Friday, July 30, 2004

And It Gets Worse

Oh yeah. Actually, the Mets traded Huber straight up for Bautista, then made the trade with the Bucs, who in addition to Benson also sent 2B Jeff Keppinger... you know, the one that batted over .400 for most of the first half with Altoona.

This deal is garbage. Why not just take Huber instead of Bautista? I understand that the Pirates don't have a lot of options at third base, but they'd be better off seeing if Huber can play there rather than gambling that Bautista can play at all.

Benson Finally Traded

And I gotta say... ugh. The Pirates get Wigginton, Peterson and Jose Bautista. Yeah, that's right: Jose Bautista, who they didn't have only because they didn't protect him in the Rule 5 draft. Because he was injured most of last year and because he was Rule 5'd this year, he hasn't played much at all since 2002.

Here's where it really looks ugly: the Mets acquire another minor leaguer in the deal, presumably from the Royals, and the Royals get catcher Justin Huber, one of the Mets' top prospects. In a separate deal, the Mets traded Scott Kazmir, who's their best pitching prospect, and another minor leaguer to the Devil Rays for starter Victor Zambrano. So, the Mets traded two top tier prospects and the Pirates didn't get either of them, despite the fact that they had the chit the Mets really wanted.

What did the Pirates get? A Rob Mackowiak clone (useful but not essential, particularly if you've already got the real thing), a middling pitching prospect, and a guy who's now lost two years because the Pirates didn't hold onto him in November.

What did they give up? The best starting pitcher on the market, and Ruben Mateo, who was traded to the Royals for future considerations or cash a while back. This deal stinks.

Penny, Choi To Dodgers

Wow. Ladies and gentlemen, Paul DePodesta's first F*&$ing A trade. Unless there's some dimension to this deal that ESPN's not telling us about yet, this is a whale of a deal for the Dodgers, who get two young players who are already very good and a prospect for an overrated catcher, a good reliever and an outfielder with a bad contract.

Dodgers get:
Brad Penny
Hee Seop Choi
Bill Murphy

Marlins get:
Paul Lo Duca
Guillermo Mota
Juan Encarnacion

I'm not sure what the Dodgers will do at catcher - perhaps another trade is imminent?

New Rumors

Since I have this blog now and the upcoming Kris Benson trade will be a very important one for the Pirates, I've been paying more attention than usual to trade rumors this year. I'm struck by how little the press actually knows - reporters either simply make things up (probably not likely), or executives from front offices lie to them constantly in order to confuse other teams (very likely). In the last week, the Pirates have reportedly either finished or been close to finishing deals with both the Twins and the Mets for Benson. I would be shocked if the Pirates didn't trade Benson, but I wouldn't be shocked at all if he went to some team besides the Twins or Mets.

In any case, the most recent rumors have Benson heading to the Mets for Ty Wigginton, Class AA pitching prospect Matt Peterson, and perhaps something else. Neither Wigginton nor Peterson is anything special; Wigginton will provide versatility and average offense for a couple years, while Peterson may become a functional starter if everything breaks right.

It's the "something else" that's important here. One name that's been mentioned is Class A+ outfield prospect Lastings Milledge. He has no plate discipline at all at this point and he may be some sort of sexual predator (he's had multiple, er, incidents with, er, pubescent girls). Other than those two pretty huge problems, he's about as good as a prospect his age can be. He's only 19, he's a first round draft pick, he can run, he can play center, and he hit very well against older competition for Class A Capital City before being promoted to St. Lucie of the Florida State League.

Another name that's been mentioned as a possible Pirate prize is White Sox prospect Ryan Sweeney, another 19 year old. He's been playing pretty well for Class A+ Winston Salem this year. Apparently, the White Sox would be giving Sweeney in order to keep the Pirates from trading Benson to the White Sox's divisional rivals in Minnesota. I haven't heard what, if anything, the White Sox would get - perhaps an organizational soldier from the Pirates or Mets, or maybe a little bit of cash.

The rumored inclusion of Wigginton in this rumored deal is interesting, especially since the Beaver County Times is reporting that the Red Sox may be interested in Rob Mackowiak, who's a very similar player to Wigginton.

Thursday, July 29, 2004


In the comments section of the previous post, Avkash of The Raindrops informs me that BP's park factors measure something like the total run scoring environment a team plays in relative to its league. So, if I understand correctly, the Rockies' park factor includes all the games at Coors Field as well as all their games in the pitchers' parks in San Francisco and Los Angeles (and now San Diego). Therefore, it is possible that Rochester is actually a pitchers' park, but that they play enough away games in strong hitting environments to offset that, relative to the rest of the International League. Regardless, this point does not weaken my thesis; Restovich compiled his 2003 stats in an environment that probably a bit easier on hitters than the environment in which Davis compiled his, and Davis' numbers were much more impressive.

Avkash, thanks for the help. I made a couple minor corrections to this post based on Avkash's comments in the link below.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Still More

The upcoming Kris Benson trade will be a tremendously important one for the Pirates, since they have the opportunity to add a future everyday player or two. Here's the latest, according to Peter Gammons:

Even though Kris Benson to Minnesota for Doug Mientkiewicz and Mike Restovich appears close, Pirates GM Dave Littlefield may hold on and see if he can squeeze one or two more players out of the deep Minnesota organization. As Littlefield always states, they can always say no.

Mientkiewicz and Restovich? You've got to be kidding me. That's a terrible deal. Mientkiewicz, as I've mentioned, has negative trade value because of his unfavorable contract. And Restovich? Let's compare him to a certain Pirate product, based on minor league stats.

J.J. Davis
Age: 25
Power: 26 HRs, .554 SLG in 2003 in AAA pitchers' park
Plate Discipline: Acceptable
Speed: 23 SB, 6 CS in 2003
Defense: Potentially very good, great arm

Mike Restovich
Age: 25
Power: 16 HRs, .465 SLG in 2003 in AAA hitters' park
Plate Discipline: Acceptable in 2003, very bad in 2004
Speed: 10 SB, 3 CS in 2003
Defense: Good

Got that? Mike Restovich is not an improvement over J.J. Davis in any way. If the Pirates were able to get a corner prospect better than Davis, great, but Restovich isn't it. This trade would be a huge botched opportunity - it would do little more than give the Pirates yet another excuse to bury Davis. Of course, Gammons has been wrong before.

