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Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria took out ads in three major south Florida newspapers and wrote a “Letter to our fans.”

Loria took out the ad because he had “sat quietly” for long enough and wanted a chance to respond to his fans about the Marlins losing season and their offseason that included a trade to the Toronto Blue Jays of almost all of the team’s highly-paid star players.

The Fastball

By: Matt

To understand the full villainy of Jeffrey Loria, we have to go back in time and realize what kind of a man this is. This is a man that wants to profit from the game of baseball above all else. He feels no duty to his fans and no duty to put a winning baseball team on the field. Jeffrey Loria

Loria managed to go from a small stake in the Montreal Expos to convincing Major League Baseball to bring back the Nationals in exchange for ownership of a new team in Florida. He then managed to convince taxpayers to build him a new stadium (with some questionable art choices). Loria has done all this because he is smart and because he knows how to use sports to take advantage of people.

Marlins Statue

Taxpayers are still on the hook for over $600 million of the Marlins new stadium-which checks in as the most expensive of all time-but Loria was able to get it built based on promises that the team would dramatically raise their payroll, put out winning teams, and compete for the playoffs every year. And they did, for about half a season.

Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell were the big name free agents signed by the Marlins last offseason. They brought in sparkplug (but World Series winner) Ozzie Guillen and everything looked ready to click. But the season was a disaster, the Marlins went 69-93 and started didn’t even make it a full season before they started to dismantle their team.

Star infielder Hanley Ramirez and reliever Randy Choate were the first to go, off to the Dodgers for a back of the rotation starter. 1st baseman Gaby Sachez was sent to the Pirates. Starter Anibal Sanchez and infielder Omar Infante were sent to the Tigers and Manager Ozzie Guillden was fired (partly for his incendiary comments about Fidel Castro in a town with a large Cuban population). The turning point for the Marlins, though was their blockbuster trade with the Jays. Reyes (a franchise shortstop) and Buehrle (a workhorse starter) were sent off, along with ace Josh Johnson, catcher John Buck, and utilityman Emilio Bonifacio.

In total, the Marlins trade 12 players from their opening day roster. They took a payroll of $146.5 million in 2012 to an expected opening day payroll of $45 million (the lowest in baseball) in 2013.

I’m not here to say trading former stars is never a good idea, but when really evaluating the trades and the returns received, it is obvious that the Marlins were looking to dump salary and nothing more. In the Jays trade the Marlins received several prospects that could see time in the major leagues, but these are not your future Trouts or Strasburgs. They aren’t even future Reyes or Johnsons. In fact, none of the Jays top prospects (Travis d’Arnaud, Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, and Anthony Gose) were sent off in the deal. Another highlight is the trade of utilityman Emilio Bonifacio. Bonifacio was set to make around a $2.5 million but could play multiple positions, get on base, and is a threat to lead the league in steals. In short, he is the type of player every GM wants on their team. But it seems that every player making over the minimum is too expensive for the Marlins these days.

Loria writes in his appeal to fans that “experts have credited us from going from the 28th ranked Minor League system…to the 5th…Of the Top 100 Minor Leaguers rated by MLB Network, we have six.” This is Loria’s attempt to justify the trade, but it doesn’t hold up. Of the six top 100 prospects, only two were acquired in trades (Nicolino and Marisnick from the Jays). The top two Marlins prospects are outfielder Christian Yelich and pitcher Jose Fernandez, both of which were draft picks that had nothing to do with the trade. Another top prospect was first round pick Andrew Heaney and finally, Marcell Ozuna was a signing from the Dominican Republic.

According to Forbes, the Marlins have made a combined $196 million in operating profits over the previous six seasons. For two of those years, the team’s financial documents list an expense for a “management fee” to the Double Play Company in the millions. Take a guess at who runs that company? Jeffrey Loria and David Sampson, the team president.

This is as low as it gets. Loria has funneled millions of dollars from his team to his pocket, convinced taxpayers to foot the bill on a new stadium, and refuses to do his job of keeping a winning team on the field. But, hey, now that Frank McCourt is gone, someone needs to assume the role of resident scumbag, right?

The Changeup

By: Ryan

I feel like I need to issue a disclaimer before this post. The words that are about to follow we’re difficult to write and hard to justify. But it’s important to say that this post will not attempt to serve as an endorsement of Jeffrey Loria. He is doing his best to demolish a fan base, and, short of having a contest where a fan is selected out of the crowd to start in LF, I’ll be surprised if they fill Opening Day. Instead, I’m going to pitch an idea that attempts to explain the rational behind the recent actions made by the Marlin’s front offices.

The Marlins entered 2012 with a new stadium, a new uniform, and a lineup full of big names. While the lineup was impressive and excitement was at its highest since they won the World Series in 2003, the team started struggling by July. At that point in time, the team had scored the third fewest runs in the game; the team simply wasn’t hitting. A big reason for the offensive struggle resulted from the poor rotation that couldn’t keep them in games. Their starting rotation going into the season was Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, and Carlos Zambrano. While the Marlins had a rotation of big names, they weren’t performing like it. Plus, none of them could be considered higher than a #3 starter at any point in 2012, and their run differential at mid-season proved it. The Marlins were -66, fourth worst in the league at the end of June.

