Pouliot's thoughts on Wednesday's moves: Andruw, Liz, Hulett

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andruw jones rangers.jpg*White Sox sign outfielder Andruw Jones, who had been with the Rangers, on a one-year, $500,000 contract.
Surprisingly, the deal includes just $1 million in incentives.
Jones must have looked at what happened to guys like Jim Edmonds, Geoff Jenkins and Shannon Stewart last season and decided that taking an extremely modest deal was better than being forced out of the league.
I think this is a great move for the White Sox. Andruw didn’t do much in the second half last season, but the Rangers also didn’t give him a real chance to hit out of his slump. When he did play, he showed he can still hit the ball a long way. He finished at a respectable .214/.323/.459 with 17 homers and 43 RBI in 281 at-bats for the season.
If his body holds up — something that didn’t happen last year — then Jones could very well be a more-than-adequate regular in right field for the White Sox. If not, then he’s a part-time DH who costs the team next to nothing and who would be very easy to cut if someone better (Tyler Flowers?) comes along. While it’s unlikely that he’ll be an everyday guy initially, it’s conceivable that he could hit 30 homers and still cost the White Sox just $1.5 million. That makes it a great pickup for GM Ken Williams.
*Padres claimed RHP Radhames Liz off waivers from the Orioles.
It shows how far Liz’s stock has fallen that he was able to make it out of the AL before someone claimed him. The Orioles made a big mistake in never allowing Liz to settle into a short relief role. He’s never mastered the breaking ball, but he throws in the mid-90s while working an inning or two at a time and he has a pretty good changeup. It’s still not beyond the realm of possibility that he becomes a legitimate closer at some point.
That didn’t stop a bunch of teams from passing on him, though. He’s 6-8 with a 7.50 ERA and an 82/76 K/BB ratio in 110 1/3 innings as a major leaguer. Plus, he’s going to be out of options next spring, which means he’ll have to make a team or go right back on waivers again.
Kevin Towers is no longer around, but the Padres have a great track record of turning castoffs into quality major league relievers and Liz fits the profile. He’ll be far from a lock to make the team next spring, but he’s worth watching, particularly with incumbent closer Heath Bell a possibility to be shopped at the trade deadline.
*Red Sox acquire infielder Tug Hulett from the Royals for a player to be named or cash
Hulett was removed from the Royals’ 40-man roster last week, so nothing of significance was surrendered here.
The 26-year-old Hulett hit .291/.384/.473 with Triple-A Omaha last season, but the Royals never gave him a shot with such luminaries as Willie Bloomquist, Luis Hernandez and Mitch Maier in need of playing time. He’s had 67 at-bats as a major leaguer, coming in at .194/.270/.254. If he were a legitimate backup shortstop, Hulett would likely have a fine career as a utilityman. Unfortunately, he’s not really playable there. He is adequate at second and third, plus he has some experience in the outfield corners. Also, he’s a left-handed hitter, which should help his cause. The Red Sox probably won’t carry him out of spring training, but he’ll be a handy guy to have around as depth.

Must-Click Link: Sherri Nichols, Sabermetic Pioneer

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If you are old enough and lame enough as I am, you may have lurked around on sabermetic message boards in the 1990s. If you did, you may have heard of Sherri Nichols, who back in the day, was a significant contributor to the advancement of statistical analysis, particularly defensive analysis.

While it’s probably better that not everyone is as old and nerdy as me, the downside of it is that most people haven’t heard of Nichols and know nothing about her contributions. That changes today with Ben Lindbergh’s excellent analysis of Nichols and her work over at The Ringer, which I recommend that you all read.

The short version: Nichols is the one who planted the seed about on-base percentage being valuable in the mind of Baseball Prospectus Founder Gary Huckabay, back in the late 80s. She’s also the one most responsible for the rise of zone-based defensive metrics in the 1990s, such as Defensive Average, which she created and which served as the basis for other such metrics going forward. She also played a critical role in the development of RetroSheet, which collected almost all extant box score and play-by-play information going back to the turn of the 20th century, thereby making so much of the information available at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs possible. A key contribution there: making the information free and available to everyone, rather than closing the underlying data off as proprietary and either charging for access or keeping it in-house like some recent data collectors have chosen to do. Ahem.

A larger takeaway than all of Nichols’ contributions is just how loathe the baseball community was to listen to a woman back then. I mean, yeah, they’re still loathe to listen to women now, as indicated by the small number of women who hold jobs in baseball operations departments, but back then it was even worse, as evidenced by Lindbergh’s stories and Nichols’ anecdotes.

A great read and a great history lesson.