Author: Matthew Pouliot

Bobby Valentine

Bobby Valentine is the Athletic Director for Sacred Heart University

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Ex-Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine got the gig he was aiming for: he’ll be named the new Athletic Director of Sacred Heart University in a press conference scheduled for Tuesday, CtPost’s William Paxton reports.

It’s another odd turn for the former big-league infielder and three-time major league manager. Besides managing the Rangers, Mets and Red Sox and commentating for ESPN, Valentine also spent seven years managing in Japan, served as Director of Public Safety & Health for Stamford, Connecticut and popularized the wrap sandwich.

Sacred Heart University is a Catholic school located in Fairfield, Connecticut and apparently is a Northeast Conference powerhouse in baseball and golf. The baseball team went 25-32 last season, but still won the NEC for a second straight season with a 19-13 conference record.

Following a disastrous lone season in Boston, it’s doubtful that the 62-year-old Valentine will ever surface in a major league dugout again. Still, he does have a winning record in 16 years as a major league manager, going 1,186-1,165.

Where this leaves Valentine and NBC is unclear. Valentine was hired last month to serve as a co-host on a weekday talk show for NBC Sports Radio. That gig was due to begin in April.

Jason Giambi set to sign with Indians

Jason Giambi
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The Denver Post’s Troy Renck reports that the Indians and first baseman Jason Giambi are closing in on a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

The 42-year-old Giambi was considered for the Rockies’ managerial vacancy earlier this winter, but after failing to get that, he said he wanted to keep playing. The Indians should have room for him as a left-handed-hitting DH after losing Travis Hafner to the Yankees.

Serving mostly as a pinch-hitter, Giambi hit .225/.372/.303 with one homer in 89 at-bats for the Rockies last season. He was much better in 2011, batting .260/.355/.603 with 13 homers in 131 at-bats.

If Giambi impresses this spring, the Indians could make him their primary DH against righties, with catcher Carlos Santana occasionally rotating into the spot. Santana and Mike Aviles could share time at DH against lefties.

Brewers revert to thrifty form

Ron Roenicke
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The Brewers’ offseason opened with speculation about a push for Josh Hamilton. 3 1/2 months later, their biggest pickup has been Tom Gorzelanny.

Mark Attanasio’s Brewers won 96 games and went to the NLCS in 2011, and while the team lost Prince Fielder afterwards, it was able to bring in Aramis Ramirez as a replacement. Still, despite Ramirez’s best efforts, the team dropped to 83 wins and a third-place finish in the NL Central last year. The bullpen was the biggest problem, and when the Brewers couldn’t extend Zack Greinke, they traded him away to the Angels, sacrificing their second star in 12 months.

The curious thing is that while the Brewers were open to giving Greinke a $100 million deal, they’ve made no effort to distribute that money this winter. Gone also are the salaries No. 3 starter Shaun Marcum, No. 4 starter Randy Wolf and overpaid reliever Francisco Rodriguez. Those were four of the Brewers’ six highest-paid players last year, accounting for more than $38 million of a season-opening $98 million payroll.

Lesser lights Myjer Morgan, Manny Parra, Kameron Loe and Jose Veras have also been lopped off. That’s another $7.7 million.

The replacements: Gorzelanny at $5.7 million for two years, fellow reliever Mike Gonzalez at $2.25 million and infielder Alex Gonzalez at $1.5 million. The only other newcomer due a significant salary is reliever Burke Badenhop (acquired from the Rays) at $1.55 million. All told, they’ll combine to make about as much this year as K-Rod did last year.

As is, the Brewers are looking at a payroll about $25 million-$30 million shy of their 2012 figure. And they certainly have needs. Marco Estrada rates as their No. 2 starter behind Yovani Gallardo. A legitimate eighth-inning guy would be nice. The lineup was pretty well set before Corey Hart’s recent knee surgery, but a quality outfield option would be useful in case either Norichika Aoki or Carlos Gomez can’t repeat his 2012 performance.

Alas, most of the quality players are long gone now. But Milwaukee would still seem to be an obvious fit for Kyle Lohse if the team wasn’t so intent on retaining its first-round pick. Instead, it seems the Brewers will do little and hope for the best. The bullpen can’t be any worse and some young pitching might step up, but the odds are against the offense being as strong again and this is a team that’s going to need a lot of luck to get back to the postseason.

Pierre, Polanco, Stanton expected to top Marlins order

Giancarlo Stanton
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That’s the way new Marlins manager Mike Redmond is looking to kick off his lineup; Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco and Giancarlo Stanton are likely to occupy the top three spots.

