Tag: ryan howard

Time is Ripe to Trade Dan Murphy

I know conventional wisdom says the Mets, a financially strapped team that is at least another season away from contention, should almost certainly hold on to a guy like Daniel Murphy, but I can’t help but think they’re best off trading him this winter.

First and foremost, this is assuming the Mets have completely buried the idea that Daniel Murphy can be an everyday second baseman (or at least the better half of a platoon). In which case, Murphy is most valuable as an everyday third baseman.  By keeping Murphy on the bench, the Mets fail to maximize his utility. In other words, for those not familiar with economic jargon, he’s more valuable to another team than he is to the Mets, so long as David Wright is still around.

Of course, a lot of people contend that Murphy would prove quite useful and accumulate plenty of at-bats as a “super-sub.” While the whole Ryan Freel-esque “super-sub” idea sounds really good in theory, it’s flawed and doesn’t really jive with the composition of the current Mets roster.

For one, even if it were the case that Murphy could collect 300-400+ at-bats in a utility role, that still doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s more valuable to another team where he’d accumulate 550-600 at-bats. In other words, an average everyday player provides more value than the best utility player. It’s the same reason why it’s usually ill-advised to move a valuable starting pitcher to the bullpen. (In fact, moving an everyday player to the bench is probably worse; at least pitchers are almost guaranteed to improve their performance if converted to relief. Many hitters’ productions would suffer with more sporadic playing time).

Further, the Mets would be hard-pressed to find playing time for Murphy as a backup. Murphy can play first and third reliably, but David Wright — barring injury — will play every day unless a brutal slump necessitates he take a day off. Ditto Ike Davis, and both Murphy and Davis are left-handed, so he can’t even spot Davis occasionally against a tough southpaw like Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels.

Murphy can probably play second occasionally, so there’s that. Than again, we’ve seen what happens when Murphy only plays second every now and then. He can maybe — maybe — play the corner outfield, though, like Davis, he and Duda are both left-handed. Murphy’s defense will undoubtedly negate a lot of his value in the outfield, so it isn’t that hard to find a fourth outfielder, ala Scott Hairston, that could provide similar value.

Which begs the question, what really is the value of Murphy’s versatility? While Murphy’s offense (.750-.800 OPS.)  is definitely an asset at second — and given the declining state of third base, at the hot corner as well — he doesn’t really provide much value anywhere else. Like I said, fourth outfielders aren’t that hard to find.  Murphy’s offensive production is below average for first basemen, and there are plenty of AAAA mashers out there who could probably provide the same offensive production at first.  And we’re only talking occasional playing time, so marginal differences in value don’t really make a huge difference

Perhaps I’m being naïve here, but the whole value of versatility seems pretty overblown. After all, instead of counting on one guy to be your backup at almost every position, wouldn’t having a solid fourth outfielder, a slick-fielding middle infielder, and a backup first baseman/pinch hitter extraordinaire accomplish the same thing?  Maybe having a super-utility guy allows the team to carry an additional bullpen arm, but a National League team still has to carry at least a four-man bench regardless.

Some people will argue that the Mets should keep Murphy around in case Wright/Davis/Bay/Duda or whoever gets injured. But it’s stupid to keep Murphy around solely because of the possibility that someone might get hurt (especially since none of those players are particularly injury-prone), at the expense of trading him for say, another starter, an outfielder, etc. that you know will play everyday.

Again, if the Mets think Murphy can hold his own at second base, then it makes a lot more sense to hold onto him. His UZR last season was actually quite good at second, although we’re talking about a very small sample size. Having seen his past two seasons derailed by injuries at second base, I imagine the Mets are quite skeptical.

This is also assuming the Mets don’t, of course, trade David Wright instead. At the very least, however, I don’t expect Wright to be dealt before the beginning of the season. Because his 2013 option is voided if he’s traded, Wright’s a one-year rental this year, and a one-year rental the following year to the team that trades for him, and it makes little sense for the Mets to trade him now, as Wright is coming off his worst season and the walls are finally being moved in to accommodate Wright. Although, on the flip side, if Wright merely repeats his 2009-2011 performance, despite the new Citi Field dimensions, his value will not hold steady, but further decrease, since such a season would pretty much confirm the fact that Wright will never re-approach his 2005-2008 MVP-caliber seasons.

