Adam Dunn

The 2011 un-All-Star team

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MLB sent 66 players to Phoenix today. Here’s 58 who can head to Siberia instead. Presenting your un-All-Stars.

(I won’t be taking salaries or expectations into account. Playing time, however, will be a big factor. Basically, I’m looking for the guys who have done the most harm this year.)

Catcher
AL: Jeff Mathis, John Jaso
NL: Josh Thole, Rod Barajas

There haven’t been any truly horrible everyday catchers this year, if only because Mike Scioscia has split time between Mathis and Hank Conger pretty evenly. Barajas may have eight homers for the Dodgers, but it comes with a .261 OBP, plus he’s just 4-for-44 with RISP.

First Base
AL: Daric Barton, Derrek Lee
NL: Lyle Overbay, James Loney

Barton hit .212 with no homers in 236 at-bats before the A’s were finally forced to send him down at the end of last month. Loney has been hot lately and has his average all of the way up to .271, but he’s driven in a total of 28 runs in 295 at-bats despite hitting fifth and sixth all year.

Second Base
AL: Aaron Hill, Ryan Raburn
NL: Dan Uggla, Bill Hall, Jose Lopez

At least Hill can still pick it at second base, unlike the rest of the dreck here. However, he’s hit .239/.281/.332 with just three homers in 259 at-bats. Uggla has had 135 at-bats with runners on base this season, and he’s driven in just 17 Braves besides himself (he has 12 homers and 29 RBI).

Third Base
AL: Chone Figgins, Brandon Inge
NL: Casey McGehee, Chris Johnson

If these two teams actually were to get together for an un-All-Star Game, I think there should be a reentry rule so that Figgins can start, get pulled and then later return for round two.

Shortstop
AL: Reid Brignac, Cliff Pennington, Matt Tolbert
NL: Miguel Tejada, Yuniesky Betancourt

It’s a pretty good year for AL shortstops that Pennington is the second worse. Still, he’s been a disappointment both offensively and defensively after a 2010 season in which he was arguably the AL’s best shortstop (in a much weaker class).

I had to throw Tolbert in here. He’s mediocre defensively, he doesn’t hit and he doesn’t steal bases, yet he may well get 250 at-bats for the Twins.

Outfield
AL: Juan Pierre, Alex Rios, Vernon Wells, Rajai Davis, Magglio Ordonez
NL: Chris Coghlan, Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, Jayson Werth, Carlos Lee, Nate McLouth

Pierre has gotten hot at the plate and improved to .262/.320/.311 for the season, but he has the worst defensive numbers of any AL outfielder. Davis has been another big disappointment with the glove, and he’s getting on base just 25 percent of the time for the Jays.

Give National League teams credit: there haven’t been any truly atrocious outfielders playing regularly in the circuit this year. Maybe Ibanez qualifies if one puts total faith in his terrible defensive numbers, but he’s the only one. Even Coghlan, who was struggling to master center field after moving over from left, was only a liability against southpaws before getting sent down.

Designated Hitter
AL: Adam Dunn

Well, that was a no-brainer. 1-for-53 against left-handers.

Starting Pitchers
AL: Fausto Carmona, Kyle Drabek, Kyle Davies, John Lackey, Luke Hochevar
NL: J.A. Happ, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Pelfrey, Travis Wood, Brett Myers, Chris Volstad

The lone thing stopping Davies from becoming the AL’s ace is some missed time with a sore shoulder.  He’s joined here by his teammate Hochevar. Another pair of Royals starters, Sean O’Sullivan and Jeff Francis, didn’t miss the cut by much.

Two Astros and two Reds here. Like the Royals, I just had to go with a six-man rotation for the NL squad. I couldn’t let that talent go to waste.

Relievers
AL: Mike Gonzalez, Frank Francisco, Ryan Perry, Joe Nathan, Bobby Jenks, Andy Sonnanstine, Daniel Schlereth
NL: Ryan Franklin, Brandon Lyon, John Grabow, Danys Baez, Aaron Heilman, Fernando Abad

It looks like Nathan is turning the corner now, but since he was at 7.63 before going on the DL, he has a lot of work to do to make his ERA respectable again.

Franklin’s ERA stood at 8.46 before he was cut by the Cardinals. Still, that pales in comparison to Lyon’s 11.48 mark. He’s done for the season after shoulder surgery.

Indians sign reliever Tommy Hunter to $2 million deal

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Tommy Hunter throws to the Miami Marlins during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Miami, Friday, May 22, 2015. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
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Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that right-hander Tommy Hunter has agreed to a one-year, $2 million contract with the Indians. It’s a major-league deal, so Hunter gets a spot on the 40-man roster and will be in the Opening Day bullpen if he’s fully recovered from core muscle surgery.

Hunter split last season between the Orioles and Cubs, totaling 60 innings with a 4.18 ERA and 47/14 K/BB ratio. He had a sub-3.00 ERA in both 2013 and 2014, and has generally been a setup-caliber reliever since shifting to the bullpen full time.

He has good control and a mid-90s fastball, but Hunter has never missed many bats despite the big-time velocity and often struggles to keep the ball in the ballpark. He’ll likely fill a middle relief role in Cleveland initially.

“YER OUT!” Jenrry Mejia permanently suspended for a third positive PED test

Jenrry Mejia
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You knew someone would be dumb enough to do this eventually, you just didn’t know who. Now we do: MLB just announced that reliever Jenrry Mejia has been permanently suspended after testing positive for Boldenone. That was his third positive test and under the Joint Drug Agreement that means his career is more or less over.

