Baseball Toaster Just A Bit Outside
Monthly archives: January 2006


Two Bits
2006-01-29 04:54
by Erik Siegrist

It slipped by everyone here but Bob and his eagle eyes, but Joe Girardi and the Marlins announced a major policy change this past week: from now on, Florida players will be clean-shaven. Girardi, of course, picked up this idea while coaching for the Yankees, notorious whisker-haters that they are.

I wanted to laugh when I read the article, but something held me back. And now, a few days later, I realize what it is: Girardi's right. He's a frickin' genius, really, if you'll pardon my French.

Now of course the policy is silly. While it's true that a majority of World Series winners throughout MLB history have been clean-shaven, the statistical case supporting it's efficacy is still a bit weak. But that's the genius part -- the 2006 Marlins season is not going to be about winning a World Series. It's going to be about taking an extremely young, extremely inexperienced bunch of kids and turning them into major leaguers.

Essentially, Girardi's most important job right now is to teach this huge next wave of Florida prospects how to be professionals. And if a silly policy like this (and, I'd suspect, related policies about dress codes on team flights and such) is what it takes to remind them every morning as they reach for a razor, "Hey, I'm a major leaguer now. I've got to focus," then that job is well on the way to being done before those kids even get to the ballpark.

* * * * *

While we're on the subject, has anyone else noticed the gaping hole in the Marlins offseason acquisition plan?

Here's yet another list of the prospecty-type kids they traded for:

Travis Bowyer, RP
Gaby Hernandez, SP
Mike Jacobs, 1B
Sergio Mitre, P
Ricky Nolasco, SP
Yusmeiro Petit, SP
Reynel Pinto, SP
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Anibal Sanchez, SP
Scott Tyler, SP

And here's some of the spare parts they picked up as well:

Alfredo Amegaza, INF
Joe Borowski, RP
Matt Cepicky, OF
Wes Helms, INF
Mike Megrew, P
Miguel Olivo, C
Pokey Reese, INF
Dan Uggla, INF

Notice anything missing? Like, people who can catch a fly ball?

As it currently stands, the Marlins are going to go into spring training with exactly one outfield position set -- the one occupied by Jeremy Hermida and his whopping 41 at bats of big league experience. Worse, they only have three other outfielders on their 40-man roster:

- Reggie Abercrombie, whose raw tools have yet to get him above Double-A at the age of 24, or even give him some real success at that level
- Chris Aguila, now 26, who has just 123 major league at bats himself, and will get his best (only?) chance this spring to prove he's not a minor league lifer
- Eric Reed, a poor man's Juan Pierre who stole 40 bases between Double-A and Triple-A, but who also managed just a .335 OBP at Albuquerque last season

In other words, Cepicky -- a 28-year-old who's posted mediocre numbers at Triple-A in the Nats/Expos system the last few years -- is almost a shoo-in for a job if he has two decent weeks this March.

It seems like a really curious omission. GM Larry Beinfest moved quickly to make sure his infield was covered in the short term -- even if Ramirez proves not to be ready for the majors this spring Reese, Amezaga and the like would seem capable of holding down the fort while he develops -- but in the outfield he didn't even see fit to pick up adequate insurance policies for the prospects he didn't trade for. (Don't tell me he couldn't have gotten a Brandon Moss or the like included in the Beckett deal if he'd asked.)

And it's not like they've been developing their own, either. Florida's recent pitching-heavy draft philosophy has produced exactly one 'name' outfield prospect, last year's second-round pick Kris Harvey who hit .300/.320/.479 after signing... in short season Rookie ball.

Personally, I've thought Beinfest was one of the more under-rated GMs in the game the last few years. He's not afraid to take risks, not afraid to think outside the box, not afraid to look stupid if he thinks a deal is the right one for his team, and he has a ring to show he know's what he's doing. But this kind of oversight is just inexplicable. Bad as the Marlins are going to be on the field in 2006, at least with the infield and the pitching staff a plan appears to be in place, and the team's (theoretical) future nucleus ready to be developed.

