies, if that’s what they’re trying so hard to project, still care about their legacies of not caring, (Get it?)

So it doesn’t make sense to me that Selig, who doesn’t care about his legacy, would opt to do something that players actually favor, considering his history of colluding against players.

On top of this, he has upended a formal agreement between MLB and the players’ union, the Joint Drug Agreement, that explicitly states the levels and degrees of punishment for PED offenders. An agreement that is set to expire in 2016 but was amended in 2013 to include Human Growth Hormone (HGH), so it is not a completely static legislative piece.

Selig seized an opportunity to crack down on PEDs, and in a vacuum, that’s great. That’s awesome. Because that’s what everyone wants. But this did not happen in a vacuum. And as badly as I wanted to see A-Rod never see the remainder of his salary enter his pockets, this was not the time nor the place to crack the whip. “This will be the last time!” Selig could have shouted, even maniacally. “I vow after this time it will never happen again!!!”

But that’s not what happened. I can only hope the next Commissioner has the foresight to not follow Selig down the path he is trying to clear for us — that is, unless Selig clears the path completely before his tenure expires and introduces us to a land not as promised as it is compromised.