A month later, Loria apparently had given up on the season, and began restructuring. As they traded Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, they opened up space for Bonifacio, and picked up a slew of highly ranked prospects, two of which will be starting this year. They then attempted to fix their pitching situation by trading Hanley Ramirez, to the Dodgers for Nate Eovaldi. Up to this point in the season, Eovaldi was performing well, especially for his age. And with Hanley far from his MVP numbers from 07-09 (he hasn’t posted a WAR above 2.6 since), it seemed like a way to add back rotation depth in the short term (Eovaldi could be considered at best a mid rotation guy in the long term) and free up payroll to land another deal in the off season. These two moves we’re strategic baseball moves that allowed the Marlins to give up some big names that were under performing for improvements in their rotation and at catcher.

Yet as with all prospects, they take time to grow. And in November, Miami decided they couldn’t wait any longer. So they traded their remaining names off to the Blue Jays for a bunch of no names, with the biggest name, Yunel Escobar, getting shipped off two weeks later. It’s at this point it becomes hard to justify Miami’s actions, if only for the minuscule haul of talent that they received in return. (I think more of the blame should be placed on the catatonic commissioner, but that’s for another time). As my colleague points out there are major flaws in Loria’s argument that the Marlins have one of the best farm systems, but when you consider five of the farm system guys they traded for last season were highly touted in 2012 and are now starting, he does have some truth to the argument.

As for the stadium, it appears that the $161 million Loria mentions is a little high, the correct number is closer to $125.2 million or 20%. (Link) Even with that, as Loria states the public funded portion of the stadium will be funded by tourist’s traveling to and from the city. In other words, this tax is least likely to burden the citizens of Miami, which should make it a hit with the taxpaying Marlin fans. The only negative effects they will directly face is a shortage of revenues for other commodities they receive from the city. However, tourist taxes are highly inelastic and likely to be a stable source of revenue, and while there is no doubt that it will cut into Miami earnings, the city can easily just raise the tax a percentage or two to make up the difference without upsetting the citizens of Miami. (Plus, the stadium has won tons of awards, which will look great next to the stadium’s $73,000 bobble head display case…I couldn’t resist).

With this letter, Loria is attempting to offer the City of Miami an olive branch. Is it a first step? Yes. Does it explain everything that happened last year to the Marlins fans? No. But if he wanted to do that, he should have bought the whole Sunday paper; he definitely can afford it.

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Sophomore Stars? The Trout/Harper Debate

No two rookies received as much press last year as Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Both rookies were highly touted young raw talents, who we’re going to make a big impact on the game, and when they both got called up, it was easy to make comparisons as to which would be the better performer. While Trout easily out shown Harper last year, and nearly every other baseball player for that matter, a new year is upon us and it seems impossible to start this season without speculating which will have the better 2013.

The Fastball

By: Ryan

Trout arguably had the best baseball season last year with his .326 batting average, 49 stolen bases, and 30 homers. Not to mention he had a WAR of 10.8, highest in the Bigs since Barry Bonds had a 11.6 in 2002. While his five-tool talent and numerous web gems weren’t enough to get the Angels to the playoffs, they did earn the kid Rookie of the Year honors, and a second place finish in AL MVP. While the general conception is that Trout is going to come back down to Earth, he is still no doubt going to be an amazing athlete batting near .300 and stealing over 40. However, where 2012 was the breakout for Magic Mike, 2013 will be all about Harper.

In 2012, the kid (and yes I can call him a kid because he’s younger than me, and probably you too) ran into a bit of struggles midway during the season, which coincides to when pitchers discovered Harper’s kryptonite, the curveball. Over the course of the season, with two strikes (traditional junk ball pitch counts), Harper batted .180. Yet the kid still managed to bat .270 on the season by batting .382 in traditional hitters counts. In other words, he can crush the fastball. Yet once he becomes more disciplined at the plate, he’ll be able to work himself into hitters counts and up his walk rate, both which will respectively benefit his raw power and speed. It is also worth noting that while Harper’s worst two months were in July and August, he finished the year with a better offensive September than Mike Trout. Harper’s BA and SLG all topped that of Trout, while they both shared a .400 OBP.

I see Harper developing into more of a power hitter than Trout, who will regress into a more traditional leadoff batter (high avg, high steal, low slugging). While it’s difficult to compare a true power hitter to a true leadoff man, these two players will continue to be hybrids with a different emphasis on their game. However, what will set Harper apart this year will be a plus average for a power hitter, as evident from his .330 Sept/Oct.

Defensively, Harper will be slow to transition. He finds himself moving to left field, which will take some adjustment. But his WAR of 1.8 in his first year hints at his abilities. Harper has a cannon of an arm, which only got stronger when he bulked up 15 lbs in the offseason. As the season progresses, watch Harper become more of a threat in the outfield, especially over the limited space he’s responsible for.

Plus, let’s not forget about Harper’s hustle. This is the same hustle that allowed him to steal home on Cole Hamels when he tried to pick off the runner at first. This aspect of his game allows him to prove to be a vital asset on the base paths, where he can stretch singles to doubles and double to triples. This aspect of his game allows him and the Nats to capitalize on defensive mental errors, something few other players do as well as Harper.