More On Mientkiewicz

I've been thinking about all the Mientkiewicz-to-Pittsburgh rumors. Obviously, 90% of all trade rumors never come to fruition, but this one seems at least reasonably credible, with the Chicago Sun Times reporting that the deal is close to being announced. The way I see it, there could be three things going on here:

1) Dave Littlefield is really, really infatuated with Mientkiewicz. That sounds ridiculous, but Littlefield tried to acquire Mientkiewicz before, and he insisted on the inclusion of Jose Hernandez in last year's Aramis Ramirez debacle.

2) Littlefield is trying to swing some sort of three-way deal. I'm thinking something like Benson to the Twins, Mientkiewicz and Jose Mesa to Boston and Jason Kubel and low-level Boston and Minnesota prospects to Pittsburgh. This wouldn't be too bad - Minnesota clears the salary it probably needs to pay Benson, the Pirates get a good prospect and some lottery tickets and are out from under Benson's contract, and Boston (or the Yankees, or Atlanta, or somebody) gives up very little in exchange for a bad contract and decent relief help.

3) Littlefield is taking on Mientkiewicz' contract in order to increase his asking price for Benson. I think this one's extremely unlikely, since the Nutting/McClatchy administration hasn't wanted to spend on anything recently, but if Littlefield can get more as a result of taking on Mientkiewicz he'll be doing the Pirates a service. Mientkiewicz has negative trading value because of his contract, but if that contract were to be used to help the Pirates acquire a better package of prospects, I could live with having him around as a top pinch hitter and defensive sub for the rest of this year and next. At the very least, it would probably mean we'd never have to see the likes of Randall Simon or Carlos Rivera again.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Mientkiewicz To Pittsburgh?

Hopefully it's all just a bargaining tactic, but papers in Minnesota and the Pittsburgh area are reporting that the Twins may trade first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz to the Pirates. Because of his salary, Mientkiewicz is not a valuable player at this point - he hasn't hit at all this season, and he isn't even cheap. Craig Wilson or Daryle Ward will likely be better over the last half of the season anyway. If the Pirates really wanted a Mientkiewicz type of player, they could have tried to acquire John Olerud for nothing. Unless this deal also includes one of the Twins' top prospects - Justin Morneau or Jason Kubel - it can't touch what the Angels have already offered.

If the Pirates wind up with Mientkiewicz in this deal and don't at least also get Kubel and another good prospect in return, it'll be a disaster. I can't imagine the Twins would trade Morneau at this point, since he'll probably help them at the major league level as much as Benson for the rest of the season, and far more after that. So that leaves Kubel and possibly Michael Restovich. I'd probably still just take Casey Kotchman. Hopefully this is just the Pirates' way of trying to get Anaheim or Texas to pony up.

Thanks to Baseball Primer.

More Benson Rumors

From today's Post-Gazette:

It was learned that the Angels have entered the bidding by offering first baseman Casey Kotchman, 21, a former No. 1 pick considered a fast mover through the minor leagues, but a player who has been injury-prone. The Pirates are said to be leery of any player with a history of injuries.

Holy.... If this is true, I have no idea why Dave Littlefield doesn't pull the trigger. Kris Benson starts tonight; if he gets injured or even has a bad game, Kotchman could easily be taken off the table. This guy's one of the best prospects in baseball, even with the injury concerns. And many of his injuries have been freak things that don't indicate problems that are likely to recur in the future. Jeez, Dave: just do it!

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Cubs Vs. Phillies, 25 July 2004

Sorry for the light blogging recently. Sam and I went on the road this weekend with our brother and dad to catch games in Baltimore and Philadelphia. The Baltimore game against the Twins was nice - it was '70s night, so the Orioles had lots of '70s O's players there, including Boog Powell, Mike Cuellar and others. And both teams wore hideous '75 throwback uniforms. (Twins starter Terry Mulholland probably arrived at the locker room that day and had disturbing flashbacks.)

But the Phillies game against the Cubs was fantastic, at least until it ended horribly. Mark Prior faced off against Eric Milton, and both pitched well. Milton, in fact, pitched VERY well, staying around the plate and dialing up to 93 deep into the game. He racked up Ks - twelve in all - and when the ninth inning started, he had a no-hitter going.

But then something terrible happened. The ground parted, the gates of hell opened and, with an evil cackle, DOUG GLANVILLE ENTERED THE GAME, substituting for Ricky Ledee. Michael Barrett hit a dying quail to shallow center, and Glanville got a very poor read on the ball, then had trouble as he approached it, and it dropped in for an easily preventable double. Milton then struck out Jose Macias and Alex Gonzalez, which would have ended the game with the no-hitter intact.

If I'm a Phillies fan, something like this causes me to throw up my cheesesteak or whatever it is Philadelphians do when they feel overwhelming disbelief and disgust. If I'm Eric Milton, well, I do something far worse than that. Essentially, Milton's bid for a no-hitter failed because somebody thought Doug Glanville would help the Phillies win. Is Glanville even worth the roster spot? Here's how he has hit the last three years:

2002: .249/.292/.344/.636
2003: .264/.286/.346/.632
2004: .228/.271/.267/.538

Ugh. He won't help a team with his offense, that's for sure. He does run well, but he gets on base so rarely that it's hard to put that skill to use, and there aren't enough roster spots to keep guys who can only run and don't have any other skills.

What about his defense? His Ultimate Zone Rating, which is the most nuanced single tool for evaluating defense, says he's twenty runs below average in centerfield per 162 games. Marlon Byrd, who's currently at AAA Scranton despite having a considerably better bat than Glanville, is at just one run below average. Would Byrd have caught that ball? I think it's very likely. Glanville's range factor was also below the league average in 2002 and 2003 (I don't have the data on league averages for 2004). While using numbers to evaluate defense is still difficult, it's pretty clear that Glanville isn't a good defensive centerfielder anymore - he's certainly not better than Byrd, and he's probably not better than Ledee, either. Milton lost his no-hitter because the Phillies gave a roster spot to a pointless player, then chose to use him in an important situation. Milton should feel cheated, and so should Phillies fans.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Bay Or Burnett For ROY

Aaron Gleeman has a new mini-study on the rookie Class of 2004. The gist is that it's a weak year for rookies, particularly in the National League. The preseason favorite, Kaz Matsui, hasn't been great, and the best performers so far have included relievers Akinori Otsuka and Ryan Madson. The Padres' Khalil Greene has been okay, too, but he hasn't burned down the house.

