Curtis Granderson is doing something weird

Posted By on August 24, 2011 7:34 pm

Watching the Yankees play the A’s, and I’ve been thinking about something that hit me a few days ago: the Yankees are overachieving. Really.

It sounds weird to say that about a team with a $743 billion payroll (give or take), but when you think about it, on paper they really looked like they had some question marks. CC Sabathia is the only starter who you could count on when the season began. Teixeira and Cano are the only everyday players who are really premium players in their prime. (You can quibble whether Swisher is a premium player.)

Then there’s Curtis Granderson, who is having an MVP caliber season. Now, you would think that shouldn’t be a huge surprise because Granderson has always been pretty good, and he’s still not that old.

But he has never been this good. And he’s not that young either. He’s 30.

My theory going in was that it was probably pretty rare for a guy to improve from what Granderson was at age 29 to what he is at age 30.

So, using baseball-reference, I first rounded up all the players who had an OPS+ of 100 to 115 in a full season (502 PAs) at age 29. Granderson had a 109 last year. Here’s that list.

Now, I took all those players and sorted them by OPS+ in their 30-year-old season.

If you look at that, you see that Granderson, whose current OPS+ is 154, and Cal Ripken (162) are the only players to be over 150. Another four players were over 140. Everyone else was under 140.

This is interesting too. Of the 304 players who have had a single 150 or better OPS+ season, only 36 of them had their first in their 30s. Granderson would be the 37th. A large portion of the other guys on that list need asterisks, if you know what I mean. I’m not suggesting anything about Granderson. Just that it’s weird he’s done what he’s done.

Zito vs. Zambrano

Posted By on August 16, 2011 12:39 pm

Prompted by Buster Olney’s suggestion in his blog this morning that the Giants and Cubs ought to consider a Zito-for-Zambrano swap, I threw it out there on the Twitterverse. I also made the caveat that the Giants would have to chip in to even out the money. I got a lot of strong reactions … both ways. (By the way, I really don’t think this is going to happen, so this is just a fun little theoretical debate.)

Here’s the tale of the tape, so to speak…

  Zito Zambrano
Age 33 30
ERA in '11 5.62 4.82
ERA, '09-'11 4.27 3.99
Remaining salary (starting in '12) $46M through '14 $18M through '12

As for the salaries, I’m starting with 2012, since obviously they aren’t going to make a trade now, with Zito hurt. I’ve also assumed that Zambrano won’t have his option vest by finishing in the top four in the Cy Young voting in 2012, and I’m assuming that Zito’s 2014 deal will be bought out for $7 million. So that means Zito is guaranteed $46 million and Zambrano $18 million. It’s not quite as even as I thought. The Giants would have to trade Zito and $28 million to the Cubs for Zambrano, to make it a wash.

Based purely on the physical — Zambrano’s age and performance when he’s behaved himself — it seems like you’d be better off with him. However, the behavior thing is a big deal. It’s not just like Barry Bonds clubhouse grumpiness. We’re talking fights with teammates and going AWOL.

Anyway, what do you think?

Would you trade Barry Zito for Carlos Zambrano, with the money being equal?

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All this draft deadline silliness has to go

Posted By on August 15, 2011 1:37 pm

Today is the deadline for players picked in the draft to sign, or else the teams that picked them lose the rights to negotiate. So there will be a flurry of action right up until the stroke of midnight (Eastern Time), and it will end with just about all of the players signing.

Kinda silly, don’t ya think? It’s obvious that these players aren’t just agreeing to deals all at once by coincidence. They wait till the deadline, because that’s what happens when you have a deadline.

So, why not make the deadline sooner? Why not make it July 15? Heck, why not make it July 1? (OK, the College World Series is barely over by then, so maybe that’s a little too soon.)

If players were signed earlier, they would benefit by getting the extra half-season of work in the minors, which might actually help them develop and get to the majors sooner. As it now, some guys sit on their butts for two months after the draft, and by the time they sign on Aug. 15, their clubs don’t even bother having them report to the minors, so they don’t start their careers for real — instructional league doesn’t count — until the following April.


What might Jonathan Sanchez have left?

Posted By on August 15, 2011 9:30 am

Giants fans have certainly been wondering what the future holds for Jonathan Sanchez. I obviously don’t have a crystal ball, but I was curious about what type of futures pitchers typically have after having numbers similar to Sanchez at a similar age.

For starters, Sanchez is 28 years old and he has a career ERA+ of 98 over 173 big league games, 117 of them starts. That means he’s been a slightly below average pitcher over a significant number of games. His age is also a key number here. He’s not a kid anymore.

So here’s what I did. I somewhat arbitrarily picked 1960 as a starting point so I could have a reasonable number of pitchers in my sample. I used baseball-reference to round up all the pitchers who, through their age 28 season, had made at least 100 starts with an ERA+ of less than 100. I came up with these 182 pitchers.


Jack Morris and “pitching to the score”

Posted By on August 8, 2011 2:44 pm

We’re almost at the end of the publication cycle for the A’s and Giants magazines, which means most of my work is done, but not all of it. So I mostly sit around and wait for someone to pass something off to me, and then I do whatever I need to do, which usually takes about five minutes, then I sit around again.

Anyway, that means I spend a lot of time pointlessly surfing on, looking for … I don’t know … whatever.

So today I started thinking about my Hall of Fame ballot — hey, the thing’s due in less than five months! — and in particular Jack Morris. I have never really felt Morris had all that compelling of a case for the HOF, mostly because he had a rather pedestrian ERA and his vaunted “postseason excellence” is based on two or three games. (His overall postseason ERA is 3.80, compared with his regular season ERA of 3.90.)

Well, the crux of the argument in Morris’ defense is that he was one of those “winners.” He did win 254 games, which is an impressive total, for whatever it’s worth. The Morris defenders say you can throw out his ERA.


Are the Giants just unlucky?

Posted By on August 6, 2011 9:59 pm

First of all, it sure seems like they are lucky, in the larger sense, that they have the record they have, despite the runs they’ve scored and allowed. We all know about the unfortunately named Pythagorean Wins Theorem. (It’s unfortunate it has such a stat-geeky name, when it’s really based on the most basic thing of all: the more runs you score, and the fewer you allow, the better you’ll be.)

But are the Giants unlucky that they have scored so few runs?

I started to think about this when I realized today that their average with two outs and runners in scoring position was — wait for it — .169 with a .553 OPS. That’s just absolutely horrendous. It’s so awful that it’s unsustainable. No team can be that bad. Maybe the Giants were just unlucky that they weren’t getting hits at the right time.


Public financing for ballparks

Posted By on August 2, 2011 11:51 am

Somehow I got myself entangled in this twitter debate last night — and into this morning — over the merits of publicly financed ballparks. I believe it all started as an offshoot of the vote on the Islanders’ new arena in New York.

I’m going to refrain from any more twitter repartee, because my point is sorta hard to make in 140-character chunks. So I’m going to make it here, then be done with it, because probably most people don’t care.

For starters, I understand that new ballparks are not really profitable for the municipalities that build them. I get that they don’t really generate enough money to the local economy to make up for the cost.

My point is that every dime the government spends doesn’t have to be in the interest of turning a profit. Governments spend their money to serve the people. They do this by building roads and schools and police departments and other things that people need, but they also do this by building things that people don’t need, but want.

Like stadiums.