Last night in my instant analysis of the Dan Haren trade I suggested that the Diamondbacks were overrating Joe Saunders by focusing on his win-loss record instead of his ERA, secondary numbers, and raw stuff.
Sure enough, interim general manager Jerry Dipoto basically confirmed that in his press conference announcing the deal:
We achieved by maintaining major league quality with a 2008 All-Star in Joe Saunders and a guy who quite frankly has been one of the winners in Major League Baseball. I think he trails only Roy Halladay among major leaguers in total wins. He’s won 63 percent of his games since coming to the major leagues, pitched in the postseason on two different occasions. He’s a quality, durable, steady major league starter. We feel like this club needs that, and a guy with a good deal of playoff experience.
Dipoto quoted his career winning percentage several other times and said stuff like “he goes out and he wins.”
In reality Saunders “went out and won” with the Angels because he got very good support from the lineup and bullpen, which enabled him to accumulate more victories than his 4.29 career ERA warranted on its own. To think that Saunders will automatically continue to win more games than his ERA warrants now that he’s in Arizona shows a lack of understanding about evaluating pitching performances.
Last season Saunders received the most run support of any starter in all of baseball, and so he went 16-7 despite a 4.60 ERA. This season his run support has been merely average, and so he’s just 6-10 despite a 4.62 ERA. He didn’t suddenly forget how to win, he suddenly stopped getting the runs necessary to make him look much better than he actually is.
Diamondbacks fans should hope that Dipoto is simply talking up Saunders’ victory totals and winning percentages as a way to spin the trade in the team’s favor, because if he truly believes those two things are crucial elements to evaluating a pitcher’s future value … well, things may be getting even uglier in the desert.
Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.
While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.
Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”
He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.
According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”
Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.