2013 is going to be an exciting season and its going to be great to watch Trout and Harper duke it out again. But I give Round 2 to Harper; expect his 5.0 WAR to jump as his game continues to develop.

Oh and did I mention, the kid’s only 20.

The Changeup

By: Matt

That’s a clown article, bro.

With respect to my colleague, he’s just taking the party line on these rookies and not actually looking beyond the stats. Yes, Mike Trout is a candidate for regression, and he might even have a sophomore slump. That being said, he was the best player in baseball last year and should have been the MVP; even if he does regress, it is hard to imagine him falling far. Trout put up ridiculous numbers in his first full season, but unlike some rookies that have shone bright and faded, this young man’s numbers don’t actually suggest regression, but insanely, improvement.

Trout ended the season with a .326 BA, .399 OBP, .563 SLG with 27 doubles, 30 home runs, 83 RBIs, and 49 stolen bases (while only being caught stealing 5 times). These are fabulous numbers that bring you back to Barry Bonds pre-steroids or Ken Griffey Jr. in his prime. In some senses he actually beats these two out though thanks to his speed and defensive ability. However, though these are the sexy numbers that people like to tout, the most important numbers are the ones below the surface:

Trout grounded into 7 double plays in 2012, he had a .88/1 Ground ball to fly ball ratio, he drew only about 1 walk per 10 plate appearances and he saw about 4 pitches per at bat. These are not the numbers of a leadoff hitter, but those of a power hitter in his prime. Trout had to carry his team for a few months last season with Prince Albert was slumping, and being a rookie, he faced many fastballs from pitchers who didn’t know his weaknesses yet. And Trout did what any good hitter does with fastballs and hit them a long way, usually in the air. This likely inflated his home run totals, and brought his OBP down. While a .399 OBP is good for a leadoff hitter, it is due mostly to his high average, and ridiculous knowing that Trout only walked at a .105 bb/pa rate. It is likely that Trout in the offseason will work on taking more pitches and drawing more walks, especially since he is likely to see more off-speed and junk pitches in his second season. Trout will face a harder time in his second season, and his numbers will change, but not necessarily for the worse. I see him learning his trade more in his second season, lower power numbers, but higher peripherals.

My predictions for Trout’s second season:
118 R, 192 H, 30 2B, 20 HR, 78 RBI, 58 SB, .320 BA, .415 OBP, .500 SLG, 158 OPS +

Yes the power will be down, but the hits will be up. With Pujols and Hamilton hitting behind him, Trout will be able to do his job and see pitches and get on base. He won’t have to carry the team anymore, and can work on just being the best leadoff hitter in baseball.

Oh and did I mention he’s also the best defensive center fielder in the game?

Alright, on to Bryce Harper. Harper is a young hotshot and he probably gets more scrutiny than he deserves. He is a good player, but not great, and he is a prime candidate for regression, not improvement. Harper is a “hustle” player. He beats out infield singles, turns singles into doubles and makes spectacular plays in the outfield. However, his hustle actually makes up for some glaring problems that he will have to try and fix. Unlike Trout, Harper has not learned how to play the outfield. He gets bad jumps on balls and takes bad routes to get to them, but his hustle and grit often make up for it and he manages to make the catch. Case in point:

Harper’s swing is gorgeous. When he gets a ball where he is expecting to get it he can hit it as far as anyone and he can fly on the basepaths. That being said, he still hasn’t learned how to hit a curve ball. It’s the prototypical problem for young stars that are rushed through the minors, the inability to hit major league off speed. Harper will definitely improve some parts of his game, but he won’t be able to take it to the next level until he learns to hit offspeed pitches and hit them well.

Currently, the advantage lies with the pitcher, since they can nibble and throw junk until Harper bites and strikes or grounds out. And he does, as evidenced by his .09 bb/pa. Harper still needs to learn how to hit. And he will, but I don’t think he puts it together right away this season. Harper will put up decent numbers and will help his team contend through his hustle and raw talent. And he is raw. He may just be the best #2 hitter in baseball, but he is not much more than that. Until he gets some more seasoning, Harper will continue to be a positive player in the big leagues, but he is still a year or so away from taking the jump and becoming elite.

2013 Projections

No baseball blog would be complete without an attempt by its authors to project the final results of the season. So, here they are, our season predictions:

kgo-cc-giants-trophy-103112-600

Ryan’s Picks

AL West: This division should have belonged to the Angels last season but they always seemed just a couple games out of contention. Expect a showdown between the top two teams this year, but don’t expect the Angels to let the division slip away from them. They’ve got a strong lineup and should be able have enough to top the A’s pitching and chemistry, the latter of which will be hard to replicate again. The Rangers will regret giving a great bat to a division mate, while finding solace in the fact that Berkman doesn’t have eye issues.  Meanwhile, the Mariners will win every five days while the Astros won’t count this season as a total loss; they got new hats.

Angels

Athletics (WC I)

Rangers

Mariners

Astros

AL Central: The AL Champs should have an easy time reclaiming the division with a dominant 1-2 pitching duo and 3-4 hitting duo. The rest of their lineup balances their stars, making the Tigers easy favorites. The White Sox and Indians fill out the second tier in this division, but the Indians outfield advantage trumps the Chi Sox pitching advantage, making Cleveland the better of these two otherwise average teams. The bottom tier gives the advantage to youth and the recent acquisition of James Shields, making the Royals the next best team. The division closes out with Joe Mauer & Co.

