Keith Law: “Miguel Cabrera is the third-most valuable player on his own team”

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Keith Law is still catching hell from Cardinals fans over his 2009 Cy Young Award ballot which they (erroneously) believe screwed Adam Wainwright and/or Chris Carpenter out of the Cy Young Award. That’s not his problem. He’s wrongfully accused of hating every team’s fans at some time or another, but Keith votes his mind and his conscience on such things. And given that he and the rest of the old Baseball Prospectus folks made their bones by going against the often-faulty conventional wisdom, it’s not at all surprising that his take on such matters pisses people off.

Well, it’s gonna happen again. This time with Detroit fans who really, really love their Miguel Cabrera. Here’s Keith:

“One of the most popular questions I’ve gotten recently is whether Miguel Cabrera will win the AL MVP award. I don’t presume to know what the voters will do, but I know that as it stands right now, he shouldn’t appear in the top three spots on any ballot.

“Cabrera’s offensive performance has been solid, but he’s a major negative on defense at third base, so a player like Cano, a good defender at a position (second base) where offensive levels are lower, is more valuable overall even though Cabrera has slightly higher raw rate stats.

“Cabrera is the third-most valuable player on his own team, behind Verlander and Jackson, the latter of whom has completely transformed himself at the plate this year and is a plus defender in center.”

I see his argument. I don’t have much intelligent to say about it one way or the other apart from the fact that, if you don’t look too deeply into defense, you’re never going to agree with Keith here given Cabrera’s offensive production, but I do see what he’s saying. He’s not trying to hate here because I know Keith a little bit and he doesn’t hate on anyone like people claim he does.

But, yeah, I do not think that these comments — which are now being repeated in the Detroit Free Press — are going to endear him to Tigers fans.

The most interesting question — the answer to which I don’t think Keith will ever tell us — is whether, motivated by it or not, Keith actually kinda likes it when the mob goes after him. I’ll admit that I kinda like it. It can be a lot of fun. I could be wrong, but I sort of picture Keith cackling at this a bit.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.