What exactly could Murphy fetch in a trade? It’s hard to say, but given production at third base is the lowest it’s been in over a decade, now might be the best time to capitalize on his value.

If the Phillies fail to sign Michael Cuddyer, Murphy could be a very attractive option for the Phils. Murphy appeals to the Phils for the same reasons they are interested in Cuddyer: he could play first base until Ryan Howard returns, and replace Placido Polanco at third, and even occasionally play left or second.  Ideally, the Phillies would want a right-handed bat to balance out their lefty-laden lineup, but otherwise, Murphy certainly dovetails with what the Phillies are looking for.

What could the Mets get? Here I think are a few potential options.

Daniel Murphy for Vance Worley

I think a Murphy for Vance Worley swap could benefit both teams. Worley isn’t as good as his 3.01 era. last year indicates, (3.66 xFIP) but a potential cost-controlled number three or four starter is still quite valuable.

Daniel Murphy and Bobby Parnell for Domonic Brown

Ok, this might be a bit too optimistic on my part. The Phillies situation with Brown, however, reminds me a lot of the Mets situation with Lastings Milledge four years ago. Not to say Brown will be a bust like Milledge, but Milledge was a similarly highly regarded prospect at the time the Mets dealt him. The Phils appear to have soured quite a bit on Brown the past season, and do not seem willing to commit to him as their everyday left-fielder next season. As the Mets did by trading Milledge to the Nationals for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider, the Phils would be trading Brown’s potential for two more dependable  (not to mention cheap) options for next season, at two areas they could use improvement at (first/third base and bullpen). It wouldn’t be the first blunder Ruben Amaro’s ever made.

What do you think? Does it make sense to keep Daniel Murphy around? Why or why not? Let’s discuss in the comments.

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One Reason Not to Root for Jose Reyes in Batting Title Race

Let’s get one thing crystal-clear: Jose Reyes is one of my favorite MLB players. There are few other current MLBers who I would prefer to watch if given the choice. That said, I’m thrilled he has a chance to become the first-ever New York Met to win a National League batting title — he’s currently hitting .331 to league-leader Ryan Braun’s .333, and anything can happen in the final three games of the year.

However, there is one situation where I am rooting against Reyes in this race:

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Mets Game 125: Loss to Phillies

Phillies 6 Mets 2

So much for playing the spoiler.

The Mets managed to lose three out of four against the NL East-leading Phillies, helping their arch-rivals extend their cushion over the second-place Atlanta Braves and set the stage for a September runaway.

Bobby Parnell plunked the first batter he faced, allowed a three-run homer a few minutes later, and eventually escaped a five-frame effort with five runs, four hits, three walks, and three strikeouts on his line. Parnell was blasted twice by Ryan Howard, who deposited souvenirs in both the left- and right-field stands.

Not that it would’ve mattered had Parnell pitched well. The Mets offense garnered only two unearned runs on six hits off starter and winner Cliff Lee, and came up empty against the Philadelphia bullpen.

Notes

The Mets are now 16.5 games out of first place. At this rate, they could be mathematically eliminated by early September.

Cliff Lee is now 5-0 as a Phillie, allowing only 3 earned runs in 40 IP. So far, that deadline deal is looking pretty good for GM Ruben Amaro.

Gary Sheffield was the only Met with two hits, though he was brutal in left field.

Both sides played the ball like it was a hot potato in the first few innings, with Chase Utley committing two errors in the first inning — one that allowed Angel Pagan to reach base and another that let him score.

Billy Wagner pitched the eighth, striking out two and walking one.

There were no triple plays executed in the contest.

Next Mets Game

The Mets fly to Florida for a three-game series with the Marlins that begins on Tuesday night at 7:10 PM. Nelson Figueroa most likely will take Johan Santana’s spot while Sean West pitches for the Fish.

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2009 Fantasy Projections – First Base

Kingman was doing dual position eligibility before it was fashionable

Kingman was doing dual position eligibility before it was fashionable

My name is John and I regret nothing… Except for that last burrito.