Gleeman looks at the Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) of the field of candidates. VORP is a cumulative stat that measures the offensive or pitching upgrade or downgrade (in runs) a player represents over a typical easily available backup or Class AAA callup. So a good player is likely to increase his VORP as the season goes on.

Jason Bay and Sean Burnett, who both missed a big chunk of 2004 to the disabled list or the minors, are already near the NL rookie lead in VORP. Bay is behind only Matsui on the offensive side, and Madson is the only pitcher ahead of Burnett. But Bay has played in only 55 games this season, compared to 94 for Matsui. Burnett has thrown 45.1 innings as a starter, versus 58.2 innings mostly as a reliever for Madson. What this means is that if Bay and Burnett stay healthy and play anywhere near as well as they've played so far, one of them will almost certainly win the Rookie of the Year award.

Bay and Burnett also have something else going for them: the prejudices of the voters. As Gleeman notes, the voters don't want to give the award to Matsui, who's an older Japanese player. And they'll be more likely to give it to an everyday player or a starter than a reliever like Madson.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Pirates Vs. Braves, 21 July 2004

Last night's game may have been the Pirates' most important of the season. Kris Benson, who may be traded before his next start, was excellent:

IP 8.0 H 5 ER 2 R 2 BB 0 K 4 HR 0

This start should increase the Pirates' chances of trading him for a potential impact player.

On a side note, Randall Simon's mendozocrity continued. I've disagreed with the Pirates' use of Simon many times before, but now I'd like to take back all the things I've said. I now derive a perverse sort of pleasure from checking the box score and the recap each night to see how bad things have gotten. Simon again goes 0 for 4! Simon goes 0 for 5 and flubs a grounder! Simon goes 0 for 4 on four pitches! And so on. Just when I think Simon's year can't get any worse, he puts up another 0 for 4 and his rate stats drop even further. He's having an offensive season that would make a pitcher blush, and he's a starting first baseman who can't field or run. Really, it's fun, and now I can't even complain about the Pirates' absurd decision to play him instead of J.J. Davis, since Davis really does appear to be hurt this time. (J.R. House should be playing there instead, but what the heck, this is fun.) It seems that Simon will almost have to be released when Daryle Ward gets back. Bold prediction: Ward won't be much better than Simon after he returns.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Eldred To Altoona

First baseman Brad Eldred has been promoted to Class AA Altoona. As Honest Wagner points out, Eldred's strikeout numbers are worrisome - he struck out nearly 100 times this year at High-A Lynchburg. He may find it hard to make contact at AA. But when he does hit the ball, he'll hit it a long way: he has 21 homers already this year, and he had 28 last year at Low-A Hickory.

It's strange that Eldred hasn't been pushed through the system more quickly - he's 24, he's clobbered every level so far, and it's not as if there are great first base prospects in front of him. It's good that the Pirates are finally pushing Eldred up to Altoona to see what they've got, but they should have done so a while ago.

* * *

The Post-Gazette has a new article on Bobby Bradley and Sean Burnett, who went to high school together and were selected by the Pirates in the first rounds of the 1999 and 2000 drafts. Burnett, the younger of the two, entered the Pittsburgh rotation earlier this summer and has been even better than expected, while Bradley is still struggling on the farm. Bradley's 23 now and has an extremely extensive injury history and mediocre minor league numbers. He's probably not going to make it. While I hate to see any Pirate flop, I'm not shedding any tears over Bradley, who used part of his bonus money to buy a Hummer and once showed up another team in high school by telling them what pitches he would throw and striking them out anyway.

Davis, Shelton And Bautista

Paul Meyer has his Q+A up today. There are two defenses of my in-defense-of-J.J. letter down at the bottom.

In the middle of the column, Meyer rightly points out how hard the Rule 5 draft can be on the players selected - position players, especially, rarely get to play much unless they suffer "injuries" and undergo "rehab assignments" as a result. Chris Shelton, Jose Bautista and Jeff Bennett still haven't been returned to the Pirates since last November's Rule 5 pillaging. Bennett has pitched quite a bit for the Brewers, but Shelton and Bautista, the two highest-upside players selected, haven't played much at all. This may make the Pirates' decision to leave those players unprotected look less stupid in a couple years than it actually was, since this year has basically been wasted for Shelton and Bautista. They may flame out as a result - not because they lacked the potential to contribute in the major leagues, but because they simply didn't receive the game experience they needed (the same thing may happen to J.J. Davis, but we've been down this road before).

Bautista, in particular, looks like a longshot to be a good major leaguer at this point. He's hardly played at all this year, and he barely played last year after he hurt himself in a temper tantrum. The superb plate discipline he showed in the minors may well go to waste.

I think Shelton will probably still be a productive player, though. He's hit decently in limited time in the majors, and he pelted Class AAA pitching in a rehab assignment earlier this year. He can pretty obviously hit, and he only needs to find a position. I'll bet Detroit will have him in Toledo working on his defense throughout much of 2005, and then he'll return as a corner outfielder near the end of the season. Still, this year can't have helped his development.

Monday, July 19, 2004

The Best Pitching Prospect You've Never Heard Of

His name is Zach Duke. This is what he did this year at High-A Lynchburg:

97 IP 1.39 ERA 106 K 20 BB

Last night he pitched in Double A for the first time. He threw six innings, allowing no runs, striking out six and walking none. He's 21.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

No More Stopgaps?

Here's a very encouraging column. Kevin McClatchy suggests that the Pirates may not pick up a bunch of eighth-tier veterans this off-season, and will instead simply trust the young players they already have.

Columnist Joe Rutter suggests that Daryle Ward may be back at first, however, which seems strange to me - I believe he's arbitration-eligible, and he's had one good month in the past two years. Unless he has a stunning second half, I don't know why the Pirates would take him to arbitration when they could just as easily play J.R. House or Craig Wilson there. House would probably be just as good as or better than Ward, in addition to being younger and cheaper.

Of course, this is all moot if the Pirates trade Jason Kendall and install House behind the plate. In that case, I probably still wouldn't start Ward - I'd move Wilson to first and put J.J. Davis, Tony Alvarez and Jason Bay in the outfield. But at least you could make a good case that Ward would be a nice guy to have around. In that case, I'd non-tender him and try to sign him to another cheapo contract right after that.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

J.R.'s Here!

Yeah! J.J. Davis will go on the DL, which is unfortunate, but it's exciting to see House, who's hit very well at AAA and has tons of upside, finally make it to the bigs. Let's hope the Pirates give him lots of playing time immediately.

