Years after Michael Lewis wrote Moneyball and teams started taking a smarter approach to building baseball teams, writers would often proclaim something as “the new on-base percentage”. Billy Beane’s Oakland Athletics rose to prominence in one small part due to their ability to find cheap players with good on-base skills. A quick Google search of the phrase “is the new OBP” showed such proclamations about Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), health (injury prevention), and software in general. Surely scores more await with more dedicated digging.
I bring this up because two big pieces of news were announced today: the Tigers and Justin Verlander agreed to a contract extension, as did the Giants and Buster Posey. A smaller but related piece of news included the Diamondbacks and Paul Goldschmidt agreeing to a contract extension as well. The Mariners extended Felix Hernandez earlier in the off-season, and now the Dodgers are thinking about doing the same with Clayton Kershaw.
This isn’t just a coincidence. More and more team executives seem to agree that buying out their star players’ arbitration years and delaying their foray into free agency is a great way to maximize player value. As an example of something that commonly happens, look what happened with the Indians and Cliff Lee: they got two good seasons out of him, then had to trade him at the deadline in 2009 because they had fallen out of contention. Since then, the Phillies have had two and a half stellar seasons out of him, while the Mariners and Rangers also got a half-season each. Meanwhile, the prospects that the Indians got in return for Lee (Jason Donald, Lou Marson, Carlos Carrasco, and Jason Knapp) have turned out to be duds.
Several years ago, Matt Swartz showed that teams that re-sign their own players, rather than signing free agents who came from other teams, got more value out of the contracts. With surging advancements in data collection and technology, teams are better able to make accurate, long-term projections about players they have grown and cultivated over many years. Though you are still prone to the land mines that are injuries — see: Johan Santana — teams will only get better and better at identifying and predicting them as time goes on.
Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Steven Souza blames the field conditions at the Oakland Coliseum for hurting his hip. He left Wednesday’s game after sliding into second base on a steal attempt and says the dirt was to blame:
“I went to slide, and it was extremely muddy around second base. My leg got stuck in the ground, and I just kind of felt a jump in my hip. That didn’t feel very great . . . “I don’t know how it got real muddy out there, but it was not OK. I’ve never actually slid into a major league base like that and stuck and felt like I was going deeper in the ground.”
He wouldn’t be the first person to find fault with the Coliseum, but he’s the first person I can remember lodging this particular complaint. At least before the Raiders start playing and mess up the field for football season. Souza had a hip injury last year, though, so it’s understandable if he’s a bit more sensitive to it all. At the moment he’s day-to-day.
In other news, the A’s are said to be closer than ever to getting a new stadium. Like, way closer than they have been for the past decade in which they’ve been looking to get a new stadium.
I love the trade deadline. Yeah, it’s cool that players get traded, influencing pennant races and all that jazz, but I also love it for the terminology.
So many “internal discussions” and so much tire-kicking. Just today I heard that a team has “gotten some feelers” for a player. That sounds kinda dirty, but in a good wholesome PG-13 sort of way. It’s two solid weeks of euphemism, really.
Sometimes, though, it gets scary. Like the way the Brewers are said to be talking about Justin Wilson of the Tigers:
I suppose if you’re “hanging on for dear life” that even the worst behavior can be excused, but I do hope that Brewers GM David Stearns is not threatening to rough up Tigers GM Al Avila or anything. Can a trade made under duress caused by threats of physical force be vetoed by the commissioner? An interesting analysis to be sure, even if it’s only speculative for now.
As for Wilson, I suppose the Brewers would have to be aggressive. He’s probably the most sought-after pitcher on the market at the moment. The Detroit Free Press reported earlier this week that 10-12 clubs were in on the left-handed reliever. He has a 2.75 ERA in 38 appearances and is striking out 12.5 batters per nine innings. He’s textbook trade deadline fodder, and the Tigers will likely get a nice return for him.
But please, Stearnsy, don’t hurt ’em.