Sadly, Pierre and Polanco seemed like givens to bat first and second from the moment they were plucked from the bargain bin this winter. The alternatives there the middle infield duo of Donovan Solano and Adeiny Hechavarria.

On the other hand, Stanton batting third is a bit of a surprise and quite seemingly a mistake, particularly given the lack of proven hitters behind him. Justin Ruggiano and Logan Morrison will be the  fourth and fifth hitters in some order.

Let’s face it, most of the Marlins innings that begin with the leadoff man are going to unfold in a couple of ways:

– Pierre and Polanco both make outs, putting Stanton up with none on and two out.

– Pierre singles, attempts to steal second or gets moved up by Polanco. Stanton comes up with a man on second and one out and immediately gets pitched around or intentionally walked to set up the double play.

My thought is that it makes a lot more sense to hit Stanton fourth. For one thing, if he’s going to come up with no one on, it’s much better that he does it at the start of the inning, giving him a chance to start a rally, than with two outs. And hitting him fourth should open up more situations in which he’s up with multiple men on, making the intentional walk less likely.

Cleanup hitters simply get more RBI chances than No. 3 hitters, even without accounting for the fact that they get fewer at-bats. Last year, NL No. 4 hitters drove in 1,658 runs while hitting .272/.343/.470. No. 3 hitters, despite hitting slightly better at .283/.356/.469, drove in 1,509 runs.

Not that it really matters in the grand scheme of things. The Marlins would have to figure out how to hit Stanton second, third and fourth to have much of a chance of avoiding the NL East basement this year.

Giving Aaron Hill $35 million another misstep for Diamondbacks

Aaron Hill
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Arizona GM Kevin Towers has mastered the art of buying high and selling low this winter.

In giving Aaron Hill a three-year, $35 million extension on Friday, Towers made another high-risk, low-upside move.  Second basemen have a history of cratering earlier than most, and Hill is going to be 32-34 during the years his extension covers.

Of course, Hill was terrific last season, one of the NL’s 10 best players. However, he has a terribly inconsistent history on offense (Hill has a career OPS of .759, yet he hasn’t actually posted an OPS in the 700s since 2007), and his glovework has gone from outstanding in his mid-20s to above average now. He’ll almost certainly be a below average defender by the time his new deal ends in 2016.

The big problem here is that Hill is going to play this year at 31. His new deal doesn’t kick in until 2014. Contracts of this type for second basemen in their 30s are practically unheard of and for good reason.

According to Baseball-reference, Hill has accrued 21.4 WAR through age 30. Here’s a list of every other second baseman since 1900 to amass between 18 and 25 WAR through age 30 and what they did from ages 32-34, the years Hill’s extension covers.

Jimmy Williams – .195/.257/.235 in 374 AB – (0.7) WAR
Del Pratt – .313/.370/.437 in 1,702 AB – 10.2 WAR
Max Bishop – .271/.433/.368 in 1,053 AB – 8.5 WAR
Red Schoendienst – .293/.345/.403 in 1,688 AB – 9.7 WAR
Bobby Avila – .247/.334/.343 in 1,351 AB – 3.0 WAR
Ron Hunt – .285/.395/.320 in 827 AB – 3.7 WAR
Davey Johnson – .325/.411/.554 in 157 AB – 1.8 WAR
Dave Cash – .227/.287/.280 in 397 AB – (0.7) WAR
Steve Sax – .237/.287/.315 in 710 AB – (0.6) WAR
Bill Doran – .272/.372/.387 in 1,151 AB – 4.9 WAR
Robby Thompson – .217/.307/.340 in 692 AB – 1.7 WAR
Delino DeShields – .221/.329/.340 in 497 AB – 0.2 WAR
Ray Durham – .289/.360/.484 in 1,466 AB – 7.1 WAR
Luis Castillo – .270/.366/.315 in 1,031 AB – 0.9 WAR
Brian Roberts – .244/.308/.340 in 459 AB – 0.1 WAR
Orlando Hudson – .246/.318/.352 in 1,155 AB – 3.1 WAR

The old-timers don’t look so bad. Pratt, who played from 1912-24, sustained no drop-off due to age, and Schoendienst, a late-bloomer as a hitter, ended up in the Hall of Fame. However, of the 11 players here to play in the last 50 years (everyone after Hunt), only Durham maintained his previous level of production at ages 32-34. Most of the rest weren’t useful at all. That’s the tendency with second basemen: once they stop being quality regulars, their lack of versatility prevents them from contributing even as part-timers.

Taken altogether, the average player here produced 3.3 WAR from ages 32-34. The Diamondbacks  are expecting much more than that from Hill after guaranteeing him $11.67 million per year. History suggests they’ll almost surely end up disappointed.