Mejia’s three strikes came in pretty rapid succession. On April 11, 2015 it was announced that Mejía had been suspended for 80 games after testing positive for use of stanozolol. On July 28, 2015 it was announced that Mejia had failed a test for Stanozolol again and Boldenone to boot, giving him a 162-game suspension, which he’d still be serving at the beggining of the season. Now this third test.

Mejia has played five seasons in the big. He started with so much promise, looking like a great prospect coming up. His performance only matched the promise in fits and starts, however, resulting in a 9-14 record with a 3.68 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 162/76 in 183.1 innings, all with the Mets.

Per the rules of the Joint Drug Agreement, Mejia can apply for reinstatement after being banned for two years. But it would obviously require him to spend two years doing a lot of smart things he hasn’t been doing in the past year. And it would also represent a near-unprecedented comeback. It could happen, I suppose, but it’s a far safer bet that his career is over.

I’m going to break it to you: some teams will stink this year. Like every year.

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 4.45.53 PM
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There’s an AP story out today talking about how — brace yourself — some teams are going to be bad this year. It’s true. There are some teams, such as Atlanta, Philly, Colorado, Cincinnati and probably Milwaukee who seem certain to lose a lot of games.  The article’s author notes that, while a lot of money was spent in free agency this winter, not everyone was spending. He says “for some clubs, 2016 is basically over before it starts when it comes to contending.”

That sort of framing sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it? Isn’t it exactly the sort of thing we heard back in the early 2000s when people were still stumping for salary caps? Boston and New York were outspending everyone, the low money teams couldn’t keep up and, as spring training dawned, the season was over before it even began for half the league at least. There were scads of articles like that written 10-15 years ago. Bud Selig and others even used that exact construction — teams going to spring training already knowing they couldn’t compete — as points of rhetoric in the leadup to the 2002 labor battle with the players. Indeed, here’s the exact language from the 2000 Blue Ribbon economic report that Bud Selig commissioned which, by the way, should be read as a piece of labor propaganda, not as an actually useful or illuminative report:

What has made baseball’s recent seasons disturbing, and what makes its current economic structure untenable in the long run, is that, year after year, too many clubs know in spring training that they have no realistic prospect of reaching postseason play. Too many clubs in low-revenue markets can only expect to compete for postseason berths if ownership is willing to incur staggering operating losses to subsidize a competitive player payroll.

Different circumstances, obviously, but the same general bogeyman: some teams have no chance to compete!

Using that as the concern for whatever ails baseball has never made much sense to me as there will always be teams that are bad. Really, go look at any year’s league standings going back to the 19th century and there will be bad teams. It’s sort of the other side of the coin of good teams. Hard to have one without the other. And it’s probably a good thing to have some good and some and teams. Who wants a total crapshoot every year? What is this, Lake Woebegone, where every team is above .500? God, how boring.

The real issue is not that some teams will be good and some will be bad. It’s why they’ll be good and why they’ll be bad and whether the dynamic which creates good and bad teams is itself positive or negative for the game.

In the 40s and 50s, almost the entire American League knew that it had no chance to compete with the Yankees but they kind of liked that because they were making a lot of money not fielding competitive clubs. That was bad. In the late 1990s maybe some felt the same way too and it was because of no revenue sharing or incompetent management. Not great, and a lot of tweaks were made. Now a small handful of teams can’t compete because they’re doing wholesale rebuilds which some people call “tanking” and others think is not an issue.

As I recently wrote, to the extent people do think “tanking” is a problem, it’s important to (a) put it in perspective; and (b) look at the incentives teams have to tank and talk about whether they should be adjusted. As far as the perspective part goes, I’d say that only having five or six out of 30 teams with no realistic shot is actually pretty good compared to other points in baseball history. There’s a lot more parity now than there used to be. As far as the incentives: look at the dumb draft rules which were imposed to save owners a buck when it came to paying amateurs but which GREATLY increases the importance of picking high and thus losing.

The AP article touches on that, but it’s buried fairly deep down, well after the hand-wringing about teams entering spring training with no chance to win. As spring training progresses, there will likely be a lot of talk of just how bad some of these rebuilding teams will be as well. Most of that analysis will stop at the current state of the team and the hopelessness the fan bases are supposed to be feeling.

As a critically-minded fan, don’t let it stop there. If your team stinks, think about why it does and why it’s pursuing the course it is. Twenty years ago you could probably be safe in saying “well, my team’s GM is dumb and the owner is cheap.” That’s not really the case for most teams now. Now, I think, it’s far more about the incentives in play which make putting a lousy product on the field in the short term preferable to not doing so. Call it tanking, call it whatever you want, but if this is concern for you — and if this is a problem for Major League Baseball — the focus needs to be on the incentives.  Not on the fact that some teams are going to stink. Because teams will always stink. The important question is why.

Marlins sign left-hander Craig Breslow

Craig Breslow
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After spending the past four seasons in the Red Sox’s bullpen left-hander Craig Breslow has signed with the Marlins on a minor-league deal.

Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that the contract comes with an invitation to spring training and will pay $1.5 million if Breslow makes the Opening Day roster.

Brewslow has struggled in back-to-back seasons, posting a 5.96 ERA in 2014 and a 4.15 ERA last year. At age 35 he’s not a great bet to bounce back in a huge way, but Breslow posted a 1.81 ERA as recently as 2013 and is certainly still capable of being a useful middle reliever.