Tigers

Indians

White Sox

Royals

Twins

AL East: This division is going to be a toss-up, with each of the top four teams having a different strength but so many question marks. The Orioles are extremely dependent on a shaky starting rotation, and need a balanced production out of their lineup, similar to 2012, to make up for their lack of studs. The Rays always seem to be contenders and I expect them to call up future star Wil Myers at some point in the season to give them an added boost, but will it be enough to counter the loss of James Shields and unproductive bottom of the order. This leaves the Yankees and the Blue Jays. I don’t like putting the Yankees at the top of the division with their aging lineup and pitching rotation, and the holes in their lineup due to injury/free agency that they didn’t seem to replace, but their lineup appears to be the most reliable. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have a great team, if it were 2012. They paid an awful lot for a lot of question marks, but I think as a whole it was an improvement and a good one to make when there is so much in flux in the division. This should be enough to get them to the postseason.

Yankees

Blue Jays (WC II)

Rays

Orioles

Red Sox

NL West: All eyes will be on the NL West and in particular the Dodgers, but expect the Dodgers to do enough to seal the division. Their superior lineup and arguably superior rotation should be enough for them to edge out the Giants. While I do think that on paper the Dodgers should be able to enter the playoffs with a decent lead over their division rivals, the Giants have been blessed with some great team chemistry that will keep them close. The Diamondbacks will be a distant third without Upton, but their pitching will be enough to get them third place. The Padres are still young and still missing two top of the rotation starters to make them contenders. The Rockies will struggle to lose less than 100 games, but this might prove as an opportunity to Jamie Moyer, who is still better than half the Rockies rotation.

Dodgers

Giants (WC II)

Diamondbacks

Padres

Rockies

NL Central: The Cardinals were the favorites for the division but after losing Chris Carpenter for the season, proved too much for a rotation that is still morning the loss of Lohse. Their strong young lineup should be enough to earn the Cardinals second place in the division and a third place wild card finish. The Reds have a balanced rotation and lineup, making them the favorite for the division. Meanwhile the Brewers and Pirates will be in a tossup for third place, with the Brewers superior rotation giving them the edge over the Pirates. The Cubs and Theo Epstein, in a last ditch effort to rid themselves of their curse; will attempt to sign every member of the 2004 Red Sox lineup to the roster.

Reds

Cardinals

Brewers

Pirates

Cubs

NL East: While the Nationals receive tons of press over their deep pitching staff, the Braves starting rotation proves to be equally as balanced, and their lineup, buoyed by bounce back seasons from both Uggla and McCann will take the NL East. The Nations will be right on their tails in a race that will come down to the wire, but wind up short and with the first wild card spot. The Phillies made a couple key acquisitions in the offseason, but further cemented themselves as the best team of 2005. The Mets will struggle this season, with a subpar lineup, forever thanking themselves that the Marlins are in the NL East.

Braves

Nationals (WC I)

Phillies

Mets

Marlins

Matt’s Picks

AL West: The AL West is turning into a top heavy division. The Angels, A’s and Rangers are all good teams right now, but the movement of the Astros and the permamediocreness of the Mariners keeps the division from getting too strong. The Angels certainly have the hitting to carry them through the season, but their pitching is a question mark. The A’s have the pitching, but their hitting may rely on the further development of Cespedes. Look for the A’s to squeak in with the second wild card and the Rangers to be surprisingly bad and finish close to .500 for the first time in years.

Angels

A’s WC2

Rangers

Mariners

Astros

AL Central: The AL Central has been described as the worst division in baseball by many, and I’m inclined to agree with them. The Tigers will cruise on their pitching and hitting, but the Royals, despite trading away their farm to go all out this year will finish a disappointing second. The rest of the division will fight tooth and nail for .500 and respectability.

Tigers

Royals

White Sox

Indians

Twins

AL East: Its going to be a strong division as usual, but not as strong as you might think. The Rays were surprisingly good last year and that was for the most part without their star player. Joe Madden is underrated look for Mike Montgomery and Wil Myers to make an impact during the stretch drive. The Blue Jays are stacked, but the clubhouse could be an issue, still they will easily take the 1st wild card spot. The Yankees are going to experience a fall off thanks to their aging stars (predicted last year, actually going to happen this year). The Red Sox are going to be very bad, and the Orioles were a fluke.

Rays

Blue Jays WC1

Yankees

Red Sox

Orioles

NL West: This division will be one that everyone is watching as it contains the defending champions, the team that is printing money who are coincidentally the teams that the writers of this blog follow (and three other unimportant teams). The Dodgers will win 95 games and change the way that owners think about the game, but are mortgaging their future successes for this season with bad contracts. The Giants are going to miss the playoffs thanks to injury troubles following an extended World Series season (sound familiar?) and 10 players in the World Baseball Classic and the failed notion of keeping the band together. The Padres youth movement will start to take shape but they are still a season or two away. Kevin Towers is a bad GM who willingly traded away his best players for mediocre ones. And even though Tulo will begin to return to form, the Rockies don’t have the pitching.