Pirates Prospects

Paul Meyer has a new column on various "exciting prospects" in the Pirate farm system.

These guys are prospects? First on the list is Victor Mercedes:

"He's kind of a wild hitter," Banister conceded, mindful that Mercedes, 25, had 19 walks and 66 strikeouts in 308 at-bats through Tuesday.

This is a 25 year-old who's playing at Single A and has struck out three times as much as he's walked. Next.

On Josh Bonifay:

This year, however, Bonifay has used a recent surge to boost his batting average to .270 and ranks third in the Eastern League with 63 RBIs. After apparently fining a home at first base, Bonifay has hit .304 with seven home runs and 23 RBIs in his past 26 games. He still strikes out a lot -- 81 times in 278 at-bats -- but his 16 homers and 63 strikeouts indicate he's adjusting to Class AA pitching.

Hm. a (nearly) 26 year-old who's hitting for some power in his second turn at AA, but still can't make contact. Who else do we have?

Ray Sadler, 23, acquired from the Chicago Cubs for Randall Simon last August, has begun rising to prospect status in Altoona. The corner outfielder has hit .311 over the past month, raising his overall average to .279. He has 16 home runs and 46 RBIs.

Finally, a real prospect! Well, kind of. Sadler's still not very good at controlling the strike zone; he only has 18 walks so far this year.

Yurendell DeCaster, 24, is intriguing because he plays third base.

DeCaster is older than Sadler and has even greater problems with the strike zone.

The article also mentions Jeff Miller, Brad Eldred, Rajai Davis, Tom Gorzellany and Leo Nunez. Gorzellany and Nunez are both good pitching prospects, putting up solid numbers in leagues appropriate to their ages; Miller, Eldred and Davis are all looking like longshots at best.

Many of these guys have stats that are superficially impressive, but any analysis of a player's prospect status is incomplete without consideration of a player's age. A player who's 25 and still unable to hit Single A pitching has only the slimmest of chances of ever helping in the big leagues, because players only improve until they hit a certain age, usually sometime in their mid- to late-20s. A lot of these guys - Mercedes, Bonifay, Rajai Davis - aren't prospects at all, just organizational types putting up decent stats because they're men facing off against boys.

The unfortunate thing is that Meyer did about the best job he could have done, given that he was covering guys who weren't already mentioned in his top ten prospects feature from earlier this week. Javier Guzman and the injured Paul Maholm are the only players at Hickory or above who deserved a mention and didn't get one. And of the top ten prospects in Meyer's list, only two (Bryan Bullington and Freddy Sanchez) were acquired by Dave Littlefield. Meyer's article on Mercedes, Eldred and so on shows how dire things are for the Pirates in the low minors, particularly at Class A. It will be interesting to see if the Littlefield draftees at Bradenton and Williamsport can rejuvenate the Hickory and Lynchburg rosters in the next year or two.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

J.J. Davis And Player Development

Honest Wagner has a mention of us today in his Pirates blog. Thanks to HW for the link.

I'm getting a little tired of defending J.J. Davis, and I can understand why Pirates fans are fed up with him. I can also see that I'm not convincing anyone. So I won't bother rehashing here.

I would, however, like to make a point about something in the HW post:

But he has to earn PT the way the rest of the guys earn it.

I disagree with the ideas of player development that underpin statements like these. For me, the J.J. Davis issue is about more than just him, it's about impatience with rookies in general and how that can backfire. I certainly don't advocate an indefinite free pass for Davis or anyone else, but... rookies struggle. That's what they do, and we shouldn't be surprised when it happens.

If a player can't "earn PT" by ripping up the minor leagues, how can he earn it? By coming off the bench and hitting a bunch of pinch-hit homers or something? Given Davis' development pattern - he's usually taken some time to adjust to each new level - I don't think he's going to do that, and neither will lots of other guys just after they've hit the majors.

Teams who are patient with young players often reap the benefits of that player's service later. Bobby Crosby was terrible the first six weeks or so of this season, for example, but instead of benching or demoting him, the A's waited through the struggles, and since then he's been every bit as good as everyone thought he would be.

Likewise, in 1998 and 1999 the Twins gave starting jobs and hundreds of trial at-bats to lots of rookies, including many with minor-league pedigrees much worse than Davis'. The Twins didn't even suffer much while they waited for these rookies to come around - they were bad before, when they were playing veterans like Pat Meares, and they weren't much worse with the rookies. Some of them, like Javier Valentin and Chad Allen, didn't work out, and after a while the Twins cut bait and moved on. But many others, such as Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones, Doug Mientkiewicz and Corey Koskie, DID work out, and those guys eventually formed the core of a perennial contender.

And let's face it, a lot of guys on the Pirates right now aren't earning the playing time they're already getting. That's why the Pirates are bad. If the Pirates were in first place I could understand the argument that "you've got to earn PT." But they're not; they're not even close. If a rookie is embarrassing for a little while, it won't be much worse than it is now. So at this point, when a guy performs well in the minors, I think it behooves the Pirates to give him half a year to show what he can do in the majors. That goes for J.J. Davis, and also for J.R. House and others when they get called up. The Pirates' performance clearly isn't cutting it right now, so I don't see any problem with disrupting the team a little bit to make it happen. And I think the Pirates' future will be brighter because of it - not because Davis or any one particular player will make it - but because the more high-upside guys with good minor league performance records get chances, the more will succeed.

New Paul Meyer

There are a few interesting sections in Paul Meyer's new Q&A. The first, up at the top of the page, concerns the Pirates' position as the trade deadline approaches. Meyer writes:

It appears the Pirates will be sellers only in terms of Kris Benson. He'll be traded. Any other deals involving the Pirates will come out of left field -- or right field -- and be the kinds in which another team comes after somebody the Pirates have.

I hope Meyer's wrong about that, and that Dave Littlefield is working the phones, trying to move Jose Mesa and Abraham Nunez as well as Benson. Neither of those guys is going to help in the long term, although they'd both be useful to the right contender.

Down at the bottom there's an entire section about my J.J. Davis letter (published last week):

COMMENT: Wow, I guess Charlie Wilmoth of Wheeling really told you!