When last we met, I was telling you that Ramon Castro was worth a buck and Ronny Paulino might be working in a car wash by mid-August. Only time will tell…

First Base Rankings

If you’re not getting Pujols, try to grab Gonzalez on the cheap. I think you’ll be overpaying for Howard, Berkman and Fielder, in most cases. Let me explain…

Albert Pujols (.320-35-120) – One of the few positions where there is no doubt about who is the best offensive player.

Ryan Howard (.250-40-120) – His BA leaves alot to be desired, but I think it may be higher. You can’t argue with his HR/RBI totals.

Adrian Gonzalez (.300-30-100) – The most underrated of this bunch. His HR/RBI totals have increased each of the past 3 seasons and he has hit around .279 or above in each of those years. If he brings his Petco numbers up (only .269 last season), he could challenge Howard for the #2 spot.

Lance Berkman (.310-25-95) – I’ve been waiting for Berkman to fall off for a couple of years – his HR totals have fallen three consecutive years but he’s still a solid pick. Houston’s lineup could hold down his RBI totals

Prince Fielder (.275-28-100) – People are still drafting Fielder with hopes that he will return to the 50 HR slugger he was in 2007. I think those numbers will prove to be a statistical outlier. You can count on Fielder for something in the .280-30-100 ballpark for years to come. In future drafts, he may be a steal at those numbers, but not this season.

Sleeper – James Loney (.310-18-100) – I absolutely love watching Loney hit. I’m not sure if he’ll ever be more than a 20HR guy, but he drives the ball well into the gaps and he is only 24. The Dodgers lineup could provide plenty of RBI opportunities, depending on Manny’s willingness to play and Torre’s willingness to put Loney into the #5 hole. If it all comes together for him, this could be his breakout season.

NL East

A much better crop of players than we saw in the NL East catcher rankings… However, two of my top five guys will start the season at different positions.

Ryan Howard (.250-40-120) – See above

Adam Dunn (.240-40-100) – I expect him to gain 1B eligibility in most leagues at some point. If you need another 1B to cover for him, take a shot on a guy like James Loney or even Nick Johnson.

Carlos Delgado (.260-30-100) – People were calling for Delgado to be cut in May 2008. By the end of the year, he was on fire. He’s still got some pop, but he’s old and he has lost batspeed. He could end up outperforming Ryan Howard or falling out of the top 5 in the NL East… I think his HR/RBI numbers will be fine, somewhere between ’07 and ’08. Get him if he falls on draft day.

Jorge Cantu (.275-25-90) – Another guy who should wind up playing 1B before too long. I’m not sold on him repeating last season’s numbers – and those numbers don’t make him a good choice at 1B, but if you get him late he could end up being a nice reserve player with dual position eligibility.

Sleeper: Nick Johnson (.280-10-65) – If Johnson stays healthy (unlikely), he could have a nice season, but he’s hardly worth considering in anything other than a deep NL-only league. He plays the game the right way and that should count for something, but it doesn’t. Oh well.

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Most Valuable What?

One of the latest headlines was the news that St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols was the recipient of the National League Most Valuable Player Award, as voted by the Baseball Writers Association. Was Pujols really the “most valuable”, however? Is it even arguable that he was the “best player” in the NL during the 2008 season?

From the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:

valuable
Pronunciation:
\val-yu-bel\
Function:
adjective
Date:
circa 1576

1 a: having monetary value b: worth a good price2 a: having desirable or esteemed characteristics or qualities b: of great use or service

Based on the above, it can absolutely be argued that Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols is valuable. He does have monetary value, after all, and is worth a good price. He definitely has desirable AND esteemed characteristics and qualities. And, yes, he is of great use or service. But is he MOST valuable?

It has always been my belief that a baseball MVP should be the player who is “most valuable” to their particular team. Further, that he should be as close to indispensable as possible. In other words, it should be assumed that his team would not have been able to manage its success without him. Lastly, it is my opinion that an MVP should almost always come from a team that participates in the postseason, or at the very least a team that surprisingly finished in second. And that player should be so valuable, that had he been removed from his team, his team probably would not have been able to finish as successfully as they did.

Again, this is my hard-boiled opinion on what the MVP should be. Many argue that it simply should be the player who had “the best year”, regardless of where his team finishes.

In either case, it’s hard to understand the choice of Albert Pujols as the NL 2008 MVP.