Dodgers

Giants

Padres

Diamondbacks

Rockies

NL Central: The Reds and Cardinals will duke it out all season, but the Reds are going to be the team to beat. Aroldis Chapman may or may not work in the rotation, but they have enough pitching and bullpen depth so that it will make no real difference. The Pirates will be decent, but I just kinda feel sorry for McCutchen at this point. The Brewers will be bad and the Cubs will be worse. It will be interesting to see if the MLB decides to take action against Braun and other suspected PED users, and the fate of the Brew Crew will hinge on that (non) decision. Epstein is starting to turn the Cubs around, and I expect strong play from Brett Jackson, but when the best player on your team is Alfonso Soriano there is a problem.

Reds

Cardinals – WC2

Pirates

Brewers

Cubs

NL East: Chone Figgins will hit .360, win a batting title, and spirit the Marlins to the Division championship!!! And then the Marlins one fan that’s left will wake up and shuffle to his $6 dollar seats and get drunk on $10 beer. The Nationals are the best team in baseball and the Braves are arguably the second best. This will be a fun division race, but the limitless Strasburg Nats will take it. The Phillies are old and bad. The Mets are a year or two away from their rebuilding and the Marlins are just a joke at this point. Bring back the Expos?

Nationals

Braves WC1

Phillies

Mets

Marlins

The Designated Hitter

The Fastball

By: Ryan

One of the most polarizing arguments within the baseball world revolves around the designated hitter. Created in 1973, this position is the only distinguishable difference between the two different leagues, with the American League incorporating the position. While this discrepancy between the two leagues does not seem to have a large impact on the game, it gives the AL advantages over the NL in nearly every aspect of the game. With this inequality between the leagues, the Commissioner has two options to balance things out, remove the advantages or universally allow them. In other words, the Commissioner needs to decide whether or not to allow or abolish the designated hitter from the game. With respect to the traditional history of the game, it is in everyone’s best interest to fully integrate the designated hitter.

As may have been noticed in the recent off-seasons, most notably with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, AL general managers use the DH as a lucrative bargaining chip when attempting to sign high-value free agents. Under the current system, AL GM’s are able to offer longer term contracts to these players, knowing full well that there will be a sharp decline in player performance. However, general managers also know that they can stash aging hitters in the DH role when the time comes (a position that limits the appearance of deteriorating player abilities). That’s not to say that these long-term investments are/or aren’t wise, that’s the basis of another argument, but it does display the thinking of American League GM’s, which for the Angels, has lured two of the best hitters to Anaheim in the last two off-seasons. The incorporation of the designated hitter into the NL will remove the AL advantage of signing top-tier hitters, an adjustment that would most likely have left Pujols in St. Louis.

Managers also appreciate the DH because they are given greater flexibility in their lineups. In the AL, coaches are able to stash one more powerful bat or speedster on their bench, even if that bat comes with a defensive liability. They can also use it to keep their bench involved in a manner far more inclusive than the current NL pinch hitter. If a manger chooses to rotate through a couple bench DH’s, these players will continually see game time reps, reducing the amount of rust they develop on the pine. The DH also allows managers to give players more frequent rest by having players play one side of the ball, while still contributing to the game. This helps to maintain player health and allows injured players to have another stepping stone in rehab when they return from injury.

While some may argue that the expansion of the DH will kill the “small ball” style current used in the National League, consequently rendering the manager useless, the opposite appears to be true. If anything, the manager’s role is expanded with the addition of an additional hitter in the lineup. More emphasis is placed on lineup creation, as different DH’s can produce different results. High OBP/power guys can help create run production, while speedsters will be able to do the “small ball” moves typically done by an NL pitcher in the nine hole. However, when comparing the speedster to your standard pitcher, the speedster poses a stronger threat, with his ability to beat out throws in the field and on the base paths. Thus, the elimination of the “small ball” style of play is not in the hands of the commissioner and his handling of the DH, but rather rests with the mangers and their use of the DH position.

Players will appreciate the full incorporation of the DH because it offers job security with the longer contracts listed above, and more ability to rest and/or recuperate. That’s not to say all players will approve of the incorporation of the DH, as pitchers will see their stats rise. However, this can more appropriately be called a normalization. Under the current use of the DH, pitchers in the AL are forced to face one more bat in the lineup, and this additional hitter results in higher ERA’s, lower IP, and higher WHIP’s. These numbers do have some weight in contract negotiations, and when AL pitchers are compared to NL pitchers, it leads to questions regarding the quality of the pitcher. However, if the designated hitter were expanded to the NL, pitchers in both leagues could be evaluated on a more level playing field, as this discrepancy would be eliminated. Furthermore, pitchers would no longer have to worry about developing injuries in the batter’s box or on the base paths, resulting in improved long term health.

While pitchers might disapprove of the uptick in offensive production, fans would not be opposed to the greater possibility of home runs. This offensive uptick will not entirely remove pitcher duels, or pitching gems either. In fact, 7 of the last 10 perfect games occurred in the American League. Thus, while there is an increase in offense, which can result in a greater fan experience, it does not eliminate the possibility of great pitching matches.