Erik Yost of Tarentum

COMMENT: No personal disrespect to Charlie Wilmoth of Wheeling, W.Va., but his comments about J.J. Davis in the July 7 edition of "Pirates Q&A" are so far off the mark that I wonder if he's watching the same J.J. as the rest of us! First of all, Davis hasn't been "crushing" AAA pitching for "two years running," as Wilmoth says. In 2002, he was at AA Altoona -- where he finished with a respectable but hardly spectacular .287 average. In 2003, his average at Nashville was consistent at .284, but he only managed to hit .200 in his 19 games with the big boys at PNC. So while he has shown a bit of a stick in the minors, he hasn't been knocking anyone's socks off as a "big time prospect." And I'm sorry, Charlie. Minor league pitching is nowhere near the quality of the majors. It's simple, man -- these guys are pitching in the minors for a reason! They're not ready for the show yet. When they are, you'll see them as soon as possible -- especially pitchers. Teams want to win and they'll bring up the best players they can as quickly as possible.

Davis has been a disappointment as a prospect and a disaster as a Pirate. He's been a pro now for seven years and still he's flummoxed by major league pitching. (He's currently batting .121 in 22 games.) His defensive play has been poor as well. What good is a "rifle arm," (which I still haven't seen) if you throw to the wrong base or misjudge an easy fly and miss the play all together! You can't blame his lack of fundamentals on coaching (because) he's been in the system for too long. I'm sure that throughout his seven years as a pro, he's been coached and taught, but somehow it hasn't stuck.

No, Charlie, it's time to check the stats, learn a little about baseball and realize that J.J. is a bust. Arguments about additional playing time are fruitless because in the pros, playing time is based on production -- not potential. J.J. simply doesn't produce; therefore he doesn't play. It's time for the Bucs to move Davis if they can. Maybe the kid will wake up ala Esteban Loaiza or Jason Schmidt (and I wish him well in that regard), but most likely he'll end up another Chad Hermansen. Time to cut our losses and put a little time into more promising prospects.

Don Szejk of Pittsburgh

Yeee-oww! Did Davis look at this guy's mom the wrong way? Because I didn't.

I understand that Davis has looked very, very bad in many of the few times he's been allowed to play in Pittsburgh - in some cases, he's looked like he's not on the same planet as the rest of us. And when fans think a player lacks "fundamentals" (makes baserunning mistakes, throws to the wrong base, that sort of thing), fans take that very personally, as they should: if you're going to pay twenty bucks to watch a baseball game, you expect to see good baseball.

Still, this situation needs to be put into perspective. Davis has eighty - eighty - big league at-bats in his career. This year, he has thirty-five. That's about nine games worth of at-bats, spread out over three months. He hasn't been given any kind of chance, to put it mildly, and he hasn't been allowed to establish a rhythm of any kind. It certainly isn't enough time to decide a player is a "bust."

Does Davis lack fundamentals? It is obvious to me that he does not, unless fundamentals are magically acquired (or not) when a player reaches the major league level. Davis has, in fact, crushed AAA pitching two years in a row (and by that I meant 2003 and 2004; I thought that was pretty straightforward). He was among the league leaders in slugging in 2003, and in 2004 he slugged over .700. How does someone who lacks the skills necessary to play baseball play baseball so very well in a league that's just a notch below the best in the world?

Is there such a huge difference between the leagues that a young man with no skills could clobber the lower league and yet have zero chance of success in a higher one? No way: players are shuttled between AAA and the majors nearly every day, and many AAA players are unquestionably better than many major leaguers. Just ask Justin Morneau of Rochester. Talent isn't the only factor that affects where a player ends up: there's also service time, the depth of particular organizations at particular positions, rehab assignments, and the incompetence of general managers and farm directors affecting who goes where. The leagues can be compared to one another; if they couldn't, there'd be no point in trading for prospects or having minor leagues at all. Players in the majors are obviously generally better than players at AAA, but a 25 year-old who hits 20+ homers in AAA in one year and then slugs over .700 the next is a valuable commodity.

So, what numbers are you going to trust, the 500ish AAA at-bats that say that Davis is a good power prospect, or the week's worth of major league at-bats that say he's Pat Meares with functioning hands? Here are some players who've hit .400 or better in the last seven days: Jose Vizcaino, Eli Marrero, Neifi Perez, Tony Womack, and Jayson Werth. Me, I'm not worrying about those 35 at-bats that much. Boneheaded plays are another matter, but I gave reasons why he might be making those in my last letter: he can't get in a rhythm, he's nervous, he has trouble adjusting to new levels, or he's just plain unlucky.

Many of Mr. Szejk's other points are flatly untrue or just plain silly:

[Davis] hasn't been knocking anyone's socks off as a "big time prospect."

Wrong. He was listed as one of the top fifty prospects in all of baseball by Baseball Prospectus earlier this year. BP also called him "a darkhorse pick for NL Rookie of the Year."

Arguments about additional playing time are fruitless because in the pros, playing time is based on production -- not potential.

Wrong. In Pittsburgh, they often aren't based on either one. Randall Simon has been a complete disaster this year, and he continues to play more than Davis does. Chris Stynes does too. Jack Wilson spent two and a half years hitting like a vegan Rey Ordonez before he had any success. Tike Redman has been a mess all year. Mike Williams stunk all last year and he held the sacred closer role until he was traded. Josh Fogg continues to stick in the rotation last year despite the fact that he's pitching horribly. Playing time is pretty plainly not based on production in Pittsburgh, and that's been clear for years.

And even if it were "based on production" - should 35 bad at-bats be enough to get a player benched?

And even if playing time ideally would be based on production, wouldn't it be smart for a team in the Pirates' position to instead hand out playing time to guys who might conceivably help down the road, rather than giving it to stopgaps (who, let's face it, flop just as often as the rookies do)?

Most likely he'll end up another Chad Hermansen...

I suppose anything's possible, but there's no good reason to think Davis and Hermansen are similar players, except in that they both hit well at AAA.

Time to cut our losses and put a little time into more promising prospects.

Like... who? Last I checked, Randall Simon was still getting most of the time Davis should be getting. He's not a prospect. Tony Alvarez has gotten a few at-bats recently; he's interesting, but doesn't have the track record Davis does. If there really were better prospects than Davis available to man all three outfield positions, the Pirates' future would be bright indeed, but there aren't. After Jason Bay, Davis is easily the best there is.

Szejk concedes: "Maybe the kid will wake up ala Esteban Loaiza or Jason Schmidt..." Is it not in the Pirates' best interests to see if that will happen? As I wrote in my original letter, there is absolutely no downside to giving him a vote of confidence and letting him play the rest of the season. If he stinks, it's really no big deal. And if he's good, he could be a big asset. He costs the Pirates virtually nothing now, and there's no good reason not to really find out if he can play.