Let’s get this out of the way: I hate Albert Pujols, while simultaneously respecting the fact that he is the second-most talented all-around ballplayer on the planet, next to A-Rod. He may even transcend A-Rod at this point in each player’s career. But, talent alone does not make him “most valuable”, and doesn’t make him “best” in a particular year. His performance in 2008 was very good — it was borderline outstanding. But it wasn’t the “best” of 2008, and it certainly wasn’t “most valuable”.

First of all, his basic, non-SABR numbers: .357 AVG., 37 HRs, 116 RBI, 100 Runs. I focus on the non-SABR numbers because these have been the ultimate, final distillation of the value of a player, in every era going back a hundred years. You want to know who is most valuable based on VORP, Runs Created, etc., go to Hardball Times or Baseball Prospectus (both fine resources) — we don’t do that here, and I’m openly willing to admit the atrocity of my old-school, hard-headed ignorance.

But I digress … back to the Pujols story.

Pujols’ .357 batting average is indeed outstanding. But it wasn’t the best. His 37 homers were also a strong output, but it was far from the best. The 116 RBI are good, but again, not the best. To score 100 runs is a great and unusual feat, but, not the best. What Pujols did better than anyone else in the NL was collect total bases, which led to his leading the league in slugging, and when combined with his high walk rate allowed him to lead the NL in OPS. So from the single-minded perspective of the Billy Beane worshipping sabermetrician, Pujols’ NL-leading 1.114 On-Base-Plus-Slugging percentage was enough to deem him the “best” player, or perhaps “player of the year”. But if that OPS is also evidence that he is the “most valuable”, I have a bone to pick.

The main reason for my argument is this: in spite of this monstrous OPS, the St. Louis Cardinals finished in fourth place. FOURTH PLACE. Say all you want about the value of getting on base — bottom line is, Pujols’ individual performance meant zilch to the Cardinals’ final win total. I don’t care that he also led the league in “batting wins” — those didn’t help the Cardinals smell the wild card. I may be going out on a limb here, but I believe sincerely that St. Louis would have finished in fourth place even if they didn’t have Albert Pujols. Crazy, I know, but I just don’t see either the Pirates or the Reds being much of a threat last year.

On the other hand, there is Ryan Howard, who led the NL in homeruns and in RBI. For those unaware, RBI stands for “runs batted in”. When a player bats in a run, that means his team scores. When his team scores more than the other team, it results in a “win”. The more “wins” a team has, the closer it gets to being the “world champion”.

In addition to batting in 146 runs (30 more than Pujols), Howard also scored 105 (5 more than Pujols). So it can be argued that Howard was 35 runs better than Pujols.

The knock against Howard was his low batting average — only .251. Well, nobody’s perfect. The point is, when Howard DID hit safely, he usually either drove in a run, or eventually scored one.

Those 146 RBI and 105 runs scored helped his team finish in first place, and win the World Series. Anyone who witnessed Howard’s barrage on NL pitching in September, when he mashed at .352 clip and drove in 32 runs in 25 games, can account for his “value” in propelling the Phillies over the Mets in the final weeks of the season. Yes, Pujols also had an outstanding finish, but all he did was help his team get a little closer to third place. I’m sorry but the drama leaves something to be desired.

And when it comes right down to it, Pujols wasn’t even the second-most valuable player in the NL. I’d give that to Manny Ramirez, hands-down. Anyone who thinks the Dodgers would have made their way to the postseason without Manny, either wasn’t paying attention or doesn’t understand baseball. No Manny = no playoffs for the Dodgers. That in itself makes Ramirez more valuable than Pujols — he singlehandedly carried a .500 team to the NLCS.

Finally, there’s enough argument to suggest that Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, David Wright, Carlos Delgado, and C.C. Sabathia were more valuable to their teams than Albert Pujols.

But in the end, it appears that this year’s vote had very little to do with a player’s value to his team, and more about the player with the most INDIVIDUAL value. Hooray to the number-crunching SABR crowd — you’ve won this round. Maybe that’s why I’m getting more and more disgusted with MLB with each passing year. At every turn, it’s trying to be the NBA, focused on promoting individual players and the stats and awards they can accumulate, rather than the concept of team. Which is too bad, because it’s with a cohesive team that the best things get done in both sport and society.

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