While the designated hitter breaks off from the traditional understanding of baseball, it serves to improve the baseball experience for all parties involved in the game. If something were to improve the game of baseball in such a way, why shouldn’t it be incorporated?

david-ortiz-stroh2

David Ortiz is an example of the type of player who has benefited from the DH rule.

The Changeup

By: Matt

Why shouldn’t the DH be incorporated? Because not only has it limited innovation and strategy, but it gave birth to the steroid era and glorified those that were ruining the integrity of the game. With the switch of the Houston Astros to the American League and the change in schedule so that Interleague play takes place throughout the course of the season, the next step is to institute a DH in both leagues. However, the DH represents everything the game of baseball should be moving away from, and should it be instituted in both leagues, will make managers and strategy a thing of the past.

The DH is bad for the game because the steroid era was bad for the game. Monetarily, the owners made a killing with the renewed interest from fans interested in the home run races, but when it came out that these former heroes were just cheaters, the game was forever tainted for many fans. While the DH was first instituted in 1973 and many of the steroid users were in the National League, the DH characterized a change in what baseball was about. It put power over drawing a walk or stealing a base. Individual glory over that of the team. The DH characterized all of these traits because it showed that you could make a living playing baseball as a power hitter and nothing else. You didn’t have to field, you didn’t need to know situational strategy. If you could hit home runs, teams could find a place for you in their order. And is it any coincidence at all that about 25-30 years later baseball endured its worst scandal in its history? Is it any wonder that these athletes acted selfishly and took PEDs to give themselves more power? Baseball players grow up idolizing the players that came before them. Kids watch the pros and want to be just like them. So when the switch over to the DH took place a whole generation of young players grew up under the “new” version of the game. The version that rewarded power over everything. The version that showed players making the big bucks for hitting homers. And when it came down to it, young players were willing to do whatever it took to up their numbers and their glory.

From an owner’s standpoint, the designated hitter makes sense. He doesn’t have to risk the health of his pitchers by making them run the bases and bat and ticket sales go up by advertising towering home runs and more scoring. But for the true fans and the students of the game, the DH is not much more than a cheat code. The DH allows a manager to just insert a hitter that cannot field into every lineup. It also means that late in the game, there is less intrigue or strategy, as it erases the need for double-switches or pinch runners. The players on a bench are changed from defensive specialists and runners to utility players that are there to give the normal starters a rest. In essence, a manager can draw up his lineup card, and then not make a single switch for the entire game.

Another argument for the DH is that it allows teams to give older players contracts with less risk, as they do not need to worry about defensive liabilities that often develop late in a career. The players’ union likes the DH because older power hitting type players like David Ortiz and Adam Dunn can still get big contracts and stick around for longer. This argument is valid, but there is a way to get around it…

My alternative: Raise the size of active roster from 25 to 26 players. Not only does this allow for managers to have one more guy to fit their style of managing, be it a speed specialist or an extra reliever, but it also makes the players’ union happy since they get to have more players in the majors making money. With an expanded roster, teams would still be able to have that extra power hitter if they chose, but he may be relegated to a late-inning pinch hitting role instead of getting 4 at bats a game. If anything, this will actually increase the possibility of late-inning heroics and fans will get their intrigue while TV stations get their ratings. Most happy with this change will be the managers, as most managers live for the matchups and substitutions that they can make late in a game to give their team the best possibility of winning.

The designated hitter should be done away with altogether and an increased importance placed on all aspects of the game. This is not football where there is an offense and a defense. Baseball players are athletes and must be able to play all parts of the game. That is why baseball is the hardest sport and why it is the best.

Buster Posey vs. Clayton Kershaw – An Extended DebateImage

The Fastball

By: Ryan

While Ned Colletti has had a fairly quiet offseason, signing only two players, his acquisition of Zach Greinke and South Korean Ryu Hyun-jin added over $180 million dollars to the books, raising the Dodgers projected payroll to $214 million. With a lot money being thrown around and a surplus of pitchers (the Dodgers currently have eight starters), the Dodgers find themselves in an interesting situation, as Clayton Kershaw will be due for a contract extension at the end of the season. Colletti has made a push to make the Dodgers contenders in 2013, but his work is far from over, as he still has one major job; Colletti needs to make the most important lockdown in the NL West by giving Clayton Kershaw a longterm contract extension.

Kershaw’s career with the Dodgers up to this point has led him to become one of the best pitchers in the Major Leagues and the best left-hander in Dodger history since Sandy Koufax. After winning the Cy Young in 2011 with the pitching Triple Crown, Kershaw followed up his NL best performance with an equally dominant season. Kershaw’s 2012 season resume reads as follows: MLB leading ERA, NL leading WHIP, NL leading K, NL leading WAR, and the third best BABIP (batting average on balls in play) in the NL. Based on stats alone, it’s easy to see that Kershaw’s Cy Young runner-up performance was as equally dominant as R.A. Dickey’s season in 2012.

Kershaw’s control of the mound began in the two season prior to 2011 (his first two full seasons in the league). During these seasons, his ERA was under 3 and he averaged just under 200 K’s (198.5). He had a combined WAR of 9.9, all while pitching a combined 90 innings less than his most recent two season total. With four strong seasons completed, Kershaw has proven to be one of the most consistent pitchers in the game, making his longterm contract extension one of the safest bets in the Bigs.