Davis isn't the second coming or anything, and it is possible he will be a bust. But I don't understand why a team in the Pirates' position would willingly give up on a guy who might help them win later. The Pirates should give Davis a chance. If he's terrible after a couple hundred at-bats, then we can all move on.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004


We are quoted in Brian O'Neill's new column in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

If you just Googled us and wound up here because you read about us in the Post-Gazette, thank you very much for stopping by. Please visit us regularly - on the hour, if possible.

In the meantime, there are a couple of articles here about Jack Wilson. Here's one about Wilson's presence on this year's NL All-Star team. Here's an older article that has some statistics that are now outdated, but contains a more detailed explanation of why we should be wary of Wilson.

With nearly every member of the Pittsburgh sports media calling loudly for a long-term contract for Wilson (O'Neill is the first I've read that doesn't), I feel that we at VORB may now be able to play some small role in stopping or at least delaying the progress of a very fast-moving train. So I'll make one more effort to convince you that signing Jack Wilson is not a good idea right now.

1. There is absolutely no urgent need to sign Wilson anytime soon. The Pirates control his rights until after the 2006 season even if they don't give him a long-term deal. The Pirates have the luxury of waiting and gathering more information before they make a decision.

2. Players' batting averages often change dramatically between one half-season (or season) and the next, and those changes don't always have anything to do with a player's true skill level. Sometimes a player simply has a period in which more grounders and liners than usual get through the infield. Although Wilson has had a modest improvement in power this year, most of his improvement has been concentrated in a huge spike in batting average. The ability to take walks is a much more stable skill, and Wilson still doesn't take walks. It is very rare that a player can maintain a batting average over .320 over a long period without taking walks, especially if that player does not have outstanding speed. Next year, it is very unlikely that Wilson will be nearly as productive as he's been this year. I hope he is, and I'm rooting for him, but I would be shocked if he keeps this up.

3. Does anybody think Wilson is going to continue to hit .330? Even those in the pro-Wilson camp would have to concede that's unlikely, and if it's unlikely, it would be unwise to sign him now, with his value at its peak.

4. Wilson's fielding may not be nearly as good as we think it is. Please read the second Wilson link above to find out why.

5. Wilson has had about one season (half a year this year, plus the latter half of 2003) out of his three and a half in the big leagues in which his hitting has been any better than terrible. Like Mr. O'Neill says, let's see him do it twice before we sign him.

Really, thanks for stopping by. We're thrilled you're here.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

If You Need A Laugh...

Just check out this rumor mill article.

Here's the punchline: Another whisper making the rounds is Garciaparra to Pittsburgh for pitcher Kris Benson and shortstop Jack Wilson.

Riiiight. The Pirates would give up two of their most valuable trading chits - one of whom they seem to consider to be an important part of their future - for a two-month rental of an angry superstar. And the Red Sox would trade their star shortstop for a guy who's considerably worse and a second-tier starting pitcher.

Thanks to Pro Sports Daily.

Turning Nothing Into Something

ESPN's Jayson Stark's new column has a bunch of Pirates rumors. The Pirates are asking the world for Kris Benson, who's being pursued by several teams, and are talking with the Marlins about Jason Kendall.

Stark also reports that the Pirates will almost certainly trade Jose Mesa. If Dave Littlefield can get a prospect or two for Mesa - and I think it's very likely that he will - he'll have made a very good move. Because of Mesa's terrible year in 2003, Littlefield was able to get him for virtually nothing. He picked up Juan Acevedo, too, hoping one of them would perform well.

Well, one of them did. Mesa, a Proven Closer if there ever was one, was given the closer's job, and he's posted a 2.45 ERA so far. Now Littlefield is on the brink of turning thirty good innings of Mesa (and his newly polished gold "C" medallion) into an interesting young player or two. If Littlefield wants to continue to play this three card monte game of picking up veterans cheaply and then dumping them on contenders for prospects, this is the way to do it.

If the Pirates' veteran signings block talented young players, they usually won't be worth the Pirates' time because the return they'll fetch on the market isn't likely to be worth more than the playing time needed to allow their young players to develop. That's one reason why it wasn't a good idea to acquire Randall Simon either time (the other main reason being that Simon's awful) - Ray Sadler wasn't worth the playing time Craig Wilson missed when Simon was around.

In this case, though, Mesa didn't block anyone, and the Pirates never had to commit much money to Mesa, so Littlefield is now on the brink of turning nothing into something.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Littlefield Playing "Moneyball"?

I just found this article on the Pirates' minor league system, in which Chris Kucharski wonders whether the high on-base percentages of various players in the low levels of the Pirates' minor league system means the Pirates are trying to emulate the low-priced, efficient Oakland franchise.

If this is what the Pirates have been trying to do, they've completely missed the point of the lessons Oakland's example has taught. Kucharski writes:

Michael Lewis's best selling book Moneyball spawned a new line of thinking when it comes to how baseball teams are built. Oakland GM Billy Beane, the subject of the book and pioneer of the thought process, believes that hitters with high on-base percentage and pitchers that get ground balls were the key to winning in a more affordable fashion.

First of all, Beane wasn't a pioneer of the "thought process" that has led the A's to success. The real pioneers would be writer Bill James and many thinkers before him. Secondly, the keys to the Athletics' success are not high OBPs and groundball-to-flyball ratios. While high OBPs are obviously nice, the A's have not been a high-OBP team for a while now, and they've still won. The real key to Oakland's success has been finding inefficiencies in the market. When the rest of baseball caught on to on-base percentage, Beane forgot about OBP and built one of the league's best defense. For the A's or any other smart team, the key is winning as much as possible with as few dollars as possible, not on-base percentage.

Is Littlefield's handling of Pittsburgh's minor league system likely to produce a efficient lineup in the future? Let's look at some of the players mentioned in Kucharski's article to see how much they're likely to help:

Tony Alvarez
J.R. House
Luis Figueroa
Rich Thompson
Carlos Rivera

Alvarez, House and Rivera are Cam Bonifay acquisitions. Thompson is already 25 and has no power; he isn't going to help. Figueroa's a journeyman. Littlefield doesn't get any points here.

Jeff Keppinger
Chris Duffy
Nate McLouth
Brandon Chaves
Yurendell De Caster

All these guys are Bonifay acquisitions.