In the outfield, they've got Hermida, Zilch and Nada. And Nada's big numbers in the Mexican Pacific League aside, he just doesn't seem like any kind of answer.

Cuckoo For... Well, Something
2006-01-27 06:27
by Erik Siegrist

I apologize for the long silence -- health concerns laid me out for a few weeks, and I'm slowly recovering. To make matters worse, that recovery involves large quantities of a nasty thing called prednisone, which means I won't even be able to pass the drug test if I get the call to join the provisional US roster for the WBC. (Heck, if Matt Holliday can get on there...)

At any rate, I'm back in the saddle now.

* * * * *

As we get closer to opening the black box on Schroedinger's Deal and collapsing the quantum wave on the Coco Crisp trade, I've started to wonder... just what has Mark Shapiro been up to this offseason?

- He lost Kevin Millwood, but did an adequate job of replacing him with Paul Byrd and Jason Johnson.

- He made what I consider to be the one of the best "small" signing of the winter, nabbing Eduardo Perez. Ben Broussard had a fluky-great year against lefties in '04 (.362/.429/.652 with three home runs in 69 at bats) but has otherwise flailed away ineffectively against them in his career and needed a platoon partner at first -- Shapiro went out and got the best one possible.

At this point, the Indians moves look like the kind of moves you'd expect from a club with a young, talented core who just missed the playoffs, as they've added to the veteran supporting cast without disrupting that core. But then there's Coco...

The proposed Crisp deal (and the supposed related acquisition of Jason Michaels) would have been a seemingly abrupt 180 from that course, a full-on, Smokey and the Bandit-style bootlegger's special. Talent-wise, the deal made/makes sense -- the Indians have no third baseman of the future, and plenty of outfielders on the way up, so trading Crisp for Andy Marte works organizationally. But unless at least one of those outfielders (Jason DuBois? Brad Snyder? Jason Cooper? Ben Francisco? Franklin Gutierrez?) breaks out this spring, subtracting Crisp -- a hitter who should be entering his power prime, and who showed a classic doubles spike in '05 that could easily translate into a home run spike in '06 -- from the lineup leaves an outfield of Grady Sizemore, Casey "Captain Fungible" Blake and a bunch of question marks.

Heck, even the side swap of catchers in the Red Sox trade (Josh Bard for Kelly Shoppach) takes away a very good defensive backup for Victor Martinez and replaces him with, well, a poor man's version of Martinez -- again, seemingly not a move designed to get the Indians closer to a 2006 World Series. So what gives?

Maybe some numbers will provide a clue:


Those are the 2005 OBPs for the Indians, from Travis Hafner down to Aaron Boone. Crisp is square in the middle of that list, at .345. As a team Cleveland's .334 OBP was third in the AL, but it was a big drop-off after the top two (Boston at .357, and the Yankees at 355). In runs scored, again, their rank was solid (4th in the AL) but just average when you look at the actual totals (Texas finished third at 5.34 runs/game, while Cleveland scored 4.88 runs/game; the Indians were closer to the 11th-place Tigers than the Rangers).

Jason Michaels' 2005 OBP? .399.

The Indians have plenty of players who can hit double-digit home runs. In fact, every member of their current projected 2006 lineup hit at least 16 home runs last season. What they lack is guys who can consistently get on base for those home run hitters. Michaels isn't proven as an every-day starter, but even as a 400 plate appearance guy he'd be a big help to Hafner and Martinez's RBI totals out of the #2 hole.

At this point it all seems to be moot, of course, as Crisp is probably staying put. But as a young, cheap player on the verge of getting expensive, he's clearly the guy Shapiro would like to move.

If there's an ironic twist here, it's that Shapiro had a guy in Triple-A in 2005 who could have filled exactly the role Michaels would have filled for the Indians in 2006... John Rodriguez. But Rodriguez had no pedigree, and hit .247 through 46 games in Buffalo, before being shipped off to the Cards and "suddenly" catching fire.

Shapiro may have a clear vision of where he wants his team to go, but hindsight is always 20/20.