Furthermore, Kershaw has proven his capabilities at the plate over the past two years with .225 (’11) and .207 (’12) batting averages. It’s not everyday that those numbers earn you praise at the plate, but those averages coupled with a two year total of 25 sacrifice bunts and a 20% strikeout per plate appearance ratio (nearly 15% less than that of Adam Dunn), show that Kershaw is no easy 9 spot. Good hitting pitchers are hard to come by and they have a significant impact on the game from both an offensive and defensive standpoint. Offensively, these pitches provide the runs they need to obtain/hold a lead in the game which consequently give the pitcher greater freedom on the mound. What’s not always apparent is the defensive impact that these pitchers have by forcing the opposing pitcher to work harder in order to get that normally easy out. This results in higher pitch counts and lower inning totals. Kershaw’s plate competancy combined with his pitching prowess make him one of the most valuable pitchers in the game two years running.

Posey, on the other hand, has had a very volatile first two complete seasons. Excluding the unfortunate incident in 2011, Posey’s first two full seasons, while impressive, still present some major question marks when considering him for a longterm extension.

His rookie campaign, in which he batted .305 and won the NL Rookie of the Year title, only had him playing in 108 games (mostly due to a May call up). The strongest offensive part of the season for Posey occurred in July and August, but were directly followed by his worse two offensive months, where he batted .233. This type of season naturally raises the question of longevity, especially with Posey being a catcher. Catchers are one of the most physical positions in the game, and as a result, many of them wind up facing major injuries in their careers. Between the three highest paid catchers in 2012, all of them have had seasons negatively impacted by injuries. Brian McCann batted a career low .230 in 2012 because he played through a shoulder injury that required offseason reconstruction. Joe Mauler played only 82 games in 2011 due to a difficult recovery from offseason knee surgery (among other health problems). Finally, Mike Napoli was forced to take a pay cut when the Red Sox discovered scarring on his hips during his post-contract signing physical. While the Giants have been attempting to protect the knees of their franchise catcher by having him play first base during the season, similar to Mauer, Posey remains predominantly a catcher, and as result, carries a larger injury risk compared to other players.

While pitchers can be just as risky, Kershaw has been fortunate to deal with only minor injuries not associated with his throwing elbow or shoulder. Kershaw battled with plantar fasciitis (inflammation in arch tendon of foot) and a hip strain, which put his health in question at the end of 2012. Yet, these injuries did not result in any major negative effects on his pitching mechanics, and both should be eliminated or manageable by 2013. Most importantly, Kerhsaw has lacked any sort of injury in his elbow or shoulder. This is in large part due to Kershaw’s plus form. ESPN posted an interesting article on pitching characteristics that cause extraneous strain on the shoulder and elbow, resulting in major injuries. Using many “good examples” from the article, Kershaw maintains an upright form, with a slight lean toward first base, and doesn’t let his elbow lag behind his rotation, thereby reducing the risk association with bad form.

The obvious rebuttal to Posey’s lackluster finish to his 2010 season is his most recent season, in which he finished .364 between September and October. There is no doubt that Posey’s second half was a necessity if the Giants were to pull ahead and into the playoffs, but it will be hard to match in the future by any player, let alone Posey himself. It must also be noted that Posey cooled off once the playoffs came around, batting a mere .200. Thus, while this regular season ending streak may serve as a testament to his longevity and potential, it comes after a yearlong break and raises the question as to whether this was an exceptional year or the norm.

There is no doubt that Posey is an integral part of the Giants lineup and one of the main factors that resulted in their two World Series Championships in three years. However, it is hard to determine what an average Buster Posey year looks like. Thus any contract made by Sabean will include a substantially larger amount of risk when compared to a similar contract given to Kershaw by Colletti.  Thus, Kershaw’s tenure has proven him to be the safer bet and similarly more deserving of the extension when compared to Buster Posey. The Dodger ace has consistency, solid form, and top of the rotation stuff which makes him the most worthy of a longterm contract (which I estimate at seven years/$185 million) all at the ripe young age of 25.

Other reads on this portion of the post can be found here, here, and here.

The Changeup

By: Matt

Buster Posey vs. Clayton Kershaw: a matchup that Giants and Dodger fans will see for many years to come. But for how many years is still up in the air. Both Kershaw and Posey are in their arbitration years, and both have been the subject of speculation for receiving a long-term contract extension. The two players represent the young stars of their franchise and the importance placed on developing young talent by the two teams in the last few years. While the Dodgers have recently been blessed with some very deep pockets due to a new television deal and new ownership not named McCourt, there has to be a ceiling somewhere. It is likely that both players will receive long term extensions in the next year, but it makes more sense and is more important that the Giants extend Posey than the Dodgers extend Kershaw.