Brad Eldred
Jorge Cortes
Rajai Davis
Taber Lee
Chaz Lytle

Every one of these guys is at least 23, which means they're old for their level. Move them to AA, and their numbers will drop. Eldred has the most potential of the five, but at 24, he's going to have to move quickly to have a career.

Adam Boeve
Jon Benick
Mike McCuiston
Craig Stansberry
Nyjer Morgan

Boeve, Benick and Morgan are all 24. They're beating up on younger competition, and they're not prospects. McCuiston is a Bonifay acquisition. Stansberry, an infielder, might turn out to be a marginal prospect.

Kucharski writes, "As you go lower in the system, the OBPs are higher." Yes, but more telling is the fact that as you go lower in the system, the ages don't get lower. These Class A 24 year-olds don't have OBP skills that will transfer to the major league level; they're posting those high OBPs because they're facing 20 year-old pitchers with crappy breaking balls.

Kucharski concludes, "The newer hitters acquired the past couple years fit the Moneyball profile." No, they don't. Of the twenty guys here, Eldred and Stansberry are the only Littlefield acquisitions that have a snowball's chance of doing anything meaningful in the big leagues. The rest are just filler, high OBPs for their own sake.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Benson Trade Rumors

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has an article on possible Kris Benson suitors. If Littlefield can get one of several guys mentioned in this article (David Wright, Ryan Howard, Andy Marte, Justin Morneau) in exchange for Benson, I will take back all the nasty things I've said about Littlefield and nominate him for the MLB Executive of the Year award.

Well, no I won't. But I'd be thrilled if the Pirates were able to get a player of that caliber. And until last week I'd have said it was impossible. But the great package the Mariners and their bad GM Bill Bavasi got for their SP/Rubick's Cube Freddy Garcia gives me some hope. Now Benson is the only decent starter left on the market, and Littlefield can point to the Garcia trade as an example of what we should get in return for Benson. Go get a Jeremy Reed, Dave.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


To Paul Meyer, who published my letter in this week's Pirates Q&A even though I took a dig at Meyer in a not-too-subtle way. It's way down at the bottom.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

This Week's Stats Geek

Brian O'Neill has a new column about Lloyd McClendon's persistent and annoying use of Abraham Nunez as a pinch hitter. As with most of O'Neill's columns this season, this one is very good. He shows us some ghastly numbers:

In 2001, rookie Craig Wilson was the best pinch-hitter in the league, going 10 for 34, tying the major-league record for pinch-hit home runs with seven. Wilson batted .294 with a .442 on-base average, a ridiculous .912 slugging average and a 1.354 OPS (on-base average plus slugging average, the best basis for judging hitters).

Nunez was the 47th-best pinch-hitter that year, going .143/.143/.286/.429.

In 2002, Rob Mackowiak was the National League's second-best pinch-hitter at .333/.429/.708/1.137. Nunez was 51st at .116/.204/.116/.320.

Last year, Matt Stairs was the league's 11th-best pinch-hitter, going .229/.317/.457/.774. Nunez had one single in 26 at-bats for a .038/.161/.038/.200 line, making him the 60th-best pinch-hitter in the league. A .200 OPS is the equivalent of a 200 SAT score, which you get for just showing up.

Nunez's numbers as a pinch hitter have been so dreadful they're almost impossible to explain. It isn't much of a mystery why McClendon continues to use him, however: McClendon's obsessed with lefty-righty matchups and Nunez switch-"hits," and as O'Neill points out, McClendon's bench has recently been filled with rookies (Bad!) and unambiguously terrible ballplayers. McClendon would be much better off going with young players - J.J. Davis, Tony Alvarez, Bobby Hill - than sending up Nunez, but it shouldn't surprise anyone familiar with McClendon's managerial style that he doesn't realize that.

But let's return to those numbers for a second - .143/.286/.429? .204/.116/.320? .161/.038/.200? Are you kidding me? The Pirates would have been better off using Garth Brooks and Michael Jordan, to say nothing of the pitchers for whom Nunez pinch hit.

As O'Neill points out, though, Nunez isn't a terrible ballplayer. He's a downright competent utility infielder - he usually provides a good middle-infield glove and he has a reasonable batting eye. Nunez' full-season OPSs for 2001 to 2003 are .662, .631 and .667. That's not really good, of course, unless you consider his defensive ability - he'd be an awful first or second option as a pinch hitter even if he posted OPSs similar to his usual levels, in the .600s. Still, a pinch hitter with a .650 OPS wouldn't be terrible to use in a longer game, and he'd hit much better than the pitchers he replaced.

So why, exactly, has Nunez been such a trainwreck as a pinch hitter? Is he rusty coming off the bench? Probably rustiness explains part of the difference: most hitters are a little worse as pinch hitters than they are when they start. Or is it a sample size issue?

My guess is some of both. If Nunez were given, say, 1000 more pinch hit at bats, his pinch hit OPS would probably rise to a number closer to his usual OPSs - say .500 or .550, about what he's hitting as a pinch hitter this year. That still isn't very good. The real problem here is probably not that Nunez is a spectacularly bad pinch hitter (although he may be), but that he just isn't a very good hitter. Spot-start him at shortstop and he won't embarrass himself with the glove or the bat, but the reason you put up with a .650 OPS is because of his glove.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Here It Is

Here it is. Perhaps the trouble was that Perez ranked only 115th among pitchers in POP.

Oliver Perez, All-Star Snub

Oliver Perez, 113 strikeouts in 92 innings with a 3.22 ERA, doesn't make the All-Star team? Understandable, and quite predictable, given the historical focus on wins and ERA. But omitting him from a list of All-Star snubs which includes Kaz Ishii? Come on, Buster Olney. Even you could do better.

P.S. I was going to provide the link to the article but my soul started to die. So forget it.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Bullish On Burnett

Jack Wilson did indeed make the All-Star team. Congratulations to Jack.

But now I'd like to celebrate a player I think will continue to have success in the future. The Pittsburgh Tribune Review has a little poll up at their baseball page:

Which minor league pitcher will have the biggest impact with the Pirates?

Jon VanBenschoten
Bryan Bullington
Zach Duke
Ian Snell
Bobby Bradley

I'll take (F), Oliver Perez. I know, he's not a minor-leaguer, but he's younger than VanBenschoten, Bullington or Bradley and he's pitching circles around all of them. (Incidentally, Oliver should be on the All-Star roster. If the Pirates can keep him healthy, though, he'll have more chances.)