No one has meant more to the Giants than Buster Posey. The first-round draft pick shot up the minors quickly and joined the big-league squad in late 2009. Posey hasn’t stopped hitting since being called up, batting .314 with a .883 OPS in his young career, highlighted by his MVP award in 2012. His defense and pitch calling has been solid as well and the only real question has been his durability and health. I don’t have to remind you of the violent collision at the plate in 2011 that derailed Posey’s season and the Giants with it. However, Buster did everything right in the offseason to get himself in shape for 2012, and Bochy worked some lineup magic to get him 610 plate appearances. Posey started 2012 slow, but got better as he got healthier and more comfortable. Despite two world series rings, an MVP and a Rookie of the Year, Buster Posey has has actually only played one full season. Chew on that for a second and it’s easy to think that the sky is the limit for this young man. Bochy was able to limit Posey’s innings behind the dish by giving him time at 1st and DH, a practice that will probably continue for the rest of his career and allow him to get playing time in almost every game while saving his knees. But this is not necessarily bad, as Hector Sanchez has a good bat at backup, and Brandon Belt has shown some versatility by getting some playing time in Left field.

Another thing that Posey had going for him in 2012 was the lineup around him. In 2010, the team was full of “castoffs and misfits,” and the only rock was Posey batting cleanup. In 2012, it was a different story, and the lineup got better as the year went on. With Pagan, Scutaro, and Melky/Pablo getting on base for him, and Pablo/Pence providing some protection, pitchers had to go after Posey and he was able to make them pay. The only player missing from last year’s top 5 will be Melky, but the Giants actually got better after he left, posting a 26-12 in the regular season after he was suspended. They also clearly were able to get it done without him in the postseason, posting an 11-5 record on their way to the title.

Going into the 2013 season, the Giants will have two players making more than $20 million in the last year of their contracts: Barry Zito and Big Time Timmy Jim Lincecum. Both players, though important to the Giants in winning the World Series two out of the last three years (it’s still awesome just to write that) will probably be looking for new teams come the end of the season. Zito, though he has had his redeeming moments recently, is still probably the worst contract signed by Sabean, and Lincecum, barring a complete turnaround is probably due for a huge contract reduction and likely a new team. While some players will likely receive raises from arbitration and the team will have a decision to make on Hunter Pence, the Giants will be going into the 2013 offseason with a lot of wiggle room in their budget, and with Posey set to receive another raise due to arbitration, it would behoove Sabean to lock Posey up long-term.

So how do you evaluate what kind of contract to give Posey? Well, the Joe Mauer contract would be the obvious place to start. Mauer received his extension coming off an MVP season of his own and received $23 million per year for 7 years on top of his previous contract. Since the deal, Mauer has faced troubles and hasn’t lived up to expectations, and the Twins have suffered with him. The main difference is that Mauer received his contract after 5 full seasons with WARs of 2.5, 5.6, 3.6, 5.3, and 7.6, while Posey has only had one full season, posting WARs of 3.7, 1.3, and 7.2. While the MVP, 7 WAR seasons at the end of those lists look similar, Mauer had been more consistently good, while Posey has not. Though it seems counter-intuitive, this is the reason the Giants should act now. Mauer and his agents had every right to ask for the huge contract in 2010 and were able to get it, while Posey, though he has had one fantastic season, will not be able to ask for as much. It is likely that if the Giants act before Posey puts up another monster season (which he will), the Giants will be able to get Posey locked up during his prime years for under $20 million a year.

The problem with giving Kershaw a long term extension is that by every right, he should get the biggest contract of all time. CC Sabathia will make $23 million in 2013 and Johan Santana will make $24 mil. These seem like decent starting points, but Kershaw has had a better start to his career than either of them. My colleague has just pointed out all of the things Kershaw has going for him, so I will cede to the previous post to show just how good he actually is. So, what kind of contract must the Dodgers offer him? $25 mil would be a starting point, but even that might seem too little considering that they just gave Zach Greinke about $23.5 million a year. Greinke is good, but he is not nearly as talented or reliable as Kershaw, who is and will be a perennial Cy Young candidate. So, where do you draw the line? $28 a year? $30? Considering the money that the Dodgers have been throwing around, Kershaw has every right to ask for it and look elsewhere if they won’t give it to him. The new money from the Dodgers owners has to have a limit, and their offseason moves might actually hinder them from resigning their most important player. The Red Sox contract dump that the Dodgers ignored will certainly help them next season, but in the long run, it may be looked at as one of the worst moves by a general manager in baseball history. Not only are most of the players they took on past their prime, but their contracts will more than double the Dodgers payroll from what it was in 2012. There has to be some limit to what ownership will provide, but the question will be whether they will be able to squeeze another $30 million a year out of Magic Johnson’s ego.

So, who do you think should receive the long term extension? Kershaw or Posey?

Leave your comments below.

Hello sports fans!

Welcome to Fastball-Changeup. This blog is the brainchild of two friends, Golden Bears, and rivals. We hail from the Bay Area and L.A. and owe allegiances to different teams but share a respect for the game of baseball. With this blog we want to bring two different and usually opposing perspectives to the issues of the baseball world as they happen to provide both sides of the issue. The fastball portion of the article will generally be the normal or accepted argument while the changeup will follow with a different take. Both perspectives will be offered and we’ll leave it to you, the readers, to decide which is right.

Hopefully we won’t get as heated as a Giants-Dodgers rivalry, but you never know what is going to happen once you step on the field.

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Play ball!