Let's be straight about these guys. Bobby Bradley's not much of a prospect anymore. He's had years of development zapped by injuries, and he's never put up the strikeout numbers an elite prospect should. Bullington's already almost 24 and he still hasn't really figured out the AA Eastern League. VanBenschoten's already 24 and is still in the minors.

Snell and Duke are younger and are putting up excellent numbers, but for both, an arm injury is just a curveball away. The point is that the Pirates' core of young pitching isn't all it's cracked up to be. VanBenschoten, Bullington, Snell and Duke are all maybe B+ prospects, and Bradley is far worse than that.

Which brings us to Sean Burnett, the first of the Pirates' recent streak of first-round pitching choices to make the majors. Despite some numbers that initially look discouraging, Burnett may be the best of the Pirates' homegrown talents. He was downright excellent today (or at least his numbers were; I didn't see the game and only listened to part of it on the radio), striking out four, walking none and allowing two runs in six innings.

But in nearly 30 big-league innings this year, he's got fifteen strikeouts and ten walks, which isn't impressive, not nearly as impressive as his 3.07 ERA. So why is his ERA so low? It's because he doesn't allow homers (none so far), and because his groundball to flyball ratio is 2.00, which would tie him for eleventh in the majors if he threw enough innings to qualify (behind known groundball pitchers like Brandon Webb, Derek Lowe and Jake Westbrook).

The really good news about this is that keeping the ball on the ground was Burnett's M.O. throughout his minor league career. Also, GB/FB ratio is a skill, in that the same players do it year in and year out. Many of the leaders in GB/FB ratio this year were also near the top of the class last year. Webb and Lowe have been the best both years, along with Roy Halladay, Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson, Mike Hampton, Miguel Batista and Odalis Perez. Burnett needs to maintain his very high GB/FB ratio to continue to be successful, but there's no good reason to think he won't do it. It's early to get too excited about him - he didn't pitch all that well at AAA Nashville before he was promoted - but the signs from his first few major league starts are very promising.

More On Jack

Jack Wilson homered again today, his eighth jack (heh) of the season. His season line now stands at .339/.358/.517, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that he’s a virtual lock to make the All-Star team.

It’s very clear that Wilson has been the best hitting shortstop in the National League so far this year, and his numbers are remarkable for a player with his profile. As I’ve written before, though, they’re not likely to continue.

Let’s compare Wilson to a player we’ll call Mr. X.

Mr. X
Year Before Big Year (Age 25): .263/.291/.391
April-June of Big Year (Age 26): .304/.340/.511
Post-All Star Break of Big Year: .288/.328/.424
Year After Big Year: .280/.314/.468

Note: The Year After Big Year numbers are deceptive, since Mr. X played most of that year in an extreme hitters’ park.

Jack Wilson
Year Before Big Year (Age 25): .256/.303/.353
Year To Date (Age 26): .340/.359/.517

Mr. X was a slightly better hitter than Wilson before his career year. But he was the same age during is career year that Wilson is now, and he had the same glaring weakness – a serious lack of plate discipline. During the first three months of his breakout year he hit for much better average and power than he had before, but his plate discipline didn’t improve. After those three months he hit only slightly better than before his career year. And again, that superficially decent-looking Year After is due mostly to park effects. According to Baseball Prospectus, Mr. X had a mediocre 14.2 VORP for the Year After, similar to his 12.0 VORP for the Year Before, compared to a 48.9 VORP for the entire middle year.

While it is always dangerous to try to predict future performance by comparing a player to only one other player, what happened to Mr. X should not have surprised anyone. A player’s walk totals from year to year reflect his real level of ability much better than his batting average, which varies wildly from year to year, often without apparent reason. So when a player has a sudden spike in performance (especially if that spike is mostly concentrated in batting average) without a corresponding spike in plate discipline, it’s very likely that the performance spike is at least partially a fluke. All of which is to say that while Jack Wilson has been very valuable to the Pirates this year, the Pirates would be foolish to plan around a Jack Wilson that hits this well. There’s nineteen points of difference between his average and his OBP; only the strangest of players can maintain numbers like that without stinking it up at the plate, and Wilson isn’t that strange a player. The only thing that’s strange is the year he’s having.

Mr. X, by the way, is Shea Hillenbrand circa 2001-2003. Hillenbrand went to the All-Star game as a starter after his freak three months in 2002. Hillenbrand is a mediocrity. In five years when we look back at the 2002 All-Star roster, we’re likely to see Hillenbrand’s name and wonder what we were thinking. If Wilson makes the All-Star team this year, we’ll probably eventually wonder the same thing.

Friday, July 02, 2004


Bob Smizik has a very weird new column in which he suggests the Pirates made a mistake by trading Tony Womack in 1999.

Here are some choice bits:

There were other reasons the Pirates traded Womack. There was a belief he wasn't quite good enough in the field and he didn't get on base enough to be a standout leadoff hitter.

That's surprisingly good thinking for Cam Bonifay. Womack's not good enough in the field, and he doesn't get on base enough to be a standout leadoff hitter. And he never has - his best season OBP is .332 (in a great hitters' park), which isn't nearly standout quality.

The Pirates were partially correct. Womack didn't make it as a second baseman. He made it as a shortstop. For the world champions.

Yes, that's true, but the 2001 Diamondbacks weren't the world champions because of Womack. No player becomes good simply by having the good fortune to play on a World Series-winning team.

I'm reminded of a couple posts about Tom Goodwin (I'll paraphrase them here) that I once read at Baseball Primer:

"What's wrong with Goodwin? Couldn't he contribute to a playoff-caliber team?"

"Sure, but Goodwin can be a contributor to a playoff team in the same way that Cap'n Crunch can be part of a healthy balanced breakfast. Yes, it's good for you, if you remember to include the orange juice and skim milk and oatmeal and fresh fruit."

Anyway, back to Smizik:

Letting him go, history tells us, was definitely the wrong thing.

No, history tells us that signing Pat Meares to a four-year contract was the real wrong thing, a move that pointlessly hamstrung the team and may have kept them from pursuing better options. Keeping Womack around for five more years would have been almost as disastrous. Womack is better than Meares, yes, at least in the sense that Womack currently has four fully-functional limbs, but any team facing the choice between paying millions to Womack or Meares should quickly choose C